Even though 2016 was a year that I personally wanted to see in my rear view mirror, possibly because I’m the serial killer from the “Maniac” remake, at least the movies were (mostly) pretty good. I was enthusiastic about the majority of the entries in my ‘favorite films of 2016‘ list, even having difficulty determining the order, as I loved almost all of those films equally. Furthermore- this is probably the most difficult ‘worst of’ list that I have ever compiled, because I don’t think I hate the majority of these movies. All are bad, some are worse, but as I was going through every single release of this year, I realized that I had forgotten about the majority of them. In some cases, I even forgot ‘why’ some of these turds smelled so bad and had to investigate using my original writings. In the first draft of this list, I had included “Gods of Egypt” as ‘one of the worst’, primarily because I remembered everybody hating it. But when I watched my review, memories of being thoroughly underwhelmed by that experience…did not come flooding back. Apparently I was more indifferent than hostile, so have chosen to omit it from my list (consider it to be #11- as it still was pretty weak). In order to spice things up though, I decided that the direct-to-DVD movies I endured should mingle with the crappy theatrical releases, which might not be fair…But otherwise, this list will be kind of boring, as anger tends to be more entertaining than cold indifference.
10) Sniper: Special Ops (2016)– There will always be a place for Steven Seagal in my ‘worst of’ lists and I give him my word that even if he has a consistently solid year in terms of output quality, or if his massive cinematic dumps somehow manage to evade my eye, I would create a new placement just for him. “Sniper: Special Ops” was an odd movie, as I strongly suspect that Seagal was not originally supposed to be part of this project. I believe they started filming a movie starring Tim Abell and Rob Van Dam as Special Ops soldiers, partaking in a plot that involves protecting a cargo truck against a wave of Taliban insurgents. The narrative builds up some sort of overarching conspiracy, which I found to be pretty interesting, only for the characters to completely drop their investigation so they can go and rescue Steven Seagal- who has spent the entire film sitting around, waiting for someone to come and get him. The scenes with Abell and Van Dam are actually OK, while everything involving Steven Seagal is pretty bad. I have to believe Seagals’ scenes were added much later, because he never directly interacts with Abell or Van Dam, utilizing doubles and editing tricks to make it seem like they’re conversing. Plus, the costumes in the Seagal segments look a lot more clean, whereas the Abell/Van Dam segments have more authentic looking uniforms. Above everything though, it’s bizarre how disjointed these plots are and the attempt to reconnect them for the finale was incredibly contrived and random. Too many loose threads with unanswered questions, all for the sake of forcing Steven Seagal into the narrative. Even though this is inferior to the majority of entries on this list from a technical perspective, it was occasionally enjoyable and the final product left me just as amused as I was annoyed.
9) The Forest (2016)– “The Forest” was one of the more frustrating experiences of 2016, if only because it feels like there was once a good movie here, possibly buried underneath the weight of studio tampering. There is a lot to praise about it, from the stellar cast to the spooky location to the foreboding cinematography. Furthermore, you can tell that the filmmakers are trying their best to tell a compelling story that differentiates itself from the current trend of haunting flicks. So what went wrong? “The Forest” ends up relying way too much on jump scares, with many of them betraying the films established logic and disrupting the eerie mood. It doesn’t help that these ‘jolts’ end up becoming more comical than startling thanks to goofy facial expressions and hokey special effects. The heroine doesn’t enter the titular haunted forest until around the 45 minute mark, so the pacing is already going to be slow, but she’s experiencing “nightmarish” visions even before she enters. This doesn’t make a lot of sense from a storytelling perspective, as now the forest feels redundant if its ghosts are able to leave the location. This takes away the locations mystique, but also makes it a little too obvious that our protagonist might be mentally unstable, so now the movie is a little bit more predictable. Speaking of our protagonist- she’s prone to idiotic decisions and her increasingly hostile personality makes her difficult to like, especially as we know she’s wrong in every single decision she makes. By the end, I didn’t care about her or her dilemmas. I was just bored and waiting for the movie to crawl towards the credits, with the finale being dragged down by incomprehensible editing. “The Forest” might not be the worst of its kind, but it made me angrier because of the squandered potential.
