Actually, an alternative title for this particular list could be “the worst homemade hack horror films of all time.” It seems that every year, like calculated clockwork, fans from all over the hemis-fear log into their own particular brand of macabre and make movies, thinking they are the next Wes Craven—or more likely, Sam Raimi. They believe so much in their muse that they leave things out such as talent, creativity, acting ability, characterization, storytelling and technical competence. Of the ten DVDs discussed here, five are part of this particular category. A few come from decades back, when proficiency was countered by available outlets, but others come right from today, when digital determines capability - or at least, should.
As for the rest, the determination is a bit different. In fact, every year, it’s the same argument - is this a worst FILM list or a worst DVD list… and better yet, what the Hell is the difference! If you added up the number of comments and emails, questions and complaints, you’d have a stack of suggestions higher than a college slacker. The truth is, this category comes a close second to the “unknown film” compilation. Instead of focusing on the obvious choices we move slightly beyond the mainstream to seek out those titles which, in all honesty, didn’t need to be on DVD in the first place.
As the medium moderates and dips, as streaming and the high-def delights of Blu-ray overtake the home theater domain, the original aluminum disc format seems destined to be the last bastion for meaningless, mediocre product. Just like VHS before the end, DVD appears destined to serve the lowest common cinematic denominator, and then simply fade away. So without further alliterative ado, here are Short Ends and Leader’s choices for the most miserable DVD experiences of 2011, beginning with a problematic political screed passing as entertainment:
If she believed in such nonsense, Ayn Rand would be rolling over in her grave. As a thinker, she came up with some decent ideas. As a novelist, she was wooden, leaden, and leaning toward the soap operatic. So naturally, she should be championed with a three part adaptation of her most “difficult” work. As the lifelong dream of a confirmed member of the Tea Party movement, the realization of this particular cinematic aims earns kudos for trying. Sadly, what it accomplishes (and then tries to pass off onto home video) is a violation of all that is fresh, engaging, and dramatic.
What can you say about Passion Play? What good can you say about this sloppy, sometimes incoherent parable? It doesn’t really matter that writer/director Mitch Glazer made his name with Mr. Mondo Michael O’Donoghue from Saturday Night Live or helped co-script the now-beloved Bill Murray holiday farce Scrooged. He’s a billion miles away from such blackly comic beginnings. What this really is, however, is a soulless, heartless shadow, a mere specter of cinema that can’t stand up to scrutiny, explanation, or interpretation. When you try to scratch beneath the surface, all you get is the aroma of failed ambitions.
Mae West’s sourest swansong. Apparently, the star’s struggling ego was so big and her demands so irrefutable that no one could say “HELL NO!” to her, resulting in a movie, which tries to hide the fact that the romantic female lead is a stumbling octogenarian. With horrifically cliched comedic ideals, the lamest of double entendres, the most bizarre and surreal supporting cast in the history of hack Hollywood, it’s awful. To call it an affront gives it an implied power it definitely lacks. To somehow spin the experience over into something akin to likeable questions your very sanity.
In one of those typical low budget circumstances in which a great idea, under financed, starts out promising and then goes nowhere interesting or intriguing, Vanishing quickly wears out its already limited welcome. When we see our inert star, wandering the empty cityscape of an evocative Motor City, we anticipate something special. But then director Brad Anderson and writer Anthony Jaswinski draw the scope in around them. The result is a sheepish one act play where a group of noted thespians on a single set (more or less) try their best to salvage some shoddy dialogue.
Want to know how many bad ideas went into the making of this Tchaikovsky ballet classic? (1) there is no dancing offered here whatsoever; (2) characters instead sing songs based on the material with lyrics provided by Jesus Christ Superstar‘s Tim Rice: (3) the Uncle character looks like Albert Einstein, while another resembles Sigmund Freud; (4) the main character is rendered in subpar CGI, while a collection of animated toys are costumed nightmares; (5) the Rat King looks like Phil Spector, while his army resemble Nazis; (6) disgruntled citizens are placed in forced labor factories…and we’re just getting started.