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In the world of Cinema, there are endless amounts of different types of films that don’t simply fall into only the genre category. We got films such as classics that are beloved by the majority of people like ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Jaws’, and ‘Psycho’. And on the other side of that, we have movies that the majority of people seemed to hate (but are still widely watched) like ‘Movie 43’, ‘Cats’, and ‘The Devil Inside’. 

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But, there also becomes an intersection between these two where a line of subjectivity that’s prominent in all films comes into play. Some people find the classic movies to be potentially “boring” or something not up to their standards, and some people adore all the considerably “bad” movies because it reaches a soft spot in their heart. For example, I don’t entirely enjoy ‘Citizen Kane’ (but still find it to be a movie that was well-deserved of its awards) as much as the next person, but I oddly enjoy the live-action ‘Cat in the Hat’ with my heart despite a majority of other people telling me how much they nearly loathed it.  

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This element of enjoying Cinema will always seem to be a part of watching films as a movie isn’t always made for every single person to enjoy; but, of course, it is incredible when a film can impact so many in such a beautiful and positive way. On the other hand, however, it is also rather pleasing when a considerably bad movie can make audiences remember the film for how seemingly “awful” it was in certain ways. 

Now, what if I told you that there was a category of film that falls into both of these elements between love and hate; a type of film so interesting yet not a conventionally cinematic masterpiece? Well, luckily, there is such a wondrous category of Cinema out there; and it features films that rather avid film-watchers have come to know and love in the back of their mind: Campy movies.

Diving Deeper Into Campy Movies

Campy movies don’t seem to have one direct and clear definition of what exactly makes a film considered to be “campy”; along with what the line is between a “bad” movie and a campy one. This is mainly because it isn’t exactly black and white as to how a film can be considered campy, sometimes it feels as though that’s all you can describe it to be. A film that isn’t horrible, nor an experience that isn’t a cinematic masterpiece, but something that is utterly absurd and humorous in the best way possible. 

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But, much like campy movies themselves, it’s hard to fully explain what it’s all about with making with 100% of understanding; so, we have the help of Merriam-Webster to give us more of a direct, textbook definition of “campy” to give us a stronger idea. On the website, campy is defined as “absurdly exaggerated, artificial, or affected in a usually humorous way”; and this is frankly the best and simplest way of describing campy movies. 

The more exaggerated and rather humorous a film is, the campier it is; along with involving uses of sensibility that admires bad taste (and being ironic). This is what truly makes it so utterly enjoyable to watch. This is something that isn’t easy to achieve without teetering on the edge of possibly making a film that would be considered to be “bad”; which is one of the main reasons why campy movies do deserve more love than it seems that they’re currently given.

 

With that said, campy movies can appeal to everybody in some capacity, no matter how big or small; there is an element in them that creates a huge sense of admiration for what the filmmakers have done for the movie. There are notable films that have been made well-known in the Cinema world that are considered to be campy movies; some that you wouldn’t entirely expect to be put into the campy category. 

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A Wacky, Exaggerated World

One of the top campy movies that many audiences know (and love) is one of the most iconic and terrifyingly fashionable musicals of our time: ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’. The musical is wonderfully humorous and over-the-top with comedy that makes you nervously laugh in the best way possible. The film gives campy movies a great reputation through its use of knowingly being aware that it admires bad taste, along with seemingly making tongue-in-cheek references to fantastically bad horror movies. Another notable campy film that also makes similar references to bad horror movies is ‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’, in turn making it seem as though it’s a bad horror movie within itself. However, elements of horror aren’t the only things that are in well-known campy movies. The majority of campy movies tend to fall into the comedy genre; more or so, comedies on the darker side of things. 

Comedy is a magnificent genre in Cinema, and sometimes it can always be a hit or miss in the realm of it truly being funny versus jokes going over audiences’ heads. But, in the glory of campy movies, comedy is certainly the strongest contender in making a campy movie simply perfect. Movies worth mentioning here involve ‘Death Becomes Her’, ‘Clue’, and ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’. But, there is one director that is ultimately one of the greatest creators in comedic campy movies: John Waters

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When you search “Campy Films”, you most likely will find that John Waters’ films tend to appear the most. Well-known films of his that fall into the comedic campy category include ‘Hairspray’, ‘Serial Mom’, and ‘Cry-Baby’; which, overall, are some of my personal favorites in the world of camp. While all campy movies are great in their own way, John Waters seems to perfectly understand how to truly achieve this element of camp in his movies that make audiences walk away feeling like they’ve experienced a true campy film. But again, while John Waters deserves credit for being able to achieve such great use of camp in his films (and for making so many of them), we should still appreciate all the rest of the filmmakers whose hard work went towards creating other wonderful campy films.

An Appreciation Of The Ironically Bad

All of the different categories, and elements, within Cinema always deserves praise and appreciation for all they give to audiences. And it is for this reason that campy movies deserve this love too. Campy movies feel like a fun treat for film-watchers, and the filmmakers on them work so hard to reach this point of a film not being “bad”, but being something so absurd you can’t help but adore it yet still find it odd at some points. Ultimately, even if a film isn’t entirely good it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get the love it deserves. Campy movies bring about great opportunities to enjoy them with your friends and family and to laugh at the absurd, and not take everything seriously for once. 

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We should love campy movies for all that they are, and all that they will soon become. They fall into the realm of cult classics on top of their campy elements, and they should be recognized more nearly on the same level that we recognize films like ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘Casablanca’. And yes that may sound odd, but we should embrace the oddness that the campy world has to offer.

By Leah Donato

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Author

  • Leah Donato is a writer and an aspiring screenwriter currently living in Nashville, Tennessee. Leah has had an incredibly gigantic passion for film and writing stories since she was a little girl, and she always looks for opportunities to share her love of film with everyone she comes across. Through this, Leah hopes to achieve a sense of connectivity amongst the people around her with the stories she loves and the stories she writes. She wants the work she puts out to the world to be meaningful and provide a sense of comfort, which is what led her to The Hollywood Insider; a media network where she can have a space to share her thoughts and views on the artistic cultural world with a purpose whilst being true to herself and spreading positivity to create a more progressive mindset. When not writing, Leah spends the rest of her spare time watching movies and consuming multiple different types of media such as music and video games.

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