We toasted the very best horror movies set in Toronto already and now we face the considerably more difficult task of narrowing it down to the very worst. You’d have to host at least a dozen more G20 Summits to match the number of bad things that have been filmed in Toronto. And while we’re on the subject… 1. Things Crawling out of Scarborough is the wretched yet inexplicably hypnotic Things. Things could very well be worst movie ever made. Watch it and you’ll be on the floor begging for mercy though mercy ain’t coming. Your hand will struggle for the remote, fruitlessly attempting to turn the damn thing off, and yet you won’t be able to. You’ll remain bizarrely compelled to continue watching as your brain slowly oozes out your ears and onto the sofa. Things is an example of regional horror: micro-budgeted films shot independently using local cast and crew, in their homes and surrounding areas. Most often shot on video, actors would wear their own clothes and rely on their own creativity (sometimes at their own peril) to dress the sets, light the lights, shoot the scenes and create the special effects. To discuss the plot of Things is futile as it’s one giant non sequitur. IMDb describes Things thusly:
A husband whose fanatical desire but inability to father children drives him to force his wife to undergo a dangerous experiment. This results in hatching a non-human life form in his wife’s womb, and the birth of a multitude of THINGS.
In actuality, Things is 83 minutes (though it feels much, much longer) of three annoying Scarberian losers, each with sub-zero acting chops, drinking beer and hurling insults at one another while terribly cheap-looking paper mache insects skitter about ominously in the background — all set to stock Casio keyboard melodies playing on an endless, maddening loop. We’re well aware of and will heartily dispute the shopworn Canadian stereotypes of the dumb, beer-drinking hoser, but these idiots make Bob and Doug McKenzie look like Watson and Crick. Things transcends the “so bad it’s good” cliché to become “so bad it’s absolutely inconceivable that something this rotten was ever made.” Vancouverite Robin Bougie, founder and editor of must-read Cinema Sewer has said Things:
is the worst movie ever made… [not bad] like the way Troma makes bad movies. I’m talking about bad with the best of intentions, like all of the best “bad” movies. You like tormenting yourself with hilariously trashy, moronic, gory, idiotic bad films?? Things is the fucking king of bad movies….Trust me, you have never seen anything like this in your life. It’s absolutely astonishing in how it is able to mentally wreck anyone who watches it.
Things is notable for being the “mainstream”, for lack of a better term, film debut of porn star Amber Lynn, whose participation consists entirely of pre-recorded video footage where she plays a news anchor unconvincingly reporting on a number of inane stories playing on a TV in the house where the film’s events occur. Things is also, though we could be wrong due to lack of hard empirical data, the only film in the history of cinema to feature an actual “lady of the evening” procured on Jarvis St. She was willing to take her top off on screen just so long as her identity was hid by a cheap, dime-store plastic devil mask. Everybody has standards, even the hard-working men and women of Jarvis.
2. Nurse 3D Nurse 3D is a Toronto-lensed abomination that does for the nursing profession what Plan 9 from Outer Space did for planning. Model / actress Paz de la Huerta is more wooden than a pirate’s peg leg and she single-handedly torpedoes a film with a somewhat promising premise. She plays Abby Russell, a dedicated nurse who moonlights as a nightclub-prowling serial killer preying on unsuspecting cheating men. The actress was probably hired for her willingness to doff her clothes at a moment’s notice, but Nurse 3D is truly a case of more being less. Paz is in the all-together so much that you wish she would just put her damn clothes back on for fear of catching a chill. Nurse 3D is another in a long line of films purported to be set in New York which uses Toronto as a proxy. Filming locations include the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Roy Thomson Hall and North York General Hospital. The film also features two actors whose salad days were well behind them: former 80’s sexpot Kathleen Turner and former brat-packing heartthrob Judd Nelson.
