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Categories: Features

We count down the best of the worst. It’s the comprehensive, modern, list for people who like to get some friends together and laugh at bad films.

It’s generally accepted that there are some films that are so bad that they take on a meaning beyond the one they intended to have. You love to hate them, you want to share them with as many people as you can. Certain films, like the Sharknado series for example, deliberately try to achieve this effect but that’s not what I’m talking about. These are films so gloriously terrible that they test the limits of a person’s sanity. These are not films that I hate, on the contrary, I feel a great deal for them. I’m recommending these films to be watched and enjoyed rather than avoided. They are dumber than the dumbest Michael Bay film and, to anyone who knows anything about films, they’re funnier than most professional comedians could hope of being.

 

#5. Cool Cat Saves The Kids

What makes an independently made children’s film inspire such a dedicated level of scorn? Is it the film’s repeated use of comic sans? Is it because you can not only see the cameraman’s shadow, you can hear him sighing when he moves? Is it the audio editing that leaves in so many flubbed lines you wonder if each scene only had one take? Is it the green screen backdrop that leaves an outline of green around the characters? Or is it the special guest appearances from D-list Hollywood actors who appear to be drunk? The answers is – yes, all of these things. But much more than that, like with all truly great bad movies, it is the creator of this monstrosity that makes it so interesting.

Derek Savage (or, as he insists on being called, “Daddy Derek”) is a writer, director, former PlayGirl model and the author of such books as “Midnight Stripper: A Male Dancer Story” and the picture book “Cool Cat Loves The Soldiers”. It isn’t easy to describe the nature of Derek Savage, his website does him some justice, but I think his defining characteristic would be his naivety. He gives off the same vibe as that old caricature of the incredibly awkward priest or counselor who’s trying to “get down with the kids” but multiplied by a billion. 

CC-06-Soldiers-1.2You could easily peg Derek as a cold-hearted con artist attempting to make people buy such a terribly made film, starring a blatantly lazy and manipulative attempt to create a branded children’s character, if it wasn’t for his child-like sincerity. As with most terrible kids films, it obliviously creates awful examples for kids to follow. But it genuinely does try to clumsily drill messages about bullying and, bizarrely, gun safety into their heads too. Rather ironically however, considering the film’s theme of cyberbullying, Derek Savage became locked in a very public feud between himself and comedic internet film critics who, rather lovingly, tore his film to shreds online.

Unable to take the criticism, Derek began levelling copyright strikes and threats of severe legal action against reviewers with his threatening emails, and meltdown of ranting vlogs, surfacing online. The story surrounding the film is more interesting than the film itself but it doesn’t necessarily make Cool Cat Saves The Kids undeserving of its reputation as one of the most enjoyably bad films of recent years. Savage’s blindness to his own peculiarity, coupled with his giddy enthusiasm, makes for a heady cocktail of surreal filmmaking. Its flaws are not the most interesting, particularly to a film snob, but they are incredibly noticeable; making it a must-watch for anyone looking to poke fun at a film.

 

#4. The Wicker Man (2006)

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Being the worst of the worst often pushes films into obscurity, but, with the right actor and director, some can find their way into mainstream legend. Neil LaBute’s 2006 remake of Robin Hardy’s beloved, brilliantly strange, The Wicker Man is a film so terrible it demands to be seen. It is not just a mistake, another malfunction in the Hollywood machine, it is a film that redefines our entire understanding of mainstream cinema and how bad it can be.

LaBute is definitely not a bad filmmaker; nor is its star, Nicolas Cage, a bad actor. Cage has a reputation for starring in terrible, lazy, films quite frequently but his work in The Wicker Man deserves to be set apart from the usual fanfare of him “losing his shit”. Sure, there are plenty of examples of his famously over-animated performance choices (especially the now legendary “oh god, not the bees” sequence) but Wicker Man is the first example on this list of a film so truly awful that your mind refuses to believe that it was completely unintentional.

