I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this has been a great decade for horror films. Anyone who doesn’t think so simply hasn’t been paying attention. Of course, those successes likely wouldn’t have felt as sweet had there not been about four or five times as many bad ones, and following from that observation I’ve sifted through the cinematic garbage bin to put together this list of the worst. We’re not talking direct-to-DVD bargain-bin burners here; we normally expect those to be bad. We’re talking studio-released, mostly moderate-to-big-budget disasters with a lot of marketing and moolah behind them. These aren’t the hand grenades; these are the atom bombs whose explosions of craptastic-ness were too big to ignore. They’re listed in order of release rather than badness, since there’s just no way to rank these suckers in any meaningful order. They’re all terrible in their own unique and special way.
Poor Aaliyah. Not only did the R&B superstar have to die in a tragic plane crash, but her legacy suffered the final insult of being tarnished by this painful dud that came out the following year (worse yet, they actually dedicated the film to her memory). Hadn’t her family already been through enough? It’s not nice. Anyway, to be fair Queen of the Damned had a tough act to follow. It’s forebear, the beautifully conceived, well-acted, artful Interview with the Vampire, helmed by Crying Game director Neil Jordan, was one of the best horror films of the ‘90s. So we couldn’t have reasonably expected Damned to be better. Fine. But let’s just tell it like it is: this was a movie so bad that it helped kill both director Michael Rymer and lead actor Stuart Townsend’s film careers. Anne Rice famously reverted back to Christianity in 2004, and I can’t really blame her – if something I’d written was adapted into big-studio diarrhea like this, I’d probably turn to Jesus too.
You forgot about this lil’ gem from early in the decade, did you? Well, allow me to give you a refresher. Stephen Dorff plays a detective investigating the deaths of several people who all died 48 hours after logging onto a website called…wait for it…FeardotCom!!! Ok, so the actual domain name is FeardotCom.com. I know, it sounds absolutely terrifying right? I’m shaking uncontrollably just thinking about it. What follows this mind-blowing revelation is a treasure trove of bad acting, editing likely to cause seizure, lame scenes of torture, and pathetic attempts at making a website called FeardotCom scary. I say double-bill this bad boy with the heinous American remake of Pulse and call it a night.
Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator has everything you’d expect in an action/horror film based on those two beloved franchises: Aliens, Predators, slo-mo shots of Sanaa Lathan running from explosions, actors, sets, costumes, props. The list goes on and on, really. Just don’t expect any frills. You know, things like a believable plot, cool action scenes, well-drawn characters, a talented director, narrative coherence, fun. Wait, you actually were expecting all that stuff? Wow, look at Mr. High Maintenance over here. I don’t know what to tell you, diva. Go watch a James Cameron movie or something.
Like most everybody else, I really loved The Ring. I thought it was scary, and fresh, and stylishly crafted by director Gore Verbinski. So when The Ring Two was released, I paid $14 opening night to watch it at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. That’s right, $14. Two miserable, sleep-inducing hours and 14 bones down the drain later, I limped from the Dome and suddenly felt a strange, sharp pain in my ass. And that’s when I realized: I’d just been gang-raped by Hideo Nakata and those sick bastards over at Dreamworks.
Anyone who has seen the Nicolas Cage Wicker Man montage on YouTube (you can also just scroll down) – or worse yet, the film itself – knows that this remake of the ‘70s horror film is an unmitigated disaster featuring a painfully over-the-top performance by its star. Neil LaBute has made some good films, including the awesome In the Company of Men, but it seems the bigger his budgets have grown the worse the results have been. Of course, perhaps we should be thanking Cage and LaBute for The Wicker Man, as it’s one of the most unintentionally hilarious horror films ever released by a major studio. Nicolas Cage in a bear suit. Nicolas Cage punching and kicking women in said bear suit. Nicolas Cage punching and kicking women in general. Nicolas Cage screaming the following line at the top of his lungs: “Oh no, not the bees!! Not the bees!! AAAHHH!!” If it had all been on purpose, this would have gone down in history as one of the greatest comedies of all time.
