OMG – The 20 Worst Films of 2008

Director: Fred Wolf
Film: Strange Wilderness
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Steve Zahn, Allen Covert, Jonah Hill, Robert Patrick
Website: http://www.strangewildernessmovie.com/
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 2009
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/s/strangewildernesspoter.jpg

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List number: 20

Strange Wilderness

Fred Wolf

Steve Zahn, a reliable character actor with a decent range, is paired with Allen Covert, an actor who appears almost exclusively in Adam Sandler productions. As Peter and Fred, they track Bigfoot in order to salvage their television show. While Pineapple Express benefited from the combination of hapless burnout characters with recognizable action film conventions, Strange Wilderness aspires to nothing more than self-satisfaction. Its plot is so ramshackle that one longs for even the basic episodic qualities of other slacker adventure films. The cast, also featuring Jonah Hill, Kevin Heffernan, Justin Long, and Ernest Borgnine (!) improvises uncomfortably through the entire film, which limply concludes with an outtake. Thomas Britt

Strange Wilderness

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Film: Rambo
Studio: Lionsgate
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Rey Gallegos, Tim Kang, Jake LaBotz, Maung Maung Khin, Ken Howard
Website: http://movies.break.com/rambo/
MPAA rating: R
Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/45/4545/videos/?s=trailers
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-01-25 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-02-22 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/r/rambo-poster.jpg

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List number: 19

Rambo

Sylvester Stallone

A lot of people actually seemed to like Rambo, and I’ll admit there is some pretty solid action in the movie. But Sylvester Stallone tries to have it both ways, and he undermines the film before it even gets started. In trying to bring to light the atrocities committed on a regular basis by Myanmar’s ruling junta, Stallone uses actual footage of some of these gruesome atrocities at the very beginning of the movie. This real-world jolt casts a pall over all of the fictionalized, very bloody action to follow. Instead of giving additional justification to Rambo’s violent actions against the junta, it makes the whole thing rather sickening to watch. Chris Conaton

Rambo

Director: Lexi Alexander
Film: Punisher: War Zone
Studio: Lionsgate
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok, Colin Salmon, Doug Hutchison
Website: http://www.punishermovie.com/
MPAA rating: R
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-12-05 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/punisherwarzoneteaser.jpg

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List number: 18

Punisher: War Zone

Lexi Alexander

The newest attempt to make a franchise out of Marvel’s vigilante superhero (his less than epic power: owning many, many guns) succeeds mainly in making the Tom Jane version from 2004 look a lot more respectable, via a meatheadier Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) and Z-grade everything else. Like Stallone’s newest Rambo, The Punisher: War Zone mistakes endless splatters of exploding human flesh for the purest form of badassery — ’cause it takes real guts, apparently, to have the effects technicians throw fake ones all over the walls. Don’t trust any geeks who try to sell any of this as intentionally sick comedy; the stupidity muffles any incidental laughs. Jesse Hassenger

Punisher: War Zone

Director: Jon Poll
Film: Charlie Bartlett
Studio: MGM
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton
Website: http://charliebartlett-themovie.com/
MPAA rating: R
Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/60/4160/videos/?s=trailers
First date: 2007
Distributor: MGM
US Release Date: 2008-02-22 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/c/charlie-bartlett-poster.jpg

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List number: 17

Charlie Bartlett

Jon Poll

Has youthful rebellion ever seemed faker or more pretentious than it does in Charlie Bartlett? The teenagers that populate Charlie’s school are all precocious know-it-alls suffering from the same secret misery: they have some unfulfilled creative impulse those no-good adults won’t let them express, man. Instead of seeing adolescence as a time of confusion and uncertainty, screenwriter Gustin Nash tries to imagines it as a black-and-white clash of smug teens against tyrannical adults. By the time the student body riots when their principal adds security cameras to their opulent student lounge (their rallying cry: “This is a school, not a prison!”), you’ll be rooting for everyone to wind up in detention. Just wait until these punks get a taste of the real world. Jack Rodgers

