Make the Case: Reviewing the 10 Worst Horror Movies (According to Rotten Tomatoes)

Rotten Tomatoes worst horror movies
Rotten Tomatoes worst horror movies

A little over a year ago, I thought it would be fun to go through some of the very worst-rated movies on IMDb. And it was actually a lot of fun finding that while most of those movies are pretty damn bad, most of them could at least claim to be interesting in their failures. A couple of them could even be described as weirdly charming (House of the Dead would be one).

With that spirit in mind, I took to a Rotten Tomatoes article on their lowest-rated horror films and went on a profound spiritual journey to what is supposed to be the bottom of the barrel.

Watch out for incoming Uwe Boll.

Unfortunately, while a cross-section of bad movies across multiple genres can be quite fascinating, focusing entirely on horror can get bleak fast. Some of the films covered this month are indeed compelling car crashes. But many of these films are bad simply because they’re just boring. There’s a lot to be said for taking some wild swings on a low budget. And it was depressing how infrequently some of these films made that effort.

Yet taken as a whole, I think it’s interesting to consider this range of horror films as some of the poorest-reviewed films in modern history. Of course, you can’t directly compare RT scores to dig deeper into these movies, because it’s silly to compare a movie with 80+ professional reviews (One Missed Call) to a movie with roughly 40 reviews (Jaws: The Revenge). What you can do is look at the movies and try to see why they became rare moments of film critics and movie watchers coming together to say “No thank you” in so many words.

Because there’s no question that people from all walks of life do not like the films we’re covering this month. Make the Case is going to see if they all deserve the reception they’ve received, and I’ll give you a little spoiler by saying that yeah, they mostly do.


10. FeardotCom (2002)


Director: William Malone

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 3% (102 reviews)

The Plot: A series of murders reveals the commonality of all of them visiting a website called FeardotCom and then dying within 48 hours of doing so. An insufferable, comically gritty cop (Stephen Dorf) teams up with a consistently useless researcher from the Department of Health (Natascha McElhone) to get some answers. Do they find any? Sort of. It’s mostly just long scenes of trying to make sense of things, spliced in with some pretty creepy scenes of Stephen Rea babbling absolute gibberish. There’s a sense of style to FeardotCom, and that seems to be the only thing it really cares about.

Is It Really That Bad? Sadly, yeah, for the most part. You want a movie like FeardotCom to at least be a fun watch, albeit a messy one. Natascha McElhone is charming as ever, and her inherent likability is enough to at least keep you watching. But when the movie has to do anything with character or plot, or anything outside of some very nicely done set pieces, it all falls apart. It’s hard to sit through any movie that spends more than 75% of its time spinning its wheels, waiting to show off its noteworthy cinematography, visual effects, and set design. That can be enough sometimes, but annoying characters and relentless meandering doom what genre charms this movie might have.


9. Bless the Child (2000)

Director: Chuck Russell

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 4% (113 reviews)

The Plot: Jenna (the consistently underrated Angela Bettis) shows up at the apartment of her sister Maggie (Kim Basinger) to have a bizarre, disjointed argument, drop off an autistic baby (this is legitimately a shitty plot point), and peace the hell out. Maggie raises her niece Cody (Holliston Coleman), and that’s fine, until Mom shows back up with a weird new husband (Rufus Sewell, who doesn’t get to do very much) and a relationship to what certainly sounds like a cult. Turns out Cody has psychic powers, and the cult wants to stop her destiny of becoming a saint who will lead people to God. Christina Ricci is in this for some reason, and sorry, but she won’t be staying long. This is one of the many bad decisions Bless the Child is committed to making.

Is It Really That Bad? Oh yeah. Bless the Child bombed with just about everyone in the year 2000. The only movie on this list that I actually saw in a theater, I struggled to remember anything about this film before watching it again for this column. I forgot everything because this silly plot rarely remembers to have fun, creating instead a dour movie that takes itself far too seriously. There are some good moments for sure, but you must sift them out of a hilariously wooden Kim Basinger performance anchoring a film that suffers from bad pacing, lackluster special effects, and the kind of ending that reminds you of the time Marge Simpson said “It’s an ending. That’s enough.”


8. The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008)

Director: Mickey Liddell

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 2% (41 reviews)

The Plot: A young girl named Molly (Haley Bennett) survives a shocking attempt on her life by her mom, only to find herself experiencing seemingly the same mental breakdown she did. A series of allegedly interesting events occur as Molly tries to get settled into a new school, and soon enough she learns the allegedly shocking truth about her birth, and why her mom has been so stressed out lately. The movie shifts to becoming a battle against her satanic legacy, and that might be fun to watch if I hadn’t just sat through one of the dullest horror films I’ve seen in a good while.

