Dimension keeps "Halloween" from us until last minute

by Eric Melin on August 31, 2007

in Blogs

It has been awhile now that movie studios have been withholding certain films from the likes of we critics. In the past four years since I’ve been a regular reviewer, I’ve come to expect that most horror movies and some of the really lowbrow comedies will not be screened for the press. This edict comes down from the movie studio and is passed on to the local publicity reps, who schedule or don’t schedule local screenings in their market.

Compared to those whose reviews appear mainly in print, I have quite a lot of freedom. I can do a review hours after seeing a film. I can write whatever I want and then immediately post it on the internet that night as long as its release date is the following day. 

(Studios really, really hate it when critics break release dates with early reviews, even though they let powerful ciritcs do it all the time–but that is a blog for another date.)

Even if that movie screens the night before its opening date, I can still conceivably make theFriday deadline (as long as I’ve got a lot of caffiene and nothing else to do). Print journalists will have an earlier deadline in order to make the Friday morning edition, so a Thursday night screening does them no good and no review will appear in the paper. This is exactly what the studio wants. When they think they have a stinker on their hands and they don’t want anybody to know about it, they’ll schedule a last-minute screening or no screening at all.

(I am a firm believer that bad press is better than no press at all, but obviously the studios are not.)

kcfccThe Kansas City Film Critics Circle (of which J.D. and I are members), in an effort to stop this annoying and irresponsible practice, has banded together. The following statement, taken from the group’s website, basically states that members should not cover any movie that is screened too late for print deadlines.

- Advance screenings held less than 24 hours before a film’s opening will only be covered by KCFCC members who are still able to provide a review on opening day. In practical terms, this means nothing later than Wednesday evening screenings for Friday openings. Members who are able to make their deadlines in spite of late screenings are requested (but not required) to refuse to cover such films as a show of support for their colleagues.

As a show of support, we will adhere to this policy despite the fact that we can post on our schedule. Before this was drafted, I wrote a blog about Fox hiding “The Simpsons Movie” from us until the Thursday night before it opened. I wondered whether the movie was terrible or whether they were just punishing critics who publish early reviews (another thing the studios hate). It turns out that the Chicago film critics were having a similar tussle, and it was at least partially resolved that same week.

foxI’m not sure what that had to do with a phone call I received that week, but a last minute screening of “The Simpsons Movie” was suddenly scheduled in the middle of the day. I’m not really able to just leave work at a moment’s notice so I couldn’t go anyway, but it was a nice gesture, I suppose.  I ended up seeing the movie that weekend like everybody else and posted a late review because I figured that Scene-Stealers site watchers would want to know the lowdown on this film.

So when this week came around, it brought a mix of sadness and horror. I was surprised to see a Monday advance screening for “Balls of Fury,” a particularly silly and sucky lowbrow comedy(see review here). I was also surprised and a little saddened that Rob Zombie’s re-make of John Carpenter’s slasher classic “Halloween” had only a last minute Thursday night screening. It is par for the course for horror flicks, but this one was directed by someone with an interesting track record. (For a horror film“The Devils Rejects” was pretty favorably reviewed by critics.) The idea of a horror cinephile like Zombie re-imagining a franchise that had been consistently mangled (6 more times!) since the original’s 1978 release was intruiging.

In accordance with the KCFCC’s new policy, I decidied that I wouldn’t be reviewing “Halloween” today or later, despite the fact that I was really excited about seeing it and looking forward to sinking my teeth into a piece about it.

That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t able to catch a 10:30 preview at a local theater last night, though.

halloweenThe anti-climactic ending to all of this is that Dimension Pictures probably knew what they were doing. They withheld the movie from us because they thought we would hate it. In my case, they were right. Zombie didn’t re-invent the slasher genre. If anything, he may have proved that there is little life left in it at all. Some of the backstory of Michael Myers was creepy, but almost everything following it was a yawn and Malcolm McDowell was laughable, with none of the Shatner-esque sincerity of the original Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and building none of the suspense (however cheesy his lines were) about Myers’ inhuman desire to kill.

I’m pretty sure this blog does not qualify as a proper review of “Halloween.” If anything, it should give you some interesting background behind what it is like to be a critic. This is something I do out of love for the movies, not because it pays. I am grateful to be able to write about film and attend advance screenings for free. I pride myself on not being too biased towards one genre over another, and enjoy seeing all types of movies and looking at the bigger picture and how what’s onscreen relates to our world. Late screenings make it really hard for me to do my job, and hopefully policies like the one the KCFCC has adopted will make a difference and enable me to do that job better.