Charlie Bartlett

Director: Andy Tennant
Film: Fool’s Gold
Studio: Warner Bros.
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland, Ewen Bremner, Alexis Dziena, Kevin Hart, Ray Winstone
Website: http://foolsgoldmovie.warnerbros.com/
MPAA rating: PG-13
Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/48/4748/videos/?s=trailers
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-02-08 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-04-18 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/f/fools-gold-poster.jpg

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List number: 16

Fool’s Gold

Andy Tennant

Fool’s Gold is a romantic comedy sporting sunny weather and attractive lead performers — superficial elements that cannot mask the emptiness that plagues this passive treasure hunt. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey speak with exasperated disbelief as they recite the script, which must hold some sort of record for force-fed exposition. At the end of the insufferably protracted first act, Finn (McConaughey) spends five minutes telling the story of a sunken ship as if pitching the idea to a film producer. At the conclusion of Fool’s Gold, after waiting in vain for something original or exciting to happen, the audience is also pining for that other, certainly more promising film. Thomas Britt

Fool’s Gold

Director: George Clooney
Film: Leatherheads
Studio: Universal Pictures
Cast: George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Root
Website: Leatherheads
MPAA rating: PG-13
Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/video/V07L9adgpqtNQR
First date: 2008
Distributor: Universal Pictures
US Release Date: 2008-04-04 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-04-11 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/l/leatherheads-poster.jpg

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List number: 15

Leatherheads

George Clooney

George Clooney seems like the perfect choice to direct and star in a movie that takes place in the 1920s. He has that old-school charm and the ability to rattle off the rapid-fire dialogue the movies of that period were known for. Yet Leatherheads ends up being curiously flat. John Krasinski, so appealing on The Office, doesn’t quite fit in his role as the young football star. Worse is Renée Zellweger, who tries hard but shows no real aptitude for the stylized dialogue. Although the football scenes work well and are amusing, whenever the movie attempts to do screwball comedy off of the field, and it happens frequently, it’s almost painfully unfunny. Leatherheads is not flat-out awful, but it does a lot of different things poorly. Chris Conaton

Leatherheads

Director: Eric Valette
Film: One Missed Call
Studio: Warner Bros.
Cast: Ed Burns, Shannyn Sossamon, Ana Claudia Talancón, Ray Wise, Azura Skye, Jason Beghe, Margaret Cho
Website: http://onemissedcallmovie.warnerbros.com/
MPAA rating: PG-13
Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/11/4411/videos/?s=trailers
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-01-04 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-02-08 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/o/one-missed-call-poster.jpg

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List number: 14

One Missed Call

Eric Valette

The American fascination with shoddily remaking Japanese horror films must stop! One Missed Call, a Western redux of Chakushin Ari features all the usual suspects of Asian and American horror fusion: Creepy vengeful spirit of a child? Check. Technology used against those who posses it by vengeful spirits who possess it? Check. A cast of actors pushing 30 passing themselves off as teens meeting a battery of grisly demises? Check. If you’ve seen one of these remakes, you’ve seen ’em all. The only thing frightening about One Missed Call is just how much gets lost in the translation. Well, that and the rumor that there’s a sequel in the works. Lana Cooper

One Missed Call

Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Film: Traitor
Studio: Overture Films
Cast: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Neal McDonough, Saïd Taghmaoui, Archie Panjabi
Website: http://www.traitor-themovie.com/
MPAA rating: PG-13
Trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1809982364/trailer
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-08-27 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/traitor-poster.jpg

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List number: 13

Traitor

Jeffrey Nachmanoff

Don Cheadle plays a suspected American terrorist, and Guy Pearce is the FBI agent on his tail, from an original story idea by Steve Martin: all signs point to a sophisticated adult thriller. Give points to Traitor, then, for misdirection: what should be crafty becomes boilerplate, and what could be topical instead becomes relentlessly tedious. Cheadle will recover; it’s Pearce, one of Hollywood’s perpetually mis-or-underused actors, who has to bear the brunt of it, trading thuddlingly obvious good-cop/bad-cop ideologies with fellow agent Neal McDonough (a fine character actor whose misfortunate extended to an appearance in 88 Minutes). Jesse Hassenger

