Cinematic burnout. No one is safe from it. There you are with your feet up on your desk, comfy chair underneath your butt, a bowl of thinly sliced apples, and a laptop chock full of delightful movies to watch – but you just can’t seem to find one that interests you in that moment. Cinematic burnout. It can happen to the best of us and it is most definitely a “First World Problem.”
As with any hobby (or anything at all, really), enjoying it too frequently puts you at risk of growing weary of the whole exercise. After watching around 250 films in less than seven months (an average of around 35 per month) my brain rose up in revolt and cordoned off the “interested in spending 90+ minutes on a cinematic adventure” area of my skull. I sat in my comfy chair and scrolled and scrolled and scrolled through my collection of excellent films that I had yet to see, and none leapt from the screen to grab me by the throat and shake me out of my paralysis.
Part of the problem was that I had recently begun watching the extremely funny television show Louie and couldn’t revert to viewing feature length films when there were still more episodes to be consumed. So, after steamrolling through all four seasons of the show and accompanying the Billboard.com editorial crew to Tennessee’s most delightfully hedonistic mid-June four day music festival, Bonnaroo, I felt a change come over my body. To paraphrase the immortal words of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo, it was time to go back. (Wait, you’re telling me you don’t have the 1990 film completely memorized? Disappointing…)
Any self-respecting cinephile spends a great portion of their time finding more films to watch. Whether their preferred method is through reading critical reviews, browsing through movie trailers on YouTube, or blindly cueing up whatever comes next in their alphabetical film list, the cinephile goes through immense lengths to make sure they will have a movie to watch whenever they should want to watch one. For my return to the hallways of cinematic pleasure, I knew I would need a stunner. Something bizarre and otherworldly that would inspire those great stomach somersaults of joy that I so crave.
Recently, I’ve developed a delightfully peculiar 21st century letter (read: email) correspondence with a strange young woman on the other side of the country. She suggested the 1977 Japanese oddball horror flick Hausu (House in English) a couple weeks ago, and seeing as I am an asshole who is incredibly judgmental of the films, music, and literature others recommend for me, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to find out if her taste in cinema is absolutely terrible. (Though, of course, I had a sneaking suspicion we would enjoy similar types of films.)
Thankfully, Hausu is totally awesome. It also happens to be one of the most incredibly goofy films I have ever seen. I always like watching these “so bad it’s good” kind of movies because in the back of my mind I happen to think that if I were a director my films would look similar. Often incomprehensible, usually containing a plethora of continuity errors and filmmaking mistakes, and with a voice that seems to scream, “We are going to make an incredibly insane movie and we don’t care what anyone else thinks,” these kinds of films are among my very favorite.
It’s something like an anarchist, punk esthetic. Oddball films like Hausu, Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky, Plan 9 From Outer Space, or the entire catalog from Troma, the legendary B-movie production house and longest running independent studio, and innumerable others are impressive to watch as much for their low-budget DIY mentality as their disinterest in making something completely pristine, well-constructed, and traditional.
These kinds of films revel in the anarchy of doing exactly the opposite of “normal” movies. The acting might be bad, the special effects might be poor, and usually everything in the film is taken to an outlandish extreme, but it works because the audience knows and expects these qualities. (It also helps that there is a very specialized audience for these movies.)
The normal movie-going public expects to see a sleek, shiny and complete film when they sit down in their multiplex seats. They expect to see 50 or 100 or even 150 million dollars sparkling back at them. They expect to be seamlessly transported to an incredible new world for two hours, and films that fail to do so are generally seen to be abject failures.
When a movie breaks all the standard rules and pulls back the curtain covering up the dirty underbelly, it’s a shock to audiences. How can you judge a film that so gleefully goes out of its way to make it seem like a poorly made film?
Of course, there is that standard argument that some of the directors of these B-movies actually set out to make “good” films and through a lack of skill, vision, a decent crew, money, or whatever other reason, failed and the finished product became late-night schlock. And that certainly is likely in some cases. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s Ed Wood presented an image of the famous “Worst Director of All Time” as one who was a weirdo with a singular style who simply loved to make movies. He didn’t specifically set out to make “bad” movies or cult movies, they just happened as a result of his outlandish personality.
On the other hand, Troma has pumped out more than 1,000 films in the 40 years they have been in business, and their style (tons of fake blood and gore, copious nudity, bizarre storylines, a disinterest in making a “normal” movie) hasn’t changed much the entire time. They’ve developed their niche over the years and have no interest in changing up the style to attract a wider audience.
So, in the hour when watching a traditional movie just doesn’t seem to grab your attention anymore, perhaps it is time to head to your local indie movie shop (Do those still exist?) and grab something that was made for a handful of dollars and completely looks like it. It’s (probably) not going to change your life, and it won’t cause any great emotional release, but in the right frame of mind it may just be one of the most hilarious things you ever see.
But if you really hate the movie and no amount of illicit substances can change your mind, then go watch the excellent Louie. Damn, that show is funny!