Jim Carrey was awesome in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That film, directed by Michel Gondry from a script by Charlie Kaufman, was a sublime meditation on the nature of love and memory. Carrey, in rare form, was subtle and moving in his portrayal of a man broken by the loss of his girlfriend, played excellently by Kate Winslet. In a word, the movie was incredible. If for whatever reason you haven’t seen it, watch it. Oh yeah, Carrey was in another movie a couple years later called The Number 23, directed by professional hack Joel Schumacher. It tried to make numerology scary. It failed, big time. To be fair, the movie was up against a doozy of an obstacle from the start: IT TRIED TO MAKE NUMEROLOGY SCARY. Sorry, but the scariest thing here is Virginia Madsen’s visible addiction to Botox.
Boy, director Stephen Hopkins sure has had a lot of second chances. His first mainstream feature was the lackluster fifth movie in the Elm Street franchise, The Dream Child. Strike one. Next up: Predator 2. Ouch. Strike two. Ok, well at least his next film was the fondly-remembered classic Judgment Night starring Emilio Estevez. No? Strike three. He’s out, right? Back to the dugout? Um, not exactly. He was subsequently hired to direct Blown Away (flop), The Ghost and the Darkness (flop), and Lost in Space (flop). Ok, I don’t mean to be crass, but who the hell is this guy banging that allowed him to direct another big-budget, major studio movie, this time the Hilary Swank CGI suckfest also known as The Reaping? The movie is so bad, that bitch should be required to give up at least one of her Oscars. Preferably the one for Million Dollar Baby.
I know this movie has its fans, to which all I can say is: are you fucking kidding me? I loved The Devil’s Rejects just as much as the next horror freak, but this updating of the 1978 John Carpenter classic is balls. Sure, I was excited, really excited to see what Rob Zombie would do with the franchise, and I certainly give him points for ambition. But by giving Michael Myers a clichéd redneck-upbringing back-story he succeeded in milking all the suspense and mystery out of the thing. Aw see, he just had a bad family life! It’s not his fault! Give me a fucking break. It doesn’t help that the script is crap, the actors are lackluster (Scout Taylor-Compton is no Jamie Lee) and that the kills lack any buildup whatsoever. What a shame.
In the odious PG-13 “horror” movie Prom Night, Lauren Conrad – oh I’m sorry, Brittany Snow – plays Donna, a blonde, vaguely human organism being stalked at her senior prom by some dude wearing a baseball cap who looks like he just stepped off an episode of To Catch a Predator. For some reason he’s obsessed with Donna even though she doesn’t seem to possess a modicum of either sex appeal or personality, and to take out his frustrations he starts killing a bunch of folks. Of course, if I were one of the cops on the scene I’d be less worried about the stalker than the fact that the victims don’t appear to have an ounce of blood in their bodies. This isn’t a horror film; it’s a 1 ½ hour-long episode of The Hills.
The first Friday the 13th was no doubt influential, but let’s be real: it’s not exactly a great film. However, this revamp of the franchise couldn’t even work itself up to the low bar the original movie set for it. Sure, they got the look of Jason right, and some of the kills were kinda cool, but the whole thing had that polished Michael Bay sheen that made it feel more like a bloody, expensive Abercrombie & Fitch TV ad than an actual movie. The ‘80s version at least had a decent amount of suspense; this one couldn’t even be bothered to try. Note to Michael Bay: please, please, keep your dirty, money-grubbing, privileged frat-boy hands off the horror genre. I know you aren’t actually directing any of these remakes, but your influence can be seen in every dull, nauseatingly slick frame of them. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for A Nightmare on Elm Street, but I’m sure you managed to fuck that one up too.
Ok, so I have to admit I actually kind of like Uwe Boll. Sure he’s a blowhard, a publicity whore, astonishingly delusional, and completely incompetent as a director, but he’s unapologetic about it and there’s something endearing about that. I mean, anyone who has the balls to publicly call Michael Bay a “fucking retard” is actually sort of heroic when you think about it. Yes, his films are awful, just awful, but at the same time they’re so bad there’s something almost transcendent about them. He truly is our generation’s Ed Wood, and I think there’s something to be said for that. Ultimately the above films, by virtue of their go-for-broke, awesomely inept atrociousness, will be remembered long after safe, middle-of-the-road stinkers like The Haunting in Connecticut or When a Stranger Calls have long since faded from our collective memory.