14. Ax ‘Em (1992)
Shot on a camcorder for $650, and endorsed by critic Michael Adams as “the sh**tiest movie I’ve ever seen”, Ax Em is a slasher movie from an African-American filmmaker whose father headed the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, which means it takes a dim view of the treatment of ethnic minorities in horror movies, right, gang?
No such luck – writer/director/producer/actor Michael Mfume sticks to every cliché and caricature possible, from gangsta rappers who have Yo Mamma fights to playas whose idea of a come on is, “You so fine ah could kiss yo daddy’s ass.” If you gave a camera to a 12-year-old boy and told him to make an ‘urban’ horror film, this is the movie he’d make.
For the first half of the picture nothing much happens, then suddenly a zombie with a machete appears and the uniformly terrible cast begin overacting wildly, literally unable to show their terror without running into walls and each other. Unreleased for a decade, the movie premiered in Washington DC in 2002 – to an audience of understandably perplexed NAACP employees.
13. Alone In The Dark (2005)
Uwe Boll’s follow-up to House Of The Dead wants to be another good bad movie – look, there’s Tara Reid playing an anthropologist – but stumbles too many times to appeal to the connoisseur. Even Plan 9 From Outer Space veers dangerously close to coherence in a few scenes, but AITD is more interested in car chases and CG monsters than in having a comprehensible plot.
In a 2005 interview, screenwriter Blair Erickson explained that Boll wanted an action film with a mysterious central character not unlike Blade or The Crow, but after expressing his disappointment at Erickson’s draft in a harshly-worded e-mail (“your story is an author’s piece, a drama, where we spend time with people!!!”), the writer dropped out.
Boll eventually handed writing duties to producers Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer (who also scripted the in-name-only sequel), but they were unable to lick the central problem: rather than tell an origin story, the film had to follow on from Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare, the fourth entry in the videogame franchise. In other words, the movie was only ever going to appeal (or make sense) to hardcore gamers. It was setting itself up to fail.
12. Catwoman (2004)
Bearing no resemblance to Selina Kyle, the villainess who first appeared in Batman #1 (1940), Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) is a graphic designer (!) exterminated with extreme prejudice by Sharon Stone when she stumbles across a diabolical masterplan involving a skin cream with dangerous side effects.
This naturally leads to Berry running around in S&M gear with her midriff exposed, swearing vengeance on Stone and whoever greenlit a movie with cheesy effects, dreary action sequences and crummy logic. Throw in a ‘comic relief’ gay character and you have a movie that, had it been a hit, would’ve shaken Western Civilization to its foundations.
One of Roger Ebert’s most hated films, Catwoman received seven Razzie nominations and ‘won’ four, including Worst Actress. Collecting her $1.98 trophy in person, Berry thanked Warner Bros “for putting me in this piece-of-s**t, God-awful film.” Go, girl!
11. The Horror Of Party Beach (1964)
In the same year that Dr Martin Luther King received the Nobel Prize, audiences queued up to see Horror Of Party Beach, a movie where rubber-suited fish monsters are thwarted by an apparently uneducated black maid played by Eulabelle Moore.
You see, radioactive waste has created monsters that carry off bikinied starlets, attack drunks and invade slumber parties, and science can’t stop it. Fortunately for our scientist hero, his maid is given to “yessuh massuh” dialect humour and ignorant enough to ascribe events to superstition (“It’s duh Voo Doo! Dat’s what it is!”). With such a lowly role, we might expect Ms Moore simply to disappear from the proceedings, but her presence in fact proves crucial to the plot.
When she accidentally s salt on a creature’s tissue sample, causing it to burn up (“I’se sorry! Oh lordy lordy!”), the doc gets the break he needs and the means with which to destroy the creatures. “That’s the answer we’ve been looking for!” he proclaims, and immediately sets about making the beach safe for booze hounds, promiscuous teenagers and white supremacists once more.
10. Zaat! (1971)
After a lengthy sequence where a narrator extols the virtues of the underwater kingdom, a mad scientist transforms himself into a fish monster so that he can take revenge on the colleagues who ridiculed his ideas (wouldn’t you?). After each killing, the rubber-suited fiend puts an X through another photo on his wall.
Meanwhile, two government agents (in red jumpsuits) are in lukewarm pursuit, and foil the Doc’s attempt to kidnap a skinny-dipping blonde he’d planned to mate with. “I cannot, I will not be stopped,” he thunders. “I will select a mate with the utmost care. Together we will create a new aquatic race!”
You’d think that a movie whose antagonist looks more like ALF than The Creature From The Black Lagoon, who uses the handrail to climb stairs and is photographed from the waist up because the actor was wearing tennis shoes would have a chuckle or two, but even though it was parodied on MST3K, Zaat! isn’t even good for laughs.
9. Mesa Of Lost Women (1953)
Somewhere in the Californian desert, Dr Aranya (Jackie Coogan) is turning spiders into beautiful women for world domination purposes, though it’s hard to see how Z-grade starlets in bad wigs (actually dyed mop heads) are supposed to take over the planet.
It’s also hard to care about a movie scored with a monotonous guitar and piano mix (also used in Ed Wood’s Jail Bait) that will set your teeth on edge every time you hear it. Supposedly begun as a different movie, the picture was left incomplete when original helmer Herbert Tevos took a hike after one too many arguments with the cast and crew, leaving director Ron Ormond to cobble something together from the existing elements.
For years afterwards, the resulting trainwreck was believed to be the work of Ed Wood under a pseudonym, what with its fractured narrative, bad acting and redundant voiceover. That gives you some idea of how lame the final picture is, but it differs from Wood’s oeuvre in one regard – it’s not bad enough to be funny.
8. Monster Island (1981)
When Jeff Morgan (Ian Sera) and his sidekick Artelett (David Hatton) are shipwrecked on the eponymous island, they encounter cannibals, giant centipedes and a rubbery monster that resembles a 50 foot tall Jar Jar Binks, but far more terrifying than the creatures is the film’s attempts at “comic relief.”
Actors whose light comic touch is exceeded only by the skills of Adolf Hitler attempt to get laughs by performing double takes, squealing their lines and generally overacting their way into Bad Movie Hell. Just when you think it can’t get any more shocking, along comes a coloured “native” who rocks an afro, slaps high fives and communicates with cries of “Inganga! Inganga!”
Equally shocking is the twist ending: the shipwreck was manufactured by Morgan’s Uncle (Peter Cushing), who wanted to strand him on an island he bought at auction (!?) in order to test his mettle. You see, the struggle to survive is the ultimate test to which a man can be submitted (or something), so Cushing populated the island with cannibals from central casting and rubbery monsters created by a “famous” toymaker, which would….oh, forget it.