Tights and T-Rexes:

Well guys Suicide Squad has come and gone, and at no point did it go over well with critics. But audiences—or some vocal portion of them—liked it, and are as unhappy with critics as the critics are with the movie. Which lead to some accusations in the raging rapids of Twitter and social media that critics are just shills for Marvel, or even that critics have no place in our lives.

I’ve gone on record as favoring Marvel, and I’ll admit that I share no excitement about seeing Dawn of Justice. But I think it’s possible for both critics and DC fans to exist in this world of ours.

Take The Witch. The movie was trumpeted by critics, beloved for being a return to arthouse horror and building dread without jump-scares. It boasts a high critical rating on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. But audiences weren’t so enthusiastic. I loved the film, but I’m not immodest enough to say that’s because it’s objectively one of the best movies of the year, let alone that some audiences are “just dumb” as some may argue.

Movies are such subjective experiences, built on the backs of so many people and for the enjoyment of even more I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a movie that everyone loves and could agree was an objectively good movie. So long as you’re able to appreciate what it is you enjoyed about the movie, reflect critically on that, what’s the harm? It’s ok for a movie to be good to you, and have all the elements you wanted from it and for critics to not agree.

I love dinosaurs, particularly of the underwater variety. So for myself, Jurassic World had everything I wanted and more. But I can also acknowledge that if you aren’t me, and weren’t flooded with adrenaline over the action sequences it’s a pretty subpar movie. Conversely, I like my horror films to really wig me out (while not being too gorey) and while It Follows gave others those feelings I wasn’t on board—no matter how much I appreciated the artistry of it. I’m a sucker for smart action films, so Marvel’s cinematic universe excites and thrills me, but that doesn’t mean A.O. Scott is wrong when he called it homogenous. It might mean that we value that differently in our enjoyment. Jurassic World dinosaur

To say that any one audience is “smarter” than another is gross and white-washes the issue. It’s more accurate (and kind) to say that your interests, values, and pleasure is simply stocked in different places. The whole idea of having a wide range of pop culture is that there’s something for everyone, not everything for someone.

When you read a critic’s review and it seems to be overly harsh or bashing on something you love, ask yourself: Is it? Is it just that we disagree? Is this a critic I have a trust and understanding with? Can I get over myself and just enjoy what I enjoy without validation?

A mood that follows you

I was pretty jazzed for “It Follows.” Ever since I saw the trailer at a SIFF theater, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some old-school horror. And yet, I walked out of the theater disappointed.

I suppose there’s a case to be made for getting my hopes up; I’ve started avoiding trailers as of late to prevent that kind of thinking, but “It Follows” was an exception, and the hype surrounding it probably didn’t help either.

But for me, “It Follows” had all the right things: a balance between explanation and mystery, a villain whose approach I was constantly on the look out for, a moody and etherial atmosphere, and teens doing their best against a monster that’s out to get (one of) them. Initially I thought that I needed to think on it more, and I would understand what everyone was talking about. But then it occurred to me: the only thing that was missing was a visceral response, and that wouldn’t change over time.

Clearly it was there for others; just look at the film’s near universal RT score or ask your friends if they felt comfortable in their house after watching it. But for me, I looked for the monster in the background, I jumped a couple times during the movie, but never quite felt like the mood drew the willies right out of me. I could appreciate all the different interpretations and strategies of “It Follows,” but without that gut-response it didn’t leave any sort of lasting mark on me.

The creation of the mood of a movie, while arguably up there in pretentious sounding film concepts, is also an important and delicate balance that filmmakers strike. It’s what separates the greats from the bad, and the really ugly—look to “The Room” for an example of just how deep the rabbit hole can go. For me it’s a different concept than a tone; mood focuses on the feeling or atmosphere that an audience feels towards a film, instead of vice versa.

Horror films are founded on it. They prey on our gut-clenching and unease, and when the mood is right you want more but also less. I’d argue that a movie like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (the original; the only one I’ve seen) are so successful decades after their jump-scares and effects were introduced because the movie itself casts such an unhinged, dirty feel throughout the entire thing.

Obviously that’s how some feel about “It Follows.” What I’ve found is that when that mood is absent I feel much more like an anthropologist, cataloguing and appreciating what I’m seeing without ever really feeling immersed in it. I guess now I know that if the mood is wrong, a movie won’t follow me too long after the lights come back on. IT-FOLLOWS-Poster1-e1419019379505