In his neverending attempt to drive himself and me crazy, Steven Jackson has come up with a new idea: to write reviews to the absolute worst films in his disc collection. These are films that don't quite fit into his TEN FOOT POLE section, as they are not necessarily foreign flicks, but bottom-of-the-barrel, no-budget films usually in English that somehow escaped from film prison and made their way onto DVD. Like TEN FOOT POLE, these are films that I wouldn't watch on my best (or worst) day, even if I swallowed an LSD sugar cube with a fifth of jack. These are no-budget DTV films that, even those with a strong iron constitution, would drive the most sane person to pick up a straight razor and slit their wrists (vertically, not horizontally; if you are going to do it, do it right!). This section is titled MAN VS. FILM because it's Steven against the film and we will find out at the end of each review whether Steven wins or the film does. If there is a film (or films) you would like to see covered by Steven and he has it in his collection, send us an email HERE. So let's get started!
The Attendant (2004, USA, Horror, Director: Corbin Timbrook)
In 1972, four tourists killed themselves in a group suicide at a remote camping spot, leaving the police baffled.
In 2004, six other campers head for the same campsite, unaware they
face the same fate. This film is the story...of their journey there,
plus them setting up camp, with a little bit of horror thrown in at
the end. For a couple of minutes.
Often, film enthusiasts wonder what would happen if filmmakers took everyones favourite bit of a horror movie, that being the banter between the victims, and made that the entire film. THE ATTENDANT answers the call and delivers on that, giving us a full excruciating fifty-five minutes of nothing before anything happens.
But it doesnt stop there. Oh, no. THE ATTENDANT goes one step further by making two of the potential victims the most excruciating, annoying people who have ever appeared on screen. You have Grace, a lawyer who nags her boyfriend Marco for calling in sick to work so he can go camping with her because he has a duty of responsibility to his employer. Shes also supposed to be the rational, level-headed one, which apparently involves shouting at the top of her voice.
Grace, however, is like having an itchy elbow compared to the full body psoriasis of character Deuce. Played by a guy called Stephen Saux, who should remove that a from his name so it can serve as a warning of his acting quality, Deuce simply cannot cross the screen without doing something annoying. Im guessing his acting instructions were youre the funny one, so do that every single second youre on screen, even if you are in the background with no dialogue. Hell, even if the script calls for you to sit in a chair. Do it funnily.
So while Deuce is larking it up and bouncing around and speaking bad Spanish, theres four other people here Marco, a lame-o who hasnt been camping before. Zoe, whom I think was the one getting feelings about stuff that isnt followed up on, a blonde girl Ive forgotten the name of and Jack, the sensible one.
Be glued to your chair as we watch this lot enter a café to ask for directions to a gas station! Try and conceal that priapism from your family as they drive along a road talking about how Marco cant swim! Sweat profusely as Deuce struggles to carry his backpack! Laugh until blood spurts from your eyes when he hilariously falls over onto his back! Cringe painfully as the spooky attendant forces Deuce to buy a hand drawn map for ten cents.
Tremble as these moments are occasionally punctuated by someone watching them from bushes or a ghost girl turning up or some BLAIR WITCH stuff, a feeling of dread building and building within you as you slowly realise youve wasted an hour watching a horror film full of what sounds like improvised dialogue among some amateur dramatics people, filmed with a camcorder.
Worst part for me is the campfire scene, where Grace relates a story of how she fought off a would-be rapist in her apartment. It goes on forever and involves her telling everyone you dont know what fear is before saying I wasnt scared at all and ending with it was really scary. Like some hideous punctuation mark, Jack then tops this off with a Jack Nicholson impression so bad you can literally see a bit of the actors soul die as he says it.
This film is truly one of the worst. An absolute waste of time from start to finish which actively goes out of its way to annoy and disappoint you. I would conclude that at least its short at seventy-one minutes, but it feels three or four times longer.
THE WIN GOES TO: THE ATTENDANT. What were they thinking?
Battle: Earth a.k.a. The Medic (2013, Canada, Sci-fi, Director: Aaron Kurmey
Look at that DVD cover: A battle-weary soldier overlooks a burning city where a bridge is in the process of exploding. Attack choppers circle menacingly. Sounds good, eh?
The film: A bunch of actors pretending to be soldiers running around
a park firing guns at a bunch of actors pretending to be aliens. For
the entire duration of the film.
I understand budgets were low you can tell that by the horrific CGI job on the helicopters, but the decision to film a small group of actors arguing with a backdrop of some trees and grass for an hour and a half is simply torture. I was ready to switch this one off after ten minutes, and my quality standards for films are subterranean.
