By Imperial Decree, The Worst Movie Ever Made

There’s a lot of talk about what movie can be said to be the worst of all time.  Plan 9 From Outer Space is always a leading choice, and most of Ed Wood’s other works are in the running too.  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians deserves a mention, if only for the combination of cheapness and balls-out lunacy.  Troll 2 is another contender, and God knows that’s not without reason.  The works of Coleman Francis have their place in the canon as well.  Much of legendary filmmaker Roger Corman‘s work has supporters.  Connoisseurs often propose “Manos:” The Hands of Fate, and not only is Manos jaw-droppingly awful in almost every conceivable way, it has a more amazing origin story than Superman.  Dracula 3000 with its all-star cast must be seen to be believed, and even then you won’t believe it.  Personally I’m a fan of I Nuovi Barbari, AKA Warriors of the Wasteland.   Not many would dispute that, pound for pound, there’s no worse director than Uwe Boll, ruiner of video game movies.  Then there’s the unmitigated WTF factory that is The Dragon Lives Again, whose insane charms I’ve discussed in the past.  And how can we neglect the brain-melting intensity of Turkish Star Wars? (WARNING: DO NOT CLICK THAT LINK.  YOU CANNOT HANDLE IT)

All that’s amateur hour compared to Monkey King With 72 Magic, as shown by this, probably the most coherent scene in the film.

But here’s the thing.  When judged on a sliding scale for available resources (time, money, locations, basic competency on the part of the cast and crew), a lot of these movies start to look a lot better, especially when you’re prepared to accept raw amusement value in lieu of quality, as are all of us who have taken the sacred Drive-In Oath).  You’ve got boring crap like The Starfighters, but hell, let’s see you make a watchable picture with $50 and a big pile of stock footage.  Dolemite may be a slapped-together fever dream of a movie, but by God it’s never boring.  And say what you will about Deathstalker, but when Roger Corman produces a sword-and sorcery film because Conan made a lot of money and he was able to rent a castle for three days, at least you know there’s not going to be and skimping on the sex, violence, or inexplicable pig-men.  I’ve dredged the depths of Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Thai, and Italian cinema, buried myself in Blacksploitation, Hicksploitation, Brucesploitation, Nunsploitation and Christsploitation.  I’ve seen seen John Carradine, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi act in movies I’m pretty sure they weren’t aware were being shot at the time.  I own two separate copies of Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter.  And I can definitively say that none of them can be called the worst movie ever made.

No, the worst movie ever made must be the one with the most wasted potential, the least originality, the greatest dearth of anything remotely stimulating.  And at last I found it, in the form of a little picture called FeardotCom.

FeardotCom, as you can see in that trailer, is a movie about a haunted website, called feardotcom.com.  In other words, literally twenty seconds into the trailer we have already gone beyond self-parody.  It’s got the same blueish-grayish-blackish color pallet every crappy studio horror film has been legally mandated to have for the last decade or so.  The particulars of the plot are a goulash of Kairo, Ringu and Videodrome, and the closest thing to originality on display is the fact that they managed to rip off the J-horror aesthetic a few months before anybody else did.  I know for a fact that I watched the entire movie attentively, but I couldn’t recall a thing about it before I looked it up again to prepare for this post.  The only time anything remotely interesting happens, it either makes no sense or is stolen from another movie, usually both.  In fairness, every time something really boring happens in the movie, it either makes no sense or is stolen from another movie.  At no point is there any hint of tension, nor any sort of flair.  There’s nothing there but one hundred minutes of slogging through dreary bland nastiness.

Thing is, this is a for-real movie, put out by Warner Brothers, starring big-boy actor Stephen Dorff, and it somehow cost $40,000,000 to make.  To contextualize that figure, that is literally eighty times as much as Brick cost.  It’s more than a thousand times as much as Clerks cost to make, and for once Clerks is the better-looking of the two movies being contrasted.  That is enough money to make every single human being in Marathon, TX rich.  If hubris-drenched El Paso fertilizer salesman/auteur Harold P. Warren had possessed that kind of budget, “Manos:” The Hands of Fate might have won an academy award of some kind, if only a special achievement award for Craziest Thing Anyone Ever Spent Forty Million Goddamn Dollars On Ever.

It opened in the US on a quarter-million screens.  By contrast, the really excellent The Last Exorcism opened on fewer than three thousand screens, though the latter film cost a twentieth as much to make and pulled in a lot more money.  Somehow, hundreds of people spent thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars, presumably thinking this was a good idea, and the end result was the cinematic equivalent of a lump of cold porridge with roaches in it.

Is there a moral here?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that Roger Corman has never, ever lost movie on a movie, and never, ever bored me.  So maybe that’s the lesson we can learn here: in the time it takes you to watch FeardotCom, you could have watched Deathrace 2000, taken a bathroom break, and then watched it again fast-forwarding to the gore, nudity, and hand grenade scenes, and would have had 10,000 times more fun.

And on that note, here’s Frankenstein to play us out:

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