7. A Haunted House 2
The Paranormal Activity films are so incredibly cheap to make that it was only a matter of time before someone attempted to send the genre up. Despite a barrage of negative reviews (Austin Chronicle said it was “like watching a snuff film, only it’s the audience that’s dying inside.”), A Haunted House made $60 million on a budget of $2.5 million, so economic sense dictated that co-writer/star Marlon Wayans return to the well.
Forget the law of diminishing returns: this sequel is so soul-suckingly awful that you’ll run back to Paranormal Activity 4 (or maybe even The Ghost Dimension) for some light relief. This time, the movie also mocks The Conjuring and Sinister, leading to a bizarre running gag about the doll from the former, which Wayans has mistaken for a sex toy.
To his credit, Wayans tones down the homophobic gags this time around, but makes up for it with a streak of animal cruelty gags, so hillbillies with a streak of sadism and a penchant for mean humour will be in their element. Trump voters, this one’s for you.
6. Saving Christmas
When is a comedy not a comedy? When it’s a thinly-veiled lecture about why we should all love Christmas, delivered by some guy most people have never heard of.
Kirk Cameron, who was also in the religious-themed Left Behind movies (though not the one starring Nicolas Cage), is the guy in question, and the movie opens with him addressing the viewer directly, ranting that “They don’t want us to love Christmas.” The ‘they’ in question is never specified, so let’s assume it was the Razzie Awards members, who handed this megaflop four gongs, including Worst Combo for “Kirk Cameron and his ego.”
Most of the movie takes place inside Kirk’s car, where he lectures to his brother (named “Christian”) about how giving gifts originated with Christianity, not Paganism, so we should “put Christ back in Christmas.” Or something.
5. The Last Airbender
In this era of simple-minded narratives, where plot points can be guessed ahead of time, it’s heartening to discover a movie that keeps things unpredictable by opting for Ed Wood’s storytelling style. Not only is M Night Shyamalan’s movie as incoherent as Plan 9 From Outer Space, it shows what Ed could’ve achieved with a $150 million budget.
Based on the Nickelodeon series, The Last Airbender is so poorly executed that it annoys everyone who watches it. Fans of the TV show balk at the watering down of concepts, while the uninitiated are left aghast at a narrative that refuses to make sense. There’s a protagonist with magical powers, some characters you know are pure evil just by looking at them and lots of special effects, but it’s never even remotely engaging.
At least the dialogue provides a few laughs. In amongst the unforgettable clangers (“I offer my condolences on your nephew burning to death in that terrible accident”) are several lines like “there are powerful benders in the north”, which must’ve given British teenagers a few giggles on opening night.
4. Scary Movie 5
When the talking apes that evolve from our species discover Scary Movie 5 in the rubble of our civilization, they will seal it in their Forbidden Zone so that nobody – not Charlton Heston, not Roddy McDowall, nobody – can witness the true horror of moviegoing in the 21st Century.
What’s a sure sign that a movie is going to suck? When it opens with a Paranormal Activity spoof starring Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. You see, they’re shooting a sex tape (uh oh) that turns sinister when it incorporates gymnastics, clowns and horse riding. Then Lindsay becomes possessed and yadda yadda yadda.
After such fumbled beginnings, Scary Movie 5 somehow manages to get even worse, attempting to spoof the Evil Dead (which hadn’t been released when this movie was in production) with Snoop Dogg. They’re not very funny parodies, so presumably the joke is in seeing what celebrities can be reduced to.
3. Van Helsing
When The Mummy Returns made $430 million worldwide, Universal asked director Stephen Sommers to create another franchise based on their classic monster movies – which he’d clearly never seen. Sommers’ Mummy films owe more to Indiana Jones than Boris Karloff (or even Lon Chaney Jr in bandages), but with Van Helsing, he turns the monsters into comic book villains.
Seen briefly early on, Mr Hyde is the same ridiculous Hulk-like character we saw in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, while Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster have become so nonthreatening that they may as well be advertising breakfast cereal.
Then there’s Van Helsing himself, who in this version becomes a monster hunter employed by the Vatican. He gets corny one-liners and a ton of gadgets, so Hugh Jackman plays him like a suave secret agent, not a bad idea when he’s acting against Kate Beckinsale’s glorified Bond girl.
Whether they’re a deformed hunchback or a Vatican priest, every character gets the same lame, painfully unfunny dialogue. When a man transforms into a werewolf, someone says, “Why does it smell like wet dog in here?” Someone tells Frankenstein’s monster: “I don’t know if you’ve seen a mirror lately, but you stick out in a crowd.”
2. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
“Beginning, middle, end,” says John Turturro. “Facts. Details. Plot. Tell it.”
It’s good advice, but even after multiple viewings, yours truly was unable to find anything resembling a three act structure in Revenge Of The Fallen. The Decepticons return to earth to resurrect Megatron, leading to lots of explosions and special effects. Megatron kills Optimus Prime, leading to lots of explosions and special effects. Our heroes encounter a robot that whisks them to Egypt, leading to lots of explosions and special effects. Eventually, the film stops and credits roll.
Whenever the effects are out grabbing a smoke, we hear a song from the tie-in soundtrack album or see an overbearing product placement. To make sure our minds don’t wander in between being pummelled with overblown action sequences and crass commercialism, there’s a constant stream of unfunny jokes, including the “urban humour” of Skids and Mudflap.
Speaking in voices somewhere between Pam Grier and Jar Jar Binks, these clods exist to deliver such unforgettable dialogue as “Boogy boogy boogy boo” and remind us that Hollywood still loves dialect humour. Or as Jar Jar would say: “Dis is nutsen. Oh gooberfish!”
1. Disaster Movie
Described by one critic as “a plague on our cinematic landscape, a danger to our culture, a typhoon-sized natural disaster disguised as a filmmaking team”, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are the duo responsible for some of the most disposable (and unwatchable) films of the 2000s – Date Movie, Meet The Spartans, Epic Movie etc.
Friedberg and Seltzer don’t actually satirize anything, they just reward their MTV-saturated, junk food-munching demographic for their pop culture knowledge. What makes Disaster Movie so egregious? It’s basically more of the same, but it proves that even with a string of films behind them, they still haven’t learned the difference between spoof and mimicry.
In the first five minutes, we get 10,000 BC, Gladiators and Amy Winehouse ‘jokes’ before moving on to the likes of Juno, Superbad, Wanted, Hancock, Enchanted etc. (Remember those movies? Because you’re in trouble if you don’t). Friedberg and Seltzer’s films aren’t meant to be viewed by anyone out of their late teens which, given the level of wit on display, is just as well. If you can’t mock Hanna Montana or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, get a day job.