Craptastic Cinema: A Primer

Good day, I’m Julian André, and welcome to Craptastic Cinema.

After my debut blog review of one of my all-time favorite craptacular movies Tuff Turf I received many comments from readers and colleagues alike. One in particular had me rankled. A confrere of mine off-handedly referred to Tuff Turf as a crappy movie. Which it is. But that word alone, “crappy,” does not denote the pleasure attained by watching it. It is dismissive. That’s where the term craptastic—and its variations—comes into play. By their very nature craperior movies should not be dismissed. On the contrary, they should be embraced!

I asked myself, “Julian, what makes a bad movie so good?” Certainly not all bad movies have redeeming qualities. Some are just dire, full stop. Others manage to entertain, even thrill filmgoers—deficiencies and all. I’ll have a go at defining the beguiling je ne sais quoi that separates the craptastic from the crap, listing the finer points below.

But first a word about the filmmakers and their devotees.

Among these lovely people will be the thin-skinned who take offence at having their film classified as craptastic. They would do well to remember that we LOVE these movies. They have loads to offer! Just not in a way the filmmaker had originally intended. Simply put, there is a paradox at work: they all have a multitude of flaws, yet on another level those same flaws are immensely enjoyable.

So, onto the major aspects that contribute to a cineaste’s bloody awful good time.

Whether the acting is stiff, disinterested, histrionic or vacuous there is much amusement to be had watching an embarrassing performance. Most times it is D-list talent struggling with poor material, but sometimes prominent thespians find themselves circling the drain of a disaster-in-the-making. Hayden Christensen’s acting in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith was more wooden than Endor. Pia Zadora is so vacant in The Lonely Lady she’s practically translucent. And who doesn’t love the over-emoting Nicolas Cage maniacally trying to save whatever stench-fest he’s involved with this month?


Wow, that really sucked. Bravo!

Horrible premises, incomprehensible goings-on, leaps of logic, dangling narrative threads, and baffling character decision-making are sure signs of a good bad movie. To say nothing of deus ex machina: Hackneyed, lucky I overheard/stumbled-upon/found-you scenarios that strain, if not shred, credibility. In the best of the worst logic goes out the window. In Over The Top a man gains custody of his estranged son by winning an arm wrestling competition. A character announces she has breast cancer in The Room and the subject is not brought up again. And in Jaws: The Revenge the shark roars (?) and inexplicably explodes when impaled. Such impertinence hardly offends; it brings great joy!

This is the meat & potatoes of loving terrible movies. Why, you ask? Because ham-fisted writing is so delectable! Non sequiturs, clunky phraseology, incongruous conversation, and cliché are only a few examples of crummy scriptwriting. How many times a day do you quote lines from movies with your mates? When you overhear strangers citing such rancid lines such as “Visits? That would indicate visitors” and “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” and “They’re eating her. And then they’re going to eat me. Oh my God!!!” you know that they are kindred souls. Craptastic movies jolly-well beg to be seen & quoted in the company of others.

The cost of the film does not enter the equation, really. Crapperific movies run the budgetary gamut. But in other ways cost does factor in. For example…
In movie biz parlance you have A-list pictures. This presumes a big budget with ace talent. It is especially satisfying to watch the mighty fall! We film fans are tickled when John Travolta’s Battlefield Earth crashes and burns. We snigger at Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas’ $45 million bomb Showgirls. And how can you not gape with amazement at the wonder which is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?
Moving down the monetary scale are B-movies, where a large portion of craptacular movies are mined. Stringent financing produces a mother lode of cheap sets, not-very special effects, hack writers, and incompetent direction. Vanilla Ice demonstrates all in just 1:30…


Oft-times tight budgets also means lesser grade talent, such as Steven Seagal, Jessica Alba or Tara Reid, but that is not always the case (see: Sylvester Stallone; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Sharon Stone).
And then there’s the Z-grade schlock made on a shoestring. The weirdest of these fall under the domain of Dr. Strangefilm. The Twonky, Blood Freak, They Saved Hitler’s Brain, and most of the Troma oeuvre are all first-rate examples of such bargain-basement howlers that the good doctor dissects. However, there are shoddy films that do venture into craptastic territory, most infamously Plan 9 From Outer Space, mainly because of writer/director Ed Wood’s dogged belief & determination to make truly worthwhile films. Which brings us to our last, but by no mean least, point for determining which films to consider craptastic.

The film itself can’t be camp, parody, or winking because that is the antithesis of what defines a craptastic movie. Filmmakers’ intent is paramount. That is to say, it is almost essential that the moviemaker is honestly, earnestly, sometimes desperately, trying to make something meaningful. (Otherwise, as my aforementioned esteemed colleague averred, the movie is simply crappy.) They’re making a film that has a lesson to be learned or has something otherwise important to say. At least to them. These filmmakers do the best they can. And they fail spectacularly.

Summing up, the movies we all love to hate and hate to love are generally a confluence of budgetary concerns, quotable dialogue, murky plot, and questionable acting that somehow transforms a dodgy film into one that is positively cracking! In essence those combined elements add the “tastic” to mere crap. And thank Vishnu for that!

I shall soon return with another craptastic movie review. In the meantime I’d love to know which movie you find yourself happily wasting time watching (when you could be viewing a film with real merit).

I’m Julian André, humble scrivener, blogging exclusively for MovieFanFare. Until next time, I bid you a fond adieu!

Julian André