The Agony Booth
The Agony Booth (named after a torture device on Star Trek) is a website that for most of its history has posted recaps of So Bad It's Good movies and TV shows. Sometimes, its recaps-cum-MSTs raise a work up to So Bad It's Good. The multipage, scene-by-scene recaps usually take longer to read than watching the movie, but that's a feature, not a bug.
Unlike many movie sites, Agony Booth isn't run by fanboys; most of the mods are older professionals (their ranks include a computer programmer, a teacher, a lawyer, a soldier, etc.), some of whom are (or have been) professional authors. The house style is therefore based around thoughtful criticisms of technical and storytelling faults as well as less tangible qualities. They are willing to mock anything, but will almost never do so without backing it up. As such, the Booth tends to have a "nothing is sacred" policy. (While it's become more apparent with the shift towards videos, it's actually always been the case, as bad films with sizable cult followings were ripe targets from the start.) The writers also have a tendency to use Troper terminology.
In recent years, in fact, the site's core mission -- while still fundamentally cynical -- has veered further and further into affectionate nostalgia, with a burgeoning TV-recap section that besides the Worst of Trek includes The A-Team, Degrassi Junior High, Jem and The Holograms and Knight Rider. These now make up the bulk of the site's postings, while films or TV shows that aren't being recapped regularly appear more occasionally then they once did.
A relentless dedication to nosing out the most offbeat and obscure hunks of pop culture cheese (Deafula, anyone?) also marks the site off from the Bad Movie mainstream. Over the years their article subjects have also included music videos (Heidi Montag's "Higher"), energy drinks (Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt), interviews (Lloyd Kaufman, Razzies founder John Wilson, etc.), and even the website of a presidential "candidate" (Lee L. Mercer, Jr.).
In July, 2010, they began a shift towards video recap series. These include:
- Mr. Mendo's Hack Attack, a video version of their traditional articles, occasionally taking on well-liked films, hosted by Mr. Mendo.
- Red Suitcase Adventures, a more positive look at popular culture, hosted by Sofie Liv.
- Stuff You Like, an analytical look at great film, great TV (and all kinds of tropes), hosted by Sursum Ursa.
- The Blockbuster Chick, celebrating big-budget bombs, hosted by Suzie Mc Ginney.
- Cartoon Palooza, a sarcastic look at recent animated features, hosted by Joey Tedesco.
- The Cheap-Arse Film Review, a look at film that can be purchased inexpensively (in England), hosted by Cheap-Arse.
- The Film Renegado: a celebration of Mexican films and culture, hosted by Jerry Nava.
- Good Bad Flicks, a salute to films that are so bad they're good, hosted by Cecil Trachenburg.
- Mystery Madness, a look at what makes mystery films work, hosted by Full of Questions.
- Saturday Morning Glory, a look at insane episodes of Saturday morning cartoons, hosted by Ryan Lohner.
- Terror Obscura, a look at horror films, good and bad, hosted by Fear Fan.
- The Following Special Presentation, a look at goofy made for TV movies, hosted by Stan Ferguson.
- Thoroughly Manly Musicals, a show about musicals, also hosted by Stan Ferguson.
- The Movie Skewer, hosted by each of the others in rotation, this is a show for the Boothers to review things outside their normal niches.
- The Special Relationship, a spin-off of Britannia Rules?, which examines American remakes of British films and TV shows, originally hosted by Richard Murphy, now run by Sursum Ursa as part of Stuff You Like.
The forums attached to the site have a reputation of exclusivity that is debatably deserved; the list of rules (and rationales for banning) are long and detailed, and intelligent argument on a par with the house style is expected whether for or against the subject in question. Likewise, poorly-handled comments can expect to receive the same treatment as any recap subject.
From the FAQ:
- What's the point of this site?
- The Agony Booth is primarily devoted to posting recaps of movies and TV episodes. These are not "reviews". Movies and TV episodes are thoroughly analyzed and dissected in excruciating detail to show what they do right and what they do wrong. But most important of all, the point of this site is to have fun mocking any and all kinds of movies and shows.
- Accentuate the Negative: Sometimes they recognize a few things are well-done, but that's not why they're recapping the movies.
- All-Star Cast: Mendo's review of The Help featured upwards of 10 guest stars.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: Among others, they've declared that Rotti Largo of Repo! The Genetic Opera is a pedophile and Mary Bailey is the real villain of It's a Wonderful Life.
- Angst Dissonance: In-universe, Mr. Mendo opens a serious question in his Scott Pilgrim vs. the World review with a sarcastic acknowledgement that this movie doesn't speak to him in the way it does a lot of college students since he had to join the army.
