1. The Abandoned (2006)
The buzz around this movie was big. By big I mean almost nonexistent. I’d been reading about this movie from Spanish director Nacho Cerdà for a while and I was very, very surprised to find out that it was playing at my favorite theater (Starlight 20). After work that same day, my wife LeEtta and I went to see it. Including us, there were 5 people in the auditorium. The film kicks in and the volume is up too loud but it didn’t bother me at all. We were trapped in a super sensory overload attack for 99 minutes. I’ve had people tell me The Abandoned isn’t scary. I’ve also had people curse me for recommending it because it was too scary. Sorry haters but this film is fucking amazing.
2. Coraline (2009)
This almost made the number 1 spot on this list (but a dumbshit in the audience keeps it from attaining greatness). As a pre-Valentine’s Day celebration, we went to the theaters. Instead of the new Friday the 13th, which neither of us were that excited about, we opted for Coraline in 3D. This was a very wise move. Coraline is one of those fun and scary kids movies filled with moments of transcendent beauty. So yeah, there was this one dumbass chick whose medication had either just kicked in or had just worn off and wouldn’t shut the fuck up during the movie. Luckily, Miss Hot Topic was frightened into silence by many of the really freaky scenes hidden in Coraline and the rest of the audience was allowed to enjoy the film in peace.
3. Creepshow 2 (1987)
My sister Lorae and her fiance Steve took me to the drive-in one night. I was 10 years old and the triple feature was pretty strange: Italian cannibal film master Ruggero Deodato’s Cut and Run, Hot Pursuit starring John Cusack, and Creepshow 2. This was truly a magical evening. I got to stay out way later than I was allowed to and I got to see two R rated films on the big screen. The John Cusack comedy was kind of the wild card but was just boring compared to the other two films. I remember Cut and Run making me very depressed but then Creepshow 2 saved the night. “The Raft” was totally terrifying but exhilarating and I couldn’t look away.
4. The Ring (2002)
You watch a videotape and then you die in 7 days. That’s all I knew about this film when LeEtta (before she was my wife) and I were going to see it. This should be a great date movie, right? Instead of a hot date, we were clutching to each other in the dark out of sheer terror. Hours after we had seen Samara come out of that TV, we could still see her in the shadows lingering around the corners of our vision. I actually prefer Gore Verbinski’s version of this Japanese classic, mainly because of this wildly terrifying surprise first viewing.
5. Transformers: The Movie (1986)
My excitement combined with the rest of the adolescent crowd was almost too much to bear. When this movie started, the place nearly erupted into a nerd frenzy. The biggest revelation: Transformers: The Movie is just like the show except its better animated and way more violent. When Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare to be Stupid” showed up on the soundtrack, it was a religious experience. Rest in peace, Ironhide.
6. Grindhouse (2007)
For anyone who didn’t get off their asses and go see Planet Terror and Death Proof along with all the fake trailers: SHAME ON YOU! My friend Matt Torrence (who doesn’t like horror movies) and his wife Rubis were kind enough to pick me up when my car was on the fritz and take me to the movies. The only downside to this experience was that I, having just gotten over a cold, was “the coughing guy” in the movie and got up several times to go and hack my lungs out in the lobby. But it was worth it, by god. Seeing this on the big screen with a vocal and jovial crowd was a friggin’ riot. The experience was an invigorating rush of fanboy love for all things trashy and splatterific.
7. Taxi Driver (1998)
While visiting some friends in Tampa, Mike Fusco and I went to the shitty theater (the one that did Rocky Horror every weekend) to catch a showing of Taxi Driver. This dump had posters up for upcoming showings of Alien and Clockwork Orange. In other words, this place was heaven for cinema obsessives like us. I’d seen this classic film on tape before but I had no idea what seeing it on the big screen would be like. I don’t think I blinked during the entire film. The print was beat up and scratchy and it made the film feel even more unpredictable and dirty than I could have imagined. When it was over, I felt accelerated and oddly happy.
