Conflicts Of Interest In The Horror Critic Community

25 Apr

In the tight-knit horror community, it’s not uncommon for film critics to be friends with the creators whose content they review. And for micro budget indie films, oftentimes with budgets for as low as $5000, a good review from a prominent website can be critical to receiving distribution. Horrorfreaknews.com editor Josh Millican knows this all to well; positive coverage from his website, which receives over a million unique viewers a month, is seen as a badge of honor and can lead to thousands of horror fans checking out a film they might otherwise ignore.

“I’ve had quotes featured on a few dvd covers, which is pretty damn cool,” says Millican. “I love indie horror movies, and I really love helping support the community.”

While it’s great to see an otherwise niche market receive coverage from sites like Horrorfreaknews, an unfortunate side effect of the mutualism between critic and filmmaker is an unwillingness to criticize. When you’re friends with the person whose film its your job to critique, it can be hard to point out flaws and easy to over flatter. As an editor, Josh has had to put his foot down on conflicts of interest he’s seen on his own site. A few years ago one of his guest writers wrote a positive review of a film that was received largely negatively from other sites. He later found out it was the writer’s girlfriend who starred in the film.

“It’s a big problem man,” says Millican. “Our bread and butter is press releases and screeners from small companies. If we s*** all over their films, they won’t send us any more screeners or press releases. Same time, if they release a bad movie, I mean, we should have the right to s*** on it.”

Horrorfreaknews is far from the only site to face such dilemmas; popular horror film website theblood-shed.com received backlash last January after it was revealed it’s owner, Matthew Myers, was an investor on several of the films it had given positive reviews. Myers, who was unavailable for comment, has since sold the site. Theblood-shed.com readers haven’t seemed to be deterred by the news; it’s viewership has steadily increased since Myers departure. While  he’s unfamiliar with Theblood-shed’s predicament, Millican has found himself in similar situations.

“In addition to the more journalistic stuff, I’m a creative writer. My novel Deeper Than Hell was published over on MorbidlyBeautiful.com back in 2016,” says Millican. “And I’ll tell you what man, you wouldn’t believe how many websites came asking me for money to post positive reviews. I sent them packing to the f***ing door. I hate that s***, I absolutely hate it. I mean, where’s their godd*** integrity.”

While it makes sense a small community would want to support itself, indie horror isn’t doing itself any favors with excessive back patting. Conflicts of interest circumvent the readers trust, and eventually discourage potential  fans from looking into horror all together. And if there’s one thing all horror websites have in common, it’s a desire to introduce people to the genre they love.

 

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