Holiday Film Guide: The Year in Trash

Who needs 10-best lists when there’s so much dreck to celebrate?

Things I’d rather watch than Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts play a bickering mother and daughter in August: Osage County: Darrell Issa presiding over a witch-hunt trial on my junk. The Conjuring. Maybe not Man of Steel. Trash has always been in the eye of the beholder. But the line’s now more blurred than ever, as Hollywood draws from comic books, science fiction, old cult flicks, and other material that used to be written off as trash. So let’s pull on a pair of surgical gloves and sift through 2013’s film filth.

MEGA-SUPER-BLOCKBUSTER TRASH Man of Steel A friendship-ender if you know someone who liked it. Previously a director who made nice-looking movies best played with the sound off (see 300, Dawn of the Dead, etc.), Zack Snyder perpetrated a loathsome violation of pop culture’s greatest hero: Superman kills. After he has a super-fight in Metropolis that dwarfs 9/11. Star Trek Into Darkness Into Hackness is more like it. Director J.J. Abrams continues to riff on Star Trek instead of doing it—in this case applying his comedy stylings to 1982’s The Wrath of Khan to a painful extent. What if Kirk and Spock were unlikable assholes as young men? And wouldn’t it be funny if Kirk was in the middle of a relationship argument with Spock and Uhura on a mission? The Lone Ranger Speaking of contempt for source material: Make the Ranger (Armie Hammer) a fey bumbler. Make Tonto (Johnny Depp) quirky and unlikable. And when the Ranger finally does his trademark horse-wheelie and “Hi-yo Silver!”, Tonto tells him never to do that again. Hi-yo fuck yourself. World War Z The scariest thing about it: Brad Pitt’s weirdly bobbed haircut.

COMMENTRASHY The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Not as much of a blatant Battle Royale ripoff as the first installment, it resonated a bit more with these times of income inequality, food drives for Walmart workers, and the imminence of Soylent products. The Purge In the near future, affluent mom and dad Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey defend their home on the one night of the year when the government lets off society’s steam by allowing mayhem and murder. Note to Rand Paul: It’s fiction!

DECENT TRASH YOU MAY HAVE MISSED John Dies at the End  Director Don (Phantasm) Coscarelli delivers an odd, unusual, and energetic tale of a hallucinogenic “soy sauce” and a couple of slackers pulled into a violent adventure. Kiss of the Damned  This’ll wash the taste of those sparkly Twilight vampires out of your mouth real good. Here Comes the Devil From Spain. Parents freak when their daughter and son go missing. Then freak more when they come back a little different. Europa Report  The best fairly realistic outer-space flick of the year that isn’t Gravity and doesn’t have personal-trainered Sandra Bullock wearing boy shorts in zero-G instead of a diaper. Also: a found-footage movie that isn’t irritating. We Are What We Are Which is a cannibal clan with a bit of what Denny Crane claimed to suffer from in Boston Legal. Worth it for me just to linger outside the screening and listen to people who had no idea what they were getting into complain about it. The most hilariously grim family dinner scene since American Beauty. Insidious: Chapter 2 and The Conjuring Two ghost/possession tales from director James Wan that were effective enough to forgive some similarities—at least based on the jumps and squirms I saw during the screenings. Not mine, of course.

MARGINAL TRASH Lords of Salem Rob Zombie is a graduate of the David Mamet School of Putting Your Marginally Talented Wife in Everything. And of emulating old stuff he likes. But points for using old cult stars, including Meg Foster and Dawn of the Dead ’s Ken Foree, like it’s a horror Love Boat. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters If Xena was too high-quality for you and Van Helsing too intellectual. Machete Kills As gloriously old/craggy/dumpy/deadpan as Danny Trejo is, intentional camp gets tiresome in a way earnest camp doesn’t. (See: Edward D. Wood, Jr.) Robert Rodriguez has had diminishing returns with his trash homages since Grindhouse. Texas Chainsaw 3-D I got black-out drunk before the end of this, but I’m pretty sure Leatherface teams up with the pornstar-looking heroine to fight other redneck bad guys, possibly from Duck Dynasty, at some point. In bullshit 3-D.

RECYCLED TRASH Evil Dead and Carrie, both forgettable rehashes (Carrie the more laughable) without the transgressive outrageousness that made the originals stop viewers in their tracks.

TRASH TO SKIP After Earth 1) A vanity project starring Will Smith and his kid. 2) Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. 3) Smith’s character was named “Cypher Raige.” 4) Subtle. 5) I think not. Ender’s Game Because screw Orson Scott Card. The Christmas Candle From Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum’s studio. I’ll see it after Ender’s Game.

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