At this point, we have talked at length about the fact that the horror genre is surging at the moment. Movies like Get Out are showing the prestige that scary movies can generate, and audiences are responding well to more classical horror outings like IT. In simple terms: it's a good time to be a horror fan right now.
Of course, that's not always the case. The horror genre has churned out some stinkers over the years, and we're here to discuss some of the worst horror movies that give the genre a bad name. Specifically, we're not here to talk about the so-bad-it's-good dumpster fires that have become Halloween classics. We're talking about the films that attempt to do something serious and interesting with the genre, and ultimately fail. To kick things off, let's get started with one of the most unsettling films in Eli Roth's filmography.
The cabin in the woods trope has become a fan-favorite element of the horror genre over the years. Films like Evil Dead and the appropriately-titled Cabin in the Woods have proven what directors can do with that simple premise. Then there's a film like Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, which mostly squanders the classic premise in favor of a disgusting and incoherent narrative.
Cabin Fever focuses on a group of college students on vacation in a remote forest lodge. However, their trip goes south when they find themselves exposed to a flesh-eating bacteria that slowly begins to eat away at their bodies. It's a well-worn concept in the horror genre, but Cabin Fever is so weird and tonally off-balance that it ultimately results in a stomach-churning romp that's far more miss than hit when all is said and done. Nevertheless, the film has achieved a small cult following -- even if Netflix users apparently have a hard time finishing it.
It was bound to happen eventually. With all of the iconic horror movies that have been remade over the course of the last few years, someone was bound to take on Tobe Hooper's beloved Poltergeist. Alas, the film debuted to a lukewarm response from critics when it hit theaters back in 2015, and while it made its budget back and turned a profit, it ultimately came and went with little fanfare.
At the end of the day, the 2015 take on Poltergeist will likely go down in history as one of the many horror remakes that merely never needed to exist in the first place. The film uses most of the same narrative tentpoles as the original film, and like so many other remakes of a similar ilk, it does not do much else beyond throwing a fresh coat of paint on an already great horror movie that has achieved classic status among horror fans.
Eli Roth's Hostel is one of those infamous horror movies that needs no introduction. Debuting in 2005, a year after James Wan's Saw, the film solidified torture porn as a defining horror trope of the 2000s. Hostel is known because of its unflinching brutality, and it is one of the hardest mainstream horror movies to stomach (not in a good way).
Much of that stems from the fact that Hostel fails to deliver anything satisfying on a non-gore level. The characters are thinly-drawn, there isn't a genuine plot to drive the madness forward and the entire film is steeped in a bizarre sense of fear and distrust towards the people of Europe. On a premise level, Hostel actually kind of works. In execution (pun very much intended) it leaves a lot to be desired. Oh, and don't even bother with the two sequels. They are even worse than the original.
The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
Despite how infamous it has become, there's actually a strong case to be made that the original Human Centipede is a compelling horror film. It's mostly a bloodless affair, relying on its bizarre premise to generate an odd mixture of laughter and fear in the audience. Then, viewers were treated to The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, and things just got out of hand.
Shifting focus to the real world, the film follows a troubled British man obsessed with self-harm, masochism and the Human Centipede film. The titular human centipede is much longer in this film, and it's cobbled together in a far more grisly DIY fashion with staples and duct tape, thus creating a movie that's far bloodier and more violent. The original film in the franchise pushed the envelope, but Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence is (in the words of Roger Ebert), "an affront to any notion, however remote, of human decency."
The Thing (2011)
Honestly, The Thing from 2011 is an example of a prequel/reboot that completely misses the point of the original movie. Taking place at the Norwegian base on Antarctica days before the events of John Carpenter's original film, the film chronicles the process of finding "the thing" in the ice and waking it up. That alone seems like a solid premise and a cool way to add to the mythology of the franchise, but the film utterly fumbles it in execution.
This issue with 2011's The Thing is that it completely misses the point of the franchise. Instead of a taut thriller with occasional bursts of insane gore, the prequel keeps the alien creature firmly in the frame during its scary sequences, opting for more of a feral attack style than the sneaky method that makes the first film so creepy. Add that to the fact that The Thing's CGI bites off way more than it can chew, and we're left with a wholly unsatisfying horror romp.
The found footage genre is one of the most hit-or-miss styles of horror movie in existence. Some entries in the sub-category actually work; look no further than films like The Blair Witch Project or Lake Mungo to figure that out for yourself. Then there is something like The Gallows, which fails to meet almost any of the necessary categories to be considered a good (or even a decent) horror movie.
