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My Favorite Awesomely Bad Monster Movies

Guys! It’s October! Yay! Time to break out the pumpkin-flavored everything, sweater dresses, leggings, boots, and of course, horror movies of every size and kind!

Now, to be perfectly honest with you, I am a chicken. I can’t watch horror movies because I have an overactive imagination that manifests itself into vivid nightmares or insomnia if I watch them. However, I do admit that I like monster movies quite a lot. In celebration of the month of October, as we creep towards Halloween, I’ve decided to make a list of not just monsters movies that I like–terrible monster movies that I happen to like. Because, hey, it’s more fun that way. So kick back and enjoy!

Lake Placid (1999)

Don’t talk to me if you don’t like Lake Placid. It is by far one of the greatest blends of horror-comedies to ever exist and no one can ever convince me otherwise. I have to say I really appreciate movies that understand the tropes they’re using and not only use them well, but have fun along the way. Self-awareness, when done properly on film, can result in some of the most priceless moments possible, and Lake Placid is an excellent example.

In case you missed it, Lake Placid is about an insanely huge crocodile that is discovered in the titular lake. A team is sent out to confirm the sighting after someone was killed by it and after it’s discovered, the race is on to capture it before it munches everyone and everything on that lake.

Lake Placid could have been some dry attempt at making crocodiles scary, and to be fair they already are and don’t need any help from horror movies, but instead they decided to adopt a tongue-in-cheek tone that just sells the movie so much better than a straight horror film ever could. Easily, the movie’s best characters are Oliver Platt and Brendan Gleeson, who both enter into a gut-busting snark off contest for the entirety of the movie. Brendan Gleeson plays the straight-laced, grumpy, Harvey Bullock-style cop and Oliver Platt is a rich, crazy crocodile expert called in to consult. The two immediately hate each other and it’s comedy gold listening to them insult each other at every available moment in spite of the fact that they are hunting a literal killer croc. Plus, the movie is actually pretty creative and engrossing with its action sequences of hunting the crocodile, and there are not one but two genuinely awesome twists before it’s over. The fact that the characters are so aware of how ridiculous everything around them is makes it an absolute joy to watch. Special mention goes to Betty White, who knocks it out of the park in her small bit part of the foul-mouthed granny whose fault this pretty much all is.

Lake Placid is always in rotation on cable channels, and if you haven’t seen it, please do yourself a favor and enjoy it this Halloween season. Ignore the sequels, though. Those aren’t awesomely bad, those are just bad bad.

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Deep Blue Sea is an unforgettable experience, as it is somehow a mashup of like twelve different kinds of horror melded into one brainless mess of pure brilliance.

Deep Blue Sea tells the tale of a scientist who has been trying to cure Alzheimer’s disease using a protein that grows in the brain stem of the Mako shark. Her project hasn’t turned in results and is about to get axed, so she convinces the benefactor to visit the facility and see that she can produce the protein. She can’t grow enough protein by the 48-hour deadline, so she illegally tampers with the sharks and grows their brains twice the size to produce more, which makes the sharks smarter, and so the super smart sharks decide to kill everybody and destroy the compound so they can get out into the open water.

If you’re not laughing by the end of my description, there is something wrong with you.

Deep Blue Sea, like Lake Placid, is mostly a precious jewel of a movie because of the fact that the characters are aware of how ridiculous the premise is and so they make the experience unforgettable. The main credit goes to LL Cool J, who is the Lampshade Hanger of the movie, and snarks it up being one of the only two black men in a sinking compound overrun with super smart killer sharks. He delivers lines that will have you howling the entire time. The movie also has the audacity to give you some truly comical moments of failed science. Everything from sharks swimming backwards, which is physically impossible, to sharks figuring out what cameras are enough to take them out like they’re in a slasher movie, as well as appliances that shouldn’t be functioning in five feet of standing water and lighters being conjured out of literal nothingness to deliver improbable deaths to said super smart killer sharks.

