Illustration by Beck Kramer (beckkramer.com)

Tomorrow, The A.V. Club dramatically unveils its list of the year’s best movies, counting down our favorite summer blockbusters, award-season indies, and foreign-made triumphs from 2015. Before we get to the highs, however, it’s our duty (okay, our petty pleasure) to dispense with the lows: Like the artist responsible for our favorite album of the year, we’ve got a bone to pick, and it’s with every execrable entry on the list below—a hall of shame wide enough to accommodate horror hackworks, witless studio comedies, tone-deaf social issue movies, and not one but two “unconventional” Katherine Heigl vehicles. For masochists, hecklers, and connoisseurs of crap, the good news is that most of these massive misfires are available to rent today. Let the hate-binge begin!

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20. Jenny’s Wedding

You know that recent recurring Saturday Night Live sketch where a bunch a high school theater geeks subject their parents to an evening of heavy-handed sketches about intolerance? Those kids could’ve easily written Jenny’s Wedding, which sets out to blow minds by casting romantic comedy queen Katherine Heigl as a lesbian who—brace yourself—is getting married. Rather than dealing with the real-life quirks of gay weddings, or the more subtle forms of bigotry that actual queer couples deal with every day, writer-director Mary Agnes Donoghue puts her heroine through a series of blunt confrontations: with her conservative parents, with their even-more-conservative friends, and so on and so on. It’s difficult to say who Donoghue thinks the audience for this movie is, unless she’s hoping that some homophobe at a Redbox will rent it for Heigl and be transformed by the power of art. [Noel Murray]

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19. The Lazarus Effect

Bringing the dead back to life is always a bad idea for attractive young scientists; the characters in The Lazarus Effect would have been better off if they’d just downloaded a nice digital copy of Flatliners. The same goes for anybody thinking of watching this DOA sci-fi thriller, which aims for mumblecore cred by casting Mark Duplass, possibly the least convincing brainy medical researcher in movie history. The fact that the film is short doesn’t make its storyline feel any less padded out by lame jump scares and feebly hallucinatory flashbacks to a mystery that most of the audience will have solved the first time it’s brought up. [Adam Nayman]

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18. Do You Believe?

Do You Believe? may not be the worst movie of the year, but it has the most bad movies in it of anything on this list, being a lobotomized Magnolia for the God’s Not Dead set, with a climax that combines a shoot-out, a backseat birth, a multi-car crash, and two back-to-back deathbed scenes, one of which is promptly reversed via miracle. A bona fide oddity—set in Chicago, but very clearly shot in the Michigan boonies—the movie prominently features suicide via Chinese takeout, suspiciously suburban-looking inner-city locations, an AMC Gremlin, after-school-special gangbangers named Kriminal and Nefarious, Tim Hortons coffee, and former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth. For viewers who want to experience the so-called “faith-based” film industry’s unique combination of wish-fulfillment fantasy, deranged soap opera, and amateurishness, this is the movie to see. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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17. Black Or White

Writer-director Mike Binder would like to play devil’s advocate for a moment. Yes, the U.S. justice system is often terribly biased against black men, and yes, older white men sometimes say regrettable racist stuff. But what if the biological father of a motherless biracial child just happened to be a drug-addicted deadbeat, while her racist-sounding grandfather (Kevin Costner, wasting a good performance) just plain doesn’t get along with her black grandmother, who protects the deadbeat son out of misguided loyalty? Then wouldn’t there be some biases perpetuated against the poor, misunderstood middle-aged white guy? Binder seems to think he might blow and change minds simultaneously with his endlessly spun-out what-if scenarios, and as such piles up a series of baldly strategic attempts at “balance”—an upstanding black lawyer to counter the deadbeat dad; “real” racists to counter the more sensitive Costner. There’s plenty of courtroom grandstanding (the black female judge doesn’t approve of the deadbeat either! More balance!) but none as embarrassing as Binder’s screenplay, where all of the characters come across like hypotheticals from a terrible Facebook comment thread. [Jesse Hassenger]

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16. Unfinished Business

Rarely has the depressing laziness of the modern Hollywood comedy been more glaringly evident than in this vague mashup of Horrible Bosses and The Hangover—a movie so pointless that it’s hard even to describe what it’s supposed to be about. More than anything, it stinks of awkward studio/agency packaging, throwing the distinctive comic personas of Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco together with successful French-Canadian filmmaker Ken Scott (best known for Starbuck) and veteran screenwriter Steve Conrad (who penned The Weather Man), then just sort of assuming that something would spark. Instead, Vaughn comes off as more strained and sad than usual, playing a businessman making a job-saving trip abroad, while Franco and the rest of the cast all wander off into their own little TV-style B- and C-plots. Why are so few mainstream comedies these days actually funny? It’s because anyone with any talent right now would rather be making television. [Noel Murray]

