Let me admit this from the start – I may have liked Kidnap better than I should have. Why? Well, I saw it immediately after The Dark Tower, and it is Citizen Kane compared to that festering pile.
In this film, Haley Berry plays Liam Neeson. It’s her second time in the role, actually.
Back in ’08, Neeson – with help from the pen of Luc Besson – revolutionized film with the (wildly over-appreciated) genre flick Taken. Mid-budget “I have a particular set of skills” thrillers have littered the cinematic landscape since, wreaking righteous vengeance and prolonging the careers of middle aged actors everywhere.
In 2013, Berry made The Call, which was not a bad B-movie thriller and her first turn as Liam Neeson. Kidnap sees the Oscar winner playing a loving mother whose 6-year-old (a very sweet Sage Correa) is nabbed from a busy park. Mom sees the napper shoving her son into a car, she jumps in her minivan and the pursuit begins.
The film amounts to a 90-minute car chase with one unreasonably attractive mom behind the wheel. Several of the action sequences are interesting and flashy (for a film with this level of budget – do not go into this hoping for Fast and the Furious: Minivans).
Writer Knate Lee can’t really justify the lack of cell phone or police presence, but he does what he can. Meanwhile, director Luis Prieto ably assembles car chases and panicked driver close ups, then competently shifts tone for a final act that toes the line between thriller and horror.
There’s nothing exceptional about Kidnap. Not one thing. You’ll forget it existed as quickly as you forgot The Call was ever made. But for a getting-the-phone-bill-paid flick, it’s not too bad.
Here’s an unusual list, not because it’s out of the ordinary to ironically appreciate bad horror movies, but because Madd and Wolf disagree so vehemently about a) the movies on this list, and b) the entertainment value in bad movies. So just know that, though there are bones of contention aplenty, we’re still happy with the final six. How about you?
6. House (Hausu) (1977)
If Takashi Miike’s Happiness of the Katakuris were to marry Pee-wee’s Playhouse, this would be their offspring.
A spoof of sorts, Hausu tells the story of six uniform-clad high school girls named Gorgeous, Fantasy, Sweet, Melody, Kung Fu, and Mac. The nomenclature alone should clue you in on the film’s lunacy. The giggling sextet spend spring break at an aunt’s spooky house – or, in fact, a cheaply made set of an aunt’s spooky house. Not a single thing that follows makes sense, nor is it really meant to.
Expect puppets, random musical sequences, remarkably bad backdrops, slapstick humor, and an amazingly sunny disposition given the sheer volume of human dismemberment. The trippy nonsense wears a bit thin eventually. Luckily director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s film clocks in at under 90 minutes, so the screen goes dark before the novelty wears off.
Score: Hope does not consider this a bad movie in any respect. George considers it so bad it’s just bad.
5. Motel Hell (1980)
It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters, so swingers looking for a cheap motel in which to swing – be warned! Fifties heartthrob Rory Calhoun plays Farmer Vincent, who, along with his sister Ida (a super creepy Nancy Parsons) rid the world of human filth while serving the righteous some tasty viddles. Just don’t look under those wiggling, gurgling sacks out behind the butcherin’ barn!
Motel Hell is a deeply disturbed, inspired little low budget jewel. A dark comedy, the film nonetheless offers some unsettling images, not to mention sounds. Sure, less admiring eyes may see only that super-cheese director Kevin Connor teamed up with Parsons and Calhoun – as well as Elaine Joyce and John Ratzenberger – for a quick buck. But in reality, they teamed up to create one of the best bad horror films ever made.
So gloriously bad!
Score: Hope and George agree completely on the absolutely entertaining badness afoot in this one.
4. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
A seriously subversive film with blatant homosexual undertones, Sleepaway Camp is a bizarre take on the summer camp slasher.
It may be the shocking finale that gave the film its cult status, but it’s writer/director Robert Hilzik’s off-center approach to horror that makes it interesting. Dreamy flashbacks, weirdly gruesome murders, and a creepy (yet somehow refreshing) preoccupation with beefcake separate this one from the pack.
It’s not scary, certainly, but it is all manner of wrong. The kill sequences are hugely imaginative, and the subversive approach to the entire film makes it hard to believe more people haven’t seen this gem.
