It is never fun to sling mud. Sure, it can be viscerally satisfying, especially when a film is particularly insulting to the intelligence. But no critic goes into a movie wanting to hate it (at least, no critic ought to do that). I don’t enjoy having to write a worst of the year list.
“Why do it, then?” you may ask. Well, it is one thing to try and be positive about movies. It is another thing to pay good money for a movie that makes you regret it. For some of these movies, my money went into their box office grosses, and it is important to remedy that fact by keeping studios accountable and steering people away from these unsatisfactory films.
Dishonorable mentions: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Gringo; Game Over, Man; Action Point; Mute; Fifty Shades Freed
16. The Cloverfield Paradox
While The Cloverfield Paradox is not a quality movie, the marketing campaign certainly was. A surprise drop immediately following the largest appointment viewing television event of the year (indeed, one of the last appointment viewing television events left on the calendar), the Super Bowl, The Cloverfield Paradox was primed to be the biggest “blockbuster” film for Netflix to date.
Whether it was that or not is uncertain, thanks to Netflix’s hush hush statistics. No matter, the third film in the Cloverfield franchise is a messy, unfinished film. Plot holes and general plot confusion abound as a sci-fi space film with essentially no connection to Cloverfield is shoved into the universe. A loose connection worked for 10 Cloverfield Lane; that was due to 10 Cloverfield Lane being a good film stand-alone from the franchise connection. The Cloverfield Paradox isn’t that. It is a cluster bomb of incoherent visual language that might look cool, but it means very little.
15. The Predator
At least The Predator feels like it is coming straight out of the ’80s action movie world. It just does so in the worst ways. It is unseemly and bloated, full of dull action and boring characters. Boyd Holbrook is a flat protagonist. Olivia Munn has little to do. And Thomas Jane is doing…something. What a poorly-conceived character.
The Predator doesn’t have the blunt machismo that makes Predator a fun cinematic artifact today. It has gunfire and muzzle flashes and darkly-lit action sequences. But none of that feels fun. And the main thing a Predator film can endeavor to be is fun. It’s just bland.
14. Fahrenheit 11/9
Michael Moore is divisive to begin with. But when his film is a rapid fire collage of things he wants us to be angry about, it is hard for people even on his side to find it compelling. Jumping erratically across the country, Moore drops in on topical talking points and does nothing with them. Save for the Flint narrative, very little investigation is undertaken on his part. He presents frustrations, appears frustrated about them, and cares little about offering solutions or opportunities to reach across the aisle.
Moore is megaphone-shouting into a bubble, and his bubble appears to be shrinking. Regardless of your political affiliation, it will be difficult to side with Moore on Fahrenheit 11/9, as the focus must always be on him. There are genuine aspects of the political environment that need to be changed. Based on this documentary alone, Moore will not be the one to instigate that change.
13. Super Troopers 2
The cult phenomenon that is Super Troopers was lightning in a bottle. Captured once, and now destined to be played on Comedy Central until the end of time. Super Troopers 2 does not capture that magic, as much as one might strive to be on its side.
There are a handful of quality bits, but the entire film does not stack up. The Canada stereotype jokes feel played out. The plot itself feels like a stretch just to get the sequel off the ground. Most of the film plods along, setting up set pieces that are overlong and lacking. Die-hard Broken Lizard fans will likely enjoy it. Otherwise, proceed with caution.
Peter Berg’s Mile 22 has some of the flattest action sequences of 2018. The entire film feels rote. For a movie about moving from point A to point B, it doesn’t have any feeling of movement. The plot is uninspired. The acting is just fine. Even with The Raid actor Iko Uwais in this film’s arsenal, there is little of visual interest here.
It is a very forgettable film. As the hosts of the great Blank Check podcast would say, this is a movie that doesn’t exist.
11. The Titan
Speaking of doesn’t exist, what is The Titan? I don’t even remember seeing this film, yet I gave it a full review. This Netflix original is a science fiction tale of medical experimentation on humans needed to terraform one of Saturn’s moons…I’m already bored.
It is a basic sci-fi premise: humanity is on the verge of collapse, so we must colonize other planets. What The Titan promises with this premise seems, initially, somewhat novel. How the medical procedure changes its test subjects is interesting, but it doesn’t go anywhere narratively. And visually the film is drab and washed out, making the act of watching it a slog.
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony is kind of crazy and incoherent in the best way. Taraji P Henson’s performance is fun. But Acrimony isn’t really meant to be fun. It is meant to be a serious domestic drama.
Looking at it from that intended angle, and the film is a mess. Story beats land like anvils at the end of scenes, screenwriting structure be damned. The kernel of a story at the center of this film is a good one, and I could see it being made into a compelling thriller. As it is made, though, it is all over the place and tonally more humorous than dramatic.