While some of you might know the film for the infamous Samuel L. Jackson moment, the rest of the film really does warrant a watch. It’s mostly self aware, but there are other things to giggle at where the movie tried to Do a Thing and failed miserably, like trying to make Thomas Jane seem like a stoic badass except they didn’t write him any badass lines, nor did they have him do anything badass, nor did the director direct the poor actor to do anything other than “stare blankly ahead and say everything in monotone.” Plus, once you’re done, look up the unbelievable trivia about the movie’s re-written ending. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is quite satisfying, trust me.

Deep Rising (1998)

Several months ago, I was at my parents’ house hanging out for the day, and my clever thumbs scrolled past Deep Rising. I frowned as I saw the title, as it sounded vaguely familiar, and so I turned it on.

It was the best decision I made that weekend.

When I was a kid, I recall that there was some kind of awful D-list movie about a ship with people trapped inside being attacked by disgusting tentacles. At the time, I was repulsed by gore, and so decades went by before I ever recalled the movie again.

In short, Deep Rising is a movie about a luxury ship that gets attacked by a mutant octopus with sentient tentacles.

I am dead serious.

Complete with cheesy effects for when you finally see said mutant octopus in the flesh altogether.

Where do I even start?

First of all, it bears mentioning that this is a Stephen Sommers film, and so there is a certain amount of self aware campiness to the film, much like his far superior Mummy films (excluding the non-existent third one). However, for the most part, you’re actually supposed to be afraid of the somehow-sentient tentacles that illogically creep around the ship eating passengers and “mercenaries” (I say that because they are some of the stupidest people ever conceived on the silver screen.)

Second of all, the casting is dreadful. There’s just a random assortment of actors miscast in these roles, like Famke Janssen and Djimon Hounsou. My parents and I were sitting on the couch choking on our salad with laughter at the utterly moronic scenarios played completely straight, like a mercenary shooting up an empty room and then turning his back so that the tentacle gobbles him up when he turns around even though he had fair warning as the other people ran away from it. My personal favorite moment where I erupted into peals of laughter was part of the finale with the “hero” and Famke riding a wave runner through the ship running away from the tentacles while firing Endless Magazines at it and executing perfect hairpin turns through the ship’s hallways at about eighty miles per hour. Or the guy that gets shot out of one of the tentacles somehow standing up and trying to talk despite most of his body being digested already.

Deep Rising is often cited as a poorly executed Alien ripoff, and that’s probably true, but it’s so absurd that it begs to be watched. Your jaw will hang open in disbelief the entire time and there is no way you don’t end up with stomach cramps laughing at the cheesy late 90’s effects, the awful gore, and the corny dialogue.

Anaconda (1997)

Back when I was a youngster, I was one of those freaky kids who actually liked snakes and thought they were absurdly cool animals. I still do, actually. At the time it came out, I was pretty young and so Anaconda seemed a little scary to me even though I liked snakes.

Then I became an adult and the wonderful fellas at Rifftrax decided to do a live riff of Anaconda. I attended. And I have never been happier that I did.

Unlike the other films on my list, Anaconda is a poor, blessed little movie that actually takes itself seriously somehow. I mean, where do I even start describing where things go wrong? It was pretty much doomed from the very start trying to turn an animal like an anaconda into a giant killer monster that is so sadistic that it vomits up prey it just killed in order to try and eat more prey. The movie is even stupid enough to put that as a prelude at the beginning of the movie. Who is dumb enough to put a completely false fact in front of their horror movie? These folks, apparently.

Anaconda tells the baffling tale of a photographer and crew going on an expedition to film on a river. They are joined by a completely psychotic “snake expert” who derails the entire trip and essentially takes the crew hostage to go hunt a monster anaconda so he can capture it alive (somehow he thought he could fit that 40 foot snake on that tiny boat, but it is never directly discussed) and presumably sell it for a lot of money. This Card Carrying Villain is played unapologetically by Jon Voight, who for some reason puts on the worst “South African” accent to ever be committed to film. He’s so obviously evil that he just mugs the camera with an evil sneer and does things to this crew of morons that should have clued them in to the fact that he was a remorseless murdering fiend the second they laid eyes on him.

