Terribly Fun Films: Sinbad: Beyond The Veil Of Mists

 sinbad3Let’s start with a thought exercise.

Imagine all the “so bad, they’re good” movies you possibly can. Now, focus only on those that are important to the history and advancement of cinema. Have that handful in mind? Good. If any you’re picturing are live action, trash them. How many does that leave you? Be honest: probably none. This brings us to today’s review: Sinbad, Beyond The Veil Of Mists. It was the first animated movie to be made entirely with motion capture. Without what was learned during the making of this movie, we wouldn’t have Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings,” nor Robert Zemeckis’ career from the last decade. It’s peculiar that all of these much better movies hinged upon a movie this patently ridiculous.

Sporting an impressive cast — Brendan Fraser as Sinbad, Leonard Nimoy as the villainous wizard Baraka, John Rhys-Davies as King Akron, Mark Hamill as Captain of the Guard, and voice actress extraordinaire Jennifer Hale as Princess Serena — it’s surprising that this film didn’t have a wider release, or that it isn’t better known.

With a severely truncated production time, things were rushed during the production and several key members of the crew were fired during the all important post. The co-directors wanted two years for the film, and the producers gave them six months. However, due to a critical lack of cameras available to handle the performers (the cameras could only process four actors at a time, thus several action scenes were shot multiple times) or delineate the sets properly, and even fewer capable of ‘digital puppetry,’ the production went over schedule by a year. During that time though, higher quality, quicker cameras that were compatible with timecodes were created based on what the production had to overcome.

With its cast and importance to cinema history, just what makes this movie so bad? Some unwieldy dialogue, a seemingly confused performance, and the biggest sin of all, character animation. With all the technological issues, the terrible animation is understandable. But it’s also what makes this so much fun.

The plot is your typical Sinbad yarn: the evil wizard, saved from near death by the naive Princess Serena, trades bodies with the king. Serena hires Sinbad to help discover how to reverse it. It’s not dissimilar to Harryhausen’s last Sinbad hurrah, the under-appreciated “Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger.” And in several respects, this movie does things right. First and most importantly, the title character is quite spot on.

“I don’t know what books you’ve been reading, but the world isn’t flat. Hasn’t been for years.”

“You’re asking me, I’ve been lost since the manta ray cave.”

These two lines from Sinbad show a real understanding of how to create a true adventure story. The background designs and level of detail are also good, often overshadowing the lumbering character animation. Footprints left in the sand and reflections in the water add a weight to the world not found in the character animation.

But when a character grips anything — a rope, or a sword — there’s clearly a void between the item and the hand itself. Whether they’re dancing, running, or jumping, there’s a disconnect between the characters and the ground. The level of detail in the character animation is hilariously non-existent.  Elbows resemble silly putty, a detail that makes every scene amusing . Each movement is jerky and awkward. Considering that this production was created to show off what mo-cap can do, it’s notable that when there isn’t enough money or technology available, the final product stalls out despite the best of intentions.sinbad2

While little gestures that’d be almost unfathomable to render using typical animation techniques are captured, all the characters look clumsy and unrealistic. During the establishing shot of a tavern, it appears as though the character animations are looped. This gives everything a jarring, rigid look that is pretty ludicrous. The shape interpolation, used to render facial expressions, was either barely used or so rudimentary that it couldn’t help but pale in comparison to the well-crafted backgrounds. For instance, a desperate plea for help (“I just want my father back!”) is severely undercut of any emotional resonance due to the severely limited facial range. The characters have nearly the same expressions whether they’re meant to be scared, awed, frustrated, or happy. Couple that with the unimpressive voice acting from 95% of the cast and you’ve got a real groaner.

All of the minor characters sound as if they were rushed through the ADR to free up time for the bigger actors. This leads to some confusion, especially aboard the ship, since many of them sound indistinguishable from each other.

On the other hand, Nimoy overacts like a true champ and infuses his scenes with a breath of life that’s missing from many other parts. Fraser fares the absolute best. He injects humor, warmth, and a sense of thrill seeking that illustrates just how much everyone cared about this film. John Rhys-Davies and Mark Hamill are good, but if you didn’t know it was them, you probably wouldn’t guess it.

This leaves poor Jennifer Hale. As great as she has been throughout her career, she’s god awful here, sounding like someone doing a bad valley girl impersonation as opposed to a naive princess who wants to genuinely help.

The script doesn’t give Hale anything to work with, as her character has very little development. Aside from a few blunder-headed lines, the script’s big issue is its focus on showing Sinbad’s progression at the expense of the other characters. It’s too bad too, as with one solid rewrite this could have been an almost perfectly written adventure.

While terribly animated, the action scenes have a frantic, kinetic energy that leads to some fun. They’re also surprisingly bloody, especially during a demonic bat fight. The bats look gnarly and straight from the mouth of hell, which keeps things engaging.

Later a mystical underwater race is revealed, and they’re badass. A decent amount of thought was put into the design of their civilization and language. But those elements aren’t given enough time to be explored. At 85 minutes, and feeling quite rushed (especially closer to the end), time to slow down and explore what this new world means for our characters would have not only been welcome, but could have provided some necessary gravitas.

