We’re finally into our bottom five – let’s just get this over with…
5 – INFINITE
As bad as Thunder Force is, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Melissa McCarthy-Ben Falcone movie. However, Infinite ends up ranking lower than even that on this list, for it is something with much greater potential, stronger star power – Oscar nominees Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor among them – and a surefire director in the form of Antoine Fuqua, all of which are completely left out to dry in a shockingly inept movie that is among the most incomprehensible of any of those people’s careers.
Its plot, which involves the prospect of reincarnation across several decades and even centuries, could have worked if it weren’t for a script that refuses to inject even the most basic dose of charm and intrigue into its dialogue, characters, or its rather awful CGI effects. Instead, it all comes across like a first-year screenwriting student trying to create their own version of The Matrix, but with trite writing that not even a Saturday morning cartoon would allow to go on air (need we forget that classic line, “You’re the cripple… crippled by your cowardice”?), cardboard cutouts of characters portrayed through wooden performances from an otherwise talented cast, which just all the more make them sound like they’d rather be working on any other project than this one (except for Ejiofor, who seems to be the only actor to realise he’s in a bad movie, and promptly goes weirdly over-the-top in one of the only enjoyable features of the film), and constant exposition that sounds more and more stupid every time that it is repeated or added upon.
Fuqua, likewise, treats the material with utter contempt as he incorporates a slew of jarring editing that makes the already confusing plot even more so, and action that redefines the word “generic” with its pedestrian dullness. You can absolutely tell that this was merely a paycheque gig for the director, because even in some of his less tight movies he’s at least been able to bring some natural life into some areas, while there really is none to be found anywhere here, in what truly is his worst film as a director to date.
It’s painful in a lot of ways, and deserves its position on this list over something like Thunder Force, which again you could just narrow down to being par for the course, whereas Infinite could have been at the very least a little bit more tolerable to watch…
4 – VANQUISH
Of all the movies I gave a D- to this year, Vanquish is the one which, in hindsight, really should have been given the full F. Granted, in comparison to movies that actually did receive that grade, this one does look more like a movie, but it’s still a pretty dreadful one with some of the year’s worst writing, direction, performances, effects, and just about every other department, all of which should have pushed it into that lowest of grades.
Director and co-writer George Gallo, best known for his far superior scripts to movies like Midnight Run and 29th Street, delivers an exceptionally amateurish thriller that feels like it was written, filmed and edited over one weekend, accompanied by horrible cinematography and even worse editing that always halts the already lifeless script. Watching it is like staring into the eyes of a corpse, something that technically exists but has long since had any sense of life taken away from it, and that’s before we even mention some of the hilariously awful CGI used to create its terrible effects, from newspapers during its clumsy opening montage (featuring an absolutely shameless plug for Gallo’s other 2021 release The Comeback Trail, which according to this movie will go on to be nominated for 15 Oscars), to a climactic explosion which is one of the funniest things you’ll see all year in a film that is most certainly not a comedy.
Luckily, for its main star Morgan Freeman, it’s an opportunity for him to sit down and do next to nothing for the entire movie, but even the prospect of not standing up still prompts him to give a soulless, completely uninterested performance where you can practically see the paycheque dangling in front of his eyes. It’s left to Ruby Rose to carry whatever it mistakes as being weight, but unfortunately she’s not a compelling enough actress to pull off the kind of tough, almost sociopathic action hero she’s been cast as, and so she spends the entire movie with a blank and expressionless face that always make her seem more mildly annoyed than truly vengeful, even when it involves her young daughter being held captive by Freeman’s crooked cop.
It is simply an absolutely awful movie to watch, because you can tell that nobody is having fun making this, and there is nothing that anyone can do to liven things up even just a little bit. So yes, call Vanquish an honorary F-grade movie despite its D- result, because in hindsight this really deserves to rank among the worst of the worst this year…
3 – HOME SWEET HOME ALONE
This year, I was very conservative with the doom-and-gloom F grade, reserving it for films which really failed on a number of filmmaking, thematic and overall enjoyment levels. Under those strict guidelines, only three movies ended up with the lowest of grades, with the most recent being this reboot of a festive classic that, truly and honestly, was one of the most painful movies I watched this entire year. Filmmaking-wise, it isn’t the worst, nor is there anything really wrong with what it’s trying to accomplish, but by God was this a miserable viewing experience.
