Friday, April 22, 2011

When a Spoiler Calls, Part II

At the start of this week I told you dear readers about the escalating controversy surrounding Melbourne-based (yet nationally published) film critic Jim Schembri. You see, Schembri had written a review of Wes Craven's Scream 4 that revealed the identity of the killer in the very first sentence. A crime of stupidity if ever there was one, especially from a critic as seasoned and high ranking as Schembri. Read this piece from Monday that explains the whole story as we knew it at the time to catch yourself up because, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Schembri has one-upped himself in the "oh no he did not!" stakes.

Throughout the past week the man had promised "the full story" behind the "Scream 4 meta controversy", as seen above, which followed after a truly bizarre series of ridiculous tweets about time travel and Luke Buckmaster of Crikey. He kept promising and promising and never delivering. Naturally, it emerged at around Midnight on Good Friday when he suspected nobody would notice/care because it's a five-day weekend. It's amazing to think that on a weekend in which people celebrate a man who CAME BACK TO LIFE AFTER BEING EXECUTED that this would be the most ridiculous thing you'd read about today?

Yes, Jim Schembri posted up his "full story" and it's the biggest load of bullshit you're likely to read all week! In the piece titled "How I punk'd the Twitterverse" Schembri muses on how he played a big ol' prank on us Twitter users by outing the Scream 4 villain in his review; "I decided to create a online event. I wanted to become the scourge of the Twitterverse as I led the hordes down a merry trail of cryptic messages and misdirection." Except he didn't lead the hordes down a merry trail of cryptic messages and misdirection. He blatantly gave away the identity of the "who" in a "whodunnit". That isn't being cryptic, it's being an arrogant prick.

"I anticipated that the moment Scream 4 opened, sites such as Twitter would be positively brimming with spoilers", he says before later opining "Twitter wouldn't respect Scream 4, surely. Twitter doesn't respect anything." While it's true Scream 4 spoilers were overflowing on websites like Twitter as well as IMDb, YouTube and even websites like, none of the people announcing said spoilers were film critics who get paid by a mega-corporation (Fairfax) to review movies on a professional basis. I'd also hazard a guess that many of them were not grown men who were clearly smart enough to end up as the lead film critic at publications like The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. You don't get a job like that by being an idiot, but you sure can become one afterwards it seems. Still, this is the newspaper that somehow stuffed up today's paper by headmasting it with "THE SATURDAY AGE". On a Friday.

What it all boils down to is that Jim Schembri doesn't like Twitter ("(T)he Twitterverse, in my view, is largely populated by idle minds seeking to engage in banal, repetitive discourse and revel in the cheap thrills derived from being crude, vulgar, ignorant and abusive",) and felt like playing a prank on us. Except, wouldn't it have made sense to ACTUALLY PLAY A PRANK? Revealing the actual, true, real identity of the Scream 4 villain isn't a prank. Revealing the villain as someone who was not the villain would have been a prank. He would have gotten the vitriol is he craves and we all would have had a laugh when we realised "Oh that Jim Schembri was just fooling with us!"

Except here he wasn't just playing with the so-called "Twitterverse". Schembri's spoiler-laden review sat pretty upon the top of Rotten Tomatoes for several hours before, eventually, newer reviews began to push him down the lead page. Still, anybody who clicked on his review for the first day it appeared (it wasn't altered until 8am on Friday - a full day after the film's release and several hours after the print edition went on sale) would have been greeted with a spoiler that would ruin the movie's big climax. That's ANYBODY WHO CLICKED. I supposed Schembri believed everybody who uses the internet must use Twitter (and thus must be evil?), but they do not. Many do not like Twitter and yet they still would have been "punk'd" by this inexcusable social experiment. As another critic stated on, you guessed it, Twitter: "Once you start using your reviews as a forum for anything aside from your views on the film you're reviewing, it's pretty much over folks." Another states it "That piece insults the intelligence", another "How fitting of @jimschembri, on Good Friday, to depict himself as Twitter Christ. He spoiled for our sins, people", and another "I lost a bit of respect for The Age if it actually runs @jimschembri 's lie in print." And, of course, this one that sums up everything I've been saying: "Even if #Schembrigate was a genius twitter experiment, surely that doesn't justify spoiling the film for people WHO DON'T EVEN USE TWITTER".

