Awful horror movies have been around almost as long as the film medium itself, but their popularity among bad-movie buffs didn’t kick into high gear until decades later.
First, there were the horror-movie hosts of the 1950s and 1960s — TV personalities like Vampira and Zacherley who would showcase various creature features (both good and bad) on their programs. Then there were “Worst Film” festivals that were in vogue during the early part of the 1980s. Finally, of course, came Mystery Science Theater 3000, which debuted nationally in 1989 and spent the entirety of the next decade popularizing terrible horror movies that would otherwise have faded into oblivion.
Naming the worst of the worst is a daunting task, and even the folks who have taken the time to rate films on the Internet Movie Database have widely varying opinions. Some opt to target high-profile releases (e.g. 1977’s Exorcist II: The Heretic, which has a pitiful 3.7 out of 10), while others are content railing against comparable obscurities. Take, for example, 1992’s Ax ‘Em, which sports a miserable 1.2 out of 10. Yet so few people have actually seen (and rated) Ax ‘Em that adding it to a list of the all-time worst horror films might seem premature.
Therefore, employing the guidelines that the website imposes for its own Bottom 100 list — namely, that a film has to have received at least 1,500 votes — here are The 20 Worst Horror Movies Ever, According To IMDb.
20 ALONE IN THE DARK – 2.3 out of 10
In director Uwe Boll’s abysmal 2005 adaptation of the video game series, Christian Slater stars as a detective whose fascination with the supernatural leads him to a case involving demonic interdimensional beings. Assisting him in his endeavors is his girlfriend (a miscast Tara Reid), a brainy anthropologist who nevertheless can’t master the word "Newfoundland.”
Poorly cobbled together by Boll, Alone in the Dark was gleefully ridiculed by reviewers and audiences alike. Yet despite its utter critical and commercial failure, a sequel did appear three years later. Released straight to video, 2008’s Alone in the Dark II found Boll only serving as producer and Rick Yune replacing Slater in the lead role. It currently holds a 3.4 score on IMDb, a slight improvement over its putrid predecessor.
19 HOBGOBLINS – 2.3 out of 10
The success of 1984’s Gremlins led to a string of cheapjack rip-offs throughout the rest of the decade — Ghoulies and Munchies both spring to mind — though perhaps none were as terrible as 1988’s Hobgoblins.
Written and directed by Rick Sloane (who would go on to create all six films in the Vice Academy series), Hobgoblins follows the usual assemblage of ‘80s teens — a nice guy, a nice girl, a stud, a nympho, and a nerd — as they’re forced to contend with mischievous, murderous critters from outer space.
Hobgoblins was produced on a budget of $15,000, but it looks like it cost no more than 15 bucks, tops. The creatures are nothing more than hand puppets, though they admittedly still deliver better performances than the human players.
18 ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE – 2.3 out of 10
Holy Embarrassment, Batman! Yes, no less than Adam West turns up in 1986’s Zombie Nightmare, a low-rent horror yarn that makes the actor’s Batman TV series from the 1960s seem as polished as the Christopher Nolan feature films by comparison.
West turns up halfway through the film as a grouchy police chief investigating the deaths of several teenage punks. It turns out the culprit is Tony (Jon Mikl Thor), a musclebound meathead who returns from the grave to exact his revenge on those who killed him.
As Molly Mokembe, the voodoo priestess who resurrects Tony, hammy Manuska Rigaud appears in her first and last film, although she does enough emoting to fill out a 20-year career. Look also for 1990s flash-in-the-pan Tia Carrere (Wayne's World, True Lies) as one of the wayward kids who gets on Tony’s bad side.
17 MONSTER A-GO GO – 2.3 out of 10
In 1961, Bill Rebane wrote, directed, and began filming a science fiction yarn named Terror at Halfday. Unfortunately for Rebane, the money ran out and he had to abandon the project. Enter the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, The Gore Gore Girls), who discovered Rebane’s aborted attempt a few years later. Lewis scrapped some scenes, filmed a few new ones, and released the incoherent mess in 1965 under the catchy title Monster a-Go Go.
The plot centers on an astronaut who returns to Earth as a radioactive monster (played by 7-foot-plus actor Henry Hite in blotchy makeup). In a film with little sense of continuity, the most notorious scene comes at the very end, when the monster simply disappears and the narrator speculates that “there was no monster.”
