Archives for : the core

My Favorite Awesomely Bad Disaster Movies

Let’s keep the month of October going with my favorite disaster movies! Disaster movies usually get their own category since they are so prevalent and pop up every handful of years using the same tropes, but I still think people tend to forget that they are technically horror films, even if they can lean more towards the action-adventure side than the scary side. I still think they’re worth taking a look at as we count down the days to Halloween, so let’s go.

Volcano (1997)

First off, are you noticing the trend yet? The 1990’s were just offering up terrible monster and disaster movies left and right, and I can’t thank them enough for it. Volcano is slightly more obscure than your average blockbuster movie like Twister or Armageddon, and for good reason. Like Anaconda on my movie monster list, it had the fatal flaw of taking itself completely seriously, and thus failed on every single level imaginable. It’s probably possible to make a horror movie about a volcano—not probable, but possible—but this is the exact way not to do it. But that also leads to big unintentional laughs for a sensible person like you and me.

Volcano is about an earthquake that basically awakens a volcano that was somehow lurking underneath the streets of Los Angeles.

I’ve already lost you, haven’t I?

Wait, come back. Just go with me on this one for a minute.

Tommy Lee Jones plays a city official trying to help with the disaster relief and Anne Heche plays a scientist (Sit down! Stop trying to leave while I’m talking to you!) advising him on what to do. And yes, it is a ludicrous as you think it is.

For me, the faulty science is what makes this movie noteworthy. I mean, wow. It gets so many things wrong and the fact that they’re trying to make a true blue disaster film out of incredibly slow moving lava is just comical. As I mentioned above, there might be a way to make this a horror film, but not in these circumstances. What you’d want to do is write about an island where a volcano erupts and let’s say the eruption takes out all the boats, so your survivors have to carefully navigate the island and get to a safe zone as they wait for help to arrive, and even then, you still can’t make the volcano the main villain. You’d probably need a secondary antagonist, like a selfish, cowardly member of the group who lets people die or tries to sabotage the survivors to ensure that he gets out alive.

Volcano fails on a stunning level to deliver thrills and chills because it’s just so stupid, but at the same time, it’s pretty spectacular in its failings. Tommy Lee looks generally annoyed by everything he sees and it’s enjoyable as hell. There’s stupid subplot about race relations that has one of the corniest pay offs I have ever seen. There is a scene where they knock over a bus to help “direct” the lava down another part of the street, and if you can’t find that funny, you need your head examined. It may kill a few of your brain cells, but I still think Volcano is worth a watch.

The Core (2003)

Speaking of awkwardly cast movies with terrible science and woefully miscast actors, The Core!

Let me tell you the ways of this facepalm-inducing attempt at a disaster movie.

As a result of unusual sun activity, the earth’s core stops spinning. Apparently, this causes catastrophic side effects, like a literal hole opening up in the ozone layer that proceeds to melt the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of opening some tequila and drinking to the end of the world, a group of scientists and the government decide that rather than accepting our inevitable demise, they should drill to the center of the earth and drop nukes in order to get the planet’s core spinning again.

You can’t make this shit up, man.

To be frank, The Core is a pretty blatant rip off of Armageddon. It’s incredibly obvious not only by concept alone, but by the hodge-podge “misfit team” the movie cobbles together. The strangest part is that the movie casts some damned great actors even though overall it’s a colossal failure at using them, including Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Bruce Greenwood, Stanley Tucci, Alfre Woodard, and Delroy Lindo. I am convinced that the writers’ room and director just hyped this movie (and its imaginary box office dollars) up so much that all these credible actors decided to say yes to such a rancid script. The dialogue is atrocious. Almost no one fits in their roles properly. Most of these actors are character actors who deliver excellent performances in dramas or sharp-witted comedies, and here they are generic rogue scientists trying to save the world.

As a whole, the movie is awkward, uninspired, and relies heavily on clichés. However, it’s another one where it’s so unbelievable that it has to be witnessed. It seems to misunderstand the movie it’s trying to emulate on its most basic level. Say what you want about Armageddon (I personally argue it is the only “good” film I’ve seen in Michael Bay’s inventory; I like Bad Boys and the first Transformers as well, but neither movie is “good,” merely entertaining), but it knew what it was going for: a misfit team of roughnecks saving the world from a terrifying threat. The actors in Armageddon were cast well and each of them fit in their roles and you genuinely cared about them. This group can be killed off or interchanged without consequence, but to be fair, the only person who seems to actually be trying is Stanley Tucci. Tucci’s snarky comments and uptight pretentiousness is by far the most entertaining thing aside from all the laughable science. He is 2000% done with everyone and everything in the movie and it actually brightens the film quite a bit.

The Core is a masterful train wreck of ineptitude, but I think it’s worth a watch if only because it just botches everything it attempts and is a lesson on what not to do in a disaster movie.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The Day After Tomorrow puts the ‘disaster’ in ‘disaster movie.’

To be completely honest, I almost left it off the list because it greatly annoys me—now, granted, not as much as Emmerich’s other failure 2012, but TDAT has a reputation for its awfulness that cannot be ignored. For example, most of the time when movies do big budget blockbusters of this caliber, they ask for help. Michael Bay consulted with actual NASA for Armageddon, even though his premise was forced and not the correct way it would have been handled. It had enough basis in reality that NASA happily agreed.

The Day After Tomorrow is so scientifically false that NASA refused to consult with the film.

Yeah. It’s that bad.

The Day After Tomorrow is about the earth reaching its breaking point because of climate change and basically a chain reaction of cataclysmic events begin happening as a result, from hail the size of basketballs to tidal waves that put New York underwater. Dennis Quaid is a scientist trying to insist to the government that they need to take action to protect people, but he is summarily ignored as a crackpot until it starts happening. He finds out his son is trapped at the New York Library and sets out in the killer cold to rescue him and whoever else he can find that survived the tidal wave and ensuing blizzard.