You can see how someone who had become too involved in their own film could’ve mistaken its creative choices as unnervingly unusual, when in reality they’re utterly hilarious, but they’re just so perfectly timed that you struggle to believe that anyone could have a response to them other than laughter. Viewed in this fashion, as what some critics refer to as “unintentional comedy”, The Wicker Man is arguably a masterpiece.

Looking past the distracting funniness of it all, you can perhaps see an interesting absurdist film about an incompetent, mentally unstable, highway patrol cop pretending to be a detective and letting his male ego get him in way over his head in a matriarchal commune; all whilst taking too many prescription drugs. Either way it’s an unforgettably ridiculous, and subsequently unique, viewing experience.

 

#3. Birdemic: Shock and Terror

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It’s hard to describe Birdemic: Shock and Terror to someone who’s never seen it because there’s no way of accurately describing it without everything sounding like hyperbole. Birdemic is an unparalleled failure on nearly every conceivable level of filmmaking. Acting. Directing. Writing. Editing. Sound Editing. Sound Recording. Sound Design. ADR. Special Effects. Cinematography. Basic Camera Operation. Music. It even gets the definition of some words wrong, and it’s for these failures that so many people love this film.

While you could call the work of someone like Derek Savage interestingly peculiar, the drive and vision of writer/director/producer James Nguyen is nothing short of inspiring. The man had a dream, it was a terrible and remarkably stupid dream but a dream nonetheless and it has brought joy to thousands upon thousands of people.

Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American refugee, self-funded the project on a budget of $10,000 saved from his day job as a Silicon Valley software salesman. After being turned down by Sundance Film Festival’s programmers, Nguyen travelled to the festival in Utah anyway, covered a van with fake blood and A4 posters which read “BIDEMIC.COM [sic]” and “WHY DID THE EAGLES AND VULTURES ATTACKED? [sic]” proceeding to spend the next eight days driving up and down mainstreet while blaring the sounds of birds screeching and people screaming. Needless to say, this garnered some attention and, when Nguyen was able to rent out a theatre to screen his film privately, the world’s obsession with it began.

Birdemic-James-Nguyen-DemanditMuch like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, the film has attained a cult status as possibly the worst film ever made and has regular revival screenings where fans come in droves to bask in its atrociousness. So-bad-it’s-good is a phrase used so often it’s lost its meaning, especially in the age of The Asylum and their barrage of knowingly bad mockbusters.

But Birdemic is the rarest of beasts; it is a genuinely, hilariously, bad film about exploding kamikaze birds attacking humanity that takes itself. Dead. Seriously. There is a deeply sanctimonious message about climate change at the heart of this film which has the tone and accuracy of a man with a tinfoil hat drunkenly shouting at you in the street. Which certainly helps you feel less mean for making fun of it, but truthfully the world’s obsession with Birdemic stems from a place of love.

Like Wiseau, Nguyen has made quite a successful career off of the back of its bad reputation. At the very least, it’s a film that puts the concept of “badness” into perspective. Most people could not create something this awful even if they were trying to and that’s what makes it so great. It’s a fascinating case study of a filmmaker being unable to view their own work objectively and a, frankly, invaluable masterclass in how not to make a film. It deserves to live forever.

 

#2. The Happening

the happening

If there were ever a director to prove that access to more money and resources doesn’t automatically make better films – it would be M. Night Shyamalan. The Happening is another one of those films that has so many well-polished misfires that you can’t help but wonder how many of them were intentional.

The film is certainly not without its fans. In the burgeoning category of “unintentional comedy”, it’s perhaps the Citizen Kane and both Ebert and Roeper gave positive reviews; citing its eccentricity. It is, undeniably, an unusual film but the problem with it, and perhaps with Shyamalan himself, is just how hard it tries to be unusual. Shyamalan’s failures are relentlessly mocked not so much because of his skill as a filmmaker but because of his blatant arrogance.