Paul Chaplin, one of the principal writers on Mystery Science Theater 3000, once stated that Monster a-Go Go was “officially the worst movie we ever did.”
16 THE AZTEC MUMMY AGAINST THE HUMANOID ROBOT – 2.2 out of 10
For a 12-year stretch that began in 1957 and extended through the 1960s, a prominent Mexican studio produced a series of popular movies that featured some combination of Aztec mummies, lady wrestlers, and/or killer robots. For better or worse (mostly worse), the most recognizable of these efforts remains 1958’s The Aztec Mummy Against the Humanoid Robot.
Better known stateside under its shortened title, The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, this centers on the evil Dr. Krupp and his attempts to steal some buried treasure with the help of his clunky robot creation. Thus, the heroic mummy Popoca has to contend not only with the mad doctor’s pet automaton but also stock footage from the previous series entries and the atrocious dubbing that was added for the film’s eventual U.S. release.
15 THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES!!? – 2.2 out of 10
This 1964 oddity with the unforgettable title was helmed by Ray Dennis Steckler, who kept his real name for the directorial credit but used the pseudonym of Cash Flagg while playing the leading role. Steckler/Flagg plays Jerry, who attends a carnival populated by a sultry stripper, a sneering fortune teller, her snarling assistant, and a cage full of mutilated monstrosities.
Known as a tireless promoter of his own pictures, Steckler re-released The Incredibly Strange Creatures several times over the ensuing years, always disguising it with a new moniker (most famously, The Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary).
If nothing else, Steckler could at least boast of working with a future Academy Award winner. One of the camera operators on the film was Vilmos Zsigmond, who would later nab the Best Cinematography Oscar for 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
14 TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST – 2.2 out of 10
Makeup artist Rick Baker may now be a seven-time Academy Award winner for such films as Men in Black and An American Werewolf in London, but like almost everyone else, he had to pay his dues during the early years. This often meant working without screen credit on big-budget films (The Exorcist, Live and Let Die) or toiling as an assistant on low-budget efforts. An example of the latter is the 1976 dud Track of the Moon Beast.
The head makeup artist on the film was Joe Blasco (The Touch of Satan, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS), with Baker serving as part of his crew. To be fair, their so-so work represents the least painful aspect of this yarn in which a meteor fragment turns an ordinary guy into a nocturnal monster.
Particularly atrocious is the dialogue, with one character taking his sweet time listing all the ingredients he added to his stew while another surmises that the local killings are being committed by a dinosaur.
13 DRACULA 3000 – 2.1 out of 10
Despite similar titles, 2004’s Dracula 3000 is not a sequel to 2000’s Dracula 2000, though it certainly continues the tradition of awful movies centered around Hollywood’s favorite bloodsucker.
In theory, a movie that combines the plot of Ridley Scott’s Alien with the mythology of Bram Stoker’s classic novel has potential. And Dracula 3000 certainly offers a cast that should be of interest to genre fans: Starship Troopers’ Casper Van Diem, Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood’s Erika Eleniak, The Fifth Element’s Tiny Lister, and Flesh for Frankenstein’s Udo Kier. All this and rap star Coolio, to boot!
Alas, Dracula 3000, in which a salvage ship encounters an abandoned spaceship containing nothing but suspicious coffins, is crippled by the usual suspects — namely, a limited budget and filmmakers with limited vision.
12 THE TOUCH OF SATAN – 2.1 out of 10
In the words of the overzealous critic at the Los Angeles Free Press back in the day, “The Touch of Satan makes Rosemary’s Baby look like a Sunday school picnic!” And if you believe that, then we have a walnut farm to sell you.
A walnut farm just happens to be the setting for this hopeless 1971 feature in which a wandering doofus (Michael Berry) falls for a young woman (Emby Mellay) who turns out to be a 127-year-old witch. To complicate matters, the sorceress has an insane sister who’s also a witch and prone to murdering people.
Moving slower than molasses trapped in concrete, The Touch of Satan at least offers a few laughs at the expense of the daft dialogue and the interminable pauses during the amateurish actors’ exchanges.
11 DARK HARVEST II: THE MAIZE – 2.1 out of 10
An Excel spreadsheet is probably required to make any sense out of the dark saga of the Dark Harvest films.
