August 11, 2010


A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest To Find the Worst Movie Ever Made
by Michael Adams
352 pages, It Books

Movie Review Book that was Written by a Movie-Reviewer Reviewed by Book Reviewer SF Winser

We all have a Bad Movie we love to watch. Michael Adams, a movie reviewer on TV and in magazines has a couple ('Showgirls' is one). But, one day he found himself wondering: what is the WORST actual movie. That is, not fun to watch. He didn't want good-bad movies. He didn't want a bad-bad movie. He wanted the worst-bad movie.

It was an idle thought.

An entire year, many hundreds of hours and several thousand-dollars in DVD purchases (on a maxed-out credit card) later... Adams finally found what he thought was the worst movie ever made. The kind of movie he would pry his own eyes out with a fork rather than watch again.

'Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies' is the story of that year.

Adams interviews famous people and not so famous people about their best bad movie, and their worst. He hunts these movies down. Then he interviews their creators about what the hell happened. And then asks them what THEIR worst movie is. He uses the Razzie Awards and the IMDb rankings to help point the right direction (ie, downwards). He even buys bad-prints of bad movies off eBay that have never seen official release, just because a friend of a friend said that they might be quite terrible.

And then he wrote a book about it. This book.

Adams has not put together an encyclopedia of bad movies - which is actually a shame. Nor has he done a book of interviews and scholarly research into Bad Movie history creation. Again, a shame. Nor has he created a biography of one man's year undergoing all this stress. One more time: a shame.

What he has done is a kind of marble-cake mix of all of these elements. The separate flavours of text are all handled well and reasonably well blended, but all they left me with was the wish that the editors (and one really feels the hand of the editorial team here) have forced Adams in one direction, then the next... and we end up slightly unsatisfied with the level of content in all these areas. Each of these elements is well written by someone who does write for a living and has the right sense of humour for the task but my hopes for the text were mostly unsatisfied. The only real problem with the style was the skips from the review/rundown of some movies jumping into the next movie, often with an abrupt lack of segue. One gets the feeling that Adams was pushing for a more encyclopaedic style, but was then forced into integrating these snippets into a more narrative text.

Adams made up a rather ingenious scoring method for the movies to decide the difference between good-bad and bad-bad – but we only get some of the scores. He wrote short reviews of each film, but not all of these reviews are included in the text. He tracks down the history of many of the creators (but not all of them – understandable here, I suppose, considering the brain-splattering volume of turgid, gore infested schlock the man inflicted upon himself, it would be impossible to talk to or research every creator). He has included snippets of his life and that of his family throughout but, with a few exceptions, these snippets do not contain much detail or exploration of feeling beyond 'My wife is pissed at me for watching another crap movie' or 'My wife actually wants to try watching this terrible musical – yay! We sit on the couch and watch it!' so it barely counts as a biography.

At the very least I wanted, at the back, a list of the titles and their scores. Do we get even that? Nup.

It is Adam's sense of humour, the man's mental stamina, his ability to still maintain some sort of reviewing ability and insight even after an entire year of watching brain-straining crap, and the sense that, on some level, he is loving every minute of this, that keeps the reader going. These elements are, thankfully, shining on every page. The fact that he is an industry insider who has met and befriended the odd movie-maker doesn't hurt his background knowledge or access to Talent (and Talentless) to talk to. He seems to have a knack for avoiding pissing people off, even if he is interviewing them simply because they made something that demeaned his favourite art form, demeaned everyone who took part in the making and destroyed the watcher's hope for humanity. And Adams still (mostly) gets along with them and gets meaningful responses from them.

This is not the kind of book to read when you're feeling vulnerable to suggestion. Adams makes you want to watch terrible things. He does include honest reviews ('Hey, such-and-such bad movie was actually decent!' or 'This was a good-bad movie: watch with friends!') but the danger is that he piques the curiosity towards even those movies he hated and thought were entirely worthless. Never did I think that tracking down a vile piece of pro-Nazi, anti-woman film-making that is also boring and badly-made might somehow be worth my time. But for more than a few pages, Adams made me seriously consider it. And this was the stuff that Adams only considered almost the worst.

A fun – but VERY dangerous – book. I have a pile of GOOD movies I still want to see. I really didn't need to have a list of bad movies I have to watch as well. And now I do. Damn it.

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