Am I embarrassed that I like these movies so much? No! (yes)
If you are a horror movie fan, and if you’re reading this blog, you most certainly are… or are horror curious… you will be carrying some serious film baggage with you. There are going to be movies that are considered lousy movies, but you love them anyway. Now, I’m not talking about the little indy movie that nobody heard of that doesn’t get enough love, no, I’m talking about Guilty Pleasures. This was a concept that I became aware of when watching Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel in their PBS show Sneak Previews, back in the 1980’s. That’s when I learned that Roger Ebert had a soft spot for sleazy movies. He was a fan of Last House on the Left and Pink Flamingos, films that no right-thinking movie critic would ever applaud… but he did.
Mike and I discussed this in detail in our Episode XI Podcast. Mike had accurately described these as empty calorie movies. Sophomoric? Yep. Goofy and poorly acted? Yep. These movies are not going to rank highly on any Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic. In fact, many horror fans may blanch at the selections. But I say a pox on the critics! I love these movies!
Here is a list of some of my favorite Guilty Pleasures!
10. Zombeavers (2014). Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Tagline: You’ll all be dammed!
Wait, didn’t Eric write that this is a terrible movie? Indeed I did. It’s a * out of ***** for quality of production. How this movie managed to get that RT score is beyond me. This movie is filled with some atrocious beaver puppets, a cast full of horribly overacting pretty teenagers, and lots of bad double entendres involving female genitalia. And yet, I still harbor a soft spot for this goofy bad movie. The plot was a straight line through exactly what you would expect. Toxic spill + sensitive ecosystem + horny teenagers + cabin in the woods + apocryphal helpful hillbilly + lycanthropy = Zombeavers. This is the stand-in example for The Scariest Things to use as a punching bag movie. It’s the so-bad-it’s-good-no-wait-it’s-actually-really-bad-but-I-love-it-anyways movie. This is cheezy covered in cheez sauce… on top of a decaying half-a-beaver. And damn (dam), if that ain’t entertaining!
9. Deepstar Six (1989): Rotten Tomatoes 0% (C’mon! It’s not THAT Bad!)
Tagline: Save your last breath… to scream.
(Not to be confused with the Star Trek Series Deep Space Nine!)
In 1989, three films about deep sea exploration and monsters/aliens. One was the Abyss, by James Cameron, an ambitious big-budget movie that eventually became something of a cult classic, and hinted heavily of Cameron’s fascination with oceanic exploration… not really a monster movie, unless you count crazy Michael Biehn. The second was Leviathan, with Peter Weller, in an undersea movie about mutating fish-human hybrid monsters. And the third, and probably forgotten movie of the trio was Deepstar Six, produced by Friday the 13th producer Sean S. Cunningham. This movie featured my favorite monster of the bunch… a giant prehistoric crustacean of some unknown origin, released from its abyssal prison by the deep sea mining crew of the submersible station Deepstar Six. It featured a big cast, all of whom became fodder for the mega-shrimp that broke into the station. The practical effects were a lot of fun, and even though the plot recycled all the alien tropes that you would expect, I found this high body count to be pure popcorn fun, definitely more fun than Leviathan, and more satisfying than The Abyss, and the other big underwater sci-fi film Sphere (1998) which I found to be a bore. It deserves better than the zero RT score (Since this movie predated RT by several decades only a few critic reviews were tallied… so it’s not widely reviewed.) Movies with this much water in them are always a high risk for the producers, so this movie was fortunate to earn back its modest $8 million budget.
8. Feast (2006) Rotten Tomatoes 56%
Tagline: They’re Hungry. You’re Dinner.
I’ve got a soft spot for this formulaic monster assault a house movie. This was the byproduct of the efforts of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight (Bravo), where they would find a director and help them produce their first film. After the first two dramas that they sponsored were both critical and commercial flops (Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights). Eventually, what was realized was that horror fit the micro-budget starter kit intent of Project Greenlight, and in the end, it did prove successful. Feast was hardly an original movie. It had a lot of From Dusk til Dawn in its DNA, and more than a little bit of Evil Dead. It took a cast featuring a couple of well-known cameos with Jason Mewes and Henry Rollins, and found a curvaceous heroine to play the lead… although truth be told, you came to see the Toothy monsters, the boobs were just a bonus. It’s a movie filled with classic gory practical effects, and a frenetic non-stop action pace, and you couldn’t be bored watching this film. I think to truly appreciate the film, you need to watch the Project Greenlight Season 3, available for rent on Youtube and Amazon.
7. Thir13en Ghosts (2001) Rotten Tomatoes 14%
Tagline: Terror Wants Company!
High marks for the beauty of the production. The astounding glass house and lighting of the sets, and the extraordinary makeup that was done for this movie overcome the killing by numbers plot. I can’t believe I like a movie that features Matthew Lillard, but God help me, there I go. Each of the featured ghosts is a marvel, and even though the thin plot is nonsensical, you find yourself not really caring about the plot and just soaking it all in. Another interesting feature is that Tony Shalhoub, F. Murray Abraham, and Shannon Elizabeth form an all Arab-American /Arab-Brit (Abraham) lead cast… quite unique, particularly because it doesn’t matter in the slightest for the story.
6. Predator 2 ( 1990) Rotten Tomatoes 28%
Tagline: He’s in town with a few days to kill.
