Believe it or not, making worst-of lists is a heck of a lot harder than making best-of determinations. The explanation for why may seem specious at first, but follow along anyway. You see, something good stands out for numerous reasons – brilliant direction, monumental acting, a quick and brainy script, an approach to a subject that is fresh and dynamic. Even when that story seems similar and the elements reek of the routine, energy and mood, tone and treatment can all aid in a film’s final aesthetic determination. But with the bad, the facets are sadly familiar – boring execution, non-existing cinematics, lame, ludicrous writing and performances that range from problematic to pathetic. These aggravating aspects never change, they never alter their underachieving patchiness. A crappy effort is a crappy effort, each one feeling similarly unworthy and unacceptable.
So when faced with the mountain of mediocrity a DVD critic is exposed to each year, finding a mere 10 that turn your stomach is an exercise in remembrance and repulsion. Looking back means identifying works that wasted your time, revisiting filmmakers whose arrogance blinded them to their true lack of artistic acumen, and generally re-experiencing the pain of time lost, sensibilities shaken, and interest waned. Again, the same rules apply here as with the Films You’ve Never Heard Of category. The movie itself can be from any year – the digital version, however, had to arrive on the medium in the past 12 months. For the most part, we are dealing with dull, lifeless movie macabre. Between Joe Bob Briggs’ famous three “Bs” – blood, breasts and beasts” – there’s enough genre junk on hand to send horror back to its pre-Gothic roots.
So grab hold of your aesthetic and wade in cautiously. SE&L‘s 10 Worst DVDs of 2007 have been known to drown even the most adventurous cinematic swimmer:
#10 - Mummy Maniac
At first glance, Mummy Maniac looks like your standard serial killer crap. After watching it, you realize it’s just another dismal digital excuse for dread. It’s the product of first time filmmaker Max Nikoff and his ongoing association with none other than Ulli Lommel (the direct to DVD cousin of fellow German joke Uwe Boll). Reduced to churning out horrendous hack fright flicks with all the panache of a heart punch since his ‘80s heyday, the aesthetic acorn hasn’t fallen far from the offal oak Lommel has spawned. Nikoff, who worked on a few of his mentor’s miserable motion pictures, produces equally worthless junk, excuses for entertainment that are neither clever nor competent.
#9 - Gag
Sigh. This is what it’s come to. This is what dedicated fright fans, supporters of the genre critics love to hate and mainstream audiences love to marginalize, have to put up with. Gag is an appropriate title for this offensive little load. The entendre applies to a number of B&D ball stoppers used, the nauseating nature of our murderer’s methods, and our intestinal fortitude once this 78 minute stool sample has finally passed. In a world where some manner of god would step in and stop such unimaginative copycatting, this Sawstel slop wouldn’t exist. Clearly, said creator is on extended holiday as Gag is more than happy to deliver scene after scene of mind-numbing gorno mediocrity.
#8 - Mad Cowgirl
So pretentious that free-verse reading Goth poets are pissed off at its affectations, Mad Cowgirl is an overly arch load of bovine bollocks. It reeks of the ambitions of its self-important creator, crashing and burning like any good train wreck should. At any given moment, this dung pretends to be a sobering drama, an erotic thriller, a dark comedy, a character study, a social commentary, a harangue on the human consumption of red meat, and a mannered martial-arts homage. Unfortunately, our director can’t find his way through or out of any of these concepts, resulting in a movie that frequently plays like the cinematic equivalent of channel surfing.
#7 - Creepshow III
When you want horror, go to the people who know it best. For example, when you’re out to make a film called Creepshow III, based on a previous pair of cinematic installments created by macabre maestro Stephen King and terror titan George Romero, don’t send in a couple of hacks whose main credits consist of some under the radar episodic television work. Yet the directing team of James Glenn Dudelson and Ana Clavell were given the call. Responsible for some incredibly inept onscreen shivers (Museum of the Dead, Day of the Dead 2: Contagion), after watching their work in this abysmal DVD tre-quel, it’s clear that neither knows the first thing about delivering fear factors.
