Bad horror movies belong in a special class all by themselves.
Nobody cares about bad Westerns — they’re merely boring. Bad war movies are simply full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Bad rom-coms are generally torturous affairs, often resulting in actual physical pain.
But bad horror movies have the potential to offer no small measure of fascinating flaws, from ridiculous monster outfits to risible makeup designs to inane plotlines involving mad scientists, lecherous vampires, killer bunny rabbits, and much more.
There’s a reason so many of the titles featured at Worst Film Festivals and on Mystery Science Theater 3000 have hailed from this most disreputable of genres — many of these pictures exude a certain awkward appeal and even inspire feelings of fondness toward their shambling selves.
Even hardhearted critics have been known to succumb to their charms. Take, for instance, Ed Wood’s 1959 mess-terpiece Plan 9 from Outer Space. Despite being tagged in many circles as the worst movie ever made, its awfulness has endeared it to many reviewers, leading to a 67% Fresh rating on the critical compilation site Rotten Tomatoes.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some horror flicks have been deemed unredeemable, with critics completely giving them the cold shoulder. Many of these movies can be found wallowing on Rotten Tomatoes, where they have all received a 0% score.
Here, then, are the 15 Worst Horror Movies Ever, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
15. THE THING WITH TWO HEADS
As the ads for this 1972 effort blared, “They transplanted a WHITE BIGOT’S HEAD onto a SOUL BROTHER’S BODY! Man, they’re really in deeeeep trouble!”
Having successfully placed the head of a gorilla onto the body of another ape, a dying scientist (Ray Milland) instructs his staff to find a healthy human body on which he can have his own noggin similarly grafted. Unfortunately for him, the only volunteer for the operation is a black Death Row inmate (Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier) who agrees to the procedure since he figures he can use the extra time to prove his innocence. As an unrepentant racist, the scientist isn’t exactly thrilled with this development.
Some intentionally amusing dialogue keeps The Thing With Two Heads lively, but a lengthy chase involving our two-headed team and a squadron of police cars runs a full 25 minutes — nearly a third of the movie’s 90-minute length. While this section probably played well at the drive-ins of the day, it’s now nothing more than interminable yahoo fare and kills all the movie’s minimal momentum.
14. AMITYVILLE 3-D
Unlike 1979’s The Amityville Horror and 1982’s Amityville II: The Possession, 1983’s Amityville 3 (originally released in the 3-D format) makes no ludicrous claim of being based on actual occurrences. Such honesty doesn’t save it from being a terrible movie, though.
John Baxter (Tony Roberts), a writer for an exposé rag, decides to move into the Amityville house to work on his novel. He’s not superstitious in the least, not even after the abode starts knocking off friends and family alike.
Whereas Amityville II morphed into an awful imitation of The Exorcist, this morphs into a wretched rip-off of Poltergeist, as a group of paranormal investigators snoop around the house and eventually find a creature who looks like a distant cousin of Dogma‘s excremental demon.
The most interesting aspect of Amityville 3-D is its supporting cast of rising actresses: future Crimes of the Heart Oscar nominee Tess Harper, future Full House and 90210 star Lori Loughlin, and a 21-year-old Meg Ryan.
13. CABIN FEVER
As director, 2002’s Cabin Fever remains the high point of Eli Roth’s filmography on Rotten Tomatoes, holding at 63% Fresh. As producer, 2016’s Cabin Fever has emerged as his nadir, with a miserable 0% rating.
Roth must be a believer in the age-old adage “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” since there’s no other reason to understand why he gave his blessing to this project. Following in the footsteps of Gus Van Sant’s disastrous 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho, director Travis Z serves up what’s basically a shot-by-shot remake of Roth’s original, with only a minor alteration here and there (e.g. Deputy Winston is now a female).
Since the story still involves a group of college-age kids succumbing to a flesh-eating virus, the gore remains front and center. What’s crucially missing, though, is the sense of subversive wit that crept around the edges of Roth’s original — instead, Travis Z offers a movie that’s as humorless as it is pointless.
12. THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH
Although it was eventually featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, 1964’s The Horror of Party Beach was a favorite of bad-movie buffs long before its enshrinement on the beloved TV series. Billed upon its initial release as “The First Horror Monster Musical,” it’s a hybrid of a creature feature and a beach-party picture — and it’s absolutely awful on both counts.
After a barrel of radioactive waste is dumped into the ocean, sea monsters with bulging eyes and what appears to be sausages stuffed into their mouths rise from the murky depths to attack fun-loving teenagers as they shimmy to such tunes as “Wigglin’ Wobblin’” and “The Zombie Stomp.”
