2019 offered no shortage of cinematic dumpster fires, so much so that this year's Ten Worst list features 14 titles, with one spot holding a four-way tie. Congratulations to Bruce Willis and Nicolas Cage--who didn't make the final cut despite their best (or, in Willis' case, least) efforts to secure a position--and especially to John Cusack, who only appeared in one movie in 2019, and it was actually very good (the grim western NEVER GROW OLD--well worth seeing). But don't be alarmed--Ten Worst perennial Steven Seagal puts in his usual appearance, along with a couple of legendary filmmakers who had their worst year, some awful sequels, some long-shelved duds, and one thriller containing what might be the single most ridiculous plot twist in film history.
THE FANATIC. Don't misunderstand me--it's quite awful. But it's on such a different plane of awful that it transports you to a level of Bad Movie Nirvana that's rarely seen in the modern era. From the moment that still of a bowl-mulleted John Travolta--as "Moose," a socially inept and obsessive autograph hound and unhinged celebrity stalker--went viral, alerting the world to the existence of an ostensibly serious John Travolta thriller directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, THE FANATIC instantly became 2019's must-see bad movie. And my God, it was everything I hoped it would be. Travolta's absolutely go-for-broke performance is a sight to behold. He screams at people, he cuts off conversations because "I gotta poo," he drools, he rubs behind his ears and sniffs his fingers when he gets nervous, he practices what he'll say when he gets to meet his favorite actor Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa, who actually seems to be taking it seriously), he sneaks into Dunbar's house and sniffs his toothbrush, and he ties Dunbar to his bed and cuddles with him. You simply can't take your eyes off Travolta no matter how ridiculous and cringeworthy he gets, and that has to count for something (but maybe not the "For Your Consideration" ads that have been taken out). The movie is all kinds of terrible, but it's such a misguided, jawdropping train wreck and it's so alive with the kind of shamefully perverse fascination that comes with, say, being in a checkout line behind a Karen screaming for the manager--you just wanna see where this goes--that I can't, in good conscience, include it among these ten (14?) other films that offer absolutely zero entertainment value whatsoever (starting with #9, click on the title for the original review). And with that, let's get this over with and get ready for 2020.
10. THE DEAD DON'T DIE
5. GENERAL COMMANDER
sleeper agent Steven Seagal, GENERAL COMMANDER has an even shakier foundation than usual. It was conceived in 2017 as a 12-episode TV series, but the project was abandoned after just two episodes were shot. The solution? Just cram those two 40-minute episodes together and release it as a new Seagal movie. That certainly explains the abrupt non-ending that probably served as a cliffhanger to the third episode. Almost nothing happens in the first half of GENERAL COMMANDER, since it has to establish all the characters and exposition that any premiere episode of a TV series has to do, but in the context of what GENERAL COMMANDER became, it takes up literally half the movie, and the situations that develop in the second half have no payoff. Seagal plays another mysterious black-ops CIA operative, this time going after wealthy creeps who rule the "dark web," dabbling in everything from cryptocurrency to black market organ harvesting. Not a bad idea for the kind of CBS procedural that our dads would watch, and it could work with a real star who was either invested in the project or could convincingly pretend to give a shit, but even in the two completed episodes, there's still long stretches where Seagal disappears, which is pretty much on-brand for the laziest actor on the planet.
4. THE LAST MAN
3. (tie) UNDERCOVER BROTHER 2, THE CAR: ROAD TO REVENGE, BACKDRAFT 2, and JARHEAD: LAW OF RETURN
2. (tie) KILLERS ANONYMOUS and MARY
And the worst film of 2019:
1. 3 FROM HELL
MANHUNTER doesn't already exist.
|Sid Haig (1939-2019)|
The sole saving grace is the brief appearance of the late Sid Haig, returning as Captain Spaulding before exiting the film at the seven-minute mark. Frail-looking and obviously gravely ill, the beloved cult legend, who died just a few days after the Fathom Events screenings in September, nevertheless brings his A-game to his one scene, but when he's gone, 3 FROM HELL crashes and burns and never recovers. Tedious, ploddingly-paced, and ridiculously overlong at just under two miserable hours, the embarrassingly self-indulgent 3 FROM HELL is Rob Zombie fuckin' scraping rock fuckin' bottom, and the only thing it accomplishes is proving once and for all that THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was a fluke. But no matter how bad it gets, Zombie will always have a loyal--albeit dwindling--core of die-hard apologists who will stand by whatever he does, so best of luck to them going forward. I'm leaving.
Missing the cut (in alphabetical order)
A SCORE TO SETTLE (which does have this amazing moment)
10 MINUTES GONE
And for the record: Ten Favorite Films of 2019 (so far)