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So bad, they’re good: Madrid celebrates trash films

You’d think the prospect of bad acting, a terrible script and rock-bottom directing would put movie buffs off. But if Madrid’s CutreCon trash film festival is anything to go by — you’d be wrong.

Lured by such films as the musical “Nudist Colony of the Dead” and Bollywood’s “Action Jackson”, some 3,500 people turned up at the five-day event.

They also came to see one of the holy grails of the bad film world: “Troll 2” — with its rating of just six percent on review site Rotten Tomatoes, is considered one of the worst movies ever.

CutreCon, which ended Sunday, is one of several festivals in Europe dedicated to films so bad they’re good, many of which have been pulled from oblivion by the internet, at times earning them and their protagonists cult status.

Nostalgia for the era of low-quality, VHS films, dissatisfaction with mainstream cinema and a general desire to laugh and let off steam have contributed to the genre’s rise in popularity.

Also influential was Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 ode to trash cinema “Grindhouse.”

– Killer yoghurt, sharks –

“The first time I came across a trash film… was when I was around 10 or 11, with a film by Larry Cohen called ‘The Stuff’, which is about killer yoghurt,” says Carlos Palencia, a culture journalist and CutreCon’s director.

His interest in the genre eventually prompted him to create the festival, now in its sixth year, having evolved from a one-night-only film viewing to the current multi-location event.

Keyvan Sarkhosh, senior research fellow at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics who co-authored a research paper on the subject, says there are two types of trash films — the unintentionally bad and those deliberately made to be awful.

The man who perhaps best represents the first category is Edward Wood, whose “Plan 9 from Outer Space” film about aliens has been dubbed the best worst movie ever made.

Wood died in 1978 a poor alcoholic, but achieved posthumous fame thanks in part to Tim Burton’s biopic “Ed Wood” starring Johnny Depp.

Then come films intentionally made to be incoherent and clumsy for “ironic consumption,” says Sarkhosh.

Cue the recent “Sharknado” franchise — films about freak storms that see sharks sucked up in water spouts and rained down on unsuspecting city dwellers.

Bad taste? Not so, says Sarkhosh, whose research found that those who watched these movies were highly educated, cultural “omnivores” just as happy to watch arthouse films.

“To enjoy bad cinema, you need to really like good cinema… you need good taste to appreciate bad taste and find the fun side (of a movie),” concurs Palencia.

– Vegetarian goblins –

For Angel-Luis Andres, a 40-year-old sales manager who turned up to see “Troll 2” at the festival, nostalgia is also part of the appeal.

“My father would bring home a batch of videos at the weekend,” he recalls.

“He always brought back stuff that me and my brother liked — monsters, dinosaurs… These are nostalgia films,” he says, before sitting down for a lively screening.

“Troll 2” is about a family that goes to a small, isolated village for a break, only to find it populated by evil goblins.

The goblins are vegetarian but still want to eat humans, which means they have to surreptitiously feed people a green goo that turns them into green, vegan goo too.

The laughter gets so loud at times during the screening that it becomes hard to hear the film itself.

During a scene depicting a candle-lit seance to communicate with a dead grandfather, the audience spontaneously erupts into a rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

A 2009 documentary about the film’s rise to cult status said one of the actors was a patient at a psychiatric hospital and auditioned while on leave.

Though it initially went straight to video in 1990, the film’s new-found popularity has meant that its Italian director Claudio Fragasso, who was present at the screening, will direct a sequel.

– ‘Oddly brilliant’ –

Others have also found belated fame from their initial embarrassment.

Matt Hannon, a US actor who starred in the direct-to-video film “Samurai Cop” in 1991, dropped his career straight after.

So desperate was he to be forgotten that when people started saying he was dead, based on the obit of another Matt Hannon, he did nothing to dispel the rumours.

But with the rising popularity of his film some two decades after it was made, he finally came back into the limelight… and starred in the sequel “Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance.”

Another example is actor, director and screenwriter Tommy Wiseau, who’s 2003 drama “The Room” bombed.

“This film is like getting stabbed in the head,” one user on movie site IMDb said.

But sure enough, this too has achieved cult status, and Hollywood star James Franco has directed a comedy film about it called “The Masterpiece.”

In an interview, actor Seth Rogen who plays in Franco’s film acknowledged there was something “oddly brilliant about it.”

“There is something you have to give credit to, because of all the shitty movies, he made one that people still watch.”