Friend of this website Matthew hosts a monthly event at our local art house cinema: Bad Movie Night, which is about as bluntly descriptive as any phrase can be. These days, the term “curated” as applied to any experience (looking at you, Apple Music) generally sends a dagger of stabbing pain to that place just behind my eyes—you know, the same raw spot that has never healed from the bludgeoning overuse of “artisanal” in our culture.
But some things do cry out for . . . ugh, I’m going to say it . . . curation. Enjoyably shitty movies, for instance. There are more terrible movies out there than you could ever count, and you need some patient and masochistic soul to root through them to find the gems. Movies you’ve never heard of. Movies literally filmed on VHS. Italian Jaws knockoffs. (I’m sorry: unofficial sequels.) These aren’t “Oh, Showgirls was terrible, let’s all get together and hate-watch it” movies; these are flicks so incoherent they never saw a theatrical release. So appallingly funny no one even claims the copyright to them anymore.
Yes, that’s how bad these movies are, folks: No one is even hoping to make money off them. This is America! Everyone is trying to make money off everything! But not these lemons.
Truth to tell, I thought we were culturally finished with zombies after Zombieland, which served as both a brilliant deconstruction and loving tribute to the genre. At that point, to my mind, everything that needed to be said had been said. No one would go back to that dried-up well, right?
In no way have I ever been more wrong, of course. Personally, I’d like to see us move beyond the living dead for our horror staple (living dead beavers excluded, obviously). But as that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, being that The Walking Dead is destined to become this decade’s Law and Order/CSI-infinite-spinoffs-franchise, and since I recently enjoyed a White Zombie White Ale from Catawba Brewing Co., I thought I’d go back to the source.
Nice. My stance (on this and all things) is to hope for much but expect nothing. And when I say “expect nothing,” I don’t mean that in a modern, jaded way, but more of an “I’m appropriating my hazy understanding of Zen philosophy” way. Expect nothing. Leave your mind blank. Be as the leaf in the forest, clinging to the branch of wisdom. Or something like that. Basically, remember that you are the sum of your expectations based on past experiences (terrible J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies, anyone?) and that the only way to truly open yourself to new happiness is to try your best to flush yourself of those experiences. You won’t succeed, but the effort itself leaves you open to enjoying what’s in front of you more than you would if you carry the weight of history on your back.
Pretentious enough for you? Great! Let’s move on.
It’s probably screamingly obvious that I’m into horror more for those movies that fall on the horrifically humorous end of the genre spectrum. Whether intentionally funny (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Zombeavers) or unintentionally so (Friday the 13th Part 3, Demons), I suppose I’m just looking for flicks that satiate a morbid sense of humor.
Occasionally, though, I delve into the darker side of horror, where we find today’s selection and darling of last year’s indie film circuit, The Babadook. While it’s a good movie, it also stands as a fine example of why I stray toward flicks where you can laugh as someone is devoured by a wood chipper: serious horror movies are also the most depressing (non-Holocaust-related) films in the world.
NOTE: if you care about such things as they relate to a goofy, 77-minute horror movie, know now that I am about to spoil the HELL out of this flick for you.
I think the ultimate message of most horror movies, whether they involve serial killers, vampires, zombies—whatever—is Sartre’s maxim: “Hell is other people.” (That’s right—I’m dropping existentialism on your asses. And I’m surely misappropriating this most famous of existentialist quotes for a write-up of an indie horror flick about zombie beavers.) You’re never really sad to see most victims go, because loving care is taken to ensure that each of the doomed is freighted with a character flaw we all recognize and love seeing vicariously impaled, beheaded, engulfed in flames, and what have you.
. . . Which is why I have to hand Zombeavers the ultimate compliment I can give a horror movie: it shocked me. Stunned me. Because the last survivor among our generally shitty group of college kids is—
[MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT]