Criticsm Vs. Bullying: Rex Reed’s V/H/S/2 Review Is A Slap To The Face Of Film Criticism

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Well, well, well – we meet again Rex Reed. Last time I found myself writing about your brash, mean-spirited commentary which unjustly attacked Melissa McCarthy for absolutely no reason, and despite wanting to boil over like a covered pot of spaghetti, I kept myself fact based, professional, to the point, and lacking of the cheap personal attacks you lowered yourself to using. I thought “Maybe this was one slip up. Maybe Reed will clean his act up. Maybe Reed will just slink away into the sunset like a respectful professional.”

But here I am, again, after this week’s crop of reviews, back for another therapeutic rant. Who did Reed insult this time? Oh, just about everyone. The entire horror community, his readers, numerous filmmakers, and anyone that cares about film and/or journalism. First of all, he hated Pacific Rim, which I thoroughly enjoyed opening night, but critics are entitled to their opinion – it’s the nature of the game. What is disgusting though is his repeated lack of knowledge about the films he “critiques,” as again he adamantly presents a statement that is completely false. But we’ll get to that a little later.

What pushed me to this article was even more inexcusable. All factual errors aside, Rex Reed found it necessary to review V/H/S/2 (which I loved), and showing he has absolutely no stomach for horror, this is what he produced:

In this indescribably gory, violent, plotless and deranged purloin of every horror movie ever made by amateurs with a wobbly, nauseating handheld camera, seven unknown directors hell-bent on remaining that way enter a dark, deserted house containing a pile of VHS tapes. One by one, they insert the tapes, and onto the screen flash five episodic creep shows involving a mountain biker pursued by flesh-eating zombies, a cult of Satan worshipers and a sleepover invaded by psycho kidnappers told from the perspective of a GoPro camera attached to the back of a dog. V/H/S/2 is a diabolically psychotic, sub-mental and completely unwatchable disaster that I happily deserted when a man with a retinal implant scooped out his bionic eye with a sharp object, splattering blood all over the camera. Your move, and you’re welcome to it.

Oh no, that’s not just a snippet – that’s his whole review.

As stated, I played very nice in my article about Reed and McCarthy’s situation. I stayed cool, calm, and collected, presented my argument and opinion in the most proper way possible, and simply provided another onlooker’s insights into the problems the entire profession of film journalism faces with egotistical miscreants like Mr. Reed running around and sullying its reputation. Mr. Reed was out of line, gives film reviewers a bad name, and that’s what I discussed.

But now you’re going to step into the ring of horror, disrespect a billion people along the way, and think nothing of it? Now you’ve done it. Horror is my genre, and you better believe a hack “review” like the one above makes my blood boil. Gloves are off. This is just ridiculous now. Let’s seriously dissect what Mr. Reed accomplished by throwing some words together and mistakenly thinking he’d produced a viable piece of film criticism.

For starters, he only made it through a small portion of the movie. I get horror isn’t for everyone, but c’mon, if you’re not willing to sit through an ENTIRE movie, you don’t have the right to comment on it – ESPECIALLY AN ANTHOLOGY MOVIE. The point Rex references when Adam Wingard’s character cuts out his bionic eye isn’t even the ending of the very first segment, so not only did Rex fail to even catch the ending of “Phase I Clinical Trials,” but he absolutely ignored the three other segments and the rest of Simon Barrett’s work that provided the tie-in material. Did that stop Reed from posting a review that trashed the film as a whole, unjustly? Of course not! Mr. Reed is so knowledgeable about movies, he doesn’t need to even finish them in order to spout prolific lines of detailed film analysis. He can’t be wasting his time watching EVERY SINGLE MOVIE! Don’t be absurd.

Mr. Reed’s review of the horror anthology V/H/S/2 is the equivalent of me ordering a five-course meal, getting the salad, deciding I don’t like it, walking out on the rest of the meal, and then posting a review that said I had an absolutely dreadful full meal, each course worse than the last. How can I make that claim even though I only tasted the salad? I may have just passed up on the most delicious, succulent, taste-gasmic meal of my life aside from the salad, and the remaining food could have been perfectly fine, deserving praise instead of negative remarks – but instead, the other four courses are unjustly bashed out of foolish assumptions. Now imagine if four other chefs made those other four courses, and they’re reading a review saying their portion was equally garbage-worthy, even though the un-informed and thoughtless reviewer didn’t even bother to sample their dish. Make more sense now?

