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The Infamous Billy The Kidd Has A Lengthy And SINISTER Conversation With Writer-Director Scott Derrickson And Writer/Ain't It Cool Alumnus C. Robert Cargill ("Massawyrm")


I was probably one of the last people over here at Ain't It Cool News to have had a chance to see SINISTER. Being outside of the Austin scene makes attending South By Southwest and Fantastic Fest a bit difficult for me, because really... how many people do we really need out there? Therefore, it wasn't until these early Tugg screenings started rolling the film out long after the film debuted at a SXSW Secret Screening that I finally was able to catch a glimpse. 

I'd heard very good things in advance, but that's not necessarily a sure thing, as everyone has their own tastes when it comes to horror. What some may find frightening, others may deem stupid and vice versa. Plus, most horror that comes down the pike these days is pretty horrible, so to finally get something that's not only scary but also good... that's an anomaly in the genre right now. 

Therefore, I was looking forward to checking out the flick, and, as an added bonus, to meet and speak with the film's writer-director Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill, who were accompanying SINISTER as part of a Q&A tour with Tugg to help spread word of the film's coming release. Now anybody who's been reading Ain't It Cool News for any substantial period of time is all too familiar with Cargill's work. Operating under the name Massawyrm for quite a number of years, Cargill was an absolute staple here at the site for his honest and sometimes against the grain taste in movies when it came time for reviewing. Outside of the boss himself, Cargill is one of the voices that helped build Ain't It Cool News to what it is today, alongside Drew McWeeny, Quint, Capone and others who were the foundation for when the site got started and ramped up more than a decade ago. 

Never having met Cargill or spoken to him outside of a few pleasantries on Facebook once I joined the Ain't It Cool staff, I was interested to chat with someone who I'd read for years, someone whose approach to film criticism I greatly respected and a site alumnus who helped pave the way for me to be able to do what I do on a daily basis. 

Scott Derrickson needs a bit more of a formal introduction. Derrickson began his filmmaking career in horror, helming the direct-to-video HELLRAISER sequel INFERNO back in 2000. He then moved on to direct THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, which I think surprised people for its mixture of courtroom drama with horror. His next film was the one I'd take the biggest issue with - the 2008 remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. I wasn't a fan of the film as it was eventually realized, but it was more the escalating annoyance of Jaden Smith that I personally hold Derrickson responsible for (I don't know that I'll ever be able to fully forgive him for that, as it helped propel Smith to do THE KARATE KID remake, and we'll be feeling the ripple effect of that for years). 

However, Derrickson has shown an improving grasp on his abilities with each new project. While his three previous films have had varying degress of success, it's quite clear that he's put together he's learned from making those movies together for SINISTER, which really blows away everything that precedes it on his resume, both from a technical perspective but also a storytelling one. 

All of this brought Derrickson and Cargill to Miami a couple of weeks ago, where I had the chance to chat with them in tandem about how their partnership came together, their ideas on horror, how their different backgrounds shape their creative choices, etc. A couple of spoilers about the film do come up in conversation, so if you want to stay in the dark about how some of SINISTER's surprises, you might want to hold off on reading this one until you've seen the movie. 

Our interview time was delayed a bit, as, on their way to tape a television interview with one of the local affiliates, an SUV filled with machine gun-wielding guys rolled up on the car in front of them on the highway, and some shit was about to go down. They were only held up momentarily before their security/driver managed to hightail it the hell out of that situation, but it set them back shortly... which is where our talk will start off. Enjoy. 

The Infamous Billy The Kidd - Okay, so I've got a pitch for you. Two filmmakers come to Miami, drive to a location. SUV filled with machine guns pulls up in front, and then...

Scott Derrickson - And a guy starts smashing on the window, yelling "Get out of the car, get out of the car!"

C. Robert Cargill- A guy with a machine gun.

Scott Derrickson - A guy with a machine gun pointed right at the guy’s head pointed right at the guy’s head, in the window! And two two guys, from two different windows are banging on the glass... And there’s glass flying, and the guy’s not getting out of the car! And we are in the car behind them...

C. Robert Cargill - And that’s the opening of the movie, where they find out that we’re not just filmmakers, but superheroes. 

Scott Derrickson - That’s right.