Traitor

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Film: Australia
Studio: Fox
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandoln Walters, David Gulpilil, David Ngoombujarra, David Wenham, Bryan Brown
Website: http://www.australiamovie.com/
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 2008
Distributor: Fox
US Release Date: 2008-11-26 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-11-26 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/a/australiaposter.jpg

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List number: 12

Australia

Baz Lurhmann

Some have wondered what would have happened had Baz Luhrman been able to get his Alexander the Great project off the ground before Oliver Stone. Now with Luhrman’s widescreen epic Australia we have our answer: his version might have been even worse than Stone’s. A crass amalgamation of classic-poaching clichés (everything from The African Queen to The Wizard of Oz and about a dozen Westerns), Luhrman’s film attempt to encapsulate all his native land’s beauty and ugliness in one overstuffed package is enervating from start to finish. It’s a film so unconvincing that not even Hugh Jackman working on overdrive can save it; a rare but unwelcome accomplishment. Chris Barsanti

Australia

Director: Nelson McCormick
Film: Prom Night
Studio: Screem Gems
Cast: Brittany Snow, Scott Porter, Jonathan Schaech, Jessica Stroup, Idris Elba, Dana Davis, Colin Pennies
Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/promnight/
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 2009
US Release Date: 2008-04-11
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/p/promnightposter.jpg

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List number: 11

Prom Night

Nelson McCormick

In interviews promoting his remake (in name only) of the 1980 horror film, director Nelson McCormick cited Michael Powell and Alfred Hitchcock as influences. The finished film serves neither master. Brittany Snow plays Donna, who traverses the difficult emotional minefield of prom night with her cabal of dead-behind-the-eyes friends and becomes bait for her former teacher, an escaped convict who murdered her family years earlier. From blood- and scare-free kill choreography to wholly illogical character choices to detective characters who literally watch from the wings instead of intervening, Prom Night fails at its intended thrill-inducing effects and succeeds only as parody. Thomas Britt

Prom Night

10 – 1

Director: Kenny Ortega
Film: High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Cast: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman
Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/highschoolmusical3/
MPAA rating: PG
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-10-17
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/h/hsm3poster.jpg

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List number: 10

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Kenny Ortega

How is one of the year’s worst films also one of its guiltiest pleasures? Easy, when it’s Kenny Ortega’s third dip into the adolescent sing-along angst that is High School Musical 3: Senior Year (like the trailer says, “nice title”). This Andy Hardy throwback, complete with “let’s put on a show” storyboarding, walks the fine line between camp and crap so flawlessly that it’s hard to decide if it’s atrocious or addictive. One things for sure, Ortega sure knows how to handle a cinematic song and dance. The musical numbers here are winners. It’s the cardboard cutout characterization and rampant formulaic clichés that kill its chances at fully succeeding. Bill Gibron

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Film: Mamma Mia!
Studio: Universal Pictures
Cast: Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård
Website: http://www.mammamiamovie.com/
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 2008
Distributor: Universal
US Release Date: 2008-07-18 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-07-11 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/mammamiateaserposter.jpg

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List number: 9

Mamma Mia!

Phyllida Lloyd

The frantic, sweaty Mamma Mia isn’t really a movie per se; it’s more like a communal hot flash that was osmotically captured on celluloid. As a “musical”, it’s an utter failure: The “choreography” is crude and graceless, and much of the “singing” is off-key. (Stop me before I use more air quotes.) Pierce Brosnan’s rendition of “S.O.S” will make you laugh, cry, or possibly wet your pants — and not in the good way. Director Phyllida Lloyd largely wastes the talented cast and juicy pop songs at her disposal, though she does elicit one hell of a rhythmic gymnastic routine from Meryl Streep and a sequined red scarf. As my friend Ian so brilliantly put it, “It looks like they filmed this entire movie in one take — one outtake”. A sad day for dignity all-around. Marisa Carroll

Mamma Mia!

