The Halfway House (1944)


It was a dark and stormy night... That's how a classic scary story is supposed to start, or at the very least it should open in a graveyard. In The Halfway House it's sunny most of the time, though it's still a ghost story. Also, it doesn't take place in a graveyard, but in a cosy little Welsh inn. Actually it's not even really a scary movie. Puzzled? Not a problem, but hold that thought...


It's 1943 and the world is at war. A random group of travellers converge on the idyllic Welsh countryside, to stay at a picturesque inn.

An elderly couple, struggling with the loss of their son. A young couple nearing a crossroad in their lives. A terminally ill conductor, with only three months to live. A couple on the verge of divorce, with a teenage daughter, hellbent on bringing them back together. A recently released prisoner, and finally a nefarious black market dealer.

They're met by the proprietor Mr. Rhys and his lovely daughter, Gwyneth, who both seem strangely aloof, as if they're not really there. Soon the travellers realize something is wrong. Why are all newspapers a year old? Why is there no sign of the terrible fire that destroyed the inn a while back? Why doesn't Mr. Rhys have a reflection?

Find your room in a hurry and get your bags unpacked. You don't want to miss this.


It's such a fuzzy, pleasant feeling to catch up with films from the 40's or 50's. There's just something about them, a kind of - I don't know - calm confidence? They're often patient in a way modern films aren't. They're not constantly trying to please the audience at the expense of characters and story. The Halfway House is one such film.

Though billed as a thriller or ghost story, the film initially plays out like a classic disaster movie. First we're introduced to each individual character and their unique set of problems. Then all the characters are transported to the inn, they're introduced to one another, and by then we're halfway through the film. After this, rather than developing as a mystery - the kind Agatha Christie might have written - the film turns into a series of therapy sessions, where each character's problems are brought to life, with the mysterious Mr. Rhys carefully applying the right kind of pressure to push each person in the right direction.

Surprisingly, the movie makes no attempt to hide the fact that it's a ghost story. This is revealed as soon as the first travellers arrive at the inn, and underlined by Mervyn Johns' otherworldly portrayal of the innkeeper. So the object for the viewer is not to guess "if" something strange is happening here, but rather "why". Why have we ended up in this ghost story? Why these characters? Meanwhile the big question of "what in poo-perfect hell is really going on here?" is left to simmer away on the back-burner.

This unusual approach extends to the stylistic agenda, another point where this film is distinctly different from other ghost stories. Most of it takes place during the day, in bright sunshine. There's an absence of dark and ominous music, and the film even throws in a weird slapstick moment or two, just to mess with us. Even during the climactic séance the film refuses to surrender to classic horror-movie clichés, it sticks to its guns and keeps its sunny disposition. That's because at the end of the day, the focus here is on the characters, the darkness in their lives, and the journey they must take.

All this adds up and makes The Halfway House an entertaining 90 minutes, nothing like what I expected, but enjoyable nonetheless.


Optimum in England is responsible for this release.

There's no bells and whistles on this disc, no extra features, no subtitles or anything, just the film. Which is fine. I could have used some subtitles in one or two scenes when all the characters were speaking, but otherwise the dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

The picture quality is also fine. Most of the film looks quite spiffy, but every now and then the film includes a damaged shot, or a scratched sequence. That's unavoidable for such old source material, luckily it never distracts from the viewing experience.


The Halfway House never gets scary or flashy. It's simply not that kind of a movie. The first act requires a bit of patience, and it's not quite the dark and sinister high concept story the setup would have you believe. Rather, this is an intriguing little puzzle of a film, and well worth checking out.

Thanks to Optimum Releasing and Edith Chappey for making this review possible.


The Worst Films I've Ever Seen


Recently the company I work for sent out a list of 20 films that could qualify as "the worst film ever". Just a fun little list to remind people of some of the awful films that are out there.

