Monday, February 4, 2013

Some Thoughts on Camp, "Hansel and Gretel," and "The Room"

"Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style -- but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the "off," of things-being-what-they-are-not." "Notes on 'Camp'", Susan Sontag
A couple weeks ago, a group that I'm a part of on campus called MFlicks hosted an early screening of "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" which, first of all, I really enjoyed. To me, this is a camp film.

It didn't get very good reviews, and I wouldn't expect it to. I went into the screening knowing it was going to be ridiculous (re: the title) so I went in with those expectations and I wasn't disappointed. There were cheesy one-liners, stylized violence, anachronistic weapons, and on and on. It was not an accurate depiction of the time period, people didn't all speak with Olde English accents, and that was okay. "Hansel and Gretel" as Sontag says, is exaggerated. It's an intentional stylistic choice, and in my opinion, that's what made the film work.

In Douglas Wolks "Notes on Art so Bad It's Good," a reaction to Sontag's original article, he describes the term SOBIG (so bad it's good). This immediately made me think of a little film called "The Room." If you haven't heard of it, watch the trailer in its entirety right this second.

I saw "The Room" last spring at the State Theater, and it was an awesome experience. I hope you watched the trailer, because it's hard for me to even describe what happens in the movie. But when the film is shown, it is always an event. Similarly to "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screenings, people are encouraged to interact with the film as it is being shown. People in the theater shout at the screen and throw spoons

Of course, "The Room" is awful as a serious movie. The acting is extremely overdone and there are plot holes left and right. But it's so bad it's good.

"The Room" is playing at the State on March 16, and I highly recommend going. Make sure you get there early, since there will be a long line and people at the back will not get in. And bring some spoons.


  1. I immediately thought of "The Room" also, which is a perfect example of SOBIG. God, what an awful movie (hair up! hair down!).

    Hansel and Gretel is interesting as camp, but it misses a few of the key criteria, including the idea that the people making the film aren't quite aware that they're making something camp. H&G (haven't seen it, just the previews) seems like it is too self-aware to really be camp but not to be "camp" (if you know what I mean).

    Have you seen Van Helsing, the Hugh Jackman one? What's interesting about that is there are camp portions (the action sequences) and there are camp roles (David Wenham, in his vigorous silliness is camp, an actor trying hard to be ridiculous in a movie that is, also, ridiculous). Richard Roxburgh is simply a failure. Jackman and Beckinsale aren't really trying (both are capable of camp, though, of course; Jackman's Wolverine can be campy, and Beckinsale's work in Underworld is nothing but camp). But these are pieces; as a whole, none of these movies (I don't think) actually qualify.

  2. I also immediately thought about movies that I consider "campy", Sontag didn't refer to any movies that I knew of though. So I looked up lists of campy movies, and I didn't think any of them fit within the definition that Sontag gave. But to me camp is something highly stylized to a point of excess and is "so bad its good",