by Adam Miller
In this high-tech day and age, you can do pretty much all your shopping online. In the case of finding bad movies, this is often the only way to do you shopping. A lot of out-of-print films can only be found on eBay these days, and it’s convenient to order a batch of DVDs from Amazon or other websites. The internet, in short, has provided a wonderful way for bad movie aficionados to share films with one another.
But as much as their has been an explosion of bad film sharing online, there has been, paradoxically, a rather swift canonization of bad films. The most popular bad movie websites and the vestigial influence of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has placed some hard-to-find films in much higher demand than others. “MANOS” THE HANDS OF FATE is a far greater catch than… well… than what?
Some of my favorite bad films, while obscure, are not “canonically” obscure. It might be tough to find MANOS or RED ZONE CUBA in your local Blockbuster, but it’s equally difficult to find SINGING BABIES or X-TREME TEENS. The difference is, the online market readily supplies the former two, while the latter remain tough to get a hold of. This is in large part because of the canonization process. Distributors realized there was a market for popular bad films while logically there probably isn’t much of a market for unpopular bad films. It all makes sense, but sometimes I worry that it can lead to a bit of stagnation. At this point, who hasn’t seen PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE? Sometimes it's good to push the limits of what bad movies are supposed to be, but in order to do this, a little foot work and a little consumer luck can go a lot farther than a Google search.
That’s because if you just Google for “bad movies” your results are generally going to be the above alluded to bad movie canon. But if you walk into a random store and randomly see a film called SINGING BABIES on the shelf you will have made a very different discovery. As such, I’m a bad movie guy who likes to shop. I quickly learned the names of bad movie stores rather than titles, and here are my ten favorite bad movie meccas:
#1 PLAN 9. Unfortunately this chain of stores is only in Virginia, but with a name like “PLAN 9” you just know that their bad movie selection has got to be top-notch. I bought my first bad film here, ORGY OF THE DEAD, and have bought dozens since. Often their new movies are wildly overpriced (FRANKENHOOKER), but there expansive used movie collections can offer some unexpected gems. Most of my films were bought at PLAN 9.
#2 BIG LOTS. Probably everyone has heard of this. BIG LOTS is the poor man’s Walmart (literally). Everything there is at absolute bottom barrel prices and a great deal of it, I suspect, fell off the back of a truck somewhere. BIG LOTS also has, from time to time, a very interesting collection of film. It’s not expansive, mind you, and sometimes I’ve walked in and there wasn’t a single film to be found, but I’ve also picked up such favorites as SINGING BABIES, X-TREME TEENS, and THE INCREDIBLE GENIE from BIG LOTS stores, not to mention the entire series of HBO’S FIRST AND TEN. And the prices? I’ve never paid more than five dollars for a film.
#3 HARRIS TEETER. Generally speaking, any grocery store will do, especially if they have used DVDs for sale. My local Harris Teeter has been particularly fruitful. It was here that I picked up a personal favorite BOYS KLUB and STARDUST. Also a copy of BILLY JACK and THE PORN MURDERS. All at a grocery store! Don’t knock it till you try it.
#4 GAMESTOP. From what I understand, they try to move their Used DVD stock as quickly as possible, which is great news for bad movie enthusiasts. Often the selection is comprised of what people who play video games a lot would watch (see Uwe Boll) but that’s an important sub-genre of bad films. And the two for one pricing is never a bad thing.
#5: CIRCUIT CITY. Their five dollar movie bins can at times punch your ticket quite adequately. I picked up KANGAROO JACK here and many other flopped 80s horror films.
#6 BEST BUY. Pretty mainstream, but a decent film selection. I’ve found some of my quirkiest films here, AMAZONIA and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER, to be precise. They also love to sell those 50 movie horror packs. If you can hit their sales you can net a nice dose of flopped mainstream flicks as well.
#7, 8, 9: TARGET/WALMART/KMART. Their $5.50 movie section can have some bad films you never would have thought of otherwise. Often these are mainstream films which just couldn’t stand history’s popularity contest. Probably because they were crappy movies to begin with. I recently picked up the Ron Howard schlockfest FAR AND AWAY.
#10 BLOCKBUSTER. I haven’t bought too much from Blockbuster as often their prices are a bit high and they only stock very recent films in their used sections. Still, if you can keep tabs on recent bad movies, this isn’t a bad place to pick them up used shortly after release. I’m thinking particularly of GHOST RIDER, THE WICKER MAN, and soon I KNOW WHO KILLED ME (I hope!)