The one thing that goes hand-in-hand with the Halloween season is horror. At the time when “demons and witches and ghouls” haunt the Earth, we humans like to turn towards good old-fashioned jump scares to keep us going. Why? I don’t know, I don’t care for the genre. I guess it’s because the adrenaline keeps us human and helps us confront the things that terrify us in a safe way. However, this plan doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, these movies bomb. Either because they aren’t scary-or worse, are laughable-or the crew didn’t put any effort into making a proper film, some films end up completely bombing, ending up dead on arrival. For this reason, I will spend this Wednesday Listicle looking at the Top Ten Worst Horror Movies of All Time.
Full disclosure: due to my lack of knowledge of the genre (I’ve seen many of the best, but few of the worst), this list will be stretched to its limits. I’ve barely seen some of these films, maybe just a quick watch on the T.V. one time. However, the films that make the Top 5 are some of the funniest, most ridiculous films you will ever hear about. In fact, they are so bonkers, I actually advise-no, I implore-you to check them out for yourselves. They are masterpieces of terrible, the wunderkinds of the ridiculous, and just straight up fun. If you don’t enjoy so-bad-they’re good horror movies, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Honorable Mentions (i.e. films supposedly bad that I haven’t seen): The Haunting, The Gingerbread Man, House on Haunted Hill.
I’ll give some credit to Stephen King’s bonkers Dreamcatcher: the Memory Warehouse sequence and execution is kind of intetersting. Lawrence Kasdan did a great job demonstrating this concept, filled with irony, humor and nostalgia. That being said, there’s not enough to save this weird-ass little movie. The writing is awful, the acting is bad (especially from Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant and Donnie Wahlberg), and the plot is absurd. In simplest terms, it’s about aliens trying to take over the earth by climbing out of people’s butts. I sh*t you not. Everything about this film is ridiculous and bizarre, and I haven’t even included the fact that there’s seven extra plots that go nowhere, including a top billed Morgan Freeman. The fact this film takes place in Derry, Maine is icing on the douchebag cake. It’s not the worst horror movie of all time, but it is shockingly bad, and it deserves kudos for that.
9. Jack Frost
No, I’m not talking about Jack Frost starring Michael Keaton, where he learns how to be a better dad as a snowman. I’m talking about the movie where a serial killer named Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is brought back to life as a killer snowman who can’t die and goes around melting and refreezing to kill his victims. There’s a lot of ridiculousness, but I don’t need to describe anything beyond a giant puppet snowman raping a girl with his carrot nose and then stabbing her with it until she dies. It’s one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen on film. It would be higher if the film was taken seriously in the slightest. Unfortunately, it was trying to be bad (but not THIS bad), thus making it a smaller failure than some of the other films on this list. Do I recommend it? I guess, if you want to see the lowest form of filmmaking. But otherwise, this film is just such an odd mess, you’re fine avoiding it.
8. Stephen King’s Children of the Corn
My father once told me that Stephen King is the greatest horror writer of all time, and his scariest work was Children of the Corn. I’ve discovered the first part is completely accurate. The second part, however, implies that he took a hard hit to the head during the 80s. Children of the Corn does, admittedly, have some promise: the idea of killer children is actually kind of scary, as The Twilight Zone, The Omen and Night of the Living Dead have proven. However, between terrible child actors (Job, as played by Robby Kiger, is unbearable), a god-awful lead, and bad dialogue, the film just comes off as ridiculous, simplistic and, at times, hilarious. Even, worse, it doesn’t actually end-they defeat the demon and the bad kids, and just kinda walk away, like nothing happened, as music plays eerily. Sure, John Franklin gives it his all as Isaac, leader/prophet of the corn children, but then you have kids like Malachai (Courtney Gains), who are so laughable they can’t be believed. Linda Hamilton needs to thank God every day she did The Terminator the same year, in order to save herself from the fate of the rest of the cast.
God bless M. Night Shymalan. While he didn’t direct this little piece of ridiculousness, he did write the story, and it has his fingerprints all over it. The idea, in theory, is a good one: five people are trapped in an elevator, and one of them is a murderer. However, then it’s revealed that this murderer is the Devil, summoned by a laughable opening suicide (and a video of the world upside down…Jesus Christ…) and THE FACT THAT TOAST LANDS JELLY SIDE DOWN. I kid you not, this is an actual plot point in the movie. Everything about this is stupid and predictable, and the only reason it isn’t higher on the list is most of the actors are trying their best (except for Geoffrey Arend, who any sane person would have stabbed within five minutes in that elevator, let alone the Devil). Nevertheless, the film is so laughably horrible, you kind of just have to see it to believe it.
6. The Gallows
My brother is a fan of bad movies and horror. For his 19th birthday, he asked me to take him to see The Gallows in theaters. I reluctantly agreed-I’m not a fan of horror, and I scare easily. So I settled in with a Long Island Iced Tea and prepared for the worst. What followed was one of the dumbest, least scary horror movies I have ever seen. The characters were unlikable, the plot stupid, the villain hilarious, and the Found Footage concept poorly done (they should have dropped those cameras much earlier than they actually did). It all builds up to one of the worst endings to not just a horror film, but any film I have ever seen. Bonus points are given out for a trailer that includes a dramatic version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
5. Plan 9 From Outer Space
Ed Wood is usually considered the worst director of all time. I think that’s a little harsh-his effects suck, his actors are wooden, and the plots insane, but nothing is so stupendously bad as, say, The Room. But that doesn’t make Plan 9 any better for it. The idea of aliens coming down to Earth in order to bring the dead back to life to help invade is batsh*t crazy, the fact that Bela Lugosi died early on during filming and is then played by a dentist holding a cape in front of his place is hilarious, the bad edits are painfully noticeable, and an interesting, Serling-esque notion of aliens trying to conquer us to prevent us from destroying ourselves is lost through flat-out bad directing. I won’t be too hard on the film, because I have great respect for Wood’s passion. But the man couldn’t make a good movie to save his life. It’s that simple.
