Hollywood pumps out a lot of bad movies. After watching a really bad movie, you may feel like you’ve lost had two hours of your time stripped away from your lifespan, so the next time you’re feeling bored in a movie, study it and see how NOT to write a movie.
Everyone can recognize a bad movie, but not everyone can identify what makes a movie so awful. It’s not just the acting or the special effects, but the essence of the screenplay itself — the story. A bad story can never be made better by spicing it up with computer-generated special effects or A-list actors. A bad movie essentially is a bad script.
Here are some of the hallmarks of a bad script. First, things don’t make sense. In “Jaws 4,” a shark is terrorizing only the members of a single family out of an entire ocean of people. That doesn’t make sense. Next, to escape the shark, the remaining family members move to the Bahamas — and the same shark follows them. All of this is meant to give the main characters a reason to fight the shark, but it’s so preposterous that the story loses all credibility and turns the story into a bad movie.
Watch any M. Night Shyamalan movie (except for the classic “The Sixth Sense”) and you can see this preposterous story plotting method in action. In “Signs,” we’re forced to believe that super-intelligent aliens would try to conquer our planet, only to find that water is fatal to them. Couldn’t these aliens see that the Earth was covered with water? And how can super intelligent aliens run around naked without any weapons?
In “The Happening,” the main character magically discovers that the plants are causing human beings to kill themselves, although why people would kill themselves in such gruesome manners is more to appeal to the audience than to make any sense to a story.
Besides having gaping plot holes that don’t make sense, another hallmark of bad movies is to make characters do things without any motivation. Usually characters do something to conveniently advance the plot. In almost every bad horror movie, some young woman inevitably wanders through a dark house without once thinking of turning on the light switch. This is meant to create suspense but it only highlights the character’s stupidity that we actually cheer for the serial killer and hope that he slices her stupid head from her shoulders so we get at least some amusement form watching the film.
A third hallmark of bad movies is the lack of a compelling story that we even care about. In obvious spoof such as “Disaster Movie,” we just see a parade of disaster movie cliches that might be amusing as a single YouTube clip, but can’t carry an entire movie. Watch practically any movie sequel and you’ll see another way to make a bad movie. Take the action of the original movie, strip away the character development that made the action so memorable, and you’re left with a superficial movie with characters that nobody cares about.
Perhaps another fatal flaw of bad movies is the lack of focus. Some movies try to tell, not just one story, but three or four unrelated stories that have no connection to one another. As a result, watching this type of movie just leaves you baffled why anyone in Hollywood didn’t catch these flaws way before they green lighted it for production.
Bad movies can be valuable because they teach us what not to do:
- Make every scene logical and purposeful
- Give every character a motive similar to the hero’s motive
- Start with a compelling story that grabs us by its very nature
Writing a bad movie is easy. Writing a good movie takes time and effort, but after watching enough bad movies to fill a lifetime, you can see why it’s worth taking the extra time to make a good movie and it all begins with a good script.