8) Holidays– This should be watched by filmmakers and studied closely, because “Holidays” is the quintessential example of how you should NOT make a horror anthology. Okay, maybe this is such a niche gimmick that only those who wish to partake in the anthology format should bother with, but “Holidays” should’ve been a lot more interesting than it ended up being. A bunch of horror shorts based on different holidays? Directed by some prolific filmmakers, such as Kevin Smith, the guy who gave us…um…”Dracula Untold“, another guy who gave us…er…”Priest“….and…other…people…and Kevin Smith? These aren’t a group of nobodies, other than the nobodies within the group, so I’m in. Yet either there wasn’t any collaboration between these filmmakers or there wasn’t any consideration for how this project was going to flow as a whole, because these shorts don’t work well together. The majority of them are slow, even dragging on despite their 10-15 minute runningtimes and just as they start to become interesting, they abruptly end with a shitty jump scare. A lot of the time, the shorts don’t feel like actual short films, but instead feel like compiled scenes taken from a much longer movie- so the build-up and pay-offs never reach a crescendo. Talk about a major case of the blue balls… The filmmakers all accidentally stumble upon each-others ideas too, so the shorts start becoming repetitive. “St. Patrick’s Day” is about a woman suffering through a mysterious pregnancy thanks to the meddling of a nefarious cult…and “Mother’s Day” is about the same damn thing…and most of these shorts barely have anything to do with their chosen holiday. The most infuriating of these comes from the big celebrity of “Holidays“, Kevin Smith himself. He was given HALLOF@CKINGWEEN! That is the easiest holiday to make a horror-based short around, but what is his plots connection to Halloween? Um, it’s briefly mentioned that it’s Halloween night…Otherwise, it could take place at any time of the year, without any changes to the costuming, atmosphere, or anything. Too many of the shorts are like this. Most of them are unsatisfying and after the first failed few, I started getting very frustrated. Then I got bored. “Father’s Day” is the only good one and arguably spared this from a lower position on the list. But even that is buried underneath the annoying dialogue of “Valentine’s Day“, the incoherent plot of “Christmas” and the…whatever the f@ck “Mother’s Day” was supposed to be.
7) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies– I used to believe zombies would make ANYTHING better, so clamored for re-cuts of the likes of “Vertigo“, “Citizen Kane” and “Zombie 5: Killing Birds“, where they’d be the same movies, but with zombies. Yet then “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” has to come around and piss on my parade by being a bad adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” and a bad zombie movie. If you’re a fan of “Pride and Prejudice“, you’re going to find the inclusion of zombies to be silly at best, distracting at worst. If you’re a fan of zombies, you’re going to be annoyed at the PG-13 rating, the minimal undead screentime and the emphasis on shallow romances and bickering characters. Every attribute of filmmaking contrasts in the most obnoxious and disorienting way imaginable. The campy posturing and over-the-top action scenes don’t mesh with the dreary backgrounds. The admittedly stylish choreography is butchered by crappy editing, murky lighting and weak CGI. The script is constantly contradicting itself, perhaps most egregiously when the film starts humanizing the zombies, condemning the blind hatred shown towards them…only for the ending to undo all of this by revealing that they were all evil all along…The upper-class are criticized as snobs, who believe the Japanese arts are superior to the Chinese arts, which the lower classes favor and we’re supposed to cheer when the snobs are put in their place…except the practitioners of Chinese arts are just as arrogant, so why the f@ck am I supposed to cheer? There is a feminist message that emphasizes how strong, independent and resourceful the women are, except the men seem to be doing all of the work, with the women showing up only after the heavy lifting has been finished and the ladies are the ones constantly making mistakes and being manipulated. The director has a vision, but he must’ve not communicated it to all of his cast, as some actors perform with the utmost sincerity, others perform as if they’re in a wacky comedy, some oversell the drama to the point that it becomes unintentionally comical and some look like they’re having difficulty maintaining a straight face. This really screwed with the tone, as an allegedly tear jerking scene will be followed with awkward laughter. But these various contrasts and contradictions ultimately just drained the film of its energy, making it a dull experience.
6) Skip Trace (2016)– Of every piece-of-crap film that appears in this list, “Skip Trace” might’ve had the worst script, although the admittedly gorgeous cinematography and a strong opening action set piece keeps it from being the worst movie in this list. Every scene seems designed to have a negative impact on the overall narrative, which is especially ridiculous as a large number of them and the accompanying subplots were superfluous and only served to make what should be a simple story into a convoluted mess. But the lengths “Skip Trace” seems to go to present its protagonists as the most despicable and incompetent ‘heroes’ to ever grace the screen is astounding. Just try to wrap your brain around this trainwreck of a plot: Jackie Chan is a cop trying to bring down the criminal empire responsible for the death of his Partner, but said partners’ daughter (Fan Bingbing) gets involved and through a series of contrivances, is blamed for con-artist Johnny Knoxville stumbling upon a murder scene that these criminals were responsible for. The bad guys- in their infinite wisdom- decide to task her with tracking down Knoxville, knowing she will recruit Jackie to do the job for her…because it totally makes sense to send the guy trying to bring them down to capture the guy whose testimony can actually bring them down…Jackie succeeds in finding Knoxville, but doesn’t believe his story about witnessing a murder and intends on bringing him back to the baddies anyway. When Knoxville points out that he will be killed, Jackie heroically responds with “I don’t care“. Knoxville himself knows that Fan Bingbing will be executed in his place if he doesn’t return, but is more concerned with his own life. Nice guys. Oh yeah, did I mention that there is a time limit? Jackie must have Knoxville back in 3 days, or they will murder the girl, but this doesn’t stop him from getting drunk, participating in a musical number and wasting time…and it wasn’t like they were holding her hostage at the time either, so why didn’t he just take her with him? Oh yeah, because how else will the villains abduct her later on in the movie? This moral ambiguity of our protagonists does not belong in a screwball comedy and I hated that no one was called out on any of this…because it’s all just shit writing that the filmmakers didn’t think through. The humor was annoying and I personally find Knoxville to be obnoxious, with the chemistry between the two leads feeling forced and awkward. Admittedly, it’s trying to blend Eastern and Western styles of comedy, but it’s too much of one to really entertain as the other. Western audiences won’t likely care for the excessive mugging, Eastern audiences won’t likely care for the raunchiness of Knoxville. This was an noisy, badly paced turd that ranks among my least favorite Jackie Chan movies.
5) Assassin’s Creed (2016)– I’m curious whose bright idea it was to adapt an action-adventure video game that’s primarily known for its eye catching art design and high octane parkour game-play and turn it into a moody, dreary, slow paced ‘thriller’. Not since “Tekken (2010)” has a live action adaptation of a video game gone out of its way to be everything that the source material is not…and still fail in its own goals. The director was apparently more interested in making an indy, quiet, arthouse feature that’s dressed as an action blockbuster, but all this amounts to is a lot of filler where Michael Fassbender silently glares at…a wall…or maybe a person…or when the movie really wants to shake things up, he will stare into nothingness. Now I know this sounds riveting, but “Assassin’s Creed” doesn’t give Fassbender anything to do, outside of the fight scenes. There is a great supporting cast here, but all of their dialogue is based around exposition that none of us will really understand (fake science stuff) and their monotone delivery of these lines tells me that they must’ve been incredibly bored. The music lacks energy, although sometimes it does try to convince us that more is happening than just Fassbender glaring into the camera. Even though the majority of the games take place during the period piece segments, this movie only has three scenes that utilize this gimmick. The choreography and stuntwork look like they’re probably well done, but they’re consistently obscured by murky visuals and crappy editing. There will ALWAYS be something getting in the way, whether it’s dust, smoke or darkness and the cutting back-and-forth between past and present was often disorienting. The visual style is strange, inconsistent and unappealing, because the ‘past’ scenes look incredibly digital- much like a cut scene from a video game, while the ‘present’ scenes are gritty and claustrophobic. Maybe that was a goal, but it wasn’t executed well. The narrative slowly crawls to the climax, which is very anti-climactic and unsatisfying, leaving me annoyed that it ended prematurely even though I had spent most of the film wishing it would be over. I might buy “Assassin’s Creed” though, because it would make an excellent sleeping pill.
4) The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)– Nobody wanted a sequel to “Snow White and the Huntsman“, nor did anybody apparently want to actually make the sequel either. “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is just as boring as “Assassin’s Creed“, but at least the latter tried (and failed). The director had a vision, as misguided and poorly executed as it was…”The Huntsman: Winter’s War” feels creatively…exhausted, as if it doesn’t want to be on a TV or theater screen. It doesn’t want you to watch it. It just wants to fade out of existence, but because it cannot do that, it settles with fading from your memory- making the whole experience a complete waste of time. The badness doesn’t really jump out at you, but instead it stealthily murders your interest with small cuts into the narrative. The story relies on you remembering “Snow White and the Huntsman“, which is already a difficult task, but then you’re even more confused because there are so many retcons. I began to even wonder if this script was conceived as an original project, only for it to be converted into a sequel, because they changed a lot of important parts of the back-story for “Snow White and the Huntsman“, along with that film’s ending. If this actually happened behind-the-scenes, that might explain why elements from the first film feel so forced in. Emily Blunt’s character requires the Magic Mirror to invade a Kingdom, but it’s never explained why, nor do we learn who originally stole the mirror. The Prince from the first film (now King) has a one-scene cameo, where he reveals Snow White was driven insane by magic mirror and Hemsworth tells him to prepare his army for an invasion, but neither storythread is ever resolved. The King and his army never make an appearance and Snow White’s madness is never mentioned again, rendering the entire scene pointless. It’s filler, which clogs up the already flimsy narrative. The motivation of the Huntsman is to avenge his dead wife (Jessica Chastain), but it turns out she’s alive early on and they team up, dramatically reducing the emotional core. It’s also very easy to spot a betrayal coming, so you don’t really care about the state of their relationship. The majority of the obstacles the characters face have nothing to do with the Queen, leaving the overarching conflict kind of underwhelming. The final battle is between the Huntsman and Charlize Theron’s character from the first movie, who isn’t resurrected until the 3rd act. There is no reason to be invested because neither side seem to care about the other. Theron wants vengeance on Snow White- not even mentioning the Huntsman, while Hemsworth is trying to slay the Ice Queen- barely reacting to Theron’s resurrection. All of these points align to make you uninterested in what is going on. Even the visual style is ugly because of the bad lighting, awkward choreography and underwhelming CGI.