C. Robert Cargill - The music kicks in...

Scott Derrickson - So, instead of ducking behind the driver and peeking out vicariously. Knowing that if a bullet comes, the driver probably gets it, and I’m cool. Instead, I burst out of the car, I run up there and say, “I’ll get ‘em out.”

[Everybody laughs]

The Kidd - Welcome to Miami!

C. Robert Cargill - And then, since I’m the sidekick, I come up with a banana, and stick a banana in the tailpipe.

The Kidd - Nothing like the Will Smith song you envisioned.

C. Robert Cargill - No, no, not at all. Instead it was “Axel F.”

Scott Derrickson - And all of this is captured in ugly HD by Michael Mann.

C. Robert Cargill - Aww. Why’s it gotta be like that. Why can’t it be Tony Scott. Why can’t it be Tony Scott? 

The Kidd - Ohhhh!

Scott Derrickson - Because it was MIAMI VICE that Michael Mann shot in ugly HD.

C. Robert Cargill - I’m well aware of that.

Scott Derrickson - Yeah. Well, maybe Tony Scott. But he has a little death problem right now.

The Kidd - I’m sure you’ve told this story a ton of times with how you guys met and how the partnership developed, and basically that goes back to you working and writing for Ain’t it Cool. So can you just kinda, for people who aren’t aware of how this blossomed... can you just give us a quick refresher course?

Scott Derrickson - The history? I’ll talk about us and then you talk about Vegas. The way that the relationship started was... I’d been a long time reader of Ain’t it Cool, and C. Robert Cargill, writing under the name Massawyrm was just my favorite online critic anywhere. He was the reason I read the site. What I liked was how much I agreed with his reviews and with how well he opened the movies up. I think he’s a really good writer and I’d followed him for a long time. Often times he’d go against the grain about movies that people didn’t like that he really liked. I kept going to see those movies and loving them based on his reviews and loving them. And finally after the fourth or fifth time that happened, I went to see BUG, based on his review, which most critics really didn’t like. And I loved it. I thought it was a great movie. So that was the one where I finally emailed him, and I just let him know. “Hey, I’m the director Scott Scott Derrickson, and I keep seeing these great movies because of you.” And that’s what film criticism is about, hopefully, is sending people to see things that are worth seeing. So we just went back and forth and became online friends. Because I respected his opinion, I sent him a few scripts that I had been writing and developing to get his opinion about them. I got great feedback from him, and we met once in New York. Then when he was writing his novel, he sent me the first three chapters of his novel, which knocked me out. They’re great. And I tried to help him as a de-facto editor on that novel before it got published. Then we ran into each other in Vegas.

C. Robert Cargill - My wife and I were in Vegas with a couple of friends and I tweeted about it and Scott saw that I was in Vegas when he was in Vegas and he was like “Hey! We’re in Vegas together! Let’s go out for drinks.” So we go out to the Mandalay Bay at two in the morning...

Scott Derrickson - And this is when we had no intention of ever working together. It was never a...

C. Robert Cargill - Yeah, no, we were just...

The Kidd - Just friends, just hanging out...

C. Robert Cargill - Yeah, we were just like, “Hey, you’re in town, I’m in town, let’s drink!” So we drank pretty heavily. I was five White Russians in, and Scott says, “Okay, I want your professional opinion on something,” and he bounced an idea off me. It was this idea that he was working on and thinking of making with Jason Blum. I said, “Oh, that’s a great idea,” and I gave him a few of my notes and I was like, “Hey, since you pitched something to me, let me bounce something off you. He’s like, “Yeah, alright. Everybody pitches me at least once in their life, this is your one shot. Pitch me,” and I pitched him SINISTER. And he said, “Holy fuck, I want to make that movie.” At that point, he was like, “Okay, what I want you to do is to go home, and when you get home I want you to write a four or five page treatment, register it with the WGA and send it to me and I’ll pitch it to Jason Blum.” So, the next day, we’re still in Vegas, and he’s playing cards in a tournament, and I just swing by to say hey, because it’s in my hotel. He’s like, “Hey man, it’s good to see you. I’m busy right now, I thought I’d have more time, but when you get home, I want you to write a four or five page document, register it with the WGA, send it to me, and I’ll pitch it to Jason Blum.” “Oh yeah, great!” And so the next day I fly home, and I’m totally Vegas'd. Dog tired. I’m in bed for twenty minutes and the phone rings. My wife comes in and goes, “It’s Scott.” And I’m like, alright I’ll take it. “Hey man, I know you’re wasted, you’re wiped out, but I just wanted to write you to write a four or five page document, register it with the WGA...”