#6 - Curse of the Zodiac
Make no mistake about it - this is one of the worst movies ever made. Actually, comparing this crudely conceived compost heap with cinema and the infamous litany of lame motion pictures does a disservice to both entities. Rare is the filmmaker that finds Ed Wood or Dale Restingini readily capable of mocking him, but ex-Rainer Werner Fassbinder pupil Ulli Lommel easily earns said metaphysical mudslinging. This senseless exercise in celluloid hubris wants to bring a new perspective to the now notorious ‘60s/‘70s unsolved killing spree. Apparently, such a revamp needs to involve inconsistent period details, incredibly bad adlibbed acting, and a killer whose externalized internal monologue sounds a lot like that YouTube boob known as the Insult Alien.
#5 - Bizarre Lusts of a Sexual Deviant
Part pointless pornography, part attempted psychological character study, first-time filmmaker Zert Sineca’s cinematic stasis is all tease and very little release. It prepares its audience for 70 minutes of mind-numbing sleaze and ends up delivering a little over an hour of awfulness. It would be nice if the director had come up with some occasionally clever dialogue, or valid insight into the understanding of the sexually depraved mind. But all we get is another of those time warp titles that refract the passage of minutes and turn this entire entertainment experience into the cinematic version of a Depression-era danceathon. It’s as physically and emotionally tiring as those torturous excuses for 1930’s escapism.
#4 - Exterminating Angels
Mix one part David Lynch, a few unhealthy jiggers of Zalmon King, a quart of the typical French film flesh peddling, and a decidedly asexual approach to softcore, and you’d get just a small portion of this preposterous self-righteous smut stupidity. It’s not just that we could care less about fictional filmmaker Francois, his fascination with troubled actresses Charlotte, Julie, and Stephanie, or the preposterous moments when the foursome flits off to a hotel room to “rehearse” their “screen tests.” No, this movie hopes to probe the problematic mind of the female species. What it winds up offering is nothing more than endless sequences of existential conversation followed by moments of babe/babe finger-banging.
#3 - Amateur Porn Star Killer
If you have the audacity to scream “snuff film” you better have the cinematic huevos to deliver on such crass carnival barking. No, we don’t want to see you actually murdering your neighbor/spouse/significant other on screen. What we’re talking about here is realizing and fully understanding the vacuous reasons why such an exploitation non-reality remains a viable urban legend. Couple Shane Ryan (co-writer/director/star) and Michiko Jimenez (co-writer/star), think they have found a novel, neo-Blair Witch way to make such a dull first person POV slasher experiment resonate with retail possibilities. Mixing borderline XXX gratuity with a pseudo-realistic recreation of your typical pedophile/victim playdate, the results are horrific, sickening, sad, uncompromising - and impossible to enjoy.
#2 - Oil and Water
According to the old proverb, oil and water do not mix. Well, after watching the independent mess named after such a sentiment, it is clear that writer/actor/director Peter LaVilla and talent do not gel either. Sloppy, stupid, and without a single redeeming cinematic characteristic, this supposed romantic comedy is about as funny as a foot rash and as sentimental as a slap in the face. You can see what LaVilla is striving for: he wants love to bloom between two impossible egotists. Unfortunately, the filmmaker makes his leads into the most mean-spirited, miserable mofos ever to stain a screen. It’s like cheering for Bill O’Reilly and Anne Coulter to settle down and start spawning.
#1 - Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door
The Girl Next Door is a frighteningly irredeemable film. It’s light years beyond any so-called ‘torture porn’ and is so repugnant and reprehensible that Eli Roth would probably disown it outright. This doesn’t make it an unprofessional or talent-free experience, just an excruciating, nauseating, and distasteful one. With its ‘based on true events’ motivation and exploitation like desire to investigate the most vile of human behaviors, this is a drama that gives off significantly mixed signals. It’s like Stand by Me in a slaughterhouse, a retro coming of age where acts of inhuman brutality substitute for sipping beer and sneaking a peek at a girlie mag.
There will be critics who compliment the ‘brave’ performances all around, who point to Blythe Auffarth’s hapless heroine Meg and Blanche Baker’s completely wicked witch Ruth and froth at how daring and uncompromising their acting is. But in the end, it’s all in service of a sleazy, incomplete narrative that never explains the dementia behind the disturbing imagery. Instead, we are supposed to be shocked at the numerous atrocities (the plot is based on the horrible case from the 1950s involving the torture and murder of teen Sylvia Likens by her clearly insane Aunt Gertrude Baniszewski) and marvel at how artfully it’s all been done. Instead, we wonder how something this sordid ever got made. It’s beyond salvation or explanation.