To be frank, you’ll probably go comatose from all your brain cells exploding at once if you try to watch the movie without the help of Rifftrax. That’s the only way I can stomach it. The movie beats you over the head with its environmental message, even to the point of inserting a Dick Cheney look alike to scoff about climate change while the brave and noble Dennis Quaid proves him wrong. The sanctimonious tone of it all is insufferable, and then adding the bad science on top just makes it an exercise in going crazy.

However, there’s plenty to laugh at, from the miscast Jake Gyllenhaal (who is supposed to be a high school kid, but looks like a thirty year old with 90’s scruffy hair) to the hilarious scene of them literally out-running freezing cold air. Yes. Cold. Air. Is. The. Villain.

It’s almost hard to look away from this movie because it’s so staggeringly ignorant and it relies on some of Emmerich’s most tiring clichés, from the absentee father to the dumb self sacrifice to the cheesy redemption arc for the main lead. Everyone is sleep-walking through their performances and every weather-related catastrophe is done wrong. Even the title clues you in to how uninspired it is. Hell, there’s really not that much action when you put it together as a whole. They even had to shove in an improbable chase scenes with CGI wolves aboard an abandoned ship. Yes, you read that correctly. The movie is just spinning its wheels mostly, but at the same time, it makes it a lot of fun to riff and takes shots for. Just make sure you’re drinking the good stuff, or you’re liable to fall asleep.

The Happening (2008)

Remember when we talked about Lady in the Water being absolutely phenomenal because it’s the most bullshit horror story ever played completely straight?

Meet yet another one of M. Night Shyamalan’s mesmerizing pieces of crap that is played totally straight as a horror film and yet is the furthest thing from it.

The Happening is about a “mysterious” event occurring all over the United States where people start randomly killing themselves en masse, which is preceded by talking strangely and walking backwards. The whole country starts freaking out, and one of the people in the middle of the fray is Mark Wahlberg, who for some reason is playing a school teacher. He and his girlfriend Alma, played abysmally by the walking zombie cupie doll Zooey Deschanel, try to escape the path of the event and survive.

Oh, and the thing that’s killing everyone?

It’s plants.


Freaking. Plants.

Congratulations. That is the lamest villain of all time.

However, The Happening is overstuffed with bizarre things, much like Lady in the Water, so much so that it’s become a cult classic over the years because it does everything so wrong. Mark Wahlberg seems to have been given zero direction, so he’s basically mouth-breathing and panicked and clueless the entire time, whereas Zooey just stares blankly ahead like a bushbaby and emotes about as well as a sock puppet without a hand in it. The deaths are over the top and come across as silly rather than scary, and like most of his bad films, the side characters all consist of people with weirdly alien quirks that make no sense and don’t endear you to them. It’s like someone asked a Martian to write a script for a disaster movie. No one acts like a normal person would in the middle of a disaster. There are entire conversations that happen for no reason and characters come to idiotic conclusions with almost no evidence or prompting. For God’s sake, there is a scene where Mark Wahlberg tries to reason with a house plant that turns out to be made of plastic. This movie should be framed in the Smithsonian for a crowning achievement in failure to be a disaster movie, in that it is a complete disaster from start to finish.

But I guess that means it lived up to its genre, if only in the literal sense.

Birdemic (2010)

If you’re a nerd and you’ve already seen Birdemic, you’re probably giggling madly right now, and you’re not the only one, trust me.

For the non-nerds out there, let me introduce you to a movie that is so poorly done that most people don’t think it’s actually a real movie.

On the sunny non-descript streets of California, a software salesman falls in love with a newly hired Victoria’s Secret supermodel and then the city gets attacked by birds.

Again, I would like to repeat that I am not joking and I did not make this up.

I wish I could help you understand how incredible Birdemic is without visuals, but it’s hardly possible. By now, you might have heard of the infamous movie The Room by Tommy Wiseau, which is often hailed as one of the worst movies ever made.

Well, take The Room and multiply it by five, and you get Birdemic.

Birdemic was shot on a handheld camera, but not in the way that found-footage movies are shot. I mean the budget for this film is so nonexistent that filming was done by hand or on a tripod. The film also doesn’t have a sound editor, as there are huge audio spikes heard throughout the film as well as background wind noise that are inconsistent. The titular birds are not real birds, nor are they props.

They are literally graphic sprite .gifs of eagles flapping their wings.

And the eagles make seagull noises.

Oh, it gets better, friends.

The eagles dive bomb buildings and explode like kamikaze pilots. With plane sounds.

Think I’m done? No, friends.

The main actor in the movie is so bad that a case can be made that he is the first lobotomized actor.

The actor is so bad that he can’t even walk in a straight line like a human.

I’m not joking.

He literally even walks wrong.

Then add in the fact that lines are misread, repeated, or accidentally cut short due to the film’s lack of a professional editor, so you even get to enjoy movie mistakes as they happen in the film that were left in due to overall incompetence.

I know you’re thinking I’m crazy and I made this up, but look! Look! It’s real! It’s a real thing that exists!

Birdemic is beyond definition. Most people at first glance think it’s a parody, but I assure you, the “director” was dead serious and thought he made a real movie, much like Tommy Wiseau. The worst part is he was apparently “inspired” by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, even to the point of trying to get Tippi Hedren to cameo, but she understandably refused to accept the invitation.

And if you want to get your money’s worth, once more, I highly recommend the Rifftrax for it. It’s simply amazing. Either way, you need to witness the Birdemic. You will find yourself forever changed.