Scott Derrickson - I totally hounded him.

C. Robert Cargill - “...Send it to me and I’ll pitch it to Jason Blum.” And I’m like, “This dude’s fuckin’ serious..." So, alright. That night, when I woke up, I sat down and I wrote a five page document, registered it with the WGA and sent it to him. That next week, the thing that we havent talked about yet, is that I was actually scheduled to stay with him for a week. I was going to stay in his apartment on his house, because that was after the summer that Kevin Smith had famously lambasted me on Twitter for an article I had written about him. He’d gone off on me, and he was doing his famous... his infamous, rather... RED STATE screening, where he was going to show RED STATE in his house to 50 bloggers.

Scott Derrickson - So [Cargill] came out to watch RED STATE.

C. Robert Cargill - Someone had tweeted at Kevin Smith, "Hey, you should have Massawyrm come. That would be hilarious,” and he goes, “Hahaha, that would be great, nothing would show more that this was all water under the bridge than inviting I’ve publicly sparred with out to my house to watch the movie.” So I talked to Harry and I’m like, “Hey, will you cover this?” and he’s like, “Oh hell yes I’ll cover this.” And I was under the impression that that was my great gonzo story, that I would be able to go out and write this piece on this director who we all loved who was looking like he was losing it, and my misadventures out doing that. As it turns out, someone had sat him down and told him “No, you can’t show it at your house.” And then he’s like, “Okay, I’ll show it at SModcastle,” and they’re like “No, no, no, it’s gotta be a neutral location, and you can’t intro the film,” so it turned from being this crazy insane kind of thing to just another screening that I showed up for and he showed up for a Q&A after. So I was out there during that time and I had scheduled myself to be out there a week so I could see some friends in LA, so we set up the time to pitch Jason. And we pitched it to Jason and he just loved it. The basic pitch was, “This isn’t just a found footage movie, it’s a movie about the guy who finds the found footage.” And Jason said, “That’s a brilliant idea. That’s so brilliant. Someone else is going to have it in six months. We have to make this movie now. We have to make it now before someone else makes it.” And so that was the impetus to making it quickly. That was in January, we shot in September. we had a cut of the movie by December, and then we had it at South By Southwest.


The Kidd - Does your experience as a critic help you in putting together a film like this? Because you’re exposed to so many films over the years that you can see what doesn't work, and what you like and what you don’t like. In that respect it could be a pro, but there’s also the con where your critical eye may view something different from what an audience might like.

C. Robert Cargill - Well absolutely, but that’s actually why Scott and I work so well together is that I see things from a very critical mind point of view. There were a number of times where we would make a choice and I would say, “Well that’s kind of like this.” And, “That’s been done.” Well yeah, but nobody saw that movie. We’re not stealing it from them, this is just the logical progression of going from here to here, and that’s not going to be a big thing. There were times where we would make choices where we would have the discussion and I’d say, “Well, if we make this choice, the critics are going to ding us. You know, we’re going to get dinged for this.” And he would say, “Yeah, but the audience is gonna love it.” We would always talk it out and try to find the balance. It’s really interesting watching how this plays out, because... We have a couple of jump scares in the movie, and many of the critics are like, “There’s too many jump scares. Jump scares are so passe. I’m done with jump scares. I don’t want jump scares.” And then we talk to audience members, and several audience members ask us why we don’t have many jump scares in our movie. One girl was like, “I like that you had a couple jump scares, but I really wanted a lot more jump scares.” And so you... It really kind of showcases the balance and the disparity between what critics, who are overexposed to film, want, and what the audience members, who show up to one or two movies a week at most, want.

Scott Derrickson - And on that note, my view of that is that critics do get sometimes into a groupthink about some things. There’s nothing wrong with a good jump scare. They all live the jump scare at the end of WAIT UNTIL DARK. They all love the jump scares in the original HALLOWEEN. What they’re tired of are the cheap, false, crappy, unearned jump scares.