And, even if Twitter is evil and full of crude, vulgar, ignorant and abrasive folks who are willing to spoil the enjoyment of movies for others then it's quite easy to find Twitter users who are not. I follow 460 people on Twitter and not one of them revealed the identity of the Scream 4 killer. I am followed by 1175 and I'm happy in knowing each and every one of them could go into Scream 4, if they so wish, and not know who the villain is. Unlike anybody who read Schembri's review. His revelation shows a distinct lack of respect for all of his readers, not just those who use Twitter as a valuable social networking tool.

And, for that matter, the irony of Schembri playing a wicked "punk" on Twitter is surely not lost on the man. Schembri himself has (as of right now) 497 followers and he started off the week with significantly less than that. Schembri, however, doesn't follow a single person; no filmmaker, no fellow critic, no friends. Nobody. And, for that matter, until this past week's clusterfuck of time machine tweets the man had never used the site for anything other than self-promotion of his The Age affiliated blog, Cinetopia. And, even further, as the image below shows, he doesn't even Tweet his reviews in any timely fashion! As ever, he's ahead of the technology curve is Mr Schembri.

None of this would have even been necessary if Schembri had have just admitted his fumble and apologised. Instead, he sent us down a ridiculously convoluted rabbit hole of pranks, punks and spoilers. It was obvious from his 1.5/5 review that he wasn't a fan of the movie, and yet in his article he continues to act petty and pouty towards the film whilst treating anybody who didn't want the ending spoiled with contempt.

Nobody likes being insulted, especially by a lame film. But that's how I felt about 10 minutes into Scream 4. ... No originality, no imagination. And predictable. The identity of the masked killer was obvious from the moment you first saw him. Or her. Or it. Hey, wouldn't want to spoil the film for anyone.

No, you wouldn't, but you did and I won't soon forget. Nor will anybody else who sees through his childish tantrum as anything but what it really is: a last minute attempt to save credibility, peddling a topic that his newspaper and other forms of print media are trying to push to their dwindling readers.

Poisin Pen has already written about it and I am sure you'll read a lot more about this throughout the weekend - freelance writers don't necessarily get five-day weekends - and beyond. Just remember, Jim Schembri played fast and loose with his readers by single-handedly destroying years worth of work by Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, the cast, crew and producers with one sentence of a review. He thought his readers were beyond contempt, played a gag with no thought of the consequences and then admitted to using his position for an elaborate gag that nobody can make heads or tails of (apart from Schembri himself, of course).

He concludes his article by giving Wes Craven, a filmmaker for 40 years (his debut, The Last House on the Left was released in 1972), condescending tricks on how to truly breath life in Scream 4's tagline of "New Decade, New Rules". It may be a new decade, but the old rules still apply to being a film critic and Jim Schembri broke them. It appears doubtful The Age will hold him accountable at all, which is truly sad, since they published this nonsense drivel of his. I guess it's up to us to let him and The Age know that playing games with readers is a cruel thing to do. Especially if they want us to keep paying that $1.50 every morning, right?


Anonymous said...

Isn't the daily Age now $1.70? Even more on weekends!

(great post, btw)

John from Jersey said...

This is an outstanding response, Mr. Dunks. You nailed it. Actually you nailed it too well because now I am pissed off all over again... he will never get the reprimand he deserves. And that will just feed into and encourage that smug bastard's ego even more. What an asshole.

TonyFilangeri said...

Would it be bad if I said that I almost want a crazed psycho fan of the series to dress up as ghostface, call him... and kill him? Lol, I mean it would be rather poetic, would it not? ;)

Anonymous said...

I remember feeling similar ire towards Roger Ebert when he gave away the twist in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that Remus Lupin was a werewolf in his review, but the blogosphere was not so highly evolved then as it is now for people to call him out on it.

Glenn Dunks said...

Anon, even in that situation most will have known about that from reading the book, and the reveal of Lupin isn't the sort of the twist that the entire film revolves on.

Da Vinci Smetana said...

I hate it when critics act like a--holes. I love the Scream franchise and it bugs that even one person who was looking forward to that film (though those numbers be dwindling!) had the latest installment spoiled for them.

The critic-spoiling-routine reminds me of the Michael Medved/Million Dollar Baby controversy. The film I did not like, but that doesn't mean people who hadn't seen it should have had it spoiled for them because of religious zealotry.

Thanks for sharing this, Glenn. I don't know the guy, but that picture you posted with this article certainly doesn't ingratiate himself to me.