The sequels to Home Alone (bar the beloved Lost in New York) have certainly been bad on their own terms, but there is an extra layer of unforgivable cynicism applied to this Disney+ exclusive, since now that the franchise is in Mickey’s grasp there seems to have been much more of a focus on the corporate mandate of simply making a new entry instead of, y’know, making it good. Instead, we got a painfully rehashed plot with a young kid, inexplicably left alone for the holidays, fending his home from a pair of burglars – except, in this instance, the burglars were far more likeable than the actual kid, who (and no offense to child actor Archie Yates, who could only act with what he is given) you just simply want to see get punched in the face, or endure all the physical bodily harm that the “antagonists” inevitably go through. One quick rewrite, and this would be less of a Home Alone movie and one about these well-meaning parents trying to get back something that was originally stolen from them by this obnoxious bratty kid; seriously, there’s no reason for any of these hijinks to happen here, except for the fact that it’s a Home Alone movie and it has to follow the formula to a tee.
Beyond the simple rehashing, though, the movie is just not well made or written in the slightest. Dan Mazer, who also directed the equally bad Dirty Grandpa, isn’t able to bring any of the comedic timing he brought from much funnier material like Da Ali G Show to a movie that is, for all intents and purposes, filmed and structured like a Christmas episode of a particularly lame TV sitcom. All attempts at humour drop like flies, with actors doing little else except mug to the camera to try and mine some laughter out of its audience, which the absence of canned audience laughter makes even more awkward. It’s also a script that relies so much on lowest-common-denominator humour that entire scenes will be framed around stupid fart jokes or unnecessary slapstick where all logic is inherently defied (and yes, there were plenty of times in even the original Home Alone movie where you could point out how certain things would not work in the real world, but that film still did a great job with its timing, set-ups, and overall charm that they actually still managed to work). Only a cameo from Kevin McCallister’s older sibling Buzz, now a clueless cop, could bring some much-needed joy to this joyless movie, but sadly he’s out of the picture far too quickly.
In terms of Home Alone movies, is this one the worst of the franchise? After all, it’s hard to beat that atrocious direct-to-video fourth one, or the fifth movie that nobody talks about (mainly because it aired on TV), but looking at what Home Alone started out as and seeing now what it’s become, it is quite depressing to find it so beneath what the original stood for that you just have to rank it among the lowest of the low, not just in the franchise but the year in general. Either way, leave it alone at all costs…
2 – THE RESORT
You’re probably wondering what the hell this movie even is. Word of advice? Don’t ask questions that you don’t want the answers to.
Slipping in well under the radar back in April (thank God), this supernatural horror is basically everything that is wrong with modern horror movies, all rammed into one incomprehensible package. Seriously, there have been some pretty bad horrors over the years we’ve been running this website, but this might be one of the worst-made of its kind that we’ve ever seen, because it is an absolute cluster of incompetence that almost needs to be seen to be believed.
Charting the voyage of a group of young stock douchebags to a Hawaiian resort that’s said to be the home of a terrifying ghost known as the Half-Faced Girl, the movie already sounds like enough of a cliché (which it is, especially with its “days earlier” wraparound that is so done to death that it isn’t even funny to joke about anymore), but the movie is so horribly made that after a while, you stop paying attention to the threadbare story and its thinner-than-paper characters, all acted by the worst company members of your local community theatre, and start focusing on all the terrible filmmaking decisions that writer-director Taylor Chien somehow thought were good enough to leave in the final cut. How about, for example, the fact that almost the entire movie sounds like it was re-recorded via ADR, making all the dialogue not only seem awfully tinny everywhere we go, but also fail to even match the lip movements of the actors? Or maybe you’d like to have a seizure from the constant strobe effects put into the editing to disguise some horrendous effects used to create this nonsensical ghost? And let’s not forget that in one quick shot, they appeared to get the most obvious stuffed animal toy to fill in for what’s supposed to be a dead coyote – even the Starbucks cup from Game of Thrones would look upon something like that and laugh hysterically.
