I saw lots of good films in 2014 and more than a handful of bad ones. There was another category of film, however, that I’d be remiss not to talk about: the disappointing ones. I now present the films that, for one reason or another, just didn’t do it for me. These weren’t terrible films, mind you, or even bad ones, in some cases…just films that I felt didn’t live up to their actual potential. Sometimes overhyped, sometimes near-misses, these were the movies that I wanted to love, but ended up not even really liking. In no particular order, then:
Odd Thomas — I actually like (or used to, it’s been a few years) Dean Koontz and don’t really mind Anton Yelchin but this adaptation of Koontz’s series was just obnoxious to sit through. Full of bad CGI and over-the-top performances, this was kind of like The Frighteners for dummies, albeit with a constant need to please. Not terrible, just so generic that it hurts.
Wolf Creek 2 — One of my biggest disappointments of the year. The original Wolf Creek is one of the most uncompromising, ferocious horror films I’ve ever seen: to see the character of Mick reduced to a third-rate, Down Under Freddy Krueger is kind of sad. Sure, there are plenty of amazing setpieces and some truly astounding gore (belt sander, anyone?) but that’s also why this sits here rather than under the Worst of the Year banner.
The Sacrament — Here’s the thing: I want to love Ti West…I really do. I think House of the Devil is one of the finest horror films around and I really appreciate his slow-burn approach to the subject. That being said, I haven’t actually liked anything else in his catalog, including his most recent. By the time that I realized The Sacrament was an A to Z retelling of the Jonestown Massacre, I kept hoping for a twist. The twist, of course, is that the film is incredibly well made and so devoid of surprise and invention as to be almost inert. Despite what the critics think, this was one of my biggest disappointments of 2014.
Mr. Jones — A great concept and measured execution somehow results in a bit of a mess. So much of this film is genuinely great (the Cthulhu nods are really cool) that it makes the hackneyed ending and general sense of confusion even more painful.
Escape From Tomorrow — An unofficial genre film shot guerilla-style in Disney World? Sign me up! The trailer and hype promised this would be something to set the world on its ear: what we got were some cool black and white visuals, some substandard “scary faces” and a weird obsession with teenage French girls. This had nothing but potential going in but I couldn’t be more disappointed with the outcome.
The Double — I really wanted to like this: great cast, director I respect, literary adaptation…what could go wrong? In truth, this was just as middle-of-the-road as it gets. In a year stuffed to bursting with double and doppelgänger films, The Double was one of the most highbrow and, easily, one of the most disappointing.
Cold in July — Oy…I absolutely adore Jim Mickle: I think that Stake Land is one of the best vampire films in the history of cinema and think his debut, Mulberry St. is pretty damn amazing. Hell, even his remake of We Are What We Are is great and I’m a guy that absolutely abhors remakes. All this is by way of saying that Mickle’s adaptation of Cold in July is not only his worst film, by a country mile, but one of the dreariest misses of the year. When the film is good, it hits some of the expected notes. For most of the runtime, however, it feels like a case study in missed opportunities.
Stage Fright — Call me cheesy but I’ve always enjoyed the musical episodes of genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. For my money, there just aren’t enough genre musicals like Repo or The Devil’s Carnival. That being said, Stage Fright is a musical that breaks the cardinal rule: none of the song are very memorable. Sure, it has its moments and Meat Loaf is always fun but it just seems like it could have been so much better. Plus, why the hell didn’t the killer have any killer tunes?
All Cheerleaders Die — This barely made it onto the list but here it is: there was lots to like here and I think Lucky McKee almost nailed the premise. That being said, there were too many points where the film surrendered itself to pure idiocy and it seemed to lose its way once it turned into a half-assed superhero film. I really wanted to love this and still think it did a great job in not overly-sexualizing the female characters. A little restraint might have made this a much better film.
Proxy — This looked great and had an appropriately thorny plot but it ended up collapsing completely by the midpoint, once one improbable plot twist after another was introduced. By the time the end credits rolled, the plot was full of more holes than Swiss cheese and my patience was gone. If Proxy didn’t look so damn good, this lukewarm DePalma hash would easily be one of the worst of the year. As it is, I can’t help but glare at it disapprovingly.
And there you have it: the films that disappointed me the most in 2014. Coming soon, we’ll take a look at my least favorite films of the year, followed by the all-important Best of 2014.