Since it’s Halloween season, we’re sure you have a full slate of classic horror films all queued up to watch. While that’s all well and good, horror is one of the few genres whose bad films are often just as enjoyable as movies of the utmost quality. And given all the various sub-genres horror has to offer, there are a lot of stinkers to choose from.
Sometimes they’re so bad they’re hilarious. Others simply defy belief that they exist at all, failing every basic litmus test of narrative and technique that even rudimentary filmmaker should be aware of, but like a train-wreck or a traffic accident, its impossible to look away.
So if you’re looking for other options to supplement the classics like The Exorcist, Halloween and The Shining, here are 15 turd-tastic treasures that every die-hard horror junkie needs to see at least once (for some of these titles, once will be more than enough!). Without further ado, here are the 15 Worst Horror Movies Of All Time.
15. Creepshow 3 (2007)
When a film has a score of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, you know you’re in for a bad time, but Creepshow 3 is a cinematic horror show of the worst kind, one that lacks all the charm from George Romero’s iconic 1982 horror anthology, and manages to be even crappier than the admittedly wretched Creepshow 2.
Abandoning the horror comic book framework that linked the stories in Romero’s original, Creepshow 3 takes the annoying tactic of unskillfully borrowing from the films of Quentin Tarantino, where characters from different segments randomly collide throughout the film.
The vignettes (which include stories about a remote control that can change your ethnicity, and a radio that commands listeners to murder) lack inspiration, and the effects aren’t very special. Adding insult to injury, Creepshow 3 has been deemed unofficial, with fans of the original choosing to believe makeup artist Tom Savini’s assertion that 1990’s Tales from the Darkside: The Movie was meant to the be the official third film in the Creepshow franchise. Ouch. Talk about a vote of no confidence.
14. The Happening (2008)
Few directors have had as bad a turnaround in the court of public opinion as M. Night Shyamalan. After storming out of the gate with hits like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, his other films have been far more polarizing. But The Happening is the bottom of the barrel.
The director’s first R-rated film stars Mark Wahlberg as science teacher Elliot Moore, who becomes disturbed after a wave of mass-suicides occurs in the Northwestern U.S. Believing it to be some sort of neurotoxin, he travels to investigate the cause, but soon abandons intellectual curiosity over the desperate need to survive the invisible pathogen attack.
This all sounds well and good–until the big reveal. Shyamalan has been accused of having some sub par plot-twists in his films, but the shocker that Earth’s plants are behind the deadly threat was just a big buzz kill. Lacking true scares and suspense with a ho-hum climax makes The Happening... well… not very happening.
13. Blood Freak (1972)
Doubling as a film perfect to watch on Halloween and Thanksgiving, Blood Freak is a true oddity– a horror film that also doubles as an anti-drug PSA… that makes you feel like you’re on drugs. Herschell (Steve Hawkes) is a Vietnam Vet (and Elvis lookalike) whose world turns around after he meets Angel (Heather Hughes). While she is as pious and religious as her namesake suggests, he takes a turn for the worse after falling for her drug-addicted sister (Dana Cullivan).
Soon he’s also hooked, and turns to a turkey farm job to fund his habit. But his problems only escalate when he’s asked to eat some lab-grown fowl that turn him into a murderous man-turkey who has a new kind of drug habit: drinking the blood of junkies.
Blood Freak is one trippy flick, with bad editing and awkward performances only adding to the disorienting plot. Even more quizzical is the addition of an onscreen narrator (director Brad F. Grinter), who acts like a poor man’s Rod Serling, so prone to chain-smoking that he actually coughs on camera, his own addiction adding just another wacky (not to mention ironic) twist to the proceedings.
12. Gnaw 2: Food of the Gods (1989)
This (loosely based) sequel to 1978’s Food of the Gods, is one of the most amazing WTF films ever made. When Dr. Neil Hamilton (Paul Coufos) works on a growth hormone serum using lab rats, he doesn’t realize this will result in giant size killer rats. Neither do a group of animal rights activists, who break into his lab and release said rats (before their massive growth spurt). Soon rampant death and destruction ensues on a college campus.
While Gnaw 2 (aka Food of the Gods II) follows the basic revenge of nature template, the film’s execution is wonky and weird as hell. Some examples: a giant child appearing from out of nowhere screaming “I’d like you to get the f*** outta here!,” a sex scene where Hamilton (also) turns into a giant, a rat that gets jealous of his new love interest, and that’s just for starters. Add in several shots where there is a very visible boom mic, and you have an incompetent yet throughly mesmerizing film.
11. Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker (1991)
Let’s be honest: none of the Silent Night, Deadly Night films can be accused of being great. They all fall into the guilty pleasure category. Be that as it may, it’s the fifth (and last) series entry that is the most mesmerizingly terrible installment.
Acting legend Mickey Rooney stars as Joe Petto (wink, wink, get it??), a maniacal toy store owner who creates toys designed to kill children. One of his targets is Derek (William Thorne), who witnesses his father being murdered while he wraps one of Petto’s creations for Christmas.
Soon Derek and his mother (played by Jane Higginson) begin their own investigation of Petto and his unhinged son Pino (Brian Bremer). But the plot in Silent Night 5 (with a twist seen a mile away) takes a backseat to the prosthetic effects of Screaming Mad George, and the utterly unhinged performance by Rooney, whose over-the-top portrayal will cause more cackles then frights.
10. Sleepwalkers (Mick Garris, 1992)
Based on a Stephen King screenplay, Sleepwalkers is the story of Mary and Charles Brady, a mother and son (played by Alice Krieg and Brian Krause), who are newcomers to a small Indiana town. This turns out to be bad news for local residents, as both are shape-shifting vampires who feed off the essence of virgin women. They’re also a bit too cozy in the family affection department.
If that last plot-point wasn’t icky enough, there’s plenty of other reasons to be turned off by Sleepwalkers: Mick Garris (The Stand, Masters of Horror) is normally a competent filmmaker, but the movie never gels, and the fact that the Brady’s only weakness are cats is pretty goofy too, which provides most of the unintentional laughs.
9. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964)
A film so bad it got the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is as bewildering as its title. Billed as the “first monster musical,” the movie stars Ray Dennis Steckler (who also directs) as Jerry, a ne’er-do-well who attends a carnival with his girlfriend Angela (Sharon Walsh) and indescribable friend Harold (Atlas King).
What should be a care-free day at the park turns into a nightmare after Jerry visits the villainous psychic Estrella (Brett O’Hara), who hypnotizes him and turns him into a murderous zombie that attacks carnival attendees with psychotic glee. To make matters worse, Estrella and her goons are turning other carnival goers into zombies after hurling acid in their faces.
Keep in mind all these bizarre antics are often interrupted by shoehorned musical performances featuring ungraceful dancers and tone-deaf vocalists. Incredibly Strange Creatures is truly horrific, but not in the way it was intended. Nonetheless it leaves an impression.
8. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of the most iconic horror films ever made, but the sequels its spawned (minus the decent Halloween II and under-appreciated Halloween III), have been less than inspired. While many fans have reserved most of their ire for the dismal Halloween: Resurrection (it sucks) or Rob Zombie’s remake, it’s ultimately Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers that takes the cake for worst entry in the franchise.
This sixth film in the series makes the mistake of over-explaining Myers’s supernatural powers, and throws in a goofy sub-plot involving a shadowy cult. Much of the problem is the multiple rewrites, butchered editing, and troubled production that make the film downright indecipherable at points. Not even the last screen appearance of Donald Pleasance, or the filmic debut of Paul Rudd (who remains embarrassed by the film) seems to help. The ending is still one of the most non-sensical in cinema, leaving no choice but to go with a completely new direction in the 1998 series installment Halloween H20.
7. Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)
Leprechaun is arguably the most ridiculous horror franchise ever: it’s not scary, and its attempt at comedy is so terrible that it’s only funny in how infuriatingly stupid as it is. But as bad as every entry in the series has been, 2000’s straight-to-video Leprechaun in the Hood is pretty magnificent in its wretchedness.
After surviving 1997’s Leprechaun 4: In Space (yep, that happened) the titular character (played with shameless scenery chewing by Warwick Davis) takes residence in the L.A. inner city. When a trio of aspiring hip-hop artists break into the studio of producer Mack Daddy (Ice-T), they steal an ancient medallion, unwittingly releasing the Irish imp, who goes on a killing streak in his attempt to reclaim a magic flute.
The film as a whole is just an excuse for the annoying rhyming creature to spoof hip-hop culture, culminating in his cringeworthy rap-anthem “Lep in The Hood,” featuring such brilliant lyrics as “I hate to resort so soon to magic/Haven’t been laid in so long it’s tragic.”
6. The Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
What do you get when you put William Shatner in a movie about killer spiders? Everything you’d hope for. Kingdom of the Spiders (directed by John Bud Cardos) capitalized on the “nature horror” craze of the ’70s, where hordes of tarantulas attack a small Arizona town.
Shatner plays Dr. Robert “Rack” Hansen, a local vet who investigates the strange occurrence, but quickly finds himself outmatched by the vicious arachnids. Holing up with other residents in a hotel lodge, he makes a plan to fight back.
Spiders is serviceable as a horror movie, but its real gift is unintentional comedy. In addition to Shatner’s trusty over-acting, his heroism is questioned when he throws a young girl on the ground rather than move her to safety. There’s also a local pilot who shrieks like an eagle after spiders attack him in his plane, and a host of bad one-liners. The fact that tarantulas aren’t hazardous to humans further undermines the central threat of Kingdom, only amplifying the laughs.