Score: Once again, George and Hope are in total agreement. This one’s a keeper.
3. Squirm (1976)
Writer/director Jeff Lieberman drops us off in rural Georgia, where small town hottie Geri (unrepentant ginger Patricia Pearcy) receives a visit from big city pal and possible boyfriend Mick (Don Scardino). Natch, the down home folk don’t take kindly to this city slicker – especially Roger, a menacing rube who wants Geri for his own.
So, the low budget gem creates a little of that Deliverance dread, but the payoff is, of course, the worms brought out by the pantload via voltage from a downed power line.
Lieberman does a fantastic job with the worms. They are everywhere, they’re nasty, they make that gross gummy noise as they squirm around on top of each other, and they may not only eat you but bore right into your face to turn you into a monster. That’s what happens to poor, lovelorn Rog, and it is awesome!
The acting and writing entertain, if ironically, but the movie offers a few real freakout moments and it goes in unexpected directions more than once. It’s weird, start to finish, and that’s always welcome.
Score: George does not care for Squirm, ironically or otherwise. Hope’s still smiling with joy just thinking about this movie.
2. Slugs: The Movie (1988)
Mike Brady (Michael Garfield) must save himself, his town, and his lustrous waves from the menace of man-eating slugs– acting ability or no! And if Sherriff Reese and Mayor Eaton can’t get their heads out of their asses, then dammit, Mike Brady will take care of this himself!
Once it’s discovered that the entire population of mutant slugs is in a single area, Mike Brady makes the level-headed, finely coiffured decision to literally explode the entire town from beneath. Why not dose their hive with salt, you ask? What are you, a wuss?!
But that’s beside the point because Mike Brady has a town to save! He’s getting scant help from the Brit chem teacher who can’t even lift a manhole cover. Weak limey! Do Mike Brady and his hair have to do everything?
The epic saga finishes with a hearty embrace. Mike Brady squeezes his puffy-coat wearing wife, and we all ignore the untold damage he’s just done to the town he singlehandedly blew to pieces. People were killed, certainly. Perhaps an arrest was more in order than a hug. But Mike Brady doesn’t do arrested.
Score: George really hates this movie and considers it an almost criminal waste of his time. Slugs: The Movie fills hope with glee and she’d gladly watch it again right now.
1. The Night of a Thousand Cats (1972)
Oh my God.
This one has to be seen to be believed. It moves at a dreamlike pace, as chopper pilot/monk/playboy/cat lover Hugo (Hugo Stiglitz!) flies his helicopter menacingly close to sexy women lounging poolside, and they act like that’s not weird at all. He mouths flirtations toward them as their towels and lawn furniture blow hither and yon. Eventually they find this dangerous harassment charming enough to be wooed.
Oh, you trusting, slutty ladies.
But things don’t always go smoothly for the handsomely wooden Hugo – as flashbacks to Head in the Jar #2 attest. It’s a deeply weird movie full of cannibalism, bad parenting, questionable facial hair decisions, and a blatant disregard for the dangers of sun damage. Plus, a thousand cats.
I know. Bad movies are often just not worth it. This one is. I swear it.
Score: Even George has to admit that the awe-inspiring incompetence of this film begs for your viewing.
Listen to the whole conversation on the FRIGHT CLUB podcast.
A dozen years after the world defeated an alien invasion, sending their mother ship back to the heavens in retreat, a handful of surviving aliens – “heavies” – are still holed up here and there around the world. The global military force established outposts to eliminate the remainders. We journey with a documentary crew – Oh, God, another found footage movie about aliens? Seriously? How many low budget found footage genre films must we endure?
Sorry. The documentarians of Alien Outpost embed with three reinforcements sent to Outpost 37, sandwiched between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And though inter-human combat ceased when the aliens arrived more than a decade ago, the locals are suddenly armed and skittish. What gives?
It’s a recipe for disaster, truth be told, and I don’t just mean for the documentarians. But truth be told, director/co-writer Jabbar Raisani knows how to make the most of his tight budget.
No, there is no integrity to the found footage angle, but he doesn’t draw enough attention to the gimmick to make it unbearable. He spent some cash on a helicopter sequence and a handful of explosions and made up for it with low rent sets, cinematography, and unknown actors. The verite style of the faux-documentary helps obscure some of the weaker sets, and the storytelling gives fresh enough twists to genre clichés to keep you from nodding off.
