What I’m Reading: Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies

I love movies almost as much as I love books. Books about movies? Jackpot. Kevin Murphy’s A Year at the Movies remains the gold standard, of course, but I just finished another book that gives it a run for its money.

Australian film critic Michael Adams decided to spend a year watching bad movies in an effort to determine what, exactly is the worst movie ever made. Adams compiled a library of hundreds of films based on the IMDB Bottom 100 and the recommendations of friends and film professionals, then began to randomly watch his way through one category of crap after another.

Like Murphy’s book, Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies serves several purposes at once. On the surface, you get reviews of movies — a lot of movies. A lot of really bad movies. And Adams’ writing style is familiar and personable enough that you genuinely enjoy reading as he just talks about movies, something that a lot of professional critics fail to achieve. On a second level, there’s a lot of film history to be had here. Adams manages to interview many of the people involved in some of these spectacularly bad movies as well as noted film historians like Leonard Maltin and schlock-cinema superstars like Lloyd Kaufman along the way, getting their thoughts on movies in general and on truly bad movies in particular. Adams also chronicles a year in his own family, including layoffs, new jobs, and birthday parties. As most of these segments do manage to tie in to his movie watching quest, you never feel like he’s drifting away from the point of the book.

It’s important to note that Adams shares the sensibility of cinema fans such as myself. Sometimes it can be really fun to watch a really bad movie. So he clues you in on which films are enjoyable despite their badness and which ones are just plain painful to watch. as I read through the book, I found myself nodding along with several of the crappy films I’ve seen, showing slight dismay at the rare film he included that I actually liked, and logging onto NetFlix to add movies to my queue just to see if they could really be as bad as Adams claims they are.

He does manage to reach a conclusion in his bad movie quest, but he’s the first to tell you that his decision is by no means definitive. Bad movies are totally subjective, after all. But if you really love bad movies, that doesn’t matter. This book is more than worth seeking out and giving a read.

1 Response to “What I’m Reading: Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies”

  1. 1 bigwords88
    March 22, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Love, love, love the under-appreciated cinema classics. I tend not to get too hung up on the acting or the special effects if it is obviously a lower budget movie, so I can happily sit through all kinds of crap which would have the snobbish cinelite running for the exit doors. Should I admit publicly that I own a stack of Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Mario Bava and (say it quietly) Asylum DVDs? Prob’ly not, but half the fun of them is waiting for that one moment, the single defining scene which redeems any number of fumbled scenes. There’s no reason to hide my shame any longer, so I’ll come out of the closet now…

    I like Plan 9 From Outer Space.

    And The Blob, the original one mind you, because it has some of the coolest undiscovered actors slumming in the film. Even Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill can hold its’ own with anything released now for sheer entertainment value. Books such as Showgirls… (and the Psychotronic Film Guide, Cult Movies and all the rest of the “barrel-scraping” tomes) complete a lop-sided coverage in mainstream media of cinema.

    Think about it – without the fine work of intelligent and enthusiastic film geeks such as Adams, we would be exposed only to the highest earning films. An endless parade of eighties midlife crisis films (Rambo, the brilliantly homoerotic Top Gun and the first Terminator) or inane comedies (the Sandler boy), because audiences are – on the whole – too stupid to know they are being talked down to by the studios.

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March 2010

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