Madrid celebrates trashy films

Posters advertising trash movies at the entrance of a cinema in Madrid.
Posters advertising trash movies at the entrance of a cinema in Madrid.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • You would think the prospect of bad acting, a terrible script and rock-bottom directing would put movie buffs off. But if Madrid's CutreCon trash film festival is anything to go by, you would be wrong.

Lured by such films as the musical Nudist Colony Of The Dead and Bollywood's Action Jackson, about 3,500 people turned up at the five-day event.

They also came to see one of the holy grails of the bad film world: Troll 2 (1990) - which has a rating of just 6 per cent on review site Rotten Tomatoes and is considered one of the worst movies ever made.

CutreCon, which ended on Sunday, is one of several festivals in Europe dedicated to films so bad they are good, many of which have been pulled from oblivion by the Internet, at times earning them and their protagonists cult status.

Nostalgia for the era of low- quality, VHS films, dissatisfaction with mainstream cinema and a general desire to laugh and let off steam have contributed to the genre's rise in popularity.

Also influential was Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's 2007 ode to trash cinema Grindhouse.

"The first time I came across a trash film... was when I was around 10 or 11, with a film by Larry Cohen called The Stuff, which is about killer yogurt," says Carlos Palencia, a culture journalist and CutreCon's director.

His interest in the genre even- tually prompted him to create the festival, now in its sixth year, having evolved from a one-night- only film viewing to the current multi-location event.

Mr Keyvan Sarkhosh, senior research fellow at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, who co-authored a research paper on the subject, says there are two types of trash films - the unintentionally bad and those deliberately made to be awful.

The man who perhaps best represents the first category is Edward Wood, whose Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) film about aliens has been dubbed the best worst movie ever made.

He died in 1978 a poor alcoholic, but achieved posthumous fame, thanks in part to Tim Burton's bio- pic Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp.

Then come films intentionally made to be incoherent and clumsy for "ironic consumption", says Mr Sarkhosh. Cue the recent Sharknado franchise - films about freak storms that see sharks sucked up in water spouts and rained down on unsuspecting city dwellers.

Bad taste?

Not so, says Mr Sarkhosh, whose research found that those who watched these movies were highly educated, cultural "omnivores" just as happy to watch arthouse films.

"To enjoy bad cinema, you need to really like good cinema... you need good taste to appreciate bad taste and find the fun side of a movie," concurs Palencia.

For Mr Angel-Luis Andres, a 40-year-old sales manager who turned up to see Troll 2 at the festival, nostalgia is also part of the appeal.

"My father would bring home a batch of videos at the weekend," he recalls.

"He always brought back stuff that my brother and I liked - monsters, dinosaurs... These are nostalgia films," he says, before sitting down for a lively screening.

Troll 2 is about a family that goes to a small, isolated village for a break, only to find it populated by evil goblins.

The goblins are vegetarian, but still want to eat humans, which means they have to surreptitiously feed people a green goo that turns them into green, vegan goo too.

The laughter gets so loud at times during the screening that it becomes hard to hear the film itself.

Though it initially went straight to video in 1990, the film's new-found popularity has meant that its Italian director Claudio Fragasso, who was present at the screening, will direct a sequel.

Others have also found belated fame from their initial embarrassment.

Matt Hannon, a United States actor who starred in the direct- to-video film Samurai Cop in 1991, dropped his career straight after.

But with the rising popularity of his film about two decades after it was made, he finally came back into the limelight and starred in the sequel Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance (2015).

Another example is actor, director and screenwriter Tommy Wiseau, whose 2003 drama The Room bombed.

But sure enough, this too has achieved cult status and Hollywood star James Franco has directed a comedy film about it called The Masterpiece (2017).

In an interview, actor Seth Rogen, who plays in Franco's film, acknowledged there was something "oddly brilliant about it".

"There is something you have to give credit to because of all the sh**** movies, he made one that people still watch."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'Madrid celebrates trashy films'. Subscribe