The ending is especially rushed. The climax involves Sinbad and Serena getting to her kingdom in time to stop the execution of King Akron (still body switched as Baraka), getting everyone to their proper bodies and living happily ever after. All of which happens in five minutes or less. This demands a solid ten minute sword fight scene, with rope swings, near misses, and the like…but we don’t get that. No thrills are to be had there.

In spite of honorable intent, some truly inspired moments, and my own personal preference for the adventure genre, the technology and time just weren’t present to make this film a success. The terrible character animation, bad lead performance, and rushed pacing do provide plenty of laughs, though. I hope “Sinbad, Beyond The Veil Of Mists” takes its rightful place upon the mantle of “so bad, they’re good” movies soon.

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Big So Bad, It’s Good News!

Have you ever had some news that you’ve had to sit on for a while because you couldn’t let anyone know until it was totally, completely official? That’s been me for the last six weeks or so, but I can finally reveal some pretty unbelievable news.

The Disaster Artist is set to be a hit - and The Asylum wants to capitalize.
The Disaster Artist is set to be a hit – and The Asylum wants to capitalize.

As you likely already know, James Franco recently picked up the rights to The Disaster Artist, an amazing book by Greg Sestero about his friendship with Tommy Wiseau and the making of The Room. I’m sure a movie based on that material would be amazing, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it is made and becomes at least a minor hit. I mean, if everyone was me, it would break all known box office records on opening day, but bad movies aren’t quite that mainstream, and even The Room isn’t as big among the general public as we’d like to imagine.

As you likely also know, The Asylum is a film studio that makes direct-to-video films, often tied in by theme or title to major releases that are getting lots of press. That way, they can capitalize on the interest in those films and get some viewers of their own who want more of the same. So when Pacific Rim comes out, they make Atlantic Rim – that sort of thing. These guys make low budget productions, but while they might turn out cheesy, they generally get some pretty great results for the resources they put in.

To make a long story short: The Asylum wants to make a mockbuster to take advantage of interest in the upcoming Disaster Artist movie. And that’s why they’ve purchased the rights to So Bad, It’s Good.

Yes, that’s right: you’re going to see a So Bad, It’s Good movie sometime in the not-too-distant future, and it’s going to be an Asylum production. As it was always meant to be.

I wish I could give you a whole lot of details, but I’m really not allowed to say too much – and really, there’s not much to say yet. As you might expect, the script hasn’t been written yet. And since the book isn’t one with a narrative, they’re going to be have to be pretty creative with this one.

Kate Hodge will star in the So Bad, It's Good film.
Kate Hodge will star in the So Bad, It’s Good film.

That said, there are a few things I do know at this point. I’m going to be a character, which is pretty awesome, even if I have no clue who will be playing me yet. Even more amazing is the fact that they’re going to create a character based on Allison Pregler (aka Obscurus Lupa, who wrote the foreword to the book), and they were able to get Kate Hodge (She-Wolf of London, that one episode of Fringe with the kid who solves complex equations with music) to play her.

Anyway, I honestly have no clue how they’re going to turn my little book into a movie (will there be skits based on movies? A completely unrelated story about making a bad movie? A horrible CGI monster that terrorizes bad movie reviewers?), but no matter what they come up with, you know this is absolutely a must watch when it shows up on SyFy. Or Lifetime. Or Netflix. Stay tuned for more details as they become available! I can’t wait to see the trailer.

Ed Scimia

About Ed Scimia

Ed is the author of "So Bad, It's Good" and the upcoming "So Bad, It's Good 2: Electric Bookaloo." He also serves as the Chess Guide at About.com.

Terribly Fun Films: Pegasus vs. Chimera

M2203753Pegasus vs. Chimera is a ridiculously reworked Greek myth that lives up to its title. There is a Pegasus and there is a Chimera, and they fight, often. We have reimagined myths all the time, so what makes this title stand out? Well, as it turns out, just about everything!

In the prologue, we meet a teenage Belleros and his father hunting for some dinner. They stumble across a dragon and it attacks. Young Belleros acts quickly, but fumbles. The dragon charges, and the dad sticks an arrow right into its abdomen. After an awkward delay- the first telltale sign of the enjoyment to be had- the dragon goes down, and the father makes sure it’s dead. No wings, forked tongues, clubbed tails, nor any fire breathing. Looking like a mix of a hyena and a crocodile, the dragon is pretty neat from a design standpoint. The CGI however, is very sub-par, as it is throughout the movie; more on that in a bit. The opening ends with some of the emperor’s guards arbitrarily accosting the duo. The dad is killed.

The way it’s shot and edited makes this sequence so entertainingly bad. Implementing the oddest use of slo-mo for no reason, coupled with the worst shaky cam I have ever seen, the action is impossible to follow. There’s no sense of geography, and everything is shot so tightly that it’s quite hard to make out anything. Then there’s the aforementioned delay. The father shoots the dragon, and then we have a cut to the dragon running for two seconds before it falls down, severely injured. Finally, the CGI creature is infrequently in the same shot as the humans. The editing going back forth between the two disparate focuses of the scene just emphasizes how the humans and dragon aren’t sharing the same space, thus ruining the illusion of credible threat.

