Midweek Mouth-off: Talking trashy movies

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Last week there was quite a divisive reaction to the trailer for Piranha 3DD. Some couldn’t wait for the purposefully stupid exploitation flick; others instantly dismissed it as a steaming turd…

Given how heated the debate got, today’s question is: What do you think about Trash Cinema Tributes – all those movies like Machete, Piranha 3D, Hobo With a Shotgun and the Grindhouse double of Planet Terror and Death Proof, that try to look as cheap and nasty as possible? How do you feel about paying full price to watch films that are deliberately designed to be straight-to-DVD bad?  Do you worry that by supporting them, audience’s are encouraging Hollywood to keep churning out Z-grade drek? Or does nothing matter more to you than having fun, even if that enjoyment is of the “so bad it’s good” kind?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: March 7, 2012

Noelle Adams

Sometime Tomb Raider. Full-time Pop Culture fanatic and Geekaissance Woman. Most often spotted outputting Pop Culture opinion pieces, writing fanfic and original genre fare, cosplaying and bringing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu smackdown. Editor of the Comics and Toys section.

  • To be fair I’m a fan of some of the garbage. But generally only when it has a thin veil of attempting to be good splashed over it.

    Once it turns into an obvious steaming turd like Piranha 3D I’m over it

  • Well, I think it’s quite clear what my standpoint on the matter is. With a few exceptions (Black DynoMIIIIIITE!) I have not really enjoyed any of them. 
    And here’s the thing: the famous films that this latest “Grindhouse” trend is trying to emulate was not intentionally made to look bad. They achieved infamy because the people involved were genuinely trying to make the best films they could, despite their various drawbacks, be they budget or just plain talent.Do you think when Ed Wood was making movies that he wanted them to suck? No, he thought he was creating art, which is why when his films fell so far short of the mark, it prompted interest.My biggest issue is probably because I have never been a fan of gratuity in films and these are often just an excuse to turn the dial on those gratuitous elements all the way to 11. That’s not entertainment to me. 

    • But Ed Wood’s films were really bad and it’s that pure novelty that makes them endearing. Plan 9 or Ed & Edna are not trash cinema, nor is The Room. Some trash is so bad that it makes a name on that front, like Troll 2 or Starcrash (arguably the worst-yet-most-entertaining movie ever made). Liking ‘bad’ films is a different type of pass time. Trash films are typically exploitation-styled horrors or actioners made to entertain and cash in. Ed Wood’s stuff was pure vanity and we like his work because we’re in on a joke he wasn’t: that he was awful at his job and yet persisted regardless.

      • Starcrash is a film I have heard far too much about and never seen. I must endeavour to get it.

        • David Hasselhoff with lightsabers. And that is the least of its crimes. 

  • It’s 50/50 for me, most of the time I wouldn’t bother with Trash Cinema but for some reason I really enjoyed Machete. Then fertilizer like Piranha 3DD comes along and it makes me physically uncomfortable to know that somehow, people paid to make that movie, people were paid to be in that movie, and people will pay to watch that movie. It’s a matter of taste and I’ll try not be a snob, I don’t think you have to watch trashy movies but you can’t judge them until you’ve seen at least one. 

    But bottom line, no way I’d pay to go see them at the cinema. 

    • I have to admit, Machete was far more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

    • I wouldn’t pay to see most movies at a cinema, at the prices they charge. Unless it’s real 3D on a big screen, I only leave my house to get the DVD.

      • God, the price. Went to the cinema for the first time in years the other weekend, was shocked at how expensive it was. Made me feel really old. Another down side is the “shared” experience, I remembered how annoying it was to have the movie soundtrack replaced with 100 strangers eating popcorn

        • If they allowed me to take in my own six-pack and didn’t, after robbing me, flight a dozen ads, I’d be more tolerant. But cinemas here and abroad have gone out of their way to alienate me. 