Like Robot Monster, Eegah! and other grade-Z atrocities, The Horror of Party Beach is the sort of mindboggling film that triggers amusement rather than anger at its absolute ineptitude. Yet it’s still a movie that stinks on ice — hence its deserved 0% designation.
11. EMPIRE OF THE ANTS
Writer-director-producer Bert I. Gordon (aka “Mr. B.I.G.”) helmed several movies featuring oversized creatures, and 1977’s Empire of the Ants joined a collection that already included (among others) Earth vs. the Spider, Village of the Giants, and The Food of the Gods.
A pre-Dynasty Joan Collins stars as a shady realtor who has some swampland in Florida she’s trying to sell to a particularly dim-witted group of investors. What she and the others don’t know — but discover soon enough — is that a leaky barrel of radioactive waste has turned small ants into gi-ants.
This in turn prompts the hapless humans to flee the area before they’re — what exactly? Bitten? Eaten? Crushed? The awful effects make it difficult to ascertain exactly what the ants are doing to their victims, but as long as their actions result in the demise of these dolts, it doesn’t much matter.
10. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II
A modest hit when it was released in 1985, the tongue-in-bloody-cheek horror yarn The Return of the Living Dead has only seen its reputation grow over the ensuing years. That’s not the case with 1988’s Return of the Living Dead Part II, which offers a similar scenario as its predecessor but with diminishing returns.
In this outing, one of the canisters from the first film breaks open, unleashing the fumes that turn people into zombies. As before, a group of kids fights for survival as friends and neighbors try to munch on their brains.
James Karen and Thom Mathews, two of the stars of the original, returned in different roles, but it was Philip Bruns who was singled out by critics for his loopy turn as Doc Mandel.
Everything else about this derivative sequel was roundly panned, although Twin Peaks fans might want to check it out since one of the youthful heroes is played by Dana Ashbrook two years before he played Bobby Briggs on David Lynch’s TV show.
Vampires can be big business when it comes to critical acclaim and commercial success, but vampire bats? Not so much.
Martin Cruz Smith had a bestselling novel (and an endorsement from Stephen King) on his hands with 1977’s Nightwing, but once he opted to write the script for the 1979 film adaptation himself, the author failed to meet with similar kudos.
Director Arthur Hiller, best known for comedies and romances (Love Story, Silver Streak), was absolutely the wrong person to helm what was supposed to be a terrifying yarn about thousands of bats terrorizing a New Mexican Indian reservation.
8. ORGY OF THE DEAD
Presumably, the only reason 1965’s Orgy of the Dead isn’t as famous as such Ed Wood extravaganzas as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, and Bride of the Monster is because the angora-infatuated filmmaker only served as writer, not director.
Clearly, it’s as awful as his other endeavors, relating the tale of a writer who decides a cemetery would be a great place to generate story ideas. Instead, he and his girlfriend soon find themselves tied to stakes in the graveyard and forced to watch undead strippers gyrate throughout the night. Plan 9 co-star and wildly inaccurate psychic Criswell appears as a demonic emissary known as The Emperor, while a werewolf and a mummy turn up to ogle the topless dancers.
The so-bad-they’re-good nature of Wood’s other films have earned them positive reviews here and there on Rotten Tomatoes, but no one could find anything positive to say about this jaw-dropping achievement.
Prolific producer Ovidio G. Assonitis was responsible for The Exorcist rip-off Beyond the Door and The Omen rip-off The Visitor, so it’s only logical that he would also be behind a Jaws rip-off.
Said rip-off is 1977’s Tentacles, starring John Huston as a reporter investigating the disappearance of several seaside residents. It turns out the culprit is a giant octopus, which means it’s time to call in a marine expert (Bo Hopkins) whose two best friends are a pair of killer whales named Winter and Summer.
Shelley Winters co-stars as Huston’s irksome sister, while Henry Fonda phones in his performance — literally, as almost all his scenes involve him talking on the telephone — as a business magnate bothered that it’s his company responsible for disturbing this critter’s peaceful slumber.
For every horror parody that works beautifully (e.g. Young Frankenstein), there are many more that fail abysmally. Vampires Suck and Scary Movie 5 are among the lowest-rated on Rotten Tomatoes with 4% apiece, but faring even worse with 0% is 2009’s Transylmania.
