I do love the terrible movies, but sometimes there are those that make you guzzle the palette-cleanser afterwards. Here are some of the worst films I saw last year, as told to Mike and Iris at the Badasses, Boobs, and Bodycounts podcast. Here are my faves of last year. Spoilers ensue, so reader beware.
1. Lords of Salem (2012)–Way too much build up and confusing imagery, but little follow-through on story. I really want to like Rob Zombie as a filmmaker–I remember really liking House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, but those were getting to be a long time ago now. My problem with Lords, was that just as I was finally expecting the horror movie to start, as the Heidi character made her transformation (or whatever) into a full-fledged witch (or whatever), the end credits started to roll. All the menace and the malevolence of the coven in the first scene that threatened to wreak havoc on modern-day Salem was reduced to a couple on-screen sentences where we had to read what the final implication of this film was? Did Zombie run out of money two-thirds of the way through his production?
And in any case, the final implication was pretty limited–the penultimate reveal was that the witches create a ritualistic mass suicide? That hardly seemed worth the effort, or 90 minutes of everyone’s time. No huge threat to the city, let alone humanity. Like I said, I really wanted to like this film and Zombie as a director. Surely I must be missing something. I went as far to track down the novelization of this film that Zombie wrote. And? Nothing. It’s just a simple description of what we see on screen with a smidge more detail, but no insights into what I was missing. Probably because with this project–book and film–there’s no there there.
Rob, I’ll always love your music, and your first few films, but you really are making a lasting relationship harder than it should be.
2. Gappa the Triphibian Monster (1967)–basically, a get rich quick rip-off of Japanese monster films by one of Japan’s oldest film production companies (Nikkatsu), which has been in the business for nearly a century. At times, as the KaijuCast podcast (another favorite) discussion of this film noted, Gappa is almost a shot-for-shot remake of classic kaiju scenes. As if the best parts of Japanese giant monster movies were all mixed up and thrown against the wall to see what would stick. The resulting film is like watching the whole sticky mess slide down the wall.
3. Hobo With a Shotgun (2011)–started as a fan-made exploitation film trailer on a $150 budget for a contest that Richard Rodriguez was sponsoring, and when it won, they got rid of the fans and hired pro actors like Rutger Hauer to make the “real” film.
I’m not exactly sure what bothers me more: having pros replace amateurs, or the mere presence of Hauer. There’s only a few films I like him in, and I’m afraid I like him even less once I heard what an ass he can be on-set. Had the amateurs been able to stay on, this could have been (probably at best) something only as good as Thankskilling or Antfarm Dickhole. I find those sorts of films have much more charm than actors slumming it and trying too hard to recreate 70s grindhouse.
But seriously, the last scene of this film–in which the President of the United States contracts lycanthropy in the back of Marine One–should have been the starting point for this whole affair. Just so we could be spared the site of (an impossibly young) Dean Stockwell as some silly aide doing his best to keep up appearances.
All that said, this film may have the best line of dialogue of any film I saw in 2014:
I think your father is a cross between Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ.
The President–this cross between Lincoln and Christ–goes on to tell Dean Stockwell who’s turning into a werewolf again to “stop scratching at your palms. It’s just not manly.” Or somesuch. Not sure why I believe that our protagonist sees this guy as a blend of two of America’s most respected historical figures… But on it goes… An we didn’t even get into the secret Frankenstein lab under the White House staffed by little people.
5. The Host (2006)–I love monster movies, and this Korean variation on the theme seems to have learned all the wrong lessons, but I suspect it’s just that something got lost in translation. The trick to watching this movie, I suspect, is to know something about the cultural context it is embedded in. At least one person sees a number of visual references to Korean touchstones that probably would blow right by most American audiences. Most Americans–including me–being oblivious to all this might have just seen this as an incoherently scripted monster movie.
In which case this movie seems like it had a marketing problem. Don’t inflict oblivious horror/monster movie aficionados with coy social criticism and expect the film to do well as a horror flick. On the other hand, given the amount of comedy in this film, how sharp was the cultural criticism? I have no idea, and won’t get too wrapped around the axle on this. I keep saying to myself, it’s only a movie… it’s only a movie… it’s only a movie.