Having only gotten two or so minutes into the movie this far into a review might seem a tad off. But the opening exemplifies almost everything wrong with the movie: if you don’t find yourself smiling at the described goofiness, then this movie isn’t for you. If you are amused, or interested in how a movie can get bungled by a tweaked out editor, you are in the right place!

The bulk of the story takes place “many years later.” Belleros, now a grown man played with surprising dignity by Sebastian Roche, runs a blacksmithery. He and his young apprentice, Tello, are hired by Princess Philony to create weapons for an uprising against the evil emperor. In order to quell the rebellion before it gains momentum, the emperor has his wizard conjure up the Chimera to go around the countryside and destroy absolutely everything and everyone.

To combat this, the rebels go to the witch Mayda. She is given “a gift from the gods:” the Pegasus. Philony and Belleros travel around on Pegasus to find and stop Chimera and his evil overlords.

That’s the plot (in a broad sense), with some twists and turns left out so there are some surprises lying in wait for you. Clearly, it’s nothing special, but that in itself doesn’t make this bad movie worthy. But with lines like, “Now both our fathers have justice,” the dialogue by scribes Jeremy Levy, Angela Mancuso (one of my personal favorites for this type of fun schlock), and Kevin Commins is too kooky to ever sound believable.  And then there’s this bit:

Belleros asks Philony why she wants to help the rebellion: “For vengeance or justice?”

The princess replies: “Both.”

Which is forgotten as soon as it’s spoken. Yay for abandoned characterizations!

The direction is even more hapless than the script. In a nighttime sequence that is almost too dark to see, Philony murders a traitor. The emperor’s guards are maybe seven feet away and they completely fail to hear anything. It’s a wonderfully silly scene. The arty flourishes are just the cheez-whiz on the cheese cake! The poor use of speed ramping, combined with the piss poor editing just keeps things supremely riff-able throughout.

The best bits come when John Bradshaw’s attempts at stylish direction and the amateurish script converge into a glorious mishmash of stupidity. Belleros wakes up early in the morning to groom and feed Pegasus. They go from the secluded, sheltered woods, into a flat, open field. Belleros discovers how dumb that is because he’s immediately taken by surprise and captured. The action here uses the weird slo-mo and overwrought editing; between that and the stupidity of the script causing him to venture into the field, this might be the silliest scene in the movie.

Well, almost. Mayda, to help buy the leaders of the rebellion time, builds a pentacle out of twigs that Chimera can’t cross. After one attempt to do so, the monster pushes a tree down, which breaks the twig star, and bam: Mayda is defeated by a falling tree. Her magic was just successfully used to ward off one of the cruelest creatures ever summoned from the underworld, and it can’t handle a small tree. It’s a face palm moment, but it’s an amazing face palm moment.

But what of the title creatures? Chimera looks terrifyingly demonic with its burnt, scarred face. The horns are imposing and the tail is used as a weapon often, but the CGI is super cheap. Pegasus is a real horse when on the ground, sans wings. The wings are magic and only appear when needed.  They appear at the 20 and 30 minute marks, and they do get plenty of use, so one shouldn’t be disappointed there.

As I’ve mentioned continuously since the beginning of this review, the special effects are awful. The CGI creatures, mainly the Chimera, never seem to have weight or actually touch the surface of the various terrain they encounter. The flying Pegasus looks like a poorly stop-motioned Play-Doh model. The green-screened close ups of the flying are so ridiculously fake I laughed every time they occurred. With the CGI being so bland, the Chimera is rarely on the same screen as the human actors, so we get lots of POV shots from the monster’s vantage. During this, it’s quite clear the actors are just swiping at the air. It’s hilarious, and happens enough that it’s a constant source of entertainment.

As the evil King Orthos, Carlo Rota is an overacting genius. He’s almost on a Nic Cage level here: “Ooo, the man who wants to kill me!” is uttered with such delightful glee that no scenery is left unchewed. He’s the movie’s secret weapon. On the other hand, Nazeen Contractor as Princess Philony is just monotone. Whether she’s being flirty, revealing how her dad was killed, or feeling relieved at seeing her mom alive, Contractor has exactly one tone of voice- flat and disinterested. Luckily, she never gets boring, as it’s clear that she’s trying so damned hard. The extras fare even worse, especially during the action.

Between all the goofs, bad editing, and terrible cinematography, Pegasus vs. Chimera never failed to make me grin.

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Before Ninja Rap, There Was…Turtle Power

There was a magical time in our history – from roughly 1982-1998 – where it seemed every movie was required by law to have a bumping rap song in it, most often playing over the end credits. On paper, you can almost see how it makes sense.  Hip hop was big. Releasing hip hop tracks could broaden the appeal of a picture, and lead to greater profits. But, as we all know, if there’s one thing studio big wigs are fully in touch with, it’s youth culture.

Turtle Power!
Turtle Power!

Which leads us to 1990’s Turtle Power, by James Alpern and Richard Usher: better known as the rap duo Partners in Kryme.

It’s okay that you’ve never heard of them: Turtle Power was their only hit, peaking at #2 on the US Hot Rap Singles chart, and hitting number one on the Singles Chart for a month in the UK in the summer of 1990. But a track about the Heroes in a Half Shell charting so highly isn’t necessarily the weirdest thing about this song. It’s no Disco Duck, after all.

