Despite going on a crusade against slasher movies with his At the Movies co-host Gene Siskel in the 1980s, Roger Ebert wasn’t a horror movie hater. Even though he opined that Child’s Play 2 was “malignant” and made him feel “unclean”, he objectively declared it an effective, and therefore successful film. Genre offerings Ebert extolled include Scream, Halloween, The Devil’s Rejects, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
In other words, Ebert was an equal opportunity critic, no matter what genre of film he set his sights on. But just as he loved the films listed above, there were some horror films the Pulitzer Prize winner detested. Below, in no particular order, are Ebert’s worst offenders. While I don’t think anyone will disagree Critters 2 was a dud, you might be surprised to learn Hellbound: Hellraiser II is on the list. Harsh!
Have a look and let us know what you think in the Comments section!
The Guardian (1990, Directed by William Friedkin)
Official Synopsis: Optimistic about their future, well-off parents Kate (Carey Lowell) and Phil (Dwier Brown) hire the pleasant and lovely young Camilla (Jenny Seagrove) to live with them and care for their new baby. Though Camilla seems like an answer to their prayers, she proves to be more than she appears, and a diabolical plot involving the wellbeing of their child is uncovered. The young parents are forced to fight supernatural forces for the life of their vulnerable offspring.
Ebert: Of the many threats to modern man documented in horror films — the slashers, the haunters, the body snatchers — the most innocent would seem to be the druids. What, after all, can a druid really do to you, apart from dropping fast-food wrappers on the lawn while worshipping your trees?
Ben (1972, Directed by Phil Karlson)
Official Synopsis: A boy (Lee Harcourt Montgomery) befriends a rat named Ben and forms an army of his rodent friends.
Ebert: I wonder how Ben learned English. I seem to recall from “Willard,” last summer’s big rat movie, that Willard trained Ben to heel, beg, roll over, play dead and sic Ernest Borgnine. Not bad for a rat. But when did Ben learn English? It takes Berlitz six weeks of intensive training to get a French businessman to the point where he can proposition a girl on Rush St. — and here’s Ben learning instinctively.
13 Ghosts (2001, Directed by Steve Beck)
Official Synopsis: A state-of-the-art remake of the classic William Castle horror film about a family that inherits a spectacular old house from an eccentric uncle. There’s just one problem: the house seems to have a dangerous agenda all its own. Trapped in their new home by strangely shifting walls, the family encounters powerful and vengeful entities that threaten to annihilate anyone in their path.
Ebert: The shatterproof glass cages, we learn, are engraved with ”containment spells” that keep the ghosts inside. You can see the ghosts with special glasses, which the cast is issued; when they see them, we see them, usually in shots so maddeningly brief we don’t get a good look. Our consolation, I guess, is that the cast has the glasses but we will have the pause button when ”13 Ghosts” comes out on DVD. The only button this movie needs more than pause is delete.
Constantine (2005, Directed by Francis Lawrence)
Official Synopsis: As a suicide survivor, demon hunter John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) has literally been to hell and back — and he knows that when he dies, he’s got a one-way ticket to Satan’s realm unless he can earn enough goodwill to climb God’s stairway to heaven. While helping policewoman Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) investigate her identical twin’s apparent suicide, Constantine becomes caught up in a supernatural plot involving both demonic and angelic forces. Based on the DC/Vertigo “Hellblazer” comics.
Ebert: The forces of hell manifest themselves in many ways. One victim is eaten by flies. A young girl is possessed by a devil, and Constantine shouts, “I need a mirror! Now! At least three feet high!” He can capture the demon in the mirror and throw it out the window, see, although you wonder why supernatural beings would have such low-tech security holes.
Critters 2: The Main Course (1988, Directed by Mick Garris)
Official Synopsis: Alien bounty hunters hunt man-eating hairballs, for whom a boy (Scott Grimes) visiting his aunt is blamed.
Ebert: “Critters 2: The Main Course” is a movie about furry little hand puppets with lots of teeth, who are held up to salad bars by invisible puppeteers while large numbers of actors scream and pronounce unlikely dialogue.