- Badass Mustache: Mr. Mendo.
- Batman Gambit: Referenced and inverted on Saturday Morning Glory:
Ryan: "Then Malhavok shows up, so Batman tosses out a lame taunt to get him to break the dragon's chain. Somehow, I doubt this is going down as one of the great Batman Gambits." (Accompanied by a screen shot of that very page!)
- B-Movie: In the site's early years, they focused almost exclusively on these.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Mr. Mendo's can be seen from behind his shades, which aren't exactly small...
- Brick Joke: Just who ARE the Overlords of the UFO, anyway?
- Ditto Mr. Mendo's kickboxing obsessed teddy bear.
- Broken Aesop: As Mr. Mendo points out, Forrest Gump teaches us that one man can make a difference, as long as he never thinks or makes a decision for himself.
- Buffy-Speak: This episode of MMHA: "But really, that was a good movie, and this film and a good one are as dissimilar as two completely dissimilar things...in a bag."
- Catch Phrase: "Wikipedia is your friend."
- Cloudcuckoolander: The forums tend to attract some rather... strange people.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Parodied. During a sleepover with The Omega, Mendo came to the conclusion that The Last Unicorn was "an elaborate metaphor for a woman's menstrual cycle".
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Mr. Mendo forwards a bunch of his hate mail to the Film Renegado's site, Renegado forces him to watch Atletico San Pancho. And, when that doesn't work, he starts playing Menudo!
- Cool Shades: Mr. Mendo's Guccis.
- Darker and Edgier: The horror that is Loonatics Unleashed.
- Deadpan Snarker: The raison d'être for the site.
- Department of Redundancy Department: On Luigi Largo of Repo! The Genetic Opera: "You know how Danny Trejo often plays Danny Trejo? Well, in this movie, Danny Trejo is played by Bill Moseley."
- Sofie Liv: Actual Danish Person (From Denmark).
- Determinator: Mr. Mendo managed to write and film the first two episodes of his show despite being in the middle of a war zone!
- Did Not Do the Research: Given the level of detail in the recaps, the occasional error tends to stand out.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Often a recapper will say something extremely perverse, then follow it with a note to themselves to edit it out before posting.
- "Don't forget now!"
- Early Installment Weirdness: Comparing the early recap-plus-snark (with rare, off-center images) of fairly obscure terrible movies, to the later work, with both Agonizer analysis and recaps which go from box office bombs to divisive work (with frequent, large images) is jarring. And then there's the video reviews...
- Eat the Dog: Mr. Mendo has claimed he needs to "eat at least one puppy every day" in order to survive.
- Entertainingly Wrong: In her review of Twilight, Miss Liv came to the conclusion that Mr. Mendo was a Care Bear. Which isn't that far off.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Mr. Mendo may eat puppies, but even he [dead link] feels bad about forcing Fear Fan to watch Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS and Salo Or The 120 Days Of Sodom about twenty times each.
- Conversely, they determine that, while Salo may be the more disturbing film, it still claims the moral high ground over Ilsa, since at least Salo isn't intended to be titilating.
- Everything's Worse with Bears: More like everything's BETTER with bears!
- Fanfic Fuel: Noted a few times In-Universe.
Ryan: "Fanfiction writers, you have your new assignment. Don't let me down."
- Fauxlosophic Narration: Parodied. Mr. Mendo took issue with The Beast of Yucca Flats for this, only to have his own narrator suddenly appear.
- Fun with Subtitles: From the review of the Pink Lady movie:
Mr. Mendo: No surprise, then, that they got their own motion picture with the catchy title of:
Mr. Mendo: ...that.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: "Mindzonked Sulu and the Morons", or "Uhura and the Ambassadors".
- Got Me Doing It
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: The Mamma Mia! review.
Jordon Davis: (Repeatedly) "...I'm not gay."
Albert: Let's take a moment to appreciate the character of Myra. As far as I can tell, Rusty's only crime is being homophobic. Oh, and he also has the outrageous desire to actually get married and have children. So what does Myra do to him? She ties him down, rapes him, and then demands that he thank her afterwards. Ladies and gentleman, our hero.
Ryan: "This episode was making fun of Paris Hilton before Paris Hilton even existed!"
You know who else was a genocidal maniac? Hitler!
- Hypocrisy Nod: To cap off a review of Rubber, a pointless, nonsensical film that is being watched from inside itself, Mr. Mendo and The Omega get into a pointless, nonsensical argument that is being watched from inside the review.
