Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Review: "Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies: A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest to Find the Worst Movie Ever Made"

While there are many good movies I have a sincere appreciation for, part of me loves watching a truly awful movie. And I don't mean just Twilight awful (even given my hatred of the books, I thought that the movie was boring and the Twi-hards deserved better); I mean Grease 2 awful or Xanadu awful. Consequently, when I came across Michael Adams's Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies: A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest to find the Worst Movie Ever Made, I was immediately intrigued.

Adams, an Australian film critic, decided to spend an entire year and an absurd amount of money watching bad films. From the titular Showgirls to the works of the infamous Ed Wood to even lesser-known works, Adams undertook the daunting (and somewhat scary) task of watching at least one bad film a day for a year. His book outlines his experience trying to watch these movies while also working as the reviews editor for Empire magazine, becoming a movie critic on an Australian television show, and raising a toddler with his extremely patient wife.

The book has a lot of strengths. Besides the inherent humor of reading a critic's reactions to horrible films (I love Roger Ebert's I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie for the same reason), Adams is very careful not to be too rancorous to the movies he includes. In fact, he takes his job very seriously; in addition to documenting the different films he watched during the year, he also interviewed numerous people (including David Sedaris) to get their recommendations for bad films. Furthermore, he also interviewed some of the directors of the bad films he watched in order to get their side of the story. The resulting book is not so much an unadulterated pummeling of bad movies as it is a sort of celebration of B (and C, D, and F) grade flicks. While Adams doesn't hold back when it comes to the most reprehensible movies, he also is willing to try and see the sincere effort put forth by some of the filmmakers and actors.

There are a few flaws in the book. Its premise, of doing something novel or unusual for a year and then writing about it, is not a new one. Also, I would have liked more of Adams's insight into some of the movies; given that he watched over 300 bad movies in one year, he doesn't get the chance to go very deep into discussing the different works. However, when a book is as engaging and well-written as Adams's is, it is easy to overlook the somewhat formulaic and gimmicky premise and just get lost in the cornucopia of of bad movies.