Okay, so, I was down in Oregon this weekend visiting my parents, which means, of course, that I’ve got about five movie reviews in the works, at least one of which is going to be for a totally terrible disaster movie. You know how this goes. You’ve been here before.
THIS movie? Is that one. And while we were in the video store looking for our magical totally terrible disaster movie, it occurred to me that we actually have developed, over the years, an extremely detailed set of criteria for our selection process, believe it or not (and I suspect you do not, but listen up anyway). Since you guys have been loyal readers for so long, I figured it was about time I let you in on the secret. The secret to picking really entertaining terrible disaster movies.
First of all, you have to know, and know well, the disaster genre. There are four primary categories of disaster movie, each of which has numerous subcategories. All four primary categories are worth checking out, but, and this is key, not all of their SUBcategories are worth checking out. Listen up:
Monsters — Good choices: snakes, gators, komodo dragons, zombies (see also: virus), dinosaurs, cave monsters, sea creatures (esp. sharks, squids), The Thing, The Blob, The Abominable Snowman (esp. incl. Lance Henriksen).
Bad choices: bugs, rodents, bats. Well, sometimes bats can be okay, but only if they are accessories for more interesting cave monsters. Also, Bigfoot can occasionally be substituted for The Abominable Snowman (see: Abominable, which is actually about Bigfoot even though it doesn’t seem to know it — all the better to love you with, Matt McCoy).
Mother Nature — The best Mother Nature disasters are volcanoes, fires, tornadoes, and other storms (including ice-age-inducing weather phenomena), as they tend to involve the greatest duration of actual disaster. Earthquakes are over far too fast, as are tsunamis, and movies about either of those two things tend to focus more on the depressing aftermath than the build-up and actual disaster itself. (Tornadoes work for this, by the way, because they frequently come in multi-packs.) Stuff being destroyed = good. People cleaning up debris = bad.
Space — Space disaster movies often bring as part of the package a ton of hilariously bad science (for example, gravity in places where it does not belong), as well as a healthy affection for nuclear weapons, computers and other gadgets, meteors, and exploding space debris. Sometimes there are even aliens, though not nearly as often as we’d like. These are all good things. The key to a successful space disaster movie, though, is that it has to FOCUS ON THE SPACE DISASTER. Not to go into too much detail, because it’s really not worth talking about (trust me), but that is where 2012: Supernova fell down on the job. It may be worth noting, incidentally, that space disaster movies are 6.3 times more likely to feature naked women. Do with this information what you will.
Diseases – Virus and other disease movies, as with storm or fire movies, are good because they tend to involve long-term actual disaster. We like to problem-solve when we’re watching disaster movies — a good virus story leaves a lot of room for that sort of thing. Also, some of the best zombie movies of late have technically been virus movies, and this is a combination I think can work extremely well (examples: 28 Days Later, Zombieland). Overall, I have to say the Disease Disaster category tends to produce the most consistently watchable films, even though those films tend to be exactly the same in most regards. If it works once, it’ll probably work forever, right? Just ask the people who keep cranking out Saw movies.
Okay, now, knowing the genre can obviously help narrow down the selection: put the rat movie back on the shelf, pick up the one about the komodo dragons. But this still leaves hundreds and hundreds of potentially unwatchable movies. How do you know which one you should rent when faced with several equally-acceptable-looking options? Well, I am happy to report that after years and years of experimentation, my mother and I have finally discovered the secret. We call it the 90 Minute Rule. And it goes like this:
Any movie that is less than 90 minutes long is approximately 9.8 times more likely to be unwatchably bad (note: we did not actually do the math, but I am 87.68% positive that number is accurate). Movies that are longer than 90 minutes, on the other hand, are far more likely to be the kind of bad you watch with giddy joy. It’s so simple, it’s almost embarrassing it took us this long to figure it out.
There’s only one problem — what about a movie that is EXACTLY 90 minutes long. Say, for example, 2012: Supernova? This is where you can still run into trouble. Because a movie that is exactly 90 minutes long is a risk. A MAJOR risk. It could so easily go either way — there’s simply no predicting it. And that’s where it helps to know someone who is willing to rent that movie and watch it for you and then tell you how it is. For example, ME.
This is how it is: Absolutely terrible. (Note: Not in a good way. If it were absolutely terrible in a good way, I would’ve said, “Absolutely terrible (in a good way).”) May it never be the case that the survival of our planet is ever riding on the brains of three “scientists” who are anything like the big wheels who drove the storyline in this wreck. Because if it is, we’re DOOMED.
Anyway, try this technique out next time you’re looking for a good-bad disaster movie to rent and let me know how you do! Just make sure you leave 2012: Supernova on the shelf. WHERE IT BELONGS.
Genre: Sci-fi, Space Disaster, Crap
Cast: Brian Krause, Heather McComb, Najarra Townsend