It’s that time of year! The Academy celebrates the best work in the industry and we celebrate the early, mainly terrible work of those same nominees. It’s Skeletons in the Closet season, people!
We will let you know up front that, because Sam Rockwell and Bradley Cooper have already been subjects of the program, we will not be discussing Clown House (Rockwell’s feature debut) or Midnight Meat Train (or My Little Eye, for that matter, though Cooper appears in both).
And let us also congratulate nominee Willem Dafoe for managing to make several decent horror films, and garnering his first Oscar nomination for his work in one great one—Shadow of the Vampire.
But enough about good movies. Here are the stinkers.
5. Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III
Viggo Mortensen has been a working actor for more than 30 years, which means bones in that there closet. There was the questionable Psycho remake, and his version of Lucifer in Christopher Walken’s dark angel camp classic Prophesy (featured on the 2018 Skeleton’s episode).
Let’s focus on his place with the inbred cannibal clan the Sawyers in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Directed by Jeff Burr (From a Whisper to a Scream, Stepfather II, Puppet Master 4, 5 and Blitzkrieg Massacre), it’s a competently made if inspirationally dry episode.
Viggo plays Tex, and unquestionably outshines all the rest of the talent in the film. He’s sneaky, snaky, sexy, and he loves his mama.
4. Warlock (1989)
There is something to be said for this oh-so-Eighties adventure. Steve Miner (Friday 13th 2 & 3, H20, Lake Placid) directs from a screenplay by David Twohy (Critters 2, Pitch Black, The Perfect Getaway). The film follows witch Julian Sands 300 years into the future to 1989 USA, where he’s followed by witchhunter Redfern (Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant).
There’s nothing especially interesting about the film, and Lori Singer could not be more annoying in the lead, but both Sands and Grant elevate the material. The two veteran low-budget, crowd-pleasing horror filmmakers know how to give you something.
The flight sequences are too lame—in fact, all the FX promise to make you cringe—and much of the humor dates horrifically. But Grant commits to his character and Sands’s wicked grin makes up for a lot of plot holes.
3. Mary Reilly (1996)
Boy, there were high hopes for this bloated embarrassment when it came out back in ’96. Director Stephen Frears re-teamed with his Dangerous Liaisons screenwriter and stars John Malkovich and Glenn Close for a retelling of the old Jekyll and Hyde tale.
At the center, a plucky young housemaid named Mary (Julia Roberts).
Roberts’s career had begun its slide by this point, and this movie did not help things because she is just God awful. Oh my word, that accent.
Eight-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close plays Mrs. Farraday, proprietress of a brothel. Boasting gold tooth, smeared lipstick and sneer, Close camps it up with an accent a bit more bizarre even than Roberts’s.
There is so much wrong with this movie—its leaden pace, its inconsistent tone, its sense of self-importance, the fact that we’re supposed to believe no one realizes both guys are Malkovich, the idea of Malkovich in a sexy role, Roberts performance in literally every scene—it’s hard to know where to start.
Maybe just don’t.
2. Frogs (1972)
As the eco-terror flick from the Seventies opens, a handsome and manly brunette with no facial hair canoes through a swamp. He’s so manly!
Hey wait, that beardless brunette is Sam Elliott!
The manly Picket Smith (Elliott) ends up stranded on the vacation island of a wealthy family led by Ray Milland. He’s a dick. The frogs know it.
We get it, rich people who believe men are meant to rule the world will be the downfall of the planet. (If we didn’t know it in 1972, we know it now.) But couldn’t these scenes be briefer? Couldn’t there be any action at all?
1. Death Machine (1994)
Holy cow, this movie is bad.
And we had more than a few to choose from, because Rachel Weisz makes a lot of movies. The Mummy was not good. The Mummy Returns was worse. Constantine—yikes. Even Dream House, which had all the earmarks of a decent flick, chose not to be.
But Death Machine, which showcases the young thespian for maybe 45 seconds, sucks right out loud. Written and directed by Stephen Norrington (Blade, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), it follows a young executive (Ely Pouget) as she tries to end the evil inventing of a mad genius (Brad Dourif).
Weisz plays Junior Executive, and her scene is the one that doesn’t blow.
Dourif is so wildly miscast as the long haired, heavy metal misfit that you almost overlook the idiocy of every moment of screen time.