A sequel to National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze and National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze 2 (but curiously not sporting the National Lampoon brand in its title), Transylmania finds many of the same characters from the previous films journeying to Romania to study at Razvan University. There, they encounter not only a centuries-old vampire but also the college’s demented dean; a dwarf conducting experiments for the benefit of his hunchbacked daughter.
5. DEADLY FRIEND
Wes Craven has the dubious distinction of being one of the few “name” directors to have not one but two of his movies branded with a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. The first is 1984’s The Hills Have Eyes Part II, the dismal sequel to one of Craven’s better pictures; the other is 1986’s Deadly Friend, a clumsy mishmash of teen romance and gruesome horror.
With a script by future Oscar winner Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost), this casts Matthew Laborteaux as Paul, a brainy kid who divides his time between tinkering with his robot BB (no relation to BB-8) and pining away for his cute neighbor Samantha (Kristy Swanson). After a beating by her father leaves Samantha comatose, Paul elects to insert BB’s microchip brain into Samantha’s body, thereby reanimating a creature bent on revenge.
Deadly Friend has its defenders, though none are apparently among Rotten Tomatoes’ critics. Still, the unique scene in which a hurled basketball causes a harridan’s head to explode ensures that the film will probably never be completely forgotten.
4. THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM
A popular television actor thanks to his starring role on Prison Break and his turn as Captain Cold on The Flash, Wentworth Miller flexed another creative muscle by penning the script for Park Chan-wook’s acclaimed 2013 effort Stoker. But sustained success as a wordsmith was not to be, as his subsequent screenplay was for a 2016 horror flick that sports a ghastly 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Disappointments Room stars Kate Beckinsale as a wife and mother who discovers that the family’s new home contains a hidden room that once housed a deformed little girl. The title meant that more than one critic simply labeled this threadbare ghost story a “disappointment” and called it a day, but the film did manage to break one record.
In terms of third-weekend drops at the box office, it plummeted 97.4%, breaking the record previously held by the infamous Gigli. It was a short-lived achievement, however, since last February’s A Cure for Wellness managed an even more horrendous drop.
Primarily a rip-off of Gremlins, 1984’s Ghoulies at least had the decency to offer a (sort of) heroic role to the singular Jack Nance (Eraserhead, Twin Peaks), while fans of TV’s long-running Law & Order: Special Victims Unit might be interested to catch Mariska Hargitay in her film debut.
Otherwise, there’s little to recommend this simple-minded horror yarn in which the son (Peter Liapis) of a devil worshipper (rock star Michael Des Barres) falls under the spell of evil influences and unleashes vicious little monsters on his unsuspecting friends. The title critters look laughably cheap — critic Leonard Maltin once cracked that they look like “Muppets dipped in shellac” — but they’re certainly preferable to the dull human protagonists.
2. MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE
Staggering in its ineptitude, 1966’s Manos: The Hands of Fate finds a vacationing family (mom, dad, daughter, dog) getting lost and ending up at the home of the diabolical Master (Tom Neyman), his bevy of brides, and his extremely odd henchman Torgo (John Reynolds).
Absent from the public consciousness for decades, Manos seemed forever relegated to obscurity until the folks behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured it in a now-classic episode. Since its reemergence, it has routinely been tagged the worst movie ever made, a (dis)honor that, as noted in the intro, had pretty much belonged to Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space.
As MST3K regular Mary Jo Pehl once noted, Manos: The Hands of Fate was “far and away the most loathsome, repulsive, unpleasantest, vilest, ickyest, blechiest film to come along in MST3K’s rich film history … Manos became our standard by which all others are measured.”
1. ONE MISSED CALL
One Missed Call, a 2008 American remake of a 2003 Japanese film, leads the pack of 0% horror flicks with 79 negative reviews. Only Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, the 2002 action debacle with Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu, has accumulated more negative reviews (116, to be exact) on the way to its zero mark.
Certainly, there was reason to worry even before One Missed Call was released. It wasn’t screened in advance for critics. It was released in the graveyard month of January (in fact, it was the first film to hit theaters in 2008). And its plot attempted to make cell phones scary.
The premise centers around a college student (Shannyn Sossamon) trying to discover why her friends are dying shortly after receiving voicemails dated a few days into the future. Reviewers ravaged the film for ripping off elements from various J-horror offerings, yet most of the scorn was directed toward the instrument of death. When it comes to terrifying screen entities, a voicemail message surely ranks at the bottom of the list.
Have you seen any of this 0% Rotten Tomatoes movies? Let us know in the comments!
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