The Rotten Truth: Hollywood’s Unprofitable Obsession With Bad Movies

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Piranha‘s box office & the Snakes/Grindhouse effect

Hollywood, maybe it’s time to stop deliberately making bad movies. It’s not a lucrative venture, as Snakes on a Plane, Grindhouse and Piranha 3D have proven.

These are all films that embraced their “so bad, it’s good!” persona but were widely rejected by the movie-going masses – as box office numbers reflect – regardless of the advance buzz. Regardless of the reviews. And regardless of the cheerleaders taking to their social network profiles proclaiming horror fans are disappointing because horror fans are not turning out to see these films. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess horror fans made up for a large part of Piranha 3D‘s $10 million opening gross, because I know of no non-genre fan personally that was racing to see Alex Aja’s remake. So, cheerleaders, spare me the accusations that horror fans are a disappointing lot.

The bottom line is: Nobody wants to see a purposefully bad movie. Especially if you sell it as a bad movie. It doesn’t matter the outcome of the quality. Sure, they might get a kick out of the trailer, but paying hard-earned cash in this economic climate to see 80 or 90 minutes of “bad”? No way.

I’m a fan of Grindhouse. I got it. And those faux trailers worked terrifically. Machete, the first feature-length film to spin from those trailers, arrives in theaters next week – I don’t expect a strong box office. Snakes on a Plane? Eh, saw it once. Don’t need to see it again. And my review for Piranha 3D seems to have people puzzled as to why I don’t enjoy “fun” horror movies.

I do. When they’re done well.

But that’s not the point of this editorial. Beyond Grindhouse – which has had a lasting effect on the indie horror scene as every filmmaker these days seemingly sets out to make and market their movies in a gritty 1970s quality (so much for forward progress and breaking the mold) – emulating the bad movie formula doesn’t seem to be the right way to go lucratively or creatively, does it? It would seem to me that the more logical route is to transcend the lowest common denominator in this climate of sequels and remakes and sequels to remakes. Or, as the influential Hollywood horror forefathers of the ‘70s did: Make something scary. If a mediocre script for Piranha flops on your desk, defy expectations and transform it into something people are not expecting.

That’s the thing that irked me all weekend. Those who saw the Aja film echoed sentiments to me like, “I got what I expected.” Shame on me for thinking Aja – a talented filmmaker – would bring more to the table than what the film sold itself as.

It seems nothing was learned from Snakes on a Plane and Grindhouse, three years later, has still made it “cool” for filmmakers to wax nostalgic and disguise their mediocre efforts with the excuse: “Well, it’s supposed to be bad, just like the good ol’ days!” Hey, in those good ol’ days, filmmakers were not setting out to make bad movies…well, save for a few warped directors, but I don’t see today’s filmmakers trying to copy those guys.

I simply don’t understand why – in an ailing market of horror movies – the standard is you now have to aim low and embrace the cheesy these days to have a good time at a scary movie. With high ticket prices and an industry creatively strained, I’d rather champion better films.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor