July 23, 2011

Half-Way, Holmes: The 10 Worst Movies I Saw This Year, Pt. I

As you know, I've been posting lists all month long which have been recapping the movies I've seen during the first half of the year. In case you missed them, I covered the ten favorite movies I watched for the first time this year, my ten favorite re-watches, and thirteen honorable mentions that didn't quite make my list of favorites but were still worth mentioning. This is the last of the lists I'll be posting, and I decided to split it up into two parts for no particular reason. I watched a lot of shitty movies this so far this year, but these are the worst of the bunch... and they're all horror movies! Go figure.

#10 UP FROM THE DEPTHS - Half-eaten human corpses are turning up off the coast of Maui and are believed to be the result of attacks by a prehistoric mutant fish that was released from an underwater cave during an earthquake. The manager of the tropical resort where most of the film takes place is angered that the recent tragedies are chasing the tourists away, so he takes it upon himself to put a bounty on the fish's head, and so a hunt for the aquatic predator ensues.

Filmed as a follow-up of sorts to PIRANHA, UP FROM THE DEPTHS is typical of the Roger Corman productions from that era: cheap, exploitative, and arguably entertaining. Did I mention "cheap"? If the goofy-looking mutant fish was reflective of the film's budget, I'm guessing it was pretty slim. Nearly everything about the filmmaking aspect of this B-movie ranges from average to terrible. As far as the acting, I wouldn't go so far as to call it "good", but it's appropriate for a film such as this, and lead actress Susanne Reed is easy on the eyes, so there's that too. In general, there's tons of scenery-chewing, especially from actor Kedric Wolfe, who played the resort manager. It's rare that I see anything like it in films, but Wolfe somehow manages to butcher the English language here despite it being his native tongue. However, it should be noted that about ninety percent of the actors in the film were dubbed in post-production, and I'm not sure why. In most cases, the dubbing doesn't even match up with the actors' lips. It's like they gave a bunch of drunk people microphones and had them ad-lib the dialogue.

UP FROM THE DEPTHS is pretty much a cinematic disaster, but it's so bad that one can't help but be entertained by it. The awful dialogue itself makes the film worth checking out. Personally, I laughed so much while watching it that it was quite easy for me to overlook some of it's shortcomings. It works as an unintentional comedy, but as a horror movie it's a complete and utter failure. Watch out for an uncredited (and dubbed!) R. Lee Ermey in a very small role.

#9 PSYCH:9 - In the midst of a failing marriage, Roslyn (Sara Foster) gets an overnight admin job at a recently-shut-down hospital, organizing patient files and whatnot. With the exception of the pathetic security guard who sleeps outside in a booth all night, and Dr. Clement (Cary Elwes), who occasionally shows up to clear out the upstairs psych unit, she works alone. It isn't long before she hallucinates and begins hearing strange bumps in the night during her shift. Meanwhile, there's a serial killer on the loose, who the media has dubbed "the Nighthawk". The killer has a fondness for bludgeoning women on the back of the head with a hammer.

Unfortunately, the final act of the film completely falls apart and gets rather sloppy, ultimately not making much sense and contradicting certain things that were established up until that point. What starts out as a somewhat clever psychological thriller eventually turns into a cliched horror movie. There's even the whole recap montage/highlight reel that spells everything out, just in case you missed all the "clues" that were given to you in the first two-thirds of the film.

#8 COUNT DRACULA - COUNT DRACULA is stylish, but also incredibly slow. Apparently, director Jess Franco had good intentions with this film and wanted to make as accurate an adaptation of Stoker's novel as he possibly could, but the final product is rather sloppy. It lacks a score in scenes where music would be essential in creating tension, which, combined with the low amount of dialogue and the slow pacing and the constant meandering, etc., results in a very boring film. Franco's lingering camera shots work in some scenes, but they're more mind-boggling than anything. In one particular scene, the camera slowly zooms in on Van Helsing as he sits in complete silence, locking his hands together for seemingly no reason and wearing an expression on his face that gives the impression he's trying to drop a deuce in his pants. He then proceeds to look directly at the camera for a few seconds, and then the film cuts to another scene. Huh?

#7 PANDEMIC - If director Armand Mastroianni's name sounds familiar, you may know him from the TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE series, or the '80s slasher he directed called HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE. Mastroianni has directed quite a bit of horror, but mostly in the world of television. While most directors like Mastroianni get steady work, the problem with their films (television or otherwise) is that they usually lack any style, and such is the case with this particular television mini-series that was released on DVD as a three-hour film. PANDEMIC simply tells a story and meets requirements, and if I were to guess, I'd say that Mastroianni had a limited budget to work with.

An Australian boards a plane to Los Angeles, bringing with him some sort of unknown virus that takes a major toll on its host. By the time the plane lands in L.A., the Aussie is dead and the plane's passengers are being taken away by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Of course the media gets involved, people panic, and one of the passengers peaces out, taking what remnants of the virus that he's carrying out into the public. As you'd probably guess, the virus spreads and all hell breaks loose. A sub-plot involving an F.B.I. agent hunting down a criminal, who was being transported on the plane from Australia and later escaped, is placed in the film to add something extra to the virus storyline and more than likely pad it out.

There's enough going on in PANDEMIC to make you want to see how it's going to end, but you'll most likely want to hit the fast forward button to get there. Overall, a somewhat decent production, good cast, uninteresting story, and the minimal budget definitely shows.


#6 CHAIN LETTER - What starts out as a social networking/technology-themed teen slasher ends up turning into a police procedural that follows a couple of inept detectives (Keith David and Betsy Russell) as they investigate a string of grisly murders. A psychopath sends out a chain e-mail. Whoever breaks the chain and doesn't pass it on to at least one person is subsequently abducted by said psychopath, thoroughly punished, and viciously slain.

Without getting into too much detail, the film tries to make a commentary on the lack of safety and privacy that comes with most modern electronic gadgetry (GPS, hackers, etc). The psychopath (who, for some reason, is a large musclebound man who wears mummy-like bandages over his face) is supposedly part of a group of terrorists who hack personal electronic devices, or something like that. Maybe I'm wrong, but there are mentions of a terrorist group of sorts, and the film's killer is shown operating a laptop in his dimly-lit dungeon of doom. The film has an anti-technology theme, which is fine since I'm not a big fan of unnecessary gadgets like iPhones myself, but the ironic thing here is that I spent most of the film's running time on my cell phone because I was so bored. One thing that is noteworthy about CHAIN LETTER is how insanely violent it is, but other than that, it's a cliched and poorly-written slasher with one of the WORST endings I have ever seen.


  1. Man, Up from the Depths was just the worst. I played a game of Movie vs. Sleep with it and sleep won.

  2. Yeah, that sounds about right. DEMON IN PARADISE, which was paired with this film as a double-feature on the Shout! Factory release, wasn't much of an alternative either. Thanks for commenting, Nate.