In this episode of BMBR Interviews, we welcome filmmaker Magill Foote to an interrogation on all things Bad Movie related.
Magill Foote works as an editor, videographer, graphic designer, magician, and motion graphics artist. You will find him being ridiculously good at what he does over at magillfoote.com, and as a producer with rule2productions. Magill is responsible for many works of genius, including the following…
As if this wasn’t awesome enough, he is also the producer of the superb true crime podcast The Trail Went Cold, which while creepy and unnerving as all hell, is also damn good.
But today we are all about the Bad Movies. Thankfully, Magill also happens to be a super-fan of the Bad Movie genre, and it was through the Bad Movies subreddit, of which he is a senior moderator, that BMBR made his acquaintance. In addition to this fine public service, Magill is the tireless bearer of the always hilarious monthly online Bad Movie Marathon.
This man has a bucket full of Bad Movie smarts, so what better a person to tie to a chair and interrogate?
On to the interview…
Good day, and welcome to BMBR. Please don’t struggle.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and what it is you do.
I’ve been a fan of movies my whole life, largely because my dad also loves movies. He’d take me to the local third-run theater every weekend when I was little, and I have vivid memories of seeing some true 80’s classics on the big screen – stuff like Gremlins, The Neverending Story, and Tron. As I grew up, my passion for movies grew as well.
When I was in high school I decided that I wanted to be an actor, and I took part in all sorts of drama club stage productions. I’m not a great actor, but I got some good roles because most of the people in drama club were women. On my eighteenth birthday, my dad bought me a video camera and some editing software for my computer, and I started making my own movies. It was around this point, as I transitioned into university, that I realized I preferred being behind the camera instead of in front of it, and I decided I wanted to direct, produce, and edit, instead of acting.
My first few short films were fake trailers for kung fu or zombie movies that I wished I could make. Trailers were a great starting point because you could just shoot the best bits of the movie without having to make the entire thing. I got my degree in film studies and took part in the university film society a lot, and after I graduated I managed to land a job as a freelance editor at a local production house. Over the next six years, I worked my ass off to make a living editing video, and founded my own small-scale production outfit in the process. I had some festival successes with my short films, and won a few awards.
These days I work more as a graphic designer and motion graphics artist, but I still edit lots of video content, and I still take part in film festivals with some of my stuff. It’s been a while since I made a short film, but one of my frequent collaborators has an idea in the works for 2017, so I might make a new short this year.
“My #1 so-bad-it’s-good movie in high school was Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. I’ve easily seen that movie 100 times. My friends and I wore out the imported VHS we got through Media Blasters.”
You presumably have a thing for ‘so bad they’re good’ movies. What started the fascination?
I think my love of so-bad-they’re-good movies started in high school. When I was a kid, I just loved every movie I saw because my taste hadn’t really developed, but around age 13-14 I started to see the difference between a good movie and a bad movie. I don’t know if any one particular movie triggered my love of bad movies, honestly. When I was little, Gremlins 2 was one of my favourite movies of all time, and if you’ve seen that film, you know that it’s a blatant homage and parody of b-movie creature features.
So I guess you could say I was just eased into loving b-movies, ushered along by Joe Dante’s love of them. I can tell you for certain what my #1 so-bad-it’s-good movie was in high school, though. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. I’ve easily seen that movie 100 times. My friends and I wore out the imported VHS we got through Media Blasters.
What on earth possessed you to start the Bad Movies Reddit page and how did it come about?
I wish I could take credit for the BadMovies subreddit, but I wasn’t involved in its creation. I think /u/lake_troll is the original founder, but the subreddit existed long before I became a moderator there. I happened upon it because it was the featured subreddit of the day one day, and as a lover of bad movies, it was the perfect community to take part in.
For the first few weeks that I was a subscriber, I was one of the most frequent posters, and it seemed like a logical step to become a moderator. I didn’t even come up with the idea to do streaming marathons. Apparently, they used to do streaming marathons in the first year or two that the subreddit existed, but they stopped doing them. I just brought the idea back from the dead and made it a more scheduled affair, with a new marathon every month. The whole mod team at /r/badMovies is great.
The subreddit has a ton of followers. Did you promote the page or did people find you naturally?
Again, I wasn’t involved in the subreddit’s creation, so I don’t know how the initial promotion push went. Having the subreddit become a featured subreddit of the day on Reddit’s front page really helped bring in a lot of users, myself included. With a user base of around 20,000 subscribers, it doesn’t take much for the subreddit to sustain itself. The streaming bad movie marathons definitely help a bit with promotion, and when they relate to topics elsewhere on Reddit, I take the opportunity to promote them.
“…I firmly believe that you cannot truly appreciate good quality work without appreciating bad quality work. It gives you perspective, and it can teach you a lot of lessons about what not to do.”
What do you think people’s attraction to Bad Movies is? Where do you feel that Bad Movie appreciation fits in to the broader movie culture?
