The reboot of an Irish legend, the daydreams of a creep, a less than amazing race, the return of Wayans woe, sibling misery, the Friedberg/Seltzer effect, fake cops on the run, Zach Braff’s growing pains, an uneventful home invasion, and the terror of found footage. These are the Worst Films of 2014.
Perhaps there was never a chance for “A Haunted House 2” to surpass its execrable predecessor, but Marlon Wayans found a way to make an even more loathsome comedy. Instead of addressing the original feature’s shortcomings, the sequel decided to amplify them with a louder round of bathroom and racial humor, slapping together a quickie follow-up that eventually abandoned all sense and sharpness, giving in to Wayans’s puerile screenwriting instincts and interest in mugging his way through an entire movie. Bizarrely aggressive and profoundly unfunny, “A Haunted House 2” wasn’t just a lousy comedy, it was unpleasant in ways few pictures have dared to pursue.
It wouldn’t be a Worst Of list without an appearance by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the directing duo who consistently deliver bottom-of-the-barrel work. Once again spotlighting their toxic way with jokes, the pair briefly abandoned the parody genre to play with found footage, liberally lifting inspiration from “The Hangover” to inspire this bachelorette-party-gone-bad bomb. Obnoxious in ways new to the Seltzer/Friedberg business model, “Best Night Ever” crashed moments after takeoff, with the duo unable to achieve anything original or interesting with this rare step out of their headache-inducing spoof-happy comfort zone.
Here was a film with a nifty premise, following a group of panicked, confused individuals as they literally raced for their lives. Director Paul Hough avoids the thrill of the hunt to play as cheap as possible, investing in unwelcome hostility and a whiffed attempt at sci-fi shock to jazz up a moronic feature. Crummy acting is everywhere, along with potent displays of bad taste and worst timing. With the potential to become a B-movie thunderdome perpetually on the move, “The Human Race” laid down for a nap instead, doing nothing with its junk food cinema possibilities.
Found footage is bad enough these days (a played-out trend that only encourages directorial laziness), but found footage that doesn’t stick with any set rules or add anything to a dreary screenplay is more offensive. Establishing the aesthetic before ignoring it to fit the needs of a brain-dead tale of demonic antagonism, “The Possession of Michael King” was pure amateur hour from performance to shaky, quaky execution. Add in a dash of needless child endangerment, and the feature eventually achieved unwatchable status.
“Perfect Sisters” explored a dubious premise (siblings conspiring to murder their unhinged mother), and it did so in the most obvious manner possible. Resembling a television movie that was desperate to make a theatrical splash, the picture was indulgent with actors, feeble in direction, and howlingly bad with drama, hoping to find sensitivity in the middle of pure absurdity.
A teen sex comedy that tried way too hard to be outrageous, “Behaving Badly” opened with an outbreak of pubic lice and actually managed to devolve from there. Working uphill to find laughs with dismal material, the picture could only trigger boredom and mild disgust, while a parade of famous faces (including Elisabeth Shue, Selena Gomez, Dylan McDermott, Mary-Louise Parker, Heather Graham, and Ashley Rickards) displayed visible regret as they mentally reconsidered the direction of their careers while appearing onscreen. “Behaving Badly” also featured habitual overactor Nat Wolff in one of his many obnoxious screen appearances of 2014, proving that just because an actor is working doesn’t mean he has a career.
Attempting to drum up pre-release publicity by promising a juicy twist, “No Good Deed” forgot to add suspense, logic, and credible performances to its to-do list. A home invasion thriller more interested in summoning sensuality than chills, the picture failed to dream up significant conflicts for its characters, content to have them lounge around instead of engaging in a traditional escalation of terror. Perhaps a silky mood was targeted, but boredom was achieved, with “No Good Deed” doing nothing with its premise, stranding stars Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson as stasis became a priority for the production. And that twist? Woof.
A deadly comedy, “Let’s Be Cops” is another title from 2014 that bungled a premise with potential. Attempting to pants the buddy cop genre, the feature settled on tedious stupidity to generate laughs, trusting in DOA improvisational interplay between stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. to carry the effort. Amazingly lethargic, “Let’s Be Cops” wanted to be a silly movie with a heart, weirdly under the impression audiences might actually identify with these moronic characters while the picture dishes up predictable gross-out gags and stale stoner humor. The film eventually slumped to a close, providing a cruel reminder that the Wayans brand name and big screen comedy in 2014 were a poor fit.
Taking a decade to follow up his sleeper hit, “Garden State,” Zach Braff didn’t learn much about filmmaking in the interim. “Wish I Was Here” was a mawkish, plastic picture, investing fully in quirk and saccharine emotions, always out to represent introspection in the shadow of maturity without ever dealing directly with the fascinating obstacle course of personal growth. Braff attempted to match his previous success by reheating the same cinematic ingredients, which made the feature all the more painfully calculated and insufferable.
A reboot of the popular bottom-shelf horror saga, “Leprechaun: Origins” elected to shake up the Warwick Davis-starring formula by transforming the titular demon into a gray blob of gold-hoarding evil. No quips, no personality, no tiny green outfit. Humorless and uninventive, the picture shifted attention to its cast of victims, hoping to refresh horror by returning the dreaded Leprechaun to the shadows. The experiment didn’t work at all, resulting in a display of distractingly cheap filmmaking that lacked sorely needed ridiculousness and a swift pace.
Also of Note: The Other Woman, A Million Ways to Die in the West, November Man, The Legend of Hercules, Into the Storm, Ride Along, Winter’s Tale, Endless Love, Devil’s Due, The Pyramid, Jinn, And So It Goes, Horrible Bosses 2, School Dance, and Hector and the Search for Happiness.