It’s a Friday night. You’re a teenager looking for something to do. You get some of your friends together and go to the local theater. You put down ten dollars in order to see the big, new movie. You are in awe of the spectacle on screen in front of your eyes. The light of the projection shines on your face. The booming sound of the speakers echoes down your ear canal and into your brain. You’re having a great time watching the hit theatrical release.
Three months later you head to the local red box, or any brick and mortal store that still exists for renting movies, wanting to rent that movie that you had such a good time watching. While trying to find the DVD or blu-ray of that movie, you stumble across one that you never saw before. You don’t even recognize the movie. You know that it couldn’t have been in theaters. You are right. The movie was released direct-to-video.
Direct-to-video releases have been around since the inception of home video, or near enough that the time between does not matter. They’ve at least been around since VHS. It’s a simple way to release movies. Instead of theatrically releasing them, they can be dumped onto the shelves of rental stores or movie retailers for a quick buck. There are many reasons for this.
The most notable thing about direct-to-video sequels is that a lot of them are sequels to semi-popular movies. If you’ve looked at a shelf in a store that sells or rents movies, you’ve likely seen a few of the titles. There are the American Pie movies such as Beta House, The Book of Love, Band Camp, and The Naked Mile. These cheap sequels to semi-popular movies tend to have unrelated stories and different casts. It’s an easy way to make money off of a brand name. The only reason that the American Pie spin-off movies were popular at all was because they were labeled as American Pie movies. If that name had not been on each movie, they would probably have been forgotten and left on shelves.
There is also a small percentage of direct-to-video movies that were meant to go to the theaters before being released on video only. What happened in these cases was that the studio did not have enough confidence in the final product to gamble upon a release in theaters. The movies vary in quality, with some of the best being sadly relegated to near-obscurity, and some of the worst being as forgettable as the studio heads thought they would be. It’s interesting to see the movies that were converted from theatrical releases to video releases because the studios were afraid of a failure at the box office. Why were they afraid to release the movies through that means? Was the movie so bad that it would have done horribly? What happened that led the movie to be direct-to-video? Viewers might never know the whole story behind the decision, but they do get a glimpse into it by seeing the movies. What you watch can give you a little bit of information about it.
Then there is the other big chunk of direct-to-video movies. This chunk of movies consists of the low-budget fare that would never be considered for a theatrical release, and is unrelated to anything in theaters. I’m going to use Jack Frost as an example to explain what I mean. Jack Frost is a 1997 horror-comedy about a serial killer who takes the form of a snowman to seek revenge on the police officer who captured him. The movie looks low-budget, it feels low-budget, and it is low-budget. The subject matter in the movie would be enough to keep it out of the mainstream theaters, and the quality of the movie is enough to keep the movie out of theaters altogether. Direct-to-video movies are more able to get away with racy material than theatrical films. In the case of Jack Frost, this can be exemplified through a rape scene that involves the snowman penetrating a girl with his carrot. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that the low-budget portion of direct-to-video movies is where you find the movies that are both poor quality, yet uniquely special.
These three different subsections of direct-to-video movies are three kinds that I want to discuss further in different posts. For now, I’ll leave them with their quick little summaries. Direct-to-video movies can breed much more writing than what I’ve given above, but I wanted to give a little bit of an overview before using future posts to dive deeper into the subject matter. Knowing the basics, or in my case assuming them, is a good foundation for later thought.
Direct-to-video moves can be just as entertaining as the known theatrical movies or the lesser known television movies. It’s all a matter of getting into the right mindset. If you are willing to lower your expectations, direct-to-video movies can be a lot of fun. But that’s a topic for another time.
There are some notes that I would like to mention before you go about your day:
- Some other direct-to-video movies I’ve watched for the Sunday “Bad” Movies are Snakes on a Train, Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned, Tappy Toes, April Fools, and The Marine 2 and The Marine 3.
- Chip Heller was in Jack Frost. He was also in Baby Geniuses.
- If you have any suggestions for the Sunday “Bad” Movie, I’ve got a comments section below this post that you can comment them into. I also have a Twitter that you can give your suggestions to.
- This movie was suggested by @SuperNathtendo.