Update – December 21, 2019, 8:00 pm: Cats was added to Dishonorable Mentions
2019 was a very good year for movies. In my opinion, there are (at least) three masterpieces coming out of this calendar year. But every film cannot be a masterpiece. Some films fail, are made poorly, or are downright offensive. 2019 had plenty of those, as well.
You can like what you like. I won’t stop you. If you like any of the films on this list, that’s fine with me (if you like the number one film, though, maybe we shouldn’t hang out). These are simply my personal least favorite films of 2019.
Dishonorable Mentions: The Angry Birds Movie 2, Cats, Fractured, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Guns Akimbo, Hellboy, The Lion King, Miss Bala, Pet Sematary, Replicas, The Upside, What Men Want
10. The Curse of La Llorona
There is a long history of La Llorona, or “The Crying Woman,” in film. But the figure of urban legend was not well known by American audiences before this year’s The Curse of La Llorona, which, while it might not be the worst La Llorona in film history, will ensure that the supernatural figure will not have a long stay in Hollywood.
The Curse of La Llorona is one of the flattest horror films of the decade. It is so lazily plotted and visually unsatisfying that every scare is accompanied by a groan. The film is an inexplicable addition to “The Conjuring Universe,” a franchise defined by its bombastic jump scares. But where James Wan’s two Conjuring films craft its jump scares within the context of delightfully spooky and visually dynamic set pieces, Micahel Chaves (who is reportedly directing the third Conjuring film, set to be released in 2020) fails to gin up enough suspense to sustain even one set piece.
9. Rambo: Last Blood
Perhaps there is something to enjoy at the heart of Rambo: Last Blood, something grisly and bloody and unabashedly machismo. And there is something to enjoy in Sylvester Stallone’s whole-heartedly earnest performance. But the film looks ugly and feels ugly, as it uses the camera for empty exploitation towards no meaningful end.
Last Blood uses a meager, under-written plot in order to establish faceless baddies who come to the fore for a lengthy climactic action sequence. That sounds like a Rambo movie, sure, but even this climax fails to live up to any expectations for a Rambo movie. It is lively for a moment, then bleeds out for an extended period of time until the whimper of a final shot. I cannot claim to be a Rambo fan, but the character certainly deserves a better exit than he receives in Last Blood.
8. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged
47 Meters Down made my worst of the year list in 2017. I was not a fan of the hollow characters and the murky, unfulfilling action. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, unfathomably (pardon the pun), is on a lower tier than its predecessor. Directed again by Johannes Roberts, this film has less character and less visual acuity. It is murkier. Its thrills are less thrilling. It is repetitive and clunky from start to finish.
If you want a good creature feature from 2019, see Crawl instead. While I don’t find it revelatory, it is light years ahead of 47 Meters Down: Uncaged in terms of B-movie excitement and entertainment value.
7. Kill Chain
There is nothing offensively bad about Kill Chain. It is simply uninspired and forgettable. The casting of Nicholas Cage is seemingly all this film has going for it, as it at least allows for a poster which some people will be drawn to. This is not a Nicholas Cage fan’s Nicholas Cage movie. It is a dull, unoriginal action film.
If you want a bonkers, off-the-wall, yet still visually interesting Nicholas Cage film from 2019, check out Color Out of Space. It is film which marks the return of director Richard Stanley. It is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft. And Cage puts on some offbeat vocal affectations. It’s fun. Kill Chain is not.
6. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
The very concept that a film would stake the claim that a massively infamous serial killer might actually have been an intelligent and savvy guy with something worth rooting for is astonishing. That the film which paints this moral grayness in favor of Ted Bundy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, also asserts that Bundy (Zac Efron) has sex appeal and that audiences want to see his butt is trolling and unforgivable.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile downplays Bundy’s crimes, focusing instead on how Bundy spun his public image while in jail. While it pretends to be from the perspective of Bundy’s girlfriend (Lily Collins), it truly wants to see the events through Bundy’s eyes. While some true crime films do this effectively, Joe Berlinger’s comes off terribly misguided.
5. 6 Underground
Michael Bay may receive more hate than he deserves. That said, 6 Underground is a bad movie. Bad. The first 20 minutes is an incoherent car chase sequence. Characters are still being introduced well into the second act of the film. It jumps back and forth in time wildly. It jumps from space to space wildly. It jumps from shot to shot wildly. It jumps from needle drop to needle drop wildly.
To be fair to Mr. Bay, it isn’t all his fault. The script from Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese is also unfocused and annoying. The performances from essentially everyone save for Melanie Laurent ring hollow, as the characters are defined by glib charm and superficiality. And the violence is over-the-top and juvenile. 6 Underground is truly a headache-inducing experience.
4. The Fanatic
Much has already been said about the trainwreck that is The Fanatic. It is, to be clear, not a quality film. However, it is not the worst film of the year. It just so happens to showcase an out-there performance from John Travolta, which easily elevates it to meme status.
What fails hardest in The Fanatic is not Travolta—he is at least…making choices. No, it is Fred Durst’s script and lack of directorial experience which sinks the film. The story is unoriginal and paints a nihilistic picture of humanity that is unseemly. Durst seems to be channeling anger unproductively through Travolta’s intellectually disabled character (and yes, it is an insensitive portrayal of intellectual disability). Fred Sawa manages to provide a good performance despite the script, but otherwise The Fanatic is ugly and inessential.
3. The Gallows Act II
The Gallows was not a good film. Maybe you can commend it for its low budget, DIY touch. But it was not a compelling addition to the found footage horror genre. The Gallows Act II is, shockingly, a step down from The Gallows in every respect. Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing directed both films, and they seem to be declining in artistic potential. The Gallows Act II is incompetently filmed and lazily scripted. Most importantly, it has no sense of dread or fear in its bones.
By the time you reach the crucial twist at the film’s climax, you will likely already be numbed by the lack of substance in the narrative. And this twist is not doing the film any favors, as it is wholly uninspired. Quite simply, there is nothing redeeming about The Gallows Act II. It is artless and hollow.
2. The Haunting of Sharon Tate
2019 saw two separate films taking on artistic re-interpretations of Sharon Tate’s murder in 1969. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood rewrites the event as a means of cinematic catharsis. For some, it was an effective choice. But I can understand people taking exception to that liberal fictionalization of history.
But at the very least Tarantino gives Tate a life within his film. Margot Robbie embodies a youthful liveliness in Tate that gives weight to the climax. Daniel Farrands, whose career is largely defined by true crime and horror movie documentaries, brings a cold true crime lens to Tate’s murder that is much less effective. The Haunting of Sharon Tate is a soulless, vacant exploration of a vicious murder. It is essentially a goosed-up reenactment with some misguided supernatural elements.
For one, Hillary Duff is miscast as Tate. More importantly, Farrands depicts the gruesome event in a sadistic detail which is offensive to the memory of Tate. What’s more, it is amateurish in its visual construction. All in all, The Haunting of Sharon Tate misses on every front. If you want a film about the Manson family from 2019, try Charlie Says. Mary Harron’s film provides a provocative psychological analysis of Manson’s acolytes which is genuinely intriguing. The Haunting of Sharon Tate is merely going for cheap shock.
Jeremy Saville’s second feature, Loqueesha, uses the guise of comedy fending off PC culture as an excuse for its overt offensiveness. The offensiveness is right in the title. But Loqueesha is, in the context of the film, more than merely a caricaturish name…it is a caricature perpetuated by a white man for selfish and self-serving reasons.
As for the excuse of comedy…well, it’s a complicated subject. Comedy is made to push boundaries. If a comedy subject involves race as a means of showcasing a white man’s ignorance, then that is not in and of itself an offensive thing. However, Loqueesha includes no nuance in its comedy, no introspection to its offensive measures. Saville’s character, who revels in the exaggerated-to-11 vocal affect, is called out for his ignorance once or twice. But he is ultimately celebrated for his ignorant actions. He is the hero of the film, and we are asked to love him for bringing new perspective to race in the way only a white man can.
It is, frankly, pretty pathetic. Loqueesha has no place being a cultural product. As edgy as it wants to be, it is loudly unfunny. As low budgeted as it is, it is visually vacuous. As much as Saville claims that the film is a commentary on race, it succeeds at being, at worst, blatantly offensive and, at best, wildly reductive. If I was making a worst films of the decade list, Loqueesha may very well be number one.
As always, thanks for reading!
Like CineFiles on Facebook for updates on new articles and reviews
Check out my page on Letterboxd
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)