This is the list (the films were listed in alphabetical order):

Adrenalin: Fear the Rush, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Batman & Robin, Battlefield Earth, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, The Chronicles of Riddick, Death Race 2000, The Happening, Hercules in New York, Lesbian Vampire Killers, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Sharktopus, Showgirls, Strippers vs. Zombies, Surf Nazis Must Die, Teeth, Troll 2, A Viking Saga, and Zombie Strippers!

Naturally this brought the Internet trolls out of the woodwork. They do love any opportunity to defecate in public, don't they? And while I don't mind taking the time every now and then trying to knock some sense into their tiny little heads, I found it a little hard to defend the list above, because it wasn't completely my own. It was sort of a mishmash of different ideas and different people's contributions. So, I figured I should try to put together my own list. A list I can get behind 100% and defend to the death, if need be.



A very important factor, when choosing candidates to a list like this, is "expectations". I see many crappy movies each year, but the ones that disappoint me the most are the ones I have a certain amount of expectations towards. That's why you won't find any of those b-horror movies or films with zombies and strippers on this list. Also, I don't watch all that many of those films, and the ones I do watch often seem to know they're bad. So they get a pass.

I've also ignored boring and uninspired films. 85% of the movies Hollywood makes are boring and uninspired. That alone is not enough to make it onto the list.

This may sound a bit obvious, but of course you won't find any films here I haven't seen. This includes: The Room, Plan 9 from Outer Space, The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Catwoman, to mention but a few. Some of these have had the pleasure of my DVD player, but if I turned them off after 20 minutes, they don't qualify. You can only rate films you've actually seen all the way to the end. Makes sense doesn't it?

And finally I want to point out that the list will automatically skew towards newer movies. Many of those old bad movies are simply forgotten. They're not shown on TV and they're not out on DVD... so there.

Anyway, without further ado, here's my list the worst films I've ever seen.



1) A Viking Saga (2008)

This looks like a home-video, shot by a few friends in a backyard, and if that was how the film had been presented to me, I would have given it a pass, but no. This was presented as a serious feature film and it was released on DVD with a serious feature film price.

This is so bad you won't believe anyone actually took this project seriously, but they did! The director thought he was making a modern masterpiece! Honest, he did! What he really made was the modern equivalent of an Ed Wood movie, except worse. And less charming.

2) The Happening (2008)

M. Night Shyamalan was a one trick pony, we know this now. What we didn't know until this movie was that he actually can't direct. Sure, we suspected it with The Village, but this one confirmed it.

It's quite fascinating to watch this movie, because every aspect of it is broken. The story, the mood, the casting, the look. Literally every single choice Shyamalan made, while directing this film, is wrong. Why would anyone in their right mind give him the opportunity to make another film? Mr. Night, please end this now and jump out in front of a bus. You'll be better off, we'll be better off, the whole world will be a better place. Thank you.

3) Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996)

Albert Pyun has made a career out of doing cheaply shot, pseudo-science-fiction films, with bad actors and little or no story. Which is why it's such a surprise that he was actually capable of making a movie so ridiculously bad it makes all his other films seem like Academy Award material.

Most of this film takes place in dark caves and consists of shots where people are moving slowly forward, while searching for a mutant or something. Nothing happens, there's barely any dialogue, they just search through for something. For close to 90 minutes.

4) Scary Movie (2000)

This is what happens when you take a hit movie (Scream), re-shoot the script word for word, and then make the entire cast act out the scenes badly. I find all of those spoof movies highly offensive and completely unfunny, but this one actually copies scenes straight from the original film. Aren't there laws against that?

Watch the old Airplane! movies or The Naked Gun. That's how you make a spoof film. This is just dreadful, stupid, and a waste of time. Can we do a retroactive abortion on the whole Wayans-family, please?

5) Batman & Robin (1997)

Oh dear. We thought Batman Forever was as bad as it was ever going to get in the batcave. We couldn't have been more wrong. Whatever little mojo or glimmer of a unique, albeit revolting, style that was present in Joel Schumacher's previous Batman film is now gone from this film. How could anyone ever think that anything in this movie was a good idea? This is a question science will ponder until the end of Man.

