B-rated movies were cheap, small plotted movies. Then the 1970s hit, and just like the music of the decade, up was down and down was up. The movies that became classics seemed to have been those often rated in the B class: The Exorcist, Jaws, Star Wars, Dawn of the Dead…
The list of movies goes on. Cheap + familiar/classic plot = B-rated Movie.
That, however, isn’t necessarily how we think of B-rated movies today. It’s definitely not how I think of them. A B-rated movie in the 21st century is more along these lines:
cheap + familiar/classic plot (that doesn’t become massively popular) = B-rated
B-rated movies have become associated as “cult classic” types. Maybe it is due to our money being shoved in genres ordinarily taken by the money making B-rated: fantasy, science fiction, and thriller. We’re also apparently grown bored with classic plots unless they have millions of millions of dollars of computer generated graphics (i.e. Avatar).
One of my favourite B-rated thrillers is Cursed. This werewolf 2005 film starred Christina Ricci Casper, The Addams Family, Sleepy Hollow), Jesse Eisenberg (The Village, Zombieland, The Social Network), Joshua Jackson (Fringe, Dawson’s Creek, Mighty Ducks), and side character appearances by Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes, Gilmore Girls).
All four are power hitters although Ventimiglia and Eisenberg had yet to truly hit their stride fully. Ricci and Jackson alone should have had the star power to at least earn the $38 million budget. It was a disaster, and I still don’t understand why.
Sure, classic story: girl helps raise brother alone after parents die. Girl and brother get attack by werewolf. Geeky brother believes they’re werewolves; brother turns out to be right. Boyfriend’s previous bed buddy before girlfriend turns up dead. Adventure, romance, inappropriate use of new super strength. We find out what happens when a dog gets bitten by a werewolf. We learn that lycanthropy is a nasty STD. It’s hilarious.
Sure, bad one liners get flung around, but they’re often by Eisenberg (geeky brother), and what bullied kid wouldn’t want to get a few of those slams in when they’re able to chuck their previous bully (Ventimiglia) around. Plus, a werewolf flicks someone off. It’s hilarious. Hands down a must-watch film as long as you don’t take it too seriously.
2) The 13th Warrior
There are few movies that I believe are better than the books. In fact, this might be the only one.
Exiled Arabic court poet (Antonio Banderas) falls in love with a married woman and is sent away as an “ambassador” to the North (i.e. Europe – focus on Scandinavian areas). Disgusted by the barbaric ways of the vikings that he comes in contact with, his luck gets worse as he becomes dragged into a quest as the “13th warrior.” He doesn’t speak their language. He doesn’t fight the same way, and they laugh at his horse. This is high-class adventure with humor thrown in so casually that you might be surprised this one is B-rated.
Though it’s budget was understandable for a modern B-rated, it was still rather high at $160 million. It was originally meant to be half that. I was rather glad that they shelled out some extra because the settings, props (especially ships), actors, and staging are brilliant.
Let me spice this one up a little more by saying: it’s twelve Norsemen against a clan of cannibalistic bear-warriors with their poison wielding priestess/queen.
YouTube favored this one with some clips: The 13 Men. Eventually, Antonio’s character learns the language (the montage following this clip), so it isn’t all linguistically split.
“A reluctant dwarf must play a critical role in protecting a special baby from an evil queen” – that’s how they put it. I’d like to put it like this: a magical reluctant dwarf charged by his village protects the baby girl predicted to be vital in stopping an evil queen. Yes, the dwarf is freaking magical.
The baby was born in a dungeon and escapes with a river scene crashing right into Willow’s life when his children find the baby. After the queen’s dogs attack the village, Willow is charged with bringing the child back to the tall folk. Adventure occurs – people are redeemed through knowing Willow and the child “Elora Danan.” Honestly, the girl’s name is a bit on the ‘meh’ side of things.
In the end, the baby doesn’t really save anyone. She’s just a tool to get a bunch of people together to do the right thing. Way to go Elora.
It’s just an interesting world created by two mad men (Ron Howard and George Lucas) with the sort of odd delight of Labyrinth. It’s 1988 at its finest with all the cheesiness and honest good-hearted fun that one might expect. Add hilarious Brownies and Val Kilmer – well, you get the idea.
4) The Prophecy
The first/ original one of course. With a budget of $8 million, it qualifies though it’s plot is rather interesting in a semi-reinvented classic plot sort of way.
There’s a second war in heaven between Gabriel’s army and Michael’s. A single dark soul can be used by either side to win. An ex-priest who saw visions that scared his faith to its brink and a teacher fight to protect a girl who an angel put the soul in for safe keeping. Gabriel as played by Christopher Walken with Lucifer by Viggo Mortensen. The autopsy of an angel gives way to a creepy reinterpretation of what exactly they are when on Earth.
If voice-overs aren’t your thing, this one might get annoying, but they’re rather calm about character introductions making subtly a dangerous art form. I imagine that Misha Collins (plays Castiel on Supernatural) took some hints from Walken’s Gabriel. He’s odd and doesn’t bother pretending he is less than what he is. The angels are diverse with strange relationships between them somewhere between brotherhood, friendship, and undying absolute love despite the fighting between them.
Again, another Supernatural reference: Lucifer mourned killing Gabriel on Supernatural. He didn’t want to fight his brother. There was still something there despite the arguments and the centuries apart. They were family. In The Prophecy, the angels interact similarly with a desperate ache to find truth while fighting those they still love. This movie also deals with the fall out of all the not-so-nice realities of angels.
The main character, Thomas, played by Elias Koteas is lack luster. He brings the amazing inter-character play down to a lower level, but he can’t undo Walken completely. Ultimately, if there was a way to steal him out of the film and insert someone else without taking away all the other actors…this film would be perfect.
Favorite Line (Christopher Walken): “I’m an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch; I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why.”
I’m going to leave you with Mortensen being creepy as freaking Hell!