3. Urban Legend Woe the success of Scream. Yes, Wes Craven’s post-modern flick revitalized horror at the box office, but like Bruce Lee, also inspired a slew of watered-down, inferior imitators with nary an ounce of the spark that made the original so compelling. Après Scream, it seemed not a week at the multiplex went by without another toothless horror film foisted on the public featuring a young, telegenic cast of hyper-self aware characters. 1998’s Urban Legend is one such offender. Featuring a cast consisting of the guy from My So Called Life (who eventually won an Oscar), the guy from Dawson’s Creek who isn’t Dawson, the girl from that show with Cybil Sheppard, the girl who married Dylan on Beverly Hills 90210 and was subsequently shot, and master thespian Tara Reid, Urban Legend is a film so bad that cast-member Robert Englund doesn’t even mention it in his book, Hollywood Monster. Not a chapter, not a paragraph, not a sentence, not a word, nothing. Filming locations included the University of Toronto’s UC quad, Humber College’s Lakeshore Campus and the lower Jarvis Green P lot. The pool scene was shot at Etibicoke Olympium in Fordlandia. For bonus 416 cred, veteran CityNews senior anchor Gord Martineau appears in a role he was born to play: a news anchor.
4. Saw V. The Saw sequels moved production to Toronto starting with the second installment of the never-ending franchise. While the original Saw was great and II and III not bad, each subsequent installment was a clear example of diminishing returns. Saw V was when the torture-porn opus definitively jumped the shark and should’ve met the same fate as Samuel Jackson in Deep Blue Sea.
By the time Saw V sputtered into theatres, the series was treading some serious water. Jigsaw and his apprentice Amanda were long dead, but to quote the superhuman Freddie Mercury, the show must go on. Enter Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Detective Hoffman first appeared in III, was one of Jigsaw’s supposed victims in IV, but in actuality was Jigsaw’s next apprentice (the horrifying Donald Trump has nothing on Jigsaw). Saw V was the first sequel in the series to not open at first place. And in a series known for its shock endings, Saw V’s dénouement is considered by many as the worst. All Saw sequels were filmed in the Big Smoke, but since the majority of the films took place in basements, underground torture chambers and hospitals, most of the films were shot at Cinespace studios, revealing little of the host city. That changed in Saw 3D when the traps came above ground, at the base of Metro Hall just outside Roy Thomson. Interestingly, all Saw sequels thank Terroni in the credits, revealing that unlike Jigsaw, the Saw cast and crew prefer things uncut (in this case their wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas).
5. Jason X We love the terror from Crystal Lake. Yet just as our own children can sometimes disappoint us, so too can our favorite franchises. Jason X was made simply to keep the character alive in the public consciousness while Freddy vs. Jason was stuck in development hell. Todd Farmer, who plays Dallas in the film, suggested sending Jason into space and a script was scrawled, probably on the back of a cocktail napkin at whatever seedy watering hole inspired the idea. Space is where horror franchises go to die (for further example, please refer to Hellraiser: Bloodline and Leprechaun 4: In Space.) Jason X is set in the year 2455. Since Earth is no longer habitable, humans have colonized outer space. A group of students take a field trip to examine the ruins of Planet Earth and discover the cryogenically-frozen Monsieur Voorhees. They presume he is dead and take him back on their vessel. Of course he is not, so when a thawed Jason awakens to the sound of two youths having pre-marital sex, the carnage begins anew. Ludicrous in the extreme.
Jason X’s release date was pushed back five times and when it finally came out, its box office take was anemic. Jason X was also the first film in the franchise to use CGI for blood and gore. Blasphemy for a series that started with the masterful practical effects of a young Tom Savini. Since the film was set on spaceships, it was strictly a soundstage production and the entire film looks cheap as chips. Betsy Palmer, the original Mrs. Voorhees, was in Toronto during production appearing in a stage play, and was contacted by the producers about reprising her role in a cameo. They couldn’t come to terms, thus the film remains Palmer free. One notable who does have a cameo is homeboy David Cronenberg, playing a research scientist who gets impaled by a thrown machete. Cronenberg’s involvement is truly the only redeeming factor of this entire debacle.