The strange thing, the thing that really elevates Turtle Power to the mind-bogglingly puzzling, is how the song is a beat for beat breakdown of the film’s plot, all while having no idea of the turtles’ role in their group.

Let’s take a look at the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFsTr0kGAqU

Did you catch that? Let me break down the lyrics of the section starting at the 02:30 mark.

TurtlePower3-18-2014-4.02.36 PM
The turtles help display…Turtle Power.

Now this isn’t something open to interpretation: they straight up call Raphael the leader of the Turtles.

Just to refresh our memories, let’s take a look at how the world had known the turtles’ roles from 1987 on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDQzALOH9iU

Unlike the animated theme song, Turtle Power isn’t just the constant repetition of the name brand, but the whole plot of the movie.

Now our ace reporter was hot on the trail.
Determined to put these crooks in jail.
She spied the bad guys and saw what happened,
But before she knew it, she fell in a trap and got caught.
Yeah, she was all alone.
With no friends, and no phone.
Now this was beyond her worst dreams,
‘Cause she was cornered by some wayward teens.
Headed by Shredder they were anything but good,
Misguided, unloved, they called them The Foot.
They could terrorize and be angry youth, and
They mugged the people. Who needed proof?
Then from out of the dark came an awesome sound!
Shouted “Cowabunga!” as they hit the ground.

And a bit later in the song:

Back to the story, it’s not hard to find.
Ninjas not just of the body but of the mind.
Those are the words that their master instructed,
But a letter from Shredder had Splinter abducted.
That was the last straw, spring into action.
Step on The Foot, now they’re gonna lose traction.
Now this is for real, so you fight for justice.
Your shell is hard so you shout; “They can’t dust us off!
Like some old coffee table.”
Since you were born you’ve been willing and able,
to defeat the sneak, protect the weak,
Fight for rights and your freedom to speak.
Now the villain is chillin’ so you make a stand.
Back to the wall, put your sword in you hand.

Hey dude, this is no cartoon.
Hey dude, this is no cartoon.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen TMNT (1990), don’t worry about it. That’s it. That’s the whole plot. And this song was obviously written with full knowledge of the plot and characters. In the grand scheme of things, calling Raphael the leader is a small mistake, but the curious thing is how many people had to sign off on this song. At some point Partners in Kryme must have turned in a rough draft of the lyrics to New Line Cinema, director Steve Barron, Eastman and Laird maybe, and a dozen other agents, producers, and big wigs. Not a single one of them either cared enough to change the line (you can swap Leonardo and Raphael’s names in that line, and the song still totally works), or perhaps they just didn’t notice.

Partners in Kryme released one more single after the smash hit that was Turtle Power, but it failed to chart. Having released zero albums, and having their one big hit, the duo broke up shortly thereafter.

This song will still pop up from time to time. It was included on the third Ninja Turtles movie soundtrack in 1993, and is slated to appear yet again in the upcoming reboot of the series. Interestingly enough, while the ‘93 version still called Raphael the leader, there is an edit of the song, which appeared on the poorly received Out of the Shadows game, that describes Raphael as the ‘bad boy’ of the group.

 

About Charley Macorn

Charley Macorn bows down to the Monster Mash, and pledges her allegiance to the Graveyard Smash. Sometimes she gets drunk and yells at the Simpsons online. Join her on Twitter at @CharleyMacorn, won't you?

In Theaters: Is Need for Speed So Bad, It’s Good?

Need for Speed
Need for Speed

Need for Speed, based on the video game series of the same name, is now in theaters. By most accounts, this isn’t an Oscar contender, or even a good film. It is, like most video game adaptations, rather poor.

But is Need for Speed so bad, it’s good? Such movies do hit theaters reasonably often: had this website been up and running a couple months earlier, I certainly would have highlighted Winter’s Tale as a film that might be well worth a bad movie fan’s time.

Right now, Need for Speed has some rather middling scores from critics: Metacritic has it as a 40 (out of a possible 100), while Rotten Tomatoes shows only 23% of critics giving the film a positive review (making it downright rotten in their book).

But none of that tells us whether this tale of a cross-country race between super-fast cars is worth our time as an enjoyably bad flick. For that, we’ll need to dig further into some individual reviews:

  • Over at Forbes, Scott Mendelson gave the film a “so bad, it’s good” designation, which is what caught my attention in the first place. According to Mendelson, “If you can ignore or embrace how cartoonish and self-sabotaging the characters are and how moronic the screenplay is, there is fun to be had to this old-school 1970′s-style throwback.”
  • Luke Hopewell of Kotaku Australia had a different take. While he agreed that Need for Speed was “one of the most entertaining bad movies I have ever seen,” he went a step further and outright praised the film for car lovers, saying that “If you love a driving movie and adore exotic cars like we do, it’s a must-see, despite how cheesy it can be.” He did, however, criticize “the odd undercurrent of sexism” that pervades the film.
  • Not everyone was entertained, though. While Mathew Buck (aka Film Brain) thought the movie was decent by the low standards of video game adaptations, he also found it to be “grotesquely overlong” at a running time of 130 minutes, which could certainly take some of the bad movie fun out of sitting through this one.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a split decision! Need for Speed isn’t something that caught my eye as a particularly entertaining bad movie, but it looks like at least some people are getting some fun out of it — both as intended and in an ironic sense. I’m not planning to head out to the theater to see this one, but if you’ve seen it (or plan to), feel free to leave a comment below and let the rest of us know if this movie deserves the so bad, it’s good moniker.

