Death of the Critic

Schlock - A Torrid Love Affair

Written by: Tom Blaich

For some reason, we love bad movies. Unlike any other form of media that we have, there is a fascination with truly awful movies. With the Sharknado’s and Troll 2’s of the world. To the point where there is an entire portion of the film industry focused on creating this D-level schlock. We don’t see this attitude in music or games. Terrible products are shunned in most industries but for some reason flourish in film. You can see a resemblance to the old, pulp paperbacks peddling in sleazy romance and smoky detective tales.

I love them.
I write about them sometimes, talk about them too much, watch an unhealthy amount of them. But why do I? Why do we love them so much? Is it a fascination with watching failure? Idle entertainment? A different set of standards? I think it is a combination of all of these, along with a much simpler and more instinctive reason. Curiosity.

We are a curious group. If someone says that a stove is hot, we will only know if they are telling the truth if we touch it. Regardless of the prospect of injury we want to know. There very much is a culture of curiosity being built around awful movies, fueled in part by the companies that are making these films. So bad it’s good, a phrase uttered a million times in discussion. Look at the fascination with
Troll 2 or The Room. Books, movies, and millions of dollars have been made in the industry of schlock, and it certainly isn’t going away any time soon.

Sharknado and the ensuing sequels. The Asylum, the production company behind them and such films as Atlantic Rim or Sinister Squad. They’ve made a living pumping out their line of rip off, Sci-Fi channel, d-movies with no budget based solely on the knowledge that curious people will watch them just to see how bad they are. We have become acclimated towards this attitude through the prevalence of TV. There’s probably more than one in most houses.

And in this new age of Netflix and instant streaming, it has become so easy to consume. If I hear about a terrible flick, I don’t need to leave my house. Hell, I don’t even need to get up from my writing desk. Thirty seconds from now, I could be watching any movie on the planet, regardless of quality. That is where these movies come into play. The fast food of film. Quick, easy, cheap, and peddling themselves on their own gimmick. We don’t have to worry about being serious or paying attention. You can sit back, look at your phone, talk to a friend, and laugh at them. It’s the point to their existence.

These films want to be bad. It is hard to unintentionally make a terrible movie. That is why
The Room is so fascinating. Mediocrity is easy. True awfulness takes a dedication to ruining everything. These movies aren’t trying to be haute cinema. They want you to laugh at them. Show them to your friends. Turn them into a meme about how bad they are. It’s their marketing. They want you to ignore the minuscule budgets, and D-list actors, and awful effects. So they make it an intentional part of their design. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

I don’t want to say that movies are getting pretentious, but there is a growing trend towards more and more serious “high brow” movies that are so concerned with every aspect of their production. Budgets are inflating into the hundreds of millions, and it seems that a few big name actors are dominating the discussion. This is not a bad thing. The general quality of mainstream films is going up and more and more independent films are getting their well-deserved time in the spotlight. But damned if it is not refreshing to watch a movie that eschews these qualities in favor of cheap entertainment. I love an amazing meal, but I can’t help but crave Taco Bell occasionally, mostly because I’m a terrible person. I love high concept movies. I’m a critic. But damned if I don’t crave a
Jarhead 2 on occasion.


Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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