Bad Bad Movies

Like most genre-lovers, I dig bad, bad movies.

Not just bad movies – bad by itself doesn’t cut it – I’m talking bad, bad movies. I’m talking movies sooo bad that they somehow lap themselves and end up turning out pretty good. I’m talking about movies with a subversive undercurrent, movies that are bold enough to flaunt their badness. These movies know they are bad and generally don’t give a damn.

When it comes to devoting 90 minutes, I tend to prefer them.


(Sometimes, bombing can be a good thing)

If somebody were to ask me if I’d rather watch Rutger Hauer in HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, or, something populist and well-reviewed, say the new Brad Pitt film, MONEYBALL (which is supposed to be excellent), I’m going with HOBO. Let’s see, THE HELP or THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE? Centipede, please.

My all-time favorite bad, bad movie is hand’s down, Jackie Kong’s BLOOD DINER (I’ve  written several critical pieces on the film – the definitive article being an extensive essay published in Darkscribe’s gargantuan horror / slasher film anthology, BUTCHER KNIVES & BODY COUNTS). It’s a gleefully nutball blast of eighties gore. If you haven’t seen it, make it one of your goals. You might not enjoy it as much as I did as a deviant teen – most of these movies only work at a certain time and place in your life – but love it or leave it, it’ll definitely leave an impression.

(Simply the best!)

The same can be said for David Gordon Green’s sword & sorcery, stoner comedy, YOUR HIGHNESS.

Sort of.

It’s nowhere near as awesome as BLOOD DINER (it’s not even in the same oddball ballpark), but it surely qualifies as bad, bad, and in terms of leaving a lasting legacy, it will probably live on as an interesting genre oddity. Or maybe not. Maybe a cult will develop ala commercially failed Adam Sandler comedies (GRANDMA’S BOY, BUCKY LARSON) or maybe the movie will die away and just fade into bad, bad movie obscurity. It might go down as a bad, bad, bad movie (that third bad? It’s not a good thing).

It’s not a bad, bad movie in the traditional accidental sense. The filmmakers here are competent (I actually think they are more than competent – I think they are pretty exceptional – their resumes are loaded with great films). They set out to make a quirky comedy and have succeeded. Bad, bad isn’t really fair here, but with these guys and their low-brow predilections, I think they might appreciate the bad, bad distinction.

As far as bad, bad goes, low budget, indie horror, by its excessive nature, is more likely to produce the occasional twisted, little gem. Big-budget sword & sorcery epics rarely aim low. They usually shoot for the stars, then fail miserably, then disappear from the collective consciousness. Case closed. Other than Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS series, and Boorman’s artsy (commercial bomb) EXCALIBUR, I can’t think of too many other successful cornerstones. When sword & sorcery films go down, they go down hard (I’m looking at you CONAN 3D).

(Bad, bad good)

Repeated viewings generally don’t help, they just make the costumes look goofier and the sets all the more ridiculous. The action gets repetitive. Though medieval and purposefully dated, things look old. Man, as much as I love the genre in theory (I’m a sucker for fantasy novels), it’s a hard-sell. It’s tough to pull these things off (HBO’s GAME OF THRONES is up to the challenge).

With YOUR HIGHNESS, the creators of EASTBOUND & DOWN (David Gordon Green, Danny McBrideBen Best), and their extreme, screwed-up sensibilities, thought it would be a funny idea to marry a sword & sorcery questing adventure with their profane, warped world-view.


A sword & sorcery stoner comedy?


I don’t know who green-lit this sucker (or why – the idea is usually to make money), but I’m glad they did. Bad, bad movies just got themselves another worthy piece of pop culture trash to add to the inexhaustible canon of sleaze and cheese.

I’m not in the mood to write-up a detailed review, besides, the less you know about this or that, the more likely you are to enjoy the movie, but I’ll give you a little to whet the appetite…

Danny McBride plays a slightly toned down version of Kenny Powers (if you know nothing about Kenny Powers get yourself to Google stat!). His Thadeous isn’t as deeply offensive as the coked-out, baseball has-been, but he comes pretty darn close. He’s still selfish, foul-mouthed, and rude. He still thinks the world owes him EVERYTHING. He still complains and talks loads of mess. He still thinks he’s God’s gift. And it still works (for me at least – as for the rest of the world? The film was universally reviled).

I love McBride’s prideful, a-hole / coward character. He was great in THE FOOT FIST WAY and legendary on EASTBOUND & DOWN (and especially effective in OBSERVE & REPORT where Seth Rogen did an excellent McBride impersonation playing a part clearly written for McBride). He keeps me smiling with his mullet and his obscenely cocky sense of self-entitlement.

(Kenny F—— Powers!)

James Franco mugs it up big time, playing his role (Thadeous’s golden boy brother, Fabious) completely straight, holding his luxuriant locks high, smiling a big hero’s smile, dashing and righteous as a Prince Charming styled champion. Franco chews the scenery with melodramatic relish, having way too much fun, channeling his soap opera chops to help him ham things up. He overacts perfectly.

(Keepin’ it real)

The movie itself follows Franco’s lead. It’s a ridiculous mess, but it plays all of the Dungeons & Dragons stuff on the nose. It’s not a wink-wink nod-nod satire – McBride’s character maybe, his mega-jerk is ridiculous in any context – but the rest of the movie takes its dumbass plot seriously (in which the boys must quest to save a virgin from a deranged warlock). Mixing wizards, and spells, and a fierce Minotaur (whose penis is the source of much hilarity), and ancient prophecies, it’s actually a serviceable fantasy.

Okay, let’s not get too carried away here – the splattery (the goofy gore effects are great) adventure never really amounts to much more than a series of scatological jokes (Green and company continually milk any plot points involving sex or genitalia), but I laughed, and smirked, and laughed, and guffawed, and laughed some more. I had fun (which is a whole lot more than I can say about most movies out there).

And that’s all that really matters. Bad, bad movies entertain first and work as art second (yes, Loyal Reader, even stoner comedies can be classified as art). YOUR HIGHNESS may not stir the soul (or come anywhere close to the soul), but that’s cool, that not its thing.

Sometimes, I’d rather just turn everything OFF and let a movie of this ilk settle over my brain, filling in sucking pockets of gray matter with the absurd, gassing me into submission, not unlike the pungent, illicit fog that surely deserves a screenwriting credit amongst its human conduits.

Here’s the so-so trailer…


5 Responses to “Bad Bad Movies”

  1. Wow, Blood Diner…does that bring back some memories. I had a reputation at the local video store back in the day (as I’m sure you did), when every new sick and twisted horror movie would be reserved for me (like they had anyone else wanting to watch them!). Do you remember Slaughter High? IMDB says there’s a remake slated for 2012…For stupid bad comedies, my go to in the last few years is Walk Hard:The Dewey Cox Story. Gets me howling every time. The next time I turn it on my wife might start throwing things at me.

  2. I like how he saws his brother in half 😉

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