#3. Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1993)
At this point, every film has used a different technique to create all the failure that was missing in its predecessor. For the remake of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, it used the same method: a regular-size woman rampaging through miniatures. Now, the original 50 Foot Woman is by no means a classic film, unless your definition of classic is "hottest thing ever." But, by the law of common sense, one would think that, after 35 years, an effect would be improved upon in some way.
Maybe put her in something lacy, at least.
Never trust your common sense. It only leads to disappointment.
The biggest special effect in the 1993 version of 50 Ft. Woman is the illusion that Daniel Baldwin should ever be around a camera. The second biggest is the total destruction of any and all techniques that would suspend your disbelief of Daryl Hannah walking around this model train shop of a miniature set. You see, a common technique to make things look bigger is to shoot them from low angles. Danny DeVito could fight Mothra if you placed a camera, pointing up, around his shoe level. In the original 50 Foot Woman, most shots of her sexy rampage were filmed in a way to illuminate her immense sexiness. Sure, the miniatures were substandard, but at least we weren't forced to see them in their entire ineptitude all the time.
Behold, the majestic Balsa City.
1993's 50 Ft. Woman rarely does this, instead opting to point the camera at her head-on, meaning that, rather than making her look tall and menacing, she looks like she's here to question your depth perception. This works even worse when she finally, after an agonizing 70 minutes of bantering with Baldwin, decides to stomp through the town. Even without her in it, the town looks awful -- less like something for a movie and more like a hole in a madman's boring putt-putt course. Since you only get to see Hannah from the perspective of a camera operator who's apparently also 50 feet tall, frequently you get both Hannah and the entire shitty-looking town in the same shot. When something looks terrible but is integral to what you need, you usually try to limit its screen time to the bare minimum so as to preserve the effect of it. But if you followed that guideline, there wouldn't need to be a remake of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
And the world would've been denied all of this.
#2. Piranha (1995)
Roger Corman is famous for being able to produce films on a small budget. If you gave Roger Corman a thousand dollars, he'd give you Avatar, or at least Teenage Space Warriors on a Prehistoric Planet. He has a very "feed everyone with some fish and bread" filmmaking philosophy, which is the exact reason that we should all snap to it and start worshiping him as the reincarnated miracle worker that he has been for so many years.
He came here to save our souls.
Corman produced the original Piranha, a film about some angry mutated piranhas that attack a resort, in 1978. Then, in 1995, sensing that it was the right time to do it all over again, Corman produced the remake. And when I say "do it all over again," I mean that very literally. Piranha 1995 used a nearly identical script and was directed by a guy who would go on to create the worst movie about gangster "Babyface" Nelson. The special effects were also oddly identical because they really were. The 1995 Piranha uses the exact same special effects footage as the first, except, in this case, it doesn't work.
Jurassic Park wrecked the curve for everybody.
The original film had a decent amount of jokes, or at least '70s B-movie dialogue that seemed like jokes, and it made the low-budget animal carnage a little easier to digest. It didn't take itself very seriously. If you sense that the filmmakers are having fun with what they're doing, you're able to forgive the film a bit when something like special effects don't meet Jaws-level expectations. What made the remake's script only "nearly" when it comes to being identical is that they removed a lot of the humor from it, because who has any right to be funny when you're dealing with a serious subject like fantastical experimentation on exotic killer fish? Thus, you have the same special effects that were only decent in the '70s plastered into a '90s movie that everyone is doing in a far too straight-faced fashion.
The special effects aren't anything different, but the way you interpret them becomes different. When a movie with subpar effects isn't fun, it becomes a chore, since it really gets no defense. There's no "But it was silly" loophole that you can use in protecting it. It just sucks. No offense to Roger Corman. I'm sure even Jesus had moments when he thought "This leprosy just isn't getting scrubbed out like I thought it would."
Jerod Harris / Getty Every Phantom of the Opera
Really, it's incredible he got ANY good footage out of the premise "piranhas exist!"
#1. Every Phantom of the Opera
I can't really blame filmmakers for being unable to improve upon the medical marvel that was Lon Chaney. Chaney played the Phantom in the 1925 film, and he was an actor most famous for changing his appearance extensively to fit into his roles. For instance, to create the Phantom's upturned nose, he pinned it in place with wire. I know it doesn't sound like much now, but back in 1925, the only possible system of pain relief was drinking until you forgot about it. And this was by his own accord, since he had been given the freedom to create his own makeup. If Lon Chaney asked you for permission to create the makeup for a character with one leg, his next question would be to ask where you kept your hacksaws.
"You don't have a hacksaw? It's a good thing I brought my Leatherman."
There have been six adaptations entitled Phantom of the Opera since then, and none of them have been able to top Chaney's look. For starters, most have approached it from the angle that, instead of being deformed from birth like in the original book, the Phantom has been scarred in some fashion. Claude Rains, who portrayed the Phantom in the 1943 remake, is the only one who escapes with any dignity intact, and even still he looks like he traveled through time to copy Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face. Robert Englund, most famous for starring as Freddy Krueger in the first eight Nightmare on Elm Street films, played the Phantom in the 1989 film. His makeup looks like someone tried to create a new Krueger but got bored a third of the way into it and quit.
It's still two-thirds of a cheek short of half-assed.
Gerard Butler most recently played the Phantom in the 2004 film, but it inspires less terror and more high school theater class pity, as he just comes off as a guy who would be really good at picking up girls if he wasn't so sad and scarred all the time.
Who could ever love one such as he?