I watched “Sharknado,” I admit. And it was terrible. I’ve been intentionally watching terrible movies lately and confess that I take pleasure from it. Now, I understand there’s value in watching bad movies. It teaches you to recognize what is good and bad in a movie and you can then apply this knowledge to critiquing or making quality movies. But I’m not talking about enjoying these terrible films as a learning experience, and I’m not talking about enjoying them ironically. I’m talking about enjoying them as they are. Call it a guilty pleasure if you want, but it’s a pleasure nonetheless.
And yet I find that I take more pleasure from watching a bad horror movie than, say, a bad action movie. I’m not sure how many people share this feeling, but I know I’m not alone so I figure that’s enough to devote my time to figure out why. And no, I’m not gonna say it’s just because I like horror better because that’s an intellectually lazy answer.
So to compare action and horror, we must figure out how we enjoy these different genres. To answer this is to answer why horror is a more enjoyable bad movie experience. Action is about gratification. We see the gunfight, we see the explosions, we see the extraordinary set pieces and we react. In a bad action movie, we see bad gunfights, bad fight scenes and do not get the chance to react in a good way. Because of this, a bad action movie like “Death Race 3” is not only bad, it is, perhaps more criminal, boring.
Horror, on the other hand, is about anticipation. We look forward to a scare. We are on the edge of our seat waiting for it to happen. At the end of the movie, maybe it was terrifying throughout and will stick with you. But even if these expectations were never met, the initial experience was still somewhat enjoyable. During a bad action movie, you know it’s bad throughout and then reflect on how terrible it was after it has finished. During a bad horror movie, the anticipation for another scare persists. When it’s all said and done, you can reflect on how bad the horror movie was, but that knowledge does not completely undermine the initial viewing experience.
Maybe I’m wrong. I’m willing to admit that in something as subjective as film criticism, there is room for interpretation. Maybe you think bad action movies are better than bad horror movies. Maybe you actually consider “Sharknado” to be a modern masterpiece. Either way, SyFy has already announced a “Sharknado 2,” and I’ll be there, watching the overwhelming awfulness that this sequel is destined to be.
-- by Curt Ege
-- by Curt Ege