Right, no time to waste! Let’s continue this with my 10 worst films of 2017. Starting with:
10. Wolves at the Door
The Manson Family murders have captivated people for nearly 50 years now, becoming a cultural touchstone and almost symbolising the end of the free spirited 60s in an incredibly brutal way. Their murder of actress and model Sharon Tate and her friends being one of its most noteworthy event. This really could have been quite significant given the death of Manson in 2017 (though this movie was released prior to that). Unfortunately, it is not.
Wolves at the Gate not only fails at being a fitting tribute to a horrible case, it’s a rather rubbish horror film to boot. Filled with atrocious acting, really cheap looking slapped together set design, unconvincing period dressing that just has people saying ‘Groovy man’ as a way to get across that this is the 60s, and probably worse still a complete overblown depiction of the murderers themselves. They come across like low-rate slash villains and not creepily coerced and manipulated people, which honestly brings down their menace and intrigue. The movie also cannot decide if some boring quasi-romance subplot is more or less interesting than the 8-months pregnant victim. It’s not even that they’re trying to push the focus away from the more famous Tate, they’ve just got a complete lack of consistent storytelling!
An insult to the victims and a gross, dull affair overall. It was voted the worst film on BBC film critic Mark Kermode’s own list. Well deserved victory for it.
Once again, I’ve got to get the obvious joke out of the way. Most misleading title ever!
Katherine Hiegl just blows any charisma or interest away as an embittered divorcee who is a bit too hung up over her ex-husband and his new fiancée, played by a slumming it Rosario Dawson. The contrasting natures between these two is painfully apparent, as Dawson is just the everyday girl-next-door…popular website editor type, whereas Hiegl is the snooty sophisticant that you wonder how the bland as balls male love interest would end up marrying both these women. I guess this contrast is meant to give them personality and add conflict, if this didn’t feel so forced just like a lot of the movie is.
Katherine Hiegl’s descent into villainy is comically over the top and completely nonsensical. It’s kind of amazing that we have the ten trillionth attempt of making the Fatal Attraction lightning strike twice without ever attempting to understand why the 1987 film worked so well. Outside of the botched gender politics and the incredibly silly revenge schemes, the subplot with Dawson’s stalker ex goes nowhere, Cheryl Ladd playing Hiegl’s mother is such a desperate attempt to remotely rationalise any of her actions, it has a painfully hollow score, it takes itself way too seriously considering the potential for camp fun the premise has, and the ending is mind-bogglingly stupid.
You can do better, the cast of this can do better. Frankly, society can do better, so let’s start by making this fucking thing forgettable.
8. The Bye-Bye Man
12 whole months, and I never found a dumber title than this one. As a way to open this mini-review, in an appropriate place such as the opening of this film; when your opacity filter is set to ‘blinding’, you do not know how to shoot a fucking horror film!
Poor production values aside (which, if you likely didn’t guess, this thing has in abundance), it’s remarkable just how little sense The Bye-Bye Man makes. However this thing’s powers work are so fucking random, if there was a consistent throughline with how it functioned this never comes across onscreen. The cast are also flat and super annoying-one of them in particular struggles to keep their accent consistent! We get great actors like Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss and fucking Faye Dunaway dragged into this dreck. There’s some laughably weird acting, the tension and musical stings fail to even remotely grip you in any kind of atmosphere, I cannot actually exactly emphasise just how terrible this film looks, and the sheer amount of idiot plot moments makes it so hard to care about the fate of anybody in the story and you just sit here hoping they all die!
This really is one of those films that exemplifies the January slump. Only a horror film this awfully made can nearly quadruple its profits in the wasteland of that month (in America, anyway). I would make a crack about how it’s time to say bye-bye to this thing, but to be honest I don’t think most people remember it anyway.
7. The Emoji Movie
I really didn’t want to be predictable, I really didn’t. I guess it’s worth noting that this isn’t higher on the list? Yeah, sure, I feel better braying with the rest of the sheep, then.
The Emoji Movie is rightfully trashed for a lot of reasons. It’s hard to even say it’s because the premise is incredibly stupid, because we have a franchise at the moment making funny and engagingly creative films about LEGO. No, what makes this not work is that it’s cynical. It’s predictable corporate branding pushed on your brats because it’s so much easier to dazzle them with shiny things with little effort. Emojis are not popular; in of themselves they’re not a thing you can comfortably brand-they are recognisable. People respond to things they recognise even if they have no real attachment to them, which is a perfect way to goad them in and sell off other products, which this film does *a lot*. No wonder there was such a bidding war on the idea itself.
