There's a fine line between “artistic expression” and just plain drivel. A line whose first and only dependable guardian is Sir Self-Censorship.
But for some “artists” (usually of the self-proclaimed species), this trusty knight and retainer is mysteriously absent. Perhaps felled by the bloated, gorged and out of control Werewolves of Ego…
Cinematography is no stranger to such examples. It has plenty of movies that make us think it would have been better and more productive for everyone if the makers would have just went out for a beer and procrastinated instead on that particular evening of their conception. Movies so awful you can't disengage, as paradoxically as that is.
How to describe them?
You know that feeling when it's like you just stepped into a different dimension with your shoe-laces untied on mismatched shoes and a winter cap pulled over your eyes so you can barely see the bizarre discard-the-laws-of-physics things happening around?
Of course you don't. But you might if you try to figure out the rationale behind these following gems hunted and discovered by Rotten Tomatoes' regular contributor Michael Adam as research for his book “Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies”.
1. Showgirls – 1995
When you try to make a movie about the dramatic lives of Las Vegas strippers and casino workers, you'd better get your cohesion on. A little intensity and a dash of careful psychological study wouldn't hurt either. Not to mention other elements like researching the local “culture” and behavior, pacing etc.
Which is what doesn't happen in this attempt by writer Joe Eszterhas and director Paul Verhoeven of “Basic Instinct” fame. The dialogue tries to be “incisive” and “raw” but fails, the love scene between Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan fails to arouse. In short, the whole construction fails like a conglomeration of badly placed Tetris parts.
2. The Giant Spider Invasion – 1975
Mix up not-the-brightest-tool-in-the-shed rednecks, summarily dressed redneckettes, off-world genocidal spiders initially small and looking suspiciously like your average tarantulas until you get introduced to the giant hulking unstoppable monster version and what do you get? Well, “The Giant Spider Invasion”. Oh, and the giant spider is actually a VolksWagen car in a spider suit with the people inside twitching the “legs” to make it look realistic.
3. Howling II – Your Sister Is A Werewolf – 1985
Supposedly a sequel of the 1981 original by Joe Dante, this masterpiece is what happens when an erotic horror attempt goes off its arguably tiny wheels to begin with and smashes into the dense forests of Ridiculous Land to turn into a blazing, eye-catching mess.
It stars Christoper Lee as an occult investigator matched against the werewolf Queen Stirba (Sybil Danning) and her servants. The acting (or lack of) by co-stars Annie McEnroe and Reb Brown is cringe-worthy, the make-up effects are so good they make you think of candy and there's a theme song by Babel as enticing as a dripping water faucet. And more.
4. The Black Gestapo – 1975
Wait… what? Safe to say certain producers need a historical dictionary or some-such, preferably applied with sufficient force to the side of the head. “Ge – sta – pooooh. Sink in yet? …. That's right. … No, you can't make the Gestapo officers black. It would be like making Malcom X a White Supremacist. Glad I could help. Run along and procrastinate now. It's better for everybody”.
What other negative things can one say more about this movie that aren't blatantly obvious by the title? Well, since you ask, the pacing and production ain't quite peachy either. And it features the line “The new master race” in relation to the Black Gestapo. Aaaand a Hitleresque vibe when Kojah (the protagonist) holds a speech from a platform and says “The white community will feel our power!”.
5. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats – 1977
This one was so odd that even its release is out of the ordinary patterns. Although finished in 1977, it was released 3 decades later illegally, in the UK, because someone had managed to pirate a copy and make a video release DESPITE the fact that filmmaker George Barry hadn't succeeded in acquiring any distribution. As these things tend to go, the movie naturally got a cult following, prompting an official release in 2003. A happy ending for the 6 years(!) of effort put in by the filmmaker (Barry started working on it in 1971). As for the theme of the movie, the title is eloquent: a bed digests various characters.