There’s certainly been plenty of films to choose from for this list over the past year but there’s always a certain few that stand out for being particularly awful, of course it doesn’t include the films I purposely didn’t watch, knowing they’d be awful else this list would have to be much longer.
10. Nocturnal Animals
Now this one may have had some people raving about Tom Ford as a director but for those of us that prefer quality and substance over style and cheap tactics, this was a huge disappointment, even more so for the anticipation. Ford managed to make a brilliant film in 2009, A Single Man starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, but he didn’t return to directing again until 2016 and in that seven year break his ability to make a film with feeling and strength went straight out the window. Nocturnal Animals is a fashionable film, it has style and it looks good and it pretends to have a lot going for it when really despite great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor Johnson, they’re all present for the story within the story, leaving nothing for the film’s actual lead, Amy Adams who spends all of her time wearing thick rimmed glasses and laying down while reading. However for a film that opens with a much too extended scene of naked, large women dancing on the spot, it is frustratingly exactly what you’d expect.
9. The Big Short
We’ve learned time and time again that putting a tonne of big names together in one film and adding in multiple stories, does not a great film make, it may have done well in awards season but each year we do learn that the best films rarely succeed to win the big prizes but win in the long run. Adam McKay had never directed a serious or at least simply not comedic, film before The Big Short and it is blatantly obvious upon watching it, he may be a brilliant director when it comes to comedy but when he tries to make something more substantial he’s left with something that views like a strange music video. Though the story itself is fairly interesting and again there’s some good performances, it has huge problems with not only direction but editing, sound and visuals.
8. Jane Got a Gun
This one has some fairly major problems from the start, firstly it’s pretending to put forward a strong female character, played by Natalie Portman and yet the story involves that in her time of need, she must go find a man to protect her, those two things don’t work as one. The characters get very little back story and there’s not much that happens once things do get going, it’s set as a western but it has no grit and comes across rather soft. It’s written extremely poorly, it may have taken several people to write the script but altogether they did the work of half a decent writer, not to mention that the lack of chemistry between Portman and Joel Edgerton is palpable to say the least. The opportunity to make a woman lead, strong western with a strong tone and a memorable story was sorely missed here, it’s sad that the film is actually watchable but it just isn’t any good.
If you didn’t realise before now, legendary director Ridley Scott has a son, Luke Scott who is also a director, although based on this film I’m not sure that’s actually accurate. The story of a artificially created being is something you see a lot of these days and we all know the consequences because almost every single one ends the same way, so you can see what’s going to happen here before you’ve even got past the poster. Basically you’re tackling a B-Movie that refuses to be one and so makes a pretty terrible film. Every aspect of the film is unimaginative and repetitive, there’s nothing new or different to make it something worth watching, it’s simply one of those films you might watch when you know you’re not going to pay attention.
6. War Dogs
Even going in with fairly low expectations of this, it’s still a disappointment and actually aggravatingly so; the film has clearly been made with a particular audience in mind (Males aged between 15 and…well whether there’s a limit to that is a matter of opinion) and that’s exactly how it comes across. The film hasn’t been made to be particularly funny or entertaining, it’s taken an interesting and rather stupid real life story, taken any aspect that might please that certain audience and stuck it on film; it’s a whole host of behaviour that most might find pathetic, irresponsible and plain idiotic, but those special few the film is aimed at will find hilarious. There’s no comedy, drama or substance to be found anywhere and it’s extremely difficult to figure out what this film is trying to be other than commercial fodder.
5. Suicide Squad
A regular visitor on lists involving words like “Worst”, “Disappointment” and for good reason, whatever this film was intended to be, David Ayer took that, put it in a blender, chucked a load away and then just threw it into the faces of the public. Every possible aspect of the film that was built up prior to release, suddenly disappeared when you entered the cinema, Jared Leto’s Joker became a mere footnote, the adrenaline fuelled soundtrack and energy was AWOL, Will Smith…no he was about as average as you should expect and those great visuals became jumbled up rubbish. Saying that it’s poorly edited would not be a strong enough word, any remnants of potential the film could have had was quickly dashed by the ridiculously awful way it was put together. The only consolation of course being Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, ruined by the fact her next appearance will be in Gotham City Sirens, directed by none other than David Ayer *audible sigh*.
4. Alice Through the Looking Glass
The first sequel to make an appearance on the list, one that must be mentioned because where Tim Burton made an enjoyable family adventure, James Bobin made…a film? The Muppets reboot may have not given us two of the best films ever made but they were at least fun, Through the Looking Glass is completely unaware that word exists. Instead the film took a turn for the darker and more depressing route, because that’s what you do with children’s stories right? The original curiosity and spark that the series once had completely disappeared in this film, and not to mention they added Sacha Baron Cohen which although it wasn’t a surprise given that Bobin is a frequent collaborator of Cohen, it was the extra awful nail in the coffin.
Moving on to the second sequel on the list, for a franchise that started out with fairly sure footing and an interesting, if not entirely original story, then the second film Insurgent followed that up with something at least of a similar quality and then we reach Allegiant where any of that sharply took a turn and fell off a cliff. Although with the same returning director and cast as allegiant, not only did the quality of the performances drop dramatically but seemingly the special effects budget was axed to within an inch of its life, leaving something completely unconvincing and awkward to watch. The story became uninteresting which in turn made the characters unsympathetic and their struggle completely undermined. It’s simply a film where it’s difficult to find any positive comment to make.
2. American Pastoral
Ewan McGregor introduced himself to the world as a director with possibly one of the worst choices of film I’ve ever seen, not only was the material highly inappropriate for this particular time but it was clearly a book that was difficult to adapt for the big screen. Not only is it written, directed and acted terribly, even the lighting and costumes have been done poorly. Upon watching it will make you repeatedly ask “Why?”, it cannot decide at all what type of film it wants to be, it attempts to give meaning and emotion when it’s actually completely devoid of either and it’s even slightly strange at times, not in a good way. McGregor is going to have to have some long thoughts before stepping behind the camera again, if he chooses to do so (probably shouldn’t).
1. The Neon Demon
This film has deeply divided audiences and seems to be a matter of perspective but from my perspective it is frustratingly awful. Nicolas Winding Refn has somehow, despite previous to this film making the slightly disappointing and strange Only God Forgives, increased his ego to make The Neon Demon and it is clearly not a film but an extension of its director. Not only are there moments where the film is entirely unpleasant for no apparent reason or to add anything to the film other than an attempt to obviously shock the audience, but for how dramatic it tries to be there’s actually nothing happening. Aesthetically, yes Refn deserves points because the visuals are sharp and strong but that alone doesn’t make a film, something which no one seems to have pointed out to him while making the film. It is almost two hours of arrogance, predictability and not much else, it’s pretty to look at but as I said in my review, the only slight improvement you could make is to watch it at 4 times the speed.
And there you have it, Film Carnage’s Top 10 Worst Films of the Year, some may have even made it into some best films of the year list but that’s the great thing about film, it’s all a matter of perspective and taste, one film can elicit a thousand different reactions.