January 2021 Review: The Best and Worst Movies I Saw Last Month
Updated: May 8, 2021
New year, same old me! I’m excited to continue this series where I recount what I watched last month. This year I am challenging myself to scale back a bit. My goal is to watch less than 40 films in a month which I put in place after I found myself getting burnt out at the tail end of last year. I think this is a realistic and reasonable goal for myself.
This January went much better than last year’s January. I had the pleasure of watching some pretty fun films with the typical stinkers. I’m making it a goal to mix up some decades more, so hopefully there will be even more hidden gems from before 2010 moving forward. I’m sad to report that there are very few 2021 films being released in the first few months of the year. It is going to be hard to get a gage on expectations. I only saw one this month and it was pretty bad. I’m hopeful February will yield some better results! After all is said and done, I watched a total of 34 films split across six decades.
Without any more fanfare, here are the best and worst films I saw last month!
WORST #3) Ragdoll (1999); Director: Ted Nicolaou; United States
A rap group is blackmailed by an influential and ruthless crime boss into signing with him. The entirety of the group reluctantly agrees to his terms and conditions except the leading man, Kwame. Furious with this sleight, the crime boss sicks his two brothers, who double as his bodyguards, on his grandmother. Enraged and seeking justice, Kwame accidentally summons the power of an ancient murderous force known as the Shadow People to avenge the attack of his grandmother. Initially, it seems like it worked until the manifestation of the Shadow People, a murderous ragdoll, comes for Kwame and his friends. Ragdoll is a listless and clunky voodoo horror film. There’s very little logic to the plot. There’s potential for a fun film here but it’s weighed down by the incompetence of the production. Vastly unremarkable in terms of storytelling and action, there just isn’t much here to hold the audience’s attention. The cast hams up the already stale script and wonky effects. What bothers me the most is that for a B-movie there’s just very little fun here. What could have been a riotous time, feels more like a sad attempt to recapture the magic of the lighter 80s films that didn’t take themselves super seriously. Find yourself a better movie to play around with and stream something else.
Overall Score? 3/10
BEST #3) The Call (2020); Director: Chung-Hyun Lee; South Korea
I really enjoyed this film, please check out my full review here.
Overall Score? 7/10
WORST #2) Jack-O (1995); Director: Steve Latshaw; United States
A wizard promises to enact vengeance on the townspeople who caused his death, with particular fury directed towards Arthur Kelly and his descendants. Fast forward to the future and young Sean Kelly is excited to celebrate Halloween. He bumps into a historian researching the town’s history and invites her to see his family’s haunted house exhibition. That night a group of teens accidentally remove a cross from the grave of Jack-O unleashing his spirit onto the town and instigating a murderous rampage from Mr. Jack the Pumpkin Man. It’s up to Sean and his family to once again save the town from the villainous force. I’m not going to lie to you, I stopped paying close attention halfway through this movie. While there are plenty of things to attack this no budget slasher for up to and including terrible effects, bad acting, and cheap filming, what really gets me is the terribly constructed script. The lack of focus in Jack-O is astonishing. We weave between all these different characters and situations throughout the first hour or so, probably for the purposes of character development and suspense, but it all leads up to nothing. Most of these people are non-players in the story and are incredibly grating. They’re merely there to get slashed and stabbed, which is obviously fine for a slasher, but not when we have to take such a long time to get there and certainly not when it comes to taking up necessary character development from actual players in the story. Moral of the story is don’t get tricked into watching this half-rate Halloween slasher.
Overall Score? 3/10
BEST #2) Zombi 2 (1979); Director: Lucio Fulci; Italy
A boat wanders into the New York harbor seemingly without a captain or anyone on board. While everything seems quiet upon investigation until authorities are attacked by a deranged man lurking in the shadows. After quickly neutralizing the threat, the boat is traced back to a missing person and his daughter is notified of the discovery. Sensing something is off she joins forces with a reporter to track down her father. They are led to a tropical island controlled by a doctor seeking the cure for a strange disease inflicting the locals. Once there, they discover the dead are coming back to life and that they must leave before they succumb to the mass’s appetite for human flesh. Zombi 2 is an absolute cult classic that is still just as fun of a first time watch in 2021 as I’m sure it was in 1979. Lucio Fulci is known for some pretty wacky things in horror and he does not disappoint in this Italian riff on the Of the Dead series. I don’t want to say too much but I guarantee that you will not find a better movie to feature a zombie versus shark action sequence filmed with real animals. And that’s a fact! More than a typical braindead film with masterclass effects, Zombi 2 will delight you in all its carnage and carnivorism.
Overall Score? 7.5/10
WORST #1) The Bog Creatures (2003); Director: J. Christian Ingvordsen; United States
The Bog Creatures begins with the siege of a Scandinavian settlement by Viking berserkers. Soon after, these people are imprisoned in a mysterious bog that begins the process of preserving their bodies for hundreds of years. Cut to the present and a reclusive archaeologist and his prodigy, his teenage sister, select a team of grad students to excavate the bog to find proof that this berserker cult existed. Eventually, the right chain of events occurs, and these creatures begin rising from the muck of the bog and attacking the group. Resurrected from their slumber, these creatures will stop at nothing to carry out their mission directed to them so many years ago. I have to be honest that I don’t remember much of the film at all. Between awful acting, a nonsensical script, laughable effects work, and shoddy camerawork, it is easy to turn my brain off and block out memories from bad movies like The Bog Creatures. It’s clear they tried to make their slapshot production work, but none of the elements come even close to hitting ‘so bad, it’s good territory’, let alone ‘good’ territory, period! You’re better off leaving this low budget schlock to waste away in the bog that it came from, or the bargain dvd bin at Walmart, whatever works. (Also, I apologize but the above picture is literally the best I could find.)
Overall Score? 2/10
BEST #1) Gremlins (1984); Director: Joe Dante; United States
I’m being dead serious that it took me 25 years of my life to finally see Gremlins. Don’t judge me; I am human! A father gives his son a mysterious pet as a Christmas present which sets off a chain of events in his small town that will leave it changed forever. After ignoring the essential rules to taking care of his newfound responsibility, it’s up to this twenty-year-old to save his family, his girlfriend, and his town from ruin. Gremlins is such a blast of a film and it still holds up today. The practical effects are great. Even though the effects obviously aren’t as advanced as they are today, everything still looks reasonably realistic. The humor is timeless, the situation is wacky enough please almost anyone, and the action is just wholesome enough for the entire family to enjoy. Gremlins easily straddles the tropes of typical Christmas films (greedy rich people, keeping the family together, etc) while launching itself firmly into campy horror-comedy territory. It’s well-written in that we are introduced to the core cast of characters we care for while even giving personality to the monsters themselves. I’m so glad that I finally gave it a watch and I look forward to it gracing my holiday lineup for years to come.
Overall Score? 7.5/10