Coming in at number ten on the worst films of 2017 is George Clooney’s latest directorial feature “Suburbicon”, Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Issac. With a screenplay originally Co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen most of us expected more. I mean it’s the guys behind the best body of Crime/Drama work in Hollywood for god sake. “Blood Simple”, “The Big Lebowski”, “Fargo” and “No Country For Old Men” are seriously flawless works, and yes the brothers were at the helm of each of those films which was not the case here, but Clooney’s no slouch. With Damon’s character mixed up in blackmail, embezzlement and murder and the film set in circa 1950’s American suburbia, you’d have thought this was a sure thing, right? Wrong. With additional writing credits to both Clooney and a fourth person, is it any wonder Suburbicon feels like four different layers of a hodgepodge story. It’s not so much that the film is bad it just never feels like a cohesive unit. The pacing is rather sluggish, the themes of racial vilification seem shoehorned in, coming to a head with the townspeople incessantly protesting on the front lawn of the first black family to move into the neighborhood, and then the bizarre choice to have Moore play dueling roles of twin sisters when it wasn’t a vital detail. It all comes to a screaming halt before the second act winds up and if not for a couple of those unmistakably, Coen approved violent altercations and Issac’s memorable performance as health insurance agent, Bud Cooper, Suburbicon would be even further down the totem pole.
9. ALIEN COVENANT
Number 9, Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated return to the “Alien” franchise with “Alien Covenant”. The original Alien from 79′ has been widely regarded as one of the greatest Sci-Fi/Horror films of all time. It spawned three sequels in the original series during the two decades that followed, and in more recent times the under appreciated origin story of “Prometheus”, which saw Scott finally return to the franchise. With the latter being an origin story, it didn’t feature the iconic Xenomorphs and in the end wasn’t really what people were hoping for, despite its super impressive visuals (further highlighted in 3D). With Covenant, Scott’s aim was to take the story back to its roots and have this be a prequel to the original Alien, not a bad idea. Boasting a great trio consisting of Michael Fassbender (in dueling roles), Katherine Waterston (Enter Nowhere) and Billy Crudup (Rudderless), wonderful cinematography by DP, Dariusz Wolski (The Martian and The Walk) and plenty of Xenomorph action, I had high hopes. The holes in the characters logic’s in Alien Covenant are of canyon sized proportions and its the really poor writing overall that weighs it down. To set the whole process of infection off, we have a secondary crew member from the colony ship who takes in a toxin after stepping on something (if I recall correctly).. fair enough. Needless to say things quickly go south, his skin starts to pop, there’s vomiting and discoloration occurring so of course the natural thing to do is pick him up and carry him back to the secure ship when he’s quite obviously infected. Don’t get any of the remaining crew off the ship, nor see if something can be done for him before boarding the ship. Instead, place him in decontamination, but don’t forget to go in yourself, and of course don’t put on a Hazmat suit because you wouldn’t want to do something logical…. *rolls eyes*. Everything about the setup screams, lazy. Fassbender’s, Walter (or David.. I can’t remember which) proves early on that he’s not to be trusted, giving the crew the vaguest of details about the planet and it’s specifics and not once does anyone further question the surroundings or how Walter/David fit into it. Crudup’s, Oram even witnesses him interacting with a Xenomorph at one point.. and still doesn’t think anything of it! C’mon, man? These people are tasked with saving the human race, there’s got to be an intuitive bone somewhere in their bodies, Seriously why would you trust him? Just because the bender tells Oram it’s all okay and they’re not the monsters they’ve been made out to be?? (what is this Jerry Springer). Making matters even worse, is that later, Fassbender stands over a Ovomorph (egg) and assures Crudup’s character that it’s all okay.. so what does he do? Hands his weapon over or puts it down (I don’t recall which), walks over, stands over the egg and proceeds to let it hatch on his face. By that point I was just waiting for Oram to die for being so stupid. We all make mistakes, do stupid things, but asking an audience to believe that, is just an insult. Find a better way to structure your plot developments. The team of writers also deemed it necessary that everyone aboard this colony ship be in some sort of relationship or pairing. It seems highly unlikely they’d be put together for fear of a conflict of interest regarding any mission parameters or specifics, especially when someone inevitably becomes infected. It’s not all bad though, there’s a couple of nice gory scenes and the visuals are striking. Alien Covenant isn’t bad bad, it’s just poorly written and I expected a lot more from Ridley and the franchise.
8. HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET
Number 8 on the list is one of the lesser known straight to Netflix and DVD type of films. The independent Horror/Thriller called, “House On Willow Street”, Directed by South African filmmaker, Alastair Orr and starring Sharni Vinson (You’re Next). This one is reminiscent of something like “The Collector” meets “Don’t Breathe” but without the enthralling sensation of those two films, or even a modicum of suspense really. 2017 was quite a good year for independent films, that said, half of this list are of independent films (but that’s not a knock on the budget aspect, just the particular products). I don’t remember a lot about this film, which should tell you everything you need to know given I usually have an eidetic memory for details. This is your typical role reversal deal. A desperately unlikable crook couple, Ade and Hazel, and two of their tag-alongs, see the opportunity to get paid after kidnapping a young woman whose father’s a filthy rich diamond distributor. As one would expect, things aren’t what they seem with this home invasion caper. The break-in goes down all too easily, the house looks like no one’s lived in it for years, and sure enough the group find themselves ill-equipped to deal with what confronts them. The acting is sub par, huge chunks of the film are too dark presented and the pacing is laborious. When I think back (and I try not to), nothing of positive note comes to mind.
7. BABY DRIVER
Despite having produced a consistently funny, witty and entertaining series of films with his “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” that consists of “Shaun Of The Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End”, Edgar Wright’s teenage manic and obnoxiously loud, “Baby Driver” just left me feeling agitated. This one masquerades as a coming of age story but if you strip away the “Say Anything” esq, declarations of love (though there’s no boombox) between the extremely ordinary, Deborah, a local waitress who loves to sing, and hard of hearing getaway driver, Baby (yes that is his actual name apparently) nothing remains but an all out assault on the senses for two hours. The soundtrack was praised, and sure, there’s a few good tracks in here but they’re ratcheted up to 11 in the audio mix and half the time it drowns out the dialogue (in hindsight probably not such a bad thing). The opening sequence utilizes some nice cinematography but one can’t help but wonder why these career criminals choose to hold up a bank all wearing suits, no disguises and drive of all things, a bright red Subaru as the getaway car (for real because that won’t stand out or anything). Meanwhile, Baby sits in the car hand drumming away on the steering wheel to the music in his headphones so he can’t hear if anything goes wrong inside the bank. The chase sequences aren’t bad, but the non stop soundtrack of which the beat plays to the films edit, gets old really fast. I was excited at the prospect of seeing how Jon Bernthal’s (Fury) character would figure into the story, as he seemed to immediately have it in for Baby, but alas, nothing came of it after the ten minute mark because he wasn’t seen again. Jon Hamm is fun to watch, doing something a little different, and as always, Spacey steals the show in terms of performance. It gets somewhat unnecessarily violent during the climax, especially for a Wright film (because it’s not done in that comedic way) and I didn’t think any of it was remotely funny. Baby Driver’s forced fed nature sees it better marketed at the more can’t sit still, Ritalin popping, ADD crowd than a general movie-goer because it’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Drive this is not, Easy A this is not, I don’t know what it is but it’s not good.
