As I mentioned the other day when discussing what movies I would like the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew to riff in Season 12 and beyond, it was recently revealed that one of the upcoming season’s six movies is going to be a lot more recent than these things usually are. In fact, they specifically revealed that the movie has come out within the last five years. And while this doubtless means that the movie will be the infamous Sharknado, there are plenty of notable stinkers to have come out in the last two decades.
Between SyFy Channel original features, Asylum mockbusters, some truly mind-boggling studio releases and low-end indies made by people with far more passion for filmmaking than experience with it, there are countless riffable titles to choose from. And although many of these have become the whipping boys of modern cinema, and thus frequently-mocked low-hanging fruit, even the most done-to-death stinkers don’t deserve a free pass when the O.G. riffers come to town.
Hulk (2003) — The main reason why I was hesitant to include this movie is because, when all is said and done, it’s not that bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrible movie, but, on the whole, it’s not quite MST3K bad. It’s made by a bunch of recognizable, talented people with plenty of Hollywood cash and does some interesting things with the then still-mostly nascent superhero genre that should be given a second go (notably a chase sequence that plays out over visually distinct comic-book-esque panels that is honestly pretty impressive even today).
The thing is, though, that outside of a few genuinely great sequences, it really is just that bad (I mean, there’s a reason why Universal gave the rights back to Marvel after releasing this one movie). The acting is bad, the plot is ridiculous and then, of course, there’s the villain. No matter what else the movie has going for it, I would love to see what the crew would make of the on-the-ground villains that trade blows with the Hulk on several occasion: teenage mutant ninja poodles. Banner’s estrange, Willy Nelson-looking dad gamma irradiates a bunch of dogs and sicks them on his son, and the results are just as ludicrous as they sound.
The Room (2003) — Here it is: the elephant in the room — the so-called “Godfather of bad movies” that many still hold to be the standard of god-awfulness. This legendary melodrama has been covered by pretty much every riffing crew in town, has developed an enthusiastic larger-than-cult following and was even the subject of one of last year’s funniest films (The Disaster Artist).
The writer / director / producer / star is a legendary oddball that virtually nobody knows anything about (at least concretely). Everything from its script to its staging to its direction makes no God damned sense whatsoever. And its newfound connection with a bonafied good film (the aforementioned Disaster Artist), and in particular its far more talented leading man James Franco, is ample comedic fodder that would give the show something that none of the other riffers have had to work with. It might be done to death at this point, but a movie this all-consumingly terrible is certainly worth another pass by the pros.
Birdemic (2010) — Recent years have seen a resurgence of movies trying to replicate the “so bad it’s god” vibe” that define so many of MST3Ks best episodes (both past and present): Snakes on a Plane, Grindhouse, Machete, Machete Kills, Hobo with a Shotgun. The problem is that faking it simply doesn’t work. People can’t arrive at this level of badness artificially, and its virtually impossible for men and women as talented as Samuel L. Jackson, Wuentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo and the rest to make movies as bad as they were wanting to.
The Room, for instance, was legitimately trying to be the second coming of The Godfather, just as Birdemic was legitimately trying to be a modern-day successor to Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal classic The Birds. But even a cursory look at the two films shows that they are worlds apart from their would-be progenitors. From Birdemics eyesore CG to its atrocious acting and, of course, that brain-melting cacophony it used in lieu of a score, it couldn’t have possibly fallen further from what it was aiming to be. And of the legendarily terrible movies to come out this century, I can’t help but feel like this one is not quite as well seen as it should be.
Sharktopus (2010) — While it’s easy to attribute the recent low-end shark craze with Sharknado‘s inexplicable success, it really is a far older trend in B-movies than just the last five years. Since the moment Jaws tore up the big screen in 1975, every schlock-meister worth his salt tried to get in on the aquatic creature feature game. From Death Wish-esque rape-revenge stories like Orca to the unsettlingly named Tentacles, oceanic monster movies have been big business for some time (and, judging by The Meg‘s titanic trailer, getting bigger all the time).
Sharktopus is that perfectly bizarre blend of “that’s awesome” and “what the Hell were they thinking” that makes for an MST3K classic. It’s half Shark, half Octopus, all Sharktopus. Feature a portmanteau creature fused together with nothing but some bad CGI and grand ambitions, it’s been a favorite bad movie of mine since my now-wife insisted that we rent it back in college. Plus it would let them get in their shar-riffs without having to resort to…
Sharknado (2013) — …the most likely candidate for a Season 12 appearance. It’s falls exactly within their “last five years” timeframe for their most-recent bad movie inclusion. It’s terrible yes, but far too fun to be strictly unwatchable. And it’s incredibly popular to boot: undoubtedly one of the most requested to get the MST3K treatment and destined to be become a fan-favorite episode.
It comes complete with bad CG (a staple in recent bad movies whose ambitions far exceed their budgets), pseudo-recognizable actors and an absolutely absurd premise that is just innately funny on its face. That’s not even mentioning how riffing this movie opens them up to any number of the going-on five sequels they’ve made for this thing: each somehow even more ridiculous than the last. I personally hope that they go for something a lot less obvious than this movie (or even any of the others I’ve mentioned here already), but I won’t deny that I’d be genuinely excited to see the team tear into this one.
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