But Voight’s awful performance is pretty much the only other thing that sells this stupid movie.

Voight is just hamming it up to the point of absurdity, but the crew he’s terrorizing is so lacking in brain cells that you’re kind of fine with him sacrificing them to lure the anaconda into his clutches. There is even a scene where his big, fat, old butt gets into a fight with then-young Ice Cube (who is so woefully miscast I cannot to this day figure out who said yes to him and why unless he just donated a whole bunch of cash for production contingent on starring in the film, because the man can’t act his way out of a wet paper bag filled with live snakes) and Voight somehow wins. Yes. Jon Voight out-fights Ice Cube. Oh Lord. It’s just the most idiotic thing ever, but you can’t look away because it’s like a train wreck.

Voight aside, the other reason you need to witness Anaconda is the laugh-worthy anaconda itself. First of all, the CG will send you into hysterics. It hasn’t aged well, and even the practical effects can make you burst into giggles, particularly with two scenes: the “fight” between the anaconda and a jaguar, where the jaguar is so obviously a stuffed prop that it might as well have been a kid holding one of those rubber snakes and wrapping it around a Beanie Baby, and the scene where the anaconda literally breaks through the wooden hull of the boat’s main deck like the freaking Kool-Aid Man. Oh, and did I mention that the snake screams? Not hissing. Screaming. Like, shrieking screaming, when it attacks. I have no words for how hysterical it is, because snakes can’t make noises other than hissing, so the dummies in the editing room made it shriek and it’s so funny I can’t do it justice. Plus, the snake does other things that snakes can’t do like climbing up ladders at the speed of sound, busting through planks of wood, surviving being exploded and lit on fire, and even gunshots. The snake’s behavior is even more absurd, as they assert that this particular anaconda is some kind of reptilian serial killer that murders for the fun of it, and anyone who knows anything about reptiles can already tell you that’s a load of crock. (*rimshot*)

It’s an awful, awful movie that can provide you with an insane amount of entertainment because of its lack of self-awareness. It’s one of those times where they were trying so hard to make a horror flick that they ended up making a comedy instead.

Godzilla (1998)

Let me start by disclaiming something—I don’t like Roland Emmerich. In my entire life, I have liked exactly two of his movies: Independence Day and this. ID4 is pretty much self-explanatory, but I know I’m definitely one of the only people in the world who likes Godzilla ‘98. It’s partially because of my nostalgia goggles, as this was one of the big action films that my family and I really bonded with. I personally think this movie is hilarious. Whether it’s unintentional humor or pretty much all of Hank Azaria and Jean Reno’s lines, I have such a great time watching this idiotic and yet fascinating film.

Godzilla ’98 doesn’t appear to really be trying to remake or adapt any of Godzilla’s direct canon films in Japan, at least as far as I know. It’s sort of just cobbling together enough story for why the big thing is on our side of the pond. Blah blah blah, government experimentation with nuclear power created basically an iguana that walks on its hind legs and is the size of the Chrysler building. Matthew Broderick is a scientist advising the government because he’s an expert in genetic mutation, or some kind of science gobbledy-gook. Hank Azaria and White Bitch (I refuse to use her name, because she was a conniving, useless trifling bitch) are trying to report on the story and get caught in the crossfire, while Jean Reno is leading a covert team trying to wrap everything up and prevent people from learning the truth about who is responsible for Godzilla’s creation.

Godzilla’s mixture of humor interspersed with, come on, be honest, some pretty excellent chase and destruction sequences, are why I always have to recommend it for your monster movie viewings. It’s more action-adventure than horror, but they do add some horror moments in there towards the end. It blatantly rips off Jurassic Park in the final act—down to stealing actual iconic shots, for heaven’s sake—but the movie is another where it is clearly intended as tongue-in-cheek and can be enjoyed as a brainless popcorn flick because of it. The movie doesn’t take itself seriously, aside from maybe slipping in an environmentalist line here or there and then the “man is the real monster” moment in the last scene.