In 1992, there was a movie about killer scarecrows called Dark Harvest. In 2004, there was another movie involving a killer scarecrow, this one also called Dark Harvest. Then there was 2004’s The Maize: The Movie, which had nothing to do with killer scarecrows but instead centered on a dad (writer-director-producer Bill Cowell) who searches for his lost daughters in a haunted cornfield. Some marketing geniuses decided to retitle The Maize: The Movie as Dark Harvest II: The Maize for its DVD release, even though there was no connection to either of the earlier pictures.
To make matters even more confusing, 2004 also saw the release of Skarecrow, another unrelated film about — yup — a killer scarecrow. Its alternate DVD title? Dark Harvest 3: Scarecrow. Because why not?
10 EXTRA TERRESTRIAL VISITORS – 2.1 out of 10
Only half of the 1983 French-Spanish co-production Extra Terrestrial Visitors (aka Pod People) is a horror film, but that’s still enough to qualify it for this list.
Indeed, writer-director Juan Piquer Simon fully intended to make a monster movie in the Alien tradition, focusing on an outer space invader who crash-lands on Earth and proceeds to slaughter hapless humans. But Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial had just set box office records upon its 1982 release — consequently, this film’s producers demanded that Simon hurriedly add a second storyline about the touching relationship between an insufferable little boy and a harmless alien tyke nicknamed Trumpy.
It’s a shame Simon wasn’t able to resist his direct orders, because while the monster sequences are mostly mediocre, the scenes with Trumpy are downright torturous.
9 ZOMBIE NATION – 2.1 out of 10
The title of writer-director Ulli Lommel’s 2004 Zombie Nation might promise endless armies of the undead, but the grand total is actually five zombies. What’s more, the members of this quintet look far healthier than any of the zombies envisioned by George Romero — with heavy eye makeup serving as their defining trait, they have more in common with Pocahontas’ Meeko the raccoon than with the walking dead.
Then again, that’s par for the course in this extremely low-budget picture about a psychotic cop (Gunter Ziegler, whose Southern character speaks with an Austrian accent) who kidnaps, tortures, and kills women. Luckily, one of the victims had the foresight to contact a voodoo priestess before her murder, which is what enables these young ladies to return from the grave to exact their revenge.
8 THE CREEPING TERROR – 2.1 out of 10
Long before its enshrinement on MST3K, 1964’s The Creeping Terror had already earned a reputation as one of the all-time worsts. In the popular 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards, the movie was even one of the nominees in the category of The Most Ridiculous Monster in Screen History, competing against the likes of From Hell It Came (with its walking tree trunk) and Teenagers from Outer Space (killer lobsters from beyond).
As authors Harry and Michael Medved explained, “The title monster is a long, deadly carpet with a group of college students underneath to move it along.” To add to the effect, director Vic Savage attached what appears to be pieces of plastic hoses to the shag rug.
Incidentally, The Creeping Terror ended up losing the Turkey Award to Robot Monster (basically a gorilla in a diving helmet), but no matter. In the brothers’ follow-up tome, 1986’s Son of Golden Turkey Awards, the “man-eating carpet” in The Creeping Terror handily won the honor for The Most Laughable Concept for an Outer Space Invader.
7 DIE HARD DRACULA – 2.0 out of 10
The best thing about 1998’s Die Hard Dracula is the image conjured up by its title. Bruce Willis as wisecracking cop John McClane, fighting vampiric terrorists who have taken over a Transylvania castle? Now that’s the sequel audiences deserved instead of the execrable A Good Way to Die Hard.
Alas, ‘twas not meant to be. Instead, Die Hard Dracula is yet another bloodless horror yarn about the bloodsucking creature of the night, this one even more anemic than most. Bruce Glover, best known as the gay killer Mr. Wint in the James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever (or best known as Crispin Glover’s dad; take your pick), plays a modern-day version of vampire slayer Van Helsing. Dracula, meanwhile, is portrayed by three different actors, all taking turns in the role at various stages of the film.
Like other screen Draculas, this one enjoys putting the bite on victims, although his favorite pastime appears to be hurling feeble fireballs from his fingertips.
6 HOUSE OF THE DEAD – 2.0 out of 10
Based on the video game series of the same name, 2003’s House of the Dead centers on a group of college-age kids who head to a remote island to attend a rave. Upon arrival, they find that zombies have taken over the island, and the only way to survive is to shoot and slice their way out.
