​On Loving Odd Movies

Glenn Criddle

on loving odd movies—glenn criddle—june2020

My taste in film tends towards, shall we say, the exotic, at least when I'm not watching something for writing about here. I find endless joy in seeing films that have been abandoned by the mainstream audiences or were never adopted by them in the first place, which rather well explains my love for many horror and exploitation films in particular as those are more often the films that are shunned by polite society. There are a number of reasons for this fascination I have, not least that during my formative years my government saw fit to indulge in a campaign against a number of films on video tape, characterising them, as they did, as an existential threat to society. However, what I found in the marginalised fringes of cinema has far outstripped anything that Hollywood has to offer. Sure, they're cheap, they often don't look as good and they're often cobbled together by whatever means the film maker had at their disposal but given that there are far more of these movies lurking around than there are Hollywood films, you're sure to find something to your tastes (or lack of).

There's a treasure trove of films out there, often available for free, that have something to offer, from the frivolous to the thoughtful, and in this time where many studios have been forced to put their theatrical output on hold, it's worth exploring the huge catalogue of films that you likely haven't given so much as a first thought to. Go nuts! Sci-Fi, horror, romance, comedy and action films are sitting there waiting to be watched and here's a suggestion, don't worry about if you'll like it, just jump in and experience all the good and bad that's available.

There's a lot of fun to be found in even the worst films out there. Manos: The Hands of Fate, a film I've talked about in other places, is an objectively bad film but it provokes an awful lot of love and humour among its fans, the latter admittedly at it's own expense, but love none the less. The original Evil Dead has long been held up as an icon of horror but was a very low budget film, shot on 16mm with often questionable acting and featuring a story that could be written on a napkin. By studio standards it's trash, to those who've fallen in love with it, it's a source of endless rewatch fun where you get to recall all the behind the scenes stuff you read about, where you get to enjoy the flubs you've discovered and get to enjoy the film for more than it is designed for. That's a rare experience in the mainstream sphere of films.

Recently I've been hosting watch-alongs of unusual, largely neglected films and the response was interesting. The surprise at how good a little known film called 'Enter the Devil' was heartening and even those who weren't as on-board as the others tended to appreciate the films merits, the great use of locations, the quality of the acting and the films atmosphere. The worlds 'Worst Director' Ed Wood was also one of our subjects with a film called 'Glen or Glenda' and it's not exactly the slickest film but the directors motivations for making the film, along with a crowbarred in Bela Lugosi, make the film quite compelling beyond its limitations.

For every big studio productions that claim things like having the first this or that, I can guarantee that there are films that have already done it, they're just sitting there waiting for the audience to find them. The previously mentioned 'Glen or Glenda' covers topics that many a virtue signalling studio exec wouldn't dare go to in fear of controversy, so you end up with the vague nods, token gestures and forced decisions that lead to appeals to a very specific but vocal audience at the expense of the story and often its fans. Low budget movies are often able to bypass the corporate agendas, whatever they may be, and corporate political stances are certainly not a new phenomenon. As they're more director driven, low budget films have often had much more freedom to explore fringe subjects and two films that come to mind are Eloy De La Iglasia's 1973 film 'Cannibal man' (not at all what it sounds like) and 1982's Night Warning (Nightmare Maker) by William Asher, both of which have interesting undertones and subtext related to closeted life. Cannibal Man in particular was made in a physically hostile environment for gay lifestyles and the director made the film suitably disguised to be ambiguous enough to avoid attention from the wrong people, but also speak directly to his audience. That's the power of independence in the film world.

Now, this obviously isn't for everyone but it illustrates just how rich the low-budget, independent film scene can be and there are films for you. Take a chance on something odd, you may hate it but you may just find something that will speak to you or simply amuse you and 'bad' films can a lot of fun in a way that a bad studio production almost always fails at.

Hollywood rarely breaks the mould, they rarely take anything other than a surface level risk in regards to content, they look at numbers, they look at statistics and make a shiny product for you to consume and I emphasise consume because they need you to do just that and only that. The risks are taken in the low budget and independent film scene, it's always been like that and particularly so in the last 20 years, so if you want to find a wider range of movies, films that will challenge you, provoke you, amuse you and bemuse you then go find an old, cheap movie and you may just find something very few people have had the privilege of seeing. It's why I like those odd movies, hopefully you'll find something to love too.

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