A curious phenomenon, to be sure. Video games, fan fiction and movies that are so bad, so cringe-worthy, so poorly acted or written that they loop around and become entertaining.
There are some really well-known examples of this:
The Room (2003)
The Room was an independent film written, produced, directed by and starring the now-infamous Tommy Wiseau. The plot mainly focuses on the love triangle between Johnny, his fiancee Lisa, and his best friend Mark. Originally meant to be a deadly serious drama, it since became a cult hit thanks to the messy story and dreadful acting, not to mention the bizarre acting style/general demeanor of the star of the film itself:
Since the movie found fame as being one of the best worst movies ever, Tommy Wiseau has decided that the movie was meant to be a black comedy all along! Of COURSE it’s not serious! *shifty eyes*
My Immortal (“Harry Potter” fanfic)
I put Harry Potter in those inverteds because frankly, it reads like a piece of original fiction, almost. Characters are renamed, original canon is largely dismissed, and the only thing that My Immortal appears to have in common with the source material is the fact it’s set in Hogwarts.
The protagonist is the Mary Sue-iest of Mary Sues, spelling mistakes and continuity errors run rife, the sex scenes are abhorrently cringe-worthy, and naturally everything and everyone is displaced and reshaped to suit the hero of our story.
We started tiling of each other’s cloves fevently. He took of my blak thong and my black leather bar. I took of his black boxers. Then……………………… he put his trobbing you-know-what in my tool sexily.
People seem to be split in two camps. There are those that believe this is a geniune, honest attempt at good writing, who accept this fanfic at face value, and there are those who believe Tara Gillesbie is one of the most successful trolls in history, that this story was elaborately constructed in this way, to elicit the most fire, vitriol and humour from trolls.
Whatever it is, it’s obviously something impressively impactful. Search for My Immortal on Google, for instance, and while the first result will be the wildly popular Evanescence song, this fanfic tends to feature quite highly as well.
Deadly Premonition (2010)
Deadly Premonition is an open-world survival horror game released to great amusement worldwide. It’s actually a Guinness World Record holder, for Most Polarizing Game! It centres on the FBI agent Francis York Morgan as he investigates a murder in the town of Greenvale. Not only do you have to investigate this supernatural phenomenon in game, but you also have to do the mundane things an agent will have to do, like eat, sleep, shave, wear clean clothes, socialize, interview people, etc.
Sounds good so far right? Trouble is, the story and gameplay is frankly insane, the controls are janky, the voice acting is wildly out of sync with lip movements, giving it the air of a badly dubbed 80’s martial arts movie, the graphics were pretty shonky for the time, the opening half hour or so consisted of some fairly poor Resident Evil-inspired combat… but you break beyond the surface, and you find a game that becomes a curious delight!
Ludicrous, hilarious, an oddly endearing little game. The faults are many, but you find that without them, the game itself would become… almost hollow.
The Sad State of Things
The trouble is, these “terrible” things have received massive success. My Immortal is one of the most recognizable bad fanfics on the internet. The Room is still shown in cinemas all over the world. People can quote practically the whole movie, despite it being unequivocally terrible. Deadly Premonition is a world record holder, award-winning game that, due to the fact it’s “so bad it’s good” drew a large cult following.
People want to experience these things because they’re innocent. They weren’t intended to be terrible, no matter what Tommy Wiseau says. They’re genuine, they’re from the heart, they’re terrible and you know what? We LOVE them for it. We laugh at the escapades of Enoby Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. We smile through the absolute shonkiness of the world Francis Morgan inhabits, and we derive pleasure from seeing this almost gargoyle-esque figure gurn his way through a script in The Room.
They’re successful because they’re terrible, but they’re genuinely trying to not be.
There seems to be a growing number of people trying to capitalise on this, however. Tommy Wiseau seems to be guilty of this himself, in fact! The Neighbours is a sitcom written by, starring, produced by, etc, the man himself. It features worse production values than even The Room, and almost seems to be full of knowing winks to the camera, a sort of “look at this terrible mess!”, an attempt to capitalise on the “glorious” name of Mr Wiseau.
Sharknado was shameless in its brainlessness. Sharknado 2 just didn’t have that same thing about it. It didn’t take itself as seriously. It tried too hard to pander to the crowd that appreciates an innocent mess.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror! Very much a terrible movie in every way. Awful acting, terrible CGI, dreadful “action” scenes, yet the movie gathered a cult following because of this, because it TOOK ITSELF SERIOUSLY.
Look at that! These are people that are acting their socks off. They believe they are making ART. Of course they made a sequel, and of course they tried to recapture this, and of COURSE they failed, because you can’t manufacture a bad movie. You try to make a bad movie, and you will. It’ll be terrible, it’ll be contrived, it’ll feel fake. We’re not stupid, we’ll see through it!
But you try and make a GOOD movie/game/fanfic and fail? Sometimes, yeah it’ll still be terrible, but sometimes the stars will align. Sometimes, you get credit just for trying. Your serious attempt will be seen as almost charming. The Room has that sense of enthusiasm about itself, that naivete, that lends the film unintended comedic value. Birdemic is ludicrously executed, yet there’s something entirely wonderful about it. It’s honest. It’s trying to make a really ham-fisted attempt at an environmental message, but the poor acting makes it come across badly, and in the end you just remember them attacking clipart birds with coat hangers.
You can’t manufacture this. You can’t fake it. Something that’s so bad it’s good is something that genuinely TRIES to be good, tries to be serious, tries to be a piece of art, but entertainingly fails.
Try to deliberately pander to those of us that like good-bad movies, and your movie will just be so bad it’s terrible.