Ed Scimia

About Ed Scimia

Ed is the author of "So Bad, It's Good" and the upcoming "So Bad, It's Good 2: Electric Bookaloo." He also serves as the Chess Guide at About.com.

Bad Movies You (Probably) Haven’t Seen: Doom House

The Doom House DVD menu screen.
The Doom House DVD menu screen.

Doom House isn’t the type of film you’d normally see me writing about. For one thing, it’s certainly not “so bad, it’s good” – this is a film that knows it is bad from start to finish. That can make for a poor viewing experience if the film tries to pass off its errors as unintentional mistakes. There needs to be sincerity in the attempt to make a good film in order for a bad film to be unintentionally hilarious; after all, if you were to wake up tomorrow and find out that The Room was all a big joke, it would certainly take a lot of the fun out of it (if the film even remained watchable at all) even though nothing about the movie itself had changed.

But purposefully bad movies can work if they’re legitimately funny in their own right. Much in the way that bad comedies are rarely watchable even for their mistakes, good comedy can come from anything – even a movie that’s “intentionally bad.” The most famous example of this may be The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, a hilarious spoof of the pulp science fiction movies popularized in the 1950s. While plenty of other movies spoof the conventions of a given genre (think The Naked Gun or the Scary Movie franchise), the Lost Skeleton films also satirize the filmmaking process by using intentionally silly props and effects, hokey acting and terrible dialogue – essentially creating a homage to “so bad, it’s good” films of the era that’s actually good.

And so that brings us to Doom House, a short horror film produced for Something Awful and released on DVD in 2005. Of course this movie is a spoof. Of course nobody involved is trying to make a good film. But who cares? It’s not like they’re pretending or trying to fool you into thinking its anything other than something Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka and Kevin “Fragmaster” Bowen put together on a whim. Yes, it’s stupid, but you’re in on the joke, so it’s okay – and it’s hilarious if you’re willing to go along with it.

Why write about Doom House? Well, I saw it on my bookshelf the other day, and realized I hadn’t watched it in a long time. Seems like a good enough reason to me.

I’m lucky enough to have this award-winning piece of cinematic history on DVD, so I can take you through all the very special features available. But let’s start with the film itself. You might be intimidated by the lengthy 17 minute runtime, but don’t worry: some of that is taken up by a credits sequence that lets us know that Kyanka may have had a hand in the production of the film.

Kyanka also stars as Reginald P. Linux, a man who has been suffering from depression ever since his wife died. Now he’s looking for a new house to call his own, and it looks like he’s found the home of his dreams. But he warns us:

“As a philosopher once said, be careful what you dream for…because you JUST…MIGHT…GET IT!”

DoomHouse3-16-2014-5.16.39 PM
That’s one evil figurine.

Entering the house, Linux finds that the home has already been furnished and decorated, much to his delight. But there’s also a mysterious figurine that seems strangely out of place. And possibly evil. Yeah, Definitely evil.

As anyone who has ever had to move knows, unpacking is hard work, and having a figurine that seems to move around your home of its own volition just makes that job harder. Linux doesn’t want to put up with this and tosses the doll into the backyard, surely getting rid of it forever.

But, oh no, it shows up again! How will Linux ever get rid of this devil doll? His next effort is to put it in the garbage disposal unit of his sink, which seems like a pretty permanent solution to any figurine-based problem a man might encounter.

With that issue seemingly resolved, Linux decides that it’s “time to hit the old bedstack,” and wanders off to bed. Sharp viewers may notice some continuity errors here, as a small amount of light suggests that this scene may not have been shot at night. More importantly, Linux finds that he’s not sleeping alone – the doll is back, sitting right on the pillow that once belonged to his late wife!

Whyyyyyyy??
Whyyyyyyy??

Linux frantically runs through his new home, but no matter what he tries, he cannot escape the doll. He then receives a mysterious phone call from someone threatening to take his hair and put it in a bowl – a horror movie staple if ever there was one.

At this point, Linux knows it’s time to call the police. A police officer (Kevin Bowen) quickly stops by to investigate the incident, and makes a frightening discovery: based on his expertise, he declares that the house is a “Doom House!”

DoomHouse3-16-2014-5.19.33 PM
A policeman arrives on the scene.

“A Doom House?” asks Linux, seemingly in shock over the turn of events. The officer suggests that Linux’s only course of action is to move out as quickly as possible before the house kills him.

Later, the officer stops by again (and again, and again) to see how Linux is doing. As an officer of the law, he is shocked that the “doom house mystique” has not yet forced Linux to move out. He once again gives the new homeowner some advice:

“My advice to you is to move out of the doom house. Maybe get a doll house – which is like a doom house, but the doll isn’t as mean.”