Next on the list just so happens to be another franchise film, this time one from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Those who know me know my sentiments on Tobe Hooper’s original 74′ film. Cliffnotes version, I respect it for pushing boundaries and I like some individual aspects within it but it’s a far cry from a great or memorable film. The year of my birth, 1986, saw the first of the sequels take a much more comedic approach to the material and suffered for it. Dennis Hopper went on to call it the worst movie he ever made, and this is a guy that appeared in the Super Mario Bro’s movie (although fans will try to tell you that number two is a cult classic when really it’s just plain bad). Two more equally unimpressive sequels would follow in the 90’s and the franchise was all but dead until Marcus Nispel’s 03′ remake, which just completely modernized the details from Hooper’s original and breathed some fresh and terrifying life into the story. I thoroughly enjoyed “The Beginning”, a prequel story made in 2006. There were some fantastic set pieces in that film, and even despite a completely non-sensical timeline in Texas Chainsaw 3D (the last entry), the movie thoroughly entertained and was perhaps the most polished product aesthetically speaking, of any of the TCM films. I have to admit that I was skeptical about an origin story not featuring adult Leatherface, with the focus centering on him as a child growing up in the Hewitt household and being sent to a facility instead. Immediately I knew I was going to like the idea of the circa 1960’s setting and Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor being on board, though I honestly didn’t think I’d be saying that’s where the buck stops. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (the guys behind the nasty piece of French cinema “Inside”) helped bring this latest installment to life, but rather inexperienced Seth Sherwood, in one fell swoop, undoes absolutely everything we know about Leatherface aka, Thomas Hewitt with this screenplay. The writing is perhaps some of the worst in the franchise. If memory serves me correct, in the 03′ remake and perhaps even the original film, Leatherface was revealed to be named Thomas Hewitt, yet all of a sudden in Leatherface his name is Jed… or actually Jackson revealed to be Jed later. I usually know my stuff, and I know that Jed was the name of the grandson with the buck tooth in the 03 film.. so how can this version of Leatherface have a completely different name when it supposed to be an origin story of the same character??! Huh? This is the single worst piece of detail in any film from 2017. Not to mention this young version of Jackson/Jed is in a mental facility despite appearing completely normal, so to big curly-haired, Bud (played by Sam Coleman). Jed only loses his shit like a shit collector with amnesia (thanks Dane Cook haha) when the story finally requires it, there’s no clue of anything that’s to come. Throw in some underwhelming performances, a lot of nothing dialogue and a random necrophiliac sequence and you’ll find this thing goes nowhere fast. I suppose Sherwood does depict how Leatherface/Thomas Hewitt/Jed/Jackson whatever the hell his name is these days, got his facial scarring that leads to him eventually wearing other people’s faces for a living, so that’s something. I can’t imagine how one could think that was an improvement, but hey, to each his own (haha). Taylor is good but she’s totally underused, Dorff plays the revenge fueled Sheriff quite well and although the on-screen violence is scarce for a film in this world, the gore in the final act is gruesome and well conceived. You’ll find most characters are killed with a shotgun in Leatherface though and not a chainsaw… yeah that was weird, so maybe it’s heading in a spin-off territory, “The Texas Shotgun Massacre”…. anything is possible people.
5. THE BAD BATCH
It was a few years back now that Writer/Director, Ana Lily Amirpour shot onto the scene with her atmospheric, experimental black and white Vampire film “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/a-girl-walks-home-alone-at-night-review/. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film but I can acknowledge the originality and the quality of the production (given it was an independently financed film I believe). With her latest film “The Bad Batch”, Amirpour opts for a dystopian like wasteland setting, similar to that of films like “Turbo Kid” and older Sci-fi content such as “Hell Goes To Frogtown”. The setting and cast are really the only two upsides of The Bad Batch. It’s extremely thin on plot, there’s a lot of time spent with characters doing very little other than roaming the landscape, and interaction is in short supply. From what I remember, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is fenced off from civilization and left to fend on her own. It’s not long before she’s taken captive by a group of cannibals, headed by Jason Momoa’s character The Miami Man (which is as dumb as it sounds) and she’s incapacitated in a pretty visceral way after that. Now you’d think if someone took a piece of you (literally) you might be, I dunno, emotionally crippled or angry and looking for revenge, well not Arlene. She’s had a checkered past, that much we do know, but she doesn’t seem to cut up about what transpires (pardon the pun), so much so that she is wildly fascinated with Momoa’s character and visa versa. Speaking of Momoa, much like with most of his body of work, he offers up little in the way of presence despite his hulking frame. There’s a lot of long pauses and vacancy in his interactions with Waterhouse. Throw in a barely recognizable Jim Carrey as a hermit, and Keanu Reeves as an overseer of the land and you’ve certainly got an interesting mix, or at least you should have. I have no idea why you’d cast Carrey and renounce him to such a lifeless position though. At least with the criminally underrated Giovanni Ribisi, he gets to play to his strengths and in the most faint of roundabout ways, brings a little Frank Buffay (Friends) to his character in The Bad Batch. Everything on display here is as vague as it sounds, What’s it all about? Who knows.
