Revenge of the B-Movie


Piranha 3-D is the best movie of the summer. I can admit that, but I’m still not sure that I’m happy about it. Before I go any further I’ll also confess that I didn’t go to the movies as much as I would’ve liked to this summer, and I did miss some films that I really wanted to see (Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right). But from the movies that I did see, Piranha stands at the top of the list. Not because it was great art, but because it was easily the best time I had at the movies all summer. It is a movie that knows exactly what it is, as well as what its audience wants it to be, and delivers on those desires in spades.

Odd as it seems, I may not be the only one who thinks this way. Judging by the slew of previews I’ve seen, it looks like the B-Movie is primed for a comeback. This summer saw the release of not only my beloved Piranha, but also the ridiculous, over the top glory of films like The Expendables, soon to be joined by the likes of Machete, Hobo With a Shotgun, and several others.

But why now? Why has the B-Movie, a seemingly artless form with no morals whatsoever, returned now?  The reason, in my mind anyway, is two-fold.

The first is simple, and the same reason anything gets done in Hollywood: they make money. These films, for the most part, are shot cheap and quick, and always turn enough of a profit to stay viable. Now, with the resurgence of 3-D, theaters can charge even more for ticket prices, so the profit increases. As a bonus, they don’t need to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars on production and advertising, so if the film does end up losing money it isn’t a huge blow to the studio’s financial stability.

The second reason is perhaps more telling. That B-Movies are making money suggests that they must have a stable audience. But why  would anyone in their right mind would want to see these things? These are films with barely passable special effects, shameless amounts of nudity, and levels of violence the likes of which have never been seen. Why watch them?

My opinion is that these movies are thriving because most current action and horror films are, in a word, terrible. They take themselves too seriously, lack any sense of joy or playfulness and often become unintentionally ridiculous, leaving the audience laughing at them instead of with them (two quick examples, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and Michael Bay’s Transformers 2). Within the new wave of B-Movie, on the other hand, films are completely self aware of how ridiculous they are, and they indulge to give the audience exactly what they want to see. The question quickly becomes if you want to spend money on something that doesn’t know how stupid it is, or a movie that knows and is ready to run with it. It seems obvious which will offer the better time.

Now, there certainly are exceptions, and not everyone in the world is keen on spending their $10 on a movie with fish regurgitating projectile 3-D genitalia. But based on the audience reaction I witnessed during Piranha, the B-Movie may be coming back with a vengeance, and it could stay around for a long while.

About David Braga

David Braga is a 2011 Film Student focusing on Film Studies and Screenwriting. In no particular order, his favorite films are: Trainspotting, Aliens, Breaking the Waves, School of Rock, Kill Bill, 2001, and Wayne's World 2.

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