We’ve looked at the good. Now it’s time to look at the bad.
It wouldn’t be an end of the year list if we didn’t dive into the films that left us cold. At least Hollywood had the good grace to spread out all of the stinkers over the course of the year.
Here we brood over the corpses of ten movies that botched the landing. From the merely bad to the positively dreadful, we count down to our least favorite movie of the year.
2019 Retrospective: Worst Films.
10. Crawl (July)
There’s a good movie hiding under the skin of Crawl. The cast was solid, though often cursed with the horror movie disease of “don’t do the obviously correct thing.” The story of a woman and her estranged father trapped in their basement by flood waters and angry gators works on paper. For the first act, it worked on screen. But then the film decides to drag the first act out forever.
By the time we finally get out of the basement, the movie is almost over. To make up for the stagnation, the final action sequences are overblown and ridiculous. If this bucket of gator guts gets a sequel, expect it to go straight to streaming.
9. Lady and the Tramp (November)
This bland remake of Lady and the Tramp embodies the new Disney ethos: make safe, uncomplicated copies of old movies, sprinkle in token wokeness without actually addressing any contemporary issues, and cover it all over with CG spectacle. As we saw with Rise of Skywalker, that mentality has seeped into every facet of the Disney machine. As the fourth “live action” remake churned out by the Mouse this year, this film was for the dogs.
8. Replicas (January)
Keanu Reeves broke his streak by releasing this anemic science fiction flick at the beginning of the year. After a tragedy takes his family, a scientist uses the tech from his top-secret military project to clone them back to life. Along the way, he waves his hands around a lot, and the script waves its hands around all of the half-baked science going on.
Cheesy science fiction can be fun. This film was no fun. The tone, cinematography, and pacing all belonged in the morgue. As it flat-lined at the box office, don’t expect studios to try to replicate this clone movie dud.
7. Child’s Play (June)
This attempt to reboot Chucky for the digital age teased some good ideas…and some real clunkers. While it flirted with some social commentary and a deeper meaning to Chucky’s violence, most of those ideas hit the cutting room floor.
This fairly rote ode to 80’s slasher flicks could have made up for lackluster themes with some good, old-fashioned murder. Unfortunately, that seems like another category the film was too shy to really go big on. E Coli outbreaks have a bigger body count than 2019’s Child’s Play. Only one kill rose to the level of exciting.
The end result is a movie that seems afraid to commit to either its better angels or its bloody devils. Not even Mark Hamil’s voice work could give this film any edge.
6. Midsommar (July)
Ari Aster stunned folks with his dark and violent opus, Hereditary. Here, he takes some ugly Americans out day-tripping to a folk ritual in Sweden, heavy on the daylight and the tripping.
While visually impressive, Midsommar felt like it ripped its best ideas and imagery from other films in the genre. Unlikable main characters and a telegraphed plot combined to create a long and tedious affair. It’s a shame, as the film starts with a much better horror film premise. Instead, we get The Wicker Man on acid, plus a lot of sad faces.
5. Pet Sematary (April)
The directing duo of Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmeyer previously collaborated on some subversive indie horror flicks. Here, we get barely reheated leftovers. The tweaks to the story went nowhere, the cast was largely apathetic, and the one highlight – a really creepy breakout performance from young Jete Laurence – was completely squandered. This film wrote its own obituary: some times dead is better.
4. The Perfection (May)
Netflix released some fantastic original films in 2019 like Marriage Story and The Irishman. It also released quite a few stinkers. The Perfection was one of those stinkers.
The film follows two cellists from an elite academy. The elder was a star pupil until she suffered a family tragedy. The younger is the current star pupil. What at first looks like a jealous rivalry turned bloody winds up being a farce of a revenge film. The plot is filled with holes and gimmicks. The two leads have chemistry that is completely subverted by the gory and puerile revenge story. Instead of subversive body horror, we get petty provocation. The Perfection was hard to stomach in all the wrong ways.
3. Rambo: Last Blood (September)
In 2008, we’d thought we’d seen the last of John Rambo. If only that were the case. Instead of letting Rambo finally return home in peace, we instead get a red-meat, FOX News-inspired orgy of senseless violence.
Rambo has had a fraught history as a reflection of American culture. Here, he wades into the toxic cesspool of MAGA xenophobia and white grievance. Mexicans are all bad dudes, and Rambo is going to murder the hell out of every last one…FOR AMERICA. Instead of a conflicted war hero, we get John succumbing to all of his demons, spiraling into nihilistic rage and violence. The film ends with Rambo blowing up his own home. The series ends with Stallone blowing up his own franchise.
2. Polar (January)
I mentioned that Netflix dropped a couple of turds into the pool, and here is the big one. Polar hoped to ape the trend of ultra violent, stylish assassin movies like John Wick. Instead it showed itself to consistently be a crass and juvenile mockery of that genre.
Mads Mikkelsen, who should be a natural in this genre, is completely wasted as a the cliche “retired hitman dragged back into the life of crime.” The film is shockingly profane and garish. The violence is pervasive but unbelievable. The characters are stock characters trying to sound cool and cruel, and failing miserably. The whole endeavor was petulant and vulgar, derivative, and a goddamn chore to watch.
1. The Dead Don’t Die (June)
How do you top such a cinematic train wreck as Polar? Jim Jarmusch found the way: make an indolent, lazy, wet-fart of a film that is smugly self-satisfied with being mediocre.
The Dead Don’t Die trots out the usual zombie apocalypse story. After corporate greed destroys the environment, the dead return to life and haunt a small town as the residents try to survive. The pace and performances (from a packed A-List cast, no less) is so catatonic that you wonder if polar fracking could bring this script back to life.
Throughout the whole turgid affair, Jarmusch seems pleased to no end to be constantly pissing on the genre. There is so much meta-commentary and mugging for the camera, you know that he thinks he’s too smart for dumb zombie movies…and the people who enjoy them. If you think zombie movies are dumb and generic, the answer isn’t to make your own dumb and generic zombie movie. Actually get off the soapbox and make a good one.