Later this week, Heave will bring you several of its writers’ best movies of 2012 lists. But first, it’s time to look upon the other end of the spectrum, on the movies that were so egregiously bad that they deserve year-end recognition for their own dubious merits. And only one of them stars Taylor Kitsch, because fuck y’all, John Carter was awesome.
When considering the foolproof ratio of “how good movie should’ve been:how good movie actually was,” Prometheus could easily top this list. The only reason this colossally hyped dud isn’t higher is because, for about 15 minutes, Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is gorgeous enough to fool audiences into thinking they’re watching something other than a terribly conceived, ill-thought-out bit of space horror that fluctuates wildly between unintentional comedy, utter nonsense (what does the black goo actually do?) and plot holes galore, from a geologist getting lost in a cave despite being the designer of its map to Idris Elba turning full-blown suicide pilot in the third act for no goddamn reason. For as much as I’ve defended Lost over time, Prometheus finally made me understand why people hate Damon Lindelof (his awesome Twitter account notwithstanding), and made colossal waste of a rich setup, an able cast and a franchise that can somehow no longer consider Alien: Resurrection its worst installment.
9) Silent Hill: Revelation
I’m not sure exactly what the titular epiphany promised by Silent Hill: Revelation was even after watching it, but frankly, I’m not sure anybody involved did. There are a handful of moderately effective scares to be had, albeit scares largely jacked from a nearly decade-old video game, but they exist in a magical nightmare world where context, logic and anything remotely interesting cease to exist. Michelle Williams doppelganger Adelaide Clemens, as a girl drawn back to the alternate goth carnival universe of Silent Hill, cries and screams a lot but fails to anchor anything happening around her. Granted, that’s a tall order given that even after I left the theater I couldn’t explain what the movie was about. There are talismans that can do something or another and hideous creatures and various members of the Game of Thrones cast placed in mortal peril, but Silent Hill: Revelation occupies the same onscreen space as the Paranormal Activity franchise, a series of disjointed scary moments that fail to compose anything resembling an actual movie.
8 ) Rock of Ages
Or: The only time in 2012 I was seriously, seriously wrong about a movie’s box office prospects. Given the popularity of the Broadway musical on which Rock of Ages was based and the prominent amount of sad middle-aged people in college towns who administer depressing handjobs in bathroom stalls at Motley Crue arena gigs to this day, this seemed like a foolproof formula for box-office gold. However, America rose up, and on the same weekend that they finally told Adam Sandler that enough was enough, they also took a stand against lazy nostalgia. This is the sort of film in which the protagonists (including a disturbingly infantilized Julianne Hough) are written only enough to be a small-town girl living in a lonely world and a city boy from South Detroit, and a generally talented cast that had to use their gifts for the film’s seeming prime directive of making Tom Cruise the most aggressively heterosexual actor currently living. That didn’t really work, and neither did Rock of Ages.
7) The Apparition
The existence of movies like The Apparition transcends the stuff of excellent Paul Scheer podcasts and moves into the realm of making audiences despise anybody who can actually make it to the level of being handed the reins of a studio movie, even a throwaway horror flick, and then fuck it up so thoroughly. Though the premise itself was basically dead in the water (suburban horror meets half-assed found footage meets a series of young actors betting on the wrong horse), nobody involved does anything to take the film even into the realm of camp. Instead, the film is a disjointed slog, the writing feels like a first draft and Ashley Greene doesn’t get to put across the magnetism she managed over the Twilight franchise’s run. Unlike Jonah Hex, another Warner Brothers production that probably shouldn’t have been released but failed with glorious vigor, The Apparition is merely a reminder that dozens of talented indie horror filmmakers struggle to get their films released every year, only to come out in limited release or less and watch as dreck like this is rolled out in hundreds of theaters.
6) The Dictator
The ratio mentioned for Prometheus could also work here, in the case of Sacha Baron Cohen’s continued quest to ruin all the goodwill he generated with audiences with the brilliant Borat. First, there was Bruno, which was Borat with a lot more contempt for its protagonist, and now there’s The Dictator, which steps away from the Candid Camera format to reveal that apparently Cohen has recently forgotten how to write comedy that aims any higher than “bits Dane Cook probably cut from his act.” As both a creative mind and an actor (his Peter Sellers-style work in Hugo went sorely unsung last year), Cohen is better than this, a film that shoots endlessly at the slowest fish in the smallest barrels. From “feminists/the Kardashians sure are hairy!” jokes to a lot of terrorism-related gags that fall into the unpleasant trap of mocking not-Americans a lot harder than terrorists themselves, The Dictator is lazy comedy at its most glaring, all the more so because of a cast and crew that really should’ve known better.
