I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the film world lately, that being the continual production of terrible films. Now, this is nothing new, surely. Awful movies date back to the creation of cinema and have peppered the landscape all along. I have nothing against bad movies; quite the opposite in fact. I have a well-documented love of the loathsome flicks and have spent many a drunken evening with friends lambasting the most ludicrous of the bunch.
But in all or most of these cases, the films in question are what I call “glorious failures.” These are the movies that were made with every intention of being masterpieces, or at least decent, but during production or editing missed the mark by a thousand miles. There’s so much pleasure to be had from these movies, like “Night of the Lepus,” an overly-ambitious turkey about attempts to curb the rabbit overpopulation that result in school bus-sized critters demolishing a town. It’s awful, but delightfully so. The kind of bad films I object to are the ones that are terrible deliberately for the express purpose of making money off of the morons who see it. They are what I like to call “Crappy Crap from Craptown.”
I have the utmost respect for people who make glorious failures. Say what you want about movies like “Death Bed: The Bed That Eats,” or “Manos: Hands of Fate,” the filmmakers had a vision, albeit an inept and unintelligible one. On the other hand, I have nothing but contempt for people who happily produce subpar drivel. I do not see the point of spending the time to write, fund, cast, produce, shoot, edit, and distribute a movie knowing from the word “go” that it’ll be shit. These people baffle me, people like the makers of the recently released “Vampires Suck.” I did not see this movie; I had no desire. I have never read nor seen anything in the “Twilight” series and don’t plan to start, so a movie spoofing it held no appeal to me. But the trailer conveyed nothing but poorly-constructed jokes and sophomoric sight gags and I registered it as something that probably won’t make any money. Imagine my dismay when the film opened and had a higher first weekend box office take than the infinitely funnier and better “Scott Pilgrim vs The World.” That day I knew I had a heart, because it was broken.
Who are these fiends that have created such wanton horse pucky? The blame goes to the filmmaking team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Who? Exactly. They are two of the geniuses behind the “Scary Movie” franchise who decided to form a splinter group and make deplorable spoofs of their own. To date they have co-directed five films – “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie,” “Meet the Spartans,” “Disaster Movie,” and now “Vampires Suck.” None of them are rated higher than a 3.4 on IMDb and “Epic,” “Spartans,” and “Disaster” sit firmly in the illustrious Bottom 100 list. Most filmmakers try to live down one such dubious honor, but these clods have managed to make three. How do they keep getting to make movies? The answer, unfortunately, sits right above the number 4 on your keyboard. $. None of these movies boast a budget over $30 million and only “Disaster Movie” earned back less than it spent. They’re cheap to make and garner a profit. It’s a relatively small gamble on the part of the producers.
So, we know why and how these movies get made, but why does anyone go see them? The answer, sadly, has become so very apparent to me since living in LA: young moviegoers are stupid. Abysmally stupid. Appallingly, abhorrently stupid. Now, I say “young,” which makes me feel crotchety at 26, but it’s unfortunately true. The people who go to movies the most and in the greatest numbers are the 16-25 year olds of the world who have disposable income from working at Jack in the Box and get a huge group of their friends together to see whatever tripe happens to be out at the multiplex. This explains why most movies, even horror movies, these days are rated PG-13; they want to reach the widest audience possible. The heartbreaking thing about it is that this group truly is the only one who still view the cinema as a communal experience. Too bad they’ve chosen to commune over piles of burning refuse, figuratively speaking. To prove my theory, go to the theater on a Friday or Saturday night and see whatever big movie is opening. It’s going to be full of teenagers and college students chuckling and saying “aw shit” when something blows up. Movies I would never deem worthy of my $15 are the very movies this demographic think look “funny as hell.”
Still, when the day ends, I hold the filmmakers the most responsible. They know their movies are stupid and they’re perfectly content and happy with it. Mr. Friedberg and Mr. Seltzer have made a career, a successful one it seems, out of making movies unfunnily lampooning cultural phenomena, which in itself is a retread of movies like “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun.” They’re popping out derivatives of derivatives and can’t even do it cleverly. They’re in it solely for the buck. They’re the worst kind of Hollywood player. They’re passing off their obvious, humorless shit as “satire.” Holden Caulfield would call them “phonies.” The people in the movies have a reprieve because everybody has to work. I don’t begrudge Friedberg and Seltzer their livelihoods, but them having a career and having movies in the megaplex means that some independent think piece goes direct to video. Vampires do suck, sirs, but so do you. So, I’m offering this plea to the pair of them, and others of their ilk who know who they are and will go unnamed: Try. For the love of Rassilon, just try to make something worthwhile. And if you can’t, at least you tried. It’s better to be a glorious failure than a mediocre success.
Images: MGM, Paramount