as i seem to recall from a class in fifth grade i wasn’t paying too close attention to, “for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction.” applying that rule to my last post, i take that to mean that for every good horror film released in 2008 that i enjoyed — there was one that i didn’t. so, to keep everything in the universe balanced and what-not, and to avoid disrupting the laws and/or fabric of nature itself, i present to you my top 10 worst horror films of 2008.
i’ve almost always liked m. night shamalamadingdong. like most people, i was blown away by the sixth sense. i kinda dug unbreakable. i really liked signs and the village. ok, lady in the water left me scratching my head, but it wasn’t unwatchable. i knew m. night was a little pretentious (e.g., he just made up his middle name in college), but i didn’t think he was capable of truly horrible film making — that was, until i saw the happening. while the ruins may have proved that (spoiler warning) killer vegetation isn’t as silly a concept as you might think — the happening goes the opposite route and proves it’s even goofier than anyone thought possible. the film can’t even be saved by the almost always entertaining mark wahlberg (who turns in his absolute worst performance to date, which crescendos during a conversation he has with a plastic tree) or the always cute zooey deschanel (who, despite her pleasant appearance, somehow manages to be annoying in every frame of screen time she’s given). the only thing this movie had going for it was the mystery of what was causing the so-called ‘happening’… which they reveal 15 minutes into the film. i hate to say it, but in every respect, m. night whizzed this one right down the leg of his stylish trousers.
trapped ashes is one of those horror anthologies like creepshow and tales from the darkside. i’m a sucker for that kind of thing, so i was really looking forward to trapped ashes. how can you go wrong with four horror stories plus a wrap-around story? just by chance, a few of the stories would have to be decent, right? add in the amazing pedigree of at least three of the directors (joe dante, the howling, ken russell, lair of the white worm, sean cunningham, friday the 13th), and how could this suck? well, it does — and big. joe dante’s wrap-around story about people trapped in a house who decide to tell their scariest life experiences to the others in an attempt to convince the supposed madman who locked them in to let them out makes no sense and isn’t scary, interesting or remotely probable. sean cunningham’s half anime, half live action film about a woman trapped in a painting getting raped by a demon isn’t nearly as interesting as i just made it sound. ken russell’s film about vampiric breasts is, at least, novel. it plays out much like i imagine a porno directed by a 13-year-old david cronenberg would — amateurish but disturbing. the third story feels completely out of place as it’s basically an overly wordy and boring film noir piece about a love triangle with a slight supernatural twist. another story involves a parasitic worm and a baby, but apart from a cool ‘womb-cam’ effect, is rather ridiculous. the underlying thread connecting all these tales isn’t so much the horrible wrap-around story as it is one central theme — women are scary. i’ll give credit to ken russell for creating visuals that can actually circumvent the male part of the brain that says ‘breasts = awesome’ and making them, at least momentarily, seem unattractive — but that small achievement is not nearly enough to salvage this celluloid trainwreck.
expectation plays a large part in putting these top ten lists together. while technically zombies, zombies, zombies may be a worse film than most on this list, i knew it was going to suck when i turned it on. somehow that makes a difference. the badness of a film is actually more offensive when it has no excuse for being bad… i’m more forgiving of low-budget films made my amateur filmmakers than i am of big-budget flops made by people who should know better. such is the case with the remake of the eye. the original film was quite creepy and entertaining, so i was hoping this would be another the grudge — a quality remake of a foreign film that meets, if not surpasses, the original. what i got was a sloppy mess of derivative nonsense that tries to coast by on how pretty its lead is and ignores the basic building blocks of a good film — things like script, acting, pacing and suspense. if you want to watch jessica alba, please go watch the fantastic four films again… if you want to see a movie about a blind girl seeing ghosts, go rent the original film, gin gwai.
day of the dead
i was one of the first people to say that remaking dawn of the dead was sacrilege… and, after seeing it, i was one of the first to admit that i was completely and utterly wrong. so i was a little gun shy to jump on the “wtf!?!” band wagon when i heard they were remaking day of the dead. mena suvari’s in it? ok. ving rhames? even better. steve miner is directing it? you mean friday the 13th part 2 steve miner? well, maybe this won’t be that bad after all. as it turns out, the band wagon is a popular thing to jump on because it’s often filled with people who are right. this film is just bad, bad, bad. steve miner must have thought that if fast zombies were scarier than slow zombies (e.g., 28 days later) then fast zombies bouncing off walls like flying squirrels must be absolutely terrifying. that’s only the first of many bad ideas in this film. others include having people changing from slightly wounded to completely decayed zombies in a matter of seconds and (this is a big one)… using almost none of the story from the film it was remaking. apart from a few character names and the fact that there are, in fact, a few zombies around — this has nothing in common with my favorite of romero’s zombie apocalypse films. the ridiculous dvd cover of a zombie vomiting up banana pudding mixed with ears and giant eyeballs (or, i suppose, sucking in this mixture as opposed to expelling it) only adds insult to injury.
giant snakes + ‘the hoff’ sounds like b-movie heaven. unfortunately, the reality doesn’t live up to the concept. hasselhoff and john rhys-davies (who must have one hell of a coke habit to continue needing to show up in crap like this) make no attempt to mask their disinterest in this film as they stumble through each awkward scene. in a movie like this though, the snakes are the real stars… so its really a shame that the snakes in this film are likely the least convincing ever seen. holding this up to the camera real close and wiggling it around would have been far more convincing. i had to pause the film a few minutes from the end to get a soda and literally could not bring myself to hit ‘play’ and watch any more of it. if that nullifies my review, so be it… but i’m willing to bet that watching any more could only have moved anaconda 3 closer to the top of this list, not made me dislike it less.
