Horror is, without a doubt, the most divisive genre in film. While science fiction may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there aren’t hundreds of thousands of people who simply refuse to watch it. But even on dating sites today, one of the questions included is not “Do you like science fiction?,” but instead, “Do you like horror films?” It is the one genre that actually might play a hand in deciding your next romantic partner.
There are plenty of reasons to dislike a horror film; the violence is too extreme, the scares fail on every level, the direction was shoddy. However, there is a certain level of camp in even some of the most well-known awful horror films that some joy can be derived. Troll 2 has survived for so many years at midnight screenings for its ever-growing (well-deserved) cult audience for that reason. Then there are films like the ones listed below, where the audience is deprived of camp. They are self-serious or, worse, try too hard for camp.
The films below are so unwatchable, overly gruesome or just plain stupid that even MST3k wouldn’t take them.
15. Day of the Dead (2008)
There’s clearly a great deal of thematic resonance for director and co-writer Srđan Spasojević on display throughout his brutally violent. He has responded to criticism of the film’s graphic portrayal of infant-sexual assault and penis-in-eye murder (try not to think about that too much) as a response to the molestation of his motherland by the government.
And surely there’s merit behind his argument. After all, the brutality of Wes Craven‘s The Last House On The Left and numerous other 70s films was credited to filmmaker’s outrage at the Vietnam War. It was less than a decade that Americans had been exposed to the atrocities performed by its soldiers before filmmakers responded. A war-ravaged country like Serbia has had a much longer gestation period full of hate and war crimes and death to ruminate on cinematically.
13. Graveyard Shift (1990)
There are literally hundreds of terrible Stephen King adaptations out there. As I’ve stated before, it isn’t hard to acquire the rights. Graveyard Shift, based on a short story, follows a group of factory workers tasked with cleaning up a their rat-infested textile plant.
The story, and the film, end with the discovery of a giant, mutated rat acting as a broodmare for the plant. You’d think a film about giant rats dispatching blue caller workers (including horror staple Brad Dourif) would be fantastic camp.
12. Alligator II: The Mutation (1991)
Lewis Teague’s Alligator, about a mutated version of the title creature roaming the Chicago sewers, is a blast. Scripted by schlock master and respected playwright John Sayles – who wrote the equally entertaining Piranha, it features sly but unobtrusive in-jokes, a fun performance from journeyman actor Robert Forrester, and decent alligator effects.
The sequel, for which none of the cast or crew returned, misses the clever twists Sayles worked into the first film, as well as the humour. Worse, it plays out note-for-note the same way the Teague’s film does, constantly reminding you there’s a better film you could be watching.
11. I Spit On Your Grave (2010)
1980’s I Spit On Your Grave, originally and perhaps more purposefully titled “The Day of the Woman,” may have its defenders. It’s a gruesomely cruel revenge tale in the same vein as Wes Craven’s Vietnam-infused The Last House on the Left that makes no apologies for itself. It was labelled as a “Video Nasty” in the U.K. and in the U.S. critic Roger Ebert considered it to be the worst film ever made.
Still, despite thirty minutes of the film’s runtime consists of a violent sexual assault, you will find critics that claim it is a misunderstood work of feminism.
The same argument can’t be applied to the remake, which is straight torture porn through and through. It’s a repugnant, hate-filled experience that attempts to find a balance in the atrocities carried out onscreen, but instead just muddies the waters in service of gore.
10. CHUD II: Bud the CHUD (1989)
CHUD, or Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller, or the most awkward acronym in movie history, is a silly B-movie in which Daniel Stern and John Heard uncover New York City’s homeless transformed into mutants. The DVD commentary by Stern and Heard suggests they had more fun making the movie (and rewriting it as they went) than anyone ever will watching it.
The sequel no one asked for follows the last of the CHUDs, now inexplicably bred for military use, turning up and terrorizing small town America.
It seems the quality of campy B-horror movies is inversely proportional to how funny they intentionally try to be. Bud the CHUD wants to be funny. Bud is played by Brian Robbins, who went on to helm Norbit, Meet Dave, and A Thousand Words. So to amend my original theory: the quality of any film is inversely proportional to the involvement of Brian Robbins.
9. Hobgoblins 2 (2009)
Hobgoblins was shown on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in its ninth season and quickly became a fan favourite for its eccentric awfulness. Directed, written, edited and produced by Rick Sloane in 1988, it serves as a time capsule of shame. After the episode, it shot into infamy as one of the worst films ever made in the same spirit of Troll 2. A cult grew and, unlike the self-serious director of Troll 2 (who abhors his film’s ironic fans), Sloane decided to capitalize on it.
Hobgoblins 2, released in 2009, is a direct sequel with new actors recreating the roles from 21 years earlier. It’s what happens when the kid you’re making fun of in elementary school starts to get laughs himself. It’s just no fun to pick on him anymore.
8. Dracula 3000 (2006)
It’s astonishing that a movie so technically inept, featuring Erika Eleniak, Coolio, Udo Kier and Tiny Lister, about a vampire aboard a futuristic spaceship could somehow be so bloody boring. At the very least, the level of absurdity should be off the charts.
Tragically, however, the film plays out like a bad Alien clone right up until the moment it runs out of money. Seemingly literally, they run out of budget and blow up the entire spaceship mid-sentence. It doesn’t play out as a heroic sacrifice, rather an accident, as though a character said the magic self-destruct word.
7. Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows (2000)
When The Blair Witch Project hit theatres, after an aggressive (and early) viral marketing campaign, the modestly budgeted indie instantly became a hit. Still today, with a direct sequel by Adam Wingard being released this Friday, it remains one of the most hotly debated horror films of the past quarter century. Some found it to be the single scariest film-going experience of their lives, others were bored to tears.
