Written by Patrick Holman, founder and managing editor of Salt Lake Film Review.
It has been an incredibly strange, unconventional, and challenging year for most of us. Quarantines and isolations, shutdowns that dramatically impacted the film industry, and uncertainty about when things will return to “normal.” In spite of it all, movies were still coming out and here we are at the end of 2020 with another list. Even in a pandemic, there are plenty of movies to talk about and here are some of the worst of the year.
10. The Glorias
I had the privilege of seeing The Glorias at Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year, just weeks before Covid worsened in the United States, but I was sad that this film ended up being one of my least enjoyable experiences. Ultimately, this film falls to the mercy of Julie Taymor, whose execution and filmmaking style just did not resonate with me. The story of Gloria Steinem is fascinating, and incredibly important, but Steinem deserved better. The use of bad visual effects in this story, too, really cheapened it for me and left a bad impression as I scurried out of the theater for the next festival screening. With more focus and tighter storyline that offered its viewers a purpose, this could have been much more successful.
9. Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island
It’s a fascinating concept, turning Fantasy Island into a comedy-horror, and there are some moments that work rather well and some characters that are better than others. Unfortunately, as a package deal, this vacation is nothing to write home about. Similar to other projects of the same genre, it is incredibly clichéd and wildly predictable. There is no satisfaction by the end as it’s likely you saw it all coming, which is often the case with Blumhouse productions.
8. Brahm’s: The Boy II
Cheap horror is always bad and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to call it out. As I’ve said before, more than once, the horror genre is littered with missed opportunities and clichéd tactics that only do more harm than good. Brahm’s: The Boy II pulls out every trick in the book and it just ends up being a movie that seems bored even with itself.
7. The Rhythm Section
The Rhythm Section is strange in that it didn’t really offer anything new to what it was trying to do and it just ended with an underwhelming and uninspired performance from its leads. It just simply happened and the events that took place were expected to be taken at face value. It’s largely unremarkable, but it didn’t have to be that way.
Accompanying The Glorias, Tesla was the only other screening I saw at this year’s Sundance Film Festival that I actively didn’t enjoy. For starters, Tesla drags on and on, yet it’s only an hour and forty-two minutes long. It’s narrative structure, which breaks the third-wall often, is worth some recognition, but the rest just falls short. At the time, I said that you needed to be high in order to enjoy it and that I couldn’t get over some of the set designs. There is a karoake scene toward the end that left me incredibly amused, but sadly it wasn’t enough to save the rest of the movie.
This one pains me. Truly. Mulan is one that I was looking forward to for a long time before it finally released on Disney+ for a $30 rental price at the end of summer (later to be released for all platform subscribers during the holiday season). Because of its staggered release, there are still many who have yet to see the film, but I’d argue they aren’t missing much. The one benefit to Mulan‘s original rental price is that it likely saved families money they’d otherwise spend seeing it in the theater.
When I originally reviewed Mulan, I said, “It is an incredibly shallow story that feels rushed, ill-timed, and poorly planned. It lays a lot of responsibility on the viewer to already have an understanding of the story… It also lacks emotion. There is little joy or excitement within the movie, even when there is cause for celebration. The characters seem to just be going along with the motions, as we really never have an opportunity to dive deep into who they are.”
4. The Grudge
The Grudge had some potential even though its January release suggested that problems were ahead, but it’s the latest addition to a now lengthy franchise of the original Japanese horror that just leaves you wondering more than anything. This attempt at a reboot seems rather slight and uninspired, which is probably why a 90-something minute movie felt like something incredibly longer as we’re forced to suffer along with the characters onscreen.
3. The Hunt
Lacking a coherent plot and reason to exist, The Hunt falls into many of the same problems as another film that made the top spot on this list. Why was this movie made? For who was it made? Should it have been made? The Hunt overestimated itself and it failed to tell any coherent or meaningful story.
Unhinged really tested the limits of how much people really wanted to get back into theaters this year as it came out in late summer. What it proved was that there is a fine line between the absurd and bad. Unhinged dug so far into its own absurdity of its crazed character and the terror he unleashed that it just becomes too ridiculous and incredibly unrealistic.
Antebellum. Antebellum. Antebellum.
I’m more disappointed than mad. After a delayed theatrical release date, this film released to VOD with some lofty expectations and excitement. The trailer made it look like an interesting sci-fi/horror that dealt with racism and time travel. But what we got was a poorly acted, poorly thought out, and poorly executed film that missed every single mark. The negative responses were almost immediate as people watched Antebellum on its premiere date and it left people wondering why, and how, this movie was made in the first place. Without spoiling some crucial details and plotpoints, it’s obvious that the creators of the film wanted to convey some sort of message about racism, but they went about it in all the wrong ways. The ending, too, brought about some similarities to another well-known film that calls into question its originality.