What is a "Bad Film?"

By: Joe Yang

Make no mistake, bad films are like idiots: every country produces them and there's nothing you can do about it.

And as it is with a good, well-made movie, a bad movie, no matter where it comes from, will have many of the following flaws which I'll discuss in a moment.

Apart from the obvious stink-bomb indicators, such as horrible acting, huge plot holes, and blatant lack of logic, here are some more important bad film red flags to watch out for:

Uneven pacing: Important things happen too quickly, such as character establishment, important plot twists, and emotional reactions.

Trying too hard: If you keep hearing dialog or lines that aren't funny, but know they're supposed to make you laugh, then chances are you're watching a bad movie.

And with movies of different genres, a similar thing happens when filmmakers make this mistake: dramas will try too hard to make you cry, action movies will try too hard to be cool, horror and romance films will try too hard to make you puke.

Your gut instinct will tell you when a movie is trying too hard, because it's like being on a date with an insecure person who's trying to impress you in all the wrong ways.

At best, these films come across as self-conscious, and at worst they're outright phony, irritating, or just downright baffling.

zardoz sean connery
Trying too hard...

Going in too many directions: Films are largely about making sense of the world around us. And although exploring the range and complexity of the human condition is okay over the course of our every-day, personal dramas, doing so onscreen is not such a great idea.

When filmmakers come up with ideas for movies, they are presented with many options in terms of plot, theme, character development, etc. The trick is to narrow the choices down to a few, and to concentrate all effort into making those few elements work.

I bet you can figure out what will happen if the filmmaker(s) try to include too many themes, ideas, plot points, etc. The result is a film that flies in way too many directions, and paints the filmmaker(s) as indecisive and/or scared.

None of the plot points will feel fully developed, the characters will seem incomplete, and a great deal of, if not all, emotional impact will be diluted.

This film flaw isn't always an indication of a horrible movie per se, but rather a bland and forgettable one that won't even qualify as a drinking game.

Bad endings: There's an old film adage stating that an audience can forgive a bad beginning, but never a bad ending. If the first forty-five to sixty minutes of a movie are bad, chances are it won't improve and you can safely switch it off and salvage the rest of the day doing something else.

Or if you opt to sit through a bad film, the ending will be a welcome relief.

However, if you are watching a very good movie and are blindsided by an ending that's complete rubbish, you will feel cheated, enraged, and perhaps violated.

This is arguably the worst of all film flaws. It doesn't technically count as a red flag, because by the time it happens it's too late. The damage has been done and your time is already wasted. The best you can do is warn others to stay away.

jump out window
A guy can only take so much Pauly Shore

Conclusion: Okay, that's enough negativity for today, but at least now you have a good idea on how to spot a bad film.

Remember, film watching is largely a subjective experience. We many not all agree on whether we like or dislike a particular movie, but the points mentioned above will give you good ammunition if you find yourself in a movie debate with your geek friends.

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