There’s something truly wonderful about B-movies. Maybe it’s the looney premise most start with, using an idiot zen brand of logic to make a film backwards from a sales pitch (“Imagine a slasher film…WITH ROBOTS!”); or maybe it’s the complete disregard for good taste most employ in their pursuit of your dollar (“Get this, they’ll all be nude, chainsaw-swinging prostitutes!”); but probably, it’s the fact that most appear to be made by 12-year old boys trapped in the bodies of grown men (“EVERYONE MUST MELT! EVERY SINGLE PERSON!”). There’s a reckless disregard for the conventions of traditional logic and a frightening creativity in most B-movies that you won’t see in anything that’s considered “conventionally good.” And that’s why we love them, or at least a very small, rabid fanbase does. So consider this list a tribute to those films, honoring them for being so far beyond the concept of “good” that they require an entirely new, as yet unnamed position of critical judgement outside the good/bad dichotomy. For your pleasure, Cinedelphia presents:
BEST OF THE Bs,
10 GLORIOUSLY RIDICULOUS B-HORROR MOVIES
Street Trash is a film that derives its entertainment from its supremely low-class pedigree. Street Trash flips traditional depictions of New York as a cultural and intellectual epicenter by focusing squarely on its homeless population. And it does this to exploit them for our entertainment. For the entire duration of the movie we follow homeless men drinking themselves into literal messy, splatter-filled graves, as a new form of rotgut has hit the streets in the form of Viper and it will melt anyone who consumes it. Nary an intellectual comes within vomiting distance of the screen, although, vomit and many other bodily fluids most certainly do. The movie displays a disgusting wit about itself in the way its characters absolutely refuse to acknowledge what’s happening around them despite increasingly splatter-spewed clues.
Slime City owes a bit of its premise, consuming strange substances will lead to physical deformities and melting body-horror, to Street Trash, but it certainly takes that premise into an entirely different direction. An art student moves into a new apartment building and is immediately seen as fresh meat for its tenants. After consuming a “Himalayan Yogurt” and wine, our hero has a questionable sexual encounter, melts into an oozing puss monster, and spends the rest of the movie killing hobos and random passers-by. As with Street Trash, Slime City is a film best enjoyed more for its complete lack of sound logic and disgusting effects, which almost border on beautiful in a bizarre Warholian pop-camp sort of way.
Blood Diner is also another film that deals with the horrors of what we consume. Intended as a very loose sequel to H.G. Lewis’ Blood Feast, the film follows two brothers who run a vegetarian eatery in L.A. that isn’t actually vegetarian at all: the brothers are murdering the city’s inhabitants and feeding them to customers under the guise of the vegetarian label. This is all part of a larger plan to resurrect a Sumerian goddess. Got that? The film’s idiot logic is actually endearing as it’s the only place you’ll find a professional wrestler named Jimmy Hitler (and he’s exactly as you probably imagine) being cheered by an adoring public. Truly low-brow, entirely brilliant.
C.H.U.D. literally means Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, and if you encountered that phrase when you were 12 years old, as I did, then that probably sounds like the most amazing combination of words the English language is capable of stringing together. The movie doesn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations, but it does offer viewers a chance to see New York’s mutated homeless population (I’m sensing a theme here…) get their revenge on the city that created them. As much a kooky conspiracy thriller as a low-grade horror film, C.H.U.D. is best enjoyed as a teenager or by people who still think like one.
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is probably going to offend someone, but that’s also why it’s entertaining. The central premise of the film is that a group of prostitutes have fallen under the wing of a deranged cult leader who has a strange obsession with the titular phallic-shaped power tool. Somehow this incorporates a parody of film noir into its absurd narrative, just to ensure you weren’t already confused enough. But the film rewards patient viewers in its finale, a full-blown chainsaw duel between two of the aforementioned prostitutes.
Return of the Living Dead should have been to punk what Rocky Horror was to glam rock. It’s entirely clear that there is nothing serious about the film from the beginning, as we’re introduced to the film’s world through two 9-to-5 warehouse schmucks who stumble into a zombie apocalypse. But that isn’t where the film really begins, that happens when we’re introduced to the gang of anti-social punks trolling the streets of notable punk hotbed Louisville, Kentucky. The death-obsessed group of miscreants decide hanging out at a graveyard would be a great idea, and that having a nude strip-show would be an even better one. Obviously, this leads to tragic consequences when the zombies finally attack. What isn’t entirely clear about ROTLD is actually how smart the film is in its twisted humor. Relentlessly throwing gags at the viewer at a breakneck pace, the film is as comfortable reaching for the low-hanging fruit (“BUT IT WORKED IN THE MOVIE!”) as it is trying for bizarre political humor in its parody of ’80s hawkishness during the pitch black finale. In a perfect world, people would dress up as Tarman and Trash to midnight screenings of the movie as they do with Dr. Frank and Janet.
Night of the Demons is a much better metaphor for the phrase “lost in translation” than the Sofia Coppola film actually titled that. The film tries to find a middle ground between Night of the Living Dead and The Exorcist in its attempt to scare, but filters that through Italian sensibilities as it looks directly to Lamberto Bava’s sublimely bonkers Demons to facilitate that translation until the original intent is entirely lost and you’re left with a goth girl dry humping the floor to Bauhaus. Eventually you begin to wonder if anyone involved in making Night of the Demons was even concerned with actually scaring anyone, what with main demon Angela spouting one-liners like Freddy Krueger’s cute friend at the Slasher Villain Company Party. Then you bear witness to the lipstick scene and all becomes clear: Night of the Demons is supremely terrifying precisely because it draws no distinction between what’s funny and what’s scary.
TerrorVision actually has a few levels to it beyond simply being a cheap ’80s sci-fi horror flick. Not that any of these levels have any legitimate care or finesse in the way they’re handled, but they’re there all the same. TerrorVision is a cheap ’80s sci-fi horror flick, but it’s also tangentially parodying depraved yuppies, media indoctrination, and the breakdown of the nuclear family. It doesn’t do any of these things well, even the part about being a goofy horror film. But that’s where it’s charm resides. A family finally gets their dream in a new satellite dish, with the intention of picking up ESPN and MTV (my, how things change…), but their satellite somehow receives a signal from outer space and things become less lucid from there. In between attempts to both befriend and eventually destroy the alien threat, the family encounters a unique range of characters that span from sexually-adventurous swingers to a droll Elvira stand-in. All of these characters exist as a means to further cement the film as a surreal riff on the decade it was made in, and in its own shambling, inept way, TerrorVision works.
Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is probably best-known for its title, because that’s quite the title. A strange twist on the old Monkey’s Paw tale, a group of sorority girls and horny male taggers-along encounter an evil imp that grants wishes. For reasons of clear brilliance, this imp’s spirit is contained in a bowling trophy. Of all the films listed, Sorority Babes… might be the most impressive if only because it appears to be a true testament to the independent vision of DIY filmmaking: seemingly shot over a weekend, in a bowling alley, the film stretches its shoe-string budget to coerce attractive women and naive men into doing ridiculous things under the guise of making something resembling a movie. That it’s entertaining is beside the point, it is a film about a bowling trophy-imp tricking morons into their own murders after all. No, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is the sort of film that would have made Orson Welles weep at its sight, in awe of its awesome glory. If those tears were of joy or from attempting to gouge his own eyes out, I’ll leave to you to determine.