The plot as it is this: A paramedic is sucked into a war with some aliens that have invaded Earth. The helicopter transporting him and his fellow grunts is shot down and they have to wander around a park evading aliens, trying to get a landing zone for uplift. Two Special Ops guys who have joined them have a secret thing in a box which turns out to a creature that organises the aliens (it looks like a giant testicle!). Everyone argues and people die here and there until the film ends with no resolution as to the alien invasion.
And, Jesus, thats it. Thats pretty much it. There isnt even that much action involving the aliens (guys in rubber masks). Just skirmishes with CGI muzzle flashes. One character starts wearing a gas mask at one point, so I guess that was to cover up a different actor being used for those scenes.
THE WIN GOES TO: BATTLE: EARTH. Why? Just...why? The last time I watched this film it made me give up on modern films altogether and go scurrying back to the Seventies and Eighties you have been warned.
Echoes a.k.a. Living Nightmare (1982, USA, Horror, Director: Arthur Allan Seidelman)
If you want the audience to empathise with your protagonist, dont make him a whiny tosspot.
Wait, it says on the IMDB that actor Richard Alfieri, who plays
annoying artist Michael, also wrote the story for the film, so does
that mean he thought to himself I better put more scenes in
where I have a hissy fit for no reason and also this
story needs less horror, more painting?
Tortured NYC-based artist Michael is plagued by a recurring dream where he has a moustache, which is bringing on his asthma, and a tortured NYC is plagued by Michael. Hes self-obsessed, bitchy, non-punctual and in-subordinate in his art class, and its everyone elses fault that hes dreaming of a past life.
Things get serious when, one night while dreaming in his apartment, his index finger suddenly pokes out and his cat goes flying straight through the window into the street. That is the single interesting moment in this entire film, which contains so little action or suspense that I highly recommend it to people with serious heart conditions and old ladies suffering with severe anxiety. Youve got nothing to worry about here.
Michael somehow attracts the attention of ballet dancer Christine, and she makes the mistake of moving in with him as his dreams intensifies and he becomes louder, ruder and more abusive towards her, making him unbearable to live with. That sounds like it might be interesting, but actor Alfieri makes it look like a newly born kitten getting angry at a ball of cotton wool.
Michael alternates between going to a medium who enables all his crazy behaviour, alienating all his friends and colleagues by having hissy fits, and hanging around with his mother. As the film goes on the dreams reveal more and more but as youve already guessed Michael is dreaming of a past life where his brother kills him over a woman and now his brother, who failed to be born as his twin, is trying to ghost-boogie his way into Michaels life. Probably to slap him around the face and tell him to shut the fuck up already. Oh, and Michael was an artist in his past life too. Most likely a shrill, insufferable one.
Even when he runs out of people to fall out with, Michael just has an argument with himself instead, until the white knuckle ending where he kills his ghost/twin brother in a car crash (dont ask me) and everythings fine again, perhaps. The song at the end gave me diabetes.
This one long, draggy, uneventful film, and Im a sucker for a ghost story. The films relentless single tone just goes on forever, to the point where it causes amnesia. This film was released in the UK by dodgy DVD company 23rd Century, who churned out about one hundred and fifty films, all priced at a pound and mostly obscure as they hadnt licensed any of them. You had awesome Italian films like THE LAST HUNTER and 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, but also some howlers that might end up on here, like NIGHT ANGELS and EMBRYO.
THE WIN GOES TO: ECHOES, because the main character was much more annoying than I remembered.
Final Scream a.k.a. Final Stab (2001, US, Horror, Director: David DeCoteau)
soul-sucking vacuum where a film should exist.
Marked down for constantly referencing slasher films (including SCREAM itself).
Watching FINAL SCREAM again makes me think that this Man Vs
Film thing might be a bad idea, because I hated it so much I
couldnt bring myself to watch anything else for days
FINAL SCREAM exists purely on the basis to fool people into thinking they are watching something SCREAM related. Im no fan of SCREAM (because it spawned thousands of films like this) but no one would mistake FINAL SCREAM for anything other than a soulless cash grab executed without a hint of creativity.
The shitty slasher-film referencing script is bad enough, but the all-white cast are so irritatingly perfectly coiffured and presented that surely they cant exist in real life? Its almost as if they themselves were manufactured, like theres a factory in L.A. that produces cast members on demand. Im from the UK, how do you think I feel looking at a cast of people with all their own teeth? And wearing clothes they didnt steal from dead homeless people.
