Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Cinemaniacal: Attack Of The Killer "B"s

When I was a kid I loved low budget genre movies or "B-Movies" as they are popularly, but inaccurately called. I blame The Great Money Movie, and it's late night sister show, Weird 2, both were TV shows from over the border in Maine, which showed them with the same hyperactive glee as they did the big budget movies from the major studios.

My pop culture diet was heavily larded with regular doses of rubber monsters, spaceships that were made out of parts of toys, and sets where the walls looked like a stiff wind would take them away.

I also became a bit of a "B Movie" history buff, reading everything I could about the people who made these movies, and the often crazy stories behind their making.

It was then that learned just how inaccurate the term "B-Movie" was.  You see the term originated from the old studio system when you gave the guy at the box office your nickel, and in return you got two feature films, a cartoon, a newsreel, and a whupping to keep your mind on your business.

The two movies in the double feature would consist of an "A" picture which had a big budget, big stars, and some sort of classy pedigree. The other feature, the "B" picture would be shorter, cheaper genre movie designed to keep the kids on the balcony interested enough to keep them from tossing their popcorn.

What we usually think of as "B Movies" are in fact independently produced "exploitation" movies, and not studio made "B movies."

But enough of my usual know-it-all-ism, and let me get to the meat of this rant.

I've seen some of today's crop of so-called "B-Movies" and I have found them wanting.

What really bugs me about today's movies has roots in the whole "mockbuster" fad. Now making a low budget rip-off imitation of a big budget studio picture is a tradition that goes all the way back to the silent era.  However, it has become a mini-industry all of itself, and it's actually kind of turning me off the whole thing.


2 things, their mission and their attitude.

I've always said that the big studios are creating huge gaps in the movie market with their insistence on blockbusters, and that it should be the mission of independent filmmakers to try to fill those gaps with the sorts of stories that the majors are ignoring.

All these mockbusters do is just rehash what the major studios are doing, only doing it with worse stories, worse directing, worse acting, and even worse production values.

I know people say that they're of the campy "so bad they're good" variety, but I just don't see it. I find them as entertaining as getting a root canal.

And I can't appreciate the camp value of these production because they really don't have any, because of their attitude.

There's this whole air of smug ironic detachment behind these movies that bugs me. A "this movie is supposed to be shit, so why bother trying to be original, entertaining, or interesting, just toss in a washed up pop singer or sitcom star with some CGI done on a Commodore 64 and call it a day" sort of attitude.

The thing that made me love the old B-Movies I remember from my childhood is that even though a lot of the movies were laughably bad, there was still a sincere desire behind their making, even if that desire was just to get paid and hopefully another job afterwards. The people making the movie were trying their best, and while their efforts were often thwarted by the limitations of budget, talent, technology, or all of the above, they at least tried.

Many of those old time "B Movie" makers who had serious talent learned to work within their limited resources, breaking new ground in the process, and moved onto bigger and better things.

I don't really see a desire to break new ground with today's movies, just an itch to scratch the surface.


  1. Agreed that mockbusters are pointless - the whole idea behind exploitation is that you are showcasting stuff that the big films only display incidentally (if at all).

    But it's unclear to me why you put "dinocroc vs. supergator" as an example of a mockbuster. Surely it is an exploitation film no less than its ancestors.

    On the other hand, I also agree that the more self-aware an exploitation movie becomes, the more precarious its position. If the audience realizes you are laughing at then, you're screwed.

  2. It exhibits the same creative laziness that mark the mockbusters, so it to is part of the problem.

  3. Creatively lazy it might be (as is MegaPiranha), but it is also a cool idea - seeing two giant reptiles battle it out over Miami? The only way it could be better is if the reptiles were slurpasaurs instead of CGI.

    Seriously though - no one wants to see a knock-off of Transformers or a fake Thor. Those sound lame. But giant reptiles fighting over a city is at least as good a concept as Godzilla vs. Megalon (or did I shoot myself in the foot, there).

    It just seems to me that the crossover concept is far from as creatively bankrupt as a simple knockoff. In the same way, Jason vs. Freddie wasn't a dramatic triumph, but it was better than either of the prequels in either series.

  4. Have you actually seen the movie?

    I did. *shudder*

    It's mostly people poorly playing stupid characters running around being even stupider in a swamp with some of the worst CGI I've seen in decades.

    While not a mockbuster, per se, it still follows the same basic philosophy of imitating the style of big studio films but with really scripts, acting, and production values straight out of 80s Canadian television.

    I expected the Littlest Hobo to come in and save the day. (Which is a joke you probably do not get.)

  5. Well, as a fan of such films as The Giant Claw, perhaps I am the wrong person to debate the point.