KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 ― The first horror film on record was made by Georges Méliès. Le Manoir du Diable (1896) was only about three minutes long but had enough time to squeeze in horror staples such as bats, devils, witches, cauldrons, ghosts and trolls.
Modern horror movies typically fall into subgenres such as creatures/monsters, supernatural, slashers, gore, gothic, psychological and comedy.
Some of the movies that defined those genres are Jaws (1975), The Shining (1980), Alien (1979), Psycho (1960), The Fly (1986) and The Exorcist (1973).
Also, Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea have been producing creepy and chilling movies.
Among the favourites are Ringu (1998), Ju-on: The Grudge (2002), Suicide Club (2001), The Eye (2002), Shutter (2004), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), Thirst (2009) and Malaysia’s Dukun (released last April after languishing in storage for more than 10 years).
But for every gem of a horror flick, there are others that scare the heck out of you simply for being bad.
So, why not watch some horrible horror movies in the run up to Halloween? This way, you can still have a good night’s sleep without the lights on. Or stay up laughing at the horror of it.
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
After the success of the first movie, this sequel was highly anticipated as it followed the life of Regan (Linda Blair) after she survived the first possession. Only this time, the story was bonkers as the writers tried so hard to shoehorn a historical backstory with James Earl Jones dressed in some pseudo-African inspired costume.
The movie also had a plague of locusts, an awkward seduction by Regan and weird chants and rituals. When Exorcist novelist William Peter Blatty reportedly laughed while watching the sequel, you know it is doomed. Despite its meagre box-office takings, the movie franchise saw more sequels and prequels, each wackier than the next.
The Swarm (1978)
Killer bees, anyone? Considered a large production with substantial investment, The Swarm was expected to be a killer at the box-office. Instead, it was dead on arrival, much like the victims in the story. We bet Michael Caine, Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland would rather forget they starred in this disaster flick.
Caine did say this was his worst film to date. Still, it was fun watch him shout the most bewildering lines in the movie while wearing brown uninspiring outfits.
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
One had hoped for the Jaws franchise to stop at two movies. Sadly, that did not happen and we have Jaws: The Revenge to contend with. Scoring zero on Rotten Tomatoes and staking a mention in almost every terrible movie list, this fourth instalment served up lots of unintentional laughs.
Somehow, a vengeful shark was able to cover about 1,900 kilometres just to take a bite out of the survivors made no sense. Also, sharks do not roar. Instead of taking the movie seriously, why not try spotting the props and special effects gaffes in it?
Troll 2 (1990)
By now, you know most sequels are bad news. Troll 2 was not a straightforward sequel, in fact, it had no connection to the original or featured any trolls.
Instead, it was about a family being chased down by vegetarian goblins who wanted to turn people into plants to eat them.
Apparently, the script was an expression of frustration the director’s wife had about her friends becoming vegetarians. Perhaps it was the ludicrous storyline or because it starred actors with little experience or the extremely low budget effects. The movie was understandably a flop.
But it did result in an award-winning behind the scenes documentary in 1990 by its child star Michael Stephenson, aptly titled Best Worst Movie.
An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
Loosely based on the original that was set in London, this film did not win the critics. Scoring only 7 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, it was heavily criticised for its unimaginative CGI effects, instead of the use of physical make-up for the werewolf’s transformation. Riddled with clichés and characters no one cared about, you would be rooting for the monster(s) to just end it all.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
It was baffling as to why Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr would reprise their roles in this laughable film. Seeing that the original left the door wide open for the return of the vengeful antagonist, Hewitt and her friends were once again terrorised by the killer with an iron hook. Although critics panned it as boring and predictable, the film did well, raking in a worldwide earning of US$84 million (RM350 million).
Alone in the Dark (2005)
Generally, you would want to avoid anything directed by Uwe Boll. This supposed action horror starred Christian Slater who played a detective with a sixth sense and specialised in the occult.
Somehow, he was also experimented on as a child and had increased strength and speed.
Despite being the best part of the movie, Slater failed to conjure any believable chemistry with co-star Tara Reid. Based on a video game that was inspired by HP Lovecraft, Alone in the Dark needed more suspense and teasing, instead of random action set pieces.
The Gingerdead Man (2005)
This was Halloween and Christmas gone wrong. Gary Busey voiced the Gingerdead Man, who was created from a mix of gingerbread spices and ashes of a serial killer. You would be right to think that the movie premise is ridiculous. More ridiculous is it had three sequels and a comic book series followed. Who said you can’t have gingerbread and eat it too?
The Wicker Man (2006)
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. You wished Hollywood heeded this advice when someone floated the idea to remake the 1973 British classic of the same name. Only this time, Nicholas Cage was the star.
Cage received terrible reviews for his over-the-top acting and unintentional comedy. The scene where he was attacked by bees now lives on as a meme.
Cage also dedicated the film to guitarist Johnny Ramone but we doubt the late musician would approve.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
What was supposedly a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, this creature featured quickly devolved into a strange romance. After a romantic night, a couple found their town under attack by mutated eagles and vultures.
Somehow, in the midst of all the “shock and terror”, the film went on to proselytise about climate change and animals retaliating against humans.
Somehow, the attacks were fended off when doves appeared and the film ended with the happy couple staring into the sunset.
If you wanted to movie that dealt with meme-speak, this is it. See, if you went on ChatRoulette and typed “I did it for the lulz” three times, the Smiley Killer would do the deed. One thing it had going for it was the monster design.
However, it was hard to watch as the conversation felt like an internet troll forum.
Even the ending felt slightly silly when it was revealed that there was no supernatural killer on the loose.
Also, the movie tried to have a “teachable” moment — internet anonymity is fatal.
The Bye Bye Man (2017)
If you ever wanted to a film that clumsily mashed elements from better slasher flicks, this is one.
An evil spirit somehow got into the victim’s mind, driving them to mayhem and murder. The script did little to live up to the premise.
It had potential if filmmakers did not rely on cheap scares, banal dialogue and predictable plots. The characters were caricatures played by recognisable names such as Carrie Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway.
All we can say is do not whisper the name, in fear of a sequel.
The Forest (2016)
Compared to some of the zingers on this list, this movie isn’t particularly bad, just that the premise is rather distasteful.
All-American girl played by Games of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer went to Aokigahara Forest in Japan in search of her sister.
Once she went into the forest, naturally strange things happened and she was fighting to stay alive, not to mention a twist at the end.
The thing is the movie was a letdown as it relied heavily on choppy cuts, jump scares and bleak colours.
It also drew criticism that the plot trivialised suicide and disrespected the people who died in the said forest. In fact, filming was done in Serbia as the Japan government did not allow the crew to film in the forest.
Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)
George A Romero’s zombie classic has seen remakes, sequels and homage over the decades. While Bloodline filmmakers wanted to stay as close to the original as possible, the film scored zero on Rotten Tomatoes with some critics calling it “a pointless exercise”.
For cathartic reasons, watch people make stupid decisions and yell at one another.