Hell Plaza 2: Electric Boogaloo, the Heretic

It turns out that everybody has a list of truly bad movies and wants to share. Again, we’re not talking “so bad it’s good” movies; we mean movies more in the category of “drunkenly calling an ex is a better idea than watching this.” The numbingly bad movies that you can’t even laugh at. Let’s see what we’ve got this time…

Mik B:

The fun of the prequel to this post was learning about obscure bad movies that you didn’t even know were out there. I’m sorry, I can’t do that, Dave. The only obscure movie I can think of that fits the bill, I can’t even remember the name of: my dad and I actually asked for (and got) our money back on the rental of whatever-it-was; the plot was a couple of guys drive across America and everybody yells and swears at each other. My Dad watched it through, I did not.

In talking to him about it, we’ve decided it was probably Midnight Run, but I can’t back that up.

You’ve probably heard of most of my choices; and please note, all this comes from someone who kind of likes Plan 9 From Outer Space. At least, I can see its potential, and see that the creators had some good ideas. They just weren’t very competent about realising them.

The Last Airbender

Look, I’m one of the last to fall off the Shyamalan bandwagon; if you look at this Cracked chart, I’m the guy who was okay with Lady In The Water, but dropped off after that. (I’ve never seen The Happening). Avatar: The Last Airbender is my favourite TV series ever.

So combining the two? Bad idea. Bad! No biscuit! Shyamalan proudly draws out his stories (he boasts on the commentary that Unbreakable would be the first half-hour of anyone else’s film), and he always directs kids to be sullen, unemotive PTSD victims (usually with reason within the movie). To get him to compress a full season of a TV show that stars a charmingly emotive kid… No. Just, no. Everything about it was wrong (except the music and sets); but it’s been dissected to death already.

August, Osage County

I’m cheating on this one. I’ve never seen the movie; what I’ve seen is the play it was based on. Unless the movie is completely different (and from what I’ve read, it’s the same), I will never see it. It’s a story about a family that comes together after something happened to the patriarch, and do nothing but attack each other with passive aggressive double-entendres.

It isn’t that I’ve just described a play that showed in my home town that gets to me. It’s that I’ve just described three. Three that I’ve seen, anyway, there might be more. (Humble Boy was one of the others, and again, I can’t remember the name of the third.)

What are the authors hoping to achieve with these plays? They’re cynical, hateful, and bring no truth or beauty into the world; they only tear down, they don’t build up. Are they trying to look clever through the dialogue (which is admittedly clever, for all that it’s spiteful and horrible)? I don’t want to know.

Klute

I watched this movie with my hand on the fast-forward button, trying to get through it all in a hurry. I still got bored. Looooooooong, drawn-out scenes (when somebody walks down a fire escape, we don’t need to see every single step, thank you) with dull characters. Bo. Ring.

Those are just the ones I watched through. There are others I didn’t even finish (and one or two controversial choices I’ve chosen not to mention. :))

Greg H:

Well, my top two– or bottom two, I guess — were in the first Hell Plaza piece: Author! Author! and Circle of Two. Nothing is going to knock those off as my picks for the worst. But there are a couple of runners-up.

I should add that for true Hell Plaza Multiplex consideration, at least for me, I have pretty strict requirements. First of all, it has to be something from a major studio. It’s too easy to beat up on shitty indie productions with no money. Second, I think for it to be truly bewildering as to how it even happened, it should have a major star attached who’s not known for making crappy movies. Because nobody ever expects someone like Steven Seagal to be in a good movie, but when Al Pacino’s in something mind-bogglingly awful, it’s baffling and infuriating. (Not everyone uses that criteria here, I hasten to add. But my feeling is, why kick a cripple? Picking on low-budget trash seems like it’s punching down.)

And it’s not as though the majors don’t put out losers. For sheer excruciating awfulness and completely tone-deaf execution, the kind of movie where you can’t fathom what anyone involved was thinking when they agreed to make it, my Exhibit A is Addicted to Love.

 

Allegedly about the universal loneliness and need for love we all share, it’s really a massive justification for stalking. The payoff is when the two stalkers fall for each other while following their respective ex-lovers. How do they show this newfound love? By stalking each other. Eww. A comedy that’s not at all funny but does accomplish the remarkable feat of making both its normally-charming stars, Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick, look skin-crawlingly creepy. Pretty sure that wasn’t the intention.

Cable in the 1980s and 90s had an endless supply of this kind of worthless, not-good-not-fun cinema, and that’s where I saw most of these. Another contender would have to be Phobia, directed by John Huston and starring Paul Michael Glaser.

A thudding bore that’s supposed to be a thoughtful psychological thriller, but instead is a ponderous, plodding sleepwalk for everyone involved. The solution to the whodunit is obvious twenty minutes in, which has the added effect of making all the characters look even stupider than they are to start with, and they were pretty stupid right out of the gate. After seeing this and Circle of Two I wondered if I should make it a rule to try to avoid later projects from filmmakers I admire. No clip but the whole thing’s up on YouTube. If you are curious, and also if you hate fun and possibly yourself.

Jim:

Here’s one I just remembered. It’s one of those movies that was supposed to be a big hit, riding on the coat-tails of similar big hits, but the string of compromises along the way served as its undoing. Lucky Lady was a 1975 attempt to capture a little of the success of The Sting two years prior. It was supposed to be directed by Steven Spielberg, star Paul Newman and Warren Beatty, and be a huge cash cow. It was none of those things.

Spielberg backed out to do Jaws instead, so Stanley Donen, a long-established director with as many hits as misses, best known for his work in musicals, took over the reins. Newman and Beatty both declined the film, so the producers went with George Segal and  Burt Reynolds instead. Then Segal dropped out, and Gene Hackman, then a hot commodity, was approached. He didn’t want to do it, but the producers threw baskets full of money at him until it would have been stupid to say no. Unfortunately, Hackman and Reynolds never developed the kind of comedic buddy rhythm that Newman and Redford had in their movies, and Liza Minelli didn’t really connect to either of them. Breathy-voiced Tiger Beat heartthrob Robby Benson shows up too, and gets a gruesome death scene in the middle of the alleged screwball comedy.

Part of the negative reaction was awareness of how expensive the film was to make and how little of it shows up on screen, as well as the fact that the film looked an awful lot like Peter Bogdanovich’s big flop from six months prior, At Long Last Love, which might also be a worthy contender for this list. Both films are set in the 1930s, steeped in Art Deco design, and there was something of an “if you didn’t like that, you won’t like this” sensibility to Lucky Lady that was perhaps undeserved. Even so, this story of incompetent rum-runners off the coast of San Diego never really comes together into something worth watching unless one is a devoted die-hard fan of one of the lead performers, enough so to forgive their phoned-in performances. It’s not awful, it’s just dull.

Edo B.:

I’m going to throw my hat into the ring here with one of those comedies – to quote our host Jim above – “you can’t even laugh at.” Folks, I give you Me and Him. It’s about a guy, played by Griffin Dunne, whose penis basically becomes sentient and starts talking to him and telling him how to live his life – especially his love-life. The thing is, it’s (mostly) not filled with the kind of juvenile humor you might expect: it actually has a pretty solid cast of actors (some of them regulars in the more arty films of the ’80s) and, surprisingly, a woman director, Doris Dörrie (who’s German to boot – this was the only English-language film she did). I think the idea was for this to be some kind of playfully ‘intelligent’ take on the whole idea. But it pretty much failed at that – it’s just so unfunny, and a most of the attempts at humor made me either roll my eyes or cringe a bit. I caught it on TV once in the 1990s, and recall never so much as cracking a smile during the entire thing. It did keep me weirdly transfixed, though, as I watched it all the way through, although I think it was because I kept waiting for it to get funny. Here’s the trailer, which makes it seem more interesting – and entertaining – than it actually is.

Jim:

There is only one possible response to that. It’s called Teeth, a 2007 horror-thriller about a teenage girl who discovers that her hoo-ha has teeth and is carnivorous. I have not seen it, but I think I don’t need to; I’ll just go ahead and suggest that it belongs on this list as a bookend to Me and Him. It apparently won some awards, so it might be good. In any case, clearly Teeth belongs on the same shelf next to your pick. Oh, and there’s a trailer.

7 Comments

    1. Le Messor

      That’s the trouble for doing this kind of thing – every movie has somebody who loves it. I think My dad loves Klute, too.
      It guess it’s like him describing to me the banjo-playing scene in Deliverance (a movie which I otherwise like).
      Dad: You see the tension slowly drop away as the kid and the out-of-towner bond over the shared love of music. These people who’d hated each other start to get along and like each other… then the music stops, and the tension comes right back immediately.
      Me: Yes. I got all that; it’s just… “too many notes”.

  1. Andrew Collins

    Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender is just awful. My wife and I, to this day, wonder how we didn’t walk out on it in the theatre and demand our money back. But both of us love the TV series and up until The Happening, I liked everything Shyamalan had done, so we stuck it out. I remember thinking the special effects were decent. But the acting, the casting, the writing, the direction…there is just nothing in any of those categories they got right. It easily goes on my list of “Worst Movies Ever Made”…probably top (bottom?) 5…and I’m an MST3K fan who has seen some of the worst of the worst…

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who found Klute boring. I had read the praise about it for years and when it came on TCM a few months back, I made time to watch it. Meh. The acting is fine but I found myself struggling to stay interested in the story. Long and ponderous is a good way to describe it. Against its contemporary murder mystery films, I liked Altman’s “The Long Goodbye” much more.

    I’ve wanted to see “Phobia” for years based almost solely on that poster but could never find it anywhere. Amazon has it up for streaming, but there’s no Prime or rental option, only purchase for $10. I may have to check it out on You Tube, even with it showing up on this list…

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