5. Maximum Overdrive (1986)
If Stephen King’s sole directorial gig seems like a hallucinatory effort made with the aid of illicit substances… it was. Filmed while the esteemed horror author was battling cocaine addiction, Maximum Overdrive is a fever-dream misfire (and pure guilty pleasure).
After a stray comet causes a radiation storm, the citizens of North Carolina are besieged by machines that turn against them. The most deadly instruments are big rig trucks that go on a killing spree. It’s up to a group of survivors (led by a truck-stop diner cook played by Emilio Estevez) to stop their mechanized reign of terror.
Maximum Overdrive is absolutely bonkers, with enough elements of black comedy to infer that King wasn’t out to make a serious film, which adds to its junk-food appeal. But the poor critical reviews and box office made him vow never to direct again (a number of on-set accidents that led to a lawsuit probably helped his decision).
4. Werewolf (1996)
Also known as Arizona Werewolf, this direct-to-video oddity (featuring Martin Sheen’s brother Joe Estevez) is one hell of a mess. When an archaeological dig unearths an unusual looking skeleton with a dangerous power: anyone who gets scratched by it turns into a werewolf.
If that ludicrous premise wasn’t wonky enough, the stilted acting, inconsistent special effects, and nonsensical editing only add to the experience. Adding to the film’s problems are a spineless “hero” (played by Federico Cavalli), unintelligible dialogue from buxom lead actress Adrianna Miles and the ever-changing hairstyles of the villainous Yuri (Jorge Rivero). The conviction that Estevez and character actor Richard Lynch bring to the proceedings is admirable, but woefully misplaced.
Werewolf is the second film on our list to appear in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode as well as one of the youngest films the beloved television series ever riffed on. While it was made in 1996, it looks straight out of the early 1980’s.
3. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
No list of terrible films (from any genre) would be complete without Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (AKA Grave Robbers from Outer Space), often deemed “the worst movie ever made.” The film (which featured Bela Lugosi’s last performance) is bewitching in its dimwittedness.
The sci-fi horror flick has one bizarre hodgepodge of a plot: flying saucers invade Earth, with aliens intent on resurrecting corpses in a Hollywood cemetery. Their goal is to use them as an army of the living dead to help them achieve world domination.
But the plot is secondary to Wood’s inept filmmaking. When Lugosi died halfway through production, Wood replaced him with his wife’s chiropractor (who looked nothing like the late actor), using a cape to hide his identity. The use of stock footage doesn’t sync with original footage, tombstones fall over with ease, and day suddenly turns into night. The production design also fails miserably. UFO’s were made from paper plates and hub caps, and the innards of a jetliner were composed of a shower curtain, thermometer, and steering wheel.
2. Troll 2 (1990)
A sequel bearing no relation to 1986’s Troll, Troll 2 is a film so deliciously bad that its spawned a rabid cult following, and even a documentary (2010’s Best Worst Movie). The plot involves a goblin cult (no trolls are actually featured in the film), who capture a family and attempt to eat them. Inexplicably, the creatures are vegetarian, and must first transform their captives into plant matter before dining on them.
Troll 2 isn’t just hobbled by a bad plot; it’s the dialogue that truly stings, featuring notable quotes like “Nilbog! It’s Goblin spelled backwards,” “I am tightening my belt buckle so that I won’t feel hunger pains,” “If my dad knew you were here, he’d cut your little nuts off and eat them!“and most famously “They’re eating her, then they’re going to eat me. Oh my God!”
In the end, perhaps the main reason for the clumsy banter and bad storyline was something lost in translation. The director and screenwriter (whose script was inspired by her hatred of vegetarians) were both Italian and couldn’t speak fluent English, which also made the production more arduous and confusing than the average film shoot.
1. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
A movie with all the tension and visual air of a driver’s ed film, Manos: The Hands of Fate (the title’s literal translation is the redundant Hands: The Hands of Fate) is also the most boring horror flick ever made. When Michael, Margaret, and their young daughter take a road trip, they stop at a remote house to ask for directions. Soon they meet the extremely awkward and incoherent Torgo (John Reynolds), a lackey for “the master,” an occultist who keeps a harem of hypnotized brides. Will Margaret be next?
It’s somewhat appropriate that the chief creative force behind Manos was a fertilizer sales representative named Harold P. Warren. He wrote, directed, edited and starred in the project that was made on a bet– Warren said it would be easy to make a horror film on his own. He was wrong.
Popularized by a brutal skewering on Mystery Science Theater 3000, Manos is a strange fever dream held together by abysmal performances, excruciatingly long takes, anti-climatic “cat fights”, and glaring continuity errors. Watch it… if you dare. Just keep some coffee handy.
Well that wraps up our list of the 15 worst horror movies of all time. What other awful horror films would you add to the list? Be sure and tell us in the comments!
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