If there’s one social ritual I’ve come to miss during quarantine, it’s the shared laughter over a “so-bad-it’s-good” movie. My friends and I made something of a weekly ceremony over the course of the semester: We’d all pile onto a twin XL bed in a crowded Unit 1 triple, point a projector at the opposite wall and watch whatever awful B-movie we could find.
The good-bad film has become something of a cultural touchstone, thanks to the likes of “The Room,” “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” and “Troll 2.” But admittedly, the appeal of these movies fades with repeated watches, with the surreal nature becoming too familiar. And I hate to admit it, but these popular films have reached their saturation point. So, I decided to put a spotlight on some of my favorite diamonds in the rough of the so-bad-it’s-good genre, and perhaps you and your friends will find your next inside jokes and memes in one of them. And if nothing else, they’re a great excuse to jump on a Zoom call with any fellow bad-movie fanatics.
“In Time” (2011)
I may have to tread lightly here, as I think this film has a genuine following of passionate Justin Timberlake fans. But trust me, the star-studded cast and massively inflated budget are a mere ruse. “In Time” is a B-movie that can run with the worst of them.
This film accomplishes the impossible, somehow managing to make its already flimsy premise — “what if time actually is money” — even more obtuse by the end of its two-hour run time. You’ll constantly be asking questions about how anyone or anything in this movie actually functions, and with every answer the film provides, it raises three more.
Paired with Timberlake’s beautifully ham-fisted lead performance and the plot’s decisive lack of self-awareness, “In Time” is sure to leave any invested audience confused, astonished and cackling.
“In Time” is currently available on Hulu.
“Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” (2001)
This movie brands itself as a parody film, but I’m not entirely sure what exactly “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” is parodying. Vampire movies? Christian movies? Movies in general? With a title like that, you think you know what you’re getting into. But whatever images the title evokes in your mind’s eye, I assure you, the film will be even better.
Like most great B-movies, “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” tries to be greater than its technical limits. And its technical limits are pretty hard to ignore: namely, the worst dubbing I’ve ever heard. But if you can manage to find some endearing comedy in that, the rest of the film is hysterical, unpredictable and surprisingly coherent, if heavy-handed, in its religious commentary. Toronto has a lesbian shortage, and only Jesus Christ can get to the bottom of this supernatural caper involving atheist vampires, lucha libre wrestlers and choreograped musical numbers. And if that doesn’t sell you on this one, I don’t know what will.
“Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” is currently available on Tubi.
“Latter Days” (2003)
You know what, I’ll just come out and say it: “The Room” has nothing on “Latter Days.” Tone deaf but with inexplicably endearing acting? Check. Hilariously bad dialogue? You know it. Production design evocative of a low-budget porn film? “Latter Days” has it all in spades.
This movie has enough plot in its relatively short run time to fill several seasons of a soap opera. There are at least five distinct moments that could’ve easily served as the film’s emotional climax, but this movie is unabashedly determined to leave no cliche unutilized, no plot twist untwisted. Most of these story beats revolve around the main romantic leads — a clueless Mormon missionary and a promiscuous jock — but the real highlight of this movie is its supporting cast. Between the pointless back-stabbing and bizarre one-liners, none of these characters behave like real people, and it’s utterly priceless.
“Latter Days” is currently available on Tubi.
“Repo Man” (1984)
I’d be remiss if I concluded a discussion of so-bad-it’s-good movies without mentioning an oddball sci-fi comedy. The two genres are virtually indistinguishable from a distance, and “Repo Man” is no exception.
But what makes “Repo Man” excellent isn’t just its hodgepodge of aesthetics and genres, rapidly fluctuating between police procedural to space opera to ’80s punk rock concert. The movie effortlessly walks the line between saying something smart and saying something completely absurd, to the point where you start to suspect that the joke may be on you for trying to understand it in the first place.
Although its campiness is more of a feature than a bug, and “Repo Man” is the closest movie in this collection to being genuinely “good” — this film’s brand of post-ironic, low-budget sci-fi is too hilarious not to mention. Plus, if you can find it, I especially recommend the TV edit, which replaces the movie’s abundant profanity with classic playground euphemisms.
“Repo Man” is currently available on Hulu.
“Streaming Diaries” articles are recommendations from Daily Cal staff members on underrated content available on streaming platforms.