For me, I appreciate bad movies for a number of reasons. On an academic level, I firmly believe that you cannot truly appreciate good quality work without appreciating bad quality work. It gives you perspective, and it can teach you a lot of lessons about what not to do. On another level, I love how much passion a lot of the “bad movie auteurs” have for their work. Ed Wood adored the process of making movies to the point where he almost didn’t care what he was making. As long as he was making movies, he was on top of the world. That passion comes through in his work.
And finally, bad movies are hilarious. Bad performances, bad writing, and bad special effects can all be comedy gold. Honestly, the worst bad movies are the ones that are just boring. Give me the bottom of the barrel over mediocrity.
Do you think that fans of bad movies all share similar tastes within the genre?
As with movie appreciation in general, there’s a wide range of things that draw people to bad movies. I don’t think I could even begin to summarize them – people love so many different things about film. But I do think that most people love absurdity, and bad movies are usually quite absurd.
What do you think actually constitutes a Good Bad Movie, and its nemisis – a Bad Bad Movie?
I think a key difference is how boring the movie is. Plan 9 From Outer Space has something entertaining (albeit entertainingly bad) in almost every shot. But something like, say, Ishtar is a slog to get through because it’s a comedy that isn’t funny, and ends up being boring as a result.
As long as the plot is moving forward, and the audience is being given a steady stream of things to be entertained by, a movie can usually save itself from being a Bad Bad Movie.
“I don’t see anything wrong with filmmakers being deliberately bad…The movie Street Trash, for example, knows it’s depraved and stupid, but it revels in it and, as a result, succeeds.”
There are many deliberate attempts at creating Bad Movies. To what degree do you believe these movies to be successful as enjoyably bad?
It’s a tricky line to walk, but I don’t see anything wrong with filmmakers being deliberately bad. Films that are self-aware about how bad or grotesque they’re being have been around for a long time.The movie Street Trash, for example, knows it’s depraved and stupid, but it revels in it and, as a result, succeeds. I think something like Hobo With A Shotgun pulls the same trick, and that movie is awesome.
Genre is a very fuzzy subject, as anyone who has studied film knows, and I think whether a movie “succeeds” or not has more to do with how well the director executes their intentions than whether or not they’re imitating other works. I mean, if you look at the movies that Quentin Tarantino cites as his inspirations, a lot of them are utter garbage. Switchblade Sisters isn’t high art, but Tarantino manages to take the tropes of movies like Switchblade Sisters and turn them into something that mainstream audiences, critics, and lovers of grindhouse cinema can all enjoy.
Who are your favourite actors, directors, producers, labels of bad movies? And who, if you have one, is your Bad Movie idol?
Tough question! I have a lot of bad movie idols who I love for different reasons. I have so much respect for the penny pincher film gods like Roger Corman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and Lloyd Kaufman, who are/were incredibly prolific and didn’t give a damn about quality. They’d stretch every cent of their budgets and create these brilliant cheapies that were only designed to be entertaining and make money. They had no illusions about what they were making, and in the process, they made some of the most iconic b-movies of all time. Joe Dante was sort of Corman’s protege, and he gave us some great 80’s genre movies that were a cut above a lot of Corman’s work in terms of quality, but still had that b-movie edge to them.
“Most recently, I’ve gotten on the Neil Breen bandwagon…His movies are just so bizarre…He’s like a filmmaker who doesn’t follow the rules because he doesn’t even know that there ARE rules.”
Most recently, I’ve gotten on the Neil Breen bandwagon, because his movies are just so bizarre. They’re like a cross between Ed Wood and Alejandro Jodorowsky, and if I ever discover that Breen was intentionally being weird and bad, I think I’d be crushed with disappointment. He’s like a filmmaker who doesn’t follow the rules because he doesn’t even know that there ARE rules. Oh, and I love The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which some people would argue isn’t a bad movie at all. But it started as one – nobody really “got” it at first. It wasn’t until the midnight movie crowd of weirdos discovered it that it became the phenomenon it is today. And damn, that music is so good.
What is your favourite Bad Movie and why?
I couldn’t possibly pick one. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is a favourite because it’s a weird mashup of hyperviolence, martial arts, magic, and a prison movie. Street Trash because it’s one of the most perverted, depraved movies I’ve ever seen and has some of cinema’s best body-melting sequences. Spookies because it has a low budget and yet features every monster you can think of. Death Race 2000 because it’s Death Race 2000.
Do you think that we exist in a unique moment in time for enjoyment of Bad Movies, or do you believe that the modern Transformers movies, for example, will be looked back upon in the same way that, say, Cannon movies are today?
I don’t think that big budget movies like Transformers will inherit the mantle that Cannon movies. They’re overproduced products, and lack that energy that Cannon films had. But there’s definitely a certain low-budget filmmaking movement that could be seen as the new Cannon years from now. I don’t know if the movement has a name, but I’m referring to a very specific kind of low-budget filmmaking that is at once original and also clearly influenced by the bad movies of the past. Hobo With A Shotgun is a good example, but I’m thinking more of movies like Turbo Kid or The FP. They’re part 80’s pastiche, part fresh ideas. You should review Turbo Kid and The FP, by the way.