Related Article: “Critters” Sequel Taking Shape as Binge-Worthy TV Series
Deep Rising (1998, Directed by Stephen Sommers)
Official Synopsis: A newly unveiled ocean liner, the Argonautica sets out on its first cruise, only to encounter dangers both on board and in the ocean depths. While the beautiful thief Trillian (Famke Janssen) attempts to steal riches from the boat’s wealthy passengers, the ship encounters major problems, most notably a giant murderous sea creature with tentacles. Eventually, a boat captained by John Finnegan (Treat Williams) comes across the Argonautica, and everyone struggles to survive the monster
Ebert: The owner of the ship (Anthony Heald) makes several speeches boasting about how stable it is; it can stay level even during a raging tempest. I wonder if those speeches were inserted after the filmmakers realized how phony their special effects look. Every time we see the ship, it’s absolutely immobile in the midst of churning waves.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace)
Official Synopsis: Hospital emergency room Dr. Daniel “Dan” Challis (Tom Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), the daughter of a murder victim, uncover a terrible plot by small-town mask maker Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), a madman who’s planning a Halloween mass murder utilizing an ancient Celtic ritual. The ritual involves a boulder stolen from Stonehenge, the use of Silver Shamrock masks and a triggering device contained in a television commercial — all designed to kill millions of children.
Ebert: The one saving grace in “Halloween III” is Stacey Nelkin, who plays the heroine. She has one of those rich voices that makes you wish she had more to say and in a better role. But watch her, too, in the reaction shots: When she’s not talking, she’s listening. She has a kind of rapt, yet humorous, attention that I thought was really fetching. Too bad she plays her last scene without a head.
Resident Evil (2002, Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson)
Official Synopsis: Based on the popular video game, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez star as the leaders of a commando team who must break into “the hive,” a vast underground genetics laboratory operated by the powerful Umbrella Corporation. There, a deadly virus has been unleashed, killing the lab’s personnel and resurrecting them as the evil Un-dead. The team has just three hours to shut down the lab’s supercomputer and close the facility before the virus threatens to overrun the Earth.
Ebert: “Resident Evil” is a zombie movie set in the 21st century and therefore reflects several advances over 20th-century films. For example, in 20th-century slasher movies, knife blades make a sharpening noise when being whisked through thin air. In the 21st century, large metallic objects make crashing noises just by being looked at.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004, Directed by Alexander Witt)
Official Synopsis: A deadly virus from a secret Umbrella Corporation laboratory underneath Raccoon City is exposed to the world. Umbrella seals off the city to contain the virus, creating a ghost town where everyone trapped inside turns into a mutant zombie. Alice (Milla Jovovich), a survivor from Umbrella’s secret lab, meets former Umbrella security officer Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and mercenary Carlos Oliviera (Oded Fehr). Together, they search for a scientist (Jared Harris) who might be able to help.
Ebert: But zombies themselves are not interesting, because all they do is stagger and moan. As I observed in my review of the first film, “they walk with the lurching shuffle of a drunk trying to skate through urped Slushees to the men’s room.”
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988, Directed by Tony Randel)
Official Synopsis: Confined to a mental hospital, young Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) insists her supposedly dead father is stuck in hell, controlled by sadomasochistic demons after being betrayed by his evil, occult-obsessed wife, Julia (Clare Higgins). Few believe Kirsty, except the thrill-seeking Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who is intrigued by S&M and the young woman’s lurid stories. So when Kirsty and fellow patient Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) head to hell for a rescue, Channard and Julia are close behind.
Ebert: “Kirsty!” we hear. And “Tiffany!” And “Kirsty!!!” and “Tiffany!!!” And “Kirstiyyyyyyy!!!!!” And “Tiffanyyyyyyy!!!!!” I’m afraid this is another one of those movies that violates the First Rule of Repetition of Names, which states that when the same names are repeated in a movie more than four times a minute for more than three minutes in a row, the audience breaks out into sarcastic laughter, and some of the ruder members are likely to start shouting “Kirsty!” and “Tiffany!” at the screen.
The Village (2004, Directed by M. Night Shyamalan)
Official Synopsis: Members (Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody) of a 19th-century community fear the strange creatures that inhabit the surrounding forest.
Ebert: To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore.
To check out more of Ebert’s most hated films in all genres, check out my source article, HERE.