Is It Really That Bad? It is, and it’s the worst kind of bad because it’s thoroughly boring. Even now I find myself struggling to remember this film just a couple of weeks after watching it. There’s some good performances here, particularly from Haley Bennett, but those qualities are buried beneath a narrative with few surprises, and a sense of pacing that makes the movie feel much, much longer than 92 minutes. After a strong opening, The Haunting of Molly Hartley suddenly finds itself with very little to say.


7. Alone in the Dark (2005)

Director: Uwe Boll

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 1% (121 reviews)

The Plot: Finally, some good food. At least in the context of this column. Based on a mostly good series of survival horror games, Alone in the Dark is one of those infamous Uwe Boll video game adaptations that in the halcyon days of our youth felt like they would last forever. Alone in the Dark is particularly infamous for casting Tara Reid as an archaeologist and Christian Slater as a paranormal investigator. The two investigate some spooky happenings, and you know what, it honestly doesn’t matter. The plot is a jabbering lunatic on a 2-day Greyhound bus ride through Texas with a broken air conditioner. Feverish plot turns and some of the most embarrassing dialog ever put to film.

Is It Really That Bad? Most certainly, but this is also part of that class of Uwe Boll movies that you have to see to believe. Bad performances from everyone, including Stephen Dorff as the only actor to appear on this list twice, and a convoluted, absurd plot that feels like someone is playing an extremely elaborate joke on you. Boll’s movies have an energy that at least keeps all of this from ever being boring. There’s a deranged creativity to the many technical and other types of mistakes plaguing Alone in the Dark that makes it essential viewing.


6. Beneath the Darkness (2011)

Director: Martin Guigui

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0% (22 reviews)

The Plot: There’s a bloat to Beneath the Darkness and its story of some plucky teens trying to prove a local hero (Dennis Quaid) is actually a sadistic killer. After a pretty good opening that shows us what to expect from Quaid’s Ely as a dude who’s just going through some stuff with his wife and her lover, Beneath the Darkness becomes a real slog. The investigation side of the movie takes forever and doesn’t seem to have any real consequences or stakes. The movie never seems to quite know what it wants to do next, so it introduces ideas and abandons them, while forcing us to spend unfathomable lifetimes with some of the most obnoxious teen characters you’ve seen in a while.

Is It Really That Bad? This one is a bit of a bummer, because let it at least be said that Dennis Quaid seemed to fully understand the sort of character and movie he’s doing. He’s the only one who projects an actual personality, and he gets the most out of scenes where he’s hanging out with his dead wife in their attic. It’s nothing terribly original, but Quaid’s entertaining camp performance is crushed by a depressing movie’s inability to shift between comedy and horror. The result is a faint impression of tension, and the ardent that someday, this movie will actually end.


5. Homecoming (2009)

Director: Morgan J. Freeman

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0% (23 reviews)

The Plot: A young woman Shelby (Mischa Barton) plots revenge against a former boyfriend Mike, who comes back to her small town with a beautiful fiancé (Jessica Stroup as Elizabeth) and a degree of personal success that makes him a hometown hero. Freakish opportunity suddenly puts Shelby and Elizabeth on a path that will repeatedly remind you that you could just turn the movie off and watch Misery instead. As Shelby and Elizabeth bond in all sorts of heartwarming ways, Shelby tries to win back Mike. It’s a weird hybrid of horror and comedy that doesn’t really do either of those genres any favors. There’s nothing remotely scary or suspenseful to be found here, to say nothing of logic or consistency in the screenplay itself.

Is It Really That Bad? Of all the movies I watched for this column, I think I liked Homecoming the best. That surprised me a little, especially as the movie began with dreadful dialogue and instantly unlikable characters. But as time went on, the insane tonal shifts and baffling character decisions became more interesting, even entertaining, than not. It doesn’t hurt that Mischa Barton and Jessica Stroup in particular not only have good chemistry together, but their scenes are as compelling as they are hilarious. And sometimes, to the credit of a movie that is still quite bad, the humor is intentional. If Homecoming had stuck to intentional comedy, and perhaps another crack at the script, it could have been something special.


4. The Disappointments Room (2016)

Director: D.J. Caruso

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0% (27 reviews)

The Plot: One of the things that makes The Disappointments Room such a frustrating watch is the constant reminder that we have everything here for a solid film. Even the plot, in which a woman named Dana (Kate Beckinsale) tries to make sense of a curse that threatens to destroy her family in their new home, is a good foundation to do something that’s at least fun. Nothing in The Disappointments Room feels very original, as Dana discovers a secret room in their super spooky country estate that leads to only further, darker questions. As Dana’s own sanity begins to crumble, the house seems determined to show her the shocking truth.

