This is my contribution to Brian Saur‘s “Bad Movies We Love” series at his blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Brian put no restrictions on the movies you could pick, but because I’m deeply neurotic, I gave myself some anyway. I didn’t want to choose anything obvious; so even though “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” and “The Room” are bad movies I love, they’re also bad movies everyone loves, and thus not really worth discussing at this point. I also didn’t want to pick anything already recommended by the previous contributors to the “Bad Movies We Love” series, so out went personal favorites like “Gymkata,” and “The Stabilizer.” Hence this isn’t anything like a definitive list of “the best worst movies of all time.” More like the five best worst obscure movies of all time. Enjoy.
“Project: Kill” (1976)
Directed by William Girdler
Though it’s technically one of Leslie Nielsen’s final “serious” movies before he reinvented himself in “Airplane!,” “Project: KIll” is nearly as funny as any of the intentional comedies that would dominate the second half of his acting resume. It’s the sort of film that would feel overpriced at a dollar store — chincy from top to bottom, with mondo cheapo costumes and production values (the U.S. government’s top secret assassin program appears to be headquartered in a community college, and dresses like a team that regularly loses to the Harlem Globetrotters). Nielsen plays a member of said program, an elite killer who just happens to look like a doughy middle-aged actor (it’s his disguise, I guess). Nielsen goes AWOL, which does not sit kindly with his superiors, who send more assassins after him. Cut to: Leslie Nielsen fighting dudes with karate. Cut to: me laughing hysterically.
Directed by Heitor Dhalia
Easily the best worst movie of the year so far, with a tragically overstated lead performance from Amanda Seyfried. She plays a woman convinced her missing sister has been abducted by the same serial killer who kidnapped her years earlier, and she will not rest until she has SHOUTED! this THEORY! in the FACE! of every single PERSON! in Portland. The final act of the film has more red herrings than a Communist appetizing store, including a particularly confusing one surrounding the role — or lack thereof — played by a suspiciously nice cop (Wes Bentley) who appears to be manipulating Seyfried for some unexplained reason and then vanishes completely during the climax, allegedly because he has to bring his mother some soup. Sounds like a bad serial killer excuse to me — “Oh, no, that’s not blood on this butcher knife, that’s, um, tomato soup!” –– but after Seyfried defeats the bad guy, Bentley returns, no worse or more evil for the wear. Thank goodness she didn’t need his help or he would have felt pretty crummy for taking time off in the middle of a police investigation just to deliver groceries. (For more on the madness of “Gone,” pour yourself a big bowl of clam chowder and enjoy this Obsessive Chat between me, HuffPost Entertainment’s Mike Ryan and CInema Blend’s Katey Rich.)
“The Pumaman” (1980)
Directed by Alberto De Martino
Despite strong challenges in recent years from “Catwoman” and “Batman and Robin,” “The Pumaman” remains the worst, funniest superhero movie ever made. A European paleontologist (Walter George Alton) discovers he is the latest in a long line of earthly protectors granted powers (and a lovely burgundy-on-brown slacks and sweater combo) by Aztec alien gods, Alton can now see in the dark, fly, and teleport through walls — y’know, just like a puma. One might be more willing to overlook the poetic license taken with regard to the hero’s jungle cat-related abilities if they didn’t look like something made by a high school Intro to Video Production class. Donald Pleasence shows up to cause problems for The Pumaman, none more irritating than the fact that he can’t seem to pronounce his name correctly (“I’ll get you PYOO-muh-man!”). This movie later became the target of a strong episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” but it’s so gut-bustingly incompetent — they even botch the spelling of Pleasence’s name in the opening credits! — it’s actually more fun to watch it without the peanut gallery.
“The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan” (2004)
Directed by Nathaniel Kahn
In this mesmerizingly misguided piece of marketing disguised as an unauthorized documentary, filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn (“My Architect”), playing himself, follows M. Night Shyamalan around the set of “The Village” in an attempt to understand what makes him tick. In between fluffy interviews with Shyamalan’s friends and family — fluffy as in soft or fluffy as in masturbatory, take your pick — Kahn investigates a mystery from Shyamalan’s past he’s supposedly kept hidden for decades. “The Buried Secret” is not good in any conventional sense — it’s long and meandering with pointless scenes like Kahn sitting in a hotel room watching “Signs” and raving about Shyamalan’s camerawork — but it’s almost hypnotically watchable. It’s not a real documentary but it probably gets closer to an accurate portrait of its subject’s narcissism (“Signs” looks so amazing, you guys) than any actual nonfiction film ever could. The end result is so incredibly unflattering, Shyamalan really should have buried it. (For more on “The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan,” dig up this much longer piece about the film I wrote last year for IFC.com).
“I Know Who Killed Me” (2007)
Directed by Chris Sivertson
This brilliantly stupid movie was produced right as Lindsay Lohan’s career collapsed, but its subject matter is so tawdry — strippers and serial killers and amputations and psychic twins — it’s hard to imagine even the Lindsay Lohan of 2012 being desperate enough to make it, much less the Lindsay Lohan of 2007. She plays a kidnapped teenager who’s found minus one arm and leg (she quickly receives high-tech robotic replacements, because that is what happens in real life to people who lose their arms and legs) and plus a whole new personality, that of an exotic dancer named Dakota. Is Lohan’s character suffering from posttraumatic stress? No, but you might if you try to watch this movie sober. Layered with moronic/ingenious color-coded symbolism and deranged/inspired performances, “I Know Who Killed Me” is like the movie Ed Wood would make after a monthlong David Lynch binge. Don’t think of it as “bad” — more like great in the Bizarro Universe.