9. Hell Fest
Nothing escapes from your mind faster than the experience of watching Hell Fest. The 90 minutes it takes to sit through this slasher starts leaving your memory before the film is over. By the time you are in the car on the way home from the theater you may find yourself forgetting why you were driving in the first place.
There is no substance here. It is a reskin of Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse. Just like that film, it does little with the genre. It pleases those who enjoy horror regardless of quality (not that there is anything wrong with being such a spectator). It is a throwback to a bygone era of slasher filmmaking, and it adopts all of the same shortcomings.
The premise of The Happytime Murders is the only effective concept in the film. The idea of a hard-R world inhabited by puppets is creative, if not done before. But like Meet the Feebles, the film is not much more than its high concept premise. The comedy is hard to find. It is juvenile and lackluster. And it feels like a first draft script in desperate need for some punch-up.
7. Hurricane Heist
Fun for its lack of logic, Hurricane Heist is the enjoyable brand of bad movie. But that enjoyment only goes so far. Predominantly, Heist is a gray, bland action film who leans on its high concept premise as a crutch. The characters are paper thin and lack chemistry. The action is flat and ill-choreographed.
Hurricane Heist is a film only entertaining to the most avid of bad film watchers. A couple of beers and a couple of friends go a long way with this one.
Kin wants to be everything for all people, and winds up being nothing for nobody. Too much of a coming of age story for an adult audience, yet too gritty for a younger audience. This bleak atmosphere is also visually dull, making for a bland experience.
This is without mentioning the alien firearm which allows for the film’s premise, a prop that holds little bearing on the plot and is never a compelling plot device. The film is a slog that grinds forward until it reaches the most baffling cameo of 2018, the appearance of a famous actor that is meant to set up, what, a franchise?
Don’t count on it.
Overboard is boring and unnecessary. A remake nobody asked for, putting together stars with no chemistry, that depicts characters that are entirely unlikable. Don’t feel bad if you’ve already forgotten its existence.
Infamously panned, Gotti is more of a quirky failing than a frustrating one. John Travolta as John Gotti is fun to watch, in the strangest sense of the word fun. Kevin Connolly’s direction is flat and shoddy. The narrative is trite and conventional to the T.
Gotti is a Scorsese knockoff that ignores everything Scorsese does to make compelling cinema.
Helen Mirren could not save Winchester. The lovely, heavily acclaimed actress somehow found herself in one of the worst horror movies of the year. Perhaps it was a fun change of pace for her, and one cannot fault her for the film’s shortcomings.
But Winchester is a bore. It is dull and plodding, moving around tight, pitch black hallways without a lick of tension. The oversized estate is meant to be this towering, ominous presence. But the film never seems to capture it in an ominous light. As good as this film may have looked to a studio on paper, it is a tedious and sleep-inducing 100 minutes.
2. Holmes and Watson
There is a reason why this list is 16 movies long. This article was all set to go. Then I saw Holmes and Watson. A movie so egregiously unfunny that it stormed onto my list as a contender for the top spot. So let this be my de-facto review of the film.
There are three jokes I found humorous in the screening of Holmes and Watson. All of them are in the last 10 minutes of the film, coming as a result of my mind begging for something to make me laugh. They are not great jokes. Two of them involve the Titanic. The third is a tossed in bit of nonverbal reaction from Will Ferrell. The humor here feels like it is derived from Stockholm syndrome.
Ferrell and John C. Reilly have proven their chemistry in the past. Supporting players Rebecca Hall, Rob Brydon, and Kelly Macdonald are all fantastic talents. But none of them are done justice here. Great comedian Lauren Lapkus, known for her characters, is not even allowed to speak.
Just imagine the groan-worthy selfie joke in the film’s trailer, add artless slapstick and an extended musical number that is only humorous because the film comments on its utter uselessness, and you have a good idea of what to expect from Holmes and Watson. Re-watch Talladega Nights or Step Brothers (take your pick) and forget this movie ever existed.
1. Truth or Dare
The holy grail of bad 2018 cinema. Winchester is dull; Truth or Dare is crazy. For a movie about the game of truth or dare, the truths are CW-show melodramatic and the dares are, in some cases, completely illogical. And the distorted face that marks the only prominent horror imagery in the film looks like it is intended for a parody film.
Truth or Dare reminds me of other terrible teen horror films like Rings or Smiley: juvenile but listless, all over the place but entirely uninspired. It is a lazy film looking for a quick payday. That’s all there is to it. It is the Blumhouse model at its most cynical and money-driven. Jason Blum is a producing genius in a lot of ways, but he isn’t afraid to toss out consciously awful films to keep the business healthy.