3) Ride Along 2 (2016)– I don’t have a lot to say about this one and can probably sum up my feelings by bashing my head repeatedly against my desk, if only to spare my brain of the impending assault known as ‘thinking about “Ride Along 2”‘. I disliked the first “Ride Along” enough to place it in my ‘worst of 2014‘ list, but I was more dismissive towards it than outright hostile. The movie failed to make me laugh, which made its transparently lazy formula the center of my attention. “Ride Along 2” is just as formulaic as its predecessor, seemingly containing every cliche accompanying every PG-13, underdog or buddy cop comedy. But the difference between the two is that instead of the comedy just falling flat, this one hammered nails into my ears, stuck needles into my prostate and shoved my prostate into my eyes. Kevin Hart is a very hit-or-miss comedian for me, but this time around, every single facial expression, body movement and noise to come out of his mouth was designed to piss me off. He was so oppressively annoying here that I began to cheer whenever someone would abuse, belittle or hurt him in any way, and you should never find yourself rooting for your underdog hero to lose. Nor should movies ever give you a headache, just at the thought of them.
2) The Fifth Wave (2016)– I wasn’t sure whether or not “The Fifth Wave” deserved to be listed as the 2nd worst movie of 2016, as it’s not the worst from an objective standpoint. But I decided it should have this ‘honor’, because it was the only film to appear on this list that I nearly just…stopped watching…Now I know that the idea of turning off a film you’re not liking is a rather strange and unusual concept for us reviewers, but here me out…Actually, f@ck it, why didn’t I just stop the movie and watch something else? The film had a scatterbrained narrative from the very beginning, presumably because it’s based on a novel and literature can seamlessly navigate through multiple POV’s without losing focus, but the love story killed all of its momentum. We witness a romance born of deceit, hostility and and behavior that we would normally find creepy. Guys, if you’re going to be weirdos a read your love interests diary, maybe don’t flaunt this forbidden knowledge every other scene? This shit takes up so much screen-time and is awkward as hell, but to be honest, the movie was sucking anyway. There is this twist that changes everything, but besides being somewhat telegraphed thanks to clunky exposition, it’s really stupid and makes absolutely no sense. In fact, it even starts opening up a lot of plot holes in retrospect. The bulk of this story takes place in a Dystopian wasteland and by Dystopian wasteland, I actually mean…forest…Just a normal forest. All of these problems contribute to the tedium, but the final nail in the coffin comes from the performances. “The Fifth Wave” boasts an impressive cast, who all look SOOOO bored. Every time they spoke, I would wonder if they were on the verge of falling asleep, which is contagious for the audience. The opening act- where we see the initial stages of the alien invasion- wasn’t bad and showed some cool effects, but the movie is never able to top it…nor does it even try. If the best scene is also the first, then your movie fails because you immediately burn out all of its energy. I was dismayed when I realized I was only 45 minutes into this snoozefest, when it seemed like I had been sitting there for 3 hours. But for whatever reason, I decided to will myself through it…BECAUSE I HAD TO REVIEW IT, DAMMIT! And this is part of the reason why I’m retiring, so I don’t have to endure shit like “The Fifth Wave“.