6. Resident Evil: Apocalypse We at Really Awful Movies are not avid gamers. Nonetheless, one of us recalls trying to work through Resident Evil 2 on an old Playstation and getting suitably spooked (those lickers, my god!) Nonetheless, the Resident Evil film series (5 released thus far with another on the way) are prime exemplars of everything that’s wrong with modern horror. Like the Underworld series, the Resident Evil films are slick, post-Matrix, post-MTV, CGI heavy monoliths that are all flash with no substance. Icing but no cake.
Each film in the RE series is tepid at best and unwatchable at worst. Furthermore, each used Toronto as a stand-in for the fictional, zombie-infested Racoon City, but we’ll single out Resident Evil: Apocalypse for being, as the Toronoist.com puts it, [an unprecedented film] that so gleefully revels in its Toronto-ness without actually taking place in Toronto.” Continuing the struggles of Alice (Mila Jovavich) against the evil Umbrella Corporation, RE:A is more or less interchangeable with every other film in the series. RE:A is all over the GTA. Locations include a Brampton suburb, Central Tech, The Danforth, the Gardiner Expressway, the Prince Edward Viaduct, the CBC building, Nathan Phillips Square and City Hall and Exhibition Place. The CN Tower can be spotted as can Scotiabank and the ubiquitous Pizza Pizza. For a film that shows so much of Toronto, RE:A almost didn’t make it here as production was nearly shut down due to the 2003 SARS outbreak. Perhaps that’s why the entire city is nuked at film’s end.
7. Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century Also known as Yeti – Il gigante del 20° secolo and Yeti – Der Schneemensch kommt, this 1977 farce is an Italian production filmed in good ol’ Hogtown. In Yeti, greedy businessman Morgan Hunnicut’s team discovers the titular cryptid frozen off the coast of Newfoundland. He enlists the help of his friend, kindly “Palethenologist” Henry Wassermann to thaw the Yeti (“called Sasquatch in Canada, Bigfoot in the United States”). Prof. Henry is unable to decide whether to pronounce the creature as Yeti or Yay-tee so he vacillates between both. Hunnicut’s grandkids, Jane and the mute Herbie, witness the unthawing which seems to take about 20 minutes of screen time. The ice melts to reveal what looks like a large, hirsute man covered in fun fur. Seriously, the Yeti looks like a cross between a giant Monchichi and Chaka from Land of the Lost. The creature takes an instant liking to the kids because, according to Prof. Henry, the jackets they are wearing are furry, just like the Yeti. Actually, the Yeti is a bit of a lothario as he seems to take more than just a platonic liking to Jane, evident by the enormous bedroom eyes and longing looks directed at the minor.
The portly Hunnicut who has a predilection for ill-fitting suits and bow-ties flies the Yeti to Toronto for exhibition. And just like that, Yeti-Mania runs wild throughout the streets of downtown T.O. The plane flies over Niagara Falls, than over the late, lamented Exhibition Stadium packed with thousands of crazed Jay’s fans. Finally, the Yeti touches down at the base of the CN Tower, where a throng has assembled. The cheers soon turn to terror when the flash bulbs enrage the monster, turning the once docile creature into a raging, rampaging beast. The Yeti grabs Jane and runs amok down Yonge St. towards City Hall. Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century is batshit insane. Lowlights include the Yeti eating a gigantic fish, then using the fishbone to comb poor Jane’s hair. Later, Jane accidentally touches Yeti’s nipple, and the film shows the giant protuberance getting hard! Another lowlight is when an enraged Yeti crushes poor Prof. Henry’s throat in between his giant, hairy toes. The film is also notable for showing the CNE’s food building before it became a glorified food court and for scenes of the old yellow Metro police cruisers racing through the city streets trying to take down the mulleted ape. BE SURE TO CHECK OUT OUR BEST TORONTO HORROR FILMS