Uwe Boll, already repped on this list thanks to Alone in the Dark, is responsible for this one as well. Jurgen Prochnow of Das Boot fame and Clint Howard of Star Trek fame are in the cast, but they’re helpless in the face of Boll’s rank ineptitude.
Just when it seems as if the film couldn’t get any tackier, Boll elects to employ footage taken directly from the video game. But in the immortal words of Private Hudson, “Game over, man!”
5 MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE – 1.9 out of 10
Absent from the public consciousness since its initial regional release in Texas, 1966’s Manos: The Hands of Fate 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 been tagged in many circles as the worst movie ever made, vying with Ed Wood's immortal Plan 9 from Outer Space for that dubious dishonor.
The sort of jaw-dropping boondoggle that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime, Manos 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).
Between the couple’s 7-year-old daughter becoming one of the Master’s wives and the sight of the shuffling Torgo pawing at the missus, there are enough disturbing sights in Manos: The Hands of Fate to rattle even the most hardened of bad-movie buffs.
4 BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR – 1.8 out of 10
Alfred Hitchcock has inspired numerous filmmakers over the decades, and James Nguyen can be counted among them. With The Master’s 1963 classic The Birds reverberating through his mind — and with the 2006 Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth providing additional inspiration — Nguyen wrote and directed 2010’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror, a horror yarn about flocks of birds protesting global warming by attacking and maiming innocent bystanders.
Perpetually hawking his picture at every turn, Nguyen eventually managed to capture the attention of Severin Films, which hosted national screenings of the movie before releasing it in a bonus-packed Blu-ray edition. That’s a respectable denouement for a movie that’s now routinely described as one of the worst of all time.
Made on a budget of $10,000, the quality of Birdemic — particularly the laughable effects involving the bird attacks — has made it a favorite of bad-movie aficionados. It’s proven so popular, in fact, that Nguyen went ahead and made a sequel.
3 BIRDEMIC 2: THE RESURRECTION – 1.7 out of 10
And here’s that sequel! Released in 2013, Birdemic 2: The Resurrection switches the setting from a small town to Hollywood, where polluted rain unleashes a new horde of avian assaults. Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore, the stars of the first film, return as the same characters, while Nguyen again handles writing and directing duties.
Like many sequels, Birdemic 2 fails to live up to its predecessor, even when that predecessor’s claim to fame is its awfulness. The difference is that whereas Nguyen was blissfully unaware of his film’s failings the first time around — thereby lending the movie a certain naïve charm — here he’s more calculating in his execution. That provides the picture with a forced jokiness that, combined with the usual excess found in sequels (e.g. zombies are needlessly added to the mix), renders it even less appealing than the endearingly awful original.
2 ATTACK OF THE JURASSIC SHARK – 1.5 out of 10
To quote the catchy tune from 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: “Blame Canada.” After all, the country absorbs full responsibility for foisting 2013’s Attack of the Jurassic Shark onto an unsuspecting public. From Sharknado to Jaws: The Revenge, there have been plenty of poor shark movies released over the years, but even those turkeys are held in greater esteem than this waterlogged entry from our neighbors up north.
Certainly, combining elements from two of Steven Spielberg’s most popular films is one way to command attention. But after marrying the premise of Jaws with the premise of Jurassic Park, director Brett Kelly and scripters David A. Lloyd and Trevor Payer divorce themselves from all rhyme and reason with a poorly paced and miserably acted thriller showcasing some particularly rancid effects. The nadir of the entire enterprise might be the moment when it appears as if the shark is actually flying.
1 POTATO SALAD – 1.3 out of 10
In its German homeland, the title of this 2015 debacle is Kartoffelsalat, which translates as “Potato Salad.” Its makers admitted that the moniker has nothing to do with the content of the movie, and they eventually added the subtitle, Don’t Ask! With humor like that, it’s no wonder this remains one of the lowest rated movies on IMDb.
A horror-comedy with a high school setting, Potato Salad centers on the interactions between a dork (Torge Oelrich) and the classmates who have been transformed into zombies. While the film isn’t readily available in America (although it does pop up online from time to time), it’s despised in Germany, primarily because the principal cast members are kids who only became known via the comic skits and fashion tips they post on their personal YouTube channels.
Director Michael David Pate, who wrote the script with Oelrich, reportedly stated that Potato Salad wasn’t made for critics but for regular moviegoers. The fact that these regular moviegoers are the ones eviscerating it on IMDb speaks volumes.
Have you seen any of these horror movies? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!