The Kidd - Like an over reliance on jump scares feels like a cheap crutch.

Scott Derrickson - Exactly. Or the false scare, or the unearned scare, but you know, a good scare, where the atmosphere exists, and they actual shock, the actual jump, is a story point? Those are great.

C. Robert Cargill - But that’s where the problem is. What you’ve just said is a cliche that many critics argue that it’s a cheap crutch. They argue that it’s a crutch. And the thing is, it’s not a crutch to audience members who see it as the point of the film. That people... Some horror films are meant to be these slow developed atmospheric pieces that are just elegantly told dramas with supernatural elements, but that’s not what a lot of audience members pay to see. They pay for the rollercoaster ride. They want to strap themselves into the car, they want to go down the track, and they want to be up and down and up and down.... They want to jump out of their seat, they want to grab onto their boyfriend’s arm, they want to.... They want to have these visceral physical reactions to the film, and then go out laughing and having a great time.

The Kidd - Well that’s the thing I found really interesting with this is that you play on both sides. There’s a very big development in psychological horror, and dealing with the supernatural and kind of building this story where you have your exposition, you’re building your foundation, and then you’re getting these slow reveals that will continue to build the story. Then on the other side, there are also jump scares that are put in the... not to spoil the... The first appearance of the ghost children is a good example.

Scott Derrickson - See, I think that there’s been a bifurcation of movies that are classified as horror or movies that deal with the horrible and graphic... terrible and terrifying things like this. Genre films, true horror films, tend to be relocated to things that are scary for scary’s sake. The good ones are effective, they scare you, but they’re all kind of cheap. None of them are taken seriously. None of them have real characters or real substance or real ideas in them. And then you have the indie movies that do have real characters... Some indie movies, they have real characters, and they have deeper ideas to them, but, you know, they’re really kind of pretending to be horror films. They might get named as a horror film, or tagged as horror films, but they’re indie films pretending to be genre films. I think that what we tried to make with this movie was the kind of movie that we most want to see, which is a true... It’s a horror film. It’s a true genre film. It’s a populist, popcorn horror film with some other stuff going on. With some real characters. With some real ideas in it. With some attempts at visual sophistication and cinematic style, and to be a real film. I feel like there’s not a lot of movies that are trying to hit that middle ground target. They’re either going for the lowest common denominator, biggest populist kind of genre fodder film that there is, which we’ve seen hundreds of over the last couple of decades. Or, like I said, they’re smart indie films pretending to be genre films.

The Kidd - Well, this is a film that’s kind of on the outskirts of the studio system. But you’ve also worked within the studio system as well, and it seems like, at least in horror now, it’s the films that aren’t in the studio system that are taking risks. That are not playing to the cliches. That are trying to do something different, and it either works or doesn’t, but at least you know that they’re not... I mean, there’s a formula to horror as it is, but they’re not very cookie cutter. They’re a lot... they’re just different. Can you talk a little bit about your experience in how you’re able to shape a film like this, where you have final cut. Where you’re able to do what you want as opposed to getting notes all the time that are like, “We need this beat,” “This person needs to do this,” “Don’t touch the dog...”

Scott Derrickson - Yeah. Sure. That’s 100% the result of Jason Blum and his financial model. Because he... Before I even heard the idea for this movie, I was developing a different idea with Jason. That was the one that I pitched to Cargill, and his idea was better than mine. But I had talked to Jason... Jason came to me and said, “I can get you about three million dollars...” three, four million dollars... somewhere between two and five, I think he said, “to make a small horror film.” Because I have financial value in foreign markets. They can pre-sell the movie. If it’s a horror film by me, they can pre-sell it, they know they’ll get their money back, at the very least. And he said, “If you make a good film, you might get domestic distribution, but the good news is that the movie can be greenlit even before you’ve written the script. You can do whatever you want, and it’s your film, and you can have final cut.” And that was the opportunity I had been looking for. I had passed on... Since DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, I had passed on other big studio movies that were bad movies, and I tried to develop some of my own material, but I couldn’t get those movies off the ground. So I thought, well this is good, I’m going to take my shot at this, and then... as happenstance had it, I ran into Cargill and we developed his idea. The simple answer is that Jason provides an arena where writers write and directors direct. He doesn’t seem himself as a creative producer at all. He’s about investing his power and his model into talent that he believes in. So he basically just said, “Write what you want, and make the movie that you want, and stay at this budget level.” And that’s exactly what we did. To Summit’s credit, they didn’t wait to see the movie. INSIDIOUS was made without any domestic distribution, and got picked up at Toronto. In this case, we finished the script, and when ahead and sent it out. A lot of the big studios were very interested, but they wanted to change the ending. They want to calm down some of the child violence issues in it, because they thought it was too disturbing. To Summit’s credit, they were the one place that was like, “Nope. You want to make your film, you make your film. You keep final cut, we like this, we think this’ll be good.” And they bought in before the movie was made.