I know it’s a crime against humanity in some circles, but I liked the design of the Godzilla creature. I thought it was very interesting and it had such a massive scope because of the cinematography. He felt huge and dangerous and scary. And yes, I did see the 2014 Godzilla remake that was so dreadfully boring and only had a total of 11 minutes of Godzilla in it, and frankly, you can eat my shorts. I thought the 2014 Godzilla movie was a huge flop, with nothing but a boring, blank-faced Aaron Johnson and I’d take my cheesy ’98 Godzilla over it every single time. If nothing else, it had the balls to destroy Manhattan and show the big reptile the entire movie through, not for 11 freaking minutes. Say what you will, but if you came for a monster, you got a monster from start to finish. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a gritty, “realistic” tone doesn’t immediately make your remake better than its counterpart. Write that down, Hollywood.

I say grab some popcorn and enjoy the cornball idiocy of ’98 Godzilla.

Lady in the Water (2006)

Wait, wait, don’t get up and leave! I promise I will justify the inclusion of one of M. Night Shyamalan’s many bombs as an awesomely bad monster movie.

Many people were fortunate enough to have skipped M. Night’s misguided, kooky, bizarre foray into the rare horror-fantasy genre, and the fact that it was universally panned by critics didn’t help matters. I mean, you have to have a pretty massive ego to take a “bedtime story” you allegedly told your children and turn it into a feature length film, but keep in mind that by this point critics had been telling M. Night he was the next Spielberg, so his ego was at maximum inflation at the time, despite the fact that his previous film The Village flopped. Well, it went about as good as you thought it would as a feature length movie about a stupid “fairytale” with made up names and badly told, nonsensical mythos.

Lady in the Water is about a water nymph called…are you ready for this…a narf (*cue 10,000 The Pinky and the Brain jokes*) that stumbles her way onto land via a pool in an apartment complex that is run by Paul “what in God’s name did they pay him to star in this farce” Giamatti. He finds her and takes her in and shortly after he is going to take her somewhere to get help, a grass-monster that looks like a wolf called a Scrunt (*barely suppressed laughter*) attacks them, so he takes her back to his place and starts to try to figure out how to get her back to her people. One of the tenants apparently knows the “story” of the nymph’s origin and tells him he basically has to identify a bunch of people with foretold roles that will help get her home.

Are you laughing yet? You should be laughing by now.

But let me get to the point. Lady in the Water technically counts as a monster movie because the Scrunt is in fact stalking the nymph the entire time and terrorizing the people in the apartment complex, even killing one of them by the end of the film. All of it is filmed completely seriously as a horror film, and so we’re going to treat it as such.

Why is it worth watching?

Because it is certifiably insane.

Not only do you have to listen to the word “narf” a bunch of times, you are expected to do so with a straight face. There are just so many things in this movie that make no sense and will have you rolling around on your couch with laughter because the entire thing from start to finish is played completely straight as if it’s some kind of amazing horror-fairytale fusion. I hate to break it to you, movie. You ain’t that. I’m not going to spoil all the truly insane moments in the film, but let me at least say this: there is a real, actual scene in this movie where a small child predicts the future…by reading cereal box labels.

I am dead serious.

It’s that kind of movie.

Plus, you need to witness the incredible pretentious metaphorical-handjob M. Night gives himself as he writes himself into the movie as a writer who is prophesized to write a book that will help elect a man president and said president ends up basically saving the world, but the writer’s “radical ideas” get him killed before that happens, so he is presented with the choice of not writing the book and living, or writing the book and sacrificing himself to save the world. Yes. I am not exaggerating any of that. It happens in the damn movie, and M. Night plays that character.

But let me add one drawback: most of it is long, boring talking with almost no musical score. If you have a short attention span, instead direct yourself to the Nostalgia Critic’s review of the film and he’ll give you all the gut-busting highlights of the movie in less than half the time. Hell, even if you do watch the movie, I still recommend that review because it is spot on describing what an unforgettable mess the film is. You’ve got to give it a go this October. You deserve it.

And what’s next week’s October list? Why, it’s my favorite awesomely bad disaster movies!