#1 The Open House
Rarely do I give a movie an F grade. A horrible film usually at least warrants a D- or greater unless it is utterly devoid of any worthwhile component, or sinks below the line of bad and into the offensive. Netflix’s original thriller The Open House is the one movie of 2018 I would give an F grade to. It’s not that it’s simply bad, it’s an affront to storytelling. It all starts with the setup for an average mystery, with a mother and son moving into a house where creepy shit starts happening. The plot builds mechanically and without much interest until it arrives at a conclusion which not only renders the entirety of the movie useless, it acts as a slap in the face to anyone who invested time in it.
#2 Truth or Dare
I’m all for a dumb teen horror flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the problem with Truth or Dare is that it does take itself much too seriously. The concept, that a game of truth or dare spells doom for a group of twenty-somethings unless they strictly follow the rules, is ripe for schlocky genre thrills, even if it is ripped off from the terrific It Follows. Unfortunately, the filmmakers spent too much time casting a bunch of attractive TV actors to reel in teenagers and less time concocting anything resembling terror or fun or even a kind of so-dumb-it’s-fun vibe. It’s a total slog of a PG-13 horror movie, and the ending is infuriating in its attempt to setup a franchise. Is the movie making a statement about self-centered millennials in the age of social media, or is this all just a lazy cash in by Blumhouse to attract moviegoers by advertising it as “from the producers of Get Out”? I’m thinking the latter.
#3 Pacific Rim: Uprising
My fans (the three people who read my writing) might remember that Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim made my top ten best list in 2013. I still think it is an ingenious, visually brilliant action movie with a genuine love for b-movie thrills and monster movies of the past. So now we have Pacific Rim: Uprising, a sequel which Guillermo Del Toro has nothing to do with and was made for the sole purpose to cash-in from Chinese audiences. None of that would be a concern if the movie were even remotely watchable, and it’s not, unless your idea of entertainment is two hours of visually unintelligible CGI blops crashing and banging into each other with the occasional patch of atrocious dialogue. Uprising takes all the whiz-bang wonder of the first movie and turns into into another soulless pile of assembly-line garbage.
#4 The Christmas Chronicles
I may be biased here because I just fucking hate Christmas movies, with a few exceptions like Ron Howard’s The Grinch and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I especially hate movies about Santa Claus because the parents in these movies never believe, but if Santa is real and leaves presents under the tree, don’t these parents wonder where these mysterious presents came from? Whatever. I realize I’m not supposed to think about it that much, but these movies are just inherently stupid to me, and Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles seems almost viciously delighted in taking that stupidity and cranking it up to 100. This is the movie equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. The kids are annoying. Kurt Russell’s Santa is annoying. The plot is annoying. And, spoiler alert, when Santa reveals at the end that he could have used his magic the whole time but didn’t, I guess to teach the kids a lesson, I wanted to throw a fucking wrench at the TV. Fuck you, Netflix. But also, thanks for Roma.
#5 The Titan
Once again: fuck you, Netflix. For every Roma or Okja, there’s twenty movies like Bright, The Open House, Mute, and this one. You probably didn’t see The Titan. Netflix promoted it for a couple of days, then hid it because they knew it was trash. As a jumping off point for an intriguing science-fiction film, the premise starts promisingly: Select individuals undergo a genetic transformation that will enable them to live on a different planet, allowing for the possibility of life to continue beyond Earth. Sam Worthington and Taylor Schilling are likable enough actors, and the concept has potential, but it’s easy to see why the studio pawned this off to Netflix instead of going with a theatrical release. The production levels are that of a Syfy channel original movie and the plot recycles the same old monster movie tropes instead of delivering anything original or thought-provoking.
#6 Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
I know a lot of you really enjoyed this movie, and it’s certainly not my job to say you’re wrong for liking it. Having said that, this movie made me want to stab myself in the eyes and ears. Because one wretched jukebox musical based on the songs of ABBA wasn’t enough, Here We Go Again tells the story of how Meryl Streep’s character originally met and fucked three dudes while singing second-rate ABBA songs because the best ones were already used in the first movie. Lily James, as Meryl Streep’s younger self, is a talented actress with charm and charisma, and she deserves a starring role in a movie that isn’t so agonizingly bankrupt of imagination or purpose. The musical numbers are awkward and shoddy, the story is a pointless excuse to string together said numbers, and the performances, minus James’, reek of we’re-only-here-to-get-paid laziness.
Andy Serkis’ Mowgli supposedly went into production even before Disney’s live action The Jungle Book movie, but because Disney owns all our asses, Warner Bros was forced to shelve the movie and eventually went with a Netflix release. It’s a shame to report that the movie does, in fact, suck. With the talent involved, Mowgli could have been something truly impressive to rival Disney’s take. It’s a total creative failure, starting with the incredibly off-putting decision to make the animals have human faces. It’s also an incredibly dark movie, and while I don’t have an issue with a darker, grittier take on The Jungle Book, the movie is almost gleefully nihilistic. Mowgli is an ambitious wreck, but it in no way diminishes my respect for Andy Serkis.
#8 Red Sparrow
Red Sparrow had seemingly everything going for it: A terrific cast headlined by bonafide movie star Jennifer Lawrence, a well-respected commercial filmmaker, and a slick feminist potboiler concept, but the movie itself ended up being a total bore, punctuated by disturbing moments of exploitation that felt shockingly wrong-headed. Lawrence’s character is sexually assaulted at least three times in this movie, and while I don’t have a problem with that kind of content in cinema if it’s necessary to the plot or message, it too often feels like director Frances Lawrence is deliberately trying to push the audience’s buttons for no other reason than to be transgressive. Red Sparrow is a nasty piece of work that could have been a fun little exploitation movie at 90 minutes and with a different tone, but it takes itself much too seriously and drags on with a plot that doesn’t make much sense at the end of the day.
#9 The Nun
As a fan of The Conjuring cinematic universe, I found The Nun to be a huge disappointment, and easily the worst of the franchise. Under James Wan’s guide, the first two Conjuring films, and even Annabelle: Creation to some extent, were fantastically creepy old-school horror films that relied as much on character and suspense as jump-scares. The Nun eradicates the suspense and dread of those films in favor of the same old bullshit Hollywood is great at – lazy jump-scares, mediocre CGI, and character interactions that only exist to explain the plot to the audience. As with any threat in horror, the more you see it, the less scary it is. The people behind The Nun apparently have never heard of this notion because there is not one subtle moment in the entire film. The set design and overall look of the movie is appropriately gothic and moody, but director Corin Hardy doesn’t trust his audience enough to slowly build menace, instead relying on lame shock tactics every five seconds to keep the audience from falling asleep.
#10 Avengers: Infinity War
So listen. Every year there has to be at least one movie on this list that will make people go, “What?? How did you not like this??” This year, that movie is Avengers: Infinity War. And I’m honestly not doing this just to be controversial – although maybe there is a little part of me that loves the drama – but because Infinity War genuinely sucks. As an excuse to get every single Marvel cinematic character thus far into one movie, it succeeds. As a film, as a piece of thematic storytelling, it is a failure. Because the movie bounces around from one hero to another, trying to cram in whole franchises worth of mythology and backstory and character development, the tone is all over the place. The action sequences are miserably executed without a shred of grace or precision; it’s just goofy computer generated forms bouncing off each other and crashing into buildings and blowing things up exhaustingly. There are so many characters to juggle that none of them are developed. The whole thing just doesn’t work as a movie. Marvel has accomplished great things, and I’ve admired many of their standalone movies, but Infinity War is a masturbatory, relentless celebration of excess.