When you see as many films as I do, you start to build up a tolerance to what most people would call “bad movies”. You see, most poorly made films are just a drop in the ocean. They’ll wash away with the coming of the next tide, and you’ll never think of them again. But some movies are so jaw-droppingly awful that they stick with you, and again, most film critics watch hundreds of movies a year, so these movies are going to be pretty darned bad, folks. There’s only one of them I’d even remotely recommend as a “so bad it’s good” piece of entertainment, and I’m going to get that one out of the way first.
So you’ve been warned. And speaking of warnings, here’s a quick word about my selection process. I’m not going to single out any film that didn’t premiere in theaters or at least as a prominent streaming service exclusive. There’s not much point in making fun of Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Max 2: White House Hero, because nobody expected much out of those movies in the first place. I’m not interested in taking a cheap shot.
That being said, as much as I generally prefer to highlight positive conversations about movies, these films had every intention and every opportunity to get a genuinely positive reaction out of me. So I think it’s only fair to be honest about why they failed, and why some of them in particular made me depressed or angry. (And for that matter, to also articulate just how depressed or angry they made me.) After all, the end of the year is an ideal opportunity to take stock of what we can do even better the next time we travel around the sun.
So in the interest of helping us learn from our past mistakes, let’s take one more look at the films I would call the worst movies of 2017.
17. FRIEND REQUEST
There are different kinds of bad movies. I usually reserve spots on my “Worst of” list for films that are actually difficult to watch but an exception must be made for the unintentionally hilarious Friend Request. This preposterous movie about a college girl who kills herself, downloads her soul to Facebook, and proceeds to use all her magical cyber powers to make people unfriend the woman who betrayed her is… well, preposterous. Friend Request knows about as much about online culture as Reefer Madness knew about reefer, or madness. Everything about Friend Request is poorly conceived, and it deserves to be singled out for that, but it’s undeniably entertaining to watch just how absurdly dumb this movie gets. It’s an ironic cult classic in the making.
16. THE SNOWMAN
The Snowman stars Michael Fassbender as a sad-sack, recovering addict detective who’s hunting a serial killer who likes to build snowpeople next to (and out of) his victims. Unfortunately, this adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s seventh “Harry Hole” mystery has chipped everything novel away from the novel, and plays more like a tired (but attractively filmed) post-Silence of the Lambs knockoff from the mid-1990s. It’s not quite as awful as those “I gave you all the clues” posters made it look, but it’s also not nearly as scary as the snowmen that Bill Watterson came up with in the old Calvin & Hobbes comic strips.
15. THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE
The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature is, technically, better than the absolutely awful original, but it’s still one of the worst movies of the year. Surly Squirrel is back and now he’s got to defend the park from a corrupt mayor who wants to build a half-assed amusement park. It’s obvious that the whole tedious set-up is building to a wacky animal rampage at the end, but we have to sit through the rest of the movie anyway, as it spins all the wheels and shrieks all the shrieks and completely fails to make you laugh or cry or care.
14. THE BABYSITTER
Samara Weaving plays the world’s coolest babysitter, but the kid she’s babysitting stays up late one night, and watches in horror as she kills somebody in a satanic ritual. That’s a pretty neat starting point for a horror movie, and Samara Weaving has been great in everything this year, including this. Unfortunately, The Babysitter has no faith in its concept, overselling all the jokes and ruining all the scares. Even the script craps out after a while, forcing the bad guys to act entirely out of character whenever it might be funny, and keeping the young hero in the house even though he could literally leave at any time and nothing could stop him.
Dax Shepard clearly loves the TV show CHiPs, but he does a very poor job of explaining why anyone else should care in this motion picture adaptation. CHiPs stars Shepard (who also wrote and directed) as an ex-stunt driver who joins the California Highway Patrol and teams up with a sex-addicted undercover FBI agent to track down a gang of high speed thieves. Some of the stunts are cool, but the film can’t decide if it wants to be an incredibly broad comedy or a really violent cop movie with some jokes in it. So you get brutal decapitations as well as scenes of Dax Shepard falling face-first into a litter pan filled with cat poo. It’s an ugly, unfunny mess even without all the gay panic jokes, and those are ugly and unfunny too.
For about half an hour, Rings is… well, not a GOOD sequel, but at least it’s a sequel with ideas in it. You know that VHS tape that kills you seven days after you watch it? A college professor tracks it down and shows it to people, studying their reactions for 6 1/2 days and then using the “bootleg” loophole to safely pass the curse on to someone else, so he can study them next. It’s a bit of a logistical rabbithole, but at least it’s new. Then, Rings jettisons that idea entirely and follows a young woman who needs to discover the videotape’s secret origin before she dies, which was exactly the plot of the original. And it’s really, really boring this time. Rings came so close to being interesting and then lost faith in itself.
11. PHOENIX FORGOTTEN
I keep forgetting that Phoenix Forgotten came out this year. That’s probably because some version of Phoenix Forgotten has come out every year for nearly a decade. It’s the latest in a long line of half-assed found footage horror movies, applying the most obvious tropes of the genre and adding nothing new except a briefly amusing moment when two teenagers Swede the movie Contact. There are aliens out in the desert, or maybe there are ancient spirits, but anyway a bunch of kids went looking for scary stuff and found it, and years later someone’s trying to piece together what happened. There are things you can do to make the found footage genre interesting. Phoenix Forgotten does all the other things, populating the film with awful dialogue, bland characters, and way too much buildup for not enough payoff.