as we trudge our way further up this list, we’re moving from films that i merely found dull and disappointing into films that i truly hate. and i really, really hate pathology. i didn’t expect to going into it because i’m usually a big fan of medical thrillers. the blame for my hatred falls entirely on the script. not only are all the characters despicable people who are impossible to sympathize with (even when the filmmaker wants you to), but they’re stupid as well. for me, though, the biggest problem is character motivation — there is none. why does our hero, a medical student, decide to partake in a game where you murder someone and other medical students attempt to figure out how you did it? i have no idea. and typically ‘murdering strangers’ is the kind of thing characters need a reason to be doing. i hated every character in this movie and i hated the filmmakers for thinking i would identify with and feel sympathy for characters that, until the heroic music kicked in, were criminal sociopaths. I’m as big a fan of the anti-hero as anyone, but characters like Hannibal Lector or Dexter are attractive in spite of their ghoulish acts because of their charm and intelligence, not simply because they’re the star of the show. despite an interesting concept and decent direction and acting, pathology rubbed me the wrong way. like meeting someone at a party who mistakenly thinks your girlfriend is single and hits on her, i feel incapable of any forgiveness towards this film and instead am just going to stare at it angrily from across the room.
dark floors is billed as “the lordi movie.” i didn’t realize this until i put the dvd in, but i don’t think it would matter if i’d known it earlier, because i had no idea what a “lordi” was. as it turns out, ‘lordi‘ is a european heavy metal band. i’m no expert on that genre, but from what i can gather, ‘lordi’ appears to be like a ‘gwar’ for people who don’t find ‘gwar’ silly enough. all of the band members dress in costumes that look like they were ordered out of the back of fangoria magazine in 1989 and play music that sounds like what you’d hear if you were strapped to the underbelly of an exploding train loaded with grizzly bears and kettle drums. in any case, dark floors is not about the band ‘lordi;’ each member of the band plays a monster within the film. the story revolves around a little girl with crayons and a group of people trapped in some alternate universe version of a hospital. about twenty minutes into the film you may realize this all seems very familiar — that would be because this is the first film i’ve ever seen to follow the exact structure of a survival horror game. the alternate universe thing is stolen straight from silent hill, but more than that the story structure is the same. the characters move across one floor of the hospital, fight and/or run away from one of the ‘lordi’ monsters (i.e., “boss battle”), and then start fresh on the next floor. this continues ad nauseum until they reach the parking garage, where they run into the lead singer (i.e., final boss) and somehow defeat him because they’re good people or have the power of love on their side or something. the film is somewhat stylish, but feels like an overly long music video… which, i suppose is what it is. after watching the ‘making of’ i realized that not only did i hate “the lordi movie”… but i hated ‘lordi’ as well. even through the swedish i could tell that the front man, the oh-so-cleverly named “mr. lordi,” is a complete and utter douche bag of epic proportions. my opinion of the film is pretty much the same, although i don’t think you can technically call a film a douche bag — but if you could, that’s exactly how i would describe dark floors.
the second of the ghost house underground films to make my list, this is a russian slasher film that has little to offer the genre. after a heist, a group of thieves and their hostages head into the abandoned railway tunnels to escape. unfortunately, a pickaxe wielding madman with a habit of removing people’s peepers already calls that place home. the premise sounds interesting enough, but even with only a mere 80 minute running time, the film can’t seem to find anything interesting to show you. most of the time is spent with the thieves arguing amongst themselves and deciding who gets to carry a gun. which brings up another point… these people have several guns amongst them, yet they never once attempt to shoot the very slow moving guy with the pickaxe who keeps picking them off. tack on an ending that feels like it’s a big revelation, but which reveals nothing (a la saw 5) and you’re left with one big slippery mother of a film turd. in russian.
calling shutter a movie is a disservice to every filmmaker out there attempting, whether brilliantly or poorly, to do something approximating art. this is a shameless remake of a j-horror film that exists, not because someone enjoyed the original and wanted to put their own spin on it, but because someone somewhere thought they might be able to make a dollar off it. i understand money drives the production of all hollywood films, but in this case it’s obvious that everyone who showed up on set had only one thing on their mind — their paycheck. the director himself admits as much in the commentary when he states that he doesn’t like horror films. well, that’s just terrific. following that logic i imagine the set was catered by an anorexic who hates food, the costume design was done by a nudist, and the actors were all cast from those aboriginal tribes that think having your picture taken steals your soul. it should be no surprise that shutter is not remotely scary or compelling in any way because it takes more than just throwing a dark-haired asian ghost girl into your film to make it frightening — it actually takes a bit of talent and a lot of work.
april fool’s day
april fool’s day (2008) is so bad, i almost didn’t include it on this list simply because i didn’t want to have to think about it again. at least from those i’ve seen, this is the worst of the worst when it comes to the recent trend of horror remakes. shallow, boring, predictable and pointless — i stand by my original review.
this sucky movie is full of suck.
next week is friday the 13th week! i’m so giddy with little-school-girl-esque excitement over the release of the modern re-envisioning of everyone’s favorite hockey-masked killer that i’ve got several jason voorhees themed posts planned for next week leading up to the film’s friday opening. so keep checking back…