80. Leprechaun 3
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
I realize that saying “the best of the Leprechaun series” is faint praise, but at least I can affirm that Warwick Davis, the guy who played the titular Leprechaun through six films, agrees with me. “The leprechaun goes to Vegas” isn’t even close to the most outlandish premise of the series (he did go to both space and “the ’hood,” after all), but this entry is where the sophomoric humor reached its zenith. It’s colorful, fun and brisk, featuring characters fighting over a piece of gold with the power to granted ill-fated wishes in the style of “The Monkey’s Paw.” The kills are hilariously, absurdly over the top, and the effects are among the best in the series. Best of all, it features the protagonist being bitten by the leprechaun and infected like a lycanthrope, which results in him slowly transforming into an angry Irishman over the course of the film. The scene where he orders half-a-dozen variations of potatoes from a casino restaurant is delightfully hackneyed.
79. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
Director: Eugene Lourie
The first of special effects titan Ray Harryhausen’s major features, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was incredibly influential. The first film to ever feature a giant monster directly attributed to the detonation or radiation from an atomic bomb, it set the template for dozens of creature features that would follow in the 1950s, such as Them! Like all of Harryhausen’s stop-motion creations, the Rhedosaurus has great personality and an iconic look. The film moves a little bit slower than some of the movies that followed it, but it’s an absolute must-see for any fans of 1950s science fiction, in the same league as better-known films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still or Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.
78. Dark and Stormy Night
Director: Larry Blamire
Most of these films have been of the “so bad they’re good” variety, but Larry Blamire’s work should legitimately be recognized for its loving caricature of various genre pictures. This one is a parody of every “old dark house” film, a combination of murder mystery and horror picture with a twist of fast-talking 1930s wit. Blamire’s films are all about their performances and snappy dialog, and they succeed where so many others fail because his recurring cast members are all on exactly the same page. Never is one of them more or less committed to a performance than another—instead, they all channel the same simultaneous spirit of naïveté and low-budget mirth. His films have an instantly recognizable quality, an auteurship all but nonexistent in this budget bracket, because he both adores and recognizes the absurdity of the films that inspired him.
77. Basket Case
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Bargain bin horror really reached a new level in the 1980s as filmmaking equipment became more widely available. Made for only $33,000, Basket Case nevertheless received a fairly wide theatrical release, proving once again that horror is the genre where opportunity always knocks. Armed with little more than some crappy actors and a big wicker basket, Henenlotter crafted this schlocky tale of two brothers: A seemingly normal guy named Duane and his separated, deformed Siamese twin Belial, who he carries around with him at all times. Little more than a lumpy, fanged head with one random arm, Belial is at times stop-motion animated as he escapes from his basket and runs amok. The film eventually developed enough of a cult for Henenlotter to return and direct two sequels in the early 1990s.
76. Santo y Blue Demon contra los monstruos (aka Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters)
Director: Gilberto Martinez Solares
Any list like this would be remiss without at least one Mexican luchador epic, a genre of folk hero film exceedingly popular for several decades. Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters is just one of dozens of films starring famed wrestlers El Santo and Blue Demon, who are rivals in the ring but allies against various otherworldly threats. All of the films are exceedingly slapdash, with action sequences that just feel made up on the spot and “fight choreography” that typically consists of rolling around and winging punches until one guy falls down. This particular entry is notable for the sheer number of opponents Santo and Blue Demon face, from vampires, mummies and clones to a Frankenstein’s monster and a wolf man. Literally nothing is left out. Watch Santo wail on this ugly cyclops with a tree branch and tell me you don’t want to watch this movie.
75. Robot Monster
Director: Phil Tucker
For several decades, the world was happy to forget about Robot Monster before Harry and Michael Medved kickstarted the culture of bad movie appreciation with the 1980 publication of their book The Golden Turkey Awards. Shot in only four days, this is pretty much the ultimate in zero-budget 1950s sci-fi. Don’t have a real monster costume? No problem, just slap a space helmet on a gorilla suit—that’s basically an alien, right? And yet, despite its cheapness, Robot Monster is a surprisingly coherent movie. There’s no way to take that monster seriously, but the story is easy to follow and the performances are charmingly hackneyed. The whole thing feels like The Andy Griffith Show collided with Forbidden Planet.
74. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead
Director: Lloyd Kaufman
As a Troma movie, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead promises a few staples. It will be trashy. It will be violent. It will have no boundaries and no sense of good taste. The real question is the same one you ask with every Troma film: “Is it boring?” Here, the answer is “most certainly not.” Billed as a “zom-com musical,” it’s even a little bit clever in its social satire of consumer culture—you know, in an obvious sort of way. But is that really why you’re watching a film about zombie chickens that come to life in a KFC-style restaurant built on an ancient Native American burial ground? I didn’t think so. Watching a Troma movie is about embracing the gore, scatological humor and low-production values and simply appreciating some mindless storytelling.
73. The Gingerdead Man
Director: Charles Band
As a writer, producer and director, Charles Band has been responsible for some of the most fun-bad B movies produced since the mid-1980s. His production company, Full Moon Entertainment, has cranked out an impressive array of genre classics, from Puppetmaster and Dollman to the Subspecies or Evil Bong series. (The latter is about a bong that is evil, if you were wondering.) In terms of ludicrous premises, though, it’s tough to beat The Gingerdead Man, which stars Gary Busey as a crazed serial killer who is reborn in a gingerbread cookie before going on a rampage. Is it basically the exact same plot as Chucky? Sure, but the casting of Gary Busey cranks up the insanity factor by at least a factor of five. The replication of Busey’s face on a cookie will haunt your dreams for weeks.
72. Cave Dwellers
Director: Joe D’Amato
In the years following Conan the Barbarian there were a lot of sword-and-sorcery rip-offs rushed into production. One of the most prolific auteurs in this genre was Italian director Joe D’Amato, whose casual disregard for the quality of his own films gave him a somewhat infamous status and limited his associations to other directors of legendarily poor quality such as Claudio Fragasso. Cave Dwellers, also known as The Blademaster, starred the brawny Miles O’Keefe as Conan replacement “Ator,” and features an effete villain in a ridiculous hat shaped like a black swan. Lampooned in one of the best early episodes of MST3k, this film has a very sincere quality that makes it fun to watch in its own right. Keefe is like a big, dopey puppy, bounding from scene to scene. You just want to hug the guy, if only to get closer to those ridiculous pecs. And if you’re not sold, it also features one of the most unexpected, WTF moments in cinema history.
Director: John Gulager
Probably the best thing to come out of HBO’s Project Greenlight series, Feast is a refreshing horror film that heavily satirizes the conventions of its genre. With a strange cast that includes Judah Friedlander, Jason Mewes and Henry Rollins, it does everything a little bit different than expected in telling its story of a small desert bar besieged by monsters. That point is hammered home in the first 15 minutes when a handsome, blood-soaked man named “Hero” barges in and delivers all the necessary exposition. When asked who he is, he replies “I’m the guy that’s gonna save your ass.” And then this happens. It’s a fun movie that is frank about its intentions to play fast and loose with audience expectations.