The Five Movies of 2013 I Did Not Expect to Like and Ended Up Loving

Published on December 16th, 2013 in: Best Of Lists, Movies |

By Jeffery X Martin


Of course, as a professional guy who writes about popular culture, I try to go into a movie with as little expectation as possible. Keep an open mind. This isn’t always easy for me, because I’m kind of a dick. I like what I like and I don’t give a damn who knows it. I’m not going to watch a Tyler Perry movie. I’m not going to watch a James Cameron movie. It’s not my thing.

This doesn’t mean I can’t get surprised once in a while, as the following list, which is in no particular order, proves.

A Haunted House

A Haunted House only outranks the painfully-bad “spoofs” from Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans) in the sense that Wayans and co-writer Rick Alvarez are actually telling jokes.”—Sandy Schaefer,

I gave up on Marlon Wayans right around the time Dungeons & Dragons came out. Who can blame me? He seemed to be nothing more than a skinny puppet designed to annoy the fun out of people. Remember the first G.I. Joe movie? My point. But A Haunted House is one of the funniest horror parodies in years, skewering not only the Paranormal Activity franchise (which needs it like an obnoxious kid in Sunday school needs a smack in the mouth), but the latest rash of Satan movies as well. It’s crude and over the top. It is also spot on, nailing not only why those movies are so terrible, but doing it deftly and with a cleverness rarely found in a January theatrical release. I also think Nick Swardson is really funny. Sue me.

Movie 43

“[I]f you mashed-up the worst parts of the infamous Howard the Duck, Gigli, Ishtar and every other awful movie I’ve seen since I started reviewing professionally in 1981, it wouldn’t begin to approach the sheer soul-sucking badness of the cringe-inducing Movie 43, which has been dumped on an unsuspecting public without advance press screenings.”—Lou Lumenick, New York Post

The Internet hated this movie. Critics hated this movie. It wasn’t a big box office success. I don’t get it. Has no one seen Kentucky Fried Movie or The Groove Tube? Movie 43 belongs firmly in that pantheon of gross-out humor in an anthology format. It’s a scream. The cast is stellar and willing to go as far as the joke requires them to go. That’s pretty far. Check out the sequence where Anna Faris’s sexual fantasy is to have Chris Pratt shit on her neck. It’s ridiculous, and it is hilarious. Have you seen that Russian tampon commercial with the two women by the ocean that’s been circling the Internet? It’s not from Russia; it’s from Movie 43! If I still believed in guilt, then I would classify Movie 43 as a guilty pleasure. I’ll own up to it, though, because I have no place in my life for shame. This movie had me rolling.

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia

“The story is ultimately nothing more than a decrepit vehicle for the moldiest of scary-movie clichés: screechy specters, inane character behavior and jump scares that a toddler could anticipate minutes ahead of time.”—Nick Schager, Time Out New York

Before seeing it, I publicly bitched about the title of this film. I know the studios love a tie-in, but wouldn’t The Haunting in Georgia have been enough? While this one may not have the starpower of its predecessor, it is a surprisingly good shocker, better than half the higher-budget horror dreck I’ve waded through this year (Mama, anyone?). The usage of slavery as the backdrop for a horror flick could be seen as controversial, but who really doubts that slavery was a terrible thing? It’s an interesting story, contains some really horrific imagery and showcases Katee Sackhoff as a redhead. Score! I was surprised at how effective the movie is delivering some solid scares and a coherent story, without relying on found footage or shaky cam. It feels like a movie, not a seizure.

Olympus Has Fallen

“’You are the acting president of the United States,’ someone says solemnly to [Morgan]Freeman. ‘That’s fine, because I have already played Nelson Mandela,’ is what Freeman should have replied in his quavery nasal baritone.”—Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

This thing smelled like Rambo from ten miles away. A flag-waving, jingo-blaring, America the Great and Powerful kind of bullshit action movie we haven’t seen the likes of since Reagan was President. The White House attacked and under the control of a foreign power and no one can save us but Gerard Butler, who is Scottish? To quote Luke Wilson, “That’s ri-god-damned-diculous.” It’s also about ten different shades of awesome. Yeah, there’s a strong nationalistic streak within the characters, but this is the most intense, smart, and fun action movie I’ve seen in a while. There’s not really a sense of humor in the script, and Butler’s character, Mike Banning, ends up being the most crazy and believable action hero since John McClane walked through the doors of the Nakatomi Tower. Brutal but not mindless, Olympus Has Fallen is a kick-ass way to spend two hours, preferably with drunken friends.

V/H/S 2 (review)

V/H/S/2 is a diabolically psychotic, sub-mental and completely unwatchable disaster that I happily deserted when a man with a retinal implant scooped out his bionic eye with a sharp object, splattering blood all over the camera. Your move, and you’re welcome to it.”—Rex Reed, The New York Observer**

I’m a fan of the found footage genre. Sometimes I feel like the last proponent of that style of filmmaking. Having said that, I was kind of disappointed in the first V/H/S, a movie designed purely to exploit that style. Yeah, the first segment was creepy and the last one bordered on amazing, but the rest of it left me kind of flat. I watched V/H/S 2 out of a sense of obligation. It’s amazing. The stories are tightly written, well directed, and genuinely frightening, each one in different ways. There’s no ghost hunting, no tired slash and hack; it resembles the best of a horror short fiction anthology. Different viewpoints and different visions all combine to make a film that is, on the whole, terrifying. Better than the original on all fronts, V/H/S 2 is one of the finest horror movies of the year, much to my delighted surprise.

**Fuck you, Rex Reed, for daring to publish a review for a film you didn’t even finish watching. Whatever you’re doing now, it isn’t film criticism. It’s catty and uninformed speculation. Please. Stop.

One Response to “The Five Movies of 2013 I Did Not Expect to Like and Ended Up Loving”

  1. Claudia:
    December 16th, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Of this list, I only watched Olympus Has Fallen but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Leave a Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.