What is the worst review a film can get?

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This seems like a simple enough question. What is the worst review a film can get? A bad one, of course. Zero stars. Two thumbs down. Right?

Wrong.

The worst review a film can get is the one in the middle. The “it’s ok” review. Two or three stars.

So, why, you might ask is that worse than a zero star review? It’s worse because of the effect is has on the reader. Back when I was reviewing music for Altsounds, my most popular reviews were universally the bad reviews. The ones where I would rip the album to shreds. The editors loved them, the readers loved them (the unique views on the reviews showed this) – and they were always the most commented on. Whereas, when I gave a good review, generally speaking, the views were low, and so too, was audience engagement. So, in this sense, a bad review gets more exposure. It also gives the reader a chance to disagree with the reviewer (therefore, also feel superior to the said reviewer). The reverse is also true, but it doesn’t give the reader so much satisfaction. We experienced this on the horror short “Silent Hill: Stolen Heart”. Every time we got a good review from a major website, the vitriolic comments on youtube would also come flooding in. However, there was a feeling of disappointment in those comments. They expected something out of this world amazing, and we couldn’t live up to it.

Now, you can see there is good and bad consequences to both very good, and very bad reviews. What they both have in common however, is that they drive the reader to take action.

So, what happens when you get a so-so review? Not much really. The person who was going to watch your film anyway will do so. However, the undecided person is most likely going to say to themselves – “I’ll watch it later”. Which means that they will probably forget about the film, unless someone else says to them – hey, you should watch this! Or it comes on TV. And they happen to be stuck to the couch, and the remote is too far away to reach. Therefore, if you are a little indie on Netflix, a so-so review is effectively the death knell for your film. This is because of where a review comes in decision-making process, which in marketing is referred to as AIDMA:

  • Attention – you see a cool poster, a teaser, or a trailer. The movie has your attention.
  • Interest – if the movie’s story seems interesting, and you are a discerning patron, you will then seek out a review.
  • Desire – if a movie is “Star Wars” or other such review-proof film – then you’ll go straight to this step. However, if the film doesn’t come with a built-in audience, then this is where a review can make or break the cycle. If your film gets a “so-so” review and the reader decides to watch it later, then it has no hope against the next step –
  • Memory – movies with big marketing budgets can battle this stage, and raise the film above the din. However, an indie film might only get exposure to it’s target audience once – through that review – and so, if the action is to “watch it later”, it is as good as saying “watch it never” as they are unlikely to ever hear about the film again.
  • Action – so the action becomes inaction. The worst possible outcome.

Therefore, a “so-so” review is the worst possible review you could ever give.

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