Nothing about this atrocity feels creative, different, inspired, or even well designed (the animation is so weak). It’s not a movie, it’s adspace for companies like Candy Crush, YouTube and Instagram. You can even see how much they spent on this film with how much a certain app or device is used in the narrative! It’s just a really depressing reminder of how corporate based and advertorial Hollywood is. I mean, we all know it, but it’s still sting.
6. The Snowman
Oh, man. This one…this one stung, I’m not gonna lie. It had a great cast, great director, legendary editor-it’s just absolutely amazing how much The Snowman fails on every level.
The Snowman suffered ridiculous production issues, with director Tomas Alfredson admitting 10-15% of the script was not filmed due to a restricted shoot, though it’s likely more was left uncovered. Val Kilmer’s health issues made it difficult for him to speak, causing some hilariously noticeable dubbing and completely diminishing what feels like an important role. Everything from Harry’s backstory and family issues, the abortion subplot and JK Simmons as a sexually aggressive politician feel half-baked and unfinished. The killer’s ultimate reveal and motivation is painfully underwhelming and too obvious. Scenes just come and go with very little rhyme or reason, there are compromised editing shortcuts EVERYWHERE (most hilarious in a driving scene where there’s a rushed ADR from Fassbender), and the self-serious tone they add to ominous little snowman shots only serves to make this more of a mess.
What’s sad is just seeing all the potential go to waste. Just turning this into a bland, lifeless, incredibly tone deaf thriller with a creative team that is capable of so much more. It just goes to show that even the greats can be compromised into making a terrible, terrible film.
5. Bitter Harvest
This needs to be stated up front because of how politically charged the events depicted in this film are: this has nothing to do with how anyone feels about Holomodovar. Whether you think the USSR’s involvement with the famine was overblown or whether you think they pissed on the bodies of the starved, it really has no bearing on the quality of Bitter Harvest. My dislike of this film has nothing to do with its politics, my dislike of this film has everything to do with the fact that it’s fucking terrible.
It’s a painfully muddled and utterly unoriginal script about star-crossed lovers using some of the most contrived and silly shit to separate them, one of which involves a hit-and-run with a horse. Most of the acting is stiff and awkward, with an embarrassing Terrence Stamp offering none of his usual gravitas. The Red Army goons are written with the subtlety of cartoon villains from a Captain Planet episode. There is no sense of urgency or tension presented in any capacity in the filming, boasting incredibly weak cinematography. Rather than being a loving tribute, it is an insult to those who starved in Ukraine during this period, being a washed down, cookie cutter, incredibly generic story that tries to appeal to everyone without being remotely appealing. A very bitter harvest indeed.
4. Fist Fight
Look, it’s hard for me to write with any of the bile and hatred I showed for the other entries. This just sucks, and is a waste of its very talented and funny stars.
Charlie Day has a talent for making very irritable and whiny characters extremely likable and disarmingly charming. He’s a pathetic schlub that all pathetic schlubs aspire to be. Ice Cube, conversely, is just really, really good at being a really angry dude who’s also really funny. Neither of them are put to good use here, and if they displayed any chemistry at any point of this production, it was squandered. There’s also a wasted supporting cast of Dean Norris, Christina Hendrix, Jillian Bell, and also Tracy Morgan is there.
Outside of its wasted cast (i.e. it’s main appeal), it’s just terrible. There is no effort to have even a shred of comedic timing, relying heavily on the cast being funny and doing funny things to sell it. It’s all too common that comedies put no effort into the filmmaking itself and rely hard on the script and ad-libbing, a cleverly timed and edited moment can absolutely make or break a joke, and this is just a perfect example of what to do if you want your comedy to have absolutely no personality and leave it lifeless. Nowhere near as soul crushing as Dirty Grandpa was last year, but definitely as terrible.
3. The Shack
Hey, kids! A little girl getting horrifically murdered is all okay, because God cares! I think.
