Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on February 26, 2015
I follow a lot of people on Twitter and one of the most active and notable is Will McKinley who runs the excellent Cinematically Insane blog. Will has been a guest on TCM as well as TCM’s Official Podcast and he often shares interesting links on Twitter. This week Will led me to The Hitless Wonder Blog run by Dan Day who asked his readers a somewhat loaded question: “What are the worst films you have seen in a theater?” I rarely waste time talking about films I dislike but occasionally it’s fun to blow off some steam so I decided to answer Dan’s question at the Movie Morlocks today. What follows is a list of some of my worst movie viewing experiences. But beware! My post is bound to offend a few readers.
THE BLACK HOLE (1979)
THE BLACK HOLE earns the dubious distinction of being the first film I can remember disliking so much that it almost drove me out of the theater. I was just a kid at the time and obsessed with all things associated with space so my expectations were high going in. To make matters worse, a few months earlier I had seen Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (1979) in the same theater and that film had left an incredible impression on me so I was hoping for a similar experience with THE BLACK HOLE. Instead I got a bad STAR WARS knockoff with dull characters and an inane plot. For the first time in my life I was bored by a movie and I became progressively more restless and annoyed as it unraveled on screen. Its worst sin? It didn’t scare me at all and I had become terrified by the concept of black holes so I was looking forward to a good scare or two. Instead of being scared the film scarred me and I left the theater wondering how a movie could possibly be so bad? I tried to revisit Disney’s first PG-rated science fiction film recently because the cast looks really good on paper but I couldn’t get through it.
The first film I walked out on was this well cast but deeply misguided sequel to Kubrick’s 2001 (1967). 2001 is one of my favorite films so Peter Hyams’ follow-up was undoubtedly marred by my high expectations going into it but I found the whole enterprise so incredibly lifeless that I was compelled to leave the theater midway through. Maybe it was the misplaced humor? The lackluster special effects? Whatever the reason, I ended up sneaking into the John Milius’ red-baiting war fantasy RED DAWN (1984), which I found moderately entertaining despite its ridiculous premise and laugh out loud dialogue. 2010 would go on to earn multiple Oscar nominations while RED DAWN earned scathing reviews from critics. My dubious taste in movies is well-documented so my preference for RED DAWN over 2010 shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING (1991)
I’m fond of Russell Mulcahy’s original HIGHLANDER (1986) so I went into this sequel with some expectations but nothing could have prepared me for the incomprehensible mess of a movie that is Mulcahy’s HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING. This poorly constructed and utterly inane film shares nothing in common with its predecessor besides a few cast members (Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery) and one has to wonder how it ever got released? I sat through most of the film with my mouth agape being astonished by its badness but after the first unbelievable hour passed my shock turned to disappointment and disgust. I couldn’t stomach anymore so with only 20 or so minutes remaining until the credits rolled I abandoned my seat and my viewing companions and headed to the lobby where I blew off some steam playing video games. I’ve never regretted my decision. It rates as my worst movie theater experience, bar none.
CAPE FEAR (1991)
I like a lot of Martin Scorsese’s films but not this one. The original CAPE FEAR (1962) directed by J. Lee Thompson is a dark, eerie, unnerving and genuinely creepy noir-like thriller. It stars Robert Mitchum in a fear inducing performance as a sleazy ax-wielding ex-con named Max Cady who terrorizes a righteous but somewhat timid attorney (Gregory Peck) and his family. Scorsese’s film is a glossy and bloated Hollywood reinvention that replaces Mitchum with Robert De Niro who gives a cartoonish performance as Cady and we’re asked to except the thuggish Nick Nolte in Gregory Peck’s gentle role. Not only is the casting questionable but the remake is devoid of the sublime subtlety on display in the 1962 film and I found myself laughing out loud at its bombastic use of Bernard Herrmann’s original score. Its ham-fisted and overwrought approach to the material failed to engage me seriously but somehow I managed to stay until the credits rolled. Maybe I just wanted to finish my popcorn? As is often the case, the film received rave reviews from critics and numerous Oscar nominations that left me scratching my head in confusion.
Louis Malle’s DAMAGE is a passionless tale of adultery between a father (Jeremy Irons) and his son’s fiancée (Juliette Binoche). I never understood for a moment what drove these two incredibly dull characters together and I didn’t care. I appreciate a good erotic film aimed at adults but there was no eroticism to be found in DAMAGE. The numerous sexual encounters between Irons and Binoche (two actors I usually enjoy watching) are devoid of genuine chemistry and become increasingly clumsy, awkward, uninteresting and flat out comical. I was forced to stifle my laughter in the theater on numerous occasions but thankfully my companion found it all as amusing as I did. The one bright spot in this relentlessly dreary and unintentionally funny film is Miranda Richardson, who manages to rise above the tedious nature of DAMAGE and delivers an astonishingly heartfelt and powerful performance as Irons’ neglected wife. She’s the reason I stuck around until it ended even though I wanted to bolt towards the exit door many times.
This is a just a shortlist of some regrettable viewing experiences. There are other films I could include but now I’m going to toss this question to our readers. In the words of Dan Day, “What are the worst films you have seen in a theater?” Feel free to share your disappointments below!
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