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15. Child 44

It’s difficult to truly squander an illustrious cast, and yet Child 44 pulls off that not-inconsiderable feat with aplomb, stranding Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Jason Clarke, and Vincent Cassel in a misbegotten adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s novel about a post-WWII Russian military police officer (Hardy) who finds himself at the center of a serial-killer investigation. That hunt is complicated by Hardy’s cop being vilified for his wife’s supposed activities as a spy, though trying to make heads or tails of the various plot strands running throughout Daniel Espinosa’s film requires significant detective work, so muddied is this grim, grimy saga’s storytelling. Amid much badly accented dialogue that does nothing to clear up the plot’s convolutions, Kinnaman proves the film’s weakest link, chewing scenery so voraciously as the tale’s nominal villain that he ultimately undermines any faint semblance of seriousness. [Nick Schager]

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14. The Green Inferno

Eli Roth has been remaking the same snide horror movie his entire career, constantly subjecting a new gaggle of ugly Americans to a gruesome comeuppance. But The Green Inferno, a dopey tribute to the Italian cannibal films of his youth, takes the isolationist slant of his oeuvre to condescending new depths: Here, the college kids get munched for having the nerve to… give a shit about something and try to make a difference! Even those able to swallow Roth’s confused trolling will still have to stomach the way he somehow preserves the inherent racism of the movies he’s referencing while also stripping them of their nightmarish, snuff-film power. Arriving in theaters two years after its festival premiere, and a mere two weeks before Roth’s vastly superior Knock Knock, The Green Inferno crawled out of release-date purgatory just to piss all over the very idea of idealism. It should have stayed buried. [A.A. Dowd]

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13. Jem And The Holograms

Bearing almost no resemblance to the popular ’80s cartoon on which it is ostensibly based, this inexcusably long bargain-bin teen flick—which is a musical only by technicality—combines generic “be yourself” platitudes with an incoherent plot that involves a scavenger hunt, a barely explained futuristic technology, contract negotiations, a robot sidekick, and lots of dead parents. Add in the fact that a large chunk of the movie consists of licensed footage and videos of people talking about how much the source material meant to them, and what you’ve got is this year’s answer to Atlas Shrugged, Part III: a movie that somehow feels like an amateurish knock-off of itself. Remarkably, Jem And The Holograms even managed to fail at being dirt cheap, doing worse than just about any movie ever to get a wide international release. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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12. Kill Me Three Times

Simon Pegg is a likable guy, but his taste in material, apart from his collaborations with Edgar Wright and his franchise work (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible), is atrocious. Having headlined one of last year’s worst films (Hector And The Search For Happiness), he now turns up as part of the ensemble in Kill Me Three Times, an Australian comedy-thriller that’s neither funny nor exciting—just pointlessly ugly. Its convoluted plot, rendered even more confusing by a non-linear three-part structure, owes a lot to Blood Simple, but the Coen brothers’ dry wit and visual sophistication are nowhere to be found here. It’s just a bunch of awful people being awful to each other, with Pegg, as a black-clad hired killer, struggling to be the least rancid of the various miscreants (played by the likes of Alice Braga, Luke Hemsworth, and Bryan Brown). The guy must have better things to do with his time. [Mike D’Angelo]

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11. The Wedding Ringer

There’s some real potential for comedy in the notion that so many of us these days have more virtual friends than “hang out at a bar”/“stand up for me at my wedding” friends; and there’s a solid satire that could be made about a black man who hires himself out to be a cool buddy to dorky white dudes. But The Wedding Ringer does nothing with either of these ideas. Even though director and co-writer Jeremy Garelick has polished comic actors Kevin Hart and Josh Gad plugging away gamely, he shies away from his own darkly funny premise, and instead loads up on kooky supporting players, broad slapstick, and joke after joke about how male friendship is kinda icky—and possibly gay. After coming up with a clever(ish) title, Garelick apparently went into cruise control. Isn’t there some fine that can be levied against filmmakers who waste a good premise? [Noel Murray]

