An Open Letter To Rex Reed

Mr. Reed, while we've never met (although I believe we have been in the same press screenings at TIFF in the past) I have heard nothing but kind words spoken about you as a person. As one of the elder statesmen of film reviewing, you have earned and can command a great deal of respect. Which is why I was so shocked and disappointed in your recent review of Cabin In the Woods, and why I am imploring you to issue some sort of retraction and public apology.

I'm sure that by now you've been made aware of the complaints stemming from that review. We genre fans tend to be a superstitious, cowardly lot, to misappropriate a phrase, and you likely think the vast majority of the criticism directed at you and your review is simply sour grapes, that we are circling the wagons and protecting one of our own. I assure you that is not the case. Genre fans are used to "our" films being misunderstood and scorned by 'mainstream' reviewers (see, for instance, another 'open letter' directed towards Roger Ebert regarding his review of the recent action film The Raid: Redemption) and if you had simply disliked the movie and given it a one-star review, as Ebert did, there would have been little furor. Even the level of juvenile contempt you displayed (your "writing under the guidance of crystal meth" line directed at Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, for instance), which would typically be more appropriate for a venue like Ain't It Cool News than the New York Observer, wouldn't have occasioned too much comment. In fact, I suspect it would have been seen as something of a badge of honor in some circles.

Nor is the fact that your review contained glaring spoilers (specifically with regard to a cameo towards the end of the movie) the focus of the criticism. Again, spoilers are par for the course in the world of the modern cinema fan, especially since the explosion of social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Had you merely written a negative review containing spoilers, there would have been some grumbling but mostly shrugged shoulders and a resigned attitude that you "didn't get it."

No, the extreme criticism directed at you and your Cabin In the Woods review comes almost exclusively from the fact that it contains numerous, glaring factual inaccuracies. Taking them in the order in which they appear:

1) "...the creaking door to a cellar of corpses". There are no corpses, animated or otherwise, in the cellar of the cabin. Perhaps you were confused by the wedding dress on a stand which one of the characters is drawn to, or perhaps this was intended to merely be a colorful phrase rather than a literal description of events.

2) "Zombies rise from the swamp and eat the sexy chick’s flesh." No, actually, the zombies in the film don't eat their victims. Nor is there a swamp in the film for them to rise from.

3) "Vampires circle the moon and suck the hot stud’s blood." This is a complete figment of your imagination. There are no vampires in the film, circling the moon or otherwise. In fact, the "hot stud" character (I presume you are referring to Chris Hemsworth) doesn't get killed by a monster at all, whether vampire, zombie, or something else.

4) "What they fail to notice is the hidden cameras." Actually, the "reefer-smoking doofus" you mention in the previous sentence does find the hidden cameras. Which makes your later line about the characters "Somehow miraculously managing to figure it all out..." nonsensical, as that deduction is not the least bit miraculous.

5) "It’s all part of an elaborate video game that allows paying customers to watch real people slaughtered according to the horror of choice. The five kids in the cabin are innocent pawns to test the mechanics of the game..." This, also, is a complete fabrication on your part. There is nothing in the film, either stated or implied, to indicate that what is taking place is any kind of video game, or indeed a game at all. This is not a matter of differing interpretations, Mr. Reed. You invented an entire plot point in your review that does not exist in the film. It would be as if you claimed the main obstacle to Rick and Ilsa's romance in Casablanca was that Rick had a wife back in America, because at one point in the film you see him fiddling with a ring on his finger. It's not just untrue, it directly contradicts the actual contents and themes of the film.

6) "The game ends only if the virgin survives." Putting aside your 'video game' fabrication for a moment, Richard Jenkins' character explicitly says that the survival of the 'virgin' is immaterial to what is taking place. What matters is that the others all die before her, that she is the last one standing. (Also, as is made clear in the first five minutes of the movie, the character of Dana is not a virgin, as she recently ended an affair with her professor. As she is filling the archetypal 'virgin' role in the proceedings, however, referring to her as such should not be counted among the inaccuracies in your review.)

7) "...the stoner and the brainy girl (who is also a virgin)" OK, now it has to count as a separate inaccuracy.

8) "...if the virgin doesn’t survive it will mean the agonizing death of every human soul on the planet." I believe you meant to write if she does survive here. Again though, her survival is irrelevant. She is not the one being threatened in the final act, she's the one pointing the gun trying to decide whether to kill another character or not. This is not a subtle point that might have eluded an inattentive or confused viewer, Mr. Reed. It's something that's made very clear and explicit in both dialogue and action.

While you might claim that some of these inaccuracies are mere nitpicks, or examples of me taking turns of phrase too seriously, the sheer volume of them should be alarming to both you and your editors. The general impression given is that you didn't actually watch the movie you claim to have reviewed. Perhaps you saw the beginning, left the theater in disgust and only caught snatches of the rest through the door. Perhaps you weren't feeling well and slept through great portions of the film, and tried to guess at what happened while your eyes were closed. Whatever the reason, it's clear to anyone who has seen Cabin In the Woods and then read your piece on it (I can't in good conscience any longer call it a review) that you either did not watch the entirely of the film, or that you for whatever reason thought it appropriate and professional behavior to make things up about it.

I don't know what would have prompted you to do this. Elvis Mitchell was rumored to have been dismissed from Movieline not that long ago for a similar but far more trifling offense, as he merely mentioned in passing a character's personal affectation that was in an early draft of the script but didn't make the final cut of the film. You, either through ignorance, embarrassment or some other motive, deliberately misinformed your readers as to the contents of the movie you were supposed to be reviewing.

You violated the trust of your readers, Mr. Reed. This is not a matter of your opinion being suspect, it's now a matter of your veracity and integrity being called in question.

You've been in this game a long time, Mr. Reed. You of all people should understand how important those traits are to a film critic. If people no longer believe you are willing to at least accurately tell them what a movie's about, then your opinions on that movie becomes meaningless, and worthless.

This is not a controversy that is likely to go away quickly. Other critics have already noted your unprofessional behavior in your piece. Given the speed at which social media spreads an idea, it may not be long before your reputation and legacy as a critic are in serious jeopardy. For that reason if no other, I think it would be in your best interest to provide your readers and the general public with both an explanation for the multiple inaccuracies in your Cabin In the Woods piece, and an apology.


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