So bad they’re good horrors are the ultimate guilty pleasure movies, you know they’re bad but you love them anyway. They are movies that got panned by the critics, look terrible and the acting is shoddy yet somehow they are still enjoyable. Watching one is the equivalent of hearing Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ come on the radio, turning it up and singing along. You know you shouldn’t but you just don’t care.
They are also an enjoyable aspect of the horror genre. They fulfill an audience’s need for scares, blood, guts and horror themes but without the feelings of disgust, anxiety or the need to sleep with the light on that comes from watching horrors that are just plain good.
While there are many brilliant, thought-provoking and genuinely terrifying horror movies that evoke feelings of unease, fear and inspire social comment on truly awful yet fascinating aspects of the human psyche, the genre has always had a hard time being taken seriously.
The movies have been mocked for their subject matters of zombies, witches, vampires, ghosts and masked serial killers. They are also frequently over-looked when it comes to academy award time and are notorious for aging badly thanks to rapid advancements in special FX, new technology like mobile phones and changes in the social climate dictating what people fear.
During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, some horror filmmakers used the criticisms of the genre to their advantage and created movies that self-referenced the genre and had outrageous death scenes, over-the-top acting and highly memorable titles.
By being aware of the genre’s criticisms and using them with the purpose of creating a pastiche, a new wave of clever and funny movies appeared, packed with plenty of over-the-top horror tropes.
This was the birth of the comedy horror genre, or deliberately ‘bad’ horror. Many of these films built up huge cult followings and include Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978), The Return of the Living Dead (1985) and Evil Dead 2 (1987).
Other horrors weren’t so intentional in their awfulness and due to low budgets, would cut corners in the film making resulting in poor scripting and terrible acting. Intentional or not, the difference between a bad horror and one that comes full-circle and becomes good because of its awfulness is usually down to the elements of comedy and surprise.
If the poor acting, bad script and terrible special FX make an audience laugh, then the movie serves a new purpose. Horror is a genre that people watch in order to feel heightened emotions in a controlled environment, safe in the knowledge that it’s “just a movie”.
When a horror has very fake gore and ridiculous death scenes, the comfort of it being just a movie is even more of an emotional safety net, allowing the audience to enjoy the deaths of the characters without feeling like a psychopath.
This list examines 25 horrors that are both intentionally bad and unintentionally bad but are insanely enjoyable regardless.
1. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)
This sequel is considered a bad movie for many reasons, firstly, it’s deemed to be very lazy filmmaking. Mainly because it relies heavily on footage from the original movie, shown as a series of flashbacks.
The filmmakers were paid a very small amount to make it and were originally told to re-edit the footage from the first movie to make the sequel. The director thought this was a terrible idea and shot some new footage to create a new movie instead. Because the budget was so small though, the acting and script suffered.
Funnily enough, this ended up being the movie’s undeniable charm. The lead actor’s performance is so terribly wooden that it becomes utterly hilarious.
One particularly brilliant badly delivered line is when the lead actor exclaims “Garbage day!” just before shooting a man who is putting his bin out for collection. The film also gains extra good bad points for a comedy death involving an umbrella that gets opened through a person.
2. Frankenhooker (1990)
Any film that begins in true B-movie style, with a person getting decapitated in a freak lawn-mowing accident is always going to be a contender for a great bad movie.
Frankenhooker tells the story of a man desperately trying to rebuild his girlfriend after he keeps her severed head from the lawn-mower accident. However, he decides that he wants to build a ‘better’ version of her and spends his nights looking for sex workers with perfect body parts so that he can stick them all together to rebuild his girlfriend.
The very premise of Frankenhooker is absurd yet the movie has some really comedic parts and a surprising morality tale at the end. It’s bad because of its ridiculous subject matter, poor taste, bad special FX and questionable acting but good because of the brilliant gags, the ‘super crack’ scene involving a room full of sex workers who all explode and the surprise ending.