8. Blair Witch Project (1999)
My friend Mike Jolley and I caught this one on a Saturday night after it had been out for a week or so and the word on the street was that this was the scariest movie every made. Well, it isn’t. However, this was a great time at the theaters. We had a great crowd that night and everyone was into the film. I remember a woman in the audience actually screaming for her mama. Classic. On the way back home, the night surrounded my car while Mike and I talked about the movie. We were actually scaring ourselves silly by discussing what we had just experienced.
9. Wicked City (1995?)
The dumpy theater in West Palm Beach that my friends and I used to go to (the one that did Rocky Horror every weekend) actually had a print of the animated 1987 film, Wicked City. This is perhaps the strangest experience on this list. At the time, it was very hard to be obsessed with anime. You could go to the video store and rent Fist of the North Star, Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Crying Freeman, and that was about it. As this violent and kinky freakout exploded across the screen, a lot of people were giggling nervously, especially during the tentacle business. Needless to say, I had never seen anything quite like this before. After the film ended, the audience, myself included, was confused and embarrassed. Good times.
10. Sling Blade (1996)
I don’t know if my friends were drunk or just intent on getting on my fucking nerves but I actually ditched them at their seats in the back row and sat alone in the front to catch this great indie flick. Shortly before this movie got really popular it was playing at a limited engagement at the dumpy theater downtown. I hadn’t heard anything about this film but something told me to get away from my cackling cronies and give it my full attention. Glad I did.
Jin-Rô: The Wolf Brigade
1. Major Payne (1995)
Even though I have never been paid a penny for babysitting, it seems like I was always taking care of younger cousins or kids that belonged to my mom’s coworkers. This is how I ended up watching this horrid thing in a theater full of bored children. Unless you’ve seen this piece of shit then you have no idea just how mind-numbingly terrible this was for me. Just watch this:
2. Boogie Nights (1997)
This is a great film which is why I SHOULD NOT have gone to see this at the theater located in ground zero of retirees in Palm Beach Gardens. Imagine watching porn with your grandparents. Now imagine if you had 100 grandparents. Okay? Got it? I’ll move on. This old bag behind me was totally offended by every frame of this movie and didn’t hesitate to tell her husband every five minutes that she “can’t believe they’re showing that; why do they have to show that?” My friend Rocky and I are sitting there trying to enjoy the movie and this rude idiot won’t shut up.
Finally, we get to the donut shop robbery and right after the violent shootout takes place, there’s this moment of calm. So what does this old bag do? She says, “Oh my, why did they have to show THAT?” I stand up, turn around, put my finger against my lips, and shush this woman like a grade school teacher. I was very proud of myself but Rocky was trying to sink under his seat to get away from the scene. That was pretty fun. Maybe this should be on the other list.
3. Clifford (1994)
So I’m in Great Falls, Montana visiting family when the prospect of going to the movies pops up. At first, I am relatively interested but then it dawns on me that I’ll be seeing this with my young cousins (ages 12, 8, and 5). The only safe movie playing is Clifford. I think if this movie was on TV right now, I’d probably get a laugh out of it. But being a crappy 16 year old with a chip on my shoulder, constantly trying to act cool, this experience was hell on earth.
4. The Transporter (2002)
So yeah, Ryan Hastings and I go see this movie and it looked promising enough. I was thinking “Hey, that guy from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is in it. What could possibly go wrong?” I have been told that I am pretty much an idiot for digging on The Transporter like I should. I admit the fight scenes are awesome but the rest of the movie pretty much blows. However, Crank redeemed Jason Statham for me which I really wish I had seen in theaters. Anyway, back to The Transporter…
The best of the worst moments was when Frank and Lai escape from the bad guys by ducking into the water with scuba gear. They start swimming to safety and this beautiful music starts playing. Well, they keep swimming and swimming and swimming. I started giggling and then laughing out loud and Ryan starts telling me to shut up. Finally, he starts laughing. And they keep swimming and the other dozen or so people in the theater start laughing too. When the underwater sequence is finally over and Frank and Lai burst forth from the water, I started applauding. Someone in the back cheered and everyone was still cracking up. Yeah, I’m a douche.