          Mind you, for a shared experience nothing beats an animated movie on a Friday morning when parents take their toddlers. Now kids, they know how to enjoy a movie. 

          • I’m reminded of a story my mom loves to embarrass me with. My first cinema experience, we went to watch Lady and the Tramp when I was three years old, and I apparently spent the entire movie crawling around on the floor looking for popcorn. If you’re a kid, that’s how you enjoy a movie 🙂

        • We use our Discovery Vitality card to get really well priced movies… 

          • If only I could afford to be on Discovery, but that’s a rant for another time. I just have to be careful about which movies I go see, I’m not going to go to the cinema for anything less than epic-ness. Probably the next two I’ll see in cinema are Avengers & Dark Knight Rises, and definitely not When Piranhas Attack or whatever schlock it is we’re talking about today

          • That I can agree on. I am certainly not watching Piranha 3DD on cinema, not unless I go in a group of drunk or otherwise inebriated people (and I don’t know enough people who still even go to cinemas, except on the odd big deal like Tintin). But I’d definitely watching it on DVD. Note, I didn’t say ‘buying’. Rule one of the trash commandments: first sample before you commit. 

            Sadly club cards and such are perks and not legitimate in the price debate. It’s like game preorders only being available to club card members. 

          • Noelle Adams

            There are ways around paying full price that don’t involve signing up for loyalty programmes with hefty monthly fees like Vitality.

            The free Clicks card gives your reduced price movies at Nu Metro from Monday to Friday. And for a once-off R30 (I think) the Nu Metro Fanatics and Ster Kinekor movie cards give you half-price Wed and Tues respectively. Plus you get a free ticket when signing up, as well as every +/- 10 movies you watch. I make full use of these systems.

          • @google-87baa7500a9f7fa182088547713fa96a:disqus But I still have to hand my details to some company to enjoy the ‘perk’ of movie tickets that don’t rob me in the process. I used to go along with that – had club cards and so forth. I used to watch two to three cinema movies a day when I had time off, often just going on the posters. But they just get greedier. Ten minutes of ads, terrible options for food, poor condition of cinemas. Let’s not add the cost of driving there and paying for parking. Forget it. I have a HDTV and I know people who have projectors. 

          • My vitality is lumped in with my life insurance so I don’t really notice it and now use their really cheap gym membership options so I’m winning at the moment 🙂

  • I love Trash. Sometimes I don’t want to think for 90 minutes, its nice that I can switch off and be entertained. Like it or not I still consider Trash Cinema Art thanks to amazing filmakers like
    Robert Rodrigue, Eli Roth and Tarintino

    • The problem of course, is when substantially less talented film makers attempt to emulate the success of those guys. Have you seen “Nude Nuns with Big Guns”? I unfortunately have.

      • Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? Trash begets trash. But that shouldn’t tarnish the entire genre. If I had to judge sci-fi by Transformers, I’d never touch the genre again. But nor can I stop Transformers from being made and turning my back on sci-fi won’t make that happen. 

    • Agreed. Deperado would no be without El Mariachi.

  • It’s entirely about the filmmakers judgement. Some filmmakers can make a b-grade film well enough that it’s intentional cheese doesn’t become grating or tedious. Often times, it works because they’ve, despite it not being high art, they’ve still taken care to give it a solid story with a reliable logic within the world of the film. That’s when it works for me, as was the case in Piranha. By story, I don’t mean something that’s the equal of Shakespeare or some Nobel Prize Literature. I just mean something that provides a solid backbone for the film to rest on

    Others though just seem to go for the style of the b-grade films of yester-year with nary a care for anything else. The result is something that feels hollow and false, because it’s just emulating previous work without bringing anything else of its own. 

    For the original z-graders, the scratches on the print, the awful acting, the clunky dialogue and story and the overall feeling of cheapness were things that were a genuine reflection of their lack of budget and resultant low production values. But with the new z-graders, it’s not a reflection of what they lack so much as something that is aimed for and THAT pisses me and leaves me outside of the film instead of involving me. 

