Editorial: Are sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB Swaying Horror Audiences In a Negative Way?

art1Last month, I called up a friend and asked if he wanted to catch a mid-day screening of Ciaran Foy’s SINISTER 2, the sequel to 2012’s Scott Derrickson-helmed SINISTER. While I was up for catching the film again, my friend said he didn’t want to go, because according to him, “Rotten Tomatoes said it wasn’t good”. That exchange led to me giving the subject of sites like that one possibly affecting smaller horror films, before they’ve even had a chance to find their audiences.

When you look at SINISTER 2’s Rotten Tomatoes score, you’ll see that it’s staying at a 12% fresh rating, which to be honest, isn’t too great. Over at IMDB’s page for it, it has a somewhat more impressive score, 5.5 out of 10.  What’s unfortunate about all of this, is how easily swayed viewers can sometimes be, forming opinions about films before they have a chance to be successful. In the case of SINISTER 2, it seems as if viewers had their minds made up before the open weekend was over, and didn’t give the film (which is my favorite horror film of the year) a good chance to prove people who labelled it a generic sequel wrong.

As a film critic, it’s my job to speak on what I feel makes a film work or NOT work, and to help inform viewers whether or not a film does a great job entertaining its audience. While I’m very serious about my feelings on a film, I don’t ever tell people that what I say is the bible, and sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Imdb are a little too much on the “this film sucks, don’t watch it” side of things, which unfortunately makes people decide on a film’s merit without even seeing it. Sure, films like this year’s POLTERGEIST remake made a little over 12 million dollars over its budget, but a lot of people stayed away from it, just based on sites like RT or Imdb’s low scores. Crowds were more on board with INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER III, which pulled in over 5 times its budget but still had a scary 60% score on RT and a 6.3 out of 10 on imdb.

In the ’70s and ’80s, word of mouth was crucial to a genre film’s success, but these days people just hop online, look at RT or Imdb and decided what to or NOTart3 to watch, based on internet scores, instead of giving films a chance and forming their own opinions. Some of my favorite films have had low scores on both of those sites, and having seen their negative and low scores, I still wanted to see them. So what do you fright fanatics think? As genre fans, are we relying too much on internet scores and not giving good horror films a chance to prove themselves to us like they used to be able to? Are we too reliant on sites telling us what to and what not to watch? Have we lost the individuality of seeing something with the risk of it either resonating deeply with us or upsetting us? I don’t know about you, but I love the gamble, and it’s always a rush to see if a film surprises me. With films like the upcoming CRIMSON PEAK and the GOOSEBUMPS film adaption of the popular R.L. Stine series, are we ready to give films a fighting chance again, instead of relying on ratings based on tomatoes and internet trolls voting on sites regarding whether or not you should spend your money on them? Personally, I want to be surprised to see if GOOSEBUMPS has a fighting chance and whether or not it’s something that could end up being a staple in my household, a film that my kids would enjoy. I guess time will tell.

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2 Responses to “Editorial: Are sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB Swaying Horror Audiences In a Negative Way?”
  1. Pixel says:

    I presume what you’re trying to say here is that potential audiences should look beyond the score to the actual reviews, reading *why* a particular film has a high or low score and in that perhaps find a nugget perhaps of personal interest to them, but further than that I would argue that the reason many films have such low scores is that studios know that horror fans will on the whole want their fix so their is no requirement on them to up their game.

    I can’t comment on Insidious 3 as I’ve not seen any of them, but the two other films cited, Sinister 2 and Poltergeist, I unfortunately did see.

    My colleague reviewed Poltergeist and I honestly didn’t feel his point by point evisceration was nearly harsh enough, whereas my review of Sinister 2 called it a lacklustre companion piece with nothing to add to the original which didn’t deserve the excellent cast it had.

    I think rather than blaming potential audiences for being swayed by low scores, look to the studios who churn out lousy production line sequels and remakes which genuinely deserve those low scores.

    Still, on the bright side, at least found footage seems to have finally died.

    • SMITH says:

      Many people dismissed SINISTER 2 before it was even out. Personally, I loved it and felt that it had a lot of the character development that at times, the first one lacked. With that being said, when I went to see it for a second time (first was a press screening), there were 4 other people in the theater and while waiting in line to get a ticket, what sparked this was a young couple mentioning not wanting to see a film solely based on its Rotten Tomatoes score. IMDB is notorious for its flawed rating system.

      What I was trying to say, is that a film itself should be what one’s opinion is based on. Growing up, there weren’t sites that told people what to watch, you went to the cinema and watched films based on your excitement for a trailer or in a lot of Cannon films, the poster. It might come off as a bit nostalgia-obsessed, but even as a writer and critic who puts food on my family’s table BY writing about films, I have never once NOT watched a film based on a site that rates films.

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