Savoring the schlock, one terrible film at a time


Produced by SpectreVision

Savoring the schlock, one terrible film at a time

Since Christmas I have watched about 200 of the worst movies I could find. Thanks to the wonders of streaming, the supply of horrible films is, apparently, inexhaustible.

A note on methodology: I relied heavily on Rifftrax, an outfit that does the hard work of digging up these relics and offers them accompanied by what they call “riffing,” meaning they crack jokes.

The danger here is concentrating on the commentary and not the movies. Here at The Lakeville Journal’s Bad Cinema Desk, we write our own jokes.

So when feasible, I found the straight version of a flick Rifftrax covers.

Free-with-ads services such as Tubi, Freevee, and Plex have vast libraries of cruddy stuff, so it’s not that hard to track these things down.

But sometimes it was just simpler to go with Rifftrax and do my best to avoid swiping their gags.

Here are five awful movies that got my attention, for all the wrong reasons.

“Mandy” (2018): Psychedelic pshocker with the always-entertaining Nicolas Cage doing battle against a cult of weirdos whose leader (Linus Roache) seems to think he’s a cross between Jesus and Charlie Manson, with a little Jon Anderson (of Yes) thrown in for seasoning.

The weirdos are in cahoots with a gang of mutant bikers, and everybody’s drinking down this sludgy LSD specially created for them by the Chemist because, A) he doesn’t like them, and B) he’s got a tiger.

Kung fu with chainsaws, medieval weapons and bare fists. Eyeball-popping. Barbed wire. Hallucinations galore. King Crimson music. Custom vans. About 40 gallons of blood. Dorm room theology. And Cage in his skivvies, for maximum horror.

“Fungicide” (2002): This could be called “outsider cinema.” It could also be called “amateurish dreck.” Both descriptions are correct.

A mad scientist, an ex-military guy with issues, a jort-wearing tough guy from Philly and a real estate dork all show up at a rustic bed and breakfast.

The mad scientist has done something to the mushrooms so the spores are floating around creating killer mushrooms and the world is gonna end. I think that’s the gist of it. It’s hard to tell. The sound is kinda muddy.

What makes this shine are the killer mushrooms. There are three types: Mushrooms with teeth that are about 2 feet tall; man-sized mushrooms (no teeth); and unconvincing computer mushrooms.

Mushroom attack cam. Real estate broker chewed by mushrooms. Excellent stick fights between cast members and the big mushrooms. The slowest martial arts kicks ever captured on someone’s aunt’s camcorder. Mad scientist who would steal the show if there was a show to steal. Fascinating in its way. However, you may lose IQ points by watching this.

"Miami Connection"Produced by P.J.K. Group

“Miami Connection” (1987): Also outsider cinema, in the sense that it really wants to be inside.

This flick centers around the guys in Dragon Sound, a rock band that made me long for the hard-hitting sounds of Journey or a tape of seals giving birth, whichever is easier to round up.

The Dragon Sound members study tae kwon do with the rhythm guitarist, Mark, and they need it because they get mixed up with a cocaine-dealing bunch of ninja-type bad guys. Also Mark’s not much of a guitarist.

The flick’s got a “Scooby-Doo” or “Archies” feel to it, marred somewhat by the star’s inability to speak English.

The music sequences would be unbelievable…except they are indistinguishable from rock videos of the era. So if the hard work of dozens of professional filmmakers and musicians can be duplicated for about 10 cents on the dollar by a bunch of complete amateurs, that says something. Something profound. And if you give me a minute I’ll remember what it is.

“Radical Jack” (2000): Starring Mr. Achy Breaky his ownself, Billy Ray Cyrus, as Jack, ex-CIA, seeker of justice and proud owner of the most spectacular mullet haircut in world history.

Jack blows into a small Vermont town and gets tangled up in an arms-dealing racket. I know that when I’m in the market for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher or some other handy item, I always think “Vermont.”

Here I must bow in tribute to Rifftrax for the vocal stylings during the sponge bath scene.

Elsewhere, you will be as pleased as I was when the son of the bad guy gets it right in the pleated Dockers. In these lax, postmodern times, crimes against style are so rarely punished in public.

"The Apple"Produced by NF Geria II Filmgesellschaft

“The Apple” (1980): Saving the absolute worst for last, this is a sci-fi rock musical, written and directed by Menahem Golan.

The story is that something called the BIM is coming, and a whole mob of freaks in shiny underwear have to get ready. Meanwhile this guy Alphie wants to rescue this girl Bibi from the BIM and go live in a field with the hippies.

It’s difficult to describe this adequately, so let’s just go with “bonkers,” which was how Falls Village’s Garth Kobal summed it up in a recent discussion of the trashy and ephemeral.

The high point is a musical number, “Coming.”

I used to think that Donna Summer’s 1975 disco hit “Love to Love You Baby” was the last word in sex songs. I mean, it’s about 20 minutes of moaning over a relentless beat.

But next to “Coming,” Summer’s effort sounds like a Gregorian chant.

The other high point is the end. Well, near the end.

There is an honest-to-God deus ex machina. Literally. A guy in a glowing white suit who gets out of a glowing white Rolls Royce in the sky to lead the hippies to Paradise.

And it’s not John Lennon.

Note: Many Rifftrax flicks (and predecessor “Mystery Science Theater 3000”) are available on the above-mentioned streaming services. For the uninitiated, watching a riffed version is a safe way to enter the world of Bad Cinema. Only advanced viewers should attempt the original versions, due to the very real possibility of irreparable brain damage.

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