There is a fine art to making an excellent bad movie. The kind of movie that never gets a lot of mainstream play but is fodder for young film nerds (like myself) surfing late-night channels looking for some new shock to discover. The Chamber of Terror wants to be one of those films, and it doubles down on most of its reasoning for doing so. The problem is that you can’t make a good bad movie on purpose, which is what these filmmakers must have been trying to do.
I won’t recap the entire plot for you, but suffice to say that there is a burly, angry man with a machete who is hunting down gangsters responsible for his daughter’s death. He gets himself caught and taken to the local mob’s torture chamber, The Chamber of Terror. It is a perfectly nondescript building on the outside, but inside are 1001 devices for the torturous.
It is, of course, part of his plan to get caught, but then something else happens, and it’s… something, anyway. In the meantime, the characters all talk in overlong obsequious exposition filled sentences while simultaneously delivering over the top, stagey performances, none of which work.
It’s a shame, too, because the filmmakers definitely had a genre in mind and did seem to go for it. I had hoped that this would be something to enjoy unironically, but there are very few redeeming qualities. It feels like everything in The Chamber of Terror was designed to scare me when I was a kid, and not now in my middle age, but it is at no point scary, and most of the jokes fall completely flat.
It turns out that if you want to make a movie so bad that it’s good, it actually has to come from a sincere attempt to make a good movie that fails. You have to approach the material with authenticity and empathy. If you set out to make a movie so bad that it’s good, you will almost certainly end up with something that only die-hard schlock lovers are going to enjoy.
The Chamber of Terror is playing at Toronto’s Royal Cinema as part of the 2021 Blood in the Snow Film Festival.
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