I'm not even kidding here, I truly believe that those responsible for producing, writing and directing a film like this should be put in jail. And then banned from making movies for at least 50 years. And then maybe shot, just in the leg or something.

6) Wild Wild West (1999)

I think this is the film that made me hate Will Smith. He is so unbelievably smug and obnoxious here. Surprisingly, considering the budget, the film looks like crap. I mean, every single design in this movie is bad, but worst of all... This was supposed to be a comedy, and yet it's the most painfully unfunny thing you will ever see.

This is one of those films where you'll find yourself constantly screaming at the screen WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?! It's unfathomable how Barry Sonnenfeld could make a film as bad as this. It should disqualify him permanently from making another movie. Plain and simple. In fact everyone who was involved in this project should be crushed by a giant mechanical spider. THAT I would watch!

7) Jonah Hex (2010)

It's almost not fair to include this film, since it barely qualifies as a film. I mean that literally. If you exclude the intro and the end credits, the main story runs for 68 minutes.

The director was fired from the project, new scenes were shot, stuff was moved around and re-cut, and it shows. It really baffles me, I mean, did the producer think we wouldn't notice? Did they think we wouldn't mind the completely incomprehensible plot? The total lack of suspense? The toothless bad guy? Or that every scene is either exposition or explosions? Did they really think they could sneak this movie past us? Here's a hint to all you idiot producers: You can't fool us like that, how dumb do you think we are? There's a limit, you know?

What's that? Avatar, you say? Damn...

8) King Kong (2005)

I've watched this film four times by now. That's crazy, you say, but I know why I keep watching it. It's because I think to myself: "There's no way this film is THAT bad". Well, it is. Peter Jackson's version of King Kong is a laughable mess. An overblown, slow, repetitious mess. It feels like a rough assembly. You know, the first version of a film, before a skilled editor begins to shape and condense the film.

Jackson loves the original King Kong SO much that he's completely incapable of looking objectively at the monstrosity he created. The success of Lord of the Rings meant that nobody could say no to him. Just look at the running time... 187 minutes, in the SHORT version! The 1933 version runs about 100 minutes. Enough said?

9) Battlefield Earth (2000)

So Scientology... We can all agree those guys are a bunch of morons and need to jump off a cliff, right? Good! Having said that I'm not going to hold it against the film that it's based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard or that he thinks it all happened in real life, or something. That doesn't matter. If the story holds up and the film works, who cares where it came from, right?

Yeah, so here's the thing... It doesn't work. The story itself is profoundly stupid, and the film is so unbelievably ill-conceived it's almost funny. Just take the fact that the entire film is shot "dutched". Meaning that every shot in the film is at an odd angle. Every. Single. Shot. For no reason what so ever. You gotta admire the utter commitment of director Roger Christian and star John Travolta, and you have to marvel at the stupidity of anyone who put money into this project.

10) Van Helsing (2004)

I just can't figure out what went wrong for Stephen Sommers. He started so strong with Deep Rising and The Mummy (we're not counting those earlier films), but then it all went wrong with The Mummy Returns, an overblown, noisy, mess of a movie, with some of the worst CGI effects in a major Hollywood production ever. Then came Van Helsing, which was worse IN EVERY WAY! How is that possible? How can anyone look at The Mummy Returns and think "Well, clearly we need more sh*t in every scene, quicker cuts, a more ludicrous plot and we need to spend a lot more money. And what about those CGI effects? Can we possibly get them to look just a little bit worse?"

I can see how this would look good on print, but when the first footage began to roll in somebody should have hit the brakes, and then Sommers.



Here are some more titles I considered, in no particular order:

Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Soldier (1998)
The Spirit (2008)
Southland Tales (2006)
Ultraviolet (2006)
AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007)
88 Minutes (2008)
Striptease (1996)
The Waterboy (1998)
Strange Wilderness (2008)
Couples Retreat (2009)



This is the first time I've made an all-time worst movies list, so I reserve the right to update and adjust it somewhere down the line, just so you know.

So that's it, I guess. This is my list, and if you've got a problem with it, make your own damn list, and then we'll talk.