I pride myself as being a scholar in all things pop culture. So if my self-awarded doctorate in awesome things (ie: opinion) means anything to you, please, listen to me on this one bit of knowledge I’m about to drop here: bad movies are pretty rad.
That probably didn’t elicit the gasps of shock or the ah yes-es of forgotten agreement I’d hoped, but I’m sure you all agree. Bad movies are kind of amazing. Whether you watch them with friends over beers and Pizza Rolls (*raises hand*) or alone in secret, you must admit that nothing gives you more joy than those often expensive bits of delight committed to celluloid, those filmed acts of self-congratulation, those tributes to the human spirit and the dreams of fame and wealth. Bad movies are absolute brilliant ridiculousness. I celebrate them. And I encourage you to do so as well.
I remember being seven or eight years old, sitting on the brown carpeted floor of my Aunt Jeanne’s bi-level on a Saturday morning watching a peculiar TV show featuring a film scene involving a bunch of bikers attending a funeral (one of whom was a chick pulling her bra out of her shirt and placing it on the casket). At the bottom of the TV screen was a silhouette of seats, a gumball machine, some guy and a thing with a basket on its head. Oh, some of you are absolutely overjoyed at the reference I’m making. Others of you knew two paragraphs ago that this is where I was heading. Most of you have no idea what I’m talking about and tuned out right around sentence number two, certain that this would be two weeks in a row that I discuss Road House at length.
Yes, twas that day that Mystery Science Theater 3000 changed my life forever, and despite the titular warning, this is not the part in which I engage you in unnecessary superlative speech. It’s absolute fact. This one moment lead me to a lifetime of making references no one else my age (or older, for that matter) understood, of having a deep love of movies made for slightly more money than I paid for school textbooks that year, and of boys not being all that attracted to me because I liked weird things.
I still remember the day I found out MST3K was cancelled. It was just before my birthday in 1999. I cried. My mom happened to be in the basement doing laundry and attempted to look understanding, but mostly appeared confused/concerned that her beloved daughter was so distraught by the cancellation of a television show. Eight plus years later, my MSTie status is undying and my love of brilliantly terrible filmmaking is without end. While my friends and I may never be anywhere near as funny as Joel/Mike and the ‘bots, we do what we can, and I want to share a few of our favorites with you. [Note: It is with a heavy heart I must disclude any and all films featured on MST3K or riffed by the Rifftrax fellows (save one, see below) or Cinematic Titanic, as I am generally unable to watch or think of these films in their unriffed form. So sorry, no Manos. You’ll understand. Or you won’t. In which case, shhhhhh. I’m very busy.]
4. Road House
Oh yeah, I’m going there again. Fans of this column (ie: my dad and my friend Megan) already know of my profound love for the movie Road House and its Zen philosophy of being nice whilest ripping someone’s throat out with your bare hands. Tenderness. I spent a large portion of my last column discussing this film, so I won’t bore you. But seriously you guys, pick up a twelve of PBR and watch this movie. You won’t be sorry.
When one thinks of great filmmaking, one thinks of beautiful cinematography, sharp smart writing and clever unique storytelling. I think of scenes involving a roller coaster fingerbang sequence. That is great filmmaking. Fear is one of the 90s-est movies of the 90s, only out-90s-ed by Reality Bites, and even that is only by an Ethan Hawke greasy hair. Like many beautifully cheesy flicks, this one has a great soundtrack (featuring The Sundays and Toad the Wet Sprocket, to name a couple) and future superstars (Reese “Future Oscar Winner” Witherspoon and Mark “No Seriously Do Not Mention the Funky Bunch in My Presence, I’ll Cut You” Wahlberg) and a premise most suitable for a Lifetime Moment of Truth made-for-TV movie. Marky Mark meets sweet teen Reese at a Seattle rave that’s almost too 90s for the 90s and proceeds to fall madly/creepily in love with her, kill her best friend, rape her other best friend (Sam Micelli, no!), behead her dog and try to kill her whole family. Oh and again, he fingers her on a roller coaster. Great America indeed.