You ABSOLUTELY CANNOT rate something you didn’t watch. That’s Film Criticism 101. Sorry, actually, that’s just having professional integrity.

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But at least Rex had all his facts straight about the other segments, describing exactly what happened so people could understand what he missed – oh wait, of course he f#cking didn’t. In another showing that just continually proves that Rex Reed doesn’t respect his readers or the medium enough to even put in the extra effort to research correct information, Reed completely misses the mark on plot details. If only there was some online database that collects information about every movie that’s been/being created, letting Mr. Reed at least provide correct information in his false review. You know, like IMDb (Internet Movie Database), Wikipedia, or even just going to f#cking Google and typing V/H/S/2 and clicking the first link that appears. In fact, let’s see what happens. OH LOOK! IMDB IS THE FIRST SELECTION THAT COMES UP. It’s one thing to provide a review that lacks any critique at all, but it’s another to provide a review with no integrity, professionalism, or a shred of common decency towards the filmmakers.

So let’s see how far off he was. His first description says “a mountain biker pursued by flesh-eating zombies.” Well, that’s kind of right, except the mountain-biker is actually a zombie himself, and we watch flesh-eating zombies pursue their next meal. Our main character isn’t running away, except for the first minute where he is human. The story is completely the opposite of what Rex said, making him 0/1. Next up he says “a cult of Satan worshipers.” Damn you Reed, OK, you’re 1/2. By saying the most general statement about “Safe Haven,” you’re actually correct. This last description is inexcusable though: “a sleepover invaded by psycho kidnappers told from the perspective of a GoPro camera attached to the back of a dog.” Dude, seriously. THE NAME OF THE SEGMENT IS “ALIEN SLUMBER PARTY.” Psychopaths? Ugh, his utter disregard for factual data infuriates me, because as a reader, if I believe I have a better database of knowledge than the reviewer him/herself, why the f#ck am I reading his critique?

I normally wouldn’t be so nitpicky about such a mistake, because let’s be honest, everyone makes mistakes. But Reed’s repeated neglect and overall complete ignorance of factual data comes across as nothing but lazy, hateful, disrespectful, unprofessional, and horribly inexcusable – especially for someone who holds himself on such an illustrious pedestal. I already highlighted his gross mis-explanation of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters last time, but Reed’s non-existent attention to detail reared its ugly head yet again in his Pacific Rim. He states: “[Guillermo Del Toro's] debut film was a neat little horror called Kronos, but I have personally disliked everything he’s done since. I was not a fan of the labored, overrated Pan’s Labyrinth, and I hated the equally contrived and pretentious ghost story The Orphanage.”  The Orphanage. The movie directed by J.A. Bayona, and presented by Guillermo Del Toro? You are aware he didn’t direct Mama either, right Rex? These types of errors make his voice weaker and weaker as the frequency builds up, and this has been going on entirely too long. Yet with his boisterous voice, Reed keeps ramming these blunders down people’s throats in an unapologetic display of power, banking on the status he’s built over the years just to hear himself blubber on in what he thinks is a genius-type fashion.

But that’s not even the worst of it. The biggest injustice to come out of Reed’s comments are again unnecessary insults from a crotchety blow-hard who puts down the very medium that made him somewhat recognizable in the first place. To quote Mr. Reed, our team of directors are just “seven unknown directors hell-bent on remaining that way.” Again, if you know nothing about a genre, then keep your f#cking mouth shut. It’s that simple. Honestly, not following film criticism until I started writing myself, I had no idea who Rex Reed was – and I’m not afraid to say that. I knew Ebert, Siskel, and then younger people that I actually read on sites more geared towards my generation. But you know what I did, Rex? I Googled your name and read up on your life so I could keep my article factually correct and therefore more powerful. You saying these directors are unknown shows how much you pigeonhole yourself as a critic, and seriously makes me wonder what business you have rating a horror movie anyway. Granted, none of these guys have the recognition of Scorsese or Kubrick (yet), but every one of them are becoming a mainstay in the cinematic world.

