Before delving into my Top 10 Worst Films of 2009, I’d like to make clear that this list is not without its glaring omissions. I never subjected myself to All about Steve, Old Dogs or The Hottie and the Nottie. I avoided Bride Wars and Miss March like the plague. I also made sure to not buy a ticket to Planet 51.
I did see New Moon and Transformers 2 but they fell more into the “forgettably mediocre” category than the “unwatchable” one.
So, basically, this list really represents the most unbearable movie-watching experience I did end up enduring this year, the films that either caught me by complete, horrified surprise, or I went in gritting my teeth for.
Anyhoo, onto the list!
1) HALLOWEEN II If Rob Zombie’s remake of John Carpenter’s 1978 original was uninspired and hackneyed, his sequel is an utterly embarrassing catastrophe; a wildly miscalculated attempt at creating an artsy slasher film through hokey pop-psychology, tin-eared humour, migraine-inducing surrealism and chaotically-edited, emotionless brutality. Despite the best efforts of a game, if stiff, cast, the once-promising director drags this project through the sordid muck and grime every chance he gets, producing an excruciatingly ugly exercise in banal cruelty without momentum or a glimmer of intelligence. Halloween II proves that even the formidable Michael Myers is no match for a crazed Zombie.
2) SORORITY ROW I personally guarantee that viewing this mean-spirited slasher picture will leave you desiring a shower well before the drawn-out, tawdry conclusion. Director Stewart Hendler has created a truly hateful, sleazy slice of nasty misogyny with Sorority Row, a mind-numbing murder mystery featuring a band of repulsive, racist, venom-tongued, alcoholic super-sluts attempting to figure out the identity of a cloaked, tire-iron-wielding executioner. Making up his female cast like Hastings Street hookers and eagerly searching for new methods of degrading them, the pervy helmer ignores building intensity or terror in favour of killing their dignities on-screen in as gruesome a fashion as possible.
3) THE UNBORN Intended to be a Jewish variation of The Exorcist, the relentlessly dour and dull The Unborn, written and directed by David S. Goyer, feels like a potpourri of out-dated, recycled ideas. Creepy-crawly bugs? Check. Spooky, wide-eyed children? Check. Nightmarish nocturnal visions of sinister animals? Check. Twitching, sputtering victims of demonic possession? Check. A frequently underwear-clad young woman (possible Real Doll© Odette Yustman) with a mysterious past? You know it. The fact that none of these venerable-if-ill-fitting elements add up to a single memorable moment of genuine fright? Now, THAT’S scary!
4) GAMER Not content to stick to their absurd Crank franchise, creative duo Neveldine/Taylor instead turned their ADD-riddled attentions to this fractured and thin attempt at social commentary, which would be laughable if it weren’t so damn grating. Pulling from their now-tired bag of tricks – which includes random blasts of graphic sex and nudity, dripping gore, epilepsy-triggering action, and general perversity – the directorial dunderheads attempt to viciously criticize their general fan-base while alternately following the adventures of Gerard Butler’s character, a prisoner taking part in a real-life video-game. Light on excitement and fun, long on deafening obnoxiousness, Gamer’s plug should have been pulled during the script-phase.
5) UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS A stale prequel to 2003’s clunky vampires vs. werewolves smack-down extravaganza Underworld, Rise of the Lycans attempts to mine dramatic gold from the Jesus Christ-like sufferings of wolf-leader Lucian (a pay-check cashing Michael Sheen), but draws only snores and the listless eye-rolls. Seemingly shot on a single, small, under-dressed soundstage, the film is a tacky-looking, talky supernatural groaner that forsakes any attempts at creativity in favour of half-heartedly aping Spartacus, Gladiator and Braveheart. By the way: that sucking noise you hear isn’t coming from the movie’s vampires. Nope, it’s the sound of Screen Gems pictures draining every last possible cent from their insipid flat-lining franchise.
6) NINJA ASSASSIN Following the release of 2005’s sophisticated and thrilling V for Vendetta, director James McTeigue looked like a rising star to be reckoned with; a virtuoso talent with genuine action chops and a flair for epic dramatic storytelling. However, after enduring his sophomore effort Ninja Assassin, I think we may need to start re-evaluating our expectations. By attaching his once-respectable name to such an irritatingly humourless, inert martial arts pot-boiler, populated by stony one-dimensional characters engaging in drearily incomprehensible CG-addled fight scenes, McTeigue has committed what can only be described as film career seppuku.
7) STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI It takes a pretty major debacle to make 1994’s Jean-Claude Van Damme-led Street Fighter: The Movie look good by comparison, but "The Legend of Chun-Li" does just that. Starring Smallville’s Kristin Kreuk as the titular Chinese(!) ass-kicker, the film pilfers most of its key scenes and crucial plot-points from Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, but strips them of technique and emotional resonance. Filled with unintentionally comic dialogue, robotic acting – minus Chris Klein’s side-splittingly atrocious performance as swaggering cop Charlie Nash – and wooden martial arts battles, this second Street Fighter is yet another sluggish video-game adaptation in desperate need of a creative power-up.
8) OBSESSED The biggest sin committed by this trashy hit is that it completely misunderstands the appeal of its inspiration Fatal Attraction. By removing all moral greyness and egotism from male lead Idris Elba, we’re left with a soppy victimized nonentity, devoid of complexity, guilt or inner-conflict, forced to sit impotently on the sidelines while his no-nonsense lioness wife (Beyonce Knowles) heroically saves him - through gloriously campy cat-fight fisticuffs – from sultry, 95-pound stalker Ali Larter. Director Steve Shill also eradicates all erotic charge from the lurid premise, making Obsessed feel as limp as its emasculated protagonist.
9) YEAR ONE Is there anything funnier than seeing Michael Cera and Jack Black stand listlessly around in animal-print loin clothes? Not in Year One, that’s for sure. Apparently written over a weekend by The Office scribes Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, along with director Harold Ramis, the flick feels like an inane artefact of the early 80s; an expensive, high-concept comedicus stupidicus boasting a hard-working, but visibly mortified, cast of improv all-stars (Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt and David Cross, to name a few) frantically attempting to draw the audience’s attention away from their silly costumes. Fortunately, with this pathetic, laugh-free clinker stumbling at the box-office, any chances of Year Two occurring are completely extinct...
10) X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE Yikes, even Wolvie’s enhanced healing powers may be helpless to restore his box-office vitality after the heavy blow dealt by Origins, a clumsy not-so-superhero blockbuster-in-name-only. Costing $150 million, but boasting bargain-basement CG effects, paper-thin supporting mutants and a script comprised of plot-holes so gaping that the X-Jet could soar through them, the Clawed One’s first solo adventure was so hopelessly bungled that it’ll take more than an amnesia bullet to wipe its crappiness from movie-goers’ minds.
Dishonorable Mentions: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN, SURVEILLANCE, NEW IN TOWN, THE FINAL DESTINATION, OBSERVE AND REPORT, THE LOVELY BONES, COUPLE RETREAT.