Genuinely terrible films like Epic Movie are no fun at all

A Pirates of the Caribbean spoof scene from Epic Movie. Picture: Supplied
A Pirates of the Caribbean spoof scene from Epic Movie. Picture: Supplied

It was one of the worst experiences of my life. And I had nobody to blame but myself.

I still can't fathom why I did it, but one afternoon I went to a cinema, now defunct, to watch the alleged parody Epic Movie. It was a lazy, crude and painfully unfunny grab-bag of then-recent cinematic references (Narnia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Pirates of the Caribbean, on and on).

Here's the thing: I knew, going in, that it was going to be really, really, really bad. Its writer-directors, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, were responsible for witless cinematic atrocities such as Date Movie (2006) and would go on to make many more.

And this was not going to stink in a fun, so-bad-it's-good way, like The Room. Nor would it be simply mediocre and forgettable.

I knew it would be a complete and unmitigated suckfest.

And it was. Painfully, depressingly so.

I could feel the minutes ebbing away from my life as I sat there. But for some reason I stayed until the bitter end. I'd paid for it. Oh boy, did I pay for it. If memory serves I was already feeling a bit down that day, decided to see a movie for distraction, and Epic Movie was the next one to start. I should have waited, or gone home. Watching it only made me feel much, much worse. It probably isn't even the worst film I've seen: it was the conflation of circumstances that made it so bad.

We used to have Mel Brooks and the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team who, at their best, produced higher-quality parodies. Now, we have Friedberg and Seltzer. The high grosses of the duo's movies (relative to their modest budgets) do not provide much hope for humanity.

The only time I can remember an equivalent experience was a double feature of the second and third Police Academy movies at school. I suffered (and that's the word) through the first and then fled shortly after the next one began and showed no signs of improving on its predecessor. And I have not seen any of the other sequels (nor the first one which, to be fair, is somewhat better regarded. But life is too short).

I have gone to see movies that received unenthusiastic reviews because of some aspect that interested me.

Unless obligated to, I won't necessarily see a movie I have good reason to believe will be lousy. I have gone to see movies that received unenthusiastic reviews because of some aspect that interested me, such as an actor whose work I particularly like, if it is part of a series I've been following, or if it's based on a novel I enjoyed (like the adaptation of A Separate Peace from 1972 which was and is hard to find: a videotape in a Chicago library years ago was the only time I've come across it, before or since.

It wasn't very good, but I am interested to see it again: the later TV version was OK.

Keeping up with current releases is necessary but there are a few I just can't be bothered to see. Occasionally, though, there are pleasant surprises. I Still Believe was an overtly Christian movie, which is fine in and of itself. But many of these religious movies are clunky, proselytsing and ham-fisted, often with a fading star or two who must need the work, like God's Not Dead with Kevin Sorbo.

I Still Believe, though, was well made and engaging, had a currently relevant star (KJ Apa from Riverdale) and the religious aspect wasn't laboured.

It wasn't a great movie, just a solid one.

But that doesn't happen too often.

Bad comedies are the worst. Other genuinely poor movies can be boring, but if something that's supposed to make you laugh (yes, this is subjective) doesn't succeed, it's a huge, often painful, failure.

I don't get offended easily, so am not personally affronted by the unpleasant gender-relations qualities of series like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey.

They're already bad enough.

I know there will be more bad movies to come.

But none, I hope, none will be as bad as my experience of Epic Movie.

This story Bad movies: agony with no ecstasy first appeared on The Canberra Times.