Roll the List #8: Dalton’s Take

Roll the List #8: Top 10 Worst Horror Movies, Dalton’s Take

And finally we have reached a category that is in my area of “expertise”. If anything, the problem is that I have seen too many horror films. In fact, it would be really easy to make a list of crappy horror films that most people haven’t heard of. But that’s too easy. The only genre of American film that is sold as B-level quality is horror. I mean, pretty much anyone could search for a list of B horror movies and be good to go. So, I will be taking my vast experience in the genre, and my ever-increasing discriminating taste, to determine a list of fairly well-known horror films that I think suck. And to clarify the order, the 10th ranked film is not as bad as the 1st ranked film. Here we go.

10. Halloween – Let the flack begin! I know it is a mortal sin in horror genre critique to attack the quality of the horror originals that defined the craft, such as Alien, Jaws, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween. But while Alien proved that there can be a quality script in horror and Jaws showed the value in a slow-reveal, Halloween gave us a list of horror clichés that are unnecessarily repeated and laughed at regularly. Such as, the girl tripping while being chased, the seemingly human villain incapable of staying down after repeated fatal shots, the slow-walking slasher that still seems to be able to catch up to whomever he is chasing. I have to respect Halloween for its pioneering of the classic slasher flick and the psychological element of a mute homicidal child, but beyond that I find the material as dull as Michael’s pace. Friday the 13th showcased a refined model to Halloween, where Halloween boasted countless sequels that, when we are being honest with ourselves, gave nothing new to the concept. I mean, Michael, and his story beyond the first film, really wasn’t all that creative. Maybe I’m jaded by the kills we see today, but there was just nothing all that impressive about Michael’s murderous rampages. There, I said it. Thanks for being the first, Mike, but you definitely aren’t the best.

9. Cabin Fever – Many of the horror greats’ legacies are a means of division amongst horror genre fans, but perhaps no director is as panned as Eli Roth. Love his work or hate it, Roth has made several popular and successful films, kicking off his controversial career with Cabin Fever. Cabin Fever was the first (and only) movie I almost walked out on. That is hypocritical of me, considering I just wrote a tangent not too long ago on the pompous selfishness of walking out on a movie. But, having said that, I didn’t walk out and it didn’t have anything to do with the quality of the film itself. The content just caught me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting it and I wasn’t with the right movie-goers to enjoy the film for what it was. It, unfortunately, ruined the experience for me and I just haven’t watched it since. But this film is also responsible for kicking off Roth’s career, and frankly, I’m not a fan. He discovered that all a horror movie truly needs is sex and guts, the script and acting be damned. This movie became fodder for the torture-porn monster that would define Roth’s filmography to this point. And frankly, torture-porn has quickly become a cheap and outdated method for thrills in horror.

8. All the Saw films after the first – I am going to go ahead and lump together all the Saw films after the first, since they are basically one continuous flow of crap anyways. I bashed Eli Roth for his torture-porn obsession, but nobody embodied the shallow, gore-for-gore’s-sake craft like the Saw sequels. As sequels often go, the quality trailed off exponentially, starting with the second installment and just taking a nosedive after that. It became an excuse to watch people be mutilated in ridiculous ways, set to a poorly constructed story. That isn’t to say that I don’t find sadistic entertainment in a good, creative death in a horror movie, but I just prefer for it to be the icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself. I did appreciate the puzzle-like structure of the story and the introduction of one of the most iconic horror characters of the 21st century in Jigsaw. It just isn’t enough to salvage a franchise that milked every last ounce of gratuitous violence through poorer and poorer scripts with even worse deliveries from the actors.

7. Children of the Corn – There’s just a difficulty to making children scary to me. In most cases, when a horror movie brings a murderous child into it, I just want to punch the kid in the face and punt him away. Or, you know, do that cartoon thing where you hold the child by the head while they thrash and punch at the air in front of you. Either way, Isaac just didn’t strike fear in me, he just annoyed me. That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have its moments. In fact, the way it builds the atmosphere in the first 30 minutes is worth noting. But after that, things just start to go downhill as the children actors become more eccentric, and by that, make the film less foreboding and the peril less believable. Isaac is a name that is a staple in horror for some, but he is forgettable to me. Oh, but as far as creepy children go that actually creeped me out: the little snot in Pet Sematary.

6. The Omen – First came Rosemary’s Baby. Then The Exorcist. Then The Omen attempted to cash in on the devil craze. But, frankly, it’s like it tried to have the terror of The Exorcist with the psychological horror of Rosemary’s Baby and never achieving either. There just isn’t much suspense for me in the, “coincidental deaths…or are they?” scenario. I mean, I get it, he’s the spawn of Satan. But he doesn’t do anything as cataclysmic as I would expect from Satan’s offspring. Standing around acting creepy while people commit suicide around you isn’t really that scary to me. It’s like The Happening (another horrible horror movie), but instead of trees making people suicidal, it’s a little kid’s puppy-dog eyes. Meh, I say…MEH.

