It's easy to think of good horror movies when you think of Halloween. There are plenty of fantastic films across all avenues of horror, including great slashers, zombie movies, creature features, supernatural and psychological horror films, and numerous other movies that make for memorable October movie night viewing.
However, for every critically praised Rosemary's Baby or The Exorcist out there, horror has seen hundreds of other awful horror movies that have also been released. Some are so bad they're good, but most are just plain unwatchable.
To change things up a bit this October, we thought we'd take a look at some of the absolute worst horror movies out there—movies to kick back and enjoy with friends laughing so hard you’ll get a stomach cramp—as well as providing information about where they're currently streaming.
What horror movie list is complete without a Stephen King adaptation? Unfortunately, rather than including any number of the great films based off his work like The Shining, Carrie, or It, we thought we'd take a look at what is likely King’s worst adaptation based on the author’s work, brought to the screen by King himself in his directorial debut.
Loosely based on the short story “Trucks” from King’s 1978 collection, Night Shift, Maximum Overdrive follows a group of people attempting to survive an onslaught of killer machines (trucks, electric hair dryers, vending machines) after they somehow gain sentience as a result of a comet passing Earth. (The poor explanation for why the machines gain life and why they're so hostile towards humans being one of the movie's many, many flaws.)
A dark comedy horror film, the sheer lunacy of the plot failed to balance the horror with the movie’s comedic elements, resulting in cringey scenes where people are killed by RC cars or insulted by ATMs (“Honey, this machine just called me….) What results is a messy movie that has no clear idea what it is—comedy or horror—with the cast helplessly trying to act terrified by everyday household appliances trying to kill them.
Heavily advertised as King’s first foray into film, the movie was a box office disaster, and met with scathing reviews from critics, including Golden Raspberry nominations for King (Worst Director) and its star, Emilio Estevez (Worst Actor).
It would be King's first and last attempt at directing a movie, with King disowning this movie and apologizing to Estevez multiple times over the years for casting him in the film.
Not currently streaming, but can be rented online
The Wicker Man
Like many movies on this list, the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man is not only commonly cited as one of the worst horror movies ever released—it's commonly seen as one of the worst movies ever made, period.
A remake of the original cult classic film, The Wicker Man stars Nicolas Cage as a police officer investigating his daughter's disappearance on a remote island off the coast of Washington state. While there, he begins to suspect a Pagan cult may be responsible and is gradually drawn into their unusual holiday festivities.
One of the worst remakes of all time, The Wicker Man bombed at the box office and was lambasted by critics who regarded it as one of the worst pictures of the year. It was nominated for nearly every Golden Raspberry category the ceremony offers, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Cage), Worst Screenplay, Worst Remake or Rip-off, and Worst On-Screen Couple.
Over the years, the film’s star Nicolas Cage has taken on more and more unhinged, melodramatic, and over-the-top roles (Mandy, Wild at Heart, Vampire’s Kiss, Adaptation, Face/Off), but The Wicker Man saw him deliver his most ham-fisted, campy performances yet. (Pretty much everyone knows that infamous scene where he screams “Not the bees!”, which has grown into an extremely popular meme in recent years.)
With a movie this bad and a performance this horrible, we honestly wonder how Cage's career survived after this—but given his penchant for completely investing himself in the roles he chooses, it's doubtful there's a single movie out there that will ever end Cage's career—although The Wicker Man came awfully close.
Not currently streaming, but can be rented online
The Friday the 13th series may be a film you'll find playing on numerous TV channels on Halloween night, but let's face it—none of them are very good. Whether we're talking about the campy original directly modeled after Halloween, or any number of the kitschy sequels that found Jason offing an increasingly larger number of people in creative ways, Friday the 13th today is one of the few horror series to consistently deliver underwhelming sequel after underwhelming sequel.
Like the Jaws franchise, any number of the many Friday the 13th sequels could've earned a spot on this list (A New Beginning, Jason Takes Manhattan, and The New Blood all being pretty close contenders), but ultimately, you don't have to look very far to find the series' worst entry: Jason X.
The ninth sequel in the Friday the 13th series, Jason X is drastically different from any previous Friday film before it, taking place in the year 2445, when a cryogenically frozen Jason is found drifting in space by a group of young students, who he then begins to kill off one by one.
One of the weirdest slasher movies ever made, Jason X is one of those movies you can’t believe was ever released—adding in so many insane elements left and right, you can practically visualize the person responsible for making the movie going, “Yeah, sure, why not?” with each new insane plot thread that's introduced.
Panned upon release, the movie has grown in popularity as a cult favorite that fans routinely mock, although some faint praise was given to the movie's unique kills.
Streaming on Tubi.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is one of the more unique movies on this list in that, unlike the other films that we've discussed that were deliberate attempts at making a straight horror movie, Killer Clowns was made with the sole intention of being mocked and laughed at.
