I've been thinking about movie reviewers today, partly because we hit the dollar theater last night to see Ghost Ship. We were fully expecting a big, steaming screen full of cinematic cheese, a movie so awful it'd be giggly fun. I mean, almost every critic had lambasted the flick as utter trash, so it had to suck like a sump pump, right?
Fifteen minutes into the movie, Braunbeck nudged me and whispered, "Is it just me, or is this actually kinda decent?"
And it didn't suck. In fact, it was a pretty solid retelling of The Flying Dutchman legend with a few new twists. Sure, it had a few problems: the pacing was rushed in places that hurt the suspense, and there were some unfortunate music choices that were obviously failed ploys to make the scenes "cooler" for younger audiences. But the effects were well-used and well done, the dialog was good, the story interesting (if not always scary) and even minor characters had their moments. The problems I saw with the movie smelled like studio interference to me: they'd probably forced the director to cut the time down, add a couple of extraneous scenes to amp up the gore, and change the music.
All four of us liked this film, which is somewhat unusual in that the other people in our party don't have much patience for old-style horror films (they proclaimed The Exorcist to be "boring" when they finally saw it last year) and they won't forgive what they perceive to be a poor ending (which is partly why they deeply disliked Signs, though mostly it was because they couldn't see that film for what it was: a fable with science fiction trappings rather than actual science fiction).
But most every reviewer said Ghost Ship is crap. It's not; it's a very watchable film with a solid story. It ain't the second coming of Citizen Kane, of course, but it's not trash.
Which leads me to my rant: I'm sick and tired of critics who persist in reviewing movies in genres that they fundamentally don't like or don't appreciate. If you don't like science fiction films, or horror films, why review them? Just so you'll have something to pee on that week? You're not helping your readers make useful decisions about whether or not they should spend money on something.
Movie reviewers should first and foremost be movie fans. They should like movies, not just art house flicks or Polanski films or Spielberg creations, but movies as a wonderful whole. They should appreciate it all: foreign films, schlocky horror, head-bending science fiction, gritty noir. They should know what kind of an audience will like what kind of movie, and make recommendations therefrom.
But I see too many reviewers who are cinema snobs. If it's got any kind of a budget or a hint of the fantastic, they hate it. Columbus' The Other Paper has a reviewer who is so predictably snotty that if he hates something, I make a mental note to seek it out, at least on video (he's not quite consistent enough for his distaste to be useful to me for full-price movies).