Manos: The Hands of Fate is a surprisingly famous film. Not because it made a lot of money, or won any prestigious awards at international film festivals. It’s because the good people at Mystery Science Theater 3000, who spent eleven seasons watching some of the worst movies in existence, had incredible difficulty in finding anything funny to say about the film. They just sat in horrified silence as the story unfolded before their eyes. It’s that bad.
The movie’s plot is simple: a family is driving along searching for somewhere to stop for the night. They come upon a creepy house on a hill, where they are greeted by Torgo, a small man who suffers from a knee deformity. There’s something undeniably strange about this man – he talks constantly about “The Master”, and every time he walks across the screen, it takes approximately five minutes while “Do-do-do-do-DO-DO-DO-DO” plays loudly in the background.
They investigate the house, and discover a mysterious tomb surrounded by women in slinky nightgowns. Torgo shows up, and captures the father in the most ludicrous chase sequence known to man. The Master then awakens, and decides to sacrifice the family to his evil god ‘Manos’. The women disagree, and engage in a five minute long slap fight. The family is tied to a stake, and… well, we wouldn’t want to spoil the whole film for you. You’ll just have to watch the rest yourself.
On a side note, Manos is the Spanish word for hands. This means that the true title of the movie is ‘Hands: the Hands of Fate’. Yes, that sounds about right.
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Battlefield: Earth is quite possibly the worst movie ever made. There are films with shoddier production values, and crappier writing, and worse acting, but this movie somehow manages to put them all together in a perfect horrible package.
The film uses extreme close-ups and a near-perpetual forty degree camera tilt that causes anyone who watches it to continually lean their head off to the side until they develop a permanent neck crick. Many movie critics never recovered from the experience and still wear support braces to this day.
The plot goes something like this: It’s 3000 AD. Earth is ruled by the Psychlos, a race of giant John Travolta’s who sport ratty dreadlocks. One of them (played by John Travolta) decides to bribe his way off the planet by using human slaves to mine for gold. This is extremely valuable to the aliens for some reason.
He enlists the aid of Johnny Goodboy, a savage primitive he manages to capture. He gives him a couple of weeks to mine the gold, but Johnny decides he’d rather overthrow the alien empire instead!
The protagonist thus decides to borrow a jet and fly to Fort Knox to steal its gold reserves, despite the fact that he is a post-apocalyptic primitive who wouldn’t know what a jet is, much less how to pilot it. There’s also the question as to how the plane can still be in working condition after a thousand years, but um… shhh.
The movie continues on until the explosive finale, in which Johnny finds an atomic bomb and teleports it to the home world of the aliens, which somehow manages to wipe out the entire planet. It involves a chain reaction and… just don’t think to hard about it, okay? It looked great on paper.
The movie, shockingly, was a flop. Even the hordes of scientologists who went to see it couldn’t save the film from bombing at the box office, and it made numerous ‘Worst Movie of The Year’ lists. They obviously couldn’t appreciate the sheer majesty of John Travolta’s enormous head.
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One of the most popular and truly horrible forms of family entertainment is the Talking Animal Movie. You take a loveable dog, and a cat, and maybe a chimpanzee, and give them the secret ability to talk to people (or among themselves). These heroic critters typically make some sort of perilous journey, encountering dangerous road hazards, precariously balanced wooden crates full of watermelons, and mean dog catchers who have the outrageous temerity to be doing their job. In these cases, the animals are usually voiced by popular “celebrities”, but that’s purely a contextual statement.
What Hollywood producers don’t seem to realize is that adding voices to cuddly critters has the unfortunate side effect of being so utterly saccharine that it raised the blood sugar levels of everyone watching the movie. Over ten million cases of childhood diabetes can be traced back to matinee viewings of Snow Dogs alone. This can generally be countered by a hearty dose of kung-fu movies, horror films, and grindhouse flicks, but parents are usually hesitant to let their sons and daughters watch such fare, leading to the current medical crisis. Don’t fall into this trap: avoid Kangaroo Jack at all costs.
