After the teaser to Z Lokman‘s Mahaguru was unleashed, confusion storms social media over the movie that could either be viewed as a joke, a commentary to B-movies or something else entirely.
Z Lokman who has directed films like Mendidih Bro and Toyol Nakal has a career spanning 30 movies as well as breaking into international TV with directing a series in Tagalog titled, Sanip for the Filipino audiences and now has his name etched in the conversations of Malaysian movie-goers and film-lovers on social media upon seeing the teaser to his martial-arts movie, Mahaguru. Equipped with a green/red-ish filter of an old 80’s movie that seems to be recorded using a flipped-phone, special-effects that tore the screen with a 3D image of a flying bullet and sound effects straight from 90’s Malaysian cinema, many wonder if the movie is oblivious to today’s standard of film-making.
Negative reactions spewed from those who came upon the movie’s teaser and poster with comments like probably the film was made over 20 years ago but there are also Malaysian filmmakers who witnessed it as a beacon that is detaching away from “Something that is polish and instead bringing a visual that is cult-like,” according to film director, Razaisyam Rashid. Rewan Ishak (of the movie, KIL) gushes over the “80’s look” of Mahaguru on Twitter and wonders how it could be executed that well with today’s technology. The director himself spoke of his desire to bring back the genre back from the 70’s that focuses on the traditional art of silat.
With the normative admiration of Mahaguru that could be categorised as a B-movie due to the seemingly low-budget, the issue that lies is that why would people want to willingly watch ‘bad movies’ that would fall into the category of ‘trash cinema’? According to Vox, researchers discovered that an appreciation for this genre of film is factored by an audience that correlates ‘trash’ and ‘art’ because of the rejection of mainstream aesthetic norms similar with avant-garde art films (however, B-movies are low-budget commercial movies which are not classified as art cinema). Hence, midnight screenings of Tommy Wiseau‘s The Room (written, directed and starred by the man himself) is still held annually and would be attended by its followers in costumes to commemorate the bizarre movie about a love triangle.
This culture of admiring ‘trash cinema’ not only aids in the release of B-movies like Sharknando and Birdemic (together with its sequel is an undeniable classic by James Nguyen) but also launches collectives of merchandises i.e. T-shirts and posters of these movies. Some creators of B-movies found that being self-aware could also promote them to this niche audience like the disgusting mash-up of live-action & 3D animation, The Amazing Bulk which advertised itself as “The Room of superhero movies” and is pretty much a personal all-time favourite.
“So, this is what people would call as being it’s so bad that it’s good?” It could be, because the characteristics of these movies is that the audience could not seem to look away no matter how weak the performance is and maybe the director did not intend his work as a parody or in the case of being a fan of B-movies myself; having to look back to these movies knowing well that these stories still stem from a love of the cinema and are based on a small budget but a great ambition.
In revising B-movies, the whole concept may not be different than mockumentaries and the found-footage genre because these goes against the accepted form of film-narration thus, the abnormality becomes originality. It is not likely that anyone who creates initially wanted to make something that is not worthy and misses the Mark (I mean, mark) , it may have just been a rebellious act against perfection demanded by the industry or a driving force to make something enjoyable for the individual.
Maybe, Z Lokman just wants to make a fun movie about silat based upon movies in the 70s. Whatever it is, we’re going to watch it in the cinemas anyway when it comes out on the 15th of November.
Featured Image source: the official poster of Mahaguru.