We’ve seen a lot of Christian-themed films be very much fueled by fundamentalist right wing policies, so the fact that The Shack has some unorthodox spiritually liberal leanings should make it a bit more appealing. Alas, it falls trap to what a lot of other tired Christian-based films do: portray the conflict as having too clear cut an answer and leaving the potential harm a supposedly caring God gives way off the hook. Which is a shame, because the main issue of the lead’s crisis of faith losing his daughter in a horrifically brutal way is deeply sympathetic and relatable-it demands a more serious confrontation of literally God who is literally in this.
Octavia Spencer plays the deity, reminding me why she has an Oscar in a deeply moving and warm performance. It’s a pity none of the other cast can even reach her calibre, with the guy they got to play Jesus appearing to be auditioning for a jeans commercial and the charisma draining Sam Worthington just doing his thing. There’s a really forced subplot involving the lead’s father that is entirely unnecessary and portrayed to be more important than it is, the family are underdeveloped including the ridiculous impetus for the youngest daughter’s kidnapping, and the movie has an overstuffed first act and tends to start and stop with no real momentum or purpose. It’s weird that it’s a movie that’s trying to appeal to another demographic, and yet it’s so half-baked and poorly conceived that I can’t see it even finding approval of its own peers, especially with the changes it makes to Orthodox Christianity. An interesting stain on a pretty rubbish genre, but a stain nonetheless.
2. Yoga Hosers
Kevin Smith made a terrible movie. Are people even surprised by this anymore? The once crowned darling of the affected 90s jaded nerd clique, watching this man continue to slip into self-indulgent terribleness truly is a sight to behold. While I didn’t hate this movie as much as Tusk, what I can give Tusk is that there’s something in it for me to hate.
Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp designed this to give their daughters a chance to star in their own movie. That’s it, that’s the entire process behind this awful, awful endeavour. This egregious bit of nepotism may be easy to overlook if anything in here was actually worth a damn. Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp try their best with the material but there’s really nothing there to latch on to. You think with how closely he worked with his daughter on this that she would point out that Smith has absolutely zero understanding of how teenage girls talk. The gags are lazy, the jokes are obvious, it’s Smith’s usual attempt at mixing the witty with the juvenile and none of it landing. We have probably his most offensive slaughtering of buddy cameos-everyone on the old black book must have been called! That’s not even getting into the mess of a plot, with Smith playing a midget Canadian Nazi which is nowhere near as funny as he thinks it is, and homicidal teenage boys that really don’t add up to much.
Yoga Hosers is just further proof that Kevin Smith ever caring for the quality of his movies is long gone. There’s no incentive for him to make anything outside of his very limited audience who will lap up everything he does without question. That may be good for him, but it certainly isn’t good for those who actually liked the guy when his movies were made competently.
1. The Book of Henry
It really was a toss up between this and Yoga Hosers for the number 1 slot. What eventually won it was, while YH is objectively a worse movie with no effort put into it at all, The Book of Henry has effort. Honest to God effort. And it’s actually incredible how baffling this thing came out as after all that.
It’s a script that had been written over and over again for 20 years, and it shows. It’s a director who has very little in terms of differentiation in type, but has an incredibly distinctive voice. It’s a barrage of cliches trying to hit up trends about beloved genius assholes and the 80s-Amblin feel that’s getting popular with shows like Stranger Things. It’s saccharine and cutesy indie-esque, but also strangely dark and offputting. It has a victim of abuse which is also held up as the reward of the story, having no agency in a plot that directly involves her. It has a beloved lead who’s a sullen, condescending, self-righteous, belittling tool who has the weird desire to control his mother. The cinematography itself isn’t terrible (though way tonally off for a movie like this), but it feels slapdashed together to get across a lot of ‘feels’ that it manages to not achieve any of. It has one of the most jarring story shifts halfway through that was tying so desperately to be a moment. It manages to feel insulting to its incredibly unlikable title character with the ending.
I could probably talk forever about why The Book of Henry is so bad. In fact I did that (warning: thar be spoilers). The fact that The Book of Henry fails on nearly every conceivable level to be the film it wants to be is almost engaging. I’d almost recommend you watch it if you can handle how gratingly annoying the main character is. It’s a pity as I really like the cast and they do great here, but they are wasted on this bizarre mess.
The Book of Henry, the worst movie of 2017. Uh…check it out?
Click here for the Best of 10-1