Cream of the crap: horror movies so bad they’re good

By Dave Coffey

Flickr/dearbarbie

Horrible scary movies are a dime a dozen. The Halloween season rolls around and suddenly everyone who took a film production elective in college thinks they can capitalize by throwing together a slapdash horror flick or adding a 17th sequel to the “Friday the 13th” franchise. Take a peek into any DVD bargain bin and you’ll find enough of these terror-genre abominations to make the inventor of the video camera roll in his grave. There is something disturbingly beautiful, however, about the cream of the crop of the worst films. There exists a class of horror movies so transcendentally bad that they somehow achieve greatness. These four films fall under that category.

Click here to listen to part I of Dave Coffey’s podcast on movies so bad, they’re good.

Click here to listen to part II of movies so bad, they’re good.

 

House of the Dead (2003)

“It all started a few days ago when I came here for a rave, and now all that remains is the rotten smell of death.” With an opening narrative like that, how could this not be the “Citizen Kane” of our generation? “House of the Dead” is the kind of movie that actually shames the films-based-on-videogames genre, which is a pretty demanding task. Based on the classic on-rails shooter arcade game, it’s got the timeless storyline audiences all know and love – boy meets girl, girl is a scantily clad airhead, boy and girl and a bunch of their college buddies are somehow stranded on a haunted island populated by the undead.

After a weapons cache literally appears out of thin air – who needs a reason for guns? – suddenly every trust fund college kid on screen turns into an expert marksman with military grade firearms. Cue emaciated co-eds dual wielding Desert Eagles and periodically grunting monosyllabic expressions such as, “Whoa-man-bro-dude!” every time one of their comrades gets cannibalized by ghouls with unconvincing make-up.

With 95 percent of the movie consisting of laughably choreographed firefights with zombies, the viewer is left to wonder whether the director ran out of film or was just overly lazy. Nearly every other scene warrants the reaction, “Really? You guys didn’t want to give that one more take?” This movie can essentially be summed up with the declaration “Let’s remake the lobby gunfight scene from ‘The Matrix,’ but 90 minutes long. Oh, and with zombies – on the budget of a used car dealership commercial.”

 

The Human Centipede 2 (2011)

This second installment to the most pointlessly disgusting movie franchise of all time is right up there with “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Dumb and Dumberer” in the “sweet Lord in Heaven, why was there a freaking sequel?” category. It’s pretty much the same song and dance as the first film; some deranged psychopath who wasn’t hugged enough plans to sew several live human beings together butt-to-mouth and for some reason you paid 10 bucks to watch it.

In over a century of cinematic endeavors, this movie might be one of the most graphically over-the-top visual experiences ever filmed. It’s not everyday you get to watch a middle-aged basket case meticulously remove a dozen peoples’ teeth with a hammer and then staple gun their mouths to each others’ anuses. But the characterization is so lazy that it’s like squashing a bunch of flies on your windshield – yeah it’s gross, but it’s hard to feel anything about it. This movie should just be sped up and accompanied by an all-fanfare soundtrack – it would look exactly like one of those classic British slapstick comedies. Except with maimed people evacuating their bowels into each others’ throats. Oscar season, anyone?

 

Zombie Strippers (2008)

Zombies? Check. Porn stars? Check. Gratuitously stylized violence? Check. “Zombie Strippers” has all the ingredients for a spooky blockbuster fit for the whole family. The surprising thing about this movie is how serious it takes itself within its outrageous plot. Set in a dystopic future where George W. Bush is elected to a fourth term and nudity is outlawed an infected soldier named Byrdflough stumbles into an illegal gentleman’s club and infects a stripper named Kat, played by adult film starlet Jenna Jameson.

Jameson really shows her range here by stepping outside of her comfort zone of taking off her clothes in front of a camera and into a role where she takes her clothes off in front of a camera and is a zombie. For whatever reason, Kat gets better tips as a zombie, so the rest of the working girls decide to follow the undead trend as well.

To the film’s credit, it wasn’t actually as stupid as it should have been. Viewers will be quite surprised to find a $2-word like “ontological” thrown around in the script for a movie whose title contains the words “zombie” and “strippers.” It even manages to at least nod towards some very basic satirizing of the American socio-political environment, but most of the scenes end up falling back on the tried and true method of “stop asking questions and start blowing strippers’ heads off.” It’s hard to take biting social commentary seriously when it’s flanked by a scene of zombie Jenna Jameson killing other zombies by shooting billiard balls out of her vagina. Some of the writing is genuinely funny – when a Hispanic character dies, one of the strippers dryly delivers the line “vaya con Ronnie James Dios.” But most of the laughing is done at the film, not with it.

 

Ninjas vs Zombies (2008)

Look no further than films with the word “vs” in the title for upstanding cinematic journeys: “Kramer vs Kramer,” “Scott Pilgrim vs The World” and of course who could forget the 2008 independent masterpiece “Ninjas vs Zombies.” This classic premise has been ruminated upon by countless inebriated early 20-somethings in Taco Bells across the world: Ninjas! Against zombies! Who would win?! It’s like dividing by zero!

It takes a real special blend of ambitious stupidity, however, to actually go through with producing a real live screenplay on the matter. In the director’s defense, it was a very organic independent production with a budget of around $10,000 and the film has achieved something of a cult status, but this doesn’t make this film any less ridiculous to watch. This is instant classic horror cheese. We’re talking zombies with clearly visible make-up lines like they just got their faces painted at the town fair. We’re talking breathtaking visual effects rivaled only perhaps by Windows Movie Maker. Rumor has it that based on the film’s supposed overwhelming success, the highly anticipated sequel “Ninjas vs Vampires” is due out any day now that the production crew has reportedly graduated from middle school. Well, if “Human Centipede” got one…

Dave Coffey can be reached at [email protected].