There are some movies I will never watch, such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That’s because I have learned a painful lesson: Some movies just aren’t worth it. If I strongly suspect a film of being terrible, I won’t waste my time on it. I don’t care to have truly horrific films burned into my memory forever.
Unfortunately, I didn’t always use my better judgment when deciding which films to see. When I was a young adult and I discovered the magical power of my local library system, I checked out dozens of films for free just because I could. Many of them turned out to be serious mistakes.
I’d like to get these regrets off my chest by sharing them with the whole world. Please don’t look up any of these films, especially the ones you’ve never heard of. Hopefully I can spare you the trouble of watching them by describing how utterly worthless they truly are. These movies are bad for many reasons. I love Mystery Science Theater 3000, and so it takes a lot for a movie to really unnerve me or make me wish I had never seen it.
I’m going to hold myself to just eight because writing about the other two would definitely go way past my tolerance level of awfulness. So prepare yourself for eight movies I deeply regret watching.
1. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Please spare yourself a lot of pain and avoid this film. I can’t fault it for being creatively constructed and telling an effective story, but this is quite honestly the most evil movie I’ve ever heard of. It’s not enough that the film has to show the main character killing people in brutal ways, but he actually records himself doing some of these acts so he can replay them later for his amusement. And the audience watches him watching himself commit those terrible crimes. It creeps me out on so many levels.
This movie is a twisted kind of love story in which people love violence and loathe themselves. Henry and his friend are two of the most self-destructive, irredeemable characters ever put to film. This movie subtly changed me. I felt drearier and less satisfied with life after seeing it. It took a long time to recover from this one. I would spare you the pain of this disturbing film, if possible. You are definitely better off without it.
2. Lethal Weapon
It’s not so much that I’m ashamed that I saw this movie, but I have simply never been so confused by a film as this one. Why do people like this movie? Why is it praised as a quintessential 1980s action film alongside Die Hard and Aliens? For heaven sake, the parody of this film is much more watchable and enjoyable than this black hole where no entertainment escapes. I just don’t get it. None of the action sequences left an impression on me. The scene of Mel Gibson trying to talk a suicidal man out of killing himself isn’t funny or dramatic. It’s just a cul-de-sac that wastes time and doesn’t move the story forward.
The thing that really turns me off from this film is the torture scene. That’s the only thing that really stuck in my mind from this mess of a film, and every time this film comes to mind, that’s all I can recall. The dialogue is laced with profanity for no reason, the banter falls flat and isn’t particularly creative or humorous. Basically, nothing about this film works for me. Gibson’s character is a buffoon, Danny Glover’s character is dreary, the villain only makes a couple of forgettable appearances before getting killed, and it doesn’t add up to anything close to a satisfying experience. I have no idea why people like this movie.
3. Lost in Space
I enjoyed seeing movies in theaters when I was growing up mainly because I would always go with family members. It was fun to experience the same film together and then have a lot to talk about afterwards. My older brother Michael and I went to see Lost in Space at a theater in 1998… and we were speechless afterwards. Oh, we had plenty to talk about, but it took a while to regain the ability to use our brains after this painful behemoth lurched to a merciful end.
Not every film on this list is on here because it’s absolutely disgusting. Some are here because they offend me so much for even existing. The filmmakers should have known better. I can’t even bring myself to describe the plot of this movie, it’s so insulting to the intelligence. I’ll just say that it wasn’t until 2005’s Batman Begins that I finally forgave Gary Oldman for his atrocious performance as Dr. Smith in this disaster. Christopher Nolan didn’t just save the Batman franchise with that ingenious reboot.
4. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Move over Heaven’s Gate. This is the ultimate anti-western. During my freshman year of college, I took a Film Studies class to familiarize myself with filmmaking techniques and classic films, in case I ever wanted to try my hand in that industry. My professor was a good man, but his taste in films was much different than mine. For example, he absolutely loved director Robert Altman. I think he’s one of the most overrated filmmakers of all time. His record of “good” films is spotty, at best, and he made at least as many terrible films as good ones (Popeye and Quintet spring to mind immediately).
Which brings me to McCabe & Mrs. Miller. This western has less plot than Heaven’s Gate, more pointless characters than Unforgiven, and about as much character development as McClintock! I had trouble maintaining interest in the film just to get a good grade. Here’s the plot: A businessman in a dingy Old West town gets into trouble with a group of outlaws, and he gets killed in the end. That’s about it. In between, there’s Altman’s signature overlapping dialogue, which makes it difficult to understand what people are saying, and a countless number of useless details and side characters that go nowhere. McCabe & Mrs. Miller is not worth anyone’s time, and I’m sorry I had the misfortune of having to sit through it.
