News Column

Check Out These Flicks That Are so Bad They're Good

August 14, 2013


WHAT: "RiffTrax Live: Starship Troopers."

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday.

WHERE: Garden State 16, 1 Garden State Plaza in Paramus; Clifton Commons 16, 405 State Route 3, Clifton; Edgewater 16 Multiplex Cinemas, 339 River Road, Edgewater.

HOW MUCH: $12.50 and $13.50.

TICKETS: Individual theaters, or

WHAT: "The Room."

WHEN: Midnight on the first Saturday of every month.

WHERE: Sunshine Cinema, 143 E. Houston St., Manhattan.

HOW MUCH: $15.


If you're a sucker for campy movies with an inexplicably large and devoted fan base, then this summer has been a bonanza for you.

That's mainly because of "Sharknado," the low-budget Syfy Channel disaster flick combining sharks and a tornado, but it joins other "so bad it's good" events happening this year: the 10th anniversary of "The Room" (known as "the 'Citizen Kane' of bad movies"), which is perpetually screening in Manhattan, and Thursday's complete-with- insults screening of campy 1997 sci-fi movie "Starship Troopers," presented by the former "Mystery Science Theater 3000" cast members now known as RiffTrax Live.

The appeal of such classically bad cult movies might seem baffling to outsiders, but those who take part in the craze can tell you that the real draw isn't the film, but the audience interaction.

Larry Viezel would know. The Fair Lawn resident directs the "floor show" -- the cast of characters who act out the movie and encourage audience participation -- at biweekly midnight screenings of longtime cult favorite "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at Bellevue Theatre in Montclair. Despite the overwhelming response to "Sharknado" -- it top-trended on Twitter during its July 11 television premiere, then broke Syfy viewer records during re- airings, then aired again in select theaters nationwide - Viezel is less than impressed.

It takes more than a trending hashtag on Twitter to make a bad movie memorable, he said. "['Sharknado'] is an interesting one, but I don't think it's going to last," Viezel said.

Part of the formula for a bad movie gone good is passion, he added. That's something that studios can't fake.

"The Room" is a perfect example, Viezel said. The 2003 independent "drama" about a complicated love triangle (and about a million other subplots that go exactly nowhere) has reached famously bad status, with writer, director and star Tommy Wiseau as its poster boy. Screenings for the movie, which grossed a meager $1,800 in its first run, are held on a regular basis in a number of theaters nationwide. At the showings, audience members shout out lines and toss props at the screen, a la "Rocky Horror." Sunshine Cinemas in Manhattan hosts a monthly screening and Wiseau is known to make the odd appearance.

"Wiseau legitimately thought he was making a great movie," Viezel said, and so did the creators and stars of "Rocky Horror." "I don't think anyone at 'Sharknado' thought that." (At an early August screening of "Sharknado" in Los Angeles, the movie's director, Anthony Ferrante, said, "It was intended to be fun. In the editing room we were yelling and laughing at it.")

So why don't other Razzie-worthy movies get the response that "The Room" or "Rocky Horror" do? Even Thursday's roastee "Starship Troopers," often dismissed as campy trash, has supporters who say the film is subversive satire.

"The idea behind Razzie Award movies is like a blockbuster hit that failed because it did everything badly," Viezel said, citing "The Lone Ranger" and "Man of Steel" as examples. "It's being disappointed for something that you wanted to see succeed."

For studios who want to find the next "Rocky Horror" or "The Room," it's hard to know what will be bad enough to laugh at, or throw props at, for a month or for a decade.

"Defining rules as to what would make it so bad it's good would take away the magic," Viezel said. If you do, "you've already lost the game."

Erik Gavilanes of New Milford recalls going to a midnight screening of "Rocky Horror" for a class assignment and said he can appreciate how "face-palmingly bad" movies like "The Room" and "Sharknado" are, how fun it is to engage in it with others.

"Sort of how people can't help themselves from the really trashy reality shows," he said. But if he had to share two rules for a "so bad it's good" movie to get really big?

Step 1: Take yourself really seriously.

Step 2: Try very hard and fail very badly.

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