Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Forbidden World

Like many people, I have a morbid fascination with bad movies. Oh, sure, for the most part I try to go out and watch important, highbrow movies so I can present myself as a sophisticated and erudite human being -- it's hard to fool people in to thinking you're cultured if you can't lecture at length on the latest Cronenberg, after all. Or, failing important (which I do rather a lot), I stick to well-regarded pop-culture movies. Your Dark Knights, your No Country For Old Mens, your There Will Be Bloods, what have you.

After all, if you're going to waste two hours of your time in a darkened theater, it's a good idea to try and enjoy the experience, right? Or, at least, make sure you can hold your conversational own at cocktail parties.

But there's some intrinsic value to watching movies that are just plain bad, too. Oh, sure, everyone knows that there are movies that are "so bad they're good" and you enjoy them for the shear spectacle of their awfulness. Why else would you watch Plan Nine From Outer Space?

And I swear I've gotten much more conversational fuel out of my viewing of Manos: Hands Of Fate (truly and utterly the worst movie I've ever seen) than I have from any of the classics I've viewed. I hated it at the time, but one must suffer for one's interesting stories, no?

My friend J gave me a copy of a movie called Forbidden World a little while back (also known as Mutant, if you want to track it down) and told me it was "the worst movie you will ever see". To emphasize the point, the gift was accompanied by a flask of whiskey.

The movie did not, by any means, disappoint. While I can't say that it's the worst movie I've ever seen (Manos, you still hold that honor), it was a strong contender. Truly, truly, a wretched movie.

At it's core, Forbidden World is just a lousy Alien ripoff. Rough-and-tumble types in a space station have to deal with an evil, violent monstrosity that would love nothing more than to jab its pointy bits through our fair heroes (and, this being a bad exploitation movie, this is at least once performed in a vastly more sexual manner than is required by the plot). For no particularly good reason, the plot also features a Han-Solo-esque space explorer (whose name, thankfully, escapes me) sent to the space station in question to help them deal with the menace (key quote: "My motto is, if it moves and it's not one of us, kill it.").

What fascinated me about the movie, though, was the evidence of some actual technical and artistic talent buried under the seething mass of hideous that was the plot and acting. Oh, nothing amazing, mind you. Nothing Oscar-worthy, certainly, nor even better than what one might expect from a film student (I have a concrete idea of what I'd expect from a film student -- do you?). But there, masked and obscured by the wretched acting and plot, was a concerted effort to make a real, honest-to-god movie.

Really, this was just basic, framing stuff. Slow pans around a room, providing an expository glimpse of the scientist (stereotypical glasses, unkempt hair, lab coat, and all) working feverishly to try and find the alien life-form's weakness. Nothing too exciting or flashy, but still: evidence of technical ability well beyond that of what I would have expected from a bad movie. It almost made me feel sorry for those involved (much like, in some way, I feel bad for the actors involved in the original (unreleased) Fantastic 4 movie -- perhaps a story for another time).

I guess with bad movies, my expectation is that of a well-meaning but utterly misguided director, who with all of the best intentions sets his woefully underdeveloped talents to work at creating a masterwork, only to fall dreadfully, dreadfully short. Forbidden World, however, was my first ever experience watching a well-made awful movie. And for that reason, alone, I recommend you watch it.

But make sure you have a flask of whiskey handy


  1. If the promo stuff says anything like "Part X, Part Y, All N!" then you know the movie probably needs a booze-assist.

    I think that it would take quite a bit to beat Manos for sheer badness. I don't know... Someone would have to try to suck harder than that.

  2. I haven't seen Manos or Forbidden World, but I'd have to say (and don't kill me), one of the worst movies I've seen recently had to have been Shaolin Soccer. I know, I know, a lot of folks thought it was so bad that it was good - Alex included, but in my opinion, truly a bad movie. That one about ping pong too... Kung Fu Ping Pong or something - that one looked so bad from the previews that I didn't even want to go see it.

  3. ooo! why did you invade my thoughts? you really should ask first, or at least warm me up a little. seriously...

    friends in Brazil and I were just having a conversation about our favorite worst movie ever.

    and now for a snuggle at least? no.


  4. Oh, Forbidden World is nowhere near as bad as Manos. Manos is unstoppably, awe-inspiringly bad. Forbidden World could almost (/almost/) be an OK movie if it had had a decent budget, better actors, and a script doctor. Which it was why it was so fascinating to me.

    Kristin: I actually really enjoyed Balls Of Fury (the ping-pong movie you're thinking of). I think that one falls under the category of "so bad it's good", especially since it was clearly intentionally bad. Also, I'm obsessed with ping pong. Haven't seen Shaolin Soccer, though, so I can't comment on that one.

    Kori: *virtual snuggle* Pretend we're discussing crappy movies right now.