So Bad it’s Good

Posted: June 14, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Miami Connection

Miami Connection

Why Miami Connection works, and Kung Fury doesn’t

It’s been about a week since I was introduced to two distinct pieces of media. The first is the recently created short film Kung Fury, and the second is the recently brought from obscurity Miami Connection.

These two films have a lot of similarities. Both take place in 1980’s Florida, both of them feature martial arts as a main force of conflict resolution, and both have synthesizer heavy soundtracks. But where they differ is their approach to storytelling and intention. Miami Connection is a genuine relic of the 1980’s, and is an earnest if rather ineptly made and acted film. Kung Fury, on the other hand, is intended as a parody (or something), but the whole project’s tone is self aware, inviting the audience to point and laugh at the supposed 1980’s cliches.

And it’s caused me to come to an important epiphany: you can’t manufacture “So bad it’s good.” This term is often applied to films that are so bad they become enjoyable, but it’s important to note that not all bad movies are really “So bad it’s good”. Some bad movies are just bad. The B-movie industry as it exists today essentially makes most of its profit on the conceit that it’s dreck and everyone knows it, but frankly, I don’t find these movies enjoyable. No bad film that’s memorable sets out to be bad. With The Room, Tommy Wiseau took a crack at telling a deeply personal story, even though he was a terrible actor and couldn’t keep a consistent tone throughout the film. Plan Nine from Outer Space is charmingly bad in a way that only an auteur with a talent for the awful like Ed Wood could have made. There are plenty of similar sci-fi movies from the 50’s and 60’s with zero appeal (look up Zontar for a good example), that were made to fill out Drive-In schedules and make a quick buck.

Miami Connection joins that semi-proud tradition of well-intentioned but ultimately bad attempts at filmmaking. Masterminded by director Richard Park and McDojo magnate Y.K. Kim, the film offers up a few tropes that defined the time period and genre (cocaine smuggling, ninjas), but at its heart there’s more to it than that. There are some small character moments that sort of make you wish they’d actually developed them, and the film ends with the message ONLY THROUGH THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE CAN WE ACHIEVE WORLD PEACE, after all of the film’s problems have been solved through a judicious application of Tae Kwon Do and katana slices. The idea of a rock band composed of martial artists battling drug-dealing bikers is silly, but it’s endearing, and you could almost imagine Y.K. Kim wanted to use the film to get kids interested in learning Tae Kwon Do…if it wasn’t for the gore and saggy biker boobs. It’s a real effort- they wanted to make a hit movie, failed, and it was forgotten until it resurfaced as a cult classic.

Kung Fury, on the other hand…it has some artifices that try to mark it as the 1980’s, but these just drag the film’s inauthenticity screaming into the light. Parody of 80’s tropes can be done well- Double Dragon Neon and The Wedding Singer, for example (both of which are much more focused than Kung Fury). But Kung Fury is artificial to the core, right down to the fake VHS grain and tracking borrowed from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. This isn’t helped by the fact that the film’s creators don’t seem to have seen any actual 80’s films. I don’t really associate dinosaurs, nazis or vikings with the 1980’s but they’re a big part of the movie. Nor do I associate glaring CGI or blatant green screen with 1980’s movies. These things seemed to just be included to wink at the audience to say “haha, look at how bad our movie is”! Unfortunately it never really does anything clever or funny- the joke is that the creators intentionally made a bad movie and made their Kickstarter backers pay for it. Parody works best when characters behave normally in a world gone mad. You need that normal, non-humorous character to ground the piece. This is why Leslie Nielsen is so funny in Airplane- insane things are happening all around him, and yet he’s behaving as if he’s completely serious. All of Kung Fury’s characters are in on the joke, and none are funny or clever as a result.

I posit that “So bad it’s good” is not something you can manufacture. It’s a state that comes out as an accident. It’s lightning in a bottle and you can’t fake Bela Lugosi’s oddly hearfelt “I have no home” speech from Bride of the Monster or summon the lack of acting talent seen in Troll 2. Glorious badness is rare, and in its own way, beautiful, and it cannot be faked.


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