Adding:

“If you don’t move out of the doom house, it could spell your doom!”

But does Linux listen to the kind man? No, of course not! During a late-night video game session, the doll appears on the television screen – something that’s not supposed to happen in most console games I know of. Just then, the officer shows up again to try and convince his new friend to leave the doom house. But Linux doesn’t want to give up the house: after all, he got a great deal. And besides, the doll and him have come to a gentleman’s agreement! It looks like things are going to turn out just fine for our hero.

"My displeasure for America has reached a simmer!"
“My displeasure for America has reached a simmer!”

But then we come to the shocking twist of Doom House: the officer is actually the villain! Worse still, he’s inside Linux’s basement…and inside his mind. It turns out that he’s a terrorist, and the house was build over a terrorist burial camp, which explains why he’d want Mr. Linux to clear out as soon as possible.

But Linux knows he can’t give up his home – after all, he got a fixed rate mortgage. He throws the doll at the evil terrorist, knocking him down the stairs, back into the basement and under a piece of wood, allowing the terrorist to recite his final words:

"I'm so...board!"
“I’m so…board!”

Finally, free of the evils of the doom house, Linux relaxes, knowing he can move on with his live and enjoy his brand new home.

While I could spend several thousand words trying to catalogue every “mistake” in continuity of writing this film contains, that’s a waste of time, as the production choices are a huge part of the fun. But I would like to praise at least one thing this film did well that might not be immediately obvious. It would have been easy to simply have both actors play their roles in an over-the-top, absurdist manner. But while Kyanka’s Linux is played precisely this way, Bowen takes the opposite tact with the police officer, instead delivering all his lies flatly and playing the character as flatly as possible. It’s a great contrast, and seems to play to Fragmaster’s strengths (though if you’ve ever seen his Bill Fillmaff poker videos, you know he can play outlandish characters, too).

But wait, there’s more! If you can track down a copy of the DVD (which may be tricky: the link I found no longer works, and I don’t see any copies on eBay at the moment), you’ll also be able to enjoy all of the following special features:

Mood House

This is Doom House in reverse – naturally, since mood is the polar opposite of doom. The roles are reversed. The sequence of events is reversed. Most of the dialogue is designed to convey the opposite meaning from the equivalent lines in Doom House. The cat becomes a dog. Linux has been hoodwinked into an adjustable rate mortgage and hates the house. The cop exclaims that “My pleasure for this country knows no bounds!” Linux is falling in love with the doll. The officer/marriage counselor desperately wants him to stay in the house. You get the idea. It’s ten minutes of the exact opposite of the movie you just watched!

Animated Doom House

This film was supposedly completed in one day, and I have little trouble believing this. Featuring the voice work of Kevin Bowen, this animated feature is just under five minutes in length. The plot is similar, except that it’s a couple that moves into the house, and there is a spooky ghost! The ending is also slightly different.

Doom House Done Quick

Under four minutes with a whole new cast at a new house. And there’s a stuffed monkey in place of the figurine. Perfect if you don’t have enough time to sit through the slog that is Doom House.

Doom House Director’s Cut

This director’s cut has very little to do with the standard version of the film. The new cut is completed in just under three minutes, including a lot of credits and a sequence in which a plastic fish tries to eat the head of the figurine. In fact, this might just be a sales pitch for the fish.

Subtitles

The subtitles of Doom House show remarkable attention to detail.
The subtitles of Doom House show remarkable attention to detail.

As with any good DVD, you’ll have the option of turning on English subtitles. These subtitles have occasional grammatical and spelling errors, and may sometimes disagree with the actors about the contents of the script.

I’ve known about Doom House for about ten years now, and while it’s not something you’re going to pull out every time you have friends over to watch some bad movies, I know I go back to it every year or two – and I always have a good time, even if the replay value isn’t really there. And while the DVD might be tough to track down at this point, you can still enjoy Doom House online – it’s available on YouTube (albeit without the intense credits sequence that was added for the DVD release).

Ed Scimia

About Ed Scimia

Ed is the author of "So Bad, It's Good" and the upcoming "So Bad, It's Good 2: Electric Bookaloo." He also serves as the Chess Guide at About.com.

Seeking Submissions for SoBadBooks.com

Do you enjoy bad movies, bad television, or bad <insert cultural institution>?

Would you like to write about it, and get paid a very small amount of money for doing so?

If so, you’re in luck! I’m looking for someone to write a weekly column on SoBadBooks.com. I’d like to add more content to the site, and since I’m working on writing So Bad, It’s Good 2 at the moment, that means I’ll need someone to help pick up the slack. That someone could be you.

What I’m looking for is a column of approximately 1,000 words (no need to be precise – think in the range of 800-1,200) that covers any topic that would make sense for a site abut all things “so bad, they’re good.” Obviously, movies and television are a particular focus here, but I’m more than happy to branch out your writing catches my eye. In exchange, I’m willing to offer a king’s ransom of $20 each week, payable via PayPal. You’ll be able to buy a pizza, breadsticks, and a two-liter soda with that!

