It’s a cliche at this point to say that 2016 was a bad year. Putting aside the more intense political, social or deadly reasons, 2016 was also a major disappointment in terms of film. Well, at least mainstream films, mainly in terms of highly anticipated summer blockbusters. Horror wise, things were a bit more consistent, mostly for smaller surprises that came out of the woodwork. However, there were plenty of incredibly awful examples of how bad the genre can turn in 2016. Before we get into the list proper, here are a few horror and other genre films that didn’t make the cut for a variety of reasons.
- Incarnate, The Darkness, The Forest and Viral for being a series of rather forgettably bland Blumhouse-esque turns that wasted people’s time more than make a true impression.
- Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad for making me lose any remaining faith in the oncoming DC Comics film universe. Ditto with X-Men Apocalypse and the Fox/Bryan Singer X-Men universe.
- Independence Day: Resurgence for being the most insulting high budget blockbuster for the collective intelligence of the human race.
- Blair Witch, Lights Out and Purge: Election Year for taking so much potential and wasting it on characters and stories. Bigger disappointments of 2016.
- Phantasm: Ravager for ending a fun franchise on such a down note.
10. Zoombies – Directed by Glenn Miller
Every year for my Worst of List, I like spotlighting a “So-Bad-It’s-Good” horror film to bring some light to the tunnel of dread. For 2016, that film is Zoombies. With the basic premise of “Jurassic World but with zoo animals gone crazy”, Zoombies enters another world of stupid that’s honestly charming. There’s Asylum level bad CG, but there’s also ill matching practical effects, stilted hilarious acting and a child beating a koala to death. It is off camera, but that last one is still hilarious even in this context. Of all the movies on this list, it’s the only one to strongly recommend everyone watch.
9. Shin Godzilla – Directed by Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi
The King of the Monsters returns to his homeland… to sort of regurgitate what we’re already aware of. The big thematic weight of Shin Godzilla is that the giant lizard is treated as a force of nature destroying Japan. Yet, these silly bureaucratic folks in the government are too wrapped up in red tape to get anything done. It’s a note worth exploring, especially given the Japanese government’s reliance on such things in the wake of the massive nuclear disaster of a few years back. Yet, that’s really the only note being played on this fiddle and one that borrows heavily from the same Hiroshima commentary we’ve been getting since Godzilla started over 60 years ago. Co-director/writer Hideaki Anno tries over emphasising this for Dr. Strangelove style satire, but it’s quite laborious and grating, especially when none of the human characters really engage on any level as they sit in unbearably annoying boardroom scenes. Even the few Godzilla scenes can’t make up for this, from an awkward googily eyed initial form to a climax about as exciting and visually stimulating as a teeth cleaning. It’s a bland grey affair that made me respect Gareth Edwards’ American version far more in hindsight. At least that had Bryan Cranston.
8. Jeruzalem – Directed by The PAZ Brothers
Found footage horror has taken its fair share of wrong turns. Far more than right ones at least. But, one would figure that a change of pace in an untraditional setting could work to its advantage. Those figures were wrong. Jeruzalem is about as stiled and awkward as a found footage could get, starting right from the dated-at-release conceit of Google Glass being our main perspective point. From there, we get a pretty lame brained Cloverfield rip off as a group of tourists and locals run around the titular city as zombie/angels/rejected Guillermo del Toro designs attack the city. There’s also a kaiju sized golem that runs around as a blurry CG… foot, I think? Couldn’t really tell. Nor did I really care to put much time into doing so.
7. The Disappointments Room – DJ Caruso
When you hear that someone’s making a gothic romance ghost story, the first director to pop into mind is clearly the guy behind Disturbia, Eagle Eye and I Am Number Four. DJ Caruso was obviously an awful pick for The Disappointments Room, turning this film about haunted horrors of the past into a sleek, cold and bland mess. Whatever Stoker screenwriter Wentworth Miller was trying to put out in this tale gets totally lost in the process. From the moment the miscasting of Kate Beckinsale and Mel Raido as a troubled married couple with zero chemistry settles in, one sees the writing on the wall. The whole thing hinges on their family dynamic being in jeopardy, but how can one care when none of that dynamic seems legitimate in the first place? The horror doesn’t work either. We’re supposed to question if any of this is real, but between showing restraint for obvious build up and then extreme gore that leaves no impact there’s no consistent style to effectively build tension, dread or interest. The only scene honestly worth a damn is a dinner scene that has Kate Beckinsale going full on Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on us to unintentionally hilarious effect. So, the perfect kind of memorable horror scene, right?
6. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies – Directed by Burr Steers
Speaking of films that have no idea of what they want to be, it’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! A film that’s unsure of how to execute horror, comedy, action, period piece or war style aesthetics, both as a coherent tonal whole and on any level individually. Aside from solid performances by Lily James and Matt Smith, nothing about this attempted satiric take on the original Jane Austin story or zombies feels cohesive. It feels like a failed three minute YouTube sketch that somehow became a feature. The joke is one note and plays on how funny one finds the copy and paste of a comedy of manners for fleshing eating ghouls. That’s not likely to be anyone, given the Jane Austin audience likely won’t not enjoy the zombie angle and vice versa for zombie fans. Especially when every single makeup and CG effect used to create the bloody zombies is atrociously unconvincing. Still, the effects at least fit the type of movie they’re in.
5. Martyrs – Directed by Kevin & Michael Goetz
The original 2008 film Martyrs is one of the best examples of how torture and horror can actually coexist quite well. Full of tension, pain and emotional anguish that unfolds seamlessly before our eyes, the French film doesn’t hold back on getting us invested in these three dimensional characters through situational circumstance before things go south. The 2016 American remake loses all of this nuance in translation. What was once heartbreaking tale of friendship turning south before it can expanded and religious extremism becomes an exercise in tedious action/thriller cliches. Even the one semi-horrific supernatural element is clearly explained away in totally unnecessary backstory filler. It all culminates in the ending, which is the biggest bungling of all. The clearly important ambiguity that’s spelled out to make some kind of happy ending out of things.
4. 31 – Directed by Rob Zombie
There’s not too much to be said about a Rob Zombie film. And that’s the exact problem. All of the potential he exhibited in The Devil’s Rejects and earnest desire to change with the disappointing misfire of Lords of Salem is gone when we get 31, an exercise in repeating his stylistic flourishes and tremendously tedious characters that Zombie has made his raison d’etre over the past several years. Aside from Richard Brake’s intimidating performance, this is yet another example of Zombie retreading the style of grungy 70s horror without the engaging characters, smidgen of restraint or memorable daring subject matter that made those films so infamous. Instead, Zombie just sort of spins his wheels, having his characters spout out foul language instead of speak with the nuance of real humans. Claiming they’ll “fuck pregnant chicks to get a blow job from the baby.” It’s trying too hard to offend instead of offending for a purpose.
3. Night of Something Strange – Directed by Jonathan Straiton
Speaking of trying too hard to offend, Night of Something Strange uses that premise as the crux of it’s goals. Goals that – in proper hands – can insight thought and outrage that matters. Here, it’s a sophomoric exercise in trying to get those with the mentalities of 14 year olds to giggle. Nothing wrong with the offensive angle necessarily, but the execution of every joke pretty much falls as flat as the pratfall one character has before jerking himself off with a period blood soaked condom. The biggest shame here is that – for a smaller budget independent production – the cinematography and makeup/effects work is pretty impressive. We can see with phenomenal clarity and incredible effects work this display of unadulterated humorless stupidity.
2. Boo! A Madea Halloween – Directed by Tyler Perry
Speaking of humorless stupidity, the top three is a carousel of that as we get another horrible horror comedy on our hands. Well, less a “horror comedy” and more “an extended Halloween sitcom of a TBS show.” Writer/director/producer/star Tyler Perry’s latest entry in his popular Madea franchise attempts to fit itself into a spooktacular fun subgenre, but ends up being a painful experience in how endless a comedy can be. The horror sequences are half assed and quick, but the comedy sequences are grueling endless examples of poor editing. There’s a sequence between Tyler Perry’s three characters and two others that lasts fifteen minutes yet feels about the length of a motion picture. It’s one of many examples of how Perry self-sabotages his jokes with a desire to keep his darlings instead of developing what might work.
1. Yoga Hosers – Directed by Kevin Smith
However, no one is more guilty of making a comedy with an absolute lack of laughs than Kevin Smith. His latest frustrating plunge into rock bottom involves him dragging his daughter Harley Quinn, her IRL best friend Lily Rose Depp and her father Johnny Depp into a brutally unfunny mess. Somehow, a film involving sentient Nazi meat, hockey sticks and bumbling detectives is bungled not just as an effective premise, but as something that could even be called interesting. Yoga Hosers attempts Gremlins style critter antics, Clueless-esque satire of modern teenagers and self-mocking looks into Smith’s own career past. The juggling is bungled pretty profoundly, never producing even a tenth of the creativity and craft needed to make this exercise tolerable. It’s not only the absolute low in Smith’s career, but an absolute low for pretty much everyone involved. And keep in mind that Johnny Depp was in The Lone Ranger.