1) End of a Gun (2016)– The Belly of the Beast strikes again! Steven Seagal was generous enough to give me two entries for my ‘Worst of 2016‘ list, but do you know what’s really funny/scary about this? He also released “Killing Salazar“, “The Asian Connection“, “The Perfect Weapon” and “Contract to Kill” the same year, which are all allegedly worse than “End of a Gun“- which presumably only has this spot because I haven’t seen any of those (yet). In a strange twist, 2016 and Seagal also united to deliver “Code of Honor“, one of his most compelling direct-to-DVD efforts to date. I really want to understand what this man desires out of his career, besides a steady stream of income, as he had spent the last few years gradually increasing the quality of his works…only for said quality to nosedive in 2016, then contradict this downward spiral with one of his coolest releases in years. I’M SO CONFUSED, MR. SEAGAL! Moving onto the subject at hand, I had no doubt in my mind that “End of a Gun” would be my #1 choice when I began compiling my list, even though I’d concede that “Sniper: Special Ops” made larger and more hilarious blunders. In fact, from a filmmaking perspective, “End of a Gun” might not seem as bad as the movies Seagal was churning out between 2005 and 2010, back when the production values were so minimal that they couldn’t afford proper lighting, back when the supporting cast were somehow worse than the sleepwalking Seagal, back when his voice was being dubbed over by other people who sounded nothing like him and back when no effort was made to disguise the stunt doubles. Ah, those were the good ole bad days. This one has a few decent stunts, Seagals monotone voice is actually coming out of his mouth, the lighting is adequate, the supporting cast is merely ‘not very good’ instead of mind boggingly terrible and the double isn’t really noticeable. For those unhappy with Seagal favoring supporting roles lately, even though his face and name headline every poster, “End of a Gun” casts him as the definitive protagonist.
Yet I knew this was the worst movie I had seen throughout 2016, because “End of a Gun” seems to suffer from nearly every flaw that ruined every entry on this list. I’ve complained about uninspired locations and cheap production values, but this is a heist movie and the characters must break into…an impound lot…that is guarded by two security guards. So naturally, Seagal just walks in and kicks the crap out of them…They spend a lot of time building up to this as well, with many scenes dedicated to Seagal reminding us that he has ‘a plan’. At least “The Fifth Wave” had a few scenes where it flaunted the budget, showing off a few set pieces that looked cool enough to rely on for the trailers. I’ve complained about annoying comedy, but at least “Skip Trace” and even “Ride Along 2” ‘tried’ to be funny and there was a lot of energy in delivering the humor. They failed miserably, but “End of the Gun“‘ tries to make us laugh by having a a sweaty Lawyer step in dog shit…That’s both the set up and the punch-line. I may have found “The Huntsman” visually unappealing, but not as much as Steven Seagal participating in a love scene…Ew. Furthermore, it had an actual visual style, whereas Keoni Waxman puts all of his creativity into distracting us from Seagals’ weight. I criticized “Assassin’s Creed” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” for their misguided visions, but at least they had vision. “End of a Gun” doesn’t seem to want to exist. As soon as the opening credits begin, the film is just killing time, never picking up any momentum or leading anywhere substantial. There is no inspiration or ambition. I condemned “The Forest“, “Holidays” and others for the filler-induced slow pacing, but “End of the Gun” is ENTIRELY comprised of filler. Seriously, nearly every scene either goes on for too long or leads nowhere or goes nowhere for too long. By the end of the movie, you realize that the core relationship between the leads amounted to nothing, so every scene dedicated to their romance was pointless. They keep building up an overarching villain, yet they never resolve that conflict, rendering it pointless. They keep introducing these characters or subplots that feel like they’re going to be important, but they’re unceremoniously dropped or lack a real pay-off, RENDERING EVERYTHING POINTLESS. This made “End of a Gun” brutally boring, perhaps even moreso because unlike the ‘worse’ movies Seagal was making a decade ago, this doesn’t even provoke the bile fascination I had with those films. At least they were sometimes funny in their badness, or at least they evoked righteous anger. “End of a Gun” isn’t even an hour and a half long and I was already bored out of my mind by the time THE FIRST ACT ENDED. Finally, I complained about the presence of Seagal, but at least “Sniper: Special Ops” relied more on the actors who were actually putting in effort. Seagal looks as bored and tired as he always does, but makes sure that there are constant references to his masculinity, sexual prowess and general awesomeness. The ego isn’t even earned here. In fact, writing about “End of a Gun” has made me realize that I was too generous with my 1/4 star rating. This doesn’t deserve the same rating as everything else on this list and I was wrong, I really do hate this movie.
So as I indicated in the opening paragraph, 2016 wasn’t terrible in regards to its cinematic output. The best movies of the year inspired more passion from me than its worst movies and I was ultimately forced to pad out this list with direct-to-DVD releases- something I normally discourage. “The Forest“, “The Fifth Wave” and everything in between might’ve sucked, but I’ve seen a lot worse. Thankfully, just when I was beginning to worry that this might be a rather dull list, Steven Seagal came and…well, came, something his girlfriend would know for a fact.