I think it’s been altogether too positive around here, and we wouldn’t be true to ourselves here at No But Listen if we weren’t sharing a little snark to kick off 2023. Because, yes, there was some great stuff this year – but there was also some rampant garbage, and we need to warn you about it while we still can. Let’s get into the worst of the worst!
Now, I don’t think Nitram is a godawful film like some of the others on this list – but it is a frustrating one, a movie that fails to capitalize on the excellent cast and the serious premise to deliver on anything that really lands. Nitram is a bad movie not because of what it is, but because of what it isn’t – and what it could have been with a little more effort. Digging up this national tragedy for a film with so little to say feels downright disrespectful.
4. The Black Phone
Another movie I wanted to love but just couldn’t find a way to, The Black Phone is a bafflingly lazy and wasteful take on what could have been a brilliant premise. I still don’t understand why director Scott Derickson went with such a braindead resolution to the mystery – with such an interesting story going on in the basement with the titular Black Phone, the actual unravelling of the mystery around it completely undercut the more fleshed-out aspects of the script.
3. The Northman
Here is the needlessly controversial entry to this list. The Northman was hailed as this generation’s Gladiator when it came out, and I went into it a huge fan of director Robert Egger’s work, ready to fall in love – and genuinely hated it. Despite the gorgeous cinematography, it’s populated by pretty bad performances (Ethan Hawke’s scenery-chewing is particularly egregious) and ultimately shallow characters and storytelling that never builds to anything with the bite I want from Egger’s films. The Green Knight did it better, is all I’m saying.
2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Horror franchise reboots go one of two ways: bringing something new and genuinely interesting to the table, or aggressively stripping away what made the original good in the first place. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is very much in the latter camp. Turning Leatherface into a chainsaw-tossing machine instead of the genuinely interesting villain he was in Tobe Hooper’s original, the movie packs itself out with unlikeable, undeveloped characters, sledgehammer-subtle commentary on gentrification, and a complete waste of my beloved Moe Dunford, and frankly, I am ready to forget all about it.
It’s been a number of months since I have seen this film, and I am still fuming about it. How do you fuck it up this badly? How? How do you make the last part of a trilogy about an entirely new character? How do you make Michael Myers facing off against Laurie feel so anti-climactic? How do you deliver dialogue and characters this bad without anyone intervening? I just don’t get it. Stupid, frustrating, and somehow a let-down despite the appalling quality of the preceding two movies. They managed to disappoint me in a trilogy I already hate, and that is almost impressive in it’s dreadfulness.
By Lou MacGregor
(header image via IMDB)