The ongoing adventures of Scott Weinberg, a friendly yet annoyingly opinionated guy who does nothing but watch movies and then write about them.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Professional Quandary

As some of you know, last year I was invited (along with four other online writers) to visit the sets of Fox Atomic's 28 Weeks Later (in London) and The Hills Have Eyes 2 (in Morocco). Needless to say, this trip was a great adventure. I made some new friends, saw two great countries, and got to watch a pair of horror sequels being made. I came back enthused, eventually wrote up a few "set report" articles for, and sat back to look forward to the flicks.

Since I now do reviews for Comcast's FEARnet website, I was assigned Hills 2. It didn't screen for the press, so I gladly drove down to the local multiplex on opening day, spent my $7.50, and settled in for the film. And. I. hated. it. I didn't want to! I knew it'd probably be mindless horror crap, but I enjoy several movies that could be described that way. As the first 25 minutes ticked by, I found myself trying to WILL myself into enjoying the movie. But I just couldn't do it. I had visions of all the awesome people I met and the slick sights I discovered while on that Moroccan set visit, but the plain and simple truth is this: I realllllly disliked The Hills Have Eyes 2. (Here's my review at FEARnet.)

Now, this is a new one for me. I know that lots of entertainment journalists spend time on movie sets, but I don't really consider myself an "entertainment journalist." Sure, I do a lot of flick-blathering on Cinematical, but my job title (as far as I'm concerned) is that of "film critic." (I hate the phrase "film critic," because it kind of implies that one WANTS to criticize. Perhaps I'm more of a "movie advocate" or "flick consultant.") And now I see, as clear as day, why film critics should NOT participate in publicity events. Set visits, pre-release interviews, junkets ... they all exist as a form of movie marketing, and while I have no problem at all with movie marketing, I just don't think that film critics -- folks asked to provide their totally honest (and informed) opinion of a finished film -- should spend time on these activities. Or maybe some of 'em can. But I sure hope I don't get asked back to future "set visits." The passionate movie geek in me will want to jump at the opportunity, but the professional guy, the guy who sincerely needs his opinions to be trusted, respected, and valued, will have to pass on those offers.

Needless to say, this review was insanely hard to write. Here's hoping 28 Weeks Later is a better movie. I can't handle all this guilt.


Dawn said...

And this is why you don't accept free trips to do PR pieces for studios if you're also a critic.

Which, I think, is one of the things you told Snider when he took the junket trip, if I'm not mistaken. Not to rub salt into your emotional wounds or anything. Much. :-)

Hey, you live, you learn.

wcdixon said...

Tough dilemma...admire your candor and honesty

Scott Weinberg said...

UPDATE: Since this article has been published, I've done two more set visits. One in Atlanta (Zombieland) and another in Pittsburgh (My Bloody Valentine). I felt a bit hypocritical both times, truth be told, but both were paid assignments from one of my employers, and I need money for food.