It's a good thing The Heavy Hitting HorrorFest is coming back this year because the B-grade aesthetic — cheap, dirty and often juvenile — seems poised for its next golden age.
Case in point: Sharknado, a TV movie about freak tornados that suck up sharks from the Pacific then carpet-bomb seaside L.A. communities with the teeth-gnashing beasts while budget actors like Ian Ziering (90210) and Tara Reid (American Pie, The Big Lebowski) run for their lives, all the while patching up or building romantic relationships. Incredibly stupid and almost unwatchable (but in a good way) Sharknado is B-grade, cookie-cutter crap with several improbable and idiotic twists, including a guy with a chainsaw jumping into a cheaply rendered shark's mouth to save the girl of his dreams who was eaten earlier that day.
Sharknado owned the Internet for the month of July. Everyone was talking, tweeting and twiddling themselves about it. SyFy Channel played it three times in three weeks, premiered it in Australia and the U.K. and, earlier this month, screened it in over 200 U.S. theatres with sold-out shows in Boston, New York and Seattle. Around the same time The Lone Ranger rode in cold, lost his horse, and is now all but forgotten. Why? Because Hollywood had spent millions to convince us it was better than it was. With Sharknado, we knew what we were getting.
Sharknado is not the trendsetter, though it's likely the tipping point. From 2006's Snakes on a Plane through the dozens of straight-to-download flicks out there like Chupacabra Terror, Crocosaurus, Sharktopus and Pterodacty: Air Predator, B-grade horror films will always have an audience because B-grade horror films are fun and don't try to fly too close to the sun.
What's interesting is how other genres are starting to follow suit. The Canyons, a crowdfunded erotic thriller starring professional train wreck Lindsey Lohan and porn star James Deen, just went straight to Netflix last week. It's painfully bad to watch yet it's made by real pros. Brett Easton Ellis (American Psycho) wrote the script and Paul Schrader (writer on Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, The Last Temptation of Christ) directed. With a budget of just $250,000 The Canyons is almost a guaranteed moneymaker.
And it sucks, but with low expectations from the start, few are complaining. Schrader's roaming camera seems to always be looking for someone better to focus on and the film's nihilistic, malicious mood of self-entitlement and overinflated public ego might actually be our best cinematic look at the smartphone generation since the radiant, fleshy, garbage-people of Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers. Everyone wants to be a star and now that anyone can make HD movies on their phones and send them around their own globalized social network, our kids have less need for Hollywood's glamour and glitz. Amateur isn't good, but it's good enough.
Hollywood does have some flicks out this week however. Jobs stars Aston Kutcher (The Butterfly Effect) as Apple computer co-founder Steve Jobs. Really? A movie about that guy already? How many times did the screenwriters watch The Social Network while they were waiting for the hearse to roll up? And we accuse the kids of having poor taste...
Speaking of which, Kick-Ass 2, a sequel based on a movie based on a comic book, drops Friday and one of the film's stars, Jim Carrey, withdrew support for the flick due to its high levels of violence, slightly backtracking on Twitter later on. Sixteen-year-old Chloe Moretz also stars and has no such qualms — she literally slays it although overall Kick-Ass 2 looks decidedly half-assed. Which, of course, is totally OK.
I've seen the future, and it's so bad it's good.