88. Slender Man
You know, from a certain point of view, I’m actually kind of grateful for this movie. Not for anything specific it did, mind, or any greater effect in had on the wider filmmaking world or internet culture, no no. On the contrary, I’m grateful for it because for much of the year thus far it looked like ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ was going to be my bottom film of 2018. And, as much as I disliked that film, it really didn’t feel like a good fit for the absolute worst movie I saw in 2018, if only because it felt like actual genuine (if misguided) effort was put into it. What I really wanted for the bottom of this list was a nice cynical lazy garbage fire with little-to-no redeeming features that I could just pound on without a hint of guilt.
Cue Slender-Man. Easily my least favourite movie of 2018.
Now, before I start talking about this film, I should quickly emphasise, I actually don’t mind the idea of a movie about Slender-Man. I know a lot of people have been talking about it as an example of ‘Hollywood scraping the bottom of the barrel again’, but there are a lot of genuinely interesting points to the mythos that could make for an interesting story, whether you take it at face value or attempt a more ambitious exploration about the nature of memetic folklore, akin to something like the original 90’s Candyman. Call it heresy if you want but I feel like you could’ve gotten a genuinely good movie out of the material.
This was not that movie. This was not even close to being that movie.
Honestly, what annoyed me the most about this film was just how lazy it all feels. There’s almost nothing original or imaginative or at all like anyone had put in any worthwhile effort in the entire movie. The characters are either annoying or flat, the scares are predictable and uninteresting (when you can actually make them out in the near-constant darkness), the pacing is bizarre, the plot makes no sense and even Slender-Man himself feels like he could be taken out and replaced by any generic horror movie monster/demon. Heck, he might as well be, since you can barely friggin see him half the time with how poorly the movie is lit.
Hell, even the psychedelic freakouts (the main source of horror since Slender-Man barely feels like he’s in the movie much of the time) feel lazy and uninteresting. There’s no real artistry or talent to it, it just ends feels like an amateur film student playing with background filters and animations on his editing software. It’s clearly aiming to be trippy and uncomfortable, but most of the times comes off as people shaking their heads blurrily while scary noises blare at the screen. I think it says something that the most emotional reaction the scares got out of me wasn’t horror but was instead an irritated ‘Really? That’s what you’re going for for your big scary freakout? Really?!’
In fact, from how little we see of Slenderman and from the way the movie plays out, I’m almost 90% certain this was just some cheap demon possession movie script that got Slender-Man half-heartedly thrown in last minute to cash in on the brand name. The first introduction we get to the character and his mythos is almost literally a character just reading from what feels like his wikipedia page. Not to mention the dozens of little doodles that feel less terrifying and more like they raided the internet for fanart they could legally use without permission. And as amusing as that all sounds, it’s really not. Because the movie doesn’t even have the decency to be the interesting kind of bad. It’s just bad and boring and lifeless.
So yeah, to sum up, this movie is garbage. It’s too lazy and stupid to work as a proper horror movie and too boring and uninteresting to work as an entertainingly bad movie. It’s just bad. That’s all there is to it. Fortunately, it’s only uphill from here! Albeit veeery slowly…
87. A Wrinkle in Time
Man, this movie was disappointing. I’ve never read the original book that this was based on, but the trailers and premise both looked appealing and I’m a big fan of the director, Ava DeVernay’s previous work and was definitely interested in seeing how she’d handle a big budget effects driven blockbuster.
Unfortunately, the answer to that appears to be ‘not very well’.
Seriously, this movie was a frustratingly confusing mess. Like I said, I’ve never read the original source material this was based on, but I had no idea what was going on half the time and not in a fun way. The pacing was bizarre, the writing was confused and the movie constantly either took way too long to explain something or just didn’t explain properly it at all. I get the impression that the movie was going for magical and twee, akin to something like the first Harry Potter movie, but just ended up just being really really annoying because it never really explained anything and the main character used to deliver this tweeness, Charles Wallace was… well… really really obnoxious. No offense to the child actor or anything, but the line between ‘precocious’ and ‘irritating as fuck’ is a very thin one and the character jumped pretty heftily into the latter.
It’s especially annoying because there is a fair amount of reason to like this movie, in theory. The main actress actually does a really good job with what she’s been given, a lot of the effects are nice and, unlike most lousy blockbusters, it genuinely does feel like effort and passion was put into this. But in a lot of ways, that almost made it worse. With a lazy poorly-made blockbuster, I can just switch off my brain and endure the boredom. But this movie felt like it was trying, which made me kept trying to engage with it, which made it all the more frustrating when it just gave me nothing in return.
