04th Dec2017

Culture Dump #19: What stops a “So-Bad-It’s-Good” movie from being Bad?

by Simon Bland


“We made a movie about the worst movie and it might be our best movie,” Tweeted Seth Rogan earlier this week. He was referring to The Disaster Artist, a James Franco-Directed retelling of how one of the best-worst-movies ever came to be and the pair’s latest project. Franco’s film chronicles the creation of Tommy Wiseau’s bizarre passion project The Room, a now-infamous cult-favourite that has been celebrated in cult circles since its 2003 release. Never heard of it? You’re missing out – but in the meantime, here’s a whistle-stop guide.

Following years of failed auditions, mysterious struggling actor Tommy Wiseau pens a script and enlists the help of his friend and fellow budding thesp Greg Sestero alongside a cast, crew and seemingly never-ending back account to bring his dream to life and show Hollywood what they’re missing. The end result was The Room – a truly awful yet awfully hilarious guide on how not to make a movie. Audiences loved it, just not for the reasons Wiseau intended and almost fifteen years later, the film still manages to draw eager crowds. It’s an impressive feat but one that makes you wonder – what elements does a so-bad-it’s-good movie need to elevate it above being just another bad film?

Word of mouth is a base ingredient. Much like fellow terrible tale Troll 2, chatter amongst movie fans helps raise a bad film’s status and that doesn’t come without some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. Troll 2 hit the mark and eventually got its day in the sun via Director Michael Paul Stephen’s ace documentary Best Worst Movie. Both are proof that a movie can be terrible for many reasons and if its a real turkey, it evaporates out of a viewer’s brain almost instantly. In the case of The Room and Troll 2 the opposite was true, with fans barely able to contain themselves during viewings without blurting out one of the movie’s many awkwardly delivered lines.

However with The Room, the key element that helped it avoid an eternity in obscurity was having a creator who was full of real-life intrigue. To this day nobody quite knows where the clandestine Wiseau is actually from, what his actual age is or where he got the (reportedly) $6 million he needed to finance, promote and self-distribute the movie. In the years since, Wiseau has appeared at numerous screenings all over the world to interact with fans and famous friends in his own bizarre way, proving that despite his oddball persona he’s more than grateful for the appreciation of his work.

Ironically, this key saving grace of The Room is also the most successful aspect of The Disaster Artist.  Franco’s rendition of Wiseau is weird and wonderful in spades but also accessible and empathetic at the same time. In both cases it’s hard not to think that without this alluring figure at their core, both films would hardly be worthy of comment, regardless of whether they were good or bad.

What do you think makes bad movies good? Let me know in the comments section below!


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