If you’re interested, here’s how to apply for the job. Send an email to submissions@sobadbooks.com with the subject “SBIG Column” (or something similar – I’m not picky). In the email, include the following information:

  1. Your name.
  2. A quick bio: what writing experience do you have? Do you have any published work you’d like to share?
  3. A general outline of the concept for your column.
  4. A sample column of 500 words or more. What would you write if it was your first week on the job? You can write a full-length column, but you won’t be punished for writing something shorter for your sample, either.
  5. If you don’t happen to get the job, would you still like to have your work posted on the site? I don’t have money to pay for additional writers, but I can give you a free book or two for your trouble.

If you get the job, I’ll guarantee keeping the column on the site for a minimum of 13 weeks – enough for you to hopefully build some kind of an audience. At that point, we can reevaluate what we’re doing and decide if we want to go forward – perhaps even with a pay bump, if the site generates that “revenue” thing I always hear people talking about.

One-Off Submissions

If you’d like to write something for the site but don’t plan on turning it into a regular column, I’d love to hear from you as well. Again, send an email to submissions@sobadbooks.com, let me know who you are, and give me an idea of what you’d like to write (bonus points if you include or attach it so I can read it right away). Also, make it clear if you’re looking for monetary compensation or whether you just want to see your work on the site. Again, I don’t have much in the way of a budget here, but in rare circumstances, I may be able to pay for content that would add a lot to the site.

In either case, I’ll do my best to respond to everyone who submits something to me whether I plan to use it or not – I know from experience that it’s no fun sitting in submission limbo. I look forward to reading your submissions!

Ed Scimia

About Ed Scimia

Ed is the author of "So Bad, It's Good" and the upcoming "So Bad, It's Good 2: Electric Bookaloo." He also serves as the Chess Guide at About.com.

Five Gritty Reboots You Would Love (or Hate)

If you’re going to reboot a franchise these days, it had best be as dark and gritty as possible. But with so many beloved movies, comics and cartoons having already been rebooted in recent years, are there any products left that studios could decide to give that 2014 edge they desperately did (or didn’t) need?

Of course there are! There’s always something from your childhood that hasn’t been ruined (yet), so why not schedule those beloved classics for a dark reboot as well? Here are five great and/or horrible reboots that nobody’s asked for – but that’s never stopped the entertainment industry before.

MacGyver

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The Original: A special “troubleshooter” for the Phoenix Foundation, MacGyver doesn’t use a gun because of a childhood tragedy. But thanks to his incredible ingenuity and scientific knowledge, there’s no situation that he can’t find a way out of. Just give him a toothpick and some bubble gum, and he’ll stop that bomb/turn away the ant colony/save the orphanage!

The Reboot: A special “troubleshooter” for the Phoenix Foundation, MacGyver doesn’t use a gun because of a childhood tragedy. But that doesn’t stop him from killing his enemies in the most ruthless ways possible. Using his incredible ingenuity and scientific knowledge, MacGyver takes special pleasure in finishing off criminals and terrorists in new ways each week – each kill bloodier and more vicious than the last.

The Mighty Ducks

 mightyducks

The Original: Former youth hockey star Gordon Bombay gave up the game, became disillusioned and started a career as a lawyer. But after a DUI arrest, he’s been sentenced to coach the worst Peewee hockey team in the state of Minnesota! He’ll have to turn them around to help them win the state title – but in the process, he’ll learn what really matters in life. Then they’ll also compete in the Jr. Goodwill Games and go to private school or something in the sequels.

The Reboot: Former NHL star Gordon Bombay was kicked out of the league after throwing a Stanley Cup game. Finding that he has an illegitimate son on a hockey team in Minnesota, he agrees to sober up and help the team of disadvantaged youths win the championship. After a season filled with drug abuse, armed robberies and the accidental shooting of goaltender Greg Goldberg, the Ducks are on their way to the championship. But will Gordon Bombay resist an offer from the mob to throw the big game again for a million dollar payday?

Where’s Waldo

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The Original: There’s a goofy looking dude in a shirt. Somehow, all of the people and places around him have made him difficult to find. It’s your job to point him out, then turn the page and do it again.

The Reboot: Serial killer Waldo Schmitt is a master of disguise, which has kept him one step ahead of the police for the last 13 years. But now that his identical twin Wally is on the case, every day could be his last. It’s an epic psychological duel between FBI agent Wally and the murderous Waldo, who continues to hide his victims nearly as well as he hides himself.

The Wonder Years

 wonder-years

The Original: Kevin Arnold recounts his childhood years in a typical American suburb in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Kevin learns about life, love and tragedy as he grows from a little boy into a young man against the backdrop of a tumultuous time in American history. Along with his best friend Paul and crush Winnie Cooper, Kevin teaches us all why those days truly were The Wonder Years.

The Reboot: Recently convicted for the murders of Winnie Cooper and Paul Pfeiffer, Kevin Arnold is now on death row. When a journalist wants to know how a man from a seemingly idyllic childhood could turn into a ruthless killer, he leads them through the events that changed him from a happy-go-lucky middle school student to the lunatic he is today. It’s How I Met Your Mother meets Silence of the Lambs!

