Though it is always preferable to celebrate and recognise the films that audiences and critics enjoyed and rated highly in any given year, inevitably along with the best films of the year lists will come the worst films of the year lists too.
Film is, and will always be, subjective. And so, box office ratings and reviews may not always be the best signifier of what any one person will enjoy or on the flip side, hate. That being said, there are certainly films where the general consensus is that of derision and so the films in question are often ones that do fall below the standards expected from audiences and critics.
2019 saw a number of films that disappointed audiences and that did not live up to their potential. These films spanned many genres and showed that even well-established actors and directors were not immune from producing bad films.
A wannabe Quentin Tarantino/Frank Miller inspired film that is an insult to the genre. It is so stupidly unintelligent that it is cringeworthy to watch at times. The plot is weak, the writing is full of embarrassing exposition and the acting is awful. Mads Mikkelsen, who by all accounts is a great actor, looks completely bored in a tedious role which ticks every trope in the book.
The plot is repetitive and just feels like a series of a different ways to shoot someone’s brains out all over the wall. Imagine if you gave a group of particularly immature and violently minded teenage boys a film budget and Polar is what they would probably come up with. Perhaps it can be argued that Polar is meant to be received as pure trashy entertainment, but it fails even as that. If you want to watch a film that has multiple close ups of a corpse’s erection, then this is the film for you.
Based on the popular book series, After already had a legion of fans ready to adore the adaptation of their favourite novel. But what about everyone else? Would they be able to enjoy After regardless? And therein lies one of After’s biggest problems – it doesn’t know who its target audience is meant to be.
Yes, of course the readers of the novel form a part of the target audience, but they are going to watch it regardless. After follows students in college and deals with sex and relationships, so in that way it suits a more mature audience. But the romance is so insipid and silly that it feels more like the film is aimed at younger teenagers. Neither of these aspects marries up properly, so overall After seems slightly inappropriate for the younger audience and a bit too silly for an older audience.
The characters are terrible. Every one of them is a stereotype – the good girl, the bad boy, the nice boy, the bad girl, the suffocating parent, the absent parent, blah blah blah. Sometimes stereotypes cannot be avoided and are inevitable, but none of the characters had any depth. It was difficult to root for anyone or to be invested in them.
The main plot point of the film is the supposed ‘intense’ romance between Tessa and Hardin, an attraction that cannot be denied or contained. That’s all well and good – until it becomes clear that that the chemistry between the actors is not really that strong. It is also a problem if the romance comes out of nowhere, with little build up.
Throughout After, the disappointing trope of the nice girl falling for the bad boy is at the forefront of all that is happening. If this film ends up mainly being enjoyed by a younger audience, then it feels like it is setting an uncomfortable precedent for its young viewers. Putting that issue aside, Hardin’s ‘badness’ appears to be based on little else than his tattoos and penchant to be quite moody.
After does boast some nice shots, and a surprisingly emotional end scene, which could have almost saved the film, but overall After is just not strong enough in any category to elevate it from ending up on lists such as this.
3. In the Tall Grass
There may be nothing obviously wrong with the performances, cinematography or technical aspects of In the Tall Grass – those are all fine. No, the main issue with In the Tall Grass is that the film’s premise hinges on one very particular and major element. And that element is this – can grass ever really be that scary? And unfortunately, the answer to that is no grass is not scary. It’s not scary at all. And then later on, another nature-based element is added in an attempt to ramp up the scares. This time we must ask ourselves – is this rock scary? And again, the conclusion is no it is not.
If faced with the situation that the characters in the film found themselves in, then the nature in question probably would be terrifying but on screen and as a horror film concept, In the Tall Grass just comes across as laughable. As a breeze ripples across the vast field of rich, green grass, it’s just very pretty and scenic. It’s not like the scene in Jurassic Park where the grass is moving because there are velociraptors in it – now that was pretty scary! But more importantly, because the core premise of the film doesn’t work, the rest of the film just feels pointless and silly. In the Tall Grass completely fails as a horror film because it is not in the least bit scary.
Based on the novella by prolific horror author Stephen King, In the Tall Grass may work well on page but it doesn’t translate well to the screen. Even more common horror tropes like the creepy kid fell flat (because the kid was actually quite cute). And the gore felt like a desperate attempt to somehow make this film worthy of a horror tag.
4. Rambo: Last Blood
Sylvester Stallone is adept at getting a lot of leverage from his film franchises (Rocky being the perfect example) and so why not return yet again with another popular character? Wouldn’t it be nice to give John Rambo a proper send off and wrap the character up? Well yes it would, so it is a pity that Rambo: Last Blood does nothing of the sort. And shock horror, it even leaves the door open for another film – Rambo: Last Blood One Last Time anyone?!
Mindlessly gory and ingloriously mind numbing, Rambo: Last Blood fails on almost every level. The script is clunky, the characters are boring and the entire film appears only to be setting up to the violent climax at the end. A finale that is reliant on CGI gore and brutality.
If Stallone is intent on giving audiences more from the characters that they know and love, then everyone should cross their fingers and hope for more Balboa and let Rambo be at rest forever.
So, you have just watched the trailer for this film and now for fun, think of an unexpected twist that might happen during the film. No matter what strange or out there twist you come up, it is incredibly unlikely that you will guess what actually happens – and that is not meant in a good way. It is like someone had the skeleton of a really clever and intriguing premise for a film and then put it into the completely wrong setting, wrote a questionable script and then somehow made Academy Award winning actors look like amateurs.
In a crowded film market chock full of remakes and sequels, perhaps Serenity is the unique and original film that we all need. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that this is the only worst films of 2019 list that Serenity has ended up on. At least Serenity will provoke discussion, if not a lot else.