    Parody can only be taken so far and then you need to bring in imagination, innovation and a solid story to give your film actual value. Telling me that the films of yester-year were goofy is interesting at first, but after seeing it done with a dozen or so movies telling me that same thing, I need something more to interest me for the remaining 90 odd minutes

    • I agree. Piranha 3D was not an attempt at imitating Grindhouse. It was simply a serious attempt at making a b-grade creature horror. It knew what it wanted to do and did it: nudity, violence, stupid one-liners and a cast you’d love to watch being eaten. For contrast, look at Lake Placid. If it wasn’t for Betty White’s character, that movie falls apart. It’s not done well at all. In contrast, something like Rogue really goes in a different direction and does it well. 

      • Noelle Adams

        After all the discussion last week I watched Piranha 3D on Friday and was pretty disappointed. I didn’t find it fun at all. Everything just felt half-baked. Same for Snakes on a Plane. For something that promised to be dumb, bad fun, it just wasn’t enjoyable. I felt nothing.

        Rogue, however… That’s how you do a “When critters attack” movie!

        • Well, nobody said Piranha 3D was excellent. Instead the debate raged around people attacking the sequel because it was ‘a bad movie’. It’s a debate about principle – there are much better examples of trash cinema than Piranha 3D. But disregarding a film because it doesn’t fit an archetype of what a film is supposed to be – well, that’s just lame. 

        • Wow you actually watched it? I guessed that the Piranha incursion would end when they all died from silicon poisoning / exposure to fake tan chemicals. How close was I?

      • Although I clearly don’t care for it much, Piranha 3D was probably one of the least offensive of this latest wave. I still don’t think it good cinema, but there is significantly worse out there.

        • Why don’t you give examples of good cinema?

          • Somehow, I get the feeling that my examples of good cinema, would fit right in with your idea of pretentious filmmaking. 😀

          • That would be my point, though. I love lots of pretentious films. Nothing against them at all. But disregarding trash because it doesn’t qualify for the higher brow stuff is a mistake. I honestly feel that watching trash movies enhances your sense and understanding for the medium. And it makes a lot of pretentious stuff even better. Don’t ask me why – I have my theories, but it’s really a personal journey. 

            If we were talking about the really awful stuff that everyone pays to watch, encouraging to make more awful stuff, I’m totally on your side. But Piranha 3DD’s trailer suggests a film that pretty much does what it wants to. If they do it right, this could become a cult classic. 

        • Noelle Adams

          Yeah, I found it to be a surprisingly okay film for good chunks actually – I mean it devoted a surprising amount of time to the set-up. The sequel though looks like ridiculous excess to the max, beyond what I can endure.

  • Trash cinema is the cure for pretentious filmmaking. If you can’t stand the genre, don’t let me catch you praising Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, Bad Taste, Cannibal Holocaust, Reanimator, Pink Flamingos or any of those classics. You might as well jettison everything crafted by Dario Argento, the Lone Wolf series or  Takashi Miike’s early films. Those were and still remain trash. My favourite is Deathstalker, which is no-budget and all-heart. Heart is the key here: it’s about money (hence it’s exploitation cinema), but the people WANTED to make it. This is why Wrong Turn 2, for all its flaws, was lots of fun to watch, so was the hilariously OTT Sharktopus. 

    Nobody who makes trash would produce rubbish like the new Twilight. And if you want a vindication for trash cinema, look no further than trash-master Roger Corman, who mentored Lucas, Coppola, Scorcese, Cameron and more. Trash cinema teaches respect and understanding for the art of film and why it exists in the first place. 

    You don’t have to watch Trash Cinema, but don’t be a hater because you disapprove from your vantage tower fuelled by hollow Academy Awards and retarded blockbusters. Maybe you were just ambushed by one-too-many Asylum film. 
    PS. For the next topic, can we bitch we went from The Naked Gun and Top Secret! to Superhero Movie and Vampires Suck?