The premise to get all the victims of this thing in one place is simple: rich jerk Kristin wants to reunite with estranged sister Angela, and therefore arranges a party at a remote house with some friends. However, what she really wants is to trial a murder mystery weekend project she wants to sell to folks and is using Angela and boyfriend Charlie as guinea pigs by not telling them whats happening. Hell, there might be an added bonus in there if it drives Charlie insane, seeing as how his family were previously murdered and Kristin hates his guts because (memory missing film too crap).
Kristin sets up her fake murder night, but theres a real killer in their midst who picks them off one by one as they wander about in the dark looking for each other. Who cares? A little blood there, a little self-reference here, a non-sensical reveal of the killers identity, and lame-ass twist and thats your rip-off.
Director David DeCoteau (who made another film in the exact location as this one thats even worse!) cares so little about what hes doing that he leaves errors such as the entire crew being reflected in Kristins sunglasses right at the start of the film. If HE doesnt care about this film, why should I care?
I CAN'T GO ON - FINAL SCREAM gets the win, and then some.
Hot Rod Horror (2008, Horror, USA, Director: Darrell Mapson)
Put some guts
into it next time. Literally.
Also: Marked down for having characters wander about calling each others name for most of the film.
I understand budgets were low for HOT ROD HORROR and it was
filmed every Sunday for a year so Im not down on it for shoddy
acting or lack of special effects, Im down on it because
its really lacking in the horror department.
In some desert town in the US somewhere, bored teenagers Owen and Tom are hired by a local crook to go the haunted scrapyard to steal parts, and even though they are aware that the yard has a reputation for being haunted, they need the cash more. Problem is, they need a ride, so they recruit Tom to drive them there, and also throw in a couple of girlfriends too Kristy and Amy, because this film needs a lot of people to wander around looking for each other.
Toms sister Jenny is pissed off with him because she needed a ride home from the diner where she works, but luckily David (who has the hots for her) gives her a lift, and they spot Toms car outside of the scrapyard and go looking for him. Are you asleep yet?
They all know the place is haunted. In fact, one of them tells the story of what happened there years before, involving some douchebag named Jake and a mechanic called Axel. Both worked in the yard but hated each other, resulting in Jake pranking Axel by having a car crush him to death. Now the ghost of Axel wanders the yard, killing everyone because he thinks theyre Jake, but to be honest he just looks like a mechanic thats pissed off that theres teenagers wandering around screaming each others names at the top of their voices.
HOT ROD HORROR pads out the running time by having Tom and Owen walk ahead of Kristy and Amy, so Kirsty then walks off and leaves Amy, splitting everyone up so they wander around, now and again encountering Axel and his Hot Rod. He doesnt do too much though. Just drives about a bit and tries to kill them. He also fights some security guy whom the film fails to introduce.
Devoid of gore, scares, nudity and probably even harsh language, HOT ROD HORROR features plenty of Hot Rod, but forgot the Horror. Even the ending is lame to be honest, with Axel having some sort of flashback to his mother triggered by seeing a certain object. Didnt that happen at the end of RATATOUILLE?
To be fair, folks might be kinder on this one if they have a thing for old cars and hard rock music, because film heavily features both, including its own AC/DC-like theme tune.
THE WIN GOES TO: HOT ROD HORROR. It was NEARLY a draw, as the disc, which was a DVD-R I picked up in a market for ten pence, ceased to function, and I was going to declare a draw, as the last ten minutes of the film might have been a gore-fest. Then I found a copy on Youtube and found that it just kind of fizzled out, with a surprise ending.
Infection: The Invasion Begins (2011, USA, Sc-fi/Horror, Director: Howard Wexler)
Space condoms invade Earth, possess people, and make them bite other peoples knees.
This film is so bad that trying to explain the opening sequence is
bringing on a headache. In the future, a journalist goes to an
abandoned town on the instructions of an insane old lady and
retrieves a journal, only all the pages are ripped out. The old lady
chuckles and mutters Oh, theyre good, and proceeds
to tell the events of the film, which is the source of what people
call the modern plague, but dont worry about that
because this is all just some sort of set up for the ridiculous
ending of the film. Also, the old lady is played by a young actress
in possibly the most cliched, pantomime way possible. Im
surprised she didnt shout Whats that sonny?
Back in the present, town pariah Deke has just come home after a stint in jail for murdering his stepfather (in self-defence). His mother wont talk to him (as she doesnt know the truth that Deke caught his stepfather in bed with his first wife), his ex-girlfriend Sarah (the old lady) doesnt really want to see him for the same reason, and the local sheriff is a total douchebag who wants to run him out of town. Also, Sarah has another ex/potential stalker in the form of Billy, who also wants to get rid of Deke. This soap opera-level crap is interrupted when a meteor lands outside of town, dispensing rubbery aliens that must have watched SHIVERS on their way to Earth, because they invade peoples bodies and cause them to, well, not do much at all.
