Ten horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails, with hilarious results
1/10Maximum Overdrive (1986)
What’s the pitch?Stephen King made his directorial debut (and, to date, his directorial swansong) with an adaptation of his own short story ‘Trucks’, in which all the planet’s electrical devices suddenly achieve sentience thanks to a passing comet. It’s not long before they begin to turn on their erstwhile masters: us…
What went wrong?The script is stuffed with King-isms (‘I don’t give a ladybug!’), the special effects are dire, and the whole thing creaks and wheezes like a junker on its way to the scrapyard. That said, there are songs by AC/DC, a great cast and buckets of gore, so it’s an entertaining debacle. King swears he was ‘coked out of his mind all through production’.
Killer line‘Honeybun! This machine just called me an asshole!’
Funniest sceneThe Little League baseball game, in which the coach gets stoned to death with projectile Coke cans from a vending machine, while one of the kids gets minced by a lawnmower. But the hysterical trailer might be even better.
2/10A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
What’s the pitch?After the massive success of horror masterpiece ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, studio New Line rushed a sequel into production. But writer-director Wes Craven wanted no part of it, so they turned to gay screenwriter David Chaskin for help, with frankly jawdropping results.
What went wrong?‘Wrong’ might not be the right word: ‘Freddy’s Revenge’ may be bad on many, many levels (the exploding budgie, the shaky effects, the ‘comic’ asides) but it’s also hugely watchable and seriously subversive. Basically, it’s the story of a teenager, Jesse, who’s so terrified of his own homosexual impulses (which manifest themselves in the murderous form of Freddy Krueger) that he turns into a homicidal maniac. It’s camp-queer-fear with a body count.
Killer line‘Something is trying to get inside my body.’
Funniest sceneToo many to choose from, though the shower-room scene where the baseball coach has his clothes ripped off and his ass whipped by an unseen force is pretty unbeatable, as is the apropos-of-nothing appearance of a board game titled ‘Probe’. Or, indeed, the above John-Hughes-meets-John-Waters smasher.
3/10The Happening (2008)
What’s the pitch?From master of suspense M Night Shyamalan (‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Unbreakable’) comes a bold take on the natural disaster movie… only there’s nothing remotely natural about this disaster. A series of suicides across the globe are revealed to be the work of killer plants, who are releasing a depressant toxin into the atmosphere.
What went wrong?Literally, nothing went right. The cast, who take everything very seriously, are all dreadful. The photography is dull, and almost nothing happens, very slowly. It’s close to avant-garde in its off-beam, uneasy awfulness.
Killer line‘It’s the plants. They can release chemicals.’
Funniest sceneThe big climax, in which two people walk towards each other across a field, slowly, takes some beating. But pretty much any scene in which Mark Wahlberg takes a stab at acting is pretty comical.
4/10Night of the Lepus (1972)
What’s the pitch?It’d be lovely to think that the idea for ‘Night of the Lepus’ came about when someone went to see ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ and found the killer-rabbit scene genuinely terrifying, but actually, this bunnies-on-the-rampage romp was based on a 1964 Australian sci-fi novel which labours under the unappealing title ‘The Year of the Angry Rabbit’.
What went wrong?It’s a film about giant homicidal rabbits, for starters. Add in some risible effects, the guiding hand of journeyman western director William F Claxton and a soporific star turn from Rory Calhoun and you’ve got yourselves an unholy mess.
Killer line‘Attention! Attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!’
Funniest sceneThe entire film is a catalogue of errors. But there’s hilarity to be had in the way the original distributors tried to keep the film’s snuffling monsters a secret: the poster just features hundreds of looming shapes in the dark, with the hysterical tagline, ‘How many eyes does horror have?’
5/10Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2009)
What’s the pitch?This ecological disaster flick – inspired, as writer-director James Nguyen perhaps unnecessarily pointed out, by Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ – is so bad, it’s almost impossible to believe it isn’t some kind of oddball art prank. But Nguyen – who self-promoted the film at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival with a sign saying ‘Why did the eagles and vultures attacked?’[sic] – swears he’s on the level.
What went wrong?Well, no one involved had even the vaguest scintilla of talent, so the outcome was pre-ordained. The direction, the acting, the sledgehammer script (‘Where’s Becky?’ ‘Taking a shit.’) and especially the Z-grade special effects make for a genuinely dire viewing experience.
Killer line‘I’m just tired of all the fucking killing in Iraq. Why can’t we just give peace a chance?’
Funniest sceneWhenever anyone attempts to act, such as the corpselike meet-cute between software salesman Rod and robot-eyed fashion model Nathalie, or the magnificent boardroom scene above.
6/10Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
What’s the pitch?Satan is back! And he’s still got a thing for little girls… With no one from the original film involved except for soup-spewing child star Linda Blair, it fell to out-of-his-depth British director John Boorman to take up the reins and deliver, in his words, ‘a metaphysical thriller’.
What went wrong?Well, ‘metaphysical’ it may be – if by that you mean pretentious, ponderous and baffling – but thrilling it ain’t. The script was rewritten throughout production, and a spate of illnesses swept through the cast and crew. The resulting film is incomprehensible and dull. William Friedkin, director of the first film, memorably called it ‘as bad as seeing a traffic accident in the street’.
