Monday, April 18, 2011

When a Spoiler Calls

The Scream franchise is known for several things. Perhaps most notable of all is an opening kill that's as shocking in its violence as it is in its chuztpah (Hollywood stars, franchise stars and meta set-ups are the sorts you'll find there) with echoes of Psycho and When a Stranger Calls. Down at the other end of the film reel, Scream is known for the big reveal of who has been wearing the Ghostface mask for the past 100 minutes or so. It's a well-oiled machine that proved to be just as entertaining now as it had been between 1996-2000. Scream 4 features, surely, the most insane and twisted final act of the franchise!

So you could imagine my surprise and shock when a prominent Melbourne-based, but nationally published in Fairfax newspapers such as The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, film critic - a very big fish in this rather small pond - went and announced who the killer was within the opening sentence of his review! I immediately went to Twitter and Facebook and announced this abhorrent unprofessional act.

Before long people were asking me "surely you're kidding" style of questions, but as someone who had laid eyes on Jim Schembri's review personally I was most definitely not. Those who hadn't seen the film thankfully avoided it thereafter, but those who had already seen it (the local press screening was the Monday night) clicked over and saw it for themselves. As another critic tweeted "Jesus, he really does give it all away up front doesn't he. Should be a sackable offense", quickly followed by other people too numerous to count spouting words like "brutally uncool and cruel", "really arrogant", "utterly jerk behaviour", "appalling" and "Schembri's a prick" as well as many a retweet to people around the globe. Luke Buckmaster of Crikey tweeted "the spoiler in Schembri's review of Scream 4 is the worst spoiler I've ever seen."

Only the sight of [redacted] getting all kill-happy in the frenzied, formulaic final-reel bloodbath makes this totally unwanted, utterly predictable franchise stretcher marginally worthwhile.

Utterly unbelievable, isn't it? Also, "unwanted"?

Buckmaster took it upon himself, when I didn't have the time to, to get proof of this embarrassing move because by later that evening the review had been altered. Schembri and his editors subbed out the offending spoiler and replaced it with a less obvious spoiler, but still a line that would raise an eyebrow if you knew anything about the franchise and its penchant for surprises. And then there is, of course, the picture caption which still makes the killer's identity a cinch to pick. Scream 4 is the fourth instalment of this franchise and Jim has been doing this job long enough to know he shouldn't go about revealing movie twists. Did he do this to The Sixth Sense or The Crying Game, too?

Only the sight of [redacted] getting caught up in the frenzied, formulaic final-reel makes this totally unwanted, utterly predictable franchise stretcher marginally worthwhile.

Luckily for The Age, and so forth, Schembri's review didn't go to print until Friday, by which time that too had been edited to feature the new opening sentence. And while all websites that carried the review were carefully changed, Fairfax do not have the ability to edit Google!

src - Crikey

Surely this would be enough for this critic, a man I see from time to time at media screenings so the awkwardness will not be lost on me, to admit his mistake? A mistake, might I add, that is highly ironic since it was just last year when the man got in trouble by his own paper for saying The Age's ethical standards had become an "optional extra rather than an ethos" (courtesy, again, of Crikey.) But, no, Schembri decided to make this following tweet available for all to see on his Twitter account for all to see, implying that not only was his Scream 4 review spoiler free now, but that it always had been.

An email to the man himself (as someone who he alluded to thinking "abuse is cool" I felt it finally warranted one) was met with a vague illusion to a future article to appear on his blog at The Age, Cinetopia, detailing what happened, something later confirmed by his Twitter account.

That's it! Turn your gobsmacking mistake into a risible claim for fame and web hits! If he calls the spoiler reveal as some pseudo-meta take on the Scream franchise then I think I'll, er, scream.

Meanwhile, apart from the aforementioned Crikey article, Jim Schembri has been taken to task by the likes of Jess McGuire at DefamerAU, Brisbane film critic Matthew Toomey at The Film Pie and a wave of Twitterers. Making the spoiler reveal even worse is that for a long stretch of 14 April - the film's release date here in Australia and a full day before American release - Schembri's review appeared right at the very top of Rotten Tomatoes, meaning anyone from Melbourne to New York, Paris to Rio could have innocently clicked on it not know they were about to have the film's major twist revealed.

Scream 4 is, after all, a movie in which the TV spot claims to feature "a terrifying secret that can't be revealed until the very end!"

"The very end" or "the very beginning of a review", pretty much the same it appears for Mr Schembri. The film's director, Wes Craven, even tweeted this telltale message for every one of his 74,000+ followers:

So while we wait on this so-called "full story" from his side of the controversy, we can all just sit back and wonder how one man could be so silly as to think nobody would notice or care that he spoiled a major release's big twist. No matter what one's opinion on a film is, that doesn't give you the right to ruin it for others. Whatta dope!


jakey said...

I can't believe this story. I was accidentally spoiled for it, but it was my own fault (IMDB message boards the week before the release? What was I thinking???), and can't imagine people, as you say, innocently poring over Rotten Tomatoes and having the movie ruined for them. Gone are the days when Gene Siskel slyly did the "SHE IS A HE" paragraph trick in his "Crying Game" review (am I allowed to spoil that? It's been 20 years now).

I'm also a bit perturbed that Peter Travers of "Rolling Stone" gave away the surprise of the opening scene.

Glenn Dunks said...

I know, right? Unbelievable that somebody would do this. It's not like the movie makes a killer's identity a known entity from the outset.

As for Travers... yeah, well... he's America's Schembri, probably.

TonyFilangeri said...

So basically, this douche asshole is the reason the film sold less tickets... I mean think about it, I'm sure there's SOME people who saw his review and went "OH NOW THAT I KNOW THE ENDING, WHY SEE IT NOW!"

That makes me so angry. He should actually be sued.

John from Jersey said...

Actually, Peter Travers is just ONE of our Schembris. Sadly, we appear to have a fleet of them. Prior to seeing Scream 4, I had to avoid every single written thing about it in our newspapers and magazines because there seems to be a general lack of understanding of what qualifies as a spoiler and why spoilers suck.

As annoying and messed up as it is that Schembri ruined the movie for some people, it is only made worse by his lack of balls to admit he even did it in the first place. Jesus, he's a punk and a pussy.