We at the Yakmala! Research Center make it our duty to find the most entertainingly bad films around. We find them amongst Hollywood blockbusters (Twilight and its sequels), the fringe of cult cinema (Troll 2), and everywhere in between (Gymkata). We subject ourselves to group screenings of these films every quarter or so, separating the wheat from the chaff (and keeping the chaff). It’s painful work, and we should get a presidential medal for doing it.
But what qualifies as a proper Yakmala film? Certainly, not every bad movie can achieve this honor. There are plenty of bad movies that are either simply mediocre or painful to watch. We’ve certainly had films that, while awful, didn’t cross the bridge to crowd-pleasing. What’s the secret element?
I believe this element is something known as the “transcendent moment.” In all the films we champion here at the Y!RC, all of them have one moment (if not multiple moments) where the film crosses from mere ineptitude into accidental genius. The Room is chock full of these; my favorite is the rooftop confrontation with Chris-R. When Lisa and her mom argue with Denny about what happened, at one point Lisa screams at Denny, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?” At that moment, I felt the fourth wall collapse, as if Lisa was yelling that question to me. And I knew then that The Room was a keeper. And it was.
These moments crop up in all the films we enjoy:
- Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li – The moment Chris Klein shows up; his performance single-handedly makes this movie worthwhile.
- Twilight: Eclipse – The tent scene.
- Gymkata – The pommel horse in the Village of the Crazies:
Now, these are my votes for transcendent moments; others may have different ideas.
We just had our quarterly screening at Chateau Allred, and each movie had its own moment(s). So, I’ll go through them, and note my picks for these moments in them.
Now, this movie, honestly, wasn’t all that bad. It was bad, of course, but just in the way 80s movies can be if they aren’t great. It was dated and corny, and the hair was atrocious, and the film makes little to no sense, but it wasn’t a monstrosity. However. It got pulled from mere mediocrity to batshit nuts with the climactic audition scene above.
First, tuxedos? The only thing more out of place than people who dress like Turbo and Ozone are people who dress like Turbo and Ozone wearing tuxedos. And then they rip them apart (I guess they weren’t rentals) and decide their plan is to intimidate the judges before breakdancing. AND IT WORKED! In three minutes, the judges went from afraid and insulted to “Give them a broadway show!” And we get one. “Street Jazz.”
I also love the grumbling British judge. “Harrumph” and “see here!” and so forth. And then, finally, he learns to love breakdancing, as we all do at the end.
And yes, that is Shooter McGavin with the perm.
Again, this is another 80s movie that is, all told, not all that terrible. It wasn’t assembled with loving care, and it was produced by Jason Schwartzman’s dad (and starred his mom, Adrian), and – as noted by other members of the Y!RC – has no conflict whatsoever. But, like Breakin’, it’s more of an artifact of the 80s than an aggressively awful movie.
But the little nugget of joy above happens, and it comes early in the film. Cru Jones (the protagonist; from the title, I would have just called him “RAD”) is goaded into coming into the homecoming dance by Christian (Lori Loughlin, of “Full House” and that’s about it), another BMX enthusiast. They decide to show off their skills, and we get the wonderful scene of them performing a synchronized… something to Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel.”
When I first saw this scene before watching the film, I thought someone had overdubbed the song onto the YouTube clip. Nope. This song was used in the film proper, and kicks what would be simply a confusing mess over the line into brilliance. If a dozen hipsters with a dozen MacBooks wanted to ironically parody the 80s, they couldn’t come up with something this dead-on.
Street Trash **Clip NSFW**
Oh, the wonders of the internet: I go looking for a scene from a disgusting cult film; I find that it’s posted in its entirety on YouTube in ten parts.
This is a disgusting movie. It’s as if the filmmakers had a checklist of the most horrible, gross things imaginable short of remaking Salo, and just strung them together. Melting and/or exploding hobos, Nam flashbacks, vampire Vietcong, gang rape, and necrophilia – these are just some of the themes touched on in Street Trash. And it’s not even a Troma film!
But there are two transcendent moments in the film. The first is above (about a minute into the clip), where one of the hobos attempts to shoplift everything in the store. This involves stuffing chicken in his pants and cursing out an elderly woman. Then he curses out the store manager. But the true capper on the scene is when the hobo leaves the store, threatening to report the manager. He storms right to the front of the store, puts a paper bag on his head, crashes through the plate-glass window, and just keeps walking, chicken trailing out of his leg. This is not a sensitive portrayal of the plight of the homeless, but it’s a better chicken-stealing scene than Precious:BOTNPBS.
Oh, the other transcendent moment? A hobo gets his penis cut off, and an elaborate game of keep-away ensues. It starts here if you so wish. BTW, this scene is ten times more NSFW than the last. You were warned.
Now, the above is the end of the film, but I’m not bothering to use a spoiler alert on it because this movie isn’t worthy of one. It’s woefully bad. This is the absolute nadir of the concept of “family programming.” It’s poorly written, horribly shot, and the acting is terrible. It was obviously made simply for the production company to have a DVD on the shelf. It was made for peanuts, so even if they only sold 100 copies, they probably made their money back.
And yet, even though it is billed as a family film, there’s an awful lot of off-putting material in it. The lead actress and her boyfriend get ambushed in a parking lot by NINJAS with throwing stars. There’s a bar fight between two characters who are not old enough to be in a bar, one of whom breaks a beer bottle incorrectly and cuts his own hand very badly. And, worst of all, that same character gets in a car IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARD, finds his brakes are cut, and crashes into a wall. In PG-rated terms, the aftermath shot is quite graphic and lingers on the scene for at least a minute.
You know, for kids!
Which leads to the ending above, which comes out of nowhere, since the villain – though he was portrayed as a hopped-up military asshole – never really showed signs of taking a fucking local kickboxing tournament hostage with a machine gun. We are shown a disturbing portrayal (not skilled, but disturbing) of a vet losing his mind with a weapon in front of children, and then the young scrappy hero of the picture fakes him out and levels him. YAY!
On top of all that, we have Steven Bauer as an asshole lawyer and the world’s worst-played stoner character. You know, for kids!
On top of that, there is a meta-transcendent moment. You see, this film stars a pre-fame Chyler Leigh (who rose to fame in Not Another Teen Movie). Her love interest in the movie (after her original boyfriend crashes his car) is played by Christopher Khyaman Lee, who… better to just watch this video:
We kept this secret from a lot of the Y!RC, and the reveal after the film was glorious. I think a couple of them still don’t believe it.
People may ask why we subject ourselves to these movies. What’s to gain from watching shitty movies few people have heard of? It’s these moments. When a transcendent moment is great, the joy that follows beats most any intentionally funny line or scene Hollywood can write. These are the moments we cherish; these are the parts we quote or reference all the time. It’s these moments that make slogging through something like Kickboxing Academy worth it.