Do you think bad movie fans disregard suspension of disbelief before the movie starts? That the expectation is for the movie to not be believable, and when it succeeds at being believable, it stops becoming entertaining? What do you believe is behind appreciation of unintended results?
Wow, tough question. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m inclined to say that everyone goes into the first viewing of a movie open to whatever the film wants to dish out. When I watch a movie for the first time, I try not to have any major expectations. My disbelief is suspended as the opening credits roll. It’s only as the movie goes on that I start to see what kind of movie I’m watching, and the point when I realize that it’s a bad movie, or when I realize it’s so-bad-it’s-good, differs with every film. Sometimes a movie is just fine until a spectacularly bad ending that ruins everything that came before it.
There are those who would find, say, Birdemic, absolutely hilarious, and those who would simply view it as terrible and uninteresting? Should these people be placed in camps? Do you believe that forced sterilisation is the answer?
Your question took a hell of a turn at the end there! No, I don’t think we should round up the b-movie haters. My wife can’t stand the shit that I watch, but I don’t begrudge her that; a lot of it is utter garbage. And for the record, Birdemic is not one of my favourite bad movies. It’s so incompetently made that it’s almost painful to watch. I think a lot of people have the knee-jerk reaction to defend the movies they love from criticism, but it’s important to recognize that we all have different tastes.
“I hope they all find success from their time in the limelight, but I also think that a lot of their fandoms are laughing at them, not with them.”
How do you view the explosion in popularity of modern names such as Breen, Wiseau, Nguyen et al, and how do you feel their popularity has shaped their work?
I think that the elevation of Breen, Wiseau, and Nguyen to the status of b-movie icons is a mixed bag. I hope they all find success from their time in the limelight, but I also think that a lot of their fandoms are laughing at them, not with them. If you go to a midnight screening of The Room, you’ll see a lot of people showing up drunk, making a big mess, and seeing the movie screening as an opportunity for anarchy. I think that attitude sucks, and makes the fandom look bad. But if these filmmakers find fame and fortune as a result of their films being held up by fans, then more power to them. I guess that kind of thing happens to all famous people, not just the b-movie icons.
It seems, at least with modern Bad Movie film-makers, that a complete lack of self-awareness is a common trend. And quite a bit of hubris. What other commonalities do you see existing in current and past bad film-makers?
You’re right on the money about a lack of self-awareness being a commonality among bad filmmakers. I think it’s a blessing and a curse. These guys don’t want to let anyone get in the way of their vision, but it can result in them being deluded. I know that Tommy Wiseau thinks The Room is a genuinely good movie, as does James Nguyen with Birdemic. If there’s anything detrimental about their lack of self-awareness, it’s their egos. I’ve never met Tommy Wiseau, but I’ve heard he can be a bit of a jerk. Maybe if he was a bit more self-aware, he’d be humbled by his success instead of getting a big head. Besides lack of self-awareness and hubris, I think a commonality among iconic bad filmmakers past and present is definitely passion. Wiseau and Nguyen didn’t set out to make heaps of money off their movies, they just wanted to make movies. The same goes for filmmakers of the past like Ed Wood.’
“…There needs to be respect…It’s scary releasing your art in to the world. Criticism of the stuff you make can cut deep, and fans need to understand that before they sling mud at filmmakers.”
Quite often these film-makers are mocked for their efforts. To what degree do you feel that these movies are fair game for being singled out? Do you think there needs to be a disconnect between fans of bad movies and the people that made them?
It’s tough to figure out where to draw the line with this kind of thing, and I think that so much depends on the spirit of the mockery. For example, I don’t think anything that Mystery Science Theater 3000 has done is mean-spirited. For all that they make fun of the movies they watch, they clearly love bad movies, the experience of watching them with friends, and heckling the stuff on screen. I don’t think there needs to be a disconnect between bad movie fans and the filmmakers, I think there just needs to be respect. Speaking as someone who has made his own short films and put them out there for the public to see, it’s scary releasing your art into the world. Criticism of the stuff you make can cut deep, and fans need to understand that before they sling mud at filmmakers. All bets are off if the filmmaker is a total jerk, though.
To someone interested in exploring the Bad Movie genre, what movies would you recommend to begin with?
Start with a genre that you already like and find the most popular so-bad-they’re-good entries within it. Horror movies are also a great entry point because there are so many hilariously bad ones. Some people would argue with me about whether this movie is actually bad, but I’d recommend Return of the Living Dead as a starter bad movie. It has a similar sense of humour as Shaun of the Dead, features some great zombies, and has a killer soundtrack.
And finally, if you could replace the word ‘Samurai’ from ‘Samurai Cop’ with your own choice of weapon, and then star in that film yourself, what type of cop would you be?
Axe Cop is already taken, so I can’t choose that…I guess I’ll go with Nailgun Cop, because it sounds badass.
Nailgun Cop, you have answered well and are free to go. Thank you.
As previously mentioned, Magill’s incredible work can be found at magillfoote.com. Go there now. Also, make sure to check out the Bad Movies Subreddit. No, I’m serious. Do these things! You will not regret it.
Oh, and also watch this…Enjoy!