This is an article I wrote for "Movieline Magazine" back in 2000. I thought it might be kinda cool for a re-up in the spirit of Halloween 2007...and in the spirit of retro, millennium Hunter. So, I don't mean to be pedantic, but when I say "we" below, I mean "Movieline," but, like, it's really just ME. Here it goes...
Sure, as far as hair-raised-on-the-back-of-your-neck terror, The Exorcist is unparalleled. Or is it? What about the first moments of Dario Argenta's Susperia? Or the climax of the The Wicker Man? The debate around the scariest movies of all time will go on and on, but this Halloween, we've opted out of participating.
Instead, we've chosen to look at a different kind of scary movie--the kind that, through whatever cosmic force, made it onto screens against everyone's better judgment. You know, scary in the same sense as the seemingly benign sentence: "In one week, Americans may elect George W. Bush as the next President of the United States."
In that spirit of scary, here are the top ten scarily bad movies for this Halloween:
10. Throw Mama From the Train
The plot of Throw Mama From the Train is promising. Two friends, played by Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal, have someone in their lives they want dead--for Crystal, his ex-wife; for DeVito, his controlling, whiny mother. So, they decide to collaborate and swap murders. The scariest element of this flick is actress Anne Ramsey, who plays DeVito's Mama. Ramsey's hideous looks and grating voice are bad enough in normal circumstances, but her incessant whining--especially when she yells her son Owen's name over and over and over throughout the move--drives you to the point where you really do hope to see her feeble ass thrown from the train...
Yes, everyone loved the play-by-play destruction of the ship--the looming ice slicing through the hull, the clawing of abandoned Irish peasants, the passengers bouncing the ship's length to their death, from the end-up stern to the frigid water below. But, the Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet dialogue is so goddamn cheesy and horrific it's amazing anyone was able to see past it.
"You jump. I jump." We all jump. Come on! You get the picture. Take away the big floating set piece and you're firmly in "Days of Our Lives" territory...
8. Joe Versus the Volcano
Most people forget about the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romantic comedy that--preceding Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail--could've started it all. Hanks, who plays the title character (Joe, not the Volcano), is a hypochondriac who is informed that he has a terminal illness. A stranger with mucho bucks offers Hanks an opportunity to "live it up" on his dime. So, off goes Hanks to Waponi Woo, a volcanic island inhabited by a tribe of orange-soda fiends. There is one small catch, though: Hanks will have to jump into a volcano at the end of his vacation.
What happens next? Honestly, it's all just so terrifyingly bad that we really don't know where to begin.
7. The Next Karate Kid
Everyone should write mean letters to Pat Morita for agreeing to make this film. [2007 note: RIP Morita!] The title character this time is played not by Ralph Macchio, but by Oscar-toting Hilary Swank--a bit of casting history that demonstrates the most frightening fact of life for actors everywhere: you have to start somewhere. The Karate Kid series started slipping after the original, but the second and third installments were at least digestible. Unfortunately, adding a fourth title with a feminine twist proved a horrific disgrace to the original '80s classic... Just watch... You'll know what we mean. BONSAI!
6. The Island of Dr. Moreau
We are, of course, referring to the 1996 remake, starring Marlon Brando as the doctor. In the film, Dr. Moreau creates an isolated island community of "monsters" he has created through some kinky crossbreeding of human and animal DNA. One of his most memorable creations was his miniature sidekick, Majai, played by the world's smallest man, Nelson de la Rosa. He dressed just like the Doctor and even played his own mini piano alongside his master. Sound familiar, Austin Powers fans?
It's truly one of Hollywood's most surreal offerings in some time. Try watching it stoned...
5. Last Action Hero
Yet another piece of post-Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger drivel. The premise of this film revolves around a young boy who is given a magic ticket that transports him into the movie world of his favorite action hero, played by Schwarzenegger. And although the good guys always win in movie land, the cinematic bad guy swipes the ticket and travels into the real world, where evil can (as evidenced by the likely triumph next week of George W. Bush) win. The "bad guy" in this insane mess of bad dialogue and unimpressive action scenes is the scariest element of the film. He has a removable glass eye and owns a set of different eye designs. So, in one scene you see him with a menacing cat-eye and in another, he's sporting a gleaming smile of an eye. (We don't get it either.) This eerie villain also has a pack of highly trained pitbulls who, on command, can form a dog pyramid in a matter of seconds. Umm...[2007 note: Now that I own a dog, I have an entirely new respect for this feat. It's an art, really.]
4. Look Who's Talking Too
The original Look Who's Talking was baffling, but the sequel is even more so. Having baby's thoughts translated to us in voice-over is scary in general, but throw in Roseanne Barr as the narrator of the film's second child, and we've got a horror movie on our hands...
The scariest of Schwarzenegger's "Mr. Sensitive" flicks (Cf. Kindergarten Cop, Jingle All the Way) is Junior, in which the meaty Austrian thesp plays a scientist who is impregnated as part of a study on embryos (what we would give to be in on that pitch meeting...). Later on, complications arise when he becomes attached to the baby growing inside of him. Hmm.. Enough said, really.
Multiplicity stars not one, not two, but an entire crew of Michael Keatons. Now that, folks, is scary. Keaton stars as a stressed out dad who feels pulled in too many directions, so he decides to clone himself. We loved him as Mr. Mom and Batman, but Keaton ain't no Brad Pitt, so we don't need more than one of him per flick... Sorry.
This movie stars Chuck Norris as himself. Now, if that's not enough to terrify even the most fortified viewer... Sidekicks is about an asthmatic kid named Barry who has an incredibly rough life. So rough, in fact, that the only enjoyment he has is fantasizing about being Chuck Norris' sidekick. After getting pummeled one too many times, Barry decides to learn karate. Can anyone guess the ending? (And, has anyone noticed that Chuck Norris has looked exactly the same since Delta Force?)...
That's it. That's the article. So, um, let me know what you think the scariest movies of all time are, in that baaaad sense. Thanks for reading 2000 Hunter, too. I know. It's spotty.