Connecting to a similar topic, I’ve written about the Psychology of Horror films often to justify my job. Not to confuse Trash films with Horror films–Some Trash films are Horror films, but all Horror films aren’t necessarily Trash. However, It depends who you ask!
TAKING IN THE TRASH: Why Smart People like Trash Films
By Mr. Lobo
I’m not surprised about the findings in the recent academic study on the phenomenon of highly intelligent people enjoying films that are poorly made, poorly acted, and often in poor taste.
I presented Horror, Sci-Fi, Cult and low rent Trash for a living and I believe I know my audience! I’m a Late Night TV Movie Host on a show called Cinema Insomnia that is celebrating it’s 15 year anniversary on my new streaming cult channel OSI 74.
I’m also the MC at film fests including Blobfest–an annual celebration of the 50’s B-film The Blob in Phoenixville, the town it was shot. I’ve been in countless horror and trash films and horror and trash film documentaries and have been interviewed for Mystery Science Theater bonus features and on Coast To Coast AM.
I have MC’d shows at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and the Drafthouse Films folks made an amazing discovery which lead to a phenomenon. They bought a random film, completely blind, called MIAMI CONNECTION(1987). This was a film made by a Florida Tai Kwon Do instructor Y. K. Kim, who also wrote, produced and abandoned it after poor local reaction and bad reviews. They essentially had a trash night where they threw up a random film and audiences had no idea what they were going to see. The Audience went nuts for this story of martial arts rock band who battle drug dealers and sing about friendship and integrity.
They ultimately restored a film for a proper release in 2012 on Blu-ray and even a limited-edition VHS! It was hard for Alamo to convince Kim that people love his film now. He didn’t want to even talk to them about the rights because he was so ashamed of it! Now it packs houses and is a new cult classic!
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH(1983) was once considered an embarrassment and the worst of the series. We have presented this to packed houses. People love that movie now.
I have seen the rise of Terrance Zdunich and Darren Lynn Bousman’s REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA(2008) and Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM(2003) go from complete obscurity to ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW(1975) style audience participation with props and costumes. I’ve also seen POLYESTER(1981) and PINK FLAMINGOS(1972) Trash Film Director John Waters go from Midnight Movie appearances to lectures at prestigious colleges.
One film that has risen to cult status that I am helping with the revival of, is Jackie Kong’s 80’s horror comedy BLOOD DINER(1986). It’s coming back to theaters and Blu Ray as part of the return of famous VHS distributor Vestron video. This was a discarded film. It was on VHS. And you’d see it in the bargain bins at Walmart in a DVD pack with 8 other movies. Now it’s getting the royal treatment! A new restored DCP, a jam packed Blu Ray with all the bells and whistles and gala screenings with stars and the director in attendance.
Because of my pedigree, I am always asked who watches horror films and why. These are often the same people that watch Trash films. The stereotype of the bloodthirsty teenager in the leather jacket with too much eye makeup stabbing a tree with a switchblade is completely false. Horror Fans, for the most part, are not sadists, they are indoor kids. These are the kids playing strategy games at the hobby store or hanging out in the Science Lab after school.
My motto is “They’re not bad movies–Just Misunderstood.” Movies are subjective, they are light and shadow and sound, and what is perceived as quality is mostly what we bring to them. How they reflect or contrast with our life experience. What mood were we are in when we see them. How the themes of the film satisfy our pretensions about ourselves. The more sophisticated you are, they say, the more you can appreciate “simple” things. I think the smarter you are the more valuable and richer experience “cheap thrills” can be.
Two men are looking at a blob on a canvas in an art gallery. One sees a blob. The other maybe sees a sunset or maybe the emotion of “hope”. The first man sees the painting as garbage and says his 5 year old daughter could have made it. The second man sees brilliance and hangs it in his home.
Also, the second man, might get a sense of self-satisfaction, or maybe even feel mental superiority, because he can appreciate something others can’t. That maybe close to how the reason that a so-called “Hipster” might feel after ironically watching “The Room” or “Blood Diner” or “Attack of the Giant Leeches”…
Of course, a lot of people who like Trash films are “Film Buffs” or “Filmmakers” themselves. In my last story on Horror Films I mentioned an article in Psychology Today that suggested that “fictionality” or a cerebral response to an emotional stimulus leads to pleasure. We see something bad or scary– BUT There is no decision or action that needs to be taken. For a Horror film–It’s suggested that after being scared, we experience a relaxation, knowing that we won’t have to do anything about the horrors on the screen, and that experience is kinda pleasurable or at least a relief–witch is a kind of pleasure. For a bad film that is going off the rails–This is someone else’s problem–usually the director. You can laugh at their mistake and maybe avoid those mistakes when you get to finally make that Great American Chainsaw Hooker film you have dreamed up!
Sometimes it’s as simple as “we like surprises”. Just a slightly more sophisticated game of peek-a-boo. A-List, big budget movies are safe and predictable and since they have their cushy Hollywood Jobs and a franchise to protect–they don’t take a lot of chances with the plots or characters and once you look past all the polish, CG wizardry, and plastic surgery–they can be pretty dull. In fencing, they say there is no deadlier opponent than an amateur…and that’s because you don’t know what they are going to do. When you match wits with an incompetent filmmaker–you are always gonna get surprises. Even if that surprise is someone knocking over a tombstone that is obviously cardboard.
Trash Films are a cheap thrill. People jump out of airplanes and climb mountains for thrills. Everybody loves a cheap thrill. Everyone loves a good joke. Everyone need an escape from the real horrible world out there. The smarter you are, and the more sensitive your brain is, the more likely you are gonna find those thrills in art and bottom line–in spite of what the industry tells us–films are ART. Even Trash Films.