    • Try everything once so you can have an opinion of it, personally I don’t like Trash Cinema and I’ve seen enough to know it’s not my taste. Same with Twilight, I watched the first movie and read the first book so that (once I’d come out of the coma, stopped drooling and could at least remember my name) I could have my own opinion of it. 

    • Re: Top Secret/ Naked Gun to Super Hero Movie: Great topic. Those early spoofs are some of my favourite films of all time and the newer ones, some of my most loathed

      • Yeah, same here. I don’t know if its because I got older or they got worse. But I think it’s because today’s spoofs work too hard to reference pop culture and as such don’t have the evergreen jokes you got in Top Secret/Naked Gun/Airplane/Hot Shots/Spaceballs…

  • Noelle Adams

    I think it’s case by case for me. I thought Wrong Turn 2 was vastly superior to its predecessor, and I love the original Friday the 13th. But Evil Dead has never sucked me in. And things like From Dusk Til Dawn also leave me cold.

    I paid to watch Machete and Death Proof at the cinema but I’m otherwise a believer it’s better this stuff stay straight-to-DVD/Download.

    • After giving it a whole lot of thought last night (I had a bunch of free time while watching Ghost Rider, but more about that later), I’ve come to realize this exact thing.

      I think I came out far too strongly in the beginning against the whole trash movie genre. Despite me not enjoying the genre, I have seen a massive amount of them, as I am a firm believer that you cannot critizise a film/genre until you’ve experienced it yourself. And when thinking of all those films, there was a surprising number of them that I would honestly say I enjoyed.

      Like Noelle says though, it was on a case by case basis. For example, in most cases, the excessively gory ones did not appeal to me at all, yet I thoroughly enjoyed Machete. A film that sees a man use somebody’s intestines to swing down a building.

      I grew up on, and still have a huge affinity for crappy Japanese action films, not too mention pretty much being raised by the silver-haired masters in Golden Harvest and Shaw Brothers’ Kung Fu films. I still watch them to this day and enjoy the badly dubbed hell out of them, yet I get the same level of enjoyment out of something as “pretentious” as Hugo.

      I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I’ve come to realize that my personal viewing tastes are not only far more complex, but that it would be wrong and hypocritical of me to dismiss any particular genre out of hand, as there are always exceptions that appeal to me. Hell, I can even say that I have a favourite Romantic Comedy, and I despise rom-coms with the heat of a thousand suns!

      But that’s the beauty of being a film lover: It’s not a cut and dry choice, it’s a journey which has no real destination, no final moment when you can now say “That’s it. I am now 100% a film buff!” but rather its a winding trek where you will often discover unexpected delights in the strangest of places.

      • So does that mean you’ve come to love the experience that is Underworld?

        • “Case by case basis”. That is a bad case.

          • Noelle Adams

             Seconded! Vampires vs werewolves is a fantastic concept – think about World of Darkness  – and the Underworld makers have chosen the laziest, most obvious route: babes in latex with guns. The Underworld films aren’t bad but they’re horribly uninspired. And not even fun. The fan support for such blandness has always surprised me.

        • I can’t help but like Underworld. If I had to be dumped in a nightmare world where Vampire the Masquerade becomes true, let it be Underworld or Blade.  

      • Does this mean I win? Do I get anything?

        No, no, remember what Mom said. Bragging is not how you make friends…

        Screw that, what do I get?

        I can’t hold anything against someone who count the Shaw Brothers as their childhood influences. In fact, we should chat. I am trying to track a movie that I saw when I was seven and has pretty much determined my movie tastes. It involved ninjas jumping out of the ground and chopping off some guy’s head. Man, I want to know what that film was…

        • Arguing on the internet, Special Olympics. You know the drill :p

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