Of the thousands of feature films produced every year, there are many that aim squarely for our collective funny bones. Some hit the target, such as this year's The Hangover. Others miss the mark, for one reason or another, and don't get widespread appeal (Land of the Lost; I Love You, Beth Cooper; Miss March). But every so often, a film comes along that — whether it's a casing of trying too hard, or clearly not trying hard enough — fails on all levels in a way that actually makes you want to watch it over and over again. Usually, these were not meant to be comedies. It just "worked" out that way.
Here in New York City, Rooftop Films is "celebrating" the awfulness that was Troll 2 with two nights of special screenings in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tonight, they screen the actual 1990 "horror" movie, Troll 2; and Friday, they'll screen the documentary Best Worst Movie, which explored the fandom that has sprung up around the film and tracked down the people who were a part of Troll 2 in the first place. But is Troll 2 really the "best worst movie" ever made? That's something that we can readily debate.
Let's meet some of the other contenders…
The Room (2003): Lindsay Robertson (late of Videogum, always at Lindsayism) has made quite the argument for Tommy Wiseau's opus, and you can the Videogum's full report on The Room, and even Charlie Gibson at ABC News anchored a report suggesting this 2003 gem as a diamond in the roughest.
Showgirls (1995): When Showgirls came out in 1995, it was meant to be Paul Verhoeven's dramatic look inside the world of Las Vegas showgirls — we were meant to imagine his hit Basic Instinct, but even more edgy and daring. Instead, the vehicle made us look at Elizabeth Berkley, and swimming pool sex, in a whole new light. We watched it to mock it. Even they know it now, coming out with a V.I.P. edition of the film with its own party games for viewers to play along.
The Warriors (1979): Whenever this movie appeared on TV, it freaked the freak out of me. Couldn't figure out what was happening, why there were gangs in funny costumes creating mayhem in the streets of New York City, and determined never to ride the subways again. Of course, I was just a kid. Now that I'm growns up, and everyone else is, too, we all want to dress up as these guys for Halloween and say "Warriors, come out to pla-ay!" Naturally, it has become a videogame, and someone is trying to remake this, and it will just plain suck the second time around, instead of being the movie we love because of its awfulness. Then again, maybe New York City was really like this in 1979???
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): The "original" midnight movie has a fan site and all sorts of rules for viewers to obey, plus groups devoted to keeping the movie's spirit and screening alive. You don't want to mess with them by suggesting another film is more worthy of midnight madness, do you?
Snakes on a Plane (2006): This could be the first movie that was a best worst movie, even before it made it to the cinemas, as the Internet picked up on the simplistic concept — people are scared by snakes and planes, so they'll be doubly scared with snakes on a plane! — and ran with it. I remember going to a midnight screening, where everyone was so supercharged and ready for madness, only for everything to get weird when we all realized just how bad this movie was. Even with Samuel L. Jackson's line readings.
Clash of the Titans (1981): How could a movie with Sir Laurence Olivier and the Gods of Olympus be on this list? Perhaps the cheesy dialogue and stop-motion animation had something to do with it. First Burgess Meredith helps Rocky, and now he's aiding Harry Hamlin, with a robotic owl? Even as a child first watching this, I couldn't stop cracking up.
Evil Dead II (1987): When I first saw an appendage crawling across the floor to attack Bruce Campbell, and found out it was his own severed hand, I knew I was seeing something special. Although with a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, can Sam Raimi's horror film even be on this list? Or maybe, just maybe, that's what makes this the best of the worst movies?
The Beastmaster (1982): One of the great things about cable television is its ability to find bad movies and play them repeatedly, in just the right time slots for impressionable young minds to see them and latch onto them. Marc Singer can talk to animals? Tanya Roberts skimps around in next to nothing? Perfect fodder for adolescent boys everywhere. In fact, I think it was on as much during the mid-to-late 1980s as Law & Order is on today. And that finally prompted a couple of sequels in the 1990s that nobody cares about as much as the original.
Flash Gordon (1980): It has a great theme song from Queen; it had a future James Bond in Timothy Dalton, and Max Von Sydow as the villain. What could go wrong? Everything. And yet, it's also awesome in every way. If you were to tell me it was on TV right now, I would watch it.
And here, is a look at Troll 2.
Of course, you probably have your own favorite films that you love for their awesome horribleness. Plan 9 From Outer Space, anyone?
And as I've written previously, there are groups out there willing to help you enjoy how bad some movies are with their live mock screenings, including the Raspberry Brothers and the many spawn of MST3K. Feel free to weigh in with your input, additions, subtractions, and theories as to why horrible movies can do as much for the comedy genre as actual comedy films.