5. Lost in Space (1998)
Kim, my girlfriend at the time, and I were so unbelievably bored in Port St. Lucie, Florida one afternoon that we actually paid cash money to watch this fucking wretched sack of ass. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I only ever watched the original show when I was bored out of my skull on Saturday mornings when cartoons were over. So why would a film version made over 30 years after the show went off the air be any better? Anyway, Kim and I were bored beyond belief and the only saving grace was the tremendously bad dialogue. We left the theater even more depressed than when we walked in.
6. Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever (2002)
Here is yet another piece of shit that LeEtta and I went to see while we were dating. Jeez, how desperate were we to go to the theaters? I think we should have stayed in and watched Real Genius or something. This film is unimaginably bad. For an action movie, it has the most pitiful pacing, stupid dialog, and a shitbox plot. Millions of rounds of bullets are fired into bodies but there’s not a drop of blood spilled. Yikes.
7. McHale’s Navy/Anaconda (1997)
Once again, boredom proves to be my undoing. My friends and I were desperate to see something, anything. Unfortunately, this was one of the worst weekends to go the theaters in cinematic history. Only ten minutes into McHale’s Navy and we were immediately roaming through the theater looking for a better option. We busted in on the first 15 minutes of Anaconda and stayed for the rest of it. Do I need to say anymore about this? Out of the frying pan and into the toilet.
8. Reality Bites (1994)
It is senior year of high school and I had just gotten dumped by my girlfriend (who wasn’t really my girlfriend but had tempted me into dumping a really nice girl for her and then turned around and dumped me for my troubles). I finally had my own car (which I would wreck a couple of weeks later) and I decided to go to the theaters alone in order to prove that Mandy (her real name) didn’t mean anything to me anymore. I run into a bunch of acquaintances from school and decide to join them to watch this film called Reality Bites. The trailers seemed to indicate that this film was speaking to my generation so I was pretty interested. Oh no. No. No. No. No.
After 20 minutes, I got up and walked out. I could not relate to these morons on the screen. They were too whiny for me (which is funny because in fact they weren’t whiny enough) and they did not relate to me at all (oh, I wish that were true). Now I know that the rotten mood I was in affected my enjoyment of this stupid fucking movie and that I would fall head over heels for other pretentious indie dramas but damn, this just sucked. To this day, I have never revisited Reality Bites. Ben Stiller would not be my friend until again until Zoolander which almost made the best list. Damn, the trailer makes it look like the most un-entertaining thing ever made.
What was I thinking?
9. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
For the record, this is a pretty decent horror film. My nerdy complaint is that, for me, zombies are slow and they should NOT be fast. I know that in Return of the Living Dead, the brain-eating variety are pretty light on their feet but that film is just so great that I’m willing to let it slide. The remake of Romero’s 1978 classic is not that great. When the zombies of the new Dawn of the Dead appeared to be taking performance-enhancing drugs, I was pretty annoyed.
That is a pretty weak complaint, I know. But the reason this god damn movie gets on my list of worst theater experiences is because I had heard to stay after the credits to see the bonus footage. Without giving too much away, one of the survivors gets a hold of a video camera and starts filming. We are shown little bits and pieces of this footage while some shitty Nu metal plays along in the background. Interspersed in between this are sped up shots of hungry zombies screaming at the camera accompanied by ungodly blasts of volumous noise. While trying to figure out what the fuck happened to these people at the end of the movie, I was getting beaten over the head with one idea: ZOMBIES. Oh really? Zombies!?!?! What? I didn’t know that I had just watched a movie about zombies!!!! Look here, Niven Howie (the editor), you fucking asshole, I GET THE POINT!
10. The Exorcist (2000)
God damn it! The re-release of The Exorcist could have been so awesome. But no, they had to go and create some pitiful monstrosity called “The version you’ve never seen”. While still astoundingly scary, Kim, my buddy Scott, and I were not pleased at all with the additional shitty audio effects and all the new digital tomfoolery mixed in to make the film scarier. All it did was annoy the fans of the original version and telegraph a few of the upcoming scares. Getting to see the infamous “spider walk” on the big screen almost saved this experience from being on this list. Almost.
Bridge to Terabithia
Out of Africa
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King