Director: Gregory Hoblit
Film: Untraceable
Studio: Screen Gems
Cast: Diane Lane, Colin Hanks, Perla Haney-Jardine, Billy Burke, Joseph Cross, Mary Beth Hurt
Website: http://www.killwithme.com/
MPAA rating: R
Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/53/4453/videos/?s=trailers
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-01-25 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-02-29 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/u/untraceable-poster.jpg

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List number: 8

Untraceable

Gregory Hoblit

Weren’t the movies done with serial killers? Lately and fortunately, Hollywood’s post-Silence of the Lambs vogue for brainy homicidal maniacs seemed to have mostly transferred itself to the world of hour-long broadcast TV dramas. But this dreary, insulting slab of FBI-serial killer hokum (hint: the bad guy is smarter than you think) is a helpful reminder of what happens when genres are extended well past their expiration date. Chris Barsanti

Untraceable

Director: Michael Patrick King
Film: Sex and the City
Studio: New Line Cinema
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Jennifer Hudson
Website: http://www.sexandthecitymovie.com/
MPAA rating: R
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-05-30 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-05-30 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/sex-and-the-city-movie-poster.jpg

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List number: 7

Sex and the City: The Movie

Michael Patrick King

If you’re a certified fan of this droning diva drivel, perhaps it would be best to turn away now. This is not going to be pretty. Never before has one carefully considered marketing opportunity celebrated such horrendously inappropriate behavior as unapologetic materialism, extroverted sluttiness, and borderline old Hollywood racist (Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson as Sarah Jessica Parkers’s…servant???). Blatant in its belief of baubles, bangles, and bright shiny beads (not to mention booty calls and a blatant disregard for humanity), it’s an affront to everything female. With nary a joke in its inert script and far too much plotting for a puff piece (clocking it two hours and 25 minutes!!!), this was less a reunion and more like torture. Feminists and cougars should sue. Bill Gibron

Sex and the City

Director: Chris Carter
Film: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Studio: Fox
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Xzibit, Billy Connolly
Website: http://www.xfiles.com/
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-07-25 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-08-01 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/x/x-files-i-want-poster.jpg

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List number: 6

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Chris Carter

Charmless, tedious, and, most damningly, completely incurious, the X-Files: I Want to Believe is as thorough a betrayal of a beloved cult series and its core audience as one is ever likely to witness. Deliberately, almost mockingly, either ignoring or inverting all the strengths of the series, the film is stillborn of a complete lack of necessity, defiantly confounding fans and newbies alike with a listless plot which goes exactly nowhere, slowly, and brings exactly nothing new to the equation. If we reference back to one of the show’s watchwords and mantras — “Trust No One” — we find that we have no one but ourselves to blame if we ever believed that series creator Chris Carter would restore the goodwill he seemed so adamant on destroying during the series’ waning years. I believe no more. Jake Meaney

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Director: Marc Forster
Film: Quantum of Solace
Studio: MGM
Cast: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko, Gemma Arterton, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini
Website: http://www.007.com/
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-11-14 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-10-31 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/q/quantumsolaceposter.jpg

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List number: 5

Quantum of Solace

Marc Forster

Just when we were thought we were out, they pull us back in. Having decided with Casino Royale to make an actual movie instead of a feature-length product placement ad and travelogue, the James Bond filmmaking juggernaut pulled a bait-and-switch with their second Daniel Craig installment, right when we were starting to care again. Little more than a tiresome Bourne knockoff with some impressive foreign scenery, Quantum of Solace resoundingly returns the series to its disappointing roots, where it seems likely to stay. Chris Barsanti

Quantum of Solace

Director: Steven Spielberg
Film: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Ian McDiarmid
Website: http://www.indianajones.com/site/index.html
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-05-22 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-05-22 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/k/kingdomofthecrystalskull.jpg