Am I alone here? Am I the only one who likes the sequel? The first film’s fans are legion. The double governator original was an action film classic, but I found the follow up with Danny Glover a lot of fun. I know the cast, particularly Gary Busey and Bill Paxton painfully overact through the film. And the meat locker fight was a blatant and unsubtle rip off of Aliens. But the film has so many really memorable moments. The battle in the Aztec-ish apartment where the Predator gets the jump on the Jamaican gang was a thrill. The subway shootout was a terrific take on 1990’s LA paranoia. Danny Glover’s Harrigan leaping in pursuit of the Predator through the old brick apartment building, where an old lady approaches the calamity with a broom. And the iconic revelation that the Predator had killed an alien xenomorph. Yeah, it can be really dumb at times, but entertainingly so. This movie oozes 1990 LA stereotypes, colorful characters, and a brisk action pace.
5. Rubber (2010) Rotten Tomatoes 65%
Tagline: Careful where you tread
This mondo bizarro movie might actually be the best film of all of my guilty pleasures… and when you consider that this is a movie about a homicidal tire with psionic destructive powers, that’s a mind-blowing realization. (Pun intended) If there ever was an artsy indie grindhouse schlock film, this would be the poster child. It’s darkly funny, but it doesn’t go for the cheap yucks, rather, it goes for the deadpan and the absurd instead of slapstick. Fortunately for the horror movie fan, it also has plenty of fun splattery head explosions, to make sure you know you have one foot firmly in grindhouse fare. I fully expected the slap and the schtick, but instead I got a surreal and very strange experience out of watching this film. Not surprisingly… it’s a French production. It’s Godard by way of Cronenberg so it’s most definitely not for everyone, but I got a huge kick out of this tire tale. (Pun intended again)
4. Ghosts of Mars (2001): Rotten Tomatoes 21%
Tagline: You Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance
John Carpenter has written and directed some of the greatest horror movies of all time. The Thing, Halloween, The Fog, and… this is not one of them. It is, however, a lot of pure dumb fun for me. Mars has been colonized, and is being stripped for natural resources. Miners have unwittingly opened access to ruins that has trapped martian souls that take over the bodies of the miners and turn them into bad heavy metal kiss psychopaths! And they all scream in nonsensical babble. (No attempt to actually craft an ancient Martian Language necessary.) Somehow, Carpenter was able to get a $28 million budget, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he spent it on the sets, as it looks like a Star Trek TNG stage set. But, even with all these flaws, I’m digging the campiness of the film, intentional or not. The charisma of Ice Cube and Jason Statham forecasts bigger things to come for these actors.
3. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) Rotten Tomatoes Score 71%
Tagline: It’s Craazzyy! (Which may be the worst tagline… ever)
Mike and I watched this in the dorms, and had zero expectations at the time. What a surprise it was that this actually was a solid comedy horror film. This is the definition of a goofy cult classic. The circus has come to town, or rather, the big top is actually a UFO and it just crash landed on earth. The Killer Klowns have arrived to abduct and eat the people of Cotton candy cocoons! Acid pies! Pure goofy fun, and wonderfully creepy clown costumes and makeup. Plus, the fearsome Klownzilla! Watch the clowns turn the sheriff into a meat puppet! This movie shouldn’t be good, but it is. Further proof that clowns are just plain wrong!
2. Dagon (2001): Rotten Tomatoes Score 39%
One of my favorite Lovecraft movies. A throwback exploitation movie, that actually has a good plot. It is essentially Lovecraft’s tale “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” as it explores two shipwreck survivors who stumble upon a dilapidating Spanish fishing town. And, it’s full of sullen townsfolk, who turn out to be inbred mutant fish people; all cultists who worship Dagon, a monstrous god of the sea. It is a micro-budget movie, reminiscent of 80’s movies like The Reanimator, it is, after all produced by the Reanimator’s Stuart Gordon. It maximizes the limited budget it had, and the sets and costumes are great, with a thankfully minimal amount of CG. It’s authentically creepy, and it’s gory, tentacular, and boobtastic. Yeah, it’s a grindhouse movie, but it is earnest, and tense, and it allows for the build-up of the mystery. I was glad that Dagon held a lot in reserve for the finale, and slowly brought in the elements of the mystery.
1. Anaconda (1997): Rotten Tomatoes Score 39%, Metacritic 37
Tagline: You can’t scream if you can’t breathe.
Anytime I run across this movie when channel flipping, (Usually on TNT or Syfy) I will watch it! It is pure dumb fun, with a high body count. It also was a movie that had a number of soon to be big stars: Ice Cube, J-Lo, Danny Trejo, Owen Wilson, and an over the top performance by John Voigt. The move slips into the ridiculous, with Voight doing his best Jaws Robert Shaw attempt, as a snake hunter with revenge on his mind. The logic goes out the window, as most mega-predator type movies go, with the snake continuously hungry. By the end of the movie, this snake should have six stacked bodies end to end in its belly. I’m just guessing here… but that ought to bog even the biggest of anacondas down just a little. But who cares! Bring on the eating machine! The scene where you can see the recently swallowed victim’s face through the skin of the anaconda? Priceless. John Voight winking at J-Lo after he gets puked out by the snake? Also priceless. This movie is considered to be so dumb that it has already been Riff-Tracked, so it has already been bestowed with being bad enough to earn the mockery of professional hecklers. And still… Anaconda is one for the ages, in my book.