Sheriff Douche thinks that Deke is responsible for all the sudden weirdness and throws him in jail, but Deke, with the help of Sarah and Billy, manages to talk the Deputy into letting him go and even giving him his gun (theres realism right there). This leads to Deke and Douche having a tense standoff until one of the infected pushes the Sheriff over and promptly runs away, leading to an uneasy alliance of Deke, Douche, Billy and Sarah. Fortunately, the director then decides to get everyone to hide out in a house so they can use up the rest of the running time arguing with each other and not doing much. Lucky escape for all those boredom addicts who were worried something exciting was going to happen!
Where to begin with this one? INFECTION: THE INVASION BEGINS is simply the lamest alien invasion film Ive ever seen. The infected dont do much of anything. One appears in the sheriffs office to scare the deputy, then disappears, as if they remembered they had an important appointment somewhere else. Most simply drag their victims to the ground to try and infect them. The cook in the diner Sarah works in had been bitten on the knee by one but you dont see it happen, and Im not sure if its the same guy who tries to bite Deke on the knee shortly afterwards. Who knows when the focus on the film strictly on the main characters doing the usual interminable arguing that sinks any low budget film?
Further compounding the horror is the terrible script, which is riddled with hackneyed lines lifted wholesale from other, better films, spouted by actors who look familiar only because theyve been picked for their generic appearance, and just when you think to yourself oh, well, at least theyre using practical effects they pull out the shitty CGI card at the end, just to erase any positive thoughts youd have about this one.
The final boot to the knackers is the ending, where the film returns to the future. A young Deke turns up and rescues an old Sarah from the loony bin, and when she asks why hes still so young, the film cuts away before he explains. Thanks for that bit.
Almost devoid of blood and gore, nudity and violence, I get the feeling that this film was made purposely to fill a slot on Sunday afternoon TV.
THE WIN GOES TO: ME. Only just, because some elements of the film were so stupid it went in the films favour. The main one being that caffeine cures the alien infection. This film is still terrible though.
Maniacal (2003, Horror, USA, Director: Joe Castro)
worst mental institution ever.
Marked down for endlessly referencing other slasher films thanks, Wes Craven!
Marked down for including it feels like were in a slasher film. This happens in these low budgets films a lot!
I hated MANIACAL the first time I watched it, thinking it was
a lazy, unimaginative piece of crap. Now Im older (not wiser
though), I realise that there are for worse SOV films out there,
because at least theres an attempt here to include some gore.
Gilbert Gill is a nineteen-year-old (sure, buddy) guy living with his parents and seventeen-year-old (chortle) sister Janet. As usual, Gilberts father is berating him for burning the carpet, but Gilberts stepmother sends Gilbert away (she has the hots for him), and Gilbert goes to the garage, where he makes strange objects from childrens toys, nails and knives. Janet goes to console him but says the wrong thing, causing him to throw a hammer at her head. Janet leaves and her dad falls asleep on the couch. Gilbert then sneaks in, hits his dead on the head with the hammer, then graphically smashes in his stepmothers face.
Either three years or one year later (depending on the dialogue and on-screen text), Gilbert is tucked away in the worst mental institution ever, where the inmates all wander around freely, the staff laugh and berate the inmates (calling Gilbert a weirdo and freak) and generally lounge around. Back home, Gilberts father is going to bring him home for the first time since the murder (try not to apply logic) while Janet has her reservations. Not enough reservations to stop her going to her friends house to watch horror films, thatll be the teenage Brook (who has laughter lines and large breast implants). Also coming along is other friend D.J (breast implants, hip replacement), and horny teenage boyfriends Dane (grey hair, enlarged prostrate), Josh (grandchildren, wig) and Lance (one testicle, PTSD from the Korean War). These youngsters better watch out, as Gilbert is going to escape in the stupidest way possible!
You see, I think its standard practice to give deranged murderers things like metal forks unsupervised and then just decide whether or not to check if hes hidden somewhere before being murdered and having your colleague just listen through the door at your corpse hitting the ground before they shout: Did you drop something?, before they get killed too. Also, when senior staff cant be bothered checking on all the screaming, it almost makes sense that the worst insane asylum in history would just leave their back door open. Why not?
Gilbert steals his fathers car and heads home to start killing his sisters friends, but things are padded out a bit as he cant find her, his father cant find him, and Janet runs afoul of a group of young kids who have a fantastic repertoire of songs about her brother. Things culminate at the slumber party and just about everyone dies.
