This is not one of those lists.
I'm not interested in how many scares per minute (and someone trademark horror-reference.com and SPM, stat) each movie has, or how well it sets a mood, or how frightening its premise is. I don't care if it can deliver a good story with a high body count. I don't want to think about why human beings love seeing other human beings killed on screen. There are plenty of lists and essays for that.
I want a list of the funniest, most lovable pieces of crap horror movies. The most ridiculous, over-the-top, so-bad-they're-good flicks. The ones that feature evil German doctors sewing a girl's mouth to a Japanese dude's anus, a murderous leprechaun in the hood, and Nic Cage in a prominent role. Unfortunately, lists like that did not exist. So this is what I came up with.
(Three disclaimers: 1. This is heavily slanted toward movies that have come out in the last 15 years, because I first watched them all on HBO at 2 in the morning, not at a drive-in during the 1960s like every other movie critic. 2. “The Toxic Avenger” and other gross-out “B” movies unfortunately didn't make the cut. We're looking for movies that actually tried to scare people, only to fail miserably. 3. Which takes off comedies in the guise of horror movies, like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Ghostbusters.”)
Probably the only movie on the list with genuinely scary moments, “Hostel” nevertheless is so over-the-top in its violence that even the most squeamish among you will find yourselves laughing during its torture scenes. Clipping fingers and pulling eyeballs in a Soviet Bloc country would normally be scary, but the film's looow budget makes even the most brutally smashed fingers look like Play-Doh filled with ketchup. Plus the acting is porno-quality.
If you decide to catch this one with friends, here's a good test to find out who's a bad person: Who laughed when Kana jumped in front of the train? (I do every single time.)
9. “Halloween Resurrection”
Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks star (seriously) in a take on the Halloween series that has college kids spending the night in Michael Myers' childhood home for a web reality show. Yes, it sucks. Yes, you should see it at least once: I mentioned Busta Rhymes stars, right?
8. “The Human Centipede”
By now, even grandmothers probably know this plot: Crazy German doctor has two tourists knock on his door after a tire goes flat, doctor decides to use them for an “unspeakable” medical experiment, doctor finds third tourist to carry out said plan, and doctor sews them all together, mouth-to-anus, creating a “human centipede” as his pet.
What makes “The Human Centipede” so funny is the sheer number of horror movie cliches in its first act—a broken down car, no phone signal, a victim who can't seem to figure out how to run out of a house—only to be followed by a second act that is so messed up, so wrong, that it makes you forgot you were just watching a seemingly normal horror movie. To me, the most lasting legacy from this film will be the disturbing image of Dr. Heiter happily training the centipede how to walk while classical music plays in the background. Well, that and the countless arguments with pre-med friends who claimed the whole surgery was “100% possible.” (No fucking way.)
7. “Jason X”
In 2010, “Friday the 13th's” Jason is cryogenically frozen by the U.S. government, which wants to study his “rapid cellular regeneration.” Stored next to Ted Williams' frozen head at Alcor (presumably), he's forgotten about for centuries, only to be found and woken up in 2455 while aboard a space ship. All things considered, he takes this journey to the future pretty well, finding the time to go on a murderous rampage through the vessel. Cue a lot of deaths, lot of sexy young people doin' it, a lot of the same old slasher movie conventions—but this time in space!
It should go without saying that this movie is really, really dumb, and its crowning touch is the creation of “Uber Jason,” a cyborg Jason who is even more powerful than the already immortal and all-powerful regular Jason. You have to think the film's writers, while in hour 18 of the coke binge that is responsible for this script, saw “The Terminator” playing on TV in the background and said, “Screw it. We'll take it.”
6. “The Happening”
This is the movie that more or less ended M. Night Shyamalan's career—a laughably bad “environmental thriller” that had Mark Wahlberg just looking confused and lost during its running time. It's tough to pick just one scene to highlight from this flick: Do you go with Mark Wahlberg attempting to bargain with a plant? Or the suicide at the Philadelphia Zoo, in which a guy gets killed The Black Knight-style by lions? Eh, how about both?
5. “Pep Squad”
A B-movie that I can't in good conscience call “good,” “Pep Squad” is sort of like a horror-version of “Mean Girls,” or an even more graphically violent “Heathers.” The plot revolves around the accidental killing of a high-school principal, and the actors involved may be—may be—the worst of any on this list. The film reaches for artsy seriousness, but it instead can be thoroughly enjoyed ironically.
4. “Plan 9 from Outer Space”
Widely considered one of the worst movies ever made (and directed by the worst filmmaker of all time, Ed Wood) “Plan 9” really just needs to be seen to be believed. Flying saucers drift into view with visible strings holding them up, the dialogue continues numerous factual and continuation errors, boom mikes occasionally dip into the shot, and an actor who actually died during production is replaced by a new guy who looks nothing like him and holds a cape up to cover his face. Promise me, before you die, you will watch this movie.
(And while it's sometimes billed as a science fiction movie, it's really a zombie film, so I'm putting it on the list.)
3. “The Gingerdead Man”
Gary Busey plays a murderous convict who has his soul transferred to a gingerbread man, creating an evil villan called (you guessed it) the “Gingerdead Man.” Despite giving off the vibe that it was made for around $15,000 and a dime bag, the plot moves relatively briskly, and the gingerbread special effects are something to behold. Watch him drive a car! Watch him have his legs eaten off! Watch his mouth barely move when he speaks!
(And if you're really a fan, you can rewatch it at Christmas, along with its sequel “The Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust.”)
2. “Leprechaun: Back 2 the Hood”
I actually hesitated putting this on the list because it's so racially offensive that you have to think it will one day be looked back on like we do “Song of the South.” As Entertainment Weekly once said, “Equal parts funky fresh and severed flesh, this sixth chapter has America's favorite troll smoking weed and hunting the homeboys who stole his pot o' gold. If a movie could spark a race riot, this is it.”
In “Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood,” a young group of “inner-city friends” stumble on a pot of gold, allowing them to buy all the bling they could ever want. The Leprechaun finds the homeboys, though, and in between smoking weed (and, oh yes, there are plays off the term “pot” and “pot of gold) and acquiring diamond necklaces, he starts picking them off, one by one. Warwick Davis from HBO's “Life's Too Short” plays the titular character. Good to see him with his own show now.
1. The Wicker Man
“Killing me won't bring back your goddamn honey!!!”
“How'd it get burned? How'd it get burned?! How'd it get burned? How'd it get burned?”
“NOT THE BEES, AHHHH!”
I want more like this!
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