Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guilty Pleasures: Bad Sci-Fi

It started with Howard the Duck and the undeveloped tastes of a ten year old. I saw Howard the Duck in the theater with my dad and it was my first exposure to really bad sci-fi. I had already been exposed to good sci-fi: Star Wars, Star Trek, E.T., Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Flight of the Navigator and Short Circuit. And sure, some can debate the goodness of some of the movies I list, but no one can argue that Howard the Duck was a bad, bad sci-fi movie.

As I sat in the dark theater, my dad by my side, I fell in love. The utter and complete this-is-so-bad-it’s-good kind of love. Howard the Duck was catchy, full of 80s stereotypes and featured a bad guy that still gives me the shivers no matter what movie he is in.

My love continued with movies like Masters of the Universe, Earth Girls Are Easy and Deep Star Six. Of course I watched good sci-fi too, I loved all of it, but there was always a special place in my heart for bad sci-fi. Campy and fun, it not only made me laugh it reminded how much I appreciated good sci-fi.

Throughout high school and my first years of college I continued to watch sci-fi without discretion: bad, good, it didn’t matter to me. Science fiction spoke to me, as it does to many, and made me dream of a future I couldn’t wait to get to. But it wasn’t until 2004 when NBC aired a made for TV movie, 10.5 that I became enamored once again with bad sci-fi movies. 20th Century Fox released The Day After Tomorrow that same year. I begged Sara to watch both movies with me. She grudgingly sat through them, truly the sign of ultimate friendship.

I had always known Sara to be highly critical of her entertainment and as she turned her nose up in disgust, I embraced the delicious, purely awful special effects, acting and plot. After a while I gave up trying to get Sara to watch bad movies with me and took to watching them on the sly. Until this past year when I discovered that Ashleigh didn’t just inherit my bright blue-grey eyes and button nose.

Over the summer, as we were strolling through Best Buy, a movie case caught her eye.

“Look Mom!” she called holding up a movie. “Sharktopus!” she said. “It looks awesome! Can we buy it?”

I looked at the case and, although instantly intrigued, I wasn’t willing to shell out fifteen dollars for a movie that looked so, so bad.

“Let’s see if it’s on Netflix.” I told her putting it back. “Let’s watch it before we buy it.” I must be getting practical in my old age, because I know that my 25 year-old self would have completely impulse bought it.

Ashleigh nodded. “But don’t forget,” she said, “Okay? As soon as we get home?”

I nodded. We finished up our shopping and as soon as we got home, Ashleigh pushed me towards the computer. Three days later, Sharktopus arrived in our mailbox. And oh the love that we both felt for this movie! Watching the movie with her reminded me how so very alike me she is.

“Why are they trying to kill Sharktopus?” she asked. “He’s just doing what they programmed him to do!”

I nodded. “My thoughts exactly. He is clearly the hero of this story.”

From that point, we began to give Sharktopus his own dialogue mostly consisting of “nom nom nom chomp,”
although we tried to give him the best lines we could. He had a slightly British accent and was always polite when he informed his bikini-clad meals he was going to eat them.

And from Sharktopus a Netflix queue consisting of the very worst that the Sy-Fy channel has to offer has slowly streamed into our mailbox: Ba’al: the Storm God, Dino-shark, Dinocroc Versus Supergator. Each one we watch gets rated according to the Sharktopus Scale now.

Bad science fiction movies like Sharktopus now sit boldly in our DVD collection next to fantastically good science fiction movies like Serenity and The Dark Knight. My “guilty pleasure,” my love of Very. Bad. Sci-Fi. no longer has to be hidden in the dark of late night. I can boldly watch with Ashleigh and occasionally with Cyra for she too has fallen in love with Sharktopus much like I once fell in love with Howard the Duck.


  1. Sy-Fy is one of my favorite channels. Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, only the best movie to ever feature Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. And every time there is a marathon of Stargate I get sucked in. Oh, and Josh Gates from Destination Truth...good looking and funny. Yeah.

    1. I love Stargate too! We have all the seasons on DVD and at least once a year I watch them! And I love that Debbie Gibson and Tiffany have made comebacks! We've got Mega Python vs. Gatoroid next up in our queue - can't wait!!