5. Repo Man
Yes, I’m one of those people who looked up this cult “classic” out of morbid curiosity. And after watching it, I was left with only morbid images and questions. Why does a car trunk have the ability to kill people? Why does the car fly in the end? Why is Harry Dean Stanton wasted in a supporting role? Why am I thinking about any of this in the first place?!
Nothing is particularly funny or noteworthy in this film. It just meanders for seemingly forever before coming to a tepid conclusion. It keeps bringing up ideas and forgetting about them, like the killer car at the start and Emilio Estevez trying to make it big in the repossession business. Both of those things seem like they should be the main focus of the film, but they keep getting pushed aside for pointless interludes. That’s what I get for trying to figure out why an obscure film is beloved by a small following. I imagine their mentality goes something like this: It makes no sense; it must be awesome!
I covered a lot of what made Seven both effective and unwatchable in my Dark Knight Movie Matchup. I’ll sum up my feelings about Seven like this: Do you remember the scene when the Joker kills Gambol and then tells the mob boss’ three henchmen to kill each other with a broken end of a pool cue? It was horrific to imagine what transpired immediately after that scene. Thankfully, though, the film cut away and we weren’t forced to watch the bloody battle. But Seven doesn’t cut away. It doesn’t just hint at grotesque things; it shows many of them.
The ending is so heartbreaking and gut-wrenching that I have simply never been able to bring myself to watch it again. And I never will. Some tragedies at least end with some hope, but this one offers none. Maybe some people actually enjoy a film like this, but I don’t. I feel like my time was wasted on a film that offered little entertainment or anything else of value.
7. Total Recall
I’ve only seen two Paul Verhoeven films: RoboCop and Total Recall. Despite its excessive violence, RoboCop is an effective action film with a good heart, funny jokes, and engrossing performances all around. Total Recall is just an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. Some parts of it are truly captivating, like when Schwarzenegger’s character gets in a fight with his friends in an alley, and when he takes off a malfunctioning mask. But for the most part the film consists of one-liners, unbelievable plot twists, and an exasperating number of times when the hero should have been killed.
I felt exhausted after watching this film, and not in a good way, like with Aliens. In that film, I felt incredibly rewarded for making it to the end and seeing some of the heroes safe and alive. Total Recall is just something to be endured. It goes on too long and leaves the audience breathless and nauseous. Not a good combination.
I swore off David Cronenberg films after this one. I almost included The Fly or Scanners on this list, but The Fly (1986) actually had good performances by Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis and a shockingly emotional climax, and I didn’t get past the first 10 minutes of Scanners (it was that disgusting), so I can’t really regret a movie I didn’t watch the whole way through.
Videodrome is another story, though. As far as I can remember, it’s about a man who agrees to show disturbing programs on his low-budget TV station. The only problem is that after watching the shows, he starts hallucinating, pulls a gun out of his stomach, and goes on a killing spree, which ends with him killing himself. If there is supposed to be some deep meaning or social satire in all of that, it’s completely lost on me because of the vapid performances by all the actors, the unnecessarily horrific imagery, and the complete lack of explanation for all the insanity. This movie is garbage, and I am ashamed I made it to the bitter end. I kept thinking that it had to get good at some point because I sort of enjoyed parts of The Fly, and I had heard that Cronenberg was a genius filmmaker. Well, he’s not, and Videodrome is a disgusting experience.
In case you’re interested, the other two films are Buckaroo Banzai and Unforgiven.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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I can’t agree with Seven its one of the best detective film there is. Yea there was a bit of blood and violence. The ending was great, why should we always get the happy ending? Great Post.
Some people say they don’t like a whole article because they disagree with one of my selections. Thank you for not being one of those people. I’m glad you liked the article, despite that one little thorn. Seven is definitely an effective thriller and it does exactly what it promises. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m glad you can appreciate it for what it is, though.
While I don’t agree with a few of these, I am very grateful for the heads-up on the rest. Thank you for explaining your opinions in detail. Knowing ~why~ to avoid a film is far more important than just knowing which to avoid.
I agree with all save Seven and “Henry Portrait…”.
Seven is such a tight script, such a mind twister that its one of my favorite films in that genre. You’re not alone though in being disturbed, I know one other who also felt the same about Seven. Now Henry is a different bag of bones. Henry is not one of my favorite films and it should creep you out because the film is about the emotional reality of a serial killer. Its about people who are sociopaths, emotionally dead, unable to feel empathy. The killing is supposed to come across as common place TO THE CHARACTER as preparing fresh salmon to the average person. I think Henry was successful in relating the emotional empty life of these damaged people. By the way there is no love story in the film. The relationship between one guys sister and the main serial killer is not a depiction of a love liaison, its used to show how arbitrary Henry is in his moral makeup and how damaged the sister is from growing up with predators. Simply speaking the sisters internal cue that would get her to run isn’t operating because it was disabled in childhood, the abnormal for her felt normal and that’s what lead to her death.
