The other day, I commented on Facebook that I did not like Blade Runner. This surprised a lot of people, particularly when I went on to say that I would rank it among the 10 worst movies I’ve ever seen, and possibly in the bottom 5. Which got me thinking about other terrible movies I’ve seen. Which brings us to today. It was going to be a list of 10, but I just kept thinking of more.
Before I proceed with the countdown, I would like to say two things. First, I have learned over the years to differentiate, as much as possible, between movies I don’t like and movies I consider bad. For example, I did not like Snatch, at all, even a little, but I can look at it for what it was and say that, despite my personal feelings about it, it was a good movie. I hate capers, but I can still appreciate the effort behind a well-prepared Chicken Piccata. I just won’t eat it.
Second, there are few things in this world so bad that I can’t find at least one nice thing to say about them. So I will make every effort to find at least one point of redemption in each of these movies.
And now, to the countdown.
#12 – Session 9
There is a place for subtlety in horror, and a time to let the viewer’s imagination take them places no visual ever could. However, when your attempt at subtlety drops to the level of being nothing more than the movie equivalent of dead air, and your attempt to nudge the viewer’s imagination in s specific direction just makes absolutely no fucking sense, and you realize these things three-quarters of the way through and suddenly try to make up for them by beating the audience over the head with all the things you were previously only hinting at, you end up with a movie like Session 9.
Point of redemption: David Caruso
#11 – Pulp Fiction
Draping a series of random violent events and catchy dialog over a loosely-built framework of coincidence and casting Samuel L. Jackson as the motherfuckingest motherfucker any fucker ever mothered does not make a great movie. It makes a movie that people talk about, and quote a lot, and feel very badass for so doing.
Points of redemption: Uma Thurman is always nice to look at, and the soundtrack was good.
#10 – One for the Money
Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is one of my most treasured guilty pleasures, and there are so many things that pissed me off about this movie I hardly know where to begin listing them. The original book was an almost perfect balance of really scary stuff and really funny stuff. The movie managed to straddle both of those things and completely fail to capture either. It also broke what I consider a cardinal rule of moviemaking: I don’t care if you’re filming Star Wars 7: It’s the Great Baby Jesus in Oz, Charlie Brown!, you never use the assumption of audience familiarity with the original source material as an excuse to leave out large chunks of crucial plot and character development. The people who are not familiar with the source material are going to be lost in the overwhelming WTF of it all, and the people who are will view even the slightest deviation from the original as a betrayal. Oh, and then they cast an Irishman as Joe Morelli, the quintessential Italian cop from
Point of redemption: Considering what she was given to work with, Katherine Heigl was very good as Stephanie.
#9 – Blade Runner
Yes, I know. This is considered one of the best movies ever made. Which is why I felt compelled to detail on my original Facebook post the reasons for my dislike of it. I thought the music was atrocious, disjointed and completely unsuited to scenes it was backing, but not so incongruous that the juxtaposition would actually add another layer to the action and emotion of those scenes, and it was bad enough to distract from any other redeeming qualities. I found Harrison Ford's character completely unbelievable as the one guy who was so good that he had to be forcibly recalled to active duty, and I also found Ford's performance to be surprisingly lacking. I always have a problem with the "I've only met you twice but I love you" plot device. The dialog at times bordered on ridiculous. Nothing about the character of
made the slightest bit of sense to me. And
I’m sorry, apparently this is considered an incredibly moving piece of
cinematic history, but when Rutger Hauer came out with that “all those moments
will be lost in time, like tears... in rain” line, I actually laughed out loud,
it was so completely over the melodramatic top. Leon
Points of redemption: Sean Young’s performance was exemplary, and Rutger Hauer was running around in shorts.
#8 – The Terror
I probably would have ranked this one much lower if not for one thing; when you see the name Boris Karloff, your expectations are automatically adjusted. Even taking that into consideration, though, this movie was just awful from beginning to end.
Point of redemption: The very young and very pretty Jack Nicholson.
Camp is good thing. Over-the-top ridiculousness is another good thing. Those two when well combined are a third good thing. Those first two when not well combined, but when backed by some big names and a substantial budget, are a fourth thing, an engraved invitation to crash and burn in a spectacular flame of failure. I wanted to like this movie. I tried. I failed at liking it just as much as they failed at making it likable.
Point of redemption: The soundtrack.
#6 – Cool World
Another movie I really wanted to like. Gabriel Byrne and Brad Pitt are each strong enough on their own to salvage just about any salvageable movie. When you have both of them, and still manage to produce an unmitigated shitpile, that is the sign of a project that was just fundamentally broken from the get-go. And to all the supporters of this movie who insist that the critics just don’t “get” what they were doing, I “get” it just fine. They just did it very badly, with the “OMG huge coincidence heretofore unmentioned or even hinted at as a possibility but that solves everything in favor of the good guys!” ending being the rancid cherry atop this truly abominable cupcake.
Point of redemption: Gabriel Byrne, Gabriel Byrne, and yet more Gabriel Byrne.
#5 – Waterworld
A classic case of budget poisoning. Contrary to what people with lots of money to throw around seem to think, high production values can not and will not make up for a bad story, bad dialog, and Kevin Costner.
Point of redemption: Nobody does big and loud and crazy like Dennis Hopper.
#4 – Showgirls
I know. I could just stop typing and go back to pretending I didn’t actually pay real money to see this in a theatre because you already know how bad this movie is. But when it first came out, we didn’t know that yet. There was a chance that it would be what it claimed to be, a raw edgy look at the grot behind the glam in Vegas. We know better now. Oh yes. We know better now.
Point of redemption: Kyle MacLachlan is awesome. Not in this movie, particularly, just in general.
#3 – Scared to Death
This was almost so bad it was good. It stopped about 12 feet short of that crucial turning point, and ended up just being terrible. Really really really terrible. And not because they were at all shy about throwing more crap into the mix in the hope that something might actually work. They had Bela Lugosi. They had Mysterious Strangers with even more mysteriouser pasts. They had dancers. They had a deaf/mute little person who communicated primarily by kicking people in the ankle. They had phantom reflections in conveniently moonlit windows. They had, in the midst of what was supposed to be an incredibly tense and dramatic situation, an idiot cop with chronic foot-in-mouth, in love with a maid who wanted nothing to do with him. And they had a corpse narrating the whole thing. But not narrating for the sake of imparting any useful information, just stating clearly what the next five minutes of action would show, right before they showed it all.
Point of redemption: The last spoken words in the movie were the title of the movie. I guess they get cheeseball points for that.
I know what you’re thinking. “With a title like that, what did you expect?” I’ll tell you exactly what I expected. I expected this to be so incredibly bad it would loop around and become awesome. I expected over-the-top silliness with lots of fake blood and hot chicks in skimpy outfits saying ridiculous things, I expected expendable characters to be expended with great dispatch and the “good” guys to triumph, I expected a terrifically bad movie. What I got was just plain bad, and if there is any decency and justice in this world, the people who made this movie will relinquish any rights they may have to that title, and give it to someone who will make Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama what it should have been.
Point of redemption: Nothing. I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing. The hot chicks weren’t even that hot.
#1 – Swamp Thing
I should qualify my listing of this as the worst movie I’ve ever seen, because I actually haven’t seen the whole thing. It is the only movie I have ever paid money to see and walked out of 30 minutes in because it was so bad I literally could not watch another minute of it. 32 minutes in, it may have become amazing. I don’t know. Somehow, I doubt it.