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List number: 4

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg’s name might be on the director’s chair, but Indy IV bears all the unfortunate hallmarks of late-period George Lucas: excessive CGI that destroys any sense of atmosphere, lame attempts at humor (unless you actually wanted to see Shia LaBeouf getting hit in the crotch with a tree branch in the middle of a swordfight), and endless expository dialogue that drags on for scene after scene. Even worse, despite Harrison Ford’s age (65), Indy is able to win fistfights with ease and survive a nuclear explosion without having a scratch on him. What could have been a moving look at loss and aging has been reduced to a low-stakes action film with a generic superman at its center. It’s time for us to stop giving George Lucas our hard-earned cash every time he makes a movie that has nothing going for it except the Pavlovian trigger of nostalgia. Jack Rodgers

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Director: Diane English
Film: The Women
Studio: Picturehouse
Cast: Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes, Debi Mazar, Carrie Fisher, Bette Midler, Candice Bergen
MPAA rating: PG-13
Trailer: http://www.picturehouse.com/titles/women.php
First date: 2008
Length: 114
US Release Date: 2008-09-12 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-09-12 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/w/women_ver2.jpg

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List number: 3

The Women

Diane English

When the highlight of a comedy is Meg Ryan wantonly chewing a stick of butter, you know you’re in trouble. The 2008 incarnation of The Women has none of the catty wit or verve of the 1939 version. Although the cast is packed with actresses who have done sharp comedic work elsewhere — including Ryan, Annette Benning, Candace Bergen, and Debra Messing — director Diane English’s thuddingly slow pacing sabotages any hope for humor. English attempts to spin the classic bitchfest into a tale of self-actualization, but she confuses empowerment with entitlement: At its heart, the movie is a narcissistic fantasy about a middle-aged woman’s desire to be worshiped by her teenage daughter and financially supported by her rich mother. Who needs men, indeed. Marisa Carroll

The Women

Director: Jon Avnet
Film: 88 Minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Cast: Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Kara Unger, Benjamin McKenzie, Neal McDonough
Website: http://www.88minutes-lefilm.com/
MPAA rating: R
Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/29/4329/videos/?s=trailers
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2008-04-18 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/8/88-minutes-poster.jpg

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List number: 2

88 Minutes

Jon Avnet

Al Pacino has clocked plenty of time in bad movies; few actors with a career this storied haven’t. But 88 Minutes is a special kind of misfire: Pacino mismatches the weariness he used so well in Insomnia and People I Know with the trashy material of Two for the Money or The Recruit, so that this cable-ready serial-killer sleaze isn’t even afforded a generous helping of Pacino ham on the side. What’s scarier: that Pacino could find the time to make the worst movie of his career, or that he’d see fit to follow it up with another movie (Righteous Kill) from the same damn director? Jesse Hassenger

88 Minutes

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Film: The Happening
Studio: Fox
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel. John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, Betty Buckley
Website: http://www.thehappeningmovie.com/
MPAA rating: R
First date: 2008
Distributor: Fox
US Release Date: 2008-06-13 (General release)
UK Release Date: 2008-06-13 (General release)
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/thehappening1_large.jpg

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List number: 1

The Happening

M Night Shyamalan

The eerie trailers indicated the promise of redemption for writer/director M. Night Shayamalan, but the final cut of The Happening should have been re-titled “The Crappening”. Once heralded as the 21st century Hitchcock, Shayamalan fell far off the mark of such prior laurels as The Sixth Sense and Signs. The Happening belly flopped with seismic force as an ecological cautionary tale that seemed more like a horror-tinged re-telling of An Inconvenient Truth with a flashlight under its chin than an intelligently rendered suspense film. In fact, The Happening attempted to be too intellectual, more concerned with squeaking out Shayamalan’s signature plot twist-n’-reveal than fleshing out its characters or their blandly impersonal personal relationships. Lana Cooper

The Happening

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