This year, huh? Quite the old kick to the proverbial nards, spiritually speaking. The upside of the year is that it has been astoundingly rich with entertainment choices. No matter what you like, what genres, there is terrific work out there. If you’re like me, finding solace in media has been a welcome respite from dealing with the modern horrors outside the window, so it is perhaps for this reason that the awfulest of awful movies felt particularly… well, awful-er. So, here is my list for the five movies you should absolutely, no-questions-ask avoid. You have been warned.
5. The Forest
Maybe it’s my love of Asian horror that made this such a slough, but The Forest manages to take the very real and very creepy location of Aokigahara forest and make it bland and dull. No kidding, there’s a real place in Japan where so many people wander into the trees to commit suicide that they had to put up a sign urging potential self-offers to think of their families. It has long been associated with vengeful spirits and the spirit world, so it makes for the perfect setting for a horror film, right? Sadly, not this time. Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones tries her hand at carrying a feature film with little success. The scares are minimal, the story routine, and even the big surprise ending isn’t much of a surprise. This one gets the year’s ‘Movie That Should Have Been Uniquely Interesting to Me, and Was a Big Pile of Poo Instead’™/
4. The Shallows
Another movie I should enjoy on the basis of it being a movie about a damn shark what likes to eat people. I love animals chomping people. I wish it happened in The Shallows. I wish ANYTHING happened in The Shallows. When it does, far too late in the movie to care, it’s pretty good. Also, Blake Lively is not the kind of actress who should be left to bear a movie’s emotional heft. The Reef or even Open Water are far better choices for your shark-on-people action. The Shallows nabs the coveted ‘Move That Most Made Me Want to Watch Jaws Again’™ award.
3. Cabin Fever (2016)
Using the Eli Roth-written and directed film as its source and with Roth on board to produce, Cabin Fever is a perfect example of a remake so bad, it makes me dislike the original more. Given that most of the original dialogue is intact, this wasteful, unnecessary remake highlights the script’s misogyny in a way that was surprising. Yes, the girl is sick so let’s lock in a shed where a dog can eat her. Or maybe it’s more fun if one of the girls has a slimy vajayjay – ewww, it’s blood! Toss in some shaky CGI, unlikable characters, flat video-style cinematography and – did I mention how stunningly misogynistic this movie is? – lack of any good reason for this film to exist, and you have the front-runner for the time-honored ‘Movie That Should in Any Sane World Be the Worst Thing I Saw This Year, Yet It’s Somehow Not’™ award.
I always enjoyed the novel which the 2016 film Cell is based upon. I like the weird take on the zombie story, the paper-thin allegory about the ugly collectivism created by social networks, the critique of technology and it’s use as a modern terror (see above re: my love of Japanese horror), even the root tale of a father desperately trying to find his son, who may or may not be a pawn of the novel’s central villain. Cell starts with a good scene of chaos at an airport and the devolves into a movie you can’t believe got made. Well, maybe that’s too far. I couldn’t believe a movie this dumb was made with these actors. I still like John Cusack (he does a great riff on his teen persona in the recent film Adult World), I like Sam Jackson, and even Stacy Keach drops in for a minute to delivery a reasonably good performance. The end of the novel was always a sticking point, but even that ambiguity is superior to the needlessly nihilistic ending of the film. What am I supposed to get out of this resolution? That we have all become mindless animals due to cellular phones? That family is more important than sanity? Ah, who cares. It’s a poorly paced, occasionally woefully stupid film that squanders a great premise. As such, you will perhaps not be surprised to learn it has been awarded ‘Movie I Kept Giving Chances Until it Pooped In My Mouth at the End’™.
1. Martyrs (2016)
Another remake. So it goes. In this case, the remake of an intense, controversial, divisive piece of French extreme horror that boasts one of my favorite endings to any horror film. If ever there was a movie that needed no remake, it’s Martyrs. So, here it is. With the story tweaked to (theoretically) create a more substantial relationship between our two heroines, Martyrs ’16 simultaneously dulls the edges of its intensity and fills in the gaps with a more by-the-numbers story. This is a textbook case of having your cake and eating it, too. If you remember waaaay back a few sentences ago, I said I loved the original film’s ambiguous ending because of the questions it begged to be asked. In this more chromosomally-challenged version, the ending is served up with a pamphlet and a slideshow, and still has the sheer nerve to pretend there’s something existentially significant about it. Kudos to writer Mark Smith for the comic timing of the line. “I heard it, too!” Gunshot. Delicious. Martyrs ’16 gets the prestigious ‘Food Tastes Like Ash In My Mouth After Seeing This Sludgepile’™ award.
Congrats to all the winners. Now please… please. Never do it again.