The ten worst films of 2018? With any luck I missed most of them. Instead, here are the ten most unpleasant experiences I had at the movies this year, even if a few were praised in other quarters.
A QUIET PLACE – Yes, actor/director John Krasinski pulled off an interesting idea: a post-apocalyptic world where one had to be silent lest one attract homicidal aliens. Unfortunately, no one bothered to fix loopholes in the script big enough to drive a Mack truck through. He gets his wife pregnant because babies are SO easy to keep quiet. No birth control? The movie’s first scene is in a drug store! And how did the world’s military and scientists miss discovering the aliens’ weakness prior to the beginning of the story?
A WRINKLE IN TIME – Maybe this beloved children’s book can’t be filmed. Certainly, this abomination from director Ava DuVernay, which made the witches played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling look like they should be floats in the Thanksgiving Day parade wasn’t the answer. Slow and leaden, one can only hope it doesn’t discourage young readers from discovering Madelyn L’Engle’s wonderful original.
THE DEATH OF STALIN – Widely praised as a satiric look at Soviet history, it was a dark, violent and not at all funny movie in which a talented cast flailed about in a fruitless search for punchlines. This might have worked better as a straight dramatic film where the ironic twists might have stood out. One of the year’s biggest disappointments.
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE – My fellow Boston area critics in two groups heaped awards on this movie with both naming Lynne Ramsay best director and the Boston Online Film Critics Association naming it best picture. I need to find out what drugs they were on at the time since this bleak, incoherent and violent movie was as dull as it was pointless. Perhaps it was the lack of much dialogue that impressed as Joaquin Phoenix battled hallucinations while tracking down a missing girl.
HEREDITARY – A dysfunctional family story tarted up as a horror film, it featured the horrific death of a child in a situation no normal parent would ever have allowed and ended up going completely off the rails. Toni Collette’s performance as the mother trying to unlock the mystery was mistaken in some quarters as acting instead of just getting increasingly hysterical. (Collette has done fine work elsewhere. She did herself no favors here.)
THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS – Jim Henson must be spinning in his grave as his son Brian directed this R-rated movie in which humans and puppets co-exist. In one scene Silly String is used as the equivalent of a bodily fluid usually only on camera in porn. The difference between this and “Team America: World Police” (2004), is while the latter mixed marionettes and raunch, only “Happytime” was utterly witless.
LIZZIE – Lizzie Borden (Chloë Sevigny), a young Irish maid (Kristin Stewart), sexual shenanigans, and murder. What could possibly go wrong? How about turning the story into a listless mishmash that not only did not make history come alive but drove a stake through its heart to make sure it stayed dead. One was hard pressed to care if any of them lived or died.
THE OATH – There’s an old theatrical expression, “Satire is what closes on Saturday night.” Here’s a good example why. In an increasingly oppressive America, a family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner and fights over their differences. Moviegoers stayed away in droves, apparently thinking, “Been there, done that.” What they missed was the arrival of the secret police.
SUSPIRIA – Can’t anyone make a coherent horror movie anymore? This remake of the 1977 film about a Satanic dance academy took a story that ran 92 minutes and added another hour to it so that it made even less sense. The rule for artsy horror this year seemed to be it didn’t matter how bad the script was as long as the last half hour was completely over the top.
WELCOME TO MARWEN – Steve Carell has had a busy year, appearing in “Beautiful Boy” and “Vice.” He should have stopped there. In “Welcome to Marwen” he plays an artist with a brain injury who lives out his fantasies with dolls set in a village during World War II. Unfortunately director Bob Zemeckis paid more attention to the special effects than to the characters or story. ***
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His new novel, Father of the Bride of Frankenstein, will be released in January. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.