The 1990s in Review: The Bottom 10
Commentary by James Berardinelli
Around this time of the decade, a great deal of thought goes into compiling "best of" lists. In the midst of all this frenzied activity to identify the cream of the crop, the peak quarter of a percent, it's easy to forget the other end of the spectrum. Any list, no matter how long, must have a top and a bottom, and it's often no easier to organize titles at the tail than at the head. It's also significantly more painful, since calling up memories of some of the most unwatchable drek of the decade can cause feelings of revulsion, horror, and depression. But, acting with great fortitude, I have approached this task and faced it without flinching.
It's worth noting that the list below should not be considered comprehensive. While I freely admit to having seen a higher number of awful movies than many of my colleagues, there are limits to my masochism. As a result, it is possible that I missed a film or two that deserves a place on this list (Note: that includes almost all Pauly Shore movies). Also, I conveniently bypassed almost everything that skipped theaters in favor of a direct-to-video or direct-to-cable deal. In short, if I didn't write a review of it, it's not eligible (considering that I reviewed about 1600 films released during the 1990s, there's no shortage of candidates). Allowing for those caveats, here are my picks for the Worst 10 Movies of the 1990s. (These are presented in reverse order, with the absolute worst being #1.)
#9. Bad Moon (1996): What a thoroughly appropriate title for one of the worst movies of the decade. Some guy in a wolf costume goes around ripping people apart. Rent it on video if you're in the mood to see something shockingly bad. In this era of morphing, CGI, and other futuristic special effects, Bad Moon puts someone into cheesy wolf man suit that wouldn't have been out of place in an old episode of Dr. Who. You can be forgiven if your attention is distracted by looking for the zipper. The film also boasts an odd astronomical phenomenon: the moon is always full. Lon Chaney Jr. must be turning over in his grave.
#8. The Pest (1997): I'm sure someone found this film appealing, but not me. I also find it hard to believe that something this irredeemably irritating can be considered an "acquired taste." No matter how strong your stomach and how often you're exposed to certain things, they don't get better. Aside from featuring the worst performance this side of a Pauly Shore movie, The Pest's stupid mix of failed comedy and incoherent plotting marks it as one of the few films I have labeled as "unwatchable." Sitting through this exercise in pointless pain, I felt like I was being tortured.
#7. Halloween 6 (1995): Over a span of six movies and 17 years, the Halloween moniker went from being one of the most respected titles in motion picture horror to one of the most derided. Halloween 6 isn't just a nadir for the series, it's one of the worst slasher films ever committed to celluloid - more inept than the worst Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street entries. The gore level is high and the scare level low -- although not as low as the intelligence level. Saddest of all, this represents the last on-screen appearance of veteran actor Donald Pleasance, who died while the film was being re-shot and re-edited. In an act that comes across more as an insult than anything else, the filmmakers dedicated the final product to him.
#6. Knock Off (1998): What can I say about this movie other than that it's the only zero star film of 1998? Jean Claude Van Damme proves that he may be the most incompetent mainstream actor working today (worse than **gasp** Steven Seagal), but it doesn't really matter, because the plot is so incoherent that viewers are too busy trying to figure out what's going on to notice his performance. Here's the conundrum: the movie is so bad it has to be seen to be believed, but it's unwatchable.
#5. The Mangler (1995): Put this one in the "so bad it's good" category. Unlike Halloween 6, this zero-star gem can provide some perverse entertainment, especially if you watch it while under the influence of a mind-altering substance. Look out for the homicidal refrigerator! Curiously, Anant Singh not only produced this, the worst movie of 1995, but also Cry, the Beloved Country, one of 1995's best. What are the odds of something like that?
#4. Mr. Nanny (1993): How's this for a pitch: Hulk Hogan as a babysitter wearing a tutu. Need more be said? Nothing that happens in this movie makes sense. There's no plot to speak of - the whole story is nothing more than a lame vehicle to get Hogan into the tutu. (Is there anything that these wrestlers won't do?) However, the most agonizing aspect of the film isn't the incoherent story or the failed comedy - it's having to endure "the Hulkster" sermonize about family values and the importance of telling your kids that you love them. Even back in 1993, maybe he was planning to follow Jesse Ventura into the political ring, and this was an early position speech.
#3. Children of the Corn 2 (1993): This movie is so bad that Stephen King (writer of the original Children of the Corn), who has been responsible for some of the most reprehensible cinematic trash of the last two decades, didn't want to be associated with it. Once again, we're confronted with a bottom-of-the-barrel horror movie where the story doesn't make any sense. At least there's a unique new method of killing on display here - a poor soul loses his life after being impaled by a flying corn stalk. Now that's something you don't see in every movie.
#2. Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996): 1996's most truly inept movie. A bunch of morons crawl around in dank, damp spaces trying not to get butchered by a mutant psycho serial killer. It's far too long and repetitious to be fun, but it does boast, among other things, the worst acting jobs and the most lame script of the year. And, of course, a title that emphasizes the illiteracy of the screenwriter. Also, anyone living in Boston (the movie's supposed setting) may justifiably wonder where this is taking place. Actually, it was filmed somewhere in Eastern Europe, where Boston lookalikes abound.
#1. Zombie! Vs. Mardi Gras (1999): In some ways, it's almost cheating to place this movie on the list, since it was a direct-to-video offering, not a theatrical release. However, no "Bottom 10 of the 1990s" list could possibly be complete without an appearance by the movie I have labeled "possibly the worst I have ever seen." (I include the word possibly in case there's some even worse horror that I have long since blocked out. But, to be honest, even my father's home movies can boast better production values, performances, and stories.) This is not a "so bad it's good" experience. It's too boring, repetitive, and irritating to have value as camp. The only possible worth to come from this is that, after enduring the indignity of being exposed to Zombie! Vs. Mardi Gras, you will appreciate which films are truly bad and which ones are just unimaginative and lifeless. Masochists who voluntarily elect to watch this film should be watched carefully by friends and family for other signs of eratic and self-destructive behavior.
© 1999 James Berardinelli