The Sincerity of a Bad Movie


Sony Film

A promotional image from Venom: Let There Be Carnage, agreat bad movie, From Sony’s official website.

Recently I watched the new Venom movie, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.” It was bad. Awful, even. The story was a mess, the characters were shallow, the pacing blazed by at a million miles an hour, and the plot had holes in it big enough to pass a small ocean liner through with relative ease.

And I loved it.

I love the Venom comic books too. Venom: Let There Be Carnage was a violent mutilation of characters that I’ve loved since age eight. I should have hated this movie, not just because it’s a bad movie, but because it aggressively tap-danced on the graves of all my favorite characters, with shoes made out of lazy character writing and CGI. But I didn’t hate it. It was wonderful in ways that I’m not sure I can really convey.

I consider myself something of a bad movie connoisseur. In my time enjoying every assault on the eyes ever brought to screen, from “Sharknado” to “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” I’ve discovered that bad movies usually fit into some pretty neat categories.

First, and most commonly, are just plain bad movies. Comedy movies that aren’t funny; action movies that aren’t exciting; romance movies that aren’t heartwarming; bland, soulless movies made to capitalize on a popular film trend. Basically, anything boring. Any movie that just… isn’t fun. I’d rather watch a thousand one-star garbage films than watch another soulless 4-and-a-half-star Hollywood trend-surfer for an hour and forty-five minutes.

There are the “so bad it’s good” movies. Movies like “Sharknado,” that are so bad, so unbelievably awful that you can’t help but laugh. There’s a very specific kind of comedy that comes from watching a movie that’s an utter trainwreck. No comedy movie, no matter how expertly crafted the jokes, will be as funny as “The Garbage Pail Kids” or “Troll 2”. It’s a kind of absurd humor that leaves you laughing until you’re on the verge of tears. In fact, I’ve watched 2016’s “Suicide Squad” through hysterical tears of laughter more than I’ve ever watched any genuinely good movie. I will literally never get tired of Slipknot’s death scene. It’s like the cinematic equivalent of hearing a joke after you’ve had your wisdom teeth pulled.

Then there are the “so bad it’s charming” movies. These films are much fewer, and much farther between. Something like “The Room.” A movie with some kind of vision behind it. It’s not just some soulless Hollywood shlock. It’s soul-filled Hollywood shlock. Director Tommy Wiseau set out to change the world with his movie. Instead it’s genuinely one of the worst feature films I’ve ever seen. But bless him, the man tried. A less dramatic example would be Disney’s “Haunted Mansion.” While being nowhere near as bad as The Room, Haunted Mansion is another film that’s corny and predictable and generally dumb. But it’s just so cute and charming, just harmless fun.

So where does “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” fit into all of this? With a neck-snapping pace and visuals that often feel like being beating over the head with a CGI mallet, Let There Be Carnage certainly can’t be considered boring. But it’s not awful enough to be comical either. The visuals were competently executed, the acting was bad, but not bad enough to laugh at. The story was dumb, but not dumb enough to be funny (except for a few parts that made me burst out laughing in the theater, but those were few and far between). However, it’s not exactly charming either. It’s the epitome of soulless Hollywood cash grabbing. There was no misplaced vision behind this film, and yet, something about it is still so endearing to me.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is its own type of wonderfully terrible, terribly wonderful movie. Let There Be Carnage is sincere. It knows it’s bad. It knows the plot is stupid, it knows the characters are shallow, it knows that it’s nothing more than another Hollywood B-movie sucking the money out of the wallets of Marvel fans and people who mistakenly thought they were going to see a sci-fi horror movie. Let There Be Carnage knows all these things, but it doesn’t care. It doesn’t poke fun at itself for being bad. It embraces the badness. There’s no pretentiousness, no attempts to seem deep or profound. Just wacky, shlocky, B-movie fun.

You know you’re watching a bad movie. The movie know it’s a bad movie. Don’t think about it too much. Have fun.