As a writer, there’s nothing quite like tearing a film to shreds; if you’ve wasted two hours on something, you really want it to pay. But even the most cynical writer would trade that for seeing a great film for the first time. You can sit through a year of a utter tat, but if one masterpiece sneaks along then it’s all worth it.
And by that reckoning, with seeing a brilliant film the ultimate goal and basking in the irritation of a bad one a close second, the utter lowest point has to be seeing a film skirt with greatness, only to mess it up terribly.
So many times I’ll sit in the cinema watching what I think is going to be a full on masterpiece, only to have one silly decision ruin it. What was a five star contender is reduced to a perfectly serviceable, but overridingly disappointing film.
This list brings together ten of these almost greats. The reasons why vary greatly, from the dumb to the absurd. Some films failed to live up to their hype, others couldn’t match what they initially brought to the table, but all left me personally with a disappointing pit in my stomach.
As always, spoilers abound, no more than with our first entry…
10. The Cabin In The Woods
The Almost Great Movie: Billed as a game changer, The Cabin In The Woods took traditional horror tropes and spun a meta humour story around it, placing many of the genre’s favourites in the same, messed up world.
The film doesn’t really have a twist, rather an incredibly high concept drip fed over it’s run time. With Whedon-esque humour and a smart subverting of cliches (the jock acts that way due to gas pumped into the house), it could have easily become a cult favourite.
The Big Mistake: It explains everything at the end.
Cabin is a smart film that loses it about halfway through. When the red telephone rings, it’s like the filmmakers panicked and just threw everything they could at the screen, opening up a good looking, but tonally out there sequence of gore that felt present only to pad out the film. It’s the final scene, however, that really condemns the film.
Sigourney Weaver pops up as an administrator character and reveals to the characters the nature of everything that’s been going on. The problem with explaining everything isn’t that the film would have worked better with ambiguity, but that it had already given enough clues for the audience to understand it. Spelling out what we’ve already worked out makes it look like you thought your film was impossible to grasp, rather than just tightly woven.
This article was first posted on July 22, 2013