So Bad They're Good: Most Monster Movies Are Awful, And That's Why We Love Them
Good or bad, Pacific Rim sure will be fun to watch.
There is no form of entertainment that lends itself to the phrase "so bad it's good" as well as movies do. People may claim they're listening to a song because it's "so bad it's good," but that's just an excuse to listen to a song they don't want to admit to enjoying. Some may hatewatch a show because it's awful, but investing the time to watch a show that isn't enjoyable isn't worth it to most people.
It's a lot easier to genuinely enjoy a bad movie. It's so easy in fact that with the success of The Room and Birdemic we're getting awfully close to spawning a generation of filmmakers who purposefully try and make bad but enjoyable movies.
Now, when it comes to the realm of "so bad it's good" there is one part of cinema that does it better than all others: the monster movie. Yes, most monster movies are bad, and that's a beautiful thing.
No other genre of film is as uniquely suited for producing "so bad it's good" films as the monster movie. Bad comedies are not only not funny, they're not fun to sit through. A bad drama isn't just awful, it can make time slow to a crawl.
So why do bad monster movies work?
It all comes down to the monsters. Bad horror, sci-fi, and other niche film groups usually suffer from the same problems: plots that make absolutely no sense and acting that would make soap opera stars roll their eyes. Monster movies suffer from this too, but let's be honest: the moment a guy in a poorly cobbled together suit or some bargain basement CGI thing appears on screen to threaten the heroes is the moment this movie looks you in the eye and says, "this isn't serious, so feel free to have a good time."
Some of the most fun you can having watching a movie is tuning in to Syfy and catching one of their many awful original flicks. Have you seen Chupacabra vs. The Alamo? If you can't enjoy the absurdity of Erik Estrada and a bunch of gangbangers taking shelter in the Alamo while fighting off a horde of Chupacabras then you should stop watching movies because it's a-freaking-mazing. It's even better when you can get a group of like-minded friends together so that you can crack jokes about the movie.
On the subject of jokes and bad monster movies, if you're looking to get a look at bad monster movies of the past, you'd be wise to invest in a few of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 box sets that Shout Factory has been putting out. The recently released Volume 27 is pretty monster-centric, including the truly weird and poorly thought out The Slime People . They're people made of slime who can destroy major cities, yet are easily stopped by a light spray from a fire extinguisher. Outstanding.
"But Pacific Rim comes out tonight and it's going to make a lot of money," you say to your computer monitor, and you're right, but that isn't a victory for monster movies. It's a victory for fans of Guillermo del Toro who've been waiting for a studio to take a chance on letting him make a blockbuster. It's a victory for people who want a better class of blockbuster because we need more creative movies and less Lone Rangers.
But it, like Godzilla, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and every other good monster movie that exists, will be the exception, the rare beauty in a collection of films that are dirt ugly.
There's a skit in the middle of The Slime People where MST3K host Joel explains that the beauty of a film like The Slime People is that it exists. Someone spent the time and money to make the movie, and that no matter how terrible it is the fact that it exists is something to celebrate. That goes for pretty much every monster movie, even the ones that feature the dude from ChiPs fighting monsters inside a Texas landmark.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events