Parodying numerous science fiction horror movies, Killer Klowns From Outer Space follows a group of aliens who land on Earth and begin capturing, killing, and eating residents of a small-town nearby. When a group of kids try to warn the town's adults of the imminent danger, no one takes them seriously, as the aliens all appear to resemble harmless circus clowns.
With a premise that weird, Killer Klowns was pretty much destined to fail. However, its bizarre approach and the complete lack of seriousness the film relied on helped make it a popular hit (the only film on this list that succeeded critically and financially upon release).
Featuring off-the-walls ridiculousness in every sense of the word, Killer Klowns is one of those movies you have to see to believe. Depicted on-screen are such outlandish cinematic oddities as a cannon-sized popcorn gun, a life-sized living balloon dog, and one of the clowns using a corpse as a human puppet.
Some critics were alienated by the strange, nonsensical content of the film, but the movie has only appreciated in value since its release, with some critics who initially panned the movie eventually warming to its lightheartedness and odd subject matter.
Streaming on Paramount+.
Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge
Having been written in 1909, it's not unsurprising that Gaston Leroux's now iconic The Phantom of the Opera would see its fair share of adaptations over the following decades.
Over the 100 years since its first serialization in France, Leroux's classic horror story has seen numerous attempts at adapting the original story, sometimes staying extremely faithful to the source material, other times updating the story to a more contemporary setting (Phantom of the Paradise, Phantom of the Megaplex, and so on).
Other times, filmmakers attempted to add in a more modern genre spin on the classic Gothic story, making it into a slasher (1989's The Phantom of the Opera starring Robert Englund) or amping the horror elements (as Hammer Horror tried with their 1962 adaptation).
Few films have tried to combine both of those elements with such disastrous results as 1989's Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge.
In a contemporary take on the classic story, a young man (Derek Rydall) has his house mysteriously burned down and is presumed dead after refusing to sign away his property to developers. Years later, when a mall is built over what was the young man’s home, a shadowy figure appears within the mall, killing off staff members.
Far and away the worst Phantom of the Opera adaptation ever released, Phantom of the Mall is your basic generic slasher film with a plot that barely resembles the original story. In an era when slashers were pretty much reaching their final throes, Phantom of the Mall sealed the subgenre's fate, delivering an unintentionally hilarious, far-fetched film that was short on scares but provided an abundant amount of laughs.
Not currently streaming, but can be rented online.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2
There's an unfortunate trend in most horror movies wherein if the initial movie is even a small success, a sequel or planned franchise is pretty much guaranteed right after. (Hence why there's 12 Friday the 13th movies, 13 Halloweens, and nine Nightmare on Elm Streets.) Like most horror franchises—especially slashers, which were notorious for launching sequels at the drop of a hat—the movie Silent Night, Deadly Night was not above this trend, with the first movie managing to do reasonably well critically and commercially, and a sequel released not long after.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 follows a now-adult Ricky (Eric Freeman), the brother of the Santa-themed serial killer in the first film, who is struggling with his own traumatic memories of Christmas, and who soon becomes a murderer in his own right.
Comical, over-the-top, and just poorly acted, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is one of the worst slasher sequels of the 1980s'. Released in April, whereas the other movies in the franchise were released in November—if you're ever planning on releasing a holiday-themed slasher with a killer Santa as your antagonist, don't release it in April of all months—the film bombed at the box office, and received universally negative reviews upon initial screenings.
The main point of the criticism seemed to stem from the fact that the movie had reused a significantly large amount of footage from the first movie, recycling about 40 minutes from the original. With a runtime of about an hour and a half, that means nearly half the movie you're watching is taken from another movie. Coupled with that is Freeman's overacting, subsequently spawning a well-known meme where his character shoots a man taking out his garbage while screaming “Garbage day!”—which, as far as campy slasher lines go, is by far one of the worst.
Part 2 would be the last film in the franchise to have a theatrical release, until 2012's loose remake, Silent Night.
Streaming on Tubi, Pluto TV and PLEX.
Jaws: The Revenge
Jaws as a franchise never really worked. Like so many films of its era, the original film had a fantastic premise, a talented cast, and a superb soundtrack, but it didn’t have a central plot or concept that was meant to be carried over into a franchise. Having a shark come back to Amity Island and plague the members of the Brody family again and again just … doesn't make sense. What is it about these poor Brodys that keeps attracting larger and larger sharks?
In the fourth and (thankfully) last Jaws movie, Jaws 4 follows the now-widowed Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) whose life is disrupted by the appearance of a massive great white shark she believes is targeting her family. Looking to rest after a personal tragedy, Ellen flies to the Bahamas with her son, Michael (Lance Guest), with the shark soon following them and who appears to share some sort of psychic connection to Ellen.
Technically speaking, any one of the Jaws sequels could have appeared on this list—they're all individually horrible in their own way. But with how completely off-the-walls the plot of Jaws 4 is, with the shark taking on a malevolent, near demonic awareness of what it's doing, this movie takes the cake for the worst entry in the franchise, as well as one of the worst big-budget sequels of all time. Not even Michael Caine (who apparently only signed on for the paycheck and the free trip to the Bahamas for shooting) could save this absolute mess of a movie.