He’s developed a pattern of casting actors so farcically against their type that the results are nothing short of side-splitting. Case in point, the film’s lead actor Mark Wahlberg. A fairly talented actor given the right character, he works best playing the competent tough guy with a comedic edge. Shyamalan casts him as the meek, dorky, indecisive and effeminate high-school science teacher. The results are as hysterical as you’d imagine.

the-happening-1Shyamalan’s method of directing his actors appears to be to give them one defining character trait, usually one that the actor can’t handle very well, and then just leave them to use it over and over again. Take the film’s female lead, Zooey Deschanel, who delivers an almost haunting performance akin to a mannequin come to life or some kind of life-like robot on hard drugs. In what you can only assume was an attempt to portray a detached state of shock, her response to nearly every stimuli is to stare wide-eyed, motionless and mouth agape. It’s definitely noticeable but not so much in a way that makes a person think or feel frightened but more in way that makes you burst out into laughter.

Shyamalan himself was very open about how The Happening was intended to be a B-movie, and he is clearly attempting to satirize something about the way American disaster films are made, but there is an unshakable truth to this film which is: viewed as a horror film it works sort-of-okay but as a comedy it’s a masterpiece. The succession of completely bizarre non-sequiturs alone is enough to put audience members into fits of laughter. There is something definitely “off” about The Happening, what that thing is and why it’s there is up for you as an audience member to decide which is why film-lovers revel in it.

 

#1. Fateful Findings

fatalfindingsfeat

So we come to what can either be seen as the bottom of the barrel or the peak of the mountain. Bad movies are a genre within themselves really, though the people making them may not realise it.

You may have noticed that all of the films on this list are effectively auteur films (meaning that they were written and directed by the same person). These films are fascinating not just as poorly constructed products but also as a glimpse into the minds of the people who made them and there is no more befuddling a vision than that of writer/director/producer/caterer/production designer and lead actor (of all of his films), the one and only, Neil Breen.

Breen has developed a cult following over the past few years for a trilogy of self-made films which have transcended the cliches of regular bad movies, which are usually an ineffective attempt at some kind of genre, and entered into a new dimension of not so-bad-it’s-good but so-bad-it’s-art.

Breen’s films are a mesmerising journey into the psyche of a self-obsessed, possibly megalomaniacal, man who has dedicated his life to making films so the world can revel in his genius. There is, however, one fatal flaw to Breen’s plan – he is a terrible filmmaker. I don’t say this to be mean, I say it to be factual.

I believe the film critic Adam Johnson (through whom, like many others, I was first introduced to Breen’s work) described him best as “a man who seems as though he was plucked straight out of a Tim and Eric skit.” His incredibly awkward demeanour, coupled with an honestly perfect sense of accidentally comedic timing, create a distinctive experience. Imagine the worst, cheapest looking, infomercial you’ve ever seen and now imagine that style applied to something like a Godard or Tarkovsky film and you’re still only halfway there.

fateful-findings-film-coverAll three of Breen’s completed features are as good as each other but I’ve decided to single out his latest, Fateful Findings, as it’s by far the most watchable and therefore the best place to start. It contains all of his best tropes from magical rocks, god-like powers, sustained violence towards laptops, completely unnecessary and weirdly deliberate clumsiness, female co-stars who look very uncomfortable, Neil Breen showing off his butt for no reason to, of course, Breen’s pathological need to show himself being morally, and physically, superior to the rest of humanity.

Opting for a slightly more relatable protagonist than that of his last film, in which Breen played robot Jesus, Fateful Findings is the story a best-selling author who decides to solve all corruption on Earth through his remarkable hacking skills. You can get a good handle on Breen, and his style of filmmaking, through the website for his next film Pass Thruin which he plays a god-like artificial intelligence that has come to earth to cleanse it from all the “harmful” people. Whether he realises it or not, Neil Breen has created an on-screen persona that perfectly reflects the worst, most egotistical, aspects of the creative mind and I cannot wait to see what he does next.    

 

 

Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a freelance copywriter and lifelong cinephile. For writing enquiries, you can email him at mark@cinemajam.com and you can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

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Posted on Aug 11, 2016

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