6. Fantastic Four (2005)
While superhero films have become juggernauts and an extremely popular genre of their own in the past decade, in the early 2000s comic book adaptations were hit-or-miss affairs. For every wildly successful Spider-Man franchise there was a no-start Daredevil, and occasionally meandering garbage like Catwoman would miss the point completely.
Marvel’s Fantastic Four is a property that seemed unable to exist outside of the comic books, with adaption attempts going back decades in the form of cartoon series and one ultra-low budget, never officially released film version made in 1994 (solely made to retain the film rights) that’s not half-bad minus the barely there effects budget.
Finally in 2005 a big-budget live-action origin film of Fantastic Four was released–and it was terrible. Following the familiar origin story of the Fantastic Four, who are battered by gamma rays during a research expedition in space, resulting in their fantastic powers, elements of the adaptation just didn’t gel. Jessica Alba simply isn’t believable as scientist Sue Storm, being much too young and playing the character as flirty instead of serious; Chris Evans as Johnny Storm comes across as an unbelievable jerk-ass; and whatever-his-name playing Reed Richards plays Mr. Fantastic far too wooden.
The CGI is underwhelming, while the entire plot–which includes a “funny” montage of the four being under house arrest at the Baxter building–churns along at a leaden pace for what should have been a fun action movie.
The result is a film that’s enjoyable for all the wrong reasons: it’s one miscalculation after another, further hampered by cheesy dialogue and situations without ever truly gelling into a coherent film. Undeterred by the underwhelming original film, a sequel was produced in hopes of creating a franchise, 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which is similarly dismal.
Both are enjoyable for comic book film fans who like to watch the dorky early attempts at translating comic book characters to the screen before the art was perfected in the 2010s. Well, except for 2015’s Fantastic Four reboot, which somehow manages to be worse than these first two movies combined.
7. The Wicker Man (2006)
Not the bees! Not the bees! 2006’s The Wicker Man went memetic almost immediately thanks to the inimitable, insane acting style of Nicolas Cage, who plays the main character as if he were receiving unexpected electric shocks every six seconds. But if one only knows this movie because of the memes produced from it, the whole movie is something that simply needs to be seen.
A remake of the 1973 classic, 2006’s The Wicker Man follows the attempt of a depressed sheriff who receives a mysterious communique from an old girlfriend about her missing daughter, which is suggested to be Cage’s character’s daughter as well. He travels to a strange, isolated island community that’s run by a matriarchy and seems to have a pagan belief system. There, Cage’s character attempts to investigate while also being hampered at every turn by the increasingly antagonistic local population before finding himself part of a ritual sacrifice.
But enough of that: the purely bizarre dialogue, scenarios that comes across as hilarious instead of scary, and overheated direction and editing place The Wicker Man into purely camp territory. But its secret strength comes from Cage, who decided to go for broke in his performance, resulting in one of the actor’s most memorable roles for entirely the wrong reasons. The internet has agreed, with popular highlight clips of his more insane moments and memes immortalizing Cage’s insane acting choices throughout this movie. A must-watch for fans of “so bad it’s good” films.
8. Dragon Wars: D-War (2007)
South Korea’s powerhouse film industry has been making some of the best horror and action films of the past 15 years, becoming popular across the globe at a rapid rate and producing highly stylish films made by top-notch directors. Dragon Wars: D-War is a terrible example of what South Korean cinema has to offer.
The narrative–which jumps around in space and time from 1500 to present day–details how a race of magical giant serpents are used to take over the world but for the heroic sacrifice of a warrior, who is reborn in the present day to do battle with these creatures once again. Doesn’t sound too bad on paper, but how the movie details this story–with a confusing narrative, stilted humor, and expensive CGI that contrasts sharply with the somewhat goofy live action sections–makes it purely a cheesy cult film.
And possibly the most expensive cult film ever made with a budget of $99 million. While it was a huge success in South Korea, audiences outside of the country were confused by much of its content. This makes sense, considering it’s based on Korean mythology and deeply steeped in Korean nationalism. As a result, it screened to audiences who couldn’t make heads or tails of this monster movie.