Until then, there will be no reviews for movies with late screenings. As a film fanatic, though, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be seeing them.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alan Rapp August 31, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Nice post!

Reply

2 Alan Rapp August 31, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Nice post!

Reply

3 Kinsey September 4, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Yes, but the thing is that all people,critics as well have types of comedies they like, and types they don’t. Same for horror, romantic comides, etc

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4 Kinsey September 4, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Yes, but the thing is that all people,critics as well have types of comedies they like, and types they don’t. Same for horror, romantic comides, etc

Reply

5 Randall September 5, 2007 at 12:58 pm

I’m not sure of your “consistently mangled” count (you say six times, but it looks like this is the ninth go-round for the title), but Halloween II is that rare example of a (mostly) worthy horror sequel. I’ve wisely skipped the rest.

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6 Randall September 5, 2007 at 12:58 pm

I’m not sure of your “consistently mangled” count (you say six times, but it looks like this is the ninth go-round for the title), but Halloween II is that rare example of a (mostly) worthy horror sequel. I’ve wisely skipped the rest.

Reply

7 Eric Melin September 5, 2007 at 2:19 pm

You are right, I was one off in my count. I said it was mangled six times since the original and before the Zombie version, so that would be 8 total. There are actually 9 total, counting Zombie’s:

Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (1981)- co-written by John Carpenter, but not directed by him
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)- featuring no sign of Michael Myers or Jamie Lee Curtis!
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)- he’s back!
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)- he’s back again, one year later
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)- featuring Paul Rudd!
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)- Curtis is back, with LL Cool J in tow
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)- Curtis is back one last time, with Busta Rhymes instead
Halloween (2007)- Zombie starts over with no Curtis or rap stars

Reply

8 Eric Melin September 5, 2007 at 2:19 pm

You are right, I was one off in my count. I said it was mangled six times since the original and before the Zombie version, so that would be 8 total. There are actually 9 total, counting Zombie’s:

Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (1981)- co-written by John Carpenter, but not directed by him
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)- featuring no sign of Michael Myers or Jamie Lee Curtis!
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)- he’s back!
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)- he’s back again, one year later
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)- featuring Paul Rudd!
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)- Curtis is back, with LL Cool J in tow
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)- Curtis is back one last time, with Busta Rhymes instead
Halloween (2007)- Zombie starts over with no Curtis or rap stars

Reply

9 ChrisKnudsen September 6, 2007 at 9:48 am

Halloween III is so bad ass. It reminds me of Trolls 2 but without the odd looking food.

Reply

10 ChrisKnudsen September 6, 2007 at 9:48 am

Halloween III is so bad ass. It reminds me of Trolls 2 but without the odd looking food.

Reply

11 Cleavy September 6, 2007 at 4:40 pm

As an obsessive horror fan, I feel that Zombie’s Halloween is basically solid. No, it didn’t blow me away, I probably won’t buy it on DVD, and will probably remember it vaguely but fondly. This film did justice to the best of the franchise (being Halloween, II, and H2O – which surprisingly rocks!). I actually jumped a few times in the theater – a rare pleasure for me. Zombie puts his mark on the film, most notably in the over-the-top family dynamic and creative scenes of unapologetic brutality. Zombie’s best remains The Devil’s Rejects (with House of 1000 Corpses being a worthy first attempt). I think he’s most in his element when working with his original material, and not confined by audience expectations and a likely laborious reworking of a classic, innovative film.

On a different note, I think that Eric is right and wrong in regards to studios withholding advance screenings of many horror films. Yes, I think the studios are afraid of bad reviews. And, really, many of these films deserve a “stinker alert” (as do many films in many other genres). However, one item that is rarely addressed is that the horror genre has only recently been studied, in terms of film theory, as a legitimate genre worthy of academic and critical interest. I think if many film critics were more diligent in keeping current with contemporary film theory, they would actually have the tools with which to work with these films on the genre’s own terms. Basically, even the incredible, creative, artistic, innovative horror films will likely receive bad reviews from the majority of critics, simply because most critics are incapable of effectively addressing the genre as a whole. Then again, if critics are too academic in their approach to reviews, they will likely alienate their audience. What the hell…

