Of the approximately 120 films I saw from 2012, overall I liked the vast majority of them on at least some level. Almost all of the films considered the worst of the year were not ones I saw so keep in mind the severe absence of countless possible slot-fillers. Here are the ten biggest offenders in my eyes. I tend to be more offended by the dully bad than the fascinatingly bad, so the scale is tipped towards the former and you’ll be seeing lots of ‘lifeless’ reasoning. Hence The Paperboy not being here; it may be awful but it stuck with me.
What do you think were the worst films of 2012?
10. The Moth Diaries
Mary Harron – why and how did you go so wrong? I’m a sucker for boarding-school-for-girls films and am easy to please when it comes to them (example; last year’s Cracks). What could have been a sexy and explorative coming-of-age fable about hormones, the possessiveness of female friendships and vampires is instead dead on arrival. It offends through boredom, lifelessness and the voiceover overkill. Forgettable doesn’t begin to cover this utter dud. Sidenote: I continue to crush on Sarah Gadon.
9. Dark Shadows
The humor has one mode, ‘weren’t the 1970′s funny?’, that proves Dark Shadows inability to commit to anything or handle its identity crisis. The jokes themselves are either corny observations or short exchanges with log-like landings that are delivered half-heartedly and take on the low energy level the pacing dictates. Worst of all, the jokes are bad. Really bad. Smith could have found genuine humor in the fish-out-of-water plot or imbued comic timing with scenarios, situations or in the dynamics between characters. The best he could do are piss-poor kind-of jokes that first and foremost do not compromise the overall non-tone. Since this is how Dark Shadows deals with each genre courting; the result is that the film has no discernible tone at all.
Impressive visuals, a campy villainous performance and excellent effects work do not a good film make. One of two revisionist Snow White adaptations in 2012, this one teases that it’ll fill in some backstory and set its sights on Charlize Theron’s evil queen. Once the plot kicks in, all potential washes away and the focus racks onto Stewart’s heroine. Ending in a self-inflated full scale battle reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, the stakes ratchet up without the audience ever feeling it. Stewart does nothing in this role. She tries to emote but it’s too wooden to register. It’s also called Snow White and the Huntsman, and it’s the most lackluster attempt at an onscreen pairing in recent memory. It’s beyond going through the motions; it’s a wispy undeveloped question mark. When they get together, it’s like a twist ending that they ever had any romantic feelings for each other at all.
7. The Woman in the Fifth
A perfect example of artsy-gone-wrong. From the director of the excellent My Summer of Love, this unenticing incomprehensible cloud of nothing cannot drum up any intrigue for the audience. Telling a vague symbolic story means there has to be something keeping our interest whether intuition or feeling or the story-in-the-moment. This has nothing to offer or pull the viewer in so what am I supposed to get out of it?
Many of these films appear on this list because they are criminally lifeless. One thing Detachment is not is lifeless.
In Detachment, eccentric director Tony Kaye’s examination of the everyday minutiae of an urban high school, picked his form of attack–full-scale assault—and decided that was enough. He crams so much horror and extremity into every scenario he presents that the film has no room to breathe. There is a train-wreck quality that keeps this consistently watchable but not for the reasons Kaye wants. A ‘what will he throw at us next’ pull resides. He uses the guise of the school education system as a cipher for a no holds barred sustained shrill that is always pitched at 11, and unfortunately only cares about being pitched at 11.
5. Silent House
Elizabeth Olsen does a fine job here and there is a craftsmanship to the one-take found footage gimmick (though I’m sure there are hidden cuts in there somewhere). The praise ends there. By focusing with minute precision on Olsen’s unceasing terror, Silent House takes the voyeurism of horror to a pointless and shallow level without exploring the implications of its choices. This would have been thrown on the stack of forgettable horror films if not for a last act twist that felt nauseatingly exploitative. The way it handles the material does nothing to justify itself; it has a cheap and dirty feel to it with no return value.
4. Mirror Mirror
Before going into Mirror Mirror, I heard that it closes with a Bollywood number. My immediate reaction, despite not having seen it at that point, was one of vague irritation. Lo and behold, it ended up being the only few tolerable minutes in this lifeless and obnoxious monstrosity. It is the sole occasion where it musters up any semblance of energy or feeling. As Mirror Mirror death-marched itself to the finishing line, it sunk in that I quite simply hated this film.
Perhaps Mirror Mirror’s biggest snafu is that no flicker of genuine emotion can be found; thus no stakes can be felt and no fun can be had. It creates an immense detachment. The result is to be left with one’s own boredom and aggravation.
I adore shitty high-concept horror films. They can be such a blast when they go oh-so-wrong, which is why I geared up to watch ATM with giddy excitement. It got bad reviews and the whole thing takes place with three young folks trapped in an ATM kiosk while someone tries to kill them. This sounds hilariously bad! But it was the other kind of bad. Like, bad bad. Ludicrous and boring to boot.
2. Liz and Dick
Yes, I hate-watched it. Yes, it’s as atrocious as you heard. Yes, I understand this is a Lifetime Original Movie and expectations were low. No, I don’t feel like I actually watched a movie. I don’t even know what I watched. And it’s official; Lindsay Lohan cannot even deliver a simple line reading convincingly anymore. Unfortunately, she was like a high school student doing a first read-through for the Spring production. I don’t exaggerate.
1. God Bless America
Atrocious. Beyond hypocritical. Full of itself. Holier than thou. Speechifying. Condescending. Had the opposite effect it was meant to. Instead of rooting for its core concerns which, before watching, had some validity for me, it made me want to watch “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” just to spite this piece of shit nonsense. Fuck. This. Movie.