Starting with Simon Barrett (“Tape 49″) and Adam Wingard (“Phase I Clinical Trails”), these two have teamed up on a number of features (A Horrible Way To Die/VHS/The ABCs of Death), along with their upcoming film You’re Next, which happens to be one of the most hotly anticipated horror films of the year (not to mention being a festival circuit juggernaut that sites have been talking about for years now). Then you’ve got Jason Eisener, the only dude cool enough to rock a golden Millennium Falcon chain in his IMDb picture, another contributor to The ABCs of Death, creator of the cult-worshiped Christmas horror short Treevenge, and writer/director of the feature Hobo With A Shotgun. Don’t forget Timo Tjahjanto though, yet another The ABCs Of Death contributor who is best known for his horror film Macabre, and future repeat collaborator with his “Safe Haven” counterpart.

OK, I’ll throw the dog a bone and admit those names you might not know unless you’re into harder genre stuff. Since Rex has shown he doesn’t give a damn about horror (seriously, scroll through his Rotten Tomatoes profile and see his recent horror ratings. He gave Cabin In The Woods 1/4), but even so, you cannot sit there and tell me Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sánchez are unknown. Whether you like horror or not, you’ve heard of The Blair Witch project. Being one of the first successful “found footage” films, coming years before Paranormal Activity, what Hale (producer) and Sánchez (director) accomplished cinematically has been recounted time and time again by Hollywood gurus, and a slew of copy-cat films have tried to achieve the same overnight success of a budgetary gold mine that showed a return of 20,592% on a $600,000 budget (once marketing and such had been added to the equation). To call them unknown is a puzzling falsity.

Our last director, Gareth Evans, is another name I got a good chuckle out of Reed calling unknown. Granted, it appears Reed had much more important things to do last year than catch Evans’ film The Raid: Redemption, which was heralded as an insta-classic adrenaline rush, and is hands-down one of the best action films in years. The rights were bought almost immediately, a US release was granted, and a green light was given on the spot for a sequel. Evans is one of the hottest new directors around, and pulled himself from Rex’s “basement of the unknown” the minute he made The Raid: Redemption. Surely he’ll be in even higher demand after teaming with Tjahjanto on “Save Haven,” which stands as one of the most gripping, entertaining, and unabashedly creative horror shorts in years. You know, the one Reed wrote-off without seeing?

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None of these auteurs are “unknown,” all have asserted themselves in the horror genre to wide appeal, have broke into the mainstream, and they all still show a bright future and tremendous promise. None of them are “unknowns.” Just like calling McCarthy a “hippo,” Reed displays yet again he’s only interested in ruffling feathers and stroking his own ego these days, not being a reputable film critic.

Such a “review” makes a mockery of film criticism, is an embarrassment to the New York Observer, gives people one more reason not to trust Reed’s writing, unjustly knocked V/H/S/2‘s rating down on Rotten Tomatoes, unfairly attacks all the directors in another misguided attempt at cyber bullying, and just makes me think all the more that Reed is only interested in seeing his name being talked about. Maybe this is all he wants really, to be discussed by other writers around the internet, in which case I might only be making the problem worse. If that’s the sad truth, I’d like to apologize for keeping the Rex Reed boat afloat, but even if I can convince only one or two people to stop promoting Reed’s attempts at knocking film journalism down a peg or two, then I’ll be a happy man.

To me, Rex Reed is nothing but a dinosaur trying to remain relevant, not caring if his content is worthwhile, and only focuses on keeping himself in the limelight. How does he do that? Not through truth, research, and hard work, but insults, attention grabbers, and bullying – poking as many bears as he can. Are people sharing his increasingly spiteful reviews and name-calling more than they’re reading other people’s work? Yup, sadly, which is why the New York Observer doesn’t seem to care much that they’re employing a man who currently stands for everything a film critic shouldn’t be. You know, there are plenty of critics out there who watch the movies, respect their profession, produce well-written content, and have enough Hollywood knowhow to understand when a title says “Presented by Guillermo Del Toro,” that doesn’t mean he directed it. So go ahead, keep employing a man whose reputation is sinking faster than the Titanic if you watched it on fast forward, but when the hits stop coming on Reed’s reviews because the masses are finally understanding what a pariah he’s become, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If you want petty gossip, unwarranted opinions, and reviews written by a narrow-minded, grumpy man, then by all means, frequent the New York Observer, which is home to a film critic who lives in this fantasy world where he’s been established as a God. If you want an actual review by writers who care about giving a proper analysis, fair judgements, and who base their comments on factual evidence – go anywhere else (but mainly here at We Got This Covered!).

