Bad movie crashes and burns: The beginning of the end

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By: Ashley Rivas

The Question

Think back to when you first saw The Room.  Was it glorious?  Or offensive? Or gloriously offensive? Did you feel deeply troubled by the greasy nest of hair on Tommy Wiseau’s head, or were you profoundly inspired by the trials and struggles of Johnny, such a great guy?  I’m sure you quoted the move at least once after watching it.  “Oh hi doggy”, or more accurately, “Oh hai doggy”, is applicable in almost every situation one experiences in their life.

Maybe you haven’t seen The Room, but you’re aware of it.  It has some kind of strange cult following, built by people who worship the blind “genius” of Wiseau.  Now swap The Room for Troll 2, or Sharktopus.  These are easily recognized as bad movies in the pop culture consciousness, almost immediately.  But why?  And why do we love movies this bad?  Transformers 2 is a bad movie, but it isn’t adored.  Batman V. Superman is a waking nightmare, and I’ll never watch it again.  So where is the line between “bad” and “so bad it’s good”, and how does a movie end up on either side of that line?

The Plan

To answer this, I’m going to watch actual bad movies.  I’ll rely on the suffering of others at IMDB to determine which movies get watched.  The “IMDB Bottom 100” will be our starting point, but since I’m not a total masochist (just partial; I do plan on watching a lot of these, which could kill me), we’ll avoid watching them all.  To pick a movie, I’ll use the following criteria:

  • Movie has reviews by YouTubers with easily accessible content. YouTubers will include channels that do feature bad movie reviews specifically, such as I Hate Everything, Your Movie Sucks, JonTron, Red Letter Media, and some clips from Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
  • The movie has some degree of cultural notoriety, i.e. has gained significance in pop culture, or has a substantial presence as a “bad movie”.
  • Has enough of a critique basis on professional movie review sites, specifically Rotten Tomatoes/IMDB, to utilize their scores as a comparison value.
  • It’s interesting to me. I actually feel like watching it.  I will not utilize this metric to specifically exclude infamously painful movies; those will be watched as well, much to my chagrin.

Once I have my movie, I’ll watch it, in all of its miserable glory.  Reactions, analyses of tropes, and theme identification (that’s laughable, considering the subject) will all form the basis for my own rating list. 

The Ultimately Super Bad List Of Delicious Badness will rank these movies on the following scale:

The Grading Scale Of All Scales

Here is my very scientific calculation that leads me to my rating.

Nap factor: Amount of times I fell asleep * 2

Oh My Gawd moments: Ratio of times I grabbed my face in shock to amount of times I screeched

Death knells: Intensity of the moments the movie made me wish for death

Save me request variable: Number of times I asked Superman to turn back time to remove the memory of watching the movie from my mind

Laughter complexity: This is a three-part subset.

For positive laughter (i.e. laughter that was out of genuine entertainment), add 250% of total of other factors to final score

For negative laughter (i.e. laughter that occurred because the film was doing things I found offensive and laughter was my only coping mechanism), subtract 1000% of total of other factors to final score.

For baffled laughter (i.e. laughter that was a direct result of my brain beginning to disintegrate), if this happens more than 10 times, go get drunk.  Void all previous results.  If this happens between 5 and 9 times, get kind of drunk.  Divide final score of other variables by pi.  If this happens between 1 and 4 times, I don’t know.  Cry or something.  Divide final score of other variables by 2.

Ultimate scoring formula:

[(Nap factor) * 6 + Oh My Gawd^(Save Me Requests)] * 142% Of Death Knell totals = Pending final score

Factor in laughter complexity to pending final score

Final value = [Factor in laughter complexity to pending final score] – [Factor in laughter complexity to pending final score]

In the event that the final value is zero, the following factors will be applied to the score based on my judgement:

  • Did this cause me pain to watch?
  • Was it funny, even if unintentionally?
  • Did it have some degree of heart and soul, or was it a vapid cash grab?

Basically, I’m going to pick the number I want on a scale of 1 to 10.  I will let my heart guide me, preferably when I’m intoxicated to cope with what these movies will do to me.

What will this mean?

This is the window into what actually makes a bad movie.  This is the chance to see what tropes are consistently criticized by critics, and whether or not those critics are consistently harsh or easy.  Do they really hate skimpily clothed female survivors?  Do they despise kid protagonists?  Do they love stunts?  It’s our way to take a sampling, use my own unbiased opinion, and see whether or not critics are particularly fair on bad movies or whether or not the presence of certain staples makes the critic automatically more hostile towards the movie.

We can use this to start picking out what actually makes a bad movie great.  The common threads that reviewers love and hate will create a rough model of what works, and what’s fun in a bad movie.  We can sift out what’s torture and miserable to sit through and understand why we really enjoy certain stupid and silly things despite knowing and acknowledging how stupid and silly they are.

It’ll also be important to account for (as much as possible) the intent of the filmmakers, or the effort that they put into making their movie.  The Effort Points ranking will consist of the score for the movie multiplied by the money spent making that movie.  For the score, I’ll be taking the average (with conversions made for varying scales) of point scores from myself, IMDB, and both the critic and audience scores of Rotten Tomatoes.  The money spent will be in the millions scale, so for example, let’s take a movie that definitely won’t be in this project: Transformers 2.  My score of this would be, for example, a 3.5/10 (not exactly what I’d give it without rewatching it more recently, but hot damn, this movie was a mess).  The IMDB score is 6.0/10, the RT critic score is 3.9/10, and the audience score is 3.5/5.  With conversions, the average score is  5.1/10.  Now, this is actually 5.1/10 “goodness”, which means on the badness scale, it’s actually 4.9/10 “bad”.  We can say that the positive effort of the movie would be the good rating multiplied by the amount of money spent, but we want to know how bad the movie is, so we’re going to use the bad rating.  According to IMDB, the movie cost $200,000,000 to make.  So this value is (.49) * 200,000,000, resulting in 98,000,000Divide that by millions to get a more manageable scale, and we know that the effort rating of the movie is 98.

For comparison, let’s take a good movie: Star Wars VII.  My score would be a 9.0/10, IMDB gave it 8.2/10, RT critics gave 8.2/10, and fans gave it 4.3/5.  It cost $245,000,000 to make.  So the goodness scale is 8.5/10, badness is 1.5/10.   This gives us a rating of 36.75, meaning that Transformers 2 is 2.6 times as bad as Star Wars VII.  This is not secret information.  You knew this already.  Even Shia Labeouf knew this.

Using my Ultimately Super Bad List Of Delicious Badness and a score on the Effort Points meter will give us a pretty good combination of metrics to determine how bad/good (bood?  Gad?) this movie is, and whether or not it deserves such dubious praise.

The Long Con

This will also start the pursuit of answers for the harder question.  Do these movies earn their infamy, or are they “so bad they’re good” because everyone thinks so?  How much do infamy and notoriety play into a bad movie’s “bad” status?  Part of this will be a consideration for time frames; a movie that’s been around longer will have had a more substantial chance to develop a cult following, as opposed to a more recent release.


About The Author

I'm a big ol' nerd, and I want to effuse that nerdiness for the rest of my life. I spend as much time as I can drawing and playing video games, and I've taken that to the career level now since I'm back in school to be a game designer. I'm the mom to three puppies and a fat kitty, and the wife to a fellow nerd.

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