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Most ridiculous mockbusters

Coming up with your own thing? It's really hard. That's why there are direct-to-DVD studios out there, particularly one called The Asylum, that exist solely to churn out "mockbusters"—blatant, low-budget ripoffs of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters starring D-list actors. (For some reason, they almost always star Lance Henriksen, C. Thomas Howell, or a lesser Baldwin brother.) The titles and box art are generally reminiscent of the movie they're cribbing from, clearly hoping to trick the less-than-eagle-eyed into an accidental rental or purchase. Here are some of the most obvious (and obviously bad) mockbusters from the last few years.

The Day the Earth Stopped

If the goal is to imitate a more successful or popular movie, mockbuster makers aren't going to spend much time trying to come up with even a clever title—just one that evokes the original ought to do it, and a similar color scheme on the DVD box is a nice added bonus. One can almost imagine the screenwriter for this one, desperately scouring a thesaurus for a word that means the same thing as "stood still." Stopped it is!

The Da Vinci Treasure

Based on a pulpy Dan Brown novel read by millions in airplanes, The Da Vinci Code is a movie way better than it has any right to be—mostly because it was directed by Academy Award-winner Ron Howard, starring the beloved Tom Hanks and French pixie Audrey Tautou. The mockbuster version, which has almost the exact same by-the-numbers plot, was helmed by Snakes on a Train director Peter Mervis, and instead of Hanks and Tautou, we get Lance Henriksen and C. Thomas Howell.

Transmorphers

Fun fact: If you say "transmorphers" really fast, it sounds like you're saying "transformers." That's more or less the marketing scheme for this mockbuster, which, like Transformers, is about robots from space that transf—er, transmorph into vehicles. It's the biggest Transformers ripoff since the Go-Bots.

Pirates of Treasure Island

This might be the perfect mockbuster. The box makes heavy use of royalty-free imagery, the banner is an exact replica of the one from the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and the film itself stars Lance Henriksen...who looks more than a little embarrassed. Actually, he looks like an embarrassed Jodie Foster. Also, Pirates of Treasure Island takes place on Treasure Island because, and this is a bit of a spoiler, pirates love treasure.

AVH: Alien vs. Hunter

Unfortunately, this is not a movie about the xenomorph from the Alien movies squaring off against Detective Rick Hunter, the no-nonsense San Francisco cop portrayed by Fred Dryer on NBC's 1984-1991 hit Hunter. And apparently you can't copyright the word "alien," but you can copyright the word "predator"—or maybe you can only copyright the word "predator" if it's in close proximity to the word "alien." Once more, the makers of a mockbuster consulted a thesaurus for all of 10 seconds, named their movie, and got to work on their B-movie version of another B-movie that's a sequel/reboot to two other movie franchises. (They should've gone the Fred Dryer route.)

Carnosaur

B-movie king Roger Corman was part of the team that produced this direct-to-video early mockbuster in 1993, created to get some of the money that fell off Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park pile. Both concern technology going wrong and dinosaurs that shouldn't exist getting loose and killing people. In Jurassic Park, one of the dinosaurs' potential victims is portrayed by Laura Dern. In Carnosaur, there's a character played by Diane Ladd...who is Laura Dern's mother.

The Terminators

Timed for release at the same time as Terminator: Salvation in 2009, The Terminators is the work of people counting on "terminator" not being a registered trademark. Taking all that into account, it's still a little incredible they weren't sued: their evil robot killing machines from the future look almost identical to the Terminator franchise's evil robot killing machines from the future. Kudos to these ripoff artists for getting away with it—and for going with the plural The Terminators, thus manufacturing a false association with all Terminator films now and forever.

Sunday School Musical

This has got to be the only time anyone attempted to rip off both a made-for-TV movie and a musical. As far as the former is concerned, TV movies are already cheaper, lamer versions of feature films. As on the latter count, musicals are incredibly difficult and time-consuming to write. Why bother? Because High School Musical set ratings records for the Disney Channel when it aired, becoming a cultural phenomenon along the way. Some imitators are to be expected, and this one is geared toward kids whose parents won't let them watch something, uh, secular, like High School Musical. (But isn't theft a sin?)

Snakes on a Train

It takes a certain kind of gumption to make a cheesy, schlocky, low budget Z-grade ripoff of a movie that was already a cheesy, schlocky, low budget Z-grade movie. The only difference is that the original, the Samuel L. Jackson cult favorite Snakes on a Plane, was drenched in irony and self-consciousness. The other difference is that the mockbuster version switches things up, putting the action on a train—which significantly lowers the stakes. Snakes on an airplane? There's nowhere to go, you can't open the windows, and that's pretty scary. Snakes on a train, though? Just stop the train. Or throw the snakes out the window. Done. Movie solved.

Monster

Cloverfield's marketing campaign was shrouded in secrecy. The name of the movie itself is a meaningless MacGuffin, and ads never showed the actual monster, only teasing its presence and whetting the audience's appetite by showing brief glimpses of its destruction. All of which is to explain how the Cloverfield ripoff Monster, with its hilariously obvious title and the monster shown on the box, misses the point of Cloverfield while totally spoiling it.