Streaming on FuboTV and Philo.
Okay, yes, we may be cheating a bit here choosing a made-for-TV horror movie—there's an entire Pandora's box of horrible made-for-TV and straight-to-DVD horror movies out there that probably deserves a list in their own right. But for variety's sake, we decided to include this hilariously bad 2016 action horror sci-fi movie, Zoombies, anyway.
The plot of the film follows a group of employees at a soon-to-be-opened zoo who find themselves in grave danger when the animals are infected by a mysterious disease that turns them all into incredibly aggressive, flesh-eating creatures.
The best thing about this movie is how deliberately it rips off Jurassic Park, including very similar plots (a zoo where the animals escape and run amuck) and even the not-so-subtle introductory title fonts. It's a memorably bad movie full of unbelievably funny scenes, such as a group of zombie giraffes attacking people hiding out on the tops of trees, or a chase sequence involving a huge, undead killer gorilla.
It's probably low-hanging fruit to choose such a low-budget horror movie, but when it comes down to choosing movies that you can't help but laugh at, you can hardly do better than Zoombies.
It's certainly not a movie that was going to win any Oscars, but for those looking for a movie that's essentially a much cheaper, much worse version of Jurassic Park (because who doesn't want that?), this is most definitely the movie for you.
Streaming on Prime Video.
Where can you even begin when describing something like Troll 2, one of the most poorly made movies in existence? Well, to sum it up in one sentence: it's one of the weirdest paced, poorly acted, sloppily written, non-scary, so-horrible-it's-hilarious pieces of junk to ever be released.
In one of the absolute craziest-sounding plots to a movie ever, Troll 2 follows a family vacationing to an idyllic small town whose inhabitants are secretly a group of vegetarian goblins disguised as human beings, and who then attempt to turn the hapless family into plants so that they can eat them.
Though marketed as a sequel to the 1986 horror film, Troll, Troll 2 has actually no connection to the earlier movie, and—contrary to its misleading title—actually has no trolls present in this “sequel.”
From the start, the film's production was mired by significant issues, especially huge communication issues between the largely Italian film crew (including its director, Claudio Fragasso) and the American cast. Evidence of this can be found especially in Fragasso's script, written in collaboration with his wife in broken English, which the director vehemently told his actors to stick to even when they offered to alter his lines for more believable, grammatically correct dialogue.
With a horrendous plot, horrible acting, and a confusing message about meat consumption, Troll 2 was destined to fail from the start. Often referred to as the most well-known worst movies ever made, Troll 2 has gained a significant cult status for its exceptionally poor quality, eventually spawning the popular meme wherein Darren Ewing's character theatrically says, “They're eating her. And then they're going to eat me. Oh my Godddddd”—a scene that is literally impossible not to chuckle at.
Streaming on Prime Video.
Plan 9 From Outer Space
When talking about horror movies that are so bad, they're good, it's essential to bring up the one that started it all: 1957's Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Intended to be director Ed Wood's masterpiece (we highly recommend watching Tim Burton's Ed Wood biopic before watching this film or as a double feature with it), Plan 9 tells the story of aliens attempting to stop mankind from constructing a powerful weapon that could destroy the entire universe. As part of their efforts to halt the weapon's construction, the aliens implement “Plan 9,” using their technology to revive the Earth's dead into hostile zombies that threaten to over-run the planet.
There's a lot going in Plan 9 from Outer Space, not much of it—obviously—very good. Wood, always an ambitious director, added in too many conflicting elements into a single movie, making it seem overstuffed and bloated between the aliens and zombie invasion aspect of the plot. He even recycled footage from a planned film with Bela Lugosi, who died before the project’s completion. Not wanting to waste the footage, Wood edited it into Plan 9, resulting in a character who looks suspiciously like Dracula, black cape and all, randomly appearing on screen.
Like all of Wood's films, Plan 9 was an utter failure upon release, and was subsequently credited as being the worst film ever made by numerous critics. Because of that unique distinction, it would eventually grow in popularity in the decades to follow, gaining notoriety as being the earliest example of a comically bad horror movie.
Streaming on Prime Video.
With how many horror movies there are in the world, it's easy to recognize the fact that many of them are of exceptionally bad quality. However, there are always the few horror movies that go above and beyond in crafting a hopelessly disappointing horror movie—movies that are so horrible, so horrendously, agonizingly, near unwatchably bad, they make for a rare kind of movie-watching experience like no other.
These are movies that make you wonder how they were made in the first place, with painful writing, acting, and direction throughout, and possessing nearly no redeemable or decent qualities whatsoever.
For other remarkably bad movies we recommend checking out, we also suggest Leprechaun In the Hood, Piranha 3DD, Birdemic: Shock And Terror, Orca, Deadtime Stories, and Cube 2: Hypercube, all of which are awful in their own distinct way.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.