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10. Every Thing Will Be Fine

There’s something particularly depressing about a fiasco made by a former master, which is why Wim Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine is so miserably disappointing. Boasting none of the lyricism, grace or psychological incisiveness of his prior masterworks (Paris, Texas; Wings Of Desire), Wenders’ latest is a misbegotten stew of turgid drama and look-at-me 3-D gimmickry, with the director using his signature special effects to highlight foreground-background dynamics in the most unnecessarily self-conscious manner possible. That said, at least his imagery is moderately appealing, which is more than can be said about his lead performances from a one-frown-fits-all James Franco, a hilariously Euro-accented Rachel McAdams, and a weepy Charlotte Gainsbourg. The film chugs along with mannered lethargy that, when coupled with monotonous, on-the-nose dialogue, turns the proceedings into a parody of an ’80s arthouse effort. [Nick Schager]

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9. The Gallows

Found-footage horror reaches a possible nadir with this ridiculously silly, ostensibly handheld record of a high school play haunted by the ghosts of previous productions. The idea of students trapped in an auditorium after dark and chased by vengeful spirits isn’t without promise, but rookie directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing show no facility for the kind of plausibly claustrophobic camera setups that make Paranormal Activity (or its sequels) so visually compelling; it also doesn’t help that their cast of fresh-faced young actors (all playing characters under their real names) never quite inhabit the supposedly pants-wetting terror of their situation. At least the hilariously misjudged final sequence elicits a strong reaction—the rest is so dull that it’s easy to forget you’re watching it while it’s still on. [Adam Nayman]

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8. Hitman: Agent 47

“Reboot” has been a depressing and meaningless buzzword for a while now, but there’s something particularly dispiriting about a reboot that resets a lousy movie (in this case, 2007’s Timothy Olyphant-wasting Hitman) into an equally lousy (if ever so slightly less dull) movie. Here, once again, is the bald, barcoded, and entirely conspicuous video game protagonist who shoots his way through a nonsense plot, his near-invincibility inciting surprisingly chintzy special effects along the way, in between the ample time this movie spends on scenes of people staring at computer screens as face-recognition programs run. It shouldn’t be hard to make an entertaining B-movie about a genetically engineered assassin, but it may be time for the Hitman franchise to quit while it’s behind. Presumably an even lower-rent version of Max Payne will appear in a year or two to take its place. [Jesse Hassenger]

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7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

A bipedal cornhole bag affixed with a mustache, Paul Blart exists only to be tossed for the amusement of people with remarkably low standards of entertainment. In this follow-up to the 2009’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Blart (Kevin James) returns to suffer physically and emotionally for the reflexive chuckles of a packed theater lit by phone screens—though this time he must endure his Stations Of The Mall at the Wynn resort in Las Vegas, its very name a mockery of his perpetual loserdom. Paul Blart face-plants for our sins, enduring the full range of human indifference—be it fat jokes, product placements, or a third-rate Die Hard riff basically recycled from the first movie—like the donkey in Au Hasard Balthazar. Perhaps, in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3, Part 2, he will find peace and grace, a martyr for the cause of Happy Madison. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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6. Home Sweet Hell

Making a valiant effort to shed her benign rom-com image, Katherine Heigl plays Mona Champagne, the sort of cartoonishly shrewish housewife who schedules sex days in advance, allowing a 15-minute window. When her correspondingly ineffectual husband (Patrick Wilson, who apparently now must take all such roles, by federal law) has an affair with the hot new employee (Jordana Brewster) at the furniture store he owns, falling victim to a highly improbable blackmail scheme, Mona turns into a killing machine, gleefully stabbing, skewering, and dismembering various low-rent thugs. Heigl’s goofily vicious performance is the sole redeeming factor in what’s otherwise a cavalcade of sexism, racism, and homophobia—ostensibly meant to demonstrate what an awful person Mona is, but clearly intended to generate mean-spirited yuks on their own. A final fade-out “gag” even strongly implies that Mona’s two slightly obnoxious but innocent young kids are being raped, because child sexual abuse is always a laugh riot. [Mike D’Angelo]