The problem with a film like The Gallows lies with how poorly-assembled it is. Between the weak performances, the lousy camera work and the razor-thin characterizations, everything about the movie feels rushed and poorly-planned by the people behind the story. The worst part is that there's actually an intriguing backstory to the film that centers on a group of kids making their way through a haunted high school. However, the film's execution is incredibly poor, and The Gallows actually stands out as one of the worst found footage movies in recent memory.
Saw 4 And Beyond
The first installment in the Saw franchise is a bonafide classic that, in retrospect, actually doesn't have nearly as much blood or gore compared to what a newcomer might expect. Saw 2 and Saw 3 upped the ante and took the franchise into full-blown torture porn territory, but they generally kept things interesting by maintaining a strong focus on Tobin Bell's Jigsaw. Then there's Saw 4 and beyond, all of which are downright terrible.
Once Jigsaw died, the Saw franchise pretty much went off of the rails. The timeline of the movies (which was already incredibly complicated, to begin with) became almost untenable, and the poorly-constructed characters of the later films never lived up to the awesome menace that Tobin Bell infused into the franchise's original villain. Jigsaw tried to correct course in 2017 with a belated reboot, but the damage has mostly been done at this point.
Out of all of the films present on this list, Jason X stands out because of how firmly it straddles the line between legitimately bad and intentionally bad. It's not that Jason X tried to be an Oscar film and failed miserably, it's that it took the Friday that 13th franchise formula (which was already wearing thin when the film debuted) and took it to a truly bonkers place. Jason Voorhees in space? It has all the makings of a classic B movie that audiences would love forever. Alas, the film fell flat.
The problem with Jason X is that it can't quite figure out what type of horror film that it wants to be. There are moments where Jason X attempts to play itself straight as a legitimate slasher film in which Jason is meant to be feared, and yet there are other sequences in which the masked killer's actions are largely played for laughs. By not locking down a specific tone or voice, Jason X fell somewhere between scary movie and corny cult classic.
The Bye-Bye Man
High-concept paranormal thrillers are some of the most common and profitable horror movies that we see debut every year, and they can generally run the gamut from compelling and interesting (see: Happy Death Day) to downright bad. The latter of that category is where something like The Bye-Bye Man comes into the equation. The film focuses on a group of college students who stumble into the mystery of the titular demonic entity -- a being who infects the minds of ordinary people and compels them to commit horrific acts.
The most prominent issue with a movie like The Bye-Bye Man is the fact that it's a perfect example of how lesser horror movies can come together simply by ripping off other horror movies. A relatively sanitized PG-13 romp, The Bye-Bye Man mostly employs cheap jump scares filtered through a premise that's mostly just a hodgepodge of different horror tropes that worked better in films like Sinister, Candyman and The Amityville Horror.
There are several remakes and reboots on this list, and many of them fail for a variety of reasons. In the case of Quarantine, that film is an instance of a project redoing a classic film (in this case, [REC]) for American audiences, while also bringing nothing new to the table. The film follows a reporter as she shadows a group of firefighters on an uneventful night until a 911 distress call sends them to an apartment building where a mysterious zombie outbreak has started to unfold. The infection brings the government to the area, which then sees them trapped inside with an army of ravenous beasts.
The issue with a film like Quarantine is that it really does not need to exist. It lifts entire sequences from [REC] without adding many new elements to the core story, and it's an example of how western horror movies often tend to imitate something that worked overseas. If you truly want to see this story play out, don't bother with the American version. Watch [REC]. You won't be disappointed.
Paranormal Activity 4 And Beyond
The Paranormal Activity franchise is largely a victim of its own success. The first film came out of nowhere when it debuted back in 2007 and received widespread praise for its slow simplicity as it chronicled the lives of a San Diego couple dealing with a haunting. Paranormal Activity 2 and Paranormal Activity 3 upped the creepiness and the production value, but the whole thing started to go downhill by Paranormal Activity 4.
There are two main reasons for this shift. On the one hand, the Paranormal Activity franchise had started to become predictable to the point at which one could almost time out exactly when specific story beats would happen in a given movie. On the other, the series kept upping its production value with each passing film to the point at which it lost its creepy, guerilla filmmaking style by the time 4 debuted. It was ultimately too polished and no longer scary.
Slasher Remakes And Reboots
Admittedly, this category has less to do with a single film than it does with an entire class of movies that we have seen over the course of the last two decades. The slasher genre arguably reached its peak in the 1980s, but that hasn't stopped Hollywood from attempting to reboot or remake pretty much every major slasher property -- ranging from Halloween and Friday the 13th to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas.
More often than not, however, these reboots don't add much to the universes that they join, typically opting to up the blood and body count, while also adding context to the main killer's backstory that only makes him or her less mysterious (and therefore less scary). The slasher genre has seen some solid sequels and original films in recent years (see: Don't Breathe), but the reboots and remakes have seldom managed to live up to their predecessors.
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Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.