Like I said in my Slender-Man review, I am rather glad that I didn’t have to put this at the very bottom of the list after all, because I don’t really feel like it deserves it. It’s not lazy or cynical or hateful and it did feel like most of the people involved in this were trying. But, like I said before, the fact that I actually had some level of expectation for it only really made it worse. Because it’s just plain not a good movie and, even though there are arguably worse movies still to come on the list, it’s hard to say that any of them disappointed me as much as this did.
86. Gotham by Gaslight
Hey, remember when DC Animated movies used to actually be really good? Like really good? Good enough that I’d call more than a few on par with some of the better live-action superhero movies? Even to this day I’m a huge fan of the likes of Under the Red Hood, Superman vs the Elite, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights and the Flashpoint Paradox. But ever since Flashpoint and the whole Nu-52 esque rebooting of that universe… Well… they’ve all kinda turned to shit.
Point in question? Gotham by Gaslight. A film that watched the really shitty prologue from the Killing Joke animated movie and thought ‘Hey, I bet we can handle gender issues even worse than that movie!’
I mean seriously, this movie has the triage of sins of being boring, stiff and actively unpleasant at certain points, especially when it comes to treatment of female characters. Don’t get me wrong, I get it, it’s Batman vs Jack the Ripper, a guy infamous for murdering prostitutes, so I’m not exactly expecting it to be a masterpiece of feminism. But even then, the movie just leaves a bad taste in my mouth with its treatment of women in this film. By and large they’re all barely developed victims, minus Selena who gets maybe a few minutes of competence before becoming an object of lust and a damsel.
And again, that’s not always necessarily a bad thing… well, okay, it’s not always necessarily a movie-ruining thing, but it’s particularly bad here because, beneath the surface, it kinda feels like the movie is trying to make some kind of theme or point about female suffering. Things like domestic violence, prostitution, exploitation and male entitlement are all touched upon and the main villain’s whole motivation ultimately ends up being an almost cartoonish hatred of women. But the problem is that the movie never really follows through on it or provides any kind of a conclusion or feels like it has anything actually worthwhile to say on these subjects and, as a result, just comes across as a bunch of unpleasant acts towards women. The main villain particular comes off as almost cartoonish in his misogyny and feels like an attempt to be ‘adult’ and ‘mature’ but comes off as just ridiculous, edgy and immature instead, like he’s a caricature or something. It’s mean-spirited and just plain unpleasant to watch.
Plus, it’s also really kinda boring? The idea of a steampunk Batman set in Victorian times is an interesting one, but the story and the writing is just kinda bland and it really doesn’t feel like they do enough with the idea. The only interesting and memorable part of it to me was the three Robins as street urchins working for Batman. That much was kinda neat. The rest is just dull and forgettable.
I don’t know if I’d call this the worst DC animated movie and, as far as I’m concerned, it still doesn’t quite reach that same level of ‘What the hell were you thinking?’ as the prologue in the Killing Joke movie, but this was pretty dire and awful to watch to boot. I don’t know how or why DC’s animated movie division lost its way so, but I hope they manage to get their groove back. Because isn’t going to be the last DCAU movie to place fairly low on this list…
85. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion I- Initiation
I seriously cannot believe this got an actual fucking theatrical release near me, even if it was a one-night only screening. Because this was seriously one of the laziest piece-of-shit excuses for a recap movie that I’ve seen in a while.
Basically, for those unfamiliar, Code Geass was originally an anime series about an alternate world where Japan is invaded by the Britannian Empire, a world-spanning empire with giant mechs. The original TV series ran for about 52 episodes and was fairly interesting, if flawed in places. This, on the other hand, is an anthology movie replaying the first half/third or so of the first season, with a handful of new scenes to go with it. Now, when I heard about that, I had naturally assumed that they would’ve done at least a little bit of a touch-up, quality-wise, to make this look more worthy of a theatrical release rather than just openly re-using the animation from the TV show.
In hindsight, this was incredibly naive of me.
Seriously, this movie is basically just the TV show poorly edited into a 2 hour movie. And I don’t mean in an ‘every shot is identical sort of way’, I mean literally I’m about 90% certain they just took the actual low-quality tv footage, clumsily recut it to fit the runtime and called it a day. Ignoring the fact that said cut was cut in a way that destroys the pacing, butchers several important plot threads and all around just looks kinda shitty and of poor TV quality on the big screen. Even the new scenes were fairly disappointing and didn’t add much to the story being told. It’s the sort of movie that made me genuinely question what the hell the point of making it even was. It doesn’t add nearly enough new things for old viewers and new viewers are going to be confused or bored by the nonsensical pacing. It’s just bad and this is coming from someone who actually enjoyed the show when he was young
Needless to say, when/if the next anthology movie hits UK cinemas, I am going to be giving a miss…. Probably. (I have poor impulse control.)