The first time I fully realized that Hollywood had gone slap happy for CGI was when I saw Jan de Bont's remake of The Haunting (1999). I am a huge fan of Robert Wise's original 1963 version which, with the exception of a door that seems to breathe, scarcely has a special effect to its name. It's a masterpiece of subtle horror, while the remake is an atrocity of in-your-faceness; Wise gave us eerie cries in the night, while de Bont's protagonist is attacked by a four poster bed.

Sure, CGI has its place. Used in concert with other techniques it can be quite effective. It's when filmmakers refuse to acknowledge the limitations of the process and turn out features that look like extended cut scenes from video games (XBox if we're lucky, PS-1 if we aren't), that CGI gets a bad name.

Along these lines, Rob Wright has a cool article called "CGI Gone Awry: The Worst Special Effects of the Computer-Generated Era" up over at twitch guru. After establishing a few ground rules (no B-movies, reasonable expectation of quality, etc.), Rob explores some of the worst sins committed in the name of computer-generated imagery. The article is broken down into:
  1. Bad CGI Orgies: Wall to wall CGI badness like The Hulk, Van Helsing, and the aforementioned The Haunting.
  2. Giant Leaps Backward: CGI-heavy films that represent a drop in quality from their predecessors like Terminator 3.
  3. Why Didn't They Just Use Real Animals: Exactly what I was saying during the deer scene in The Ring 2.
  4. The Effects Were Great Except: A single digital blemish in an otherwise solid film, like the digital Jabba the Hut in the re-release version of Star Wars.
  5. Showstoppers: Similar to the previous category, but this single case of bad CGI is so heinous it brings the rest of the film down with it, such as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns.
I don't agree with everything Rob has to say -- I didn't think that bit he picked out from Spider-man was all that noticeable -- but he makes some good points and the article is a fun read.