Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Movie Madness

So lately, I've been on a B-movie kick. Mostly low-budget monster and disaster films, though there was also a DVD set of police drama/action movies that I'm amazed anyone was ever given funding to make (picture this: Randy Quaid as a serious precinct detective hunting down a serial killer, or a 20-minute long montage of Chuck Norris and Eddie Cibrian doing roundhouse kicks). I must admit, I've become a rather big (and ironic) fan of the folks at The Asylum, those brilliant minds behind Sharknado and Sharknado 2: The Second One. (NEWS FLASH: Sharknado 3 airs July 22nd!) It turns out, these people have made a hundred movies. Yep. One hundred. Most of them are blatant ripoffs of contemporary big-budget films, but some are real gems.
One noticeable flaw in every bad monster film or disaster flick is how inappropriately the characters respond to what's happening around them. Somehow, the best course of action always seems to be to run into the woods alone, or go skinning dipping in that swamp, or try to fly through the storm, or have a gala fundraiser, or stand nearby holding a blowtorch and shouting theatrically while you watch your friend get eaten by something which is decidedly not fireproof. Now, I understand that in such... unique circumstances you may not be thinking straight, but even in these movies the main characters will eventually - after about 87 of the movie's 90 minutes - figure out the right course of action. So why not sooner? Why wait until most of the characters have been chewed to bits or crushed under rubble or lost to the vagaries of unimaginable death? It would save money on hiring extras.
It seems that there's a very fine line between killing off characters at random, based sometimes on the consequences of their poor decisions, and making characters make poor decisions which get them killed off. The former is realistic, while the latter is the delicious fodder for MST3K. We might react stupidly out of fear or incredulity, and that reaction might lead to our demise. That's pretty human. But to formulate a plan, maybe not even a bad plan, execute it, then seem so shocked that it failed completely that we stand still and let the monster eat us out of some kind of weird stubbornness to believe our own fallibility... I dunno. Maybe that is realistic.
Is the Sharknado phenomenon because we love the campiness of ridiculous plot settings and learned-this-on-the-internet CGI? Or do we connect with the characters somehow, allowing them to play out on the screen all of the stupid mistakes that we hope to never make in life? I'm not sure.
What I am sure about is that little feeling of glee I get when the giant snake's dismembered head eats Debbie Gibson at the last moment.

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