I’m sure when you read the term B-Horror a movie probably came to mind. It’s something different for everyone, different stokes and all that. How recent was the movie you thought of though? Prel-2010 likely.
What classifies a B movie? Jerry Seinfeld voicing a bee that wants to bang a human? Surprisingly, no (but also yes). B movies are characterized by low budgets, typically bad acting, and even worse effects. They barely ever get wide releases, and most had to gain cult followings back in the days of VHS. The biggest example, and one of my all time favorites, is Evil Dead. Was the acting great? Absolutely not. We’re the effects good? Surprisingly, yes for the time. Is it still the most fucking awesome thing to ever exist? You’re goddamn right.
Problem is, B-movies are becoming less and less prevalent as technology has advanced. Anyone and their mother can make a movie now with their cell phone camera and some basic editing, so we should have no shortage of movies that are low budget, cheesy, and all around not great from a film perspective, yet we can’t help but love. So where are they?
Go browse the horror selection on Netflix and you’ll see a ton oof super low budget horrors from the past few years. problem is, most of them take themselves super serious, or are just cash grabs by someone who says “Hey, I can make a movie for cheap and get some money off of it.”
So why don’t we look at these awful things the same way we look back on others? Right now there’s a resurgence in love for some of the most low budget schlock ever put to celluloid, and yet, it’s still tons of fun to watch because there are certain things that set it apart.
Take the earlier example of Evil Dead for instance. It was shot on a micro budget, using Sam Raimi’s own car, friends from college, and a shit ton of red corn syrup. Objectively, any film scholar would look at it and say it’s not a good movie. Yet here we are today, with two direct sequels, a television series (that Starz should be ashamed of for cancelling. Yeah, I haven’t forgiven you, bastards.), and a reboot that was way better than it had any right to be. So what sets it apart from other shitty horror movies that have been made with better budgets?
Heart. You can tell that everyone was a hundred percent invested in that project. Sam Raimi knew what he wanted, and knew how to sell even the cheesiest parts. He believed in what he was writing and filming, and all the actors believed in what they were doing. Bruce Campbell gives three hundred percent to that first performance as Ash, and the world was better for it.
But that still isn’t the only example. There were so many others that had no business behind a camera in the first place. Here’s where we get to my Stephen King rant. You all knew it was coming. You can’t talk about horror without mentioning Stephen King or one of his works at some point. But this time, we’re talking about his magnum opus. The work he will be remembered and lauded for.
That’s right. We’re talking Maximum Overdrive.
Stephen King’s sole directing credit. Based on his own short story. Starring none other than Emilio fuckin Estevez in a career defining performance. The entire soundtrack composed of AC/DC. This movie is truly awful, and truly a work of art.
Legit, the entire story is that the earth passes through the trail of a comet, and this causes all machines on earth to gain sentience and go on a killing spree. It’s like Transformers if everything was a Decepticon. Seriously, this movie was a perfect storm of everything possible coming together and making absolute insanity. You know what made it work though?
King wanted to make it, and he believed it was going to be fucking great. It probably helped that he was doing enough cocaine to make Tony Montana jealous, but it was the heart that was put into it too.
That’s what B movies now are missing. Even though everyone can make a movie now, and the tech is so readily available, most of the people making them don’t actually have the passion and drive that makes a B movie truly enjoyable. Take Sharknado for instance. Sure, it’s low budget. The acting is awful. The production quality is worse. They struck gold with the first one because it was so stupid. But the sequels were just cash grabs to capitalize on the first one.
Nobody involved ever thought they would make a truly great movie, and that’s why they were panned. You can tell when someone puts their time in, and those simply didn’t have that feeling.
Lucky for us, B movies will always be there for us to watch. Thanks to Shudder, it’s getting increasingly easy to find all the old classics that may not have been given their due praise long ago. And while we may never have another Chopping Mall, Castle Freak, or CHUD, there are still movies being put out that scratch that B movie itch. Ones where you can see the passion and care put into them, and they’re all the better for it.
Recommendations: All movies mentioned above except Sharknado.
Q: The Winged Serpent
One thought on “The Slow, Agonizing Death of the B-Horror Movie.”
This is all true. When there’s no heart in any type of film, it shows. That’s why Hollywood is failing so bad, it’s just endless remakes and reboots pushing agendas and ignoring the fans. It was the same with George Romero, he made “Night of the living dead” on a shoestring budget, but everyone put their all into that film and wore many hats, and it became one of the most influential horror films of all time. The same with “Dawn of the Dead.”