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5. Enter The Dangerous Mind

Part portrait of a madman, part dubstep rave, Enter The Dangerous Mind (note the cutesy initials: EDM) stars Dustin Hoffman’s son Jake as Jim, an aspiring musician—his “sick beats” have a significant online audience—who’s also a semi-functioning schizophrenic. His illness is represented on screen by an imaginary best friend, Jake (Thomas Dekker), who serves as an avatar of the primary voice in Jim’s head. That voice virtually never shuts up, making Dangerous Mind a serious endurance test long before it predictably turns violent. Worse, when Jim suddenly starts shooting people in the face, the film takes pains to make sure the victims are all gratuitously cruel to him, allowing him to remain sympathetic. And all of this nonsense is set to a relentless SCREECH-THUMP-DITDITDITDITDITDIT-SCREECH-THUMP-DITDITDITDITDITDIT. Neither the beats nor the characters are remotely as sick as the movie is. [Mike D’Angelo]

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4. Entourage

Before tagging Entourage as one of the worst movies of the year, it bears investigation: Is this actually a movie? Most of its characters that aren’t from a pre-existing TV series are actors (or non-actors) listlessly playing themselves. It has conflicts, but they’re resolved so easily, amicably, and anticlimactically that they might as well never have existed. It runs 104 minutes, but could just as easily have lasted 12 minutes, or forever. Even if the big-screen revival of the HBO series about a movie star (Adrian Grenier) and his posse does technically qualify as a film, it’s still questionable whether writer-director Doug Ellin has ever seen any other movies, given the Mortal Instruments-level movie-within-the-sorta-movie that he presents not as a goof on Hollywood hubris but as an uncompromising masterpiece that eventually makes half a billion dollars at the box office. Built largely on a series of lackluster setups without discernible payoffs, Entourage even fails as wish fulfillment; on those terms, guest-starring love interest Ronda Rousey would have extended her merciless beating of Turtle to everyone else in the movie. [Jesse Hassenger]

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3. Hellions

It’s no fun to rip a genre flick by Canadian maverick Bruce McDonald, who makes movies with real zeal and, as recently as 2008, riffed smartly on horror movie tropes in his quasi-zombie drama Pontypool. But this Sundance-ratified thriller about a pregnant girl menaced by lurking, bag-headed little monsters is shockingly shoddy work—less auteur experiment than for-hire hackwork. Its erratic editing and vaguely arty, screensaver-ish imagery feel like an attempt to enliven desperately familiar and derivative material. Even if you take its unfathomable action as a metaphor for maternal anxiety—which is surely the point of the exercise—it’s dismally obvious stuff. [Adam Nayman]

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2. The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence)

A quandary for anyone who’s choked down the filmic fecal matter of this improbable franchise: Doesn’t going public with your hatred for The Human Centipede just play right into the turd-splattered hands of its creator? Isn’t the series all but designed to be included on lists just like this one? Writer-director Tom Six lives for disapproval, and he’s finally made a movie that basically no one—not even those amused or unnerved by the past two installments—could possibly enjoy. Shot in a bright shade of toilet-bowl orange, part three spends its entire interminable runtime desperately attempting to offend, but the orgy of mutilation, sexual abuse, racial slurs, bellowing cartoon overacting, and down-with-Texas “satire” grows more tedious with each passing minute. Intentionally terrible, this blessedly final Sequence succeeds only in making parts one and two look elegant by comparison—and maybe, in punishing anyone who feasted on those films with a shit-eating grin. [A.A. Dowd]

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1. The Cobbler

Say what you will about Jack And Jill or Just Go With It, but at least no one could ever mistake them for real movies. The Cobbler, though, is just professional enough for the schmaltz and ugliness coursing through it to seem worse than anything in the slapped-together paid-vacations star Adam Sandler produces under his Happy Madison banner. A deeply wrongheaded fantasy about a Jewish shoe repairman who uses a magical stitching machine to commit manslaughter, creep his way into women’s homes, and enact Oedipal scenarios with his dying mother, The Cobbler is a movie that has absolutely no idea what it’s doing, but puts real effort into doing it anyway. Imagine if the monkey-faced Ecce Homo were instead a halfway decent portrait of a macaque, and you’ll have some sense of what makes this mystifyingly competent grab-bag of lame ’80s comedy plot points, terrible gags, racist fears, and disturbing sexual subtexts unique. The consensus winner (or is that loser?) of this year’s bad movie crop, The Cobbler was the kind of commercial and critical failure that would stall even a well-regarded filmmaker’s career. Surprisingly, director and co-writer Tom McCarthy bounced back just half a year later with what’s arguably his best work, Spotlight; it seems to come from a different universe from this film, which features a maudlin twist ending that would make Nicholas Sparks shit himself. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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