Okay, I said I wouldn’t mention movies that had already received the riffing treatment, but as Mike “Mike Nelson” Nelson and Mary Jo “Pearl Forrester” Pehl didn’t riff this until I’d already seen it some four hundred times, I’ll include it. You’ve no doubt heard whispers of how awful this movie is, but it’s genuinely one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen. A wooden Mariah Carey is Billie Frank, a club singer in the very aughtesque 80s (“staying true to the period of your film is absolutely overrated” I imagine the filmmakers saying over appletinis and weed) who has a quick and easy rise to the top, though the subject of her racial ambiguity is brought up at random for no reason from time to time. I think we’re supposed to believe this is an obstacle, though it hinders her in no way. Best line, as spoken by the stereotypically flamboyant Eurotrash video director: “We ask ourselves, is she white? Is she black? We don’t know. She is exotic. I want to see more of her breasts.” No really, that’s a line from the movie. It’s sometimes a broad parody, sometimes an ABC Family drama, always terribly wonderful. Also, Mariah has a sparkly gash on her shoulder at all times that is never explained, but I like to think she was mauled by pixies.
1. The Crush
Best movie ever? Yeah no. Probably not. But it’s up there. Cary Elwes is Nick, a stunningly handsome sometimes British journalist who cannot write, but doesn’t let that stop him from being a famous loose cannon in the publishing world (this is all dropped on us in like two scenes). He needs a place to live and chooses the guest house of a rich family with a psycho Lolita daughter, Adrienne, played by Alicia Silverstone. Fans of Elwes know our man has never quite mastered the non-regional American dialect, so every time he says her name it is quite obviously ADR’d and still at different calls her what might be “Darian” or “Ariel” or something. Most often however, she is met with a forced “EEEEE-dree-ehnn” that sounds like he’s saying it from a bathroom miles away. EEEE-dree-ehnn is fourteen and not subtle and tells Nick in not so certain terms she wants him to stick it in her. He says no, but he kind of considers it. Throughout the film she vandalizes Nick’s car, attempts to murder Nick’s girlfriend by emptying a wasp’s nest into her dark room and beats herself up and accuses Nick of raping her. In a moment of absolute insanity and total crazy-awesome, it is implied that she steals a used condom from his trash and liberally applies its contents to her nethers to really make the allegation stick. That’s commitment and I’m still amazed that got past the MPAA. Amazing. Anyway, after a big climactic end fight scene involving a carousel, EEEE-dree-eehn gets committed and turns her attentions to her psychiatrist and Nick’s girlfriend overcomes her stings and swells and she and Nick live semi-Britishly ever after. Amazing.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. These are merely my four favorite movies to get drunk and watch with friends. So watch them, or I’ll be forced to bore you with detailed descriptions of how great they are, complete with dramatic readings of my favorite scenes. Feel free to email me any suggestions because as long as there are Blue Moon and Pizza Rolls on this earth, I will always be up for a bad movie night.
* Oh and because I love them (and I am in Mike Nelson’s MySpace Top 8, NO BIG DEAL) do please check out Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic. The former is headed up by MST3K head writer/host from episode 513 on (and no I didn’t need to look that up) Michael J. Nelson and often features Kevin “Tom Servo” Murphy and Bill “Latter Day Crow” Corbett, as well as many amazing guests (including Neil Patrick Harris, squee). Cinematic Titanic consists of MST3K creator Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, Frank “TV’s Frank” Conniff, Trace “OG Crow” Beaulieu, and J. Elvis “OG Tom Servo/Dr. Erdhart” Weinstein. You can find them at rifftrax.com and cinematictitanic.com, respectively. I have nothing to do with either, I’m just slightly obsessed and sharing the awesome with you fine people.
UPDATE: I just realized that I am dumb. Road House has been Rifftrax-ed, and was in fact the first ever Rifftrax. I literally just watched it two weeks ago and somehow spaced. I swear that I do not drink heavily before writing these. So that’s two movies on my list that have received the Riff-treatment. A solid “whoops.”
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.