A bane of social media is the "Inspirational Tweeter." This is the person whose life is going so well, they feel the need to tell you how you too can find the happiness they have. They're a digital Hallmark Card, the cyber chicken soup for the soul. It's amazing how much annoyance can be packed into 140 characters.
These "reviewers" usually have websites whose design pitched camp at 1998 or video reviews set in living rooms or bed rooms. They're shot with basically no lighting or professional sound and while some have under 50 views they usually start their critiques with "Hey Everyone..." Everyone? You mean the 6 viewers minus the ones to hear your own review?
It would be interesting but not worth the time to turn the tables and review the reviewers: physical appearance (Some look like they've crossed directly over from peopleofwalmart.com), dialogue (it's mostly a mental vomit of free association while trying really hard to be bitchy, snarky and cool), lighting and sound (it's basically non-existent with standard web cam or camcorder technology). I watched one review of the classic 1967 Rankin/Bass Film "Mad Monster Party" with a guy under a sheet almost the whole time. I guess he's the "Unknown Reviewer." Regurgitating the plot of a movie is not a review, which is pretty much what this guy did, save for ragging on Phyllis Diller's laugh and casting.
Apparently, he thought his sheet "shtick" was better.
So I ask, would you see a doctor with similar standards of quality? A mechanic? Eat in a restaurant with a chef who looked like he hadn't showered in several days and likely takes a dump without washing his hands? If the answer is no, why are the opinions of such unqualified "reviewers" taken into account at all?
A computer, blog and a love of watching movies doesn't make someone qualified to critique movies. The Internet invites everyone to share their opinion, however it doesn't mean everyone is qualified to comment on everything.
Apply this concept to Web MD, allowing it to be edited like Wikipedia and you get what I mean.
Camp Dread writer, director, producer, Harrison Smith onset with Eric Roberts and Danielle Harris
Whenever a filmmaker answers back to criticism, it's usually seen as being thin skinned and unable to take the heat. The respected film critic, Scott Weinberg recently said something that stood out to me. He basically said it isn't criticism that most filmmakers mind. It's when it's written with ignorance that it becomes an issue.
Scott Weinberg's assessment of what this article is about.
Camp Dread has received glowing reviews. It's also been given negative ones. Some of the great ones are empty accolades and some of the negative ones are tough but written well, with a full understanding of film. They support their opinions with a knowledgeable response and as the film's director/writer/producer, I understood what they were saying.
A recent positive review from Culture Fix hit every single thing we wanted this film to bring to its audiences. It was written by a a reviewer who understood the horror genre and the slasher sub genre. You can read the full review here. Short and to the point, the review hits the film's essence and what we set out to do.
It's nice to get good reviews isn't it? However this was more than a positive review. It took our film apart and examined it succinctly and got it. It's tight, well-written and done by a qualified reviewer.
However some of the sloppy, negative reviews stood out to me because it wasn't that they were negative. Example, Shock 'Til You Drop was not a fan of our film, but the review is solid, well-written and well-supported by the author. There are a few of these that while I was disappointed they didn't like the film, their criticism was respected.
The "miscast" Eric Roberts and the "underused" Danielle Harris in Camp Dread.
These were problems I had with some reviews that did not hold to similar standards:
- One reviewer knocked us because of a killing made by a watermelon at the end of the film. He felt it was silly. I agree it is, but the problem is there IS NO SUCH KILLING at the end of Camp Dread. I reached out to this reviewer to correct this. I pointed out that while indeed a watermelon-type launcher is used in the film's climax, it wasn't a watermelon that was used. The reviewer was surprised and then admitted he watched the film a few WEEKS previous to writing the review and was going by "notes." If you saw the film, it's pretty damned clear that's no watermelon, so I don't know what "notes" were taken at the time of the viewing, but it's clear better attention should be paid to screenings.
This same reviewer also knocked us on the miscasting of Eric Roberts as swarthy, sleazeball, hack director Julian Barrett. While audiences and major reviewers alike have praised Roberts for one of his best performances in years, this reviewer broke with the pack. Granted, it's one man's opinion, yet there wasn't a shred of data to support such a strong and damning statement.
- A POSITIVE review literally thought Camp Dread was a SEQUEL to Sleepaway Camp! It's a tip of the hat but this film is NO WAY connected to the storyline of those previous Robert Hiltzik films. This reviewer LOVED Camp Dread. The only problem is it is not a sequel to Sleepaway Camp.
- Several other negative reviews hold the "reality show concept" as the culprit for a cliched horror film. While I whole-hardheartedly agree, if you saw the film then you know that the reality show concept is a Hitchcock McGuffin. This is not a film about spy cameras, surveillance and watching people to exploit them. It is quite the opposite, and the last seven minutes of the film give you a "get the fuck out" ending to let you know that the audience has been had.
We were well aware that the reality show concept was overdone. We knew there would be comparisons to Battle Royale and others, but the game show idea has little to nothing to do with what's happening in Camp Dread. This isn't in backtracking, it's fact.
- Sloppy negative reviews go to extremes in the characters and their purpose. Understanding the horror sub genre, there must be certain adherence to formula. Go a little too far off mark and fans will assail you for not being traditional enough. Stay on point and you get blasted for being cliche and stereotypical. Our characters indeed are the usual suspects: the jock, the wiseass, the bitch/slut, the nerd/introvert and so on and so forth.
This is the core of the slasher and Friday the 13th spawned endless sequels copying and pasting these characters into each installment. We took these characters and added some new spins to them but kept them near their roots and yet you still have uniformed reviews that range from "too much character development" to "shallow, thinly drawn characters." So which is it?
The characters are given specific dialogue reminiscent of classic slashers. Yet one negative review said (without quoting) we had a piece of dialogue reminiscent of Shark Attack 3. In case you don't know horror, here it is:
There is nowhere in our film that has a piece of dialogue anywhere near this bad or most of all ill-placed and out of context from the genre of the film. All dialogue was carefully written with regard to the slasher genre and what fans would expect.
It may sound like "it's not me, it's them" but in this case it really is. Bloodbath and Beyond totally got what we were doing with our dialogue. In fact, they also presented their review with high production value, cool graphics, proper lighting and even well done sound. They know their horror and had a fun, original way of reviewing that made them stand out from the rest.
Weinberg's tweet sums up everything that we are saying in this article. In other words, if you want to write a review charging us to step up our game as filmmakers, then make sure you are playing your best too. Know your stuff, and hold yourselves to the same standards that you allege to hold filmmakers and their product.
Didn't like Camp Dread? That's fine. Just get your facts right as to why not, and know your horror. Be less interested in being funny, snarky or just a plain old dick.
It's that simple.
B Harrison Smith