13 So Bad They're Good Horror Films
Article By: Tyler Doupe
These days, the movie going public seems to be embracing the undeniable charm of so bad it’s good cinema more wholeheartedly than ever before. That’s thanks, in no small part, to the accessibility of bad films via streaming service like Netflix and Amazon Prime. It may also have something to do with the likes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 showing us just how much fun watching bad films can be. In any case, bad movies often equal good times. There’s nothing quite like sitting down with a group of dry-witted friends, cracking open a few beers and lampooning the best efforts of bad films. Read on for a look at 13 of our favorite so bad they’re good horror films.
1. The Wicker Man (2006)
This is a classic example of Nic Cage being turned loose and allowed to be as Cagey as he wants to be. This reimagining does absolutely no justice to the original. The screenplay is terrible and Nic Cage’s tendency to chew up the scenery only makes it that much worse. Actual dialogue from the film: “Don't you see that killing me is not going to bring back your apples?” As paradoxical as it might sound, Nicolas Cage’s performance essentially ruins the film, but is also the one thing that makes it fun to watch.
This is an obvious choice but I couldn’t help but include it. The filmmakers are in on the joke here. They realize that the concept is preposterous but they went for it. Sharknado cranks the nonsense factor to 11 and puts its cast of characters into one ridiculous and harrowing situation after another. When your primary antagonist is a tornado of sharks, what else can you do? Props to everyone involved for not trying to take the concept serious in any way. Since its release, Sharknado has become somewhat of a benchmark for so bad it’s good Syfy original programming.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
The follow up to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is intentionally campy but it goes too far in that direction and often veers into so bad it’s good territory. I realize that Tobe Hooper understood that it would be a fool’s errand to try and recapture the lightning in a bottle that was the first film but he went too far in the opposite direction with the second film and the results are often not pretty. The over-the-top performances and the campy zeal with which Dennis Hopper recites his dialogue gives the film a quirky charm but it’s likely to have you laughing for all the wrong reasons.
4. Miami Connection
Miami Connection is a slice of silliness that is really only rivaled by the worst of the worst. The dialogue, the set pieces, the acting, the band called Dragon Sound and their moronic lyrics, it’s all really, really bad. But it was, in no way intended to be such. Director and co-writer Richard Park really thought he was making a quality film for the ages. But his naivety ultimately worked to the film’s advantage. Almost everything about the film is awful but simultaneously sincere. It’s Park’s enthusiasm and the willingness of his performers to recite awful dialogue with a straight face that endears the viewer to the film, rather than repulsing him or her.
5. Jason X
Jason X is campy, over-the-top, and about as outlandish as it can get away with being. It’s Jason Voorhees in space. Screenwriter Todd Farmer really went for the gusto with this one and the result is a campy, nonsensical, outlandish ride that is not meant—under any circumstances—to be taken too seriously. Unlike some franchises that have taken their lead antagonist to space, this one does so with tongue in cheek and realizes that the final frontier was perhaps the only place left to take Jason at that juncture. The acting is hammy, the premise is outlandish, and the characters aren’t all that well developed. But the end result is a silly, bad-good horror film that doesn’t mind if you laugh along with it.
6. Plan 9 from Outer Space
How can we possibly leave out what is widely regarded as the worst movie ever made? Everything about this film is awful, so much so that it actually comes around the corner from bad back to being good (in a bizarre and inexplicable fashion). Ed Wood really had a knack for defying expectations by being even worse than people were expecting and that ability is on full display in this 1959 masterpiece of schlock.
7. Bloody Birthday
One of my all time favorite camp classics, Bloody Birthday is the perfect mix of scares and silliness. The killer kids are so sincere in their delivery of bad dialogue that you can’t help but laugh. And the nonstop barrage of nude scenes is little more than a thinly veiled attempt to appease its target audience. But the film isn’t without legitimately scary sequences. Everything came together here like a perfect storm. Bloody Birthday has all the makings of a camp classic. If you haven’t checked this one out, it’s a must see. It offers something for horror fans as well as lovers of bad cinema.
8. Birdemic: Shock and Terror
This contemporary schlock classic gives off the impression that the filmmakers are not quite in on the joke. Director James Nguyen was reportedly influenced by the work of Alfred Hitchcock and made the film as an homage of sorts. But how exactly he got from Hitchcock to exploding CGI birds is unclear to me. The acting, effects, and dialogue are all scraping the bottom of the barrel. Granted, the film was made for under $10,000 but I’ve seen more done with less. As such, this is an obvious choice for a night in with a few friends and lots of beer.
9. Class of Nuke ‘Em High
Troma is a production house and distributor that has built its name on moves that are so bad they’re good. However, that’s not to say that the Troma brand hasn’t put out a large number of noteworthy offerings and Class of Nuke ‘Em High is one such example. It is rife with satire and even delivers an environmentally friendly message before going green was really something most people gave much thought to. The jokes are silly, the performances are all kinds of over the top, and the effects are laughable. But, for the most part, when Nuke ‘Em High is bad, it’s intentionally bad. Yet, knowing that the filmmakers are in on the joke doesn’t make this camp classic any less enjoyable.
10. Sleepaway Camp
This is a great example of a film that was able to spawn an entire franchise based on so bad it’s good cheesiness. A lot of the picture’s charm comes from the fact that it was made on a low budget and there probably wasn’t a lot of room for error or additional takes. So, it’s a warts and all presentation that comes complete with hammy acting, politically incorrect jokes, silly dialogue, and primitive special effects. While the first hour of the film is clearly derivative of superior efforts like Friday the 13th, all bets are off in the third act when Angela is revealed to be the first transgender killer in a proper slasher film (I say proper because Dressed to Kill had a similar twist but doesn’t really fit into the slasher sub-genre).
11. The Toxic Avenger
If Troma is going to do a super hero film, it’s not going to be in the vein of Spiderman or Superman. It’s going to be their own brand of zany and that’s exactly what they’ve done with The Toxic Avenger. Toxie doesn’t just save the innocent; he punishes the guilty and makes them pay with their lives. Similar to Class of Nuke ‘Em High, there is a good deal of scenery chewing going on here, as well as ample ridiculous dialogue, and plenty of WTF moments. But it’s all done intentionally and it works to the advantage of the finished product. This flick really hits the camp factor out of the park and should be on the radar for any fan of so bad it’s good cinema that hasn’t seen it.
12. The Stepfather (1989)
This film isn’t entirely bad. But when it’s bad, it’s really bad. Terry O’Quinn’s performance as Jerry Blake is so excessive at times that I actually lose my composure whenever Jerry goes on a tirade. O’Quinn’s scenery chewing coupled with a script that sometimes takes itself too seriously delivers plenty of so bad it’s good moments. But I would be remiss if I did not say that the film as whole is frightening for the right reasons and O’Quinn’s performance is good as often as it is bad.
13. Troll 2
I debated whether or not to include this one because it’s so obvious but I ultimately arrived at the conclusion that leaving it off would be a disservice. Anyone that that’s had the displeasure of seeing this film about a family that moves to a town called Nilbog (Goblin spelled backwards) which is ruled by sadistic vegetarians can tell you this is bad cinema at its best. Perhaps the best thing about the disaster that is Troll 2 is that the director actually thinks he made a good movie and the rest of the world is crazy and, more importantly, wrong. His stance is outlined very clearly in the insightful documentary Best Worst Movie. Troll 2 is the mother of modern so bad it’s good filmmaking and if you haven’t yet seen it, you should make haste to do so.
Tyler Doupe is a film critic and journalist. He is the managing editor at Wicked Horror and an occasional contributor to Fangoria and Rue Morgue.