Killer line‘Pazuzu, king of the evil spirits of the air, help me to find Kokumo!’
Funniest sceneThe entire film is idiotic, but any scene in which Richard Burton’s pompous priest rails against evil while the 16-year-old Blair attempts to look seductive is worth checking out. Chuck in a few swarms of locusts and Bob’s your demon.
What’s the pitch?It’s hard to tell what the producers – or indeed the cast – of this giant snake movie had in mind. Some of them are obviously having a whale of a time pastiching the entire monster-movie genre, while others seem to be taking it all terribly seriously. The result is an odd, crazily uneven but wildly entertaining romp.
What went wrong?It’s lucky the film is set in the Amazon jungle, because if there were any sets Jon Voight would’ve chewed them to bits. His turn as the murderous snake hunter Paul Sarone is arguably the most far-out performance in a mainstream film. The dodgy effects, loopy script and bananas direction – there’s a great shot from inside the monster’s gullet – guarantee a good time.
Killer line‘Last time I was in water like this, I was up all night picking leeches off my scrotum.’
Funniest sceneAny Voight scene is a strong contender, but the moment when he gets eaten by the anaconda then vomited back up again is the jewel in an already glittering crown.
8/10The Wicker Man (2006)
What’s the pitch?A remake of one of the UK’s most highly regarded scary movies. Helmed by Neil LaBute, the icy arthouse master behind ‘In the Company of Men’, and starring Nicolas Cage, a screen icon who had, a few short years earlier, been bombarded with awards for ‘Adaptation’. What could go wrong?
What went wrong?It’s hard to say. Is it the script? The bees? The acting? The bees? The general sense of self-seriousness portentousness? The fact that a genuine classic has been defamed in the most lazy, lacklustre Hollywood hack-job fashion? Or the bees?
Killer line‘Oh no, not the bees! Not the bees! My eyes! MY EYES!’
Funniest sceneThe climactic scene (the one with the bees) is not just the funniest scene in this movie, it might be the funniest scene ever shot.
9/10Troll 2 (1990)
What’s the pitch?Vegetarian goblins want to turn a family into plants so they can consume them. The film originally stood alone under the title ‘Goblins’, but an understandably nervous film studio slapped it with a new title to cash in on the moderate success of 1986 comedy-horror nonsense ‘Troll’.
What went wrong?There’s a reason why the ‘Troll 2’ fan documentary was titled ‘Best Worst Movie’: this is like a compilation of all the best moments from a century of cheapjack DIY exploitation nonsense. You want excruciating dialogue, ‘Blue Peter’ special effects, nonsensical plotting, cardboard sets, acting which ranges from bored to psychotic, and a wonderfully self-serious ecological ‘subtext’? You got it!
Killer line‘Joshua is not a little shit; he’s just very sensitive.’
Funniest sceneYou may as well ask which is the best Shakespeare play. ‘Troll 2’ is all killer, no filler. We strongly suggest you watch the whole film, but for starters, you can take a look at an eight-minute snapshot of the ‘best’ bits in the video above.
What’s the pitch?A Stephen King source novel. Director Lawrence Kasdan, who penned ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and helmed ‘The Big Chill’. Screenwriter William Goldman, the man behind ‘Butch Cassidy’, ‘All the President’s Men’ and ‘The Princess Bride’. A cast headed by Morgan Freeman, alongside talented newcomers like Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant and Jason Lee. The result: perhaps the worst movie ever made.
What went wrong?‘Dreamcatcher’ isn’t one of those Z-grade schlockers that’ll have an audience eye-rolling from the off. In fact, the quality of its pedigree and a perfectly acceptable opening could persuade you this might be a pretty decent little adventure.
But then the alien shit weasels show up… and you notice Morgan Freeman’s eyebrows… and Damian Lewis starts talking to himself in a comedy ‘English person’ voice… and then we’re back in the 1950s… and, hey, there’s Donnie Wahlberg, playing a bald, care-in-the-community alien with leukaemia… and suddenly, you look around and notice that you’re surrounded by wrongness and disaster on a mindblowingly-epic and expensive scale.
Killer lineTake your pick: ‘Jesus Christ bananas! Some fuckaroo this is turning into’; ‘The idea of slaughtering Americans... it just turns my stomach’; ‘Some kind of shit is going to hit the planetary fan’; ‘Met some lady at bingo. Turned into a pretty nice fuckeree’; ‘Hey, you don’t wanna see the homecoming queen’s pussy? Don’t come’; ‘Bitch-in-a-buzzsaw! I’ve heard some mighty burps in my time, but that’s the blue ribbon, baby’; ‘All right, Pete. I’ll bite your bag... and everything else’; ‘These mothers are as harmless as a fox in a hen house. And I’m here to kick some ass!’... We could go on. And on. And on. For 134 minutes, to be precise…
Funniest sceneThe moment you realise you’re in the presence of true, catastrophic greatness will stick with you forever. For us, it was the scene above.
Looking for a horror film that is hilarious for all of the wrong reasons? They’re all here: giant rabbits, gay demons, murderous lawnmowers, killer bees and ‘shit weasels’. Every one of these horror films comes heartily recommended: grab a friend, crack a beer and join Tom Huddleston for the ten most hilariously, stupendously, side-splittingly rotten horror films ever made…