3. The Toxic Avenger (1984)
Any so bad it’s good list needs at least one addition from Troma; the studio that prides itself in schlock, shock, gore and bad taste. The Toxic Avenger is bad because of its acting and shock value.
The movie includes scenes of a child getting their head run over by a car full of teenagers, just for fun, the shooting of a guide dog, the almost rape of a blind woman and a man pointing a shotgun at a baby.
Despite all this, the movie is still highly enjoyable in a very OTT 80s way telling the story of a nerd who gets revenge on the bullies and goes of a crime-fighting spree.
4. Maximum Overdrive (1986)
This was horror writer Stephen King’s first and only attempt at directing a movie. Based on one of his own short stories called Trucks, with a soundtrack by AC/DC, and starring Emilio Estevez, it sounds like it should be great.
The storyline about the earth passing through the tail of a comet, which causes all machines to start killing humans, is a little offbeat but with horror master Stephen King making his directorial debut, what could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a bit unfortunately.
King admitted in an interview in 2002 that he was so high on cocaine during the production of Maximum Overdrive that he “didn’t really know what he was doing”.
The movie is so bad that afterwards, King vowed to never direct another movie again. That being said, the film is highly watchable with brilliantly bad and over-the-top acting and some hilarious death scenes. Most notably, death by soda cans, death by steamroller, death by watermelons and death by pinball machine.
5. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Drag Me to Hell is a trashy but fun horror, exactly what you’d expected from Director Sam Raimi, famous for the Evil Dead series. It tells the story of Christine Brown who works as a loan officer and is told by her boss that she needs to make tough decisions if she wants a promotion.
In order to prove herself to her boss, she denies an old woman an extension on her mortgage, meaning her house will get repossessed. Bad idea. Old woman is actually a Romani gypsy who puts a curse on the loan officer in which she’ll be tormented for three days until she burns in hell.
Drag Me to Hell is bad for the casual racism of Romani people, low-budget look, silliness, the general B-movie feel and the scene with a very hilarious CGI goat. It’s good because of its humour, its pace, the unforgettable nosebleed scene and great performances from its lead actors.
6. Monkey Shines (1988)
The title of this movie already wins a so bad it’s good award, the story, even more. It’s about a man who becomes a quadriplegic after an accident and is given a pet monkey to be his helper. T
he monkey has been injected with human brain tissue though and soon the human and monkey can communicate telepathically. The monkey falls in love with the human and starts to commit various acts of murder stemming from the rage the human feels after the accident.
Writer and director George A. Romero, has had a few hits and misses, while this movie is terrible in comparison to his excellent Day of the Dead, its ridiculous story makes it highly entertaining.
7. Zombie Strippers (2008)
It’s obvious from the title why this movie is so bad it’s good. It features porn actress Jenna Jameson and Robert England of Freddy Kruger fame, already a winning cast that nods to the fact, this movie is meant to be bad horror and the filmmakers are in on the joke.
It tells the story of a strip club where one of the dancers gets bitten by a man who has been exposed to a virus that turned him into a zombie. After the stripper becomes a zombie she actually becomes a better performer and is allowed to carry on dancing. Slowly all the strippers become zombies and end up killing people in gruesome ways during private dances.
This movie is bad because it’s meant to be but so good because of the premise, deaths and just how creepy the zombie strippers are, especially when throwing their underwear at people.
8. Death Spa (1989)
A movie about a haunted fitness centre with murderous gym equipment is so 80s bad horror that it hurts. Death Spa tells the story of Michael, the owner of a health club who is trying to get his life back together after his wife died by setting herself on fire. However, all his guests at the spa have started to die in horrible accidents at the club.
The movie is bad because of its cheesy concept and ridiculous plot but so good because of its brilliant and inventive death scenes. These include death by weights, diving boards, showers, chemical poisoning, acid burns, self-immolation, electrocution, possessed blenders and an exploding hand.