Friday, December 18, 2009

You Should/Should Not Review Movies

My post about things I didn’t get around to reviewing got me thinkin’. Back when I started Doomed Moviethon I told an acquaintance who runs his own DVD Studio about my little internet venture and he told me I was an asshole. Okay that’s not exactly what he said but dude who shall remain nameless inferred that I was joining of the ranks of a bunch of douchebags. He said that anyone who asks him for screeners are leeches and crooks. He went on to tell me that he was sure that I would never be like that but yes, anyone who asks DVD companies for screeners are pieces of shit. So without calling me an asshole, he called me an asshole.

Four and a half years later, I think he was half right. Well, about me anyway. I requested (not from the dude who shall remain nameless) and received screeners for many, many films and things turned out okay there were some slightly dicey times mixed in there. So here is some advice for anyone who is considering starting their own movie review site and going about the embarrassing, humbling and greedy task of obtaining screeners. (This is where I expect I will look like a complete dick and an egomaniac but oh well, thems the breaks.)

One. Make sure you have a mountain of free time because you will be bombarded with films. It will start as a trickle at first and then it will snowball out of control. And know this: you’ll never be able to watch everything. For a while, I was getting too many things to review and it didn’t seem like I could ever get back to what I really wanted to review (movies I loved). More importantly, I ended up feeling and looking like a dick when I wasn’t reviewing stuff in a timely manner (or at all). This is why I have drastically changed my review policy. Nowadays, I accept very few review submissions whatsoever. Part of this is my jaded side that is tired of indie horror movies and the other part is me finally admitting to myself that it’s just too much and I just want to watch and review whatever the damn hell I want to. Which leads to…

Two. Prepare yourself to watch things you would never, ever watch on your own. This is most difficult for me. I have such a huge backlog of things that I want to watch/review for Doomed Moviethon that anything that gets in the way pisses me off. But I started this mess so I have to take what folks send me and give it a fair shake. And somehow this always leads to porn, usually of the softcore variety. I really, really don’t want this stuff and have said as much to DVD companies but they send it anyway. I’m a dang prude and reviewing spank material is so far out of the realm of what I want for Doomed Moviethon that I just won’t do it. I have caved a few times and reviewed some moderately raunchy stuff but usually it was because there was a good moving surrounding the sex scenes. No more vintage bondage loops please.

Three. Be ready to defend your review. I have had angry directors write to me after I slammed their movie and I was kind of freaked out. I've had things like "hey, I was working on a small budget" so you have to appreciate my utter incompetence as a filmmaker. The unquoted part of that last sentence is what they were really saying but didn’t know it. Or "if I'd made some brainless zombie flick in my backyard like -insert random director's name here-, then you probably would have given me a good review!" This is so not true. What I like in independent horror films is originality and if there isn’t any of that stuff, then style. Style over substance is my dang credo (I didn’t have a credo until just now).

Like every movie reviewer, I have aspirations of being a filmmaker too (just not a talented one). If I write, film, edit, score and release a piece of shit, I’m not going to start getting mad when people tell me it’s a piece of shit. I will already know. How do people not already know? But hey, if I hated a film, I hated a film. I'm not going to go back and soften my language or delete the negative aspects of a review just to please people. Screw that noise. And this leads to…

Four. Don’t be surprised if you get things that are too awful to review. This will happen. I have chosen on a few occasions to pretend I never got something or just go silent when someone sends me a follow-up email. There are movies out there that I hate so much, I refuse to write word one about. Some folks have put a great deal of love into their little movies and I don’t want to just go on a blistering vomitous tirade about how profoundly terrible their film is. If I can’t find one single redeeming quality about the movie or I know deep down that it is good but there is one glaring pet peeve that ruins the whole film in my eyes, chances are, I won’t go there. Sounds cowardly? It is. I don’t want to rip someone (who might be a good person) a new one just because I have the platform to do so. If a major studio produced a turd, yeah I’ll go off on it. But I still feel the need to protect the little guy once in a while. (I know this sounds insanely hypocritical after what I said in Three but hey, I’m complicated.)

Five. Be really, really open-minded (like I used to be). It is easy to get jaded. At first, I liked everything people sent me. It felt so good to be like a real horror movie review site that I might have given some unfairly good reviews to some pretty bad films. But no more! I promise. (Sorry if I got anybody’s hopes up several years ago.) The thing that annoys me to no end about indie horror are all the dang references and in-jokes to the director’s favorite films. If they’re subtle and it takes me the second or third viewing to even notice the reference… Good. If you have an Evil Dead poster hanging up in the main character’s bedroom… Bad. Don’t do that. Please don’t film an entire scene of dialogue in front of your fucking DVD collection. Yes, I’m getting off the topic here.

So yeah, the main thing is that you have to love movies and if you keep an open mind, you will see things that you didn’t think you’d be into but will blow your dang mind. My advice* is to review everything that people send you even if you get swamped or you didn’t like the movie. That way, even if the director sends you a surly email about your negative (though hopefully not hostile) review, you can rest easy knowing that at least you tried to give every film, big or small, a chance.

*(One day I will follow this advice.)

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