Nevertheless, Artisan had a cash cow on its hands, rushing a sequel into production. For the sequel, they selected acclaimed documentarian Joe Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) to make his first leap into fiction. The commentary track on the film’s DVD release is worth it, if only to ponder why Artisan allowed Berlinger a podium to viciously bash his own film.
Seems Berlinger had some grandiose ideas, melding the real-life fandom surrounding the first film with an original story. Artisan, however, did not have such pretensions – their plans for a sequel included amping up the blood, gore and nudity absent from the quaint original.
6. Trees (2000)
Without discussing the (excellent) quality of the film, Jaws is responsible for a lot of what went wrong with Hollywood in the 1970s. It, alongside Star Wars, gave rise to the blockbuster, which by extension has provided audiences with the kind of gross excess with which the town is now synonymous.
But another tragic offshoot of Jaws‘ success is the Jaws parody. Without Mel Brooks or the Zucker Bros. behind the camera, parody can rarely be done well.
It’s unlikely you’ve seen Trees, the scene-for-scene remake of Jaws set in the woods. With a killer tree. Because…that’s inherently funny, I guess? The title doesn’t even make sense. Jaws is plural because a shark has an upper and a lower. But a lone killer tree would be tree, the Jaws equivalent being perhaps Leaves or Branches.
It was followed with a sequel, Trees II: The Root of All Evil (get it? They’re trees!…hey, where are you going?), which features what must have been a big get for the low budget production: Welcome Back, Kotter‘s Horshack, Ron Palillo.
You hear stories about the sets of Poltergeist and The Omen being genuinely haunted. However, what happened to Trees II was pure, gracious divine intervention. After post-production had finished, a lightning strike destroyed the hard drive containing the finished film. Director Michael Plekaitis was forced to re-edit the film and found the process so exhausting he scrapped plans for a third film in the series.
5. The Blob II: Son of Blob (Beware! The Blob) (1972)
The Blob was many things upon release – an early role for Steve McQueen, a thinly veiled allegory for the red menace, a showcase for corny special effects. Even Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake is a surprisingly sharp, entertaining, gory ride that manages to overcome issues like starring Kevin Dillon.
What The Blob was not was a slapstick comedy. That’s what director Larry Hagman apparently set out to make in his belated sequel. The result is cringingly dull.
4. Species 2 (1998)
Roger Donaldson’s 1995 sci-fi horror film Species is a naked decent entry in alien-run-amok subgenre. It’s an entertaining chase film with an above-average cast including Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whittaker and Sir Ben Kingsley.
The sequel found Madsen reteaming with co-star Marg Helgenberger and a cloned Natasha Henstridge to track a new alien threat that returns along with the first manned mission to Mars.
Madsen is a work-for-hire actor best utilized as a quiet force of nature in Quentin Tarantino films. Madsen is a blunt actor, and will tell you when he’s made a terrible film. “If I’ve made a bad movie,” he said in an interview, “I want my fans to know what they’re letting themselves in for.”
“Species 2 was a crock of $@!#,” he said in the same interview. What can you expect from a movie that casts comedian and Law and Order alum Richard Belzer as the President and expects you to take it seriously?
3. Day of the Animals (1977)
The 70s saw a boom in producer Irwin Allen’s disaster films such as Earthquake! and The Towering Inferno. Naturally their popularity was met with numerous imitators – to varying success. Hollywood was convinced that all audiences wanted to see were their favourite celebrities battle it out with forces of nature.
Animals follows a group of nature lovers in the woods after a rip in the ozone layer causes psychosis in every species. It’s worth noting that one of the hikers is Susan Backlinie, who was the bather in the opening scene of Jaws and meets a similar fate here (due to birds).
Leslie Nielsen also features significantly as an uptight businessman who wrestles a grizzly bear.
I’m aware I made this film sound infinitely more awesome than it is, because apart from the pleasure of typing the words “Leslie Nielsen wrestles a grizzly bear,” the film is banal, hamstrung by its budget and script.
2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
In 1974, director Tobe Hooper was smoking marijuana with actor John Larroquette in Colorado and concocting a modest exploitation film about a killer with a chainsaw. The film, inspired in part by serial killer Ed Gein, would grow from its cult status to one of the most well-recognized horror films of its era. With more violence implied than ever shown on-screen, the experience is a nerve-wracking (with Larroquette narrating, incidentally).
Two sequels and 20 years later, the film’s iconic cross-dressing killer Leatherface had fell into the same jokey territory that had befallen Freddy and Jason before him. The Next Generation is a muddled, confusing, near-nonsensical sequel notable only for hammy performances from then-unknowns Mathew McCounaughey and Renee Zellweger (whose agents lobbied to have their likenesses removed from cover art post-fame). Everything terrifying about Leatherface’s family instead becomes a platform for McConaughey to deliver awful redneck comedy. To call it unwatchable is to be kind.
1. Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition (1999)
George A. Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead is rightfully regarded as the gold standard zombie film. It was groundbreaking for its violence, as well as the fact that it was the first horror movie to have an African American lead (which features heavily in the film’s tragic conclusion). And it still manages to frighten audiences to this day.
For it’s 30th anniversary, John A. Russo saw fit to shoot additional scenes and modify the film’s soundtrack to “give it a more modern pace”. The additional scenes hamper the pace and, though black and white, are poorly acted and clearly shoehorned in. Harry Knowles of Aintitcoolnews called for a boycott, banning anyone who offered a positive review of the re-edit.
You don’t screw with perfection.