5) Alex Cross
Speaking of people that should’ve known better, Tyler Perry should’ve had the wherewithal to realize that nobody outside of his core fanbase was going to take him seriously as a tough-talking, soulful action hero in the latter-day Denzel Washington mold. It doesn’t help that Alex Cross, drawn from the popular James Patterson character that you can find in the supermarket checkout line nearest you, combines logical jumps that make the first act of Taken look rational (at one point, Cross profiles a killer in detail just by looking at a drawing from a crime scene) with a series of generic beats designed to let Perry flex his muscles as an all-around performer. Except he doesn’t. Instead , the film moves along ploddingly, mixing in a few doses of misogyny between endless scenes of Perry glowering with little to no purpose. He’s also done no favors by Matthew Fox as his nemesis, delivering the worst interpretation of Heath Ledger’s Joker since that guy at your office Halloween party four years ago. Alex Cross was seemingly the planned beginning of a series, but it ended up the kind of action movie that time and endless parody have left behind.
4) The Devil Inside
It’s not just that The Devil Inside is woefully bad. Because it is. The found-footage story of a woman trying to find help for her possessed mother, the film manages to botch every single scary moment with endless cutaways; for an R-rated film, it’s strangely tame about showing any actual instances of brutality. It also goes so far in blatantly setting up its eventual endgame from the get-go that outlining plot turns by pausing the film and using neon letters would’ve been scarcely less obvious. Normally, though, an easy bit of cheap horror filmmaking to cash in on the current trend wouldn’t be so staggeringly bad, were it not for the film’s “holy shit this is not actually happening” finale. The demon predictably begins occupying bodies at will, leading to a chaotic car wreck, and then the film HALTS. And I don’t mean it has a faux-artful non-ending. No. I mean it cuts to black mid-scene, and asks the audience to go to a website for further information, complete with hyperlink. I know movies aren’t real people, but that finale enraged me to such an extent that I wanted The Devil Inside to be a person so I could take it outside and repeatedly punch it in the head.
3) American Reunion
Depressing nostalgia round two, in which a series of actors whose careers peaked when they were younger and hotter (and didn’t do whatever drugs Tara Reid happened upon in the mid-aughts) go back to the well for an unnecessary coda to a comedy trilogy that might’ve aged poorly but still works as a hallmark of its era of comedy. Unlike many turn-of-the-century teen movies, which mistook hatred of everybody onscreen for physical comedy brilliance, Pie asked you to lovingly identify with John Hughes tropes gone R-rated, and it largely worked. Reunion attempts to reinvigorate the franchise after a stay in straight-to-DVD hell by dealing in squicky jailbait gags and rote “marriage sure is tough” clichés, while also adding several more nadirs onto Jason Biggs’ reel. This disconnect between the old movies and this disaster becomes most clear when the film’s signature dose of heart sees its introduction, in the form of the characters damn near breaking the fourth wall and talking about how they aren’t as good as they once were. If we’re still supposed to identify with this crew, what does it say about a whole generation?
It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. For Robert Pattinson, a perfectly charming actor done a disservice by five years of appealing to the mildly insane fanbase of a seriously problematic billion-dollar franchise, Cosmopolis probably sounded like a full-blown vacation. Helmed by David Cronenberg? Based on a Don DeLillo novel? The pedigree was nothing if not on point. Unfortunately, Pattinson’s performance in this abysmal wreck of a movie is so good that it inadvertently vindicated most of Pattinson’s critics, for a turn so deliberately numb and affectless can only work if the movie makes even a lick of sense. Not only does Cosmopolis traffic almost solely in philosophical gibberish that even fans of the novel would be hard-pressed to follow, but rarely has the passage of time inside a theater felt so halted. Cosmopolis may well be the filmic version of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, the sort of intellectual temper tantrum that a small cluster of viewers will wax profound about while the rest of the world occupies its time with more interesting, worthwhile material.
Easy call. If there’s one thing I’ve refused to shut up about this year, it’s the disservice that every movie starring Taylor Kitsch did to Taylor Kitsch. At least with Savages, he wasn’t the only one who failed to walk away with his dignity intact. In a film that wastes Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Demian Bichir, John Travolta, Salma Hayek and a host of others, the central thesis of Savages starts off as a pro-marijuana legalization grindhouse flick and ends up mostly just being about how much Oliver Stone clearly wants to have sex with Blake Lively. Frequently shot in lecherous, drooling close-up, she’s the poor soul who gets to be the pretty face of the sinking ship, providing expository narration that holds the viewer’s hand through the entire film, in case you missed anything. It’s depressingly bad, trashily shot, almost hilariously racist (especially the film’s jaw-droppingly awful final line) and definitive proof that Stone has completely lost any ability to direct a cohesive, watchable movie. But hell. At least Savages makes a great drinking game. I’ll start: Every time Savages is the worst movie of 2012. Good luck.