Monday, 10 October 2011

Best Worst Movie (2009)

Fig.1 Best Worst Movie Poster

There is a strong argument that it is impossible to truly explain why something becomes a "cult", or at least no one has managed it yet; the first person to be able to predict (or better yet manufacture) a cult film would be able to make an awful lot of money, so people will certainly keep trying.

"Best Worst Movie" is more interested in documenting the experience of being involved in a cult film, rather than seeking to explain why a film becomes cult, but it does uncover some interesting features.  Perhaps the most obvious of these is the divide between those members of the cast and crew who acknowledge the "badness" of the film that they made, and those who seem to actually believe that it was a good film (most notably, the italian director and writer).  In some ways, it is almost as though there are 2 different cults at work - the larger cult, who realise the film is terrible, but like it in a "so bad, it's good" way, and the (much) smaller cult who believe that the film is a work of art that has been unfairly maligned.

The majority of the film focusses upon the larger cult, and in particular the way that it has formed over the 20 years since Troll 2 was released strait to video.  Early on, one of the interviewees likens the film to a religion - one person discovers the film, likes it, and then starts showing it to their friends, and these friends in turn start to "spread the message".  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is the way that it happens completely without any marketing - it is recomended purely by word of mouth (although nowadays, thanks to the internet, this approach is capable of reaching the furthest corners of the globe), a technique that is extremely good at targetting the (small) demographic who are likely to enjoy the film.  The second notable feature of this "evangelical" model of marketing is the communal nature of the filmwatching - "converts" seem happy to watch the film over and over again with new "recruits", and it is possible that this provides an atmosphere in which the new recruits are subtly indoctrinated into liking the film too (humans being social creatures, we are highly succeptable to social pressures).

As for the question of why some films are singled out for elevation to the rank of "cult classics", perhaps the best explanation is offered by the Chicago Reader's J.R. Jones.  "There's also an element of empty spectacle at work here. The movies singled out for attention...(are)...the movies that are bad in the most spectacular manner...When kids are ten, they turn out at the multiplex to see cars and planes and helicopters crash and burn; when they're 20, they turn out at the midnight show to see the entire movie crash and burn." (Jones, 2010).  For a film to become a cult classic, it is not enough for it simply to be bad.  There must be some extra element, something ineffable that calls out to a particular sub-group of film-lovers, causing them to return to it again and again.

In the case of Troll 2, there is a strong argument for the mystery ingredient being the sincerity of the films cast and crew.  Like the films of Ed Wood, the audience never get the feeling that the film is aware of its failings, let alone trying to exploit them (or perhaps worse, cover them up).  Perhaps it is the lure of watching someone be stupid without realising - the guilty pleasure of car-crash entertainment - but watching Best Worst Film, you cannot help but feel that the audience at the midnight screenings genuinely love Troll 2, despite its myriad faults. (Peary, 2010)

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Best Worst Movie Poster (2010) [Online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)


Abrams, S and Henderson, E (2010) Best Worst Movie In: Slant Magazine [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Biodrowski, S (2010) Best Worst Movie (2009) review In: Cinefantastique [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Ebert, R (2010) Best Worst Movie In: [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Goodykoontz, B (2010) Best Worst Movie [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Jones, J.R. (2010) So Bad It's... Bad: The lesson of Best Worst Movie? Life's too short to waste on terrible movies In: Chicago Reader [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Long, C (2010) Best Worst Movie (DVD) In: [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Peary, G (2010) Review: Best Worst Movie In: Boston Phoenix [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

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