But it’s also a crazy amount of fun if watched with the right attitude: as mentioned, the CGI effects are rather impressive while the elements that don’t work–which is to say most of the rest of the film–is a laughably confounding experience to follow. Monster movie fans who enjoy some high-quality camp will enjoy Dragon Wars: D-War.
9. The Happening (2008)
M. Night Shyamalan is a director whose career started at the top and he has been working his way down ever since. After the massive success of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, this director of magical realism began producing films with less and less returns of success. 2002’s Signs was decent but also underwhelming while 2004’s The Village is a well-crafted thriller with a letdown twist at the end. Then came 2006’s Lady in the Water, a thoroughly boring and terrible film that began to suggest this once-hailed auteur had run out of tricks.
In an attempt to recapture his former position as a master of suspense, Shyamalan made 2008’s The Happening, his first R-rated movie, and put the final nail in his career’s coffin as a result.
Starting off with a mysterious event that encourages mass suicides, with people suddenly killing themselves in bizarre and gruesome fashions, The Happening follows a high school science teacher and his wife as they attempt to flee whatever is causing this event, which ends up being nature itself. How and why any of this is occurring is never truly explained, although Shyamalan attempts to make something invisible like the wind the evil entity that signals the coming of this unknown force.
However, instead of being terrifying, the result is unintentionally hilarious. Mark Wahlberg is severely miscast as a high school science teacher, and in one instance attempts to talk to a plant to ask why it’s doing this. Zooey Deschanel is bland as his wife. Nobody seems to be acting like people would in an event of this magnitude and severity, which makes their zombie-like transfixion as they go about nonchalantly killing themselves (in one instance, by laying down to let a giant lawnmower tear them to shreds) underwhelming and more than a little funny.
Severely missing its mark tonally, The Happening is a horror film that plays like a comedy. Fortunately, it’s stupid enough that even its awful depictions of suicide are humorous instead of terrifying. Most importantly, it’s a film without a visible enemy, which makes the whole movie come across like everyone’s running away from nothing. It ends just as abruptly as it begins, with no further explanation or any clear resolution. For a horror film it’s garbage but as an unintentional comedy it’s a great bad movie.
10. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2009)
One day, far into the future, scholars will look back at the movies of the 2000s and wonder what exactly was going on in society to encourage such a mish-mash of conflicting films. At one moment you have large, violent, action-filled spectacles that seem to encourage the active destruction of the planet while on the other you have films that were produced seemingly encouraging the populace to think about the environment that plead for conservation. And falling somehow both in the middle of these two is a movie like Birdemic: Shock and Terror.
Written and directed by James Nguyen, a film enthusiast with no formal training who was inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a bizarre romantic horror film, where the first half of the movie focuses on two blank slates of human beings as they clunkily fall in love and the second half becoming a horror survival movie as–inexplicably–all of the birds of the world begin violently attacking people.
A crown jewel of “so bad it’s good” filmmaking, the ineptitude on display throughout Birdemic: Shock and Terror makes it a grossly fascinating film. On the technical side, the sound often drops out or dramatically shifts in quality from cut to cut, some of the film seems out of focus, every scene has a slight pause before and after each cut, which signals Nguyen had a very poor grip on what “editing” meant, and both its pacing and tone is all over the place.
On the acting side, there isn’t any to be seen, as the actors are stilted and wooden in their delivery. The main male protagonist stammers his way through his performance, and their characterization (he’s a super-successful businessman who just made a multi-million dollar deal while she’s a Victoria Secret model) doesn’t match what’s shown on-screen about the two.
Perhaps its best/worst quality, however, is its sub-basement special effects. Mostly shoddy blue screen effects with cloned puppet birds flapping away above and around the characters, it’s laughable that anyone–particularly its director–saw this footage and thought, “Yep. This is exactly how I envisioned it.” Made for $10,000 of Nguyen’s own money, the director thought he had made a real “statement” movie about the environment, even traveling to the 2009 Sundance Film Festival to independently promote the film and renting a theater to screen it.
Word got out about this abomination and it quickly snowballed into a modern cult favorite, much like The Room. It’s a shockingly atrocious film from beginning to end but there’s also something weirdly endearing about it and about Nguyen’s own drive to create and promote the film. After all, how many of you made a movie, no matter how poorly it turned out?
Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer whose work appears on numerous websites and maintains a TV and film site at MeLikeMovies.com.