If you've ever used the words "so bad it's good" to describe a movie, you are entirely likely to enjoy Michael Adams' book Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies: A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest To Find The Worst Movie Ever Made. Each chapter represents a month of bad movie viewing, and hilarity ensues as Adams makes his way through the worst movies he can find. After culling recommendations from the bottom 100 on imdb.com, friends, critics, and filmmakers (think John Waters!) and spending way too much money on eBay, Adams must then sacrifice social engagements and family time in order to watch all this dreck. There's something inherently amusing about someone carving out time in their day to go watch an awful movie, and Adams' descriptions of the movies themselves are often laugh-out-loud funny.
What's to be gained from Adams' quest? I'm not entirely sure, but it only takes a chapter or two to realize that a lot of movies we consider bad don't even come close to qualifying. We're not just talking Carrot Top's Chairman of the Board or Shaquille O'Neal's Kazaam! here - we're talking zero production values, incoherent writing, and forgotten lines. Some of the most abysmal efforts fell into the category of soft-core porn or hardcore horror, and lost points not because of the subject matter, but because they are epically boring.
Boredom, we soon learn, is one of the main indicators of poor film-making. Even if a movie is holding our attention for all the wrong reasons, it still has some value. Showgirls
, though universally recognized as bad, is also hugely entertaining. And who knew that I was on a bad movie quest when I devoured the films of Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez as a teenager?! Maximum Overdrive
and Navy Seals
totally make the book. I enjoyed the former, and proudly own the soundtrack to the latter. Oops!
Thankfully, Adams acknowledges the fact that movie viewing is subjective and that definitions of "worst" vary greatly from person to person. His sense of humor remains intact even when his sanity begins waning toward the end of the year. His description of one film's score (done entirely with a Casio keyboard's "repetitive bippity-bip-bips and percussion loop") made me laugh until tears ran down my cheeks, and I was reading in bed, by myself, at 2 a.m. Another night found me thinking of my own bad movie experiences. Immediately Under Milk Wood
sprang to mind (both starring Richard Burton). No sooner did I have the thought, than I turned the page and discovered Adams discussing Boom!
(also starring Richard Burton). It's frankly kind of stunning how many A-listers have done Z-grade movies, and this is just the sort of trivia that makes Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies
so much fun.
Though I found the end of the book less than satisfying, the journey itself is well worth taking. Somehow we don't really need to know which movie takes the prize as worst of all. It's enough just to revel in another movie-lover's journey through bad film.