To the New York Observer, I would love for you to just come out and admit you’ve simply been trolling the internet with Reed’s reviews, but sadly I don’t think this is the case. You’re giving a man a voice he doesn’t deserve, and I hope you come to your senses soon. So many of us writers work too damn hard only to watch Reed undermine our efforts with his own brazen foolishness, selfishly exploiting his position at the New York Observer for his own agenda. You’ve missed your opportunity to ride off proudly into the sunset Mr. Reed, but I think it’s time to call it quits. The least you can do is slink away quietly.

My intentions aren’t to start a fight, a feud, or anything else, but just assess a situation. There’s a reason Rex ascended to the level he’s at and I respect that completely – I just want people to understand that the actions of one person aren’t echoed through an entire professional collective. That is all.

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  • Chad

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen the movie, and it’s quite good. As an indie horror film, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of most of its competitors (that I’ve seen, at least.)

  • Darren Ruecker

    I think this cements Rex Reed’s reputation as an Armond White wannabe by now, right?

  • Andrew Anthony

    I thought VHS 2 was strikingly and effectively entertaining for an independent horror film. Though I must admit, its predecessor was far more frightening.

  • zengrrl

    I’m just surprised he still has a job. He’s unprofessional and spouts hatred at everything just to get his name in print. That someone pays him to do this is a travesty to film journalism.

  • resident

    Rex Reed has’nt been relevent since his stint on the Gong Show, and that’s only because he used to blow the host. For real.

  • Apollo109

    So this is what the world is come to? We have critics criticizing critics. Do you really think he gives a sh*t what you think?

    Prior to his current job as film critic for The New York Observer, Reed has been a film critic for Vogue, GQ, The New York Times, and Women’s Wear Daily. For thirteen years, he was an arts critic for the New York Daily News, and for five years was the film critic for the New York Post. He is a member of New York Film Critics Circle and, because his reviews appear on the Internet, he is a member of New York Film Critics Online. He is the author of eight books about the movies.

    • Matt Donato

      Yes, those are all facts, but that has nothing to do with the point I’m making. Do you think I personally “give a shit” whether he ever knows who I am? No. Will he? Probably not. Did he accomplish all those things you said? Absolutely. Do I respect what he’s built? 100%. Is he making a mockery of film criticism by calling Melissa McCarthy a “tractor-sized hippo” and reviewing movies he hasn’t seen? At this point and time, sadly. You might want to try reading what I wrote again, because in no way do I discredit what he’s done previously. Me saying I didn’t know who he was simply emphasized his misuse of the word “unknown.” If you’re an action genre fan, you know who Gareth Evans is because of The Raid: Redemption. It’s not fair to call someone “unknown” simply because you don’t really follow the genre. Much like Rex is far from unknown even though I didn’t have a particular knowledge him, someone like Evans is far from unknown even though Reed doesn’t know who he is. I’m not reviewing reviews, but an unfortunate situation that hopefully won’t be replicated.

    • Rex Ruthor

      This is what it’s come to? Astronauts praising critics who are being reviewed by critics.

  • sawyersolo

    he’s 74. nuff said

  • Blackbelt_Jones

    He was right about The Dark Knight Rises tho’……..

  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/133833423430874/ Matt Clarke

    V/H/S was far superior to 2. It just was. The second was a bit of a mess and not in the good way. Granted, one should finish a movie if they are going to critique it in my opinion. Like Donato said, it is an anthology after all. Reed skipped entire stories. But, Rex Reed knows one thing. Sizzle sells. He got this Matt Donato all riled up over his short review. Now look. His review is getting reviewed. Gotta hand it to Reed. At least he gets an A+ in marketing.