Time to reveal our Top (or Bottom, in this case) 10, starting with…
10 – THE RHYTHM SECTION
James Bond’s next outing may have been pushed back into next year, but they made damn sure that we got this dull 007 wannabe out before everything went pear-shaped.
Coming from Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli themselves, this adaptation of Mark Burnell’s novel (which the author himself also wrote the script for, which explains its tendency to over-explain things through dialogue instead of visual interpretations) has none of the suspense or thrills that both the Bond and Bourne films combined perfected with ease. Director Reed Morano breathes such little life into what few action sequences there are, that it leaves you completely numb with boredom by the halfway mark.
The lame script serves its lead actors no favours, wasting the likes of Blake Lively, Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown on thin characterisation that is barely developed at all during its runtime. Lively’s central character, in particular, is a pretty terrible action lead, constantly making one stupid decision after another which ends up making everything worse than before, and half the time you don’t even know why she’s being expected to do a lot of these things when Jude Law’s gruff mentor character is still in good enough shape to do much of it himself. There’s no reason to care about anything or anyone in this universe, because it’s so boring to even get invested in the smallest of circumstances.
Hopefully, God willing, No Time To Die really does come out next April, so we can be reminded of what a real espionage hero looks like…
9 – HUBIE HALLOWEEN
Of course there was going to be room for an Adam Sandler movie on this list – like death and taxes, it’s almost inevitable.
Although, Hubie Halloween is particularly painful because it comes right off the heels of Uncut Gems, which featured Sandler at the very best he’s been in just about anything, and here he’s reverted back to the same, tired schtick complete with juvenile humour, annoying characters, and talented actors and comedians making complete fools out of themselves. In other words, just another Adam Sandler movie.
This one really isn’t that different to Happy Madison productions of the past, from Jack & Jill to Paul Blart: Mall Cop, except that every now and then there’s a pumpkin or a spooky costume in the background. It’s bad for the same reasons a lot of other Sandler movies are bad, only it’s somewhat sadder because in a post-Uncut Gems world, we know he can deliver a genuinely strong performance – so good, in fact, that for a time he was seriously in contention for an Oscar nomination – but for whatever reason still refuses to completely leave his comfort zone of vomit gags, farting sounds and ridiculous slapstick that bear no semblance to reality whatsoever.
It’s not the worst movie that Sandler’s been in – hell, it isn’t even the lowest-ranking Happy Madison movie on this year’s list – but by God, it just leaves you more depressed than you’d like…
8 – THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN
Director McG has quietly spent the last few years churning out films for Netflix, one of them being the slick 80s throwback horror The Babysitter which, while far from perfect, was a fun enough movie to get through. Its sequel, on the other hand, was a complete insult to even the first film’s biggest fans.
McG also directed this one, but crucially this one lacked the original’s writer Brian Duffield with both McG himself and three other writers trying to recapture that spark, failing miserably with charmless and annoying humour which is blown way out of proportion even in a silly comedy like this. The horror element is also nowhere to be found, because it’s far more concerned with rehashing a line or gag from the original that truly building any kind of tension – this is the kind of film where everything stops so that Ken Marino can spend a couple of minutes getting high for no reason.
It is such a cynical cash-in on the original’s growing cult popularity that it doesn’t care what it does with the story or its returning characters, some of whom do and say things that are wildly out of character from how they were introduced previously, and it doesn’t even have the decency to have half the charm and charisma that the first film at least had a sense of. It’s irritating in its inferiority, insufferable in its humour, and an utterly atrocious follow-up to something that, if handled right, could have had greater franchise potential.
Still a better McG sequel than Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, though…
7 – DOLITTLE
2020’s first – and, as it would turn out, biggest – bomb was the attempted resurrection of the classic Doctor Dolittle saga, which star and producer Robert Downey Jr. clearly put a lot of passion into but turned out to be such a hot mess that it made even the Eddie Murphy movies look dignified by comparison.
Director Stephen Gaghan’s would-be family epic was butchered by reshoots following poor test screening results, but the end results certainly didn’t improve things as it made the narrative far more incoherent, with terrible writing and poor filmmaking making the most basic of things hard for its general audience to piece together. A onslaught of excessive CGI to bring the talking animals to life, voiced by several high-profile actors from Tom Holland to Octavia Spencer to John Cena who are given nothing to say other than crass one-liners, makes the initial effort all the more wasteful, because you can tell that the studio did whatever they could to sabotage the final product so that nobody could fathom what in holy hell this was trying to accomplish.
Its biggest victim, though, is Robert Downey Jr. himself, who is left to deliver a completely embarrassing performance that sees him put on a Welsh accent so bad it makes Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins sound like a member of the Royal Family. He’s clearly trying to make it work, but he just ends up making a fool out of himself, along with everyone else from the cast to the crew. It’s certainly a let-down as Downey Jr.’s first post-Endgame lead performance, but for a big-budget Hollywood movie where there was certainly ambition from the start before the studio intervened, it’s a complete train-wreck.
Now we know what happens when a studio gathers $175 million and sets it on fire…
6 – THE TURNING
This year saw two major adaptations of Henry James’ classic horror story The Turn of the Screw, one of which was The Haunting of Bly Manor, the second in Mike Flanagan’s Netflix anthology series. It received some strong reviews, with many praising its atmosphere, characters, and legitimately chilling story – none of which were present in the year’s other, much more soulless adaptation.
Floria Sigismondi’s deathly dull version of the story flatlines hard in comparison to the Netflix series, as the director makes a number of miscalculated decisions which add next to nothing to the narrative (it’s set in the early 1990s for no real reason, aside from giving them an excuse to flaunt Kurt Cobain’s music in the wake of his death), and crucially leaves any proper scares out of the room entirely. Because there’s nothing to keep you invested, certainly not the characters who are far too over-the-top or dumb to care about (with the core exception of Brooklynn Prince, the one actor in this movie who is actually trying to give a good performance), it quickly turns into one of the most boring horror films made in years, and definitely the least compelling chiller of 2020.
What makes this movie rank below other horror films on this list like Fantasy Island and Sacrilege, though, is its ending – or, to be specific, it’s complete lack of one. As bad as they were, at least they had solid conclusions; this movie has the kind of ending that made people boo The Devil Inside all those years ago, one that’s such an abrupt slap in the face that it makes everything leading up to it feel all the more insulting, because it has no payoff to any of it. It’s basically a movie that lets you sleep throughout most of it, only to suddenly jolt you awake before then telling you that there was never any cause for alarm in the first place. It’s not like the movie was completely ruined by that ending, because even without it this movie would have still been pretty bad, but to close out with the worst ending to a horror movie since The Devil Inside is a complete disregard for its audience who paid to check this out in a cinema.
Watch the Netflix version of this story a hundred times over before this, because then you’ll get exactly what you hope for with a spooky tale like The Turn of the Screw, including an actual ending…