The film’s real spark comes by way of Raisani’s background in FX. The aliens on the ground are impressive and the battle carnage is believable.
While none of the acting is worth a note home, none of it embarrasses anybody, either.
Alien Outpost won’t leave you breathless, but Raisani invests well, pouring attention and cash in the right places, keeping the pace and story tight, and getting us in and out before we lose interest. As low budget, independent genre filmmaking goes, this is as solid as they come.
The Pyramid could not have better timing. Had the film been released just a few weeks later it would missed its opportunity to rank among the very worst films of 2014.
To be fair, a really good creature feature is incredibly difficult to make, so you can hardly blame first time director Gregory Levasseur for not even trying. Instead he’s crafted a The Descent knock off that can’t rise above the caliber of a late night, made for cable TV movie.
His Egyptian horror sees a father and daughter archeologist team and the documentarians who want to film their discovery – a mysterious pyramid sitting hundreds of feet below the desert sands.
The bickering parent and child are played by American Horror Story’s Denis O’Hare and bad actress Ashley Hinshaw, respectively (but not respectably). That Hinshaw plays an archeologist seems less ludicrous only if you remember that Denise Richards played nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones in The World is Not Enough. But at least that was back when the Bond films embraced their campy awfulness. The Pyramid is just awful.
O’Hare serves an unseemly purpose in his American Horror Story roles, but he’s not a strong enough actor to elevate this dreck. Hinshaw’s worse, and Christa Nicola is community theater bad as the documentarian risking life and cameraman for that elusive Emmy.
The only castmate to acquit himself with any level of respectability is former Inbetweener James Buckley, who still struggles mightily with this script.
An aside: When you’re writing a screenplay and you’ve trapped all your characters with unnamed beasties in a labyrinthine catacomb hundreds of feet below the earth’s surface, you may want to limit your use of the lines “we have to get out of here” and “we need to find a way out of here” to fewer than 200 instances apiece. It sort of goes without saying.
Oh, yes, and the beasties – if you squint and pretend they are ill-conceived but earnest odes to Ray Harryhausen and not simply weak, uninspired, fake looking props … Basically, it’s just too much work to have to pretend they don’t suck. Like the movie itself. It’s best just to accept it.
Still high from Sharknado? Has it opened your eyes to the brilliance of terrible, terrible filmmaking? Are you jonesing for more ineptly crafted, heinously scripted, poorly acted waterborne malevolence? We thought so. Here are five of the best worst water terrors ever made. You’re welcome.
5. Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Michael Caine has argued that this is not his very worst movie. He may be right, but this delusion of a great white shark who figures out the exact flight Ellen Brody is taking to the Bahamas and follows it so it can continue the Sharks’ gang war against the Brodys sure is bad.
4. Piranha (1978)
An absent minded investigator and the town drunk unintentionally unleash mutant piranha just upstream from a water park on the river. Given that it’s all their fault, they’re pretty self righteous about the whole thing. The fish themselves seem to be flat paper cutouts pasted to popsicle sticks, which is just as terrifying as it sounds.
3. Piranha 2: The Spawning (1981)
James Cameron, everybody! That’s right, his first deep sea adventure did not involve a capsized romance, but flying man eating piranha. That’s right – they fly. Sure, it might look like they’ve just been tossed by someone standing just off camera, but no. Cameron regular Lance Hendrickson should be glad he’s not a black man or a topless woman on this island, because those are these fishies’ favorite flavors.
2. Super Shark (2011)
Eventually, the best of the worst mutant animal films made the leap from the big screen to SciFi network, and few things leap as well as a Super Shark! John Schneider tarnishes his reputation (yep, it’s that bad) that pits a flying, hopping shark against a tank with legs. It kicks the shark. That’s worth seeing.
1. Sharktopus (2010)
This is the one film on the countdown most likely to quench the thirst left by Sharknado. Roger Corman – the producer responsible for most of the films on this list, most of the films on SciFi, and quite possibly most of the worst films ever made – gave us this epic tale of a killing machine that’s half great white, half giant octopus. It’s enormous, unrealistic, and it brings an unsatisfying hunger for bad actors.
Those should keep you busy while you wait for Sharknado 2!