Duck Tales

 Ducktalesmoney

The Original: Scrooge McDuck and his grandnephews Huey, Dewey and Louie must defend the McDuck fortune against evil villains, go on exciting adventures across and solve the mysteries surrounding ancient legends. With allies like Launchpad McQuack and Webby and memorable antagonists like the Beagle Boys and Flintheart Glomgold, the fun never stops in this animated classic for the whole family!

The Reboot: In this hour-long live action drama, Wall Street billionaire Scrooge McDuck earned his fortune through ruthless corporate takeovers, shady arms deals and complex mortgage-backed securities. He’s one of the most powerful men in the world – until his mysterious disappearance leaves McDuck Enterprises in the hands of his three heirs: Huey, Dewey and Louie. The three young McDucks must now battle outside forces and each other for power, discover who or what was responsible for Scrooge’s untimely demise, and balance running the world’s largest corporation with their outrageous playboy lifestyles.

Ed Scimia

About Ed Scimia

Ed is the author of "So Bad, It's Good" and the upcoming "So Bad, It's Good 2: Electric Bookaloo." He also serves as the Chess Guide at About.com.

Five Bad Movies for: The Polar Vortex

My fellow Americans: you may have noticed that it’s pretty cold out there. Oh, it wasn’t so bad the first time the polar vortex came to visit. We all reminisced about winters past, when sub-zero temperatures were an annual visitor and we expected snow because, well, that’s what winter meant. But now it’s March, and that means our patience for cold air ran out about a month ago.

It also means that you probably don’t want to go outside much, giving you more time to stay inside and watch terrible movies. While you’re at it, why not watch something that’s thematically appropriate? Here are five terrible movies dealing with cold temperatures that might just help you survive until the snow melts…probably sometime in June or so, if you live up north.

Absolute Zero

Absolute-zero

In this 2006 disaster movie, the Earth’s poles shift 90 degrees on a single day, turning the equatorial regions of the world – including Miami, where the events of the film take place – into frozen hellholes in a matter of hours. You might be thinking that this sounds scientifically shaky, but I’d ask you to temporarily suspend your disbelief.

Save your incredulousness instead for the fact that the temperatures in Miami are said to fall to absolute zero (hey, that’s the title!), a temperature at which not only no life should survive, but in which everything – including the gasses making up the air we breathe – should have long since liquefied and then solidified. This, as you might imagine, would have made life a lot more difficult for our heroes. Yes, this movie may have even less of a scientific basis than The Core.

Jack Frost

jackfrost

Just to be clear here, we’re talking about the 1997 movie about a serial killer who is reanimated as a killer snowman, not the 1998 movie about a dad who is reanimated as some sort of snowdad.

Really, whether you want to watch this movie or not depends heavily on whether the idea of a killer snowman who humps Shannon Elizabeth to death with his carrot is something that makes you laugh or not. If it is, this is the film for you! With lots of ridiculous snow-related deaths and classic low-budget special effects, this film has become a cult classic for lovers of schlocky horror flicks.

Battle Queen 2020

BattleQueen

In this post-apocalyptic b-movie, the world is suffering through a new ice age caused by a meteor crash in Florida. What’s left of civilization is divided between the Elites, an all-male group that manages to live a pretty comfy life above ground, and…well, everyone else, who pretty much die in the cold and live underground. This results in a group of rebels trying to take down the Elites and end their reign of terror.

The movie stars Julie Strain, who starts the movie as an unwilling mistress serving one of the Elites but eventually becomes the Battle Queen (2020?) of the film’s title. Not that you’ll actually see much in the way of battling; Strain throws a few punches, but there are no full-scale battles to speak of. In a shocking twist that you’ll never have guessed, though, you will see a lot of breasts.

After Last Season (2009)

AfterLastSeason

After Last Season isn’t actually about the cold. In fact, it’s hard to say what exactly it is about, though it does involve psychic connections, killers, ghosts that have trouble picking up large objects, and the locations where certain women say their husbands saw coyotes in the past.

Watching the film, you will notice a lot of snow in the exterior shots, which helps explain why the actors give such cold performances: it’s because they were working on unheated sets in the middle of a northern Massachusetts winter, which caused at least one actor to slur words due to his lips being too frozen to speak normally. That doesn’t explain the paper MRI machine or the amazingly bad CGI sequence, but it might make you more appreciative of the heat being on in your home.

The Christmas Consultant

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Does the cold have you down? Do you need someone in your life that can bring you a little cheer? Then David Hasslehoff is the man for you! In this Lifetime Original Movie, The Hoff plays Owen, a man who will consult with families to plan every aspect of their Christmas celebrations for them. If you think this is an odd casting choice, that’s only because you don’t appreciate that special brand of Hasslehoff insanity that he can bring to any role.

This movie is really a lot more fun than it has any right to be, and it’s mostly because of the insane (and sometimes creepy) way in which Hasslehoff plays his character. But there are other amazing moments as well, including a morbid little girl, a reference to the JFK assassination that comes out of nowhere, and everyone’s favorite character, the fat, lecherous relative! This movie is also available in Germany as “The Christmas Planner,” because of course it is.

 

 

Ed Scimia

About Ed Scimia

Ed is the author of "So Bad, It's Good" and the upcoming "So Bad, It's Good 2: Electric Bookaloo." He also serves as the Chess Guide at About.com.