Is It Really That Bad? The Disappointments Room does indeed live up to part of that name, but it’s not fun to be snarky about a movie like this. Movies like this are simply depressing. It takes itself far too seriously to be fun, and this is another horror film with a patchwork plot that almost exclusively feels lifted from better movies. Nothing wrong with being a shameless ripoff, but at least try to use something to make that ripoff feel like it’s at least coming from a different perspective. The Disappointments Room is marred by a cast full of actors in their career worst, with Beckinsale in particular struggling to carry an empty movie with a shallow, annoying character. It’s the sort of bad that feels like a waste of time on every possible level. I want to like The Disappointments Room, but I just can’t.


3. Cabin Fever (2016)

Director: Travis Zariwny

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0% (30 reviews)

The Plot: This is a remake of the Eli Roth breakthrough hit Cabin Fever, a movie I’ve never particularly enjoyed for a myriad of reasons. Mostly, it just boils down to a bland plot with violence that’s hit-or-miss in its visceral effectiveness, populated by some of the most supremely unlikable characters you could ever dream up for an overhyped mess. The remake maintains all of this, but also manages to make these kids staying in a cabin and becoming the victims of a flesh-eating virus even more loathsome than the first time around. In fact, everything is worse than a movie that wasn’t very good to begin with. The humor falls flat every single time. The gore isn’t memorable. The actors are doing their best, and I sincerely believe the people involved in making this crap sandwich are talented, but not a single character in Cabin Fever is empathetic or even vaguely interesting. This feels bad on purpose, but it’s not, and that’s definitely at least one of its innumerable problems.

Is It Really That Bad? Yes, yes, and yes again. I don’t enjoy saying “This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life.” Because even as it’s true, with this remake being thoroughly lazy in its ideas, poorly acted, and depressingly paced, all I really feel when it comes to the remake of Cabin Fever is disbelief. And perhaps a very mild anger. I knew this would be a piece of shit. I knew it. Yet if I ever watch any movie I’m not enthused about, I’m still hoping against hope that I’ll enjoy the experience on some level. I don’t want to be annoyed at a movie that failed me as a viewer in every imaginable way. It’s tiresome, and the only thing about this whole aggressively terrible waste of time that qualifies as a surprise is the fact that it was even worse than I had originally suspected. This is the worst of the 10 we’re covering this month, and it’s not even close. This might be the worst movie I’ll see this year period.


2. Jaws the Revenge (1987)

Director: Joseph Sargent

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 2% (42 reviews)

The Plot: No one seems to like this story of the Brody family being tormented for some completely illogical reason by sharks. Not the one from the first movie, since that shark is super dead, so your guess is as good as mine for what motivated this plot in the first place. My guess is that it rhymes with the word hurricane. Jaws the Revenge doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it doesn’t really try to make sense either. It just sort of expects you to go along for the ride, and honestly, I was willing to. At least Lorraine Gray as Sheriff Brody’s widow gets a little closure.

Is It Really That Bad? Nah. Directly compared to the original Jaws, perhaps, but I don’t think audiences in 1987 were expecting anything on par with Steven Spielberg’s iconic blockbuster. Even so, this is one of the few movies we’re covering in which the audience score is almost as bad as the critical. Yet despite this, cast members Lance Guest, Lorraine Gray, a fun Michael Caine, and Mario Van Peebles of all people at least seem to be having fun. Their performances fit this dreadful plot, and honestly, after what I watched for this column, Jaws the Revenge by comparison is a masterpiece. Barring that, it’s fun trash that’s worth your time.


1. One Missed Call (2008)

Director: Éric Valette

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0% (80 reviews!)

The Plot: A remake of a decent Takaski Miike horror film, the 2008 mistake One Missed Call doesn’t even have the benefit of good performances and some interesting ideas and visuals to carry it along. A young girl named Beth (Shannyn Sossamon) becomes convinced that some vicious supernatural force is trying to claim her after she witnesses the strange deaths of two of her friends. The only one who believes her is Ed Burns as a cop investigating the murders, and you’re going to get very tired of these people very soon. This is another horror movie that completely forgot to make at least some of these characters likable. Dumb people middling about until we learn the shocking truth and hope that means the credits are going to roll soon.

Is It Really That Bad? This is another one where nothing really comes through as something I’d recommend. It’s worth your time to find the good in even the worst movies you’ve ever seen, but stuff like One Missed Call reminds me that sometimes, at least for me, that just isn’t going to happen. The only thing that kept me going in this drab trainwreck, which fails even at being funny without meaning to, was the ardent hope that all of these characters would die. Did I get my wish? I won’t say. I want you to have the same enriching experience I did.

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