“Raw”, feasibly the most controversial film of the year and it should come as no surprise that folks were divided on this one. The French Body Horror/Drama is about a young vegetarian, Justine, who takes part in a meat-eating hazing ritual at vet school. What stems from it is her cannibalistic desire that’s ever-growing, threatening to destroy her life. I’ll be honest by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the cannibal sub-genre of Horror and even though there’s more dramatic content in Raw, it is at least, in part, a cannibal film (that depicts cannibalism). I’ve seen interesting sections in films of this nature, even as recent as “The Green Inferno”, but I can’t say I thought any of them were great films. Shock value is a word that comes to mind when I think of things like “Cannibal Holocaust” (which I think is unwatchable, at least in terms of the quality) and “Cannibal Ferox”. I just don’t see the purpose of films like that, even if you’re depicting tribal lifestyle in a different part of the world why would you want to revel in that? I guess each to his own. Anyways, back to Raw. I think lead actress, Garance Marillier deserves credit for subjecting herself to this kind of emotional rollercoaster and there are some impressive practical effects on display, most notably the leg gag. I think once again the film suffers from poor pacing (a common theme with films on this list) and the dynamic between Justine and her sister was hard to fathom, that whole sink or swim mentality. I know not all siblings are close but blood is blood and it’s important… especially in this film. I’m not sure the behaviour depicted in the film is entirely realistic either, yet everything else could be considered as being grounded in reality (certain people around the world do partake in cannibalism as rare as it is). I find it hard to believe that if you’ve got a medical degree or are on your way to training to become a professional veterinarian that you’d be going to raves and having all night benders etc.. who knows though? Maybe they do and it’s just my naivety shining through. Simply put, I just didn’t care about any of the characters in this film. I wanted someone to have a backbone, some self-respect, live their life by their own set of rules and not crumble to peer pressure.
3. SUPER DARK TIMES
Congratulations go to you “Super Dark Times”, if for no other reason than giving birth to perhaps the most painful character I’ve ever seen committed to screen (and no I don’t believe that was the intention). Think about iconic villains, crass characters, flawed people you’ve seen in TV or Film. It doesn’t matter the exact archetype, we’d all agree that most characters are inherently watchable. They’ve got something in them that allows you to engage, such is not the case with anyone in Super Dark Times (well at the very least with one character in particular). Super Dark Times is an indie Drama/Thriller film Co-Written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski and Directed by Kevin Phillips. Initially this looked like a sort of “Mean Creek” meets “The Good Neighbor” hybrid and I’d heard great things so I thought why not check it out. Now, after having seen the film I can only assume Collins and Piotrowski are under the age of 25, because that’s around the maturity level with which this thing is written. Either that or they just feel like this is how teens of the 90’s spoke to each other. That’s the other thing, for no particular reason this one is set in the 90’s. The teens ride bikes, listen to music on old media and don’t have cell phones to complicate their lives. So there’s a couple of things to like here, the production value is decent, the location nice enough and it was great to see Charlie Tahan (of the indie gem “Burning Bright”) all grown up. The kid’s got some acting chops too. The story is essentially about two best friends Josh and Zach who are witness to a tragic accident involving one of their other classmates. Any who, the details aren’t important. Do you all remember the YouTuber that Justin Long and Haley Joel Osmond’s characters make fun of in Kevin Smith’s “Tusk”? Yeah, that’s all I’m going to say. The dialogue in this film was seriously painful, relentless profanity is used to segue between the smallest of changes in topic of conversation. There’s easily 100 profanities uttered in the first 20 minutes of the film, it screams of trying so hard to be edgy. I’m not against language, some of my favourite films have ten times the amount of profanity in Super Dark Times but it’s in context. Actor, Max Talisman (playing Daryl the most hated character of all time, possibly the stupidest as well) is the main culprit. Actually to be fair, writers Ben and Luke are the main culprits because they wrote the thing. I feel for Talisman because my contempt for him as an actor/character was so strong ,but that’s just it, the guy’s playing a character! I have no choice but to commend him on the performance but I wouldn’t want to meet the guy in the street because as hard as I’d try, that character would be my impression and memory of him. I’ve never hated a character before as much as I hated Daryl, so much so that I couldn’t actually finish the movie. This guy is the most immature, loud, crass, idiotic guy you could ever meet and he never shuts up. I’m not sure how Collins and Piotrowski ever expected to evoke the slightest modicum of sympathy from their audience in regard to Daryl or his arc. Kids are immature, they do dumb things that sometimes have serious consequences but everyone, and I mean everyone, could see what was going to happen here so you’d think you’d be a little more careful. If Super Dark Times taught me one thing it’s that drugs are bad and you definitely don’t drugs and samurai.