However, you do have plenty of gore, even if its cheap, and some nudity. Heads are squashed, guts are ripped and theres a shower scene, so some boxes get ticked. I wish the creators hadnt watched SCREAM so many times as the film lapses into all that self-referential shit that become boring after about five minutes. Youve seen films like this a million times, but at least it didnt drag.
THE WIN GOES TO: ME. Its still a cheap, unoriginal film, but this was a walk in the park compared to other films on this page.
Night-Flowers a.k.a. Night Angels (1979, Drama/Crime, USA, Director: Lois San Andres)
In an alternate universe, Hall and Oates are Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD.
The quality of this film is a bit higher than other films on this
page, and the acting is better too, but believe me, NIGHT-FLOWERS
is so slow and depressing it only makes your day worse, like
listening to The Smiths or reading any news article about anything in
the year 2021.
In New York City, depressed, forlorn Tom shares a crappy apartment with lustful, bitter Nordi, where they languish, speaking of how they cant pick up women or hold onto a decent job. Sometimes they sit on the stairs outside and watch young women walk by. Sometimes for variety they sit in an alleyway and watch nothing.
If this film was set in the modern day I would guarantee that Nordi would self-identify as one of those Incel freaks. He thinks theres something up with women and that he never had any trouble back in the Nam picking up chicks, and that its got nothing to do with him literally creeping out any young lady he approaches. He gets the bright idea to put up an ad for a female lodger in his local supermarket while Tom kind of mopes around between his psychiatrist and his apartment, suffering the odd flashback (in his head we dont get to see it).
Tom is slightly more successful with the ladies, however, even picking up a girlfriend along the way, and hes also made some headway with reconciling with his father, a headstrong macho-man who works in the docks. Its a pity that Nordi derails everything by raping and murdering a potential lodger in their apartment and cajoling Tom into helping him dispose of the body. And then&ldots;the film kind of falls back in the depressed rut it was trundling along until about three minutes from the end.
There is sub-plot about the cop investigating the murder being an old army buddy of Tom but that kind of dwindles away too, until some activity happens at the end in the form of randomly appearing character Danny Disco who tries to seduce Tom using dance!
He initially comes looking to lodge at the apartment but kind of breaks in instead and seems to like what he sees in Tom. He tells them Theres no stop signs on my street then begins this ridiculous dance, each movement ending with Danny shouting ZAT! and clutching his crotch. Somehow, this results in him getting shot, then Tom and Nordi end up in jail and the film ends.
I get that the film is trying to highlight the lack of support that Vietnam vets received after the war and the lack of services to help them manage the psychological damage they sustained while over there, but did it have to be so boring? Or maybe that was the point to show how burned out and unemotional these guys were that even rape and murder is pretty banal. Peter Maloney from THE THING turns up at one point, so theres that.
THE WIN GOES TO: ME, because this film wasnt as bad as I remember. Still, do not watch if youre feeling down.
ZAT! *punches self in the balls*
To Become One (2002, Australia, Horror, Director: Neil Johnson)
I went onto the IMDb expecting this to be Neil Johnsons debut or only film, only to find out the guy has over fifty directing credits. Did he ever get any good at it?
TO BECOME ONE
is a SOV horror film that suckers you into thinking its a
slasher film before taking a left turn into body horror, which would
have been entertaining if it wasnt so boring and badly handled.
A year prior to the events of the film, young Melinda somehow psychically sees her mother being murdered by a guy in a gas mask who cuts in her half. In the present day, Melinda is having a birthday party with her friends, who as you would imagine, are highly irritating. They arent worth naming either as most of them are killed off in the first forty minutes of the film by the gas mask guy who then reveals himself as Melindas once-conjoined brother who takes her off to a weird hospital run by a mad doctor
What happens next is pretty much spoiled by the title of the film, and its tag line Reunited one stitch at a time, and the entire synopsis given on the back of my crappy Film 2000 DVD (theres a terrible DVD company right there). I dont even know how I ended up with this film. It just appeared in the collection one day. Or maybe theres some traumatising memory Im repressing involving the purloining of the film (theres no way I would have paid for it).
Anyway, Im all for making allowances for low budgets and such like, but director Johnson seems more interested in style over story, so we get the footage randomly switching from colour to black and white for no good reason, quick-fire editing and flashbacks, but that doesnt distract from the emptiness of the story and the hackneyed slasher elements. Fine, theres a mad doctor in a hospital experimenting with patients, but Johnson doesnt do much with it outside of setting up the premise, and the pay off is lame.
I dont have internet at home so in order to torture myself Im pulling out the worst DVDs in my collection to review for Freds amusement. Wish me luck.
THE WIN GOES TO: ME, because it wasn't bad enough that it caused me pain.