Can I admit that this Top Ten List wasn’t my idea? Al K Hall, over at The Bar None, gave me the idea to do a list of Top Ten Films They’ll Play In Hell after I posted a comment listing Saw VI as a film that might fit the bill – his review on it can be read here. That said, I had a little think about the idea, and decided it could possibly be done quite easily – the biggest of the crappiest films that would annoy people the most. You see, Hell isn’t a nice place to be. Apparently. According to religious iconography and theology, Hell is a place of eternal damnation, a place where people are tormented and tortured for eternity (quite the punishment for 80 or so years of life up here, right?), often with things that are important to them. Music lovers in hell could be consigned to listening to the complete works of The Firm or even Rick Astley, over and over again. TV fans would be made to watch endless repeats of Survivor, but only showing each episode in reverse order. So the question was asked: what are the top ten films they’d show in Hell to torment the evil film fan? It’s an interesting one, to be sure. Do you throw in a few bad sequels, most of which would be eminently worthy of inclusion, to pad the list out? Sure, there have been bad films down the years, but I think the ones in the list below indicate a special level of torment for which there can only be one result. Films they show in Hell. Cue BWAA HAAA HAAA here!
One of the biggest remake misfires of the last ten years, Planet Of The Apes manages to take a great story, of an astronaut stuck on a planet ruled by intelligent apes, and turn it into a giant chase sequence. Tim Burton, possibly one of Hollywoods most incredibly unfortunate filmmakers in that he’s blessed with an abundance of ideas and not one whit on how to make them emotionally connect to an audience, tried to reinvigorate a classic Hollywood franchise and failed big-time. Mark Wahlberg once more looks like he’s too bored to give a crap, Tim Roth spits and slurs his dialogue all over the shop, and Helena Bonham Carter is strangely asexual in the only romantic subplot the film contains. Great special effects and prosthetic make-up cannot overcome a leaden directorial style and a very average plot.
If you make it to hell, be sure and say hi to Trey Parker and Matt Stone, two “creative” blokes for whom explicit puppet sex trod all over the glorious memory of the Thunderbirds. Team America is far and away one of the most annoyingly successful films of modern times, thanks mainly to the aforementioned marionette porn, a sequence in which even Golden Showers aren’t avoided. Decidedly “adult” without the wit or class of mainstream “adult” features, Team America tried to lampoon the chest-beating machismo the US seemed to crap out every other week while Dubbya was in the White House. Whether it succeeded or not is a matter of opinion (if not box-office), but you can be assured that the catchy tune of “I”m So Ronery” will resonate down in even the darkest, hottest levels of Hell.
One day, in a Hollywood studio thinktank, somebody came up with a great idea. Passing on that idea, somebody opted to make Sliver instead. Cashing in quite well on the Sharon Stone Basic Instinct mood swinging about Hollywood at the time, they decided to just cast her in another skin-flick instead of getting somebody new. Who would have guessed: the film tanked, came and went in the blink of an unpervy eye, and ended up gaining more viewers on late night television. For long, lavish shots of a wrinkly Sharon Stone, Sliver might be on endless loop in your special corner of hell!
The first one is considered one of the true classics of all time. The second tried hard and didn’t quite manage to equal the original. The third Jaws, in which Lou Gossett Jr takes on an enormous shark and then it’s even larger mother, is a debacle in any sense. But the fourth Jaws, in which Michael Caine phones in a hammy performance, Lorraine Gray, who played the wife of Martin Brody in the original, has a mind-fart and thinks the shark has followed her to the Bahamas – as if! Featuring even worse shark effects than the entire three previous films combined, Jaws: The Revenge is your punishment for going back into the water after watching Spielberg’s original.
It must have seemed like a plan with no drawbacks. A sequel to one of the great Hollywood musicals of the 80’s: The Blues Brothers. Problem was, one of the original cast was dead, the other had gained a hundred pounds, and a lot of the dry, sly humor was replaced by try-hard scattershot wit with limited repeat appeal. A few new characters were thrown into the mix, including a normally awesome John Goodman, as well as Joe Morton. A galaxy of superstar cameos, as well as the ultimate supergroup of blues music stars from around the world, couldn’t salvage a film so bereft of coolness and style it’s staggering to think they even bothered putting the moniker “blues brothers” on the cover.
