Every film studio wants to create the next “Halloween,” “Jaws,” or “Get Out.”
Horror movies endure in a way few genres can match. They get resuscitated every October for the obvious reasons. Budding teenagers learn about them from their older cousins, counting the days until they’re “old enough” to watch the classics.
Other horror films stumble while trying to scare us. Their attempts at shock come off as shockingly funny, or just plain inept.
They’re awful, but we can’t stop watching them.
The following movies fall squarely into that camp. Some had the very best of intentions before things went awry. Others probably knew the production was doomed from the start, but wouldn’t let that stop them.
One film landed with a thud in theaters but looks better in retrospect … for all the wrong reasons.
A quick note: Purposefully bad horror movies are a new and transparent trend. Films like the “Sharknado” series, “Birdemic” and every other Syfy original gather B-list actors, tiny budgets, and ridiculous concepts (“Mansquito,” “Sharktopus”) to entertain us.
Some do, of course, but it’s obvious they’re gunning for “so bad it’s good” territory. The following films hit those marks organically.
1. Troll 2 (1990)
It’s the grand daddy of all bad horror movies, and a beloved cult classic to boot. A family’s vacation turns into a nightmare thanks to a gang of plant gulfing goblins, part of the film’s not so subtle assault on vegetarians.
That description hardly does the film justice, though. “Troll 2,” dubbed a sequel to a 1986 film for marketing purposes alone, boasts pathetic performances, grade Z F/X, and plot twists as silly as a “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” marathon.
It’s a debacle from start to finish featuring neophyte actors under the direction of a man who barely spoke English. Take a bow, Claudio Fragasso.
Co-star Michael Paul Stephenson, who plays the son in the film, screened the film for his father shortly after it came out on VHS. His dad reportedly knew after all of seven seconds that “Troll 2” was a turkey.
Audiences love it for that very reason, eventually embracing the film as pure camp. Sold-out screenings secured the film’s legendary status, one similar in spirit to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Stephenson grew up to become a film director (“Girlfriend’s Day,” “The American Scream”). He got his start behind the camera, directing “Best Worst Movie.” That 2009 film examines the cult behind the film in a loving, but clear-eyed manner.
The former child actor captured the film’s unlikely appeal best.
“With ‘Troll 2,’ we thought we were making a great horror film, and that’s what causes people to smile and to laugh.”
2. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
The title alone tells you everything.
The Chiodo Brothers, wizards at creating wonderful miniatures for films like “Elf,” “Dinner with Schmucks” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” got a crack at commandeering their own film with this horror-comedy.
Their lack of experience shows with every forced exchange and painful performance. And it’s glorious, every bizarre ounce of it.
Yes, the clown costumes are genuinely creepy, as is veteran actor John Vernon as the cranky cop who doesn’t believe the clown invasion is real … until it’s too late. Dean Wormer would be proud.
The film feels like walking through a theme park maze lined with funhouse mirrors. It’s silly then surreal, comical yet darkly frightening.
It’s pure kitsch, of course, but its crudeness proves intoxicating and ripe for repeat viewings.
3. Jack Frost (1997)
No, this isn’t the 1998 drama featuring Michael Keaton as a father who comes back to life as an advice-peddling snowman.
It’s even worse than that.
Set in the town of “Snowmonton,” “Jack Frost” follows a serial killer who dies, but is reborn as a moving mound of snow.
This is direct-to-video Velveeta of the first order, with the appropriate low budget to show for it. The F/X must be seen to be believed.
Naturally it generated a small cult following along with a sequel set in a sunnier climate, dubbed “Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman.” Yes, it’s that kind of franchise.
“American Pie” starlet Shannon Elizabeth scored her screen debut in this hilarious horror misfire.
Director Michael Cooney went on to pen the respectable thriller “Identity,” but this remains entrenched on his IMDB.com to his great shame, and possibly delight.
4. Ice Cream Man (1995)
This low-grade lark features a solid cast who all should have known better. David Warner, Olivia Hussey, Jan-Michael Vincent, “An American Werewolf In London’s” David Naughton, Clint Howard, and Sandahl Bergman all got roped into this horror-comic meltdown.
Howard stars as the titular character, a tortured soul who puts human flesh into his product. That absurd premise sets the stage for a series of crude kills and incomprehensible sequences.
Warner, a horror icon thanks to “The Omen,” is barely on screen, thank goodness. Then again, the film squeezes in curious cameos by baseball great Steve Garvey and “The People’s Court” host Doug Llewelyn.
Little makes sense here, but the biggest head-scratcher comes from one of the younger cast members, a slim lad forced to wear a fat suit to appear heavier.
Why? It barely factors into the story. How hard would it be to hire a husky child actor in the first place?
It’s those details that make this monstrosity a cheery experience.
5. They Live (1988)
Critic confession: I saw this John Carpenter romp in theaters 30-plus years ago and hated it.
The capper? When star Rowdy Roddy Piper (hired in part for his weathered face) strolls into a bank, gun in hand, and announced, “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick a**. And I’m all out of bubble gum.”
Once again, though, time has been kind to a sci-fi/horror hybrid. Now, that line is a pop culture staple as is the movie’s bonkers allure.
Yes, Carpenter’s film attempted to smite the Reagan administration, a greed isn’t good meme that likely fell on the deafest of ears given the film’s cartoonish appeal—and that epic alley fight.
The Left happily glommed onto its anti-consumerism message during its initial release. Now, liberals use it as a warning against income inequality, missing how Big Tech censorship has far more in common with Carpenter’s ‘80s era vision.
6. The Happening (2008)
Director M. Night Shyamalan’s eco-dud took its sweet time to join this list. The film got hammered by critics and audiences when it first hit theaters, and rightly so. Time does funny things to films, though. Bombs like “Flash Gordon” emerge as beloved cult films as time marches on.
The years wash away a film’s potential, leaving it ripe for re-interpretation.
Wannabe blockbusters such as “The Happening” transform into mockable movies we savor in a different context.
It helps that Shyamalan is a legitimately talented filmmaker, rendering even the silliest scenes here watchable. That’s not always the case in the “so bad it’s good” genre.
Mark Wahlberg helps bridge the gap between awful and awfully funny. He’s a good actor hampered by limited range and occasional lousy choices. Here, he’s constrained by the silly eco-nightmare threat, which makes his performance giggle worthy. Duck! Here comes the wind!
Then again, what actor could go through these motions with their dignity intact?
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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