10. HOME AGAIN
Reese Witherspoon plays a beautiful heiress raising perfect kids in her perfect house, and three hunky young hunks move into her guest house to solve all her nonexistent problems and fall in love with her. Lots of romantic comedies offer their workaday audience an idyllic fantasy world to escape to for a couple of hours, or at least they suggest that the lives of the rich and fabulous aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be. But Home Again appears to have been made exclusively FOR the rich and fabulous, celebrating characters who are spectacularly out of touch, and treating obstacles that the majority of the population of the planet would envy as nearly insurmountable hurdles. Home Again is one of the most alienating romantic comedies I’ve ever seen.
9. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Beauty and the Beast is just the latest in an increasingly long line of live-action Disney remakes (some of which shouldn’t even be called “live-action”, but whatever), but this seems to be the only one that literally only exists to make money. This isn’t Beauty and the Beast from a new perspective, or with a different tone. It’s just Beauty and the Beast all over again, but mostly live-action and a lot longer, with new plot points that tarnish all of the old plot points. (One example, of many: The Beast has a teleporter now, but when Belle needs to get home immediately he just loans her a horse and hopes for the best.) The singing isn’t as good, the romance has less chemistry than ever before. Beauty and the Beast basically ruined a tale as old as time.
8. THE BOOK OF HENRY
The Book of Henry starts out as an intolerably twee story about a boy genius who can do no wrong. Then there’s an insufferably emotionally manipulative twist. And then there’s another twist which is shocking and disturbing, but the movie thinks it’s funny for some reason. The Book of Henry might have been an interesting film if it was made by filmmakers who understood what a perverse rollercoaster ride this plot is, and how damning these events are to the characters wrapped up inside of them. Instead it’s a nonsensical catastrophe of tone, at turns laughable and horrifying, and always at the wrong times. It’s totally baffling that The Book of Henry exists like this.
It takes Bong Joon-ho’s Okja quite a while to transform from great to repugnant, but once it does there’s no turning back. It’s the story of a little girl whose giant pig creature is actually owned by a giant corporation, who take the livestock back and then – for no apparent reason other than tawdry shock value – proceed to sexually abuse it. There’s a way to tell a disturbing story about the meat industry (heaven knows there’s more than enough material already there), but throwing unnecessary sexual violence into the narrative is grotesque and manipulative. It doesn’t help that the ending makes no sense, either.
6. THE EMOJI MOVIE
The Emoji Movie is a movie about a teenager who can’t decide which emoji to send to the girl he likes. That’s it. Those are the stakes. Whereas Inside Out dramatized the meaningful internal struggle of a little kid undergoing a life-changing event by personifying her emotions, The Emoji Movie dramatizes pointless casual interactions by personifying the superficial tools we use to make them. Worse yet, it argues in the end that language itself is essentially pointless because no one has any idea what they’re feeling most of the time anyhow. What a despicable, unimaginative, unfunny, product placement cash-in of a movie.
5. DADDY’S HOME TWO
The first Daddy’s Home was a mean-spirited comedy about why men who have feelings are inherently worthy of being mocked. The sequel is more of the same. A lot more. And this time we’ve got Mel Gibson along for the ride as Mark Wahlberg’s satanic father, who coerces little kids into acts of weaponized violence and also openly encourages sexual assault. It’s hard to laugh with or at this much meanness, and when one of the film’s major centerpieces involves John Lithgow pathetically melting down in front of a hysterical audience, as he finds himself no longer able to tell fiction from reality, you start to wonder if anything will ever be funny ever again.
4. THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK
I spent the first half of The Only Living Boy in New York under the reasonable assumption that the film’s wealthy protagonist was a terrifying villain whose mission to assert his own greatness by stalking and seducing his father’s new girlfriend was going to take an murderous turn. I also assumed that his many self-aggrandizing conversations with America’s greatest living author while no one else was around were nothing more than a vivid delusion brought about by his diseased egomaniacal mind. But then it turned out I was actually supposed to be sympathizing with this guy’s put-upon plight and that Jeff Bridges’ character was totally real and that this jerk was actually supposed to be America’s next great author. And then I screamed into an abyss, because an abyss was obviously screaming into me.
3. GHOST IN THE SHELL
Ghost in the Shell is an adaptation of a classic manga and anime, starring Scarlett Johansson as a human mind in a robot body, on the hunt for rogue robots and uncovering conspiracies and enduring plot points that prove that very little serious thought was put into this adaptation. What was once a meditative sci-fi thriller about the evolution of consciousness has becomes a one-dimensional anti-technology screed, filled with impressive production design but lousy storytelling decisions that raise very legitimate and disturbing concerns about racism and whitewashing. Ghost in the Shell should have stayed in the shell.
Let me make this clear: when I say that the new Leatherface is the worst film in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, I’m saying that because I have actually watched all of these films. Again. Recently. Even the lousiest other movies in this franchise (many of which are REALLY lousy) had some camp value, or impressive gore, or competent pacing, or they felt like they actually kind of belonged in the series. Leatherface, the new one, is an exceptionally pointless prequel that follows the Sawyer kids while they’re interned at a children’s psychiatric hospital, before they escape and go on the murderous run. It takes forever for that to happen, and once it does, Leatherface plays more like a very forgettable low-rent knockoff of The Devil’s Rejects than anything actually related to this series. The Wrong Turn movies are better than this. All of them. Let’s move on.
1. TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT
In my review of Transformers: The Last Knight, I argued that although this movie isn’t technically what’s wrong with western civilization, you can find just about everything wrong with western civilization inside of it. It’s a celebration of immaturity, anger, ignorance, war-mongering, racism, sexism, excess, pandering, faulty logic and short attention spans. It’s supposed to be escapist entertainment but it’s impossible to escape the film’s overwhelming tone of condescension. The filmmakers think that you will enjoy being yelled at, brutishly and incomprehensibly, for several hours on end. Transformers: The Last Knight is the worst parts of ourselves, thrown back in our faces.
Top Photos: Walt Disney / Focus Features / Paramount
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on Canceled Too Soon and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.