5. The Blair Witch Project – Let me start by saying that this film does deserve some respect in several regards. Firstly, its marketing was some of the best for any horror film, as it was believed by many to be a real film at one time. Many have tried to duplicate this marketing ploy, but never to the grand effect of Blair Witch. Secondly, the concept was original for the time. Though now the excessive use of this film style has diluted any respect the style once deserved. Thirdly, it was able to build some suspense without ever actually showing anything. This is an attribute of horror films that has been mastered by Japanese and Korean directors for years, but well-executed through this film. So why does it suck? Well, it helped (along with Paranormal Activity’s success) spawn a series of “found footage” films that have clogged the theater of late with illegitimate horror. Its acting and dialogue also did not hold well for the entirety of the film, often causing a drop in interest, sometimes to the point of annoyance with the senseless arguing and constant whining. The most believable factor of the film was in fact the incessant complaining. Nobody would purposefully write a movie that way, right?

4. The Fog – I’m really just going for pissing horror fans off as much as possible, here, apparently…But I have to say that I find John Carpenter to be a bit of a one-hit-wonder. Looking at his filmography, there are tons of movies that are considered classics of the horror genre, but only one that I have watched regularly on purpose (The Thing). The rest are, well, unspectacular to me. The Fog is the epitome of Carpenter’s mediocrity in filmmaking. I am almost pushed to call it mundane filmmaking, because he has proven that he has the skills to put together a truly terrifying picture. Two significantly-less popular films, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness, deserve far more credit than The Fog, yet The Fog is regarded as one of his better films. As far as horror goes, the film is uneventful and lacks the edge to really build up your adrenaline. Again I go back to the word mundane. Oh, and I will give an honorable mention to Big Trouble in Little China.

3. The Others – I think this film boasted one legitimate scary moment, and that was hardly enough to excuse the fact that the suspense of the scene is butchered by its overuse in the trailers and that the runtime of 104 minutes (which feels like 3 hours) is about 90 minutes too long for one good scare. I perhaps hold horror films to too high of a standard, but I just can’t stand it when a film is put into a particular genre and doesn’t deliver on what the genre entails. I find myself overwhelmingly satisfied with indie horror films that try to do something original, creative, and also scary, because they aren’t diluted by big production companies. But I digress. I think Nicole Kidman is an amazing actress. She is hardly the issue with this film. I guess I just wasn’t looking for a horror film that is drenched so heavily in sophistication that it’s drowning in its own Victorian pompousness.

2. The Mothman Prophecies – Whoa…A creepy mothman thing that has death follow in its wake…This has a lot of creepy potential! Oh…wait…the twist is that it’s just trying to save people from tragedies? That’s not scary at all…There is perhaps nothing quite as disappointing in horror than the twist being a revelation of safety. I wasted enough time watching this movie, so I’m moving on.

1. Bug – This movie is number one on the list for two reasons: #1. It sucked. #2. It took a really awesome concept and butchered it. The only problem with putting Bug at number one on the list is that it is by far the most obscure film, which I was trying to avoid. But, I brought up the list category to the wife and she begged me to put this film on the list, like she thought speaking out about it would somehow rid her of the curse of it plaguing her mind. That said, I have to give Bug an A+ for concept, but an F- for execution. The psychological study of folie a deux is very interesting and I was really excited to see the concept executed in horror. The shared psychosis of the two stars was at times a perfect representation, but most of the time was over the top. That’s fine, I guess, we are in the horror genre after all. But then I realized the film was too exaggerated at the shared psychosis, practically passing it on to the viewer as the actors dipped further and further into incoherent, obnoxious madness that began to drive me insane. ¾ of the way through the movie, I felt like pulling my hair out and screaming just to make the pain stop of watching the atmospheric overacting get exponentially worse as the movie dragged on. I just can’t get over the fact that this film had two great actors (Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon) and an interesting concept and just couldn’t pull it off. Folie a deux is a concept for a movie that thrives off subtlety, and this movie gives up on that about halfway through, making an otherwise climactic ending, just kind of unbelievable and cheesy.

Overlap: We only had two pseudo-overlaps: Kyle mentioned the Saw films, I mentioned all the Saw films but the first, and he listed The Happening, while I simply referenced its awfulness in one of my other choices.

Props: I have to give Kyle credit for his list. I am envious of the titles he thought of and wish I had thought of some of them. I disagree on about half of his list, but I STRONGLY agree with his choices of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, any Uwe Boll film, any MST3K film, Secret Window, and The Happening. It’s funny how many of our choices overlapped based on the same principles, just with different films (Halloween to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cabin Fever to Hostel, The Omen to The Happening, Mothman Prophecies to Secret Window).

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