4. Sleepaway Camp
My God, I really wanted to pick Sleepaway Camp as the number one worst horror movie of all time. It’s so ridiculous. From the fact that it looks like it was shot by a handheld 1980s video camera instead of something actual useful to its 70s-porno staging to the terrible actors, the film is flat-out bonkers. It opens with family drama straight out of The Room before moving on to a woman, played by Desiree Gould, giving one of the worst performances I have ever seen on film, including the rest of this top 3, The Room, and Sofia Coppola in The Godfather 3. Luckily, she only has two scenes, so we get to move on to the campground, where the slasher starts to attack. The murders vary in severity, ranging from boring (stabbed, shot by arrow through neck, drowned) to absolutely bonkers (burned with scalding water, stabbed in the genitals by a curling iron), as the kids continue to act like nothing has happened. This includes a baseball game, played between nerdy 14 year olds and 32 year olds dressed as 16 year olds, that goes on for ten minutes and has nothing to do with the plot. And then there’s the scores of bare male asses, which is par for the course in one of the most homoerotic films I’ve ever seen (I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be or not, because the films gender and sexual politics are kinda weird). Of course, this all builds up to the twist ending, which is by far the craziest, weirdest, most shocking twist ending in history. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. I have seen hundreds of films in my life, and I have not seen anything as crazy as this ending. I won’t spoil it here, you’re just going to have to check it out for yourselves. Because it really does need to be seen, in all its awkward glory.
3. The Wicker Man
Boy, where to begin? Nicolas Cage’s The Wicker Man remake is already a cult classic worldwide. Attempting to retell the classic 1973 version with a new twist, the film ends up being a mockery. The actors all overact every scene, the jump scares are laughable, the dialogue atrocious, and the finale hilarious. I can’t tell if the decision to make the sinister island all-women is sexist or feminist-Cage plays his detective (the worst cop in film history) pretty sexist, just straight up Judo-kicking them throughout the last fifteen minutes. The film is filled with “great” lines, from “How’d it get burned?!?” to his speech about his “daughter,” before we reach the finale. The film has two endings-the original and the unrated version-and both are bonkers and ridiculous, but it’s the unrated that gives us the film’s greatest contribution to society: “Not the Bees.” The film is hilariously awful, and I urge you all to see it at least once in your life. Or several.
2. The Happening
Some people will be shocked to find M. Night Shymalan’s The Happening over The Wicker Man on this list. There’s a good reason for that. I believe that Nicolas Cage was at least somewhat aware of how bad the movie was going to be and purposely acted that ridiculously. Every performance in The Happening is bad. From Mark Wahlberg’s apathetic behavior to Zooey Deschanel’s inhuman behavior, the film’s actors give the worst performances of their career. Add this to a terrible story (the wind is blowing chemicals from plants that make us kill ourselves!), stupid lines (“You know, hot dogs get a bad rap…”) and ham-fisted symbolism (“You Deserve This!”), and you have one of the worst horror movies in history. This all builds up to one of the greatest scenes in recent history, where Wahlberg speaks to a tree to convince it that he’s friendly, only to learn that it’s plastic. Don’t believe me? Watch for yourself. It’s one of those films so weird, you have to see it for yourself. And once you do, you still won’t believe it. But it is real. And it is terrible.
1. Troll 2
Yep. If you knew me at all, you knew that my all-time favorite bad movie was probably going to be the #1 worst horror movie of all time. It’s ridiculous. First, it’s written by an Italian woman and directed by her husband, who demands that the lines be translated directly into English, in all the awkward glory. Then, he insisted on casting only Utah locals to play every character, no matter of talent, believability or sanity (literally: some of the actors had just left the insane asylum). And then you throw in terrible cinematography and effects, and you have a truly masterful nightmare. This is all before I even tell you about the plot, which follows goblins (not trolls. There is no Troll One, and they never say “troll” anywhere in the movie) who try to turn humans into plants, because they are vegetarians who can only eat half man-half plant concoctions. The film makes no sense, features some of the dumbest lines ever (“If my father finds out you’re here, he’ll cut your little nuts off and eat them!” “They’re eating her! And then they’re going to eat me! Oh my goooooooooddddddddddddd!” “Nilbog is Goblin spelled backwards!), and it features a dramatic scene where a kid pees on his family’s dinner to save them. Did I mention the magically dead/not dead/ghost grandfather yet? The film is on par with The Room and Rocky Horror in terms of ridiculousness, whether intentional or not, and is, as far as I can tell, the greatest bad horror movie ever made. And I love it for that.
Are there any bad horror movies you all think I should watch? Any that I listed that you think are actually good? Let me know in the comments! We only have one week left for Sacred Walloween, and if this week was the worst horror movies, I wonder what comes next week? Stay tuned…