2. CUTE LITTLE BUGGERS
In all honesty, the only reason Tony Jopia’s creature feature Horror/Comedy, “Cute Little Buggers” didn’t come in at number one was because I briefly took into account the estimated 25,000 pound price tag on this low-budget indie flick in comparison with the millions spent on the film placed at number one. Now, that’s not to say that Cute Little Buggers really has anything going for it, the stunning Dani Thompson getting topless being one of the only salvageable things from this extremely long-winded and humorless mess. It’s difficult to look past the patchy performances, ranging from passable to downright awful, the stale dialogue, the copious amounts of dreadful CG and I’m not just talking about the cute little buggers themselves (or more accurately rabbits), I’m looking to the digitally composed blood effects (despite the crew using some practical blood on occasion throughout the film). If you can somehow ignore all that, there might be a fragment of something in here for someone out there. I never mustered more than half a chuckle for the entire run time (which is about 30 minutes too long might I add), except to laugh at how inconsistent the accents were. We get every character you can think of, none of whom I can actually remember the names of but they’re Swiss, Scottish, Welsh, English, Indian there might have even been some South African in there.. I can’t remember. Long story short, this is a very multicultural presentation and there’s nothing wrong with that, if it has a point or an authenticity to it, but this doesn’t. The film’s setting is a small community in a countryside village, what do you think the likelihood is of all these different ethnicities existing in this one town? I’ll tell you, about as likely as me getting a date with Dani Thompson. I was hoping for a “Zombeavers” type affair with Cute Little Buggers and instead I got something akin to the worst of the worst that airs on the U.S “SyFy” network during any given month.
1. THE SNOWMAN
If you had of told me at the beginning of 2017 that Tomas Alfredson’s film version of author, Jo Nesbo’s Crime/Drama novel “The Snowman”, was going to be the worst film of the year I’d have said you were crazy. Even more so when you look at the casting of Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons and Val Kilmer. Well.. guess what? I take it back, turns out you would have been spot on. The worst film of 2017 is The Snowman by a landslide. It cost $35 million to make, it was only half completed before changing hands, entire chunks were cut and altered and it ended up grossing just a fraction over $6 million. No matter how you spin that, it’s a disaster. The script is an incoherent mess from start to finish.. well I say finish, this was the only theatrically released film for the year where I walked out of before it finished. At an excruciatingly long 120 minutes, I could only stomach it until around the 70 minute mark, I looked at my sister and she looked at me and we realized it was taking an awful long time to go nowhere. There’s an endless amount of secondary threads that just trail off into nowhere, and lead detective Harry Hole (Fassbender) just might be one of the worst detectives in detective history. Seeing as though I didn’t watch the entire thing this analysis is based on the 70 minutes I did watch, but this guy never once asks the right questions or looks like putting two and two together. Chloe Sevigny, well-known accomplished actress, has a small role in the opening act but her performance feels awkward like she’s unsure of her characters motivation, funny about that. You’re led to believe that through all his personal problems, Harry is trying to maintain a relationship with the son from a previous marriage. Well you’d be wrong. Turns out it’s not his son and he wasn’t even married to the woman, that and her new partner is okay with Hole having this odd relationship with a boy that isn’t his own with no questions asked… a truly bizarre detail. I can only imagine that the opening sequence was of Harry when he was a child or something, because if not, I’ve no idea the relevance of it. He supposed to be this infamous detective yet he lets his newbie “partner”, Katrine (Ferguson) initiate contact and follow-up on leads while he just sits back, unlikely, especially with how many times it’s alluded to that he doesn’t play well with others. Even the beautiful snow-covered landscape of Norway isn’t highlighted through the cinematography in the way that you’d think it would be. I suppose I can take solace in one thing, and that’s the amount of laughs me and my sister had with word play on Harry Hole (haha), one guess as to what we were calling him? Anybody? This one was the most truly puzzling of experiences in 2017 and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.