10. Jason X
(Isaac James, 2001, USA)
We're a long way from the Glorious Eighties, when I could have put together this whole list with slasher films. But at least the purest slasher of the '00s (a decade weirdly rife with post-slashers and slasher remakes) is a real damn stupid one: take the most ignobly, idiotically commercial franchise in
9. I Know Who Killed Me
(Chris Sivertson, 2007,USA)
Lindsay Lohan plays a stripper in a torture flick with delusions of artistry. Wait, I've made it sound too good. Lindsay Lohan plays a stripper and her straitlaced alter-ego, and does both extremely poorly, apparently trusting that her weirdly raspy voice will convince us that she's a hard-ass chick with a noble soul, in a torture flick that uses incomprehensible symbolism involving owls, tells a story that can't even be bothered to follow its own rules let alone the rules of our universe, drops in a twist that can't be predicted only because it's so unearthly stupid that no reasonably sane viewer would ever be able to come up with it, uses its color scheme to bludgeon the audience into a stupor and ends with a explanation that just makes things less comprehensible. Nope, I just can't make it sound bad enough. But hey, Lindsay Lohan as a non-nude stripper! (Reviewed here)
8. House of the Dead
(Uwe Boll, 2003, Germany / USA / Canada)
Out of my deep, perverse respect for Boll - say any damn thing you want, but I defy you to name another contemporary filmmaker who so consistently produces exactly the film he intended - I almost gave him a pass. But excusing him from this list because I admire his doggedness is like refusing to put Mozart on a list of great composers because of the bad cover art on a recording of Don Giovanni. He boasts a perfect combination of high ambition, and a transcendentally bad grasp of story structure and visual language that makes him our surest heir to greats like Ed Wood and Coleman Francis. Any of his movies could have stood in for all; I picked HotD for that extra frisson of using footage from the video game it's based upon during some action scenes; just one of those skull-raping ideas that makes Boll so irreplaceable. (Reviewed here)
7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
(Ron Howard, 2000, USA / Germany)
Everything else on this list is in some way (or many of them) incompetent: but Ron Howard, for all his banality, is much too good a director to make an incompetent movie; no, I dropped this one on the list because it is incredibly vile. Not that it expands Dr. Seuss's immaculate children's book, perfect in every way, to thrice its natural length; that sort of thing goes on and and will continue to go on. But in the expansion, the film somehow managed to wind up expressing the exact, precise opposite meaning of Seuss's anti-materialism fable: the best way to celebrate Christmas is with garish, conspicuous consumption. The five-minute moralising finale is about as effective in countering that as pissing out a forest fire. Plus, the stunningly ugly Grinch make-up isn't even as convincing or Seuss-like as what Jim Carrey can do with nothing but his facial muscles.
6. 88 Minutes
(Jon Avnet, 2007, USA / Germany / Canada)
Al Pacino is refreshingly turned-down, and that is the nice thing I have to say about a brain-dead action mystery on the 1980s model, except that no 1980s action movie was quite this bad. Unable even to keep their real-time gimmick moving smoothly, Avnet and screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson compound their sins with a twist ending that reveals the killer to have been: someone arbitrarily chosen and given a "Bwahaha, I was lying all along!" speech to paper over the fact that not one single hint was dropped anywhere in the film to indicate their guilt. Plus, the whole damn thing is full of dead ends and red herrings that feel like the most suffocating kind of time-wasters. But at least we'll always have the scene where Pacino suggests that he was framed by having his semen siphoned out of a dead hooker and placed inside a dead college student. (Reviewed here)
5. Titanic: The Legend Goes On
AKA Titanic: La leggenda continua...
(Camillo Teti, 2001, Italy)
It's just such a hypnotically wrong idea: a kid-friendly cartoon musical about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, filled with talking mice and no apparent deaths. That's just the (I beg your pardon) tip of the iceberg: the animation, with character design unabashedly stolen from Silver Age Disney movies and the films of Don Bluth, is stiff and hideous, utilising as few as six frames per second at times; the plot, which is also stolen from Disney, would insult the intelligence of the youngest viewer, not to mention the memories of 1517 lost souls. There are two versions: the shorter heavily re-ordered, atrociously-dubbed American cut is incomprehensible, while the longer Italian cut has an execrable Casio keyboard score; both include a rapping terrier. Incidentally, this isn't a rip-off of the 1997 film, but of a South Korean rip-off of the 1997 film, which by all accounts is even worse. (This one is readily found on YouTube: Part 1 of the uncut version (in English) here, Part 1 of the shorter version here. I naturally expect every single one of you to watch it at the earliest possible convenience, because it is fucking awesome). Thanks to reader Meg for putting me onto this one.
4. The Room
(Tommy Wiseau, 2003, USA)
I'm still not convinced that it's not an elaborate practical joke, and the only reason I'm not advocating that reading is because I'm not entirely sure whom the joke is on: maybe the viewer, though I think a better guess might be the cast, trapped in the Beckettian hellhole of Wiseau's insane rambling about relationships and L.A. life. There are basically three scenes: Johnny's best friend feels terrible that he's sleeping with Johnny's fiancée; there's a weird little kid, age between 12 and 20, who apparently likes to watch adults making out; and stridently un-erotic sex happens, set to unfathomably hideous pop songs. Over 99 minutes, these situations get played and re-played a lot, alongside shots, editing, dialogue, set design, and acting strongly implying that Wiseau & Co. had never even heard of movies before grabbing a camera. Though if it is a joke, hell, it's a pretty flawless one. (Reviewed here)
3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
(Michael Bay, 2009, USA)
A Poem on Michael Bay, and His Assault Against Film Grammar: fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you fucking ass. (Reviewed here)
2. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2
(Bob Clark, 2004, Germany / USA / United Kingdom)
The director of A Christmas Story and Black Christmas managed to end his career with the story of an ex-Nazi madman who plans to use a mind-controlling kids' show to rule the world, and his 78-year-old superhero brother who has been kept at a physical 6 years old thanks to a youth serum, who recruits a team of toddlers to help foil the evil plot. Let that be a warning to the rest of you, filmmakers of the world! ...what? You really want me to use up the rest of my 150-world allotment? Um, Jon Voight plays the evil ex-Nazi media mogul, and Scott Baio plays the father of one of the toddlers. Christ, I don't need to defend this choice, it's about a 78-year-old superhero in the body of a 6-year-old fighting Nazi Rupert Murdoch. Oh, and the 6-year-old is named "Kahuna".
1. Battlefield Earth
(Roger Christian, 2000, USA)
Sometimes you gotta admit that the consensus is the consensus because because it's the damn truth. Anyone can make an incompetent movie with a shoestring budget and a five-day shooting schedule; but this was a $73 million motion picture, and it's still as crappily-made as anything on this list, or really anything ever made in history. Sometimes, I feel like I give bad movies points just for achieving the most basic fundamentals of being a functional object; and if I do that, it's only because Battlefield Earth proves so vividly that it's possible for a major Hollywood summer release to trip over even that minor bar. The wipes; the slow-motion; and dear God, the Dutch angles; this is the very model of an aesthetically broken film, and that's even before we get to the wildly inept storytelling, or John Travolta's performance as some kind of dreadlock-wearing interstellar lizard drag queen...