Mr. Mendo: "Trying to pick the worst Coleman Francis film is like deciding what kind of cancer you'd like to have." *Lights cigar*
- Hypocritical Humor: When recapping the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Outrageous Okona", Albert noted that the mention of lasers having no effect on the Enterprise led to a lot of "Enterprise D could beat a Star Destroyer" debates. Then commented: "Some people just have way too much time on their hands, don't they? And now, back to my six-page dissertation on a Star Trek episode."
- Insistent Terminology: They do not review movies, they recap them. Get this wrong at your own peril.
- Jump Scare: To illustrate how over-reliant on these The Haunting In Connecticut is, Fear Fan provided a montage of them set to different music. It got pretty silly.
- Kill It with Fire: One of the mods, a soldier who served in Afghanistan, had this reaction to a particularly bad episode of Pink Lady...and Jeff.
- Left It In: Articles will sometimes have the writer make a rather perverted comment, followed by a note to themselves to edit it out before posting. "Don't forget now!"
- Logical Fallacies: A charge they often level at the TV shows they feature.
- Lost Forever: Both the old forums (which were split to a separate website during a redesign) and the topics on recaps and Agonizer content in the new one.
- Nostalgia Filter: Mr. Mendo and Ryan avert this trope HARD. For example: a video review of one of the weirdest episodes of The Transformers cartoon was all about pointing out the series wasn't the piece of art claimed by those hating on the film series.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Comes up so often it's practically a catchphrase.
- Particularly notable regarding the notoriously bad Star Trek: Voyager episode "Threshold". Every recap starts with a synopsis of the episode's plot, but this one bails out partway though:
...no, no, it's just too stupid. You'll never believe me if I just blurt it out like this.
- No Yay: Invoked. Recapper Jessica describes the relationship between Bruce Willis and his sidekick in Hudson Hawk as "The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name For A Damned Good Reason".
- Oh Crap, There Are Fanfics of Us: Inverted. Mendo not only encourages people to write fanfic about him, but will read it on the show!
- Overly Long Gag: From the recap of Mamma Mia!: "(Amanda Seyfried's) blazingly hot in a very not-Natalie Portman kind of way, if you get my meaning. I'm saying Amanda's more of a nordic beauty. She doesn't celebrate Shemini Atzeret too gaudily. She can't get wholesale prices on diamonds. Jewish. She's not Jewish."
- A Rare Sentence: The line "Desirée! You could have gotten mustard all over his brain!" from Overdrawn at the Memory Bank:
Albert: Yeah, just take a second and stare at that line for a while. It's a beauty. Lines that insane only come along once every so often.
- Rule 63: For their review of Sherlock Holmes (2009), Sofie Liv and Sursum Ursa dressed up as Holmes and Watson.
- Running Gag: Frequent in the individual recaps, and a few (including the Overlords of the UFO & Mr. T's guest explanations) that cross over. The TV series recaps are much more prone to ongoing gags; Albert's Degrassi recaps are typical:
- The Girls' Bathroom of Ill Repute and the Boys' Bathroom of Neutral Repute.
- Albert's ongoing frustration at Yick and Arthur's B (and sometimes C) plots.
- Joey (Insert Letter Here) Jermiah, the (X) stands for (Blank).
- Nicknames for the characters: Loosey, Astrodog, Rockin' Rompin' Raditch and Sweet Caitlin Ryan.
- Stephanie Kaye is also frequently compared to Nixon.
- Shout-Out: To the point of Reference Overdosed. The Boothers favor obscure references to everything from song lyrics, BBC shows, and children's book series, often in the same article.
- Fortunately, they usually give links to the things they reference
- Smoking Is Cool: Mr. Mendo is almost never seen without a Black and Mild (or a cigarette). A cigar even features prominently in his portrait...
Although this has been parodied at least once.
- Special Guest: The Cinema Snob showed up for episode 6 of MMHA, as did Linkara for episode 10, Diamanda Hagan in episode 14, The Film Renegado in episode 17, and Phelous in Episode 23.
- Suckiness Is Painful: It's implied by the site's name.
- Take That: A review [dead link] of Donnie Darko notes that Donnie's argument about Smurfette is very much like a Natter reply on TV Tropes.
- The Bear: Mr. Mendo.
- The Cast Showoff: Miss Liv can sing, dance, play the piano AND the trumpet.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood was raked over the coals for this.
Mr. Mendo: Sure, throw in a Mantan impression, that's always cool!
- Unwinnable Training Simulation: ...and why it does not belong in James Bond movies.
- You Gotta Have Anime Hair: Mr. Mendo cites this as a sign that Joel and Clem really don't make a very good match. (Somewhat hypocritical, as he himself wore a green wig in an earlier episode.)