We’re taking advantage of the weekend’s gloomy weather to stage a little in-house film festival. The DVR needs clearing, you understand. That got me to thinking about multiple feature nights over the years that have, deliberately, been a little more painful.  

In the past, our Bad Movie Nights have been meticulously constructed double features, which is admittedly pretty easy when Hollywood releases wonderfully rotten volcano movies within weeks of one another. These days we’re more likely to discover some happy disaster on the cable schedule, immediately add it to our DVR and begin hunting, often futilely, for something to pair it with.

Which is how we got the odd pairing depicted in the amateurish logo above. The only thing the films have in common is making a plot point of garish rings of the sort you would usually see nestled inside a decommissioned gumball machine or on the finger of a sophomore thespian portraying a gypsy in a high school stage production of Stephen King’s Thinner. This connection, quite honestly, is good enough for us anyway.

The first film we watched was The Shadow (Russell Mulcahy, 1994), a misguided attempt to start a big summer franchise in the wake of the runaway success of Tim Burton’s Batman films. While this came out in the dwindling comet tail of my official movie-reviewing days, I remember very little of how it was received beyond the fact that it was a box office disappointment. Any uncertainty about whether or not this would be appropriate Bad Movie Night selection was eradicated by the opening sequence which found Alec Baldwin with a head of long, stringy hair and overgrown fingernails striding about the Asian palace he rules with despotic fervor by barking out commands in Mandarin. For Bad Movie Night, this is practically the definition of a good beginning.

Turns out it was more of tease. There is ample opportunity to laugh at Baldwin’s performance (this is during the part of career in which a unique brand of smug casualness infected most of his work), the clunky plot, the chintzy special effects (any temptation to forgive them as of the era is hampered by the fact that “the era” is “one year after Jurassic Park“), the casting of Penelope Ann Miller as an alluring femme fatale, the colossal phoniness of the sets…it really goes on and on. But its greatest problem is that it’s hopelessly boring. Even mocking it gets dull. So it joins Motel Hell, Glitter, and (good lord) Raven Hawk on the short list of Bad Movie Night offerings that we gave up on entirely, hitting the stop button well before the conclusion.

That just meant an earlier start time for our main feature, the film that inspired this particular Bad Movie Night: I Know Who Killed Me (Chris Sivertson, 2007) starring Lindsay Lohan. This selection was partially inspired by a shameful but undeniable desire to see how drastically bad Lohan’s choices are getting as she swerves her once-promising career into oncoming traffic, but the howling bad reviews the film got last year, raging about the convoluted plot and flat acting, marked it as the kind of movie that we’ve often loved after already drinking through 90 to 120 minutes of garbage.

It’s impossible to discuss this film without heaping criticism on Lohan. First of all, her appearance is shocking, even distracting. She was about twenty years old when she made this movie, but she looks easily fifteen years older. Her voice is raspy enough to sound like what you’d hear if tree bark could talk and her skin looks like one of those bota bags hippies used to drink wine out of. She’s playing a dual role here, and, to be fair, these qualities arguably work for one of the characters. Unfortunately, she looks equally haggard when playing the whistle-clean suburban teen bound for an ivy league university. She is so detached from everything going on that what she’s doing can barely be called acting. No matter how intense or strange the thing she’s talking about, she uses the same tone of hurried disinterest. She describes fantastical theories like she’s announcing she decided not to go to the mall after all.

The film is a muddled mix of torture porn, psychological trickery and ludicrous paranormal nonsense. Just to make sure it doesn’t get too confusing, director Chris Sivertson sets up a plodding sort of symbolism with red and blue motifs to help differentiate between the two paths a person can take. All it does is leave a big purple bruise on your brain.

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