Reply

12 Cleavy September 6, 2007 at 4:40 pm

As an obsessive horror fan, I feel that Zombie’s Halloween is basically solid. No, it didn’t blow me away, I probably won’t buy it on DVD, and will probably remember it vaguely but fondly. This film did justice to the best of the franchise (being Halloween, II, and H2O – which surprisingly rocks!). I actually jumped a few times in the theater – a rare pleasure for me. Zombie puts his mark on the film, most notably in the over-the-top family dynamic and creative scenes of unapologetic brutality. Zombie’s best remains The Devil’s Rejects (with House of 1000 Corpses being a worthy first attempt). I think he’s most in his element when working with his original material, and not confined by audience expectations and a likely laborious reworking of a classic, innovative film.

On a different note, I think that Eric is right and wrong in regards to studios withholding advance screenings of many horror films. Yes, I think the studios are afraid of bad reviews. And, really, many of these films deserve a “stinker alert” (as do many films in many other genres). However, one item that is rarely addressed is that the horror genre has only recently been studied, in terms of film theory, as a legitimate genre worthy of academic and critical interest. I think if many film critics were more diligent in keeping current with contemporary film theory, they would actually have the tools with which to work with these films on the genre’s own terms. Basically, even the incredible, creative, artistic, innovative horror films will likely receive bad reviews from the majority of critics, simply because most critics are incapable of effectively addressing the genre as a whole. Then again, if critics are too academic in their approach to reviews, they will likely alienate their audience. What the hell…

Reply

13 John Taylor September 10, 2007 at 7:56 pm

I tried to respond to this on World Of Pop,but uh.. Anyway. I am always suspect of movies that drop in August. Studios frequently use that month as a dumping ground for movies that aren’t good. I can almost always agree,save this year’s amazing Superbad,most of the other films that have come out in August were bad.
I am a horror fan. That being said,I also dig Zombie as a director.’The Devil’s Rejects’ is in my top 20 of all time. Having seen the much circulated ‘Workprint’ and the theatrical release,I can see many improvements in the ‘Final’ cut. The much loathed rape scene in the workprint was pushing towards ‘Hostel’ territory.{he-he}
The workprint was long and moved very slowly. Fell asleep twice the first time I tried to labor through it. I was really worried what the final product was going to be.
I was right to worry. I am loyal to the genre,and while Zombie’s version was good,it didn’t even come close to the original. Maybe it never really had a chance. I think Zombie gave it a great try,but trying to reinvent an icon has to be a daunting task. He failed,for me,but I can’t imagine another director that would have gotten as close as he did.
Studios need to learn from this,but a ‘Nightmare’ remake is no doubt coming down the pike. While I brace for the next wave of these films,I will cherish the originals as I have for many years. Like the funny,witty,bloody children I will never have.Micheal Meyers,R.I.P.

Reply

14 John Taylor September 10, 2007 at 7:56 pm

I tried to respond to this on World Of Pop,but uh.. Anyway. I am always suspect of movies that drop in August. Studios frequently use that month as a dumping ground for movies that aren’t good. I can almost always agree,save this year’s amazing Superbad,most of the other films that have come out in August were bad.
I am a horror fan. That being said,I also dig Zombie as a director.’The Devil’s Rejects’ is in my top 20 of all time. Having seen the much circulated ‘Workprint’ and the theatrical release,I can see many improvements in the ‘Final’ cut. The much loathed rape scene in the workprint was pushing towards ‘Hostel’ territory.{he-he}
The workprint was long and moved very slowly. Fell asleep twice the first time I tried to labor through it. I was really worried what the final product was going to be.
I was right to worry. I am loyal to the genre,and while Zombie’s version was good,it didn’t even come close to the original. Maybe it never really had a chance. I think Zombie gave it a great try,but trying to reinvent an icon has to be a daunting task. He failed,for me,but I can’t imagine another director that would have gotten as close as he did.
Studios need to learn from this,but a ‘Nightmare’ remake is no doubt coming down the pike. While I brace for the next wave of these films,I will cherish the originals as I have for many years. Like the funny,witty,bloody children I will never have.Micheal Meyers,R.I.P.

Reply

15 Joe n June 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm

The much talked about rape scene was cool. Best part of the film.

Reply

16 Joe n June 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm

The much talked about rape scene was cool. Best part of the film.

Reply

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