Six of the worst!
1. Appreciating terrible films.
First, we might want to consider why I would want to watch a terrible film anyway. For, if a film is really bad then surely it must be not possible to enjoy it. The category of films I refer to then are not simply bad but belong to the 'so bad it's good' genre. This series (Best of the Worst) by RedLetterMedia.com is an excellent example of this sort of enjoyment of truly awful films. What then denotes this category, if we are looking for something more than just bad? This is not a simply definition, but then few are, it may come down to personal taste in the end. So, rather than attempt to give a general theory of good bad films I'll simply tell you what it is that I love for in a film that makes it a 'terrible film I love'.
Indeed, it's sometimes a dangerous game and often times you find yourself with just a dull, stupid or nasty film and not one that has you roaring with laughter at the ridiculousness of the film.
So, of utmost importance, is the humour one finds in the film. It's not enough for the dialogue to be corny, or the plot illogical, or the effects lame, or the acting wooden, but they must be of a certain level that is just beyond, it must be SO much worse than you could possibly expect!
Typically these are not the sorts of films that one would want to watch alone (or sober). Indeed, of secondary importance, is the group participation aspect of the activity. A really good 'terrible film I love' will also be a film I've watched with a group of friends, it is the laughing together and shouting out lines or just questions of incredulity to the film that adds enjoyment. 'The Room' is the epitome of this sort of film, so much so that I believe it should carry a warning that one should not attempt to watch the film alone! This really is a film (and many of them are) that can only be enjoyed in a group. Below was an example from one of the many screening of 'The Room'. However, for copyright reasons it's been removed from YouTube. As you would have seen it's something of a performance piece in itself, almost like 'Rocky Horror' or 'sing-a-long-a Sound of Music'. In the clip, which is part of 'The Room' watching fandom, there is a running joke that whenever a framed photo of spoons is in frame that you shout "spoon!" (obviously) and throw plastic spoons at the screen. This does beg the question, why are there framed photos of spoons? Well, I believe the answer is that the set-dresser bought photos to place around 'The Room' but didn't think to replace the generic pictures with people, y'know, people in the film.
There are lots more videos of this type, but I'll save some of the longer ones and longer clips for the review proper.
What are we enjoying here? Is it the mockery of a thing or the act of passing judgement on an obviously inferior thing that causes our pleasure? Put simply, are we just enjoying the equivalent of 'bullying' someone's personal artistic vision? I'd hope that this is not the case, as I don't feel that I am deriving any pleasure from belittling or humiliating the work of another, nor do I feel any sense of superiority over another's artwork. I don't feel I'm directing my laughter personally at the actors, writers, or directors involved. Indeed, sometimes a really good actor, writer, or director can find themselves involved in a terrible production. For an example please refer to Jeremy Irons in my Dungeons & Dragons review.
Perhaps then we're just enjoying these films ironically? That is, there's not really anything to be enjoyed, so we make a pretense of appreciating the film to show how ironic we are. This, or any similar descriptions, just doesn't work, because I do find genuine entertainment in watching a 'terrible film I love' and there is something that I'm appreciating in all of them. It isn't something very deep, but it does engage critical analysis - it must confirm a specific description to be enjoyable - and it isn't just an allowing of normal film watching criteria to slip for a time, rather it is more like an extreme form of typical criteria, a special type of appreciating. Normally I am repelled, or at the very least bored, by films that are lazy, cheap, or exploitative, but these 'terrible films I love' aren't bad in this sense. It is more like a genuine attempt has been made to achieve something in the film (via dialogue, plot, or effects) but that it goes so spectacularly wrong that it causes astonished amusement, "why would they think THAT was a good idea?"
Indeed, if I think about my favourite 'terrible films I love' (reviews linked below) then none of them are lazy cash-grabs (the plot of Prometheus*, Adam Sandler's films, all of the films made by Asylum). Instead these failings come about by some sort of deluded artistic vision, or an obsession for some other aspect of the film at the cost of all else (typically this initial reason gets lost along the way too), or some other sort of near magical convergence of bizarre awfulness (Hercules in New York is an excellent example).
So, to conclude, it's quite hard to specify exactly what makes a film move from bad to so bad it's good, but it must have humour (our individual commitment of appreciation), have group spectacle (our shared commitment of interaction), have integrity of failed expression (the film-maker's commitment), and not fall into the category of dull or lazy and so forth. The final being the hardest to avoid, for even the best 'terrible film I love' will have some extended moments that are just bad and are devoid of anything entertaining. Still it is worth suffering this potential dullness for those moments of absolute comedic joy enjoyed as a group.
2. The Films.
Summary and Recommendation.
I - The Room
The absolute classic so bad it's good film. Tommy Wiseau is writer/director/producer/lead actor. That's probably enough information. If you've never seen it or a so bad it's good film before then you MUST watch this!
Recommendation: The highest possible. Get the beers in!
II - Dungeons & Dragons
When is a bad film made awesome? When involves Jeremy Irons going all-out crazy in an manner that would make Nick Cage concerned for his mental health. A fantasy film made by people with no understanding of the fantasy genre.
Recommendation: Quite strong. If only to see an excellent actor going beserk. Is achingly awful in places (and probably massively racist).
III - Street Fighter
Van Damme is his typical self combined with an awful computer game spin-off that equals amazement. One of the best moments features Jean-Claude (who plays archetypal American hero Guile with a Belgian accent) giving an inspirational speech to his men.
Recommendation: High. More of a head-scratcher at times, especially if you know (and love) the game it's supposedly based upon. Poor old Raul Julia though :(
IV - Hercules in New York
Arnold 'Strong' (the film-makers obviously thought Schwarzenegger as too unbelievable) shows just how much better an actor he is now in this epic fail of hilarity. The best moment is a fist fight in Central Park with a man in a rubbish bear costume (hint: it's meant to be a real bear).
Recommendation: Definitely. Arnie's line delivery is a constant source of amusement.
V - Samurai Cop
Classic 80's martial arts schlock done to an extreme level of ridiculousness.
Recommendation: Yes! A classic of its type, but hard work sometimes. The wig makes it all worthwhile though.
VI - Mystery Movie...
Can't make my mind up yet.
*Thanks to the Doubtful Egg for an excellent review of just some of Prometheus' failings.