By Steve Guntli
I love a good bad movie. I’m not talking standard issue bloated summer blockbusters, which are usually more dull than truly bad. I’m talking horrendous, ill-advised, unintentionally hilarious bad movies. There’s something cathartic about getting together with a group of friends and sharing a laugh over a totally inept motion picture, and I’ve become something of a connoisseur of the genre.
Next time you want to get some friends over for a good laugh, check out one of these disaster pieces.
Troll 2 (1990)
The granddaddy of the modern terrible movie, “Troll 2” is something of a miracle. Not one single frame is accidentally competent, not one performance is even slightly good, not one directorial decision isn’t the worst possible decision. It’s the anti- “Citizen Kane,” exact zero on the bell curve, and that makes it truly special.
Couched as a sequel to the forgotten 1986 “Gremlins” knock-off “Troll,” “Troll 2” distinguishes itself early by not having any actual trolls. In fact, the beasties roaming around the movie in burlap sacks and dollar store rubber masks are goblins. Their nefarious plans involve consorting with a local witch to turn a milquetoast family vacationing in the quaint town of Nilbog into trees. Or something.
Even after more than a dozen viewings, the plot is still rather opaque, but it truly does not matter. All you need to know is there’s a young psychic boy receiving dire missives from his dead grandpa, an inscrutable subplot involving tainted milk and a mind-boggling seduction scene involving a whole lot of corn, which, as we all know, is the sexiest of all vegetables.
Despite how genuinely awful it is, there’s an underlying can-do spirit to “Troll 2” that makes the film endearing. There are no professional actors in the film, just residents of the small Utah town in which it was shot. There’s no malice or cynicism in the production, just a whole lot of misguided enthusiasm, which is why the film has earned a devoted cult following. For a fascinating, in-depth look at the making of the film and the lives of the people involved, check out the fantastic documentary, “Best Worst Movie.”
The Room (2003)
Directed by Tommy Wiseau
Tommy Wiseau is a source of unending mystery. No one knows exactly where he’s from; he claims to be born and bred in the bayous of Louisiana but his thick accent and broken English betray an Eastern European heritage.
He’s fantastically wealthy but no one really knows where his money comes from. There are some who speculate, only half-jokingly, that he’s an honest-to-god vampire. So what happens when a guy as inscrutable and strange as Wiseau makes a feature film? “The Room” is the answer.
“The Room” plays like an adult melodrama written by a crazy person with a young child’s understanding of human relationships. Wiseau plays Johnny, who we know is a good guy because everyone loudly expresses that sentiment any time he enters a room.
He is loving and faithful to Lisa (Juliette Danielle), but she’s spoiled and fickle and decides she’s in love with Mark (Greg Sestero), Johnny’s best friend. Passions flare, friendships are betrayed and a whole lot of unappealing man-butts are revealed.
Every scene is a treasure trove of inept choices and memorably bad moments, from a tuxedoed football game to Wiseau’s now-iconic line, “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” Characters come and go without explanation, one actually replaced by a different actor midway through the movie.
Subplots, like Lisa’s mother’s cancer scare and a run-in with an intimidating drug dealer named Chris R, are introduced and dropped completely from the film. It’s a baffling experience, and it absolutely shouldn’t be missed.
Fateful Findings (2013)
Directed by Neil Breen
Neil Breen, a former Las Vegas real estate broker and now multi-hyphenate filmmaker, is one of the most bizarre forces to hit modern cinema in a long time.
His self-funded movies, which include titles like “Pass-Thru” and “I Am Here …. Now” (four-dot ellipses his), play like bargain-basement David Lynch films, only without any clear guiding principles or even the basest cinematic knowledge. His surrealist leanings, nonsensical scripts and penchant for misusing bad green screen technology turns his films into singular experiences.
“Fateful Findings” is Breen’s weird backwards masterpiece. Breen wrote, directed, produced, edited and stars in the film, and his character, Dylan, has almost as many jobs. Dylan is a bestselling author, a computer hacker, a political activist and a mystical shaman who gets embroiled in political intrigue, kidnapping plots and some business involving a magical pebble.
But the broad strokes aren’t nearly as interesting as the bizarre details: a shower love scene in which Breen is sporting a full-face, bleeding bandage; an office desk with at least six obviously broken laptops; a cow skull that chatters like it’s in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and a mystical head-space that’s clearly a storage unit lined with garbage bags. It all culminates in a screamingly funny, out-of-left-field finale that quite literally knocked me out of my chair.
“The Room,” “Troll 2” and “Best Worst Movie” are available through the Whatcom County Library Service or on the streaming platform of your choice. Fateful Findings can be found on Amazon.