It’s impossible to properly describe how atrociously made this movie is, with it failing in every single department whether it’s writing, direction, acting, effects, editing, sound design, cinematography, and so on; it’s almost like you need to watch it in order to know its badness, but that would require you to actually see it, which is something that nobody should ever have to do. Yes, we’ve seen plenty of bad horror movies this year, from Willy’s Wonderland to Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, but none have been quite as mesmerizingly unwatchable as The Resort, which may well be one of the worst movies in the genre that we’ve yet had to watch for this website.
And yet, it’s only in second place on this list. By all accounts, The Resort deserves to be at the number one spot, on the basis of its filmmaking alone which is arguably worse than the one that did come in first. However, as awful as this movie is, at least it isn’t harmful in its depiction of the autistic community…
1 – MUSIC
Admit it, you always knew that Sia’s woefully misguided musical drama was going to be the worst movie of 2021. I certainly knew it from the first few minutes alone, where the title character – a non-verbal autistic teenager played by definitely-not-autistic actress Maddie Ziegler – becomes central to a fantastical music number with bright flashing lights, extravagant colours, and loud music which alone would cause an actual person with severe autism to experience a meltdown from sensory overload. Unfortunately, it was merely the tip of the iceberg for this frankly dangerous movie.
Much has been made about the harmful treatment of autistic people here, particularly surrounding Ziegler’s Music who isn’t even playing second-fiddle to “proper” protagonist Zu, played by a head-shaven Kate Hudson whose disingenuous performance unfortunately takes great precedence over most things. The character of Music is merely a construct, only there to serve the more able Zu on her own journey to leave her alcoholism behind, which is already offensive enough, but then you factor in the nauseatingly over-the-top performance that Maddie Ziegler gives, in which she genuinely looks uncomfortable as she constantly gawks and grunts throughout the entire movie, making even Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character in Radio look dignified by comparison.
Worst of all, though, its teachings on how to handle severely autistic people are legitimately harmful, causing only further pain and suffering to those who cannot even clearly express their emotions. The supposed heroes of this movie, not just Zu but also Leslie Odom Jr. as an unfortunate example of the “magical negro” archetype, apply a physically restraining method toward Music whenever she has a tantrum, one that has been proven to not only provoke trauma in autistic people, but in some cases have actually resulted in the person’s death due to suffocation. This is performed twice in the movie, once in private and once in public, and each time the movie treats it like this soothing dramatic moment when in reality – which neither Sia nor co-writer Dallas Clayton appear to function in – it’s a horrifying technique that some activists have rightfully called for a complete ban on.
As someone with autism, I found this portrayal of autism and its promotion of dangerous “calming” methods to be completely and utterly irresponsible, so much so that it’s genuinely caused me a great deal of anxiety knowing that not only could neurotypical viewers see this film and think that this is an acceptable form of treating people with special needs, but that such promotion was being rewarded by none other than the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who astonishingly gave the film two Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) and lead actress Kate Hudson. Their year wasn’t exactly great either, with the scandal regarding their lack of diverse members effectively cancelling the 2022 ceremony and further tainting the HFPA’s once-influential name in Hollywood, but personally their decision to promote a film with such disturbing views on autism in general is perhaps their most corrupt decision of all.
The movie itself is pretty poorly made, with director Sia clearly struggling to figure out how to string together a three-act structure in between random musical segments that are more within her comfort zone (she even finds room to cast herself in one self-indulgent scene as a pop star who everyone looks up to in complete awe), with the awkward editing splicing in pointless subplots about an abused Chinese neighbour and random one-scene cameos from the likes of Juliette Lewis and Kathy Najimy, and not even Sia’s original songs being as memorable as some of the other tracks on her discography. However, it really is the film’s truly shameful depiction of autism that solidifies its number one position on this list, because it does so much to belittle and mistreat people who happen to have certain neurological conditions in the most undignified ways imaginable, that it almost constitutes as being a hate crime against autistic people.
It is deeply offensive in every definition of the word, and is a depressing reminder of how much work still needs to be done in order to get people to treat those with autism with the same amount of dignity and respect as everyone else should get…