Martin Lawrence is, almost without doubt, one of the most irritating “comedians” ever put in front of a Hollywood camera. The fact he has managed to carve out a “career” in Tinseltown is staggering, although one can’t help but wonder if the goodwill he built up with Michael Bay’s Bad Boys has since evaporated with a bunch of Big Momma’s films. Surely, surely, this Eddie Murphy wannabe couldn’t keep making films, right? Surely audiences had more class than to actually walk, in daylight, into Big Momma’s House 3, didn’t they? Apparently not.
Steve Oedekerk invented the Thumbmation Films (Thumbwars, Thumbtanic, et al) and seemed like quite an auteur at sarcastic, spoof humor in the vein of Lesley Neilsen’s massive legacy. A friend of Jim Carrey, Oedekerk was primarily a writer for comedy shows like In Living Colour and the Ace Ventura films – and all seemed okay until he blew out his ego with Kung Pow, the ultimate spoof of 70’s martial arts movies. Instead of a clever, pointed comedy with his normally wry wit and sense of timing, Kung Pow has as much clever writing as a five minute episode of Sesame Street. If only for the scene in which The Chosen One (Oedekerk) goes hand-to-hoof with a CGI cow, Moo Nieu, Kung Pow has a certain cult following, but for those of us who aren’t fans of over-dubbed martial arts films, Kung Pow represents a low point in comedy.
You know, I don’t mind a bit of porn from time to time: I am a red-blooded bloke after all. So when Showgirls popped up on the radar a few years back, most blokes would have done the same thing as me – lied to their significant others about going over to watch the football, and gone to the cinema and caught this film instead. Paul Verhoeven, the man best known for giving us a view of Sharon Stone only reserved for her gynecologist, decided that clothes would be optional on his set the day he made this. Dreadful acting, piss-poor scripting, and an overkill of boobs, ass and everything else, including a gang-rape scene, make Showgirls almost a so-bad-it’s-good film that finds its way into every single man’s film collection – it’s a film you can’t watch but can’t look away from when you do. Elizabeth Berkley, who “stars” as lead character Nomi, faded into the obscurity she deserved after this rubbish. Watching her sex scene with Kyle MacLachlan is as sexy as watching two cold fish flap around a linoleum floor leaving their rubbery slick goo everywhere.
A decade and a half of anticipation, monumental hype not seen in Hollywood since…. well, probably ever, and a promise of some amazing state-of-the-art effects: The Phantom Menace never stood a chance. Even if had been a decent film, which it isn’t, it would never have been received as well as folks wanted to receive it. George Lucas’s horrifyingly cloying script has since become the stuff of legend. Darth Vader as a kid? Really, that’s the story we wanted to see? Not only did he ruin Vader, but he ruined the Force by making it a blood condition, and Natalie Portman took years to get over this and win an Oscar. A film designed to sell toys and not much else, The Phantom Menace took all that the Star Wars fanboys loved and gang-raped it into a blue-screen miasma from which there was no escape. Lucas won himself no fans with his now infamous comment on the DVD special features where he remarked to a yes-man lackey in the production office that “Jar Jar Binks, if we get it right, could be the funniest character we’ve ever had in Star Wars.” Oh George. Oh George.
The one film on Earth that should be mandatory viewing in every film school for what NOT to do. Based on the ludicrous ramblings of some dude Tom Cruise has a boner for, and shortened down to a napkin-sized script, this John Travolta hand-job to L Ron Hubbard is about as mind numbing as you can get outside of a general anesthetic. This is the kind of film that wakes people from a coma only to cause some sort of aneurysm. Travolta and Forest Whitaker (at least, I think it’s Forest under all that makeup) play alien creatures that have taken over Earth, and Barry Pepper as the single human capable of stopping them. Free of nominal constraints like logic and sense, Battlefield Earth plays like a badly conceptualized video game, like a first person shooter that you aren’t actually controlling. Director Roger Christian has pretty much not done anything of value since. If you’re gonna be forced to watch one film over and over again, make sure it isn’t this one.