Enjoyed various articles. Was surprised to see that you didn’t like Seven and Total Recall as they’re stories about interesting subjects well told, though there is no doubt Seven is depressing (but I don’t hold that against Deliverance – or Empire Strikes Back for example), I also had a problem with the excessively belaboured & literal/visceral opening credits of Seven, but that’s another story. Chiasmus is certainly an interesting thing & I have a slight flicker in the back of my mind wondering if it could be stretched sometimes- but the cases for the films are persuasive. Another thought is is there a classic/great film where chiasmus is a bit more (or totally) absent? Thinking of Citizen Kane or Manhattan (at random) at first glance the events & endings seem different to the openings (even Chinatown- which I’ve read you wrote about?), whereas something like Seven Samurai seems at a glance as if it would have more connections like that.. But who knows, perhaps most good stories have a lot of consistent pay-offs going on as part of plotting i.e. arguably in Citizen Kane the end reveal of Rosebud mirrors the mystery at the opening (and the reporters discussing it soon after/before), the scenes simply feel different & as if they have things between them or are not in “perfect” order.. Anyway thanks & all the best with film writing this year.. Cheers
P.s. to the comment, perhaps “2001” has an abundant absence of chiasmus, but saying that maybe arguments could be made for themes & so on haha..
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I just found your site and have been reading for the last few hours. A lot to like and I noticed a similar taste between us. You write well and in an interesting manner. Your personality shows through and it is refreshing.
Had to comment on this, though. McCabe and Mrs. Miller is fantastic as a deconstruction of the Western genre, on almost every level. It’s minimalist in both the approach and execution of the story and characters. Whereas there wasn’t a ton of character development, the main characters were layered and slowly unwoven through the course of the film.
The plot was there, too and very subtle. It was again, very minimalist. The plot essentially boils down to modernization and the dirty side of it.
We have a man trying to open a whore house and a bar/casino in a mining community at the trail end of the “Wild West” era. He is successful but not interested in the town’s ultimate success or failure. At this point, bigger ‘corporations’ (I say this because one of the men’s name is Sears, which I don’t think was meant to represent the Sears company we know, yet was supposed to hint at the premise of rising corporations and the power of money) try to buy up all of the land to scale up the mining operations. They’re both interested in the land AND the small town that McCabe has helped to build and helped to flourish, if not fully prosper. The corporations aren’t interested in back and forth haggling and instead just hire bounty hunters to eliminate those who won’t be bought out.
Why the film ends up being important is the complete deconstruction of the Western genre. The main character is first portrayed as a mysterious gunslinger and a bad-ass. He’s your typical man’s man, like every machismo trope male lead in every Western. Yet immediately upon Mrs. Miller’s arrival (herself a deconstruction of the female tropes in Western film with her loud, obnoxious personality and sexual independence as a Madame/Pimp), we’re shown a soft side of McCabe, even a naive and slightly ignorant side of him. Through the course of the film, we find out that not only is he not a gunslinger, but he’s not even a bad-ass and he hopelessly falls in love with a Madame who refuses to show a compassionate or affectionate side, even making McCabe pay her for intimacy still. He even breaks down at one point sobbing, telling her he’s scared and she’s the most beautiful women he’s ever seen. She handles it like a dude would and then skips town the next morning, where he then has a very sloppy shootout with some bounty hunters, gets mortally wounded and dies in a snow drift while the town is burning down and ultimately saved by the community, not the ‘hero’ like in most Western movies. Our ‘hero’, McCabe, dies like an animal in the snow while his love gets high on opium in an opium den in the next town over, while the townsfolk save the town as a community, shifting away from the hero trope once and for all.
It spoke a lot about the genre. This film’s “hero” isn’t a hero nor is he even an anti-hero. He’s also not a coward, either, choosing to face his would be executioners and die with the town he helped build. He’s just a guy who was trying to make it in a hostile frontier. Our female protagonist is fiercely independent, does not rely on a man’s love and is a smart, shrewd businesswoman. The townsfolk, caught in the middle of all of the drama, unite as a community to save their town from burning down, literally, whereas in most Westerns they shut the storm windows and hole up while everything around them is destroyed but saved in the end by a Cowboy. Nothing about the era, setting or characters was glorified and it showed a dirty, loud, dark and realistic interpretation of an era too often glorified and celebrated by a culture obsessed with nostalgia and it’s own, sugar-coated version of history.
But I’m not trying to go off on you, just felt the need to post something. I disagree with some other things but most of the time that’s just a matter of opinion, like Videodrome, for an example. I didn’t think it was awesome nor shite but it’s VERY Cronenburg. I think the acting is supposed to be vapid, like a lot of his other movies and there’s definitely a message behind the gruesomeness.
Either way, glad I stumbled upon your site here (I hate to admit it, but it was through reddit), pretty interesting reading. Will be lurking somewhere…..
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