Some talking animal films to avoid:
Francis the Talking Mule
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties
Goose on the Loose
The Karate Dog
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Plan 9 from Outer Space is often considered to be the worst film of all time. It was directed by Ed Wood, Jr., one of the great visionaries of classic cinema, who had long dreamed of making movies about galactic grave robbers that wiggle their fingers at people while laughing maniacally. He somehow managed to convince a local church group to finance the picture, mostly through the notion that the revenue earned from the feature could be used to pay for a series of films on the twelve apostles. Oddly, it failed to turn out that way, and the movie was a total flop.
The plot goes something like this: Space aliens, concerned about the earth’s development of a doomsday weapon, decide to implement Plan 9, in which they resurrect the recently dead! Our square-jawed hero learns of this dastardly scheme and knows that that he has stop it, but not before swarms of zombies begin to rise from the grave and knock over a bunch of cardboard tombstones. The aliens proceed to kidnap a damsel in order to lure the protagonist on board, prompting a bare-knuckled fight and lengthy monologue to ensue, and our hero and his love interest manage to escape the ship just in time before the Styrofoam bursts into flames.
The movie is so mind-numbingly bad that it veers into uncharted territory and becomes mildly enjoyable in the process. As such, it is screened from time-to-time at midnight matinees, though no theater owner in good conscience would allow for a person to pay to see the movie. Everything about the picture is horrible, from the writing to the acting to the special effects, and it is probably a good idea to keep sharp objects away from people view it so they don’t do anything foolish. To quote Criswell at the end of the movie, “Can you PROVE it didn’t happen?”
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Movie distributors tend to release films through a complex time table that has been tested and designed by marketing experts to ensure maximum profitability. February is for the romantic comedies, July is for the summer blockbusters, October is for the horror movies, and December is for the Oscar contenders. The latter is because most Academy voters have notoriously short memories, and the producers want their Elizabethan tear jerker starring Owen Wilson to stay at the front of people’s minds for as absolutely long as possible.
January, on the other hand, is where bad movies go to die. Talking animal pictures, buddy cop movies, films that have ‘BLOOD’ in their title… this is their chance to shine. It’s not entirely certain why this is, it could be the film companies dumping their unwanted refuse in an attempt to start the new year off fresh, or simply a remarkable coincidence of bad timing, just know that if there’s snow on the ground and people suffering from hang-overs each way you look, then a constant stream of cinematic dreck is about to be released at your local Metroplex.
Some particularly horrible movies that have been released in January:
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist
Beverly Hills Ninja
You Got Served
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Waterworld isn’t just a bad movie. It’s a bad expensive movie. The film cost $175 million to make, which set a record at the time, and people who manage to sit through it often wonder just where the hell the money went. The special effects are horrible, it certainly didn’t go into the script, and Kevin Costner’s mullet can’t have cost that much to maintain. The answer lies somewhere at the bottom of the ocean between the damaged atolls and the sad remnants of his once promising career.
The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the polar ice caps have melted and ocean levels have risen dramatically. Kevin Costner stars as The Mariner, a sort of mutant fish-man who roams the ocean in his personal watercraft and stumbles upon a young girl who has a map tattooed to her back. It supposedly leads to dry land, something that is considered a myth by most people, and dastardly thugs led by a one-eyed Dennis Hopper will stop at nothing to retrieve it.
What follows is all manner of bad action sequences, horrible dialogue (“He doesn’t have a name, so death can’t find him”), and more plot inconsistencies than you can shake a stick at. Everyone in the movie smokes cigarettes, despite the fact that it’s been two hundred years since the fall of civilization. Kevin Costner has a personal submarine bubble even though he is a moody loner who can breathe underwater. There is also an odd preponderance of still-functioning jet-skis in the world; perhaps there was a floating Jiffy-Lube somewhere that the movie never depicted.
Near the end of the film, Kevin Costner kills his way through the Smokers that have kidnapped the girl and sets fire to some convenient oil tanks. The camera then cuts to an old man in a boiler room who says, “Oh, thank god,” thus showing that the slaves there are miserable and absolving The Mariner of any guilt for the murder of over five hundred people. Our hero and his companions manage to escape the sinking oil platform, defeat Dennis Hopper in a climactic battle, and follow the tattooed map to that most fabled of notions, dry land.
Spoiler alert: It turns out it’s Mount Everest. So when Jeanne Tripplehorn states that they’re going to go out there and find more dry land, um, no they’re not. That’s pretty much all that’s left.
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