Every Wednesday, members of Western Washington University’s Anti-Cinema Cinema Club gather in Miller Hall 138 to watch some of the worst movies ever released.
The films they watch are decided based on suggestions and a weekly poll that takes place on their Discord server.
They look for films that fail at having the appeal that was intended by filmmakers — films where the defining trait is their lack of qualities that typically make a film good.
These kinds of films are often referred to as being so bad they are good. But what separates these from films that are just plain bad?
Magnolia Price, a third-year student who runs the club alongside her co-officers Eva Spry and Troy Schulz, said what makes a film so bad it’s good is sincerity.
“To me, I think a ‘so-bad-it's-good’ movie has that level of sincerity where somebody behind the camera, whether it’s an actor, the director, the screenwriter or someone else, really did care about this project,” Price said.
Price said bad films that lack a level of care and sincerity oftentimes feel somewhat cynical, like they were only made because someone behind the scenes thought it would make money.
Greg Youmans, a professor of film studies at Western, brought up the appeal of camp and kitsch in film. These terms are used to describe aspects of art that are considered to be in poor taste but are enjoyed by audiences in an ironic or knowing way.
“There has to be, in the makers of the film, real confidence in what they’re doing. They have to think they’re making the best movie on Earth,” Youmans said.
Youmans said there is a joy that comes with watching someone make a film in a way that is completely contrary to what we think of as a good movie, and to celebrate their failure.
He made the distinction between deliberate camp and accidental camp. Oftentimes, films that are trying too hard to be campy or ironic can come off as inauthentic.
Dawn Dietrich, who teaches a course on trash cinema at Western, pointed out that an aspect of trash cinema that many viewers enjoy is moments where mistakes in the filming process make themselves apparent.
“It could be that you can see the artifice of film, you can see the edits, you can see the mistakes in the film,” Dietrich said. “And so it really highlights the materiality of the filmmaking process, and that’s what can be so fun, to see film that escapes cinematic conventions.”
These moments are celebrated by those who enjoy trash cinema, like the members of the Anti-Cinema Cinema Club.
Along with their weekly meetings, the club will host a combination drag show and “anti-screening” of “Twilight” at The Blue Room on Thursday, May 11 at 8 p.m.
The club also has a podcast where members talk about films following their screenings.
“The classic bad movie is ‘The Room,’ and Tommy Wiseau believed he was a genius. He believed he was making a brilliant movie," Youmans said. "That passion that goes into it is often what makes something so bad it’s good."
Lyra Montemayor (she/they) is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is a second year student at Western and a visual journalism major. In her free time, she likes watching movies and spending time with friends.