At the Movies: Movies So Bad You Can't Look Away

Looking for a laugh after inclement weather and election season? Look no further than the bottom-of-the-barrel films that will have you rolling. Or tearing your hair out in agony. Whatever.

Good movies get all the credit. Sure, watching a well-made, intelligent and thought-provoking film is satisfying, makes for good conversation and can even be inspiring. Bad movies, on the other hand, provide nothing but deadening boredom, frustration, and even anger. It all boils down to taste, of course (I, for one, really hate American Beauty), but typically, everyone wants to see what they consider a “good movie.”

But then there are the films that are so utterly, thoroughly bad in every way that they actually break through the “bad” barrier and come full-circle to being positively delightful in their bungling ineptitude, bizarre choices, and all-around failure. Maybe it’s mean to laugh at the efforts of others, but if you think that’s the case, you clearly haven’t seen these Z-list wonders.

Troll 2: Claudio Fragasso, 1990.  To the unsuspecting, Troll 2 is the sequel to Troll, which, though I’ve never seen it, was an at least passable 1986 fantasy movie (and, interestingly, features a character named Harry Potter). But that’s not the case. Hoping to bank on the moderate success of Troll, Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso created Troll 2 completely on his own, and the result is a green sticky mess of a film, and one that contains no actual trolls--although as a filmmaker, Fragasso certainly trolled his audience. For one thing, Fragasso, not a native English speaker, wrote the dialogue and insisted it remain his way despite suggestions from the American cast, so the lines are incredibly awkwardly worded, lending to the already surreal quality of the film. And things just get worse from there. The story centers on a family vacationing in a town called Nilbog, that is, in fact, full of goblins (GET IT?), who plan to turn the unsuspecting family into plants and eat them. Because they’re vegetarian goblins. Seems like kind of a waste of energy considering the densely wooded area the film is set in, but who cares about logic, right?


1. The main character pees on his family’s dinner to save them from the poison that will turn them into vegetation.

2.  Sexual energy results in popcorn. Not even going to go into that.

3. This.

Also, if you really enjoyed Troll 2, check out the documentary, Best Worst Movie,  about it made by Michael Stephenson, who played the main character.


The Cavern: Olatunde Osunsanmi, 2005. Originally, this “film” was titled WIthIN. Because irregular capitalization is edgy. It follows a group of thoroughly unlikeable “characters” as they go spelunking in some cave and get systematically killed off by an unseen “terror.” The entire thing seems to have been shot with Mac’s PhotoBooth program with the glow effect turned all the way up, because for the most part, the movie is completely pitch black but for some hazy areas of light. In fact, I think it may have actually been filmed in someone’s laundry room with the lights out. It sure feels that way. The entertaining thing about The Cavern is that even for a so-bad-it’s-good movie, the sheer number of plot inconsistencies is staggering. The unseen terror, for example, is revealed in the twist ending to be the now-feral survivor of a long-ago plane crash, but earlier in the film, his mere presence can jam electrical equipment and he seems impervious to bullets. (Then there’s the fact that someone brought a gun spelunking.) With this one, I recommend skipping over the long minutes of darkness and heavy breathing and going right to the “action.” And yes, all of these sarcasm quotes are absolutely necessary.

Highlight: The twist ending, which implies that an injured twelve-year-old carried an airplane wing through a labyrinthine cavern.


Samurai Cop: Amir Shervan, 1989. I’m going to be honest here. Samurai Cop is magical. It is, hands down, the worst film I have ever seen. The plot involves something about a gang and something about drugs, but even the movie doesn’t care about that. The best actor in this film is Samurai Cop’s wig; evidently, actor Matt Hannon (who, unsurprisingly, has never resurfaced in film) cut his long locks at some point during shooting, and so, for continuity’s sake, they slapped a woman’s wig on him. Brilliant. Each line in this trainwreck is so excruciatingly terrible that it’s fascinating. There are many attempts at sexual innuendo as Samurai Cop is, of course, a ladies’ man, but it’s mainly just confusing. Not gross or uncomfortable—genuinely befuddling.  It’s also got a surprising amount of male semi-nudity, along with the requisite perky breasts, and Robert Z’Dar may have been cast to play a Japanese character in what is actually one of the film's more minor racial insensitivities. It’s also rife with continuity errors, such as an epic swordfight that inexplicably changes locations in the middle, and chase scenes that were clearly sped up. The movie is just one big disaster from start to finish, from the misguided synth score to the red paintballs used to mimic gunshot wounds to the cringe-inducing shot of Samurai Cop in a Speedo at the close. Mystery Science Theater 3000 has nothing on this.


1. The entire scene where Samurai Cop flirts with the nurse. Warning: this scene contains some language and is not appropriate. For anyone.

2. During Samurai Cop’s first conversation with the romantic interest,  the camera spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on a wall-mounted lion’s head. The lion is of the childrens’ stuffed toy variety, and has a mane made of yarn.

3.  A fun game you can play is Count the Mullets.


Killer Klowns From Outer Space: Stephen Chiodo, 1988. This movie is, as you may have guessed, about murderous jesters from elsewhere in the universe. With brightly colored oufits, hair and technology, they seem harmless to the townsfolk—who are oblivious to their unnatural arrival and grotesque faces—and they soon deploy their sinister plot of encasing humans in cotton candy. Or something. A plucky group of teens must band together and defeat them. The bright spot here, besides the klowns’ pants, is that this film doesn’t take itself very seriously, and it’s pretty evident that the filmmakers were going for camp.

Highlight: The theme song.


Manos: The Hands of Fate: Harold P. Warren, 1966. Translated from Spanish, “manos” means hands, so the title of this movie is actually Hands: The Hands of Fate. Made by an insurance salesman on a bet (really), it looks like a high school project because that’s essentially the knowledge of filmmaking that went into it. Ergo, it’s full of thrown-together makeup and costumes and utterly failed nighttime shots. It follows a family on a road trip—wholesome dad, concerned mom, vacant child, ill-fated dog—who become captives of a polygamous cult that worships a deity called Manos, who I guess is the god of hands. The “Master” and leader of the cult has a harem of catty wives who each say the same line a zillion times. Played by Tom Neyman, the Master's exaggerated facial expressions and mustache would not look out of place in a silent film. The family goes through all the motions of horror movie victims, such as happily staying at a run-down house in the middle of nowhere with only a very shady groundskeeper (played by the late John Reynolds, pictured, seemingly pretending he has alcohol poisoning). It’s full of repetitive, flat dialogue, terrible special effects and is all-around goofy. The wives of the Master, for example, sacrifice victims to Manos by apparently slapping them to death. It’s awkward, it’s confusing and it has the horrible ‘60s habit of casting extremely ugly children and insisting everyone pretend they’re cute. See it.



2.  The film’s score is an inexplicable choice of lounge music that would be more appropriate in a tropical bar than a horror movie.

3.  The film cuts several times to a couple making out in a car. The couple have nothing to do with the plot, and were actually inserted for legal reasons owing to the actress’ contract. So occasionally, we get to check in on them. Why? Who cares.

So if you have nothing better to do one night, grab some friends (and you'll probably need some drinks) and have a blast with these masterpieces. Some of them can even be found in full on YouTube. Because it's nice to spread the joy.

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