The Kidd - Why do you think it is so hard to make really good horror? Because there’s lots of horror that gets put out there, and I would say a strong majority of it is bad...

C. Robert Cargill - It’s very simple. It’s not that it’s hard, it’s that people look at the wrong aspects of it. The biggest problem of horror is that people feel that... as long as you put people in jeopardy... as long as you have violence, as long as you include a requisite amount of T&A or gore, that you have a horror movie. Nobody actually... I say nobody, no. The majority, the ones you’re talking about, the types of films you’re looking at. These are people who haven’t taken a look at the top 20 list of best horror films ever. As I often say, if you go and Google “Top 20 horror films,” everyone who has ever been a critic has had to write their list of the top 20 horror films.  And 18 of them are the same on every list, just jumbled around in order, and everyone picks two wild cards.

Scott Derrickson - And THE EXORCIST tops every one of them.

C. Robert Cargill - Weeeeeell.... it depends.

Scott Derrickson - Not most of them now.

C. Robert Cargill - Mostly THE THING tops most of them. But, so, you have this list of all these great horror films, and nobody in that group that breaks down those films as they are and looks at what it is that makes them what they are. They’re all films that are character studies. They have great characters. They have great drama to them, that you can actually identify who the protagonist is, and talk about them in a way that doesn’t sound cliche. That it’s an interesting story that you’d be interested in, even without the supernatural elements. They forget that most of them end badly. That they end on downer notes, where the heroes usually don’t get out alive, and if they do they’re scarred for life. Forever changed, and not in a good way. They forget that these are films that put children in danger. THE EXORCIST is a film... It’s not just about a possession. It’s about a priest who’s losing his faith. It’s about a child who is being possessed and having horrible, terrible things done to them. It;s about a mother worried about her daughter. There’s so much stuff going on in these films and people just go, “No, in order to make a horror film, what you need is to put a bunch of teenages out in the woods and kill them.” And it’s... There really are two different types of horror. It’s in the Greek tradition. You have horror comedy, and horror tragedy. And horror comedy is fine, and it’s great, and if it’s done well it’s wonderful, but it’s... The point of that is that in the end it can all work out okay. But most of like slasher horror turned into horror comedy. It was like, we don’t need particular characters, or they’ll all be cliches. We’ll put them in the woods and then they’ll get hacked apart. And then people were surprised that ultimately we started watching the movies cheering for the villain and celebrating the way that these people were killed. Because we were never going to like them anyway. They weren’t designed to be liked. In order to make really good, effective horror, you have to give us characters that are compelling. That the audience cares about, and thus we don’t want to see something terrible happen to them. And thus we get scared for them, and we get scared with them.  And that’s the problem that most horror has these days. You look at a lot of the recent films these days, and a lot of the characters are stock. You can’t... How do you care for a stock character? I was recently watching... Well... I won’t specifically name films, but...

Scott Derrickson - Because you’d never do that.

C. Robert Cargill - Heh. Yeah. Well.

Scott Derrickson - [Laughs] It’s fine. I’m sorry man.


C. Robert Cargill - Well I was watching a film where you’re supposed to care about this dad character, and be worried for him, but he’s your typical Disney dad. He’s the guy who’s big sin in life is that he works too hard for his kids. And he loves his kids, and every time we see him with his kids he’s great. And every time we see his ex-wife, she’s this shrill harpy who’s barking at him for something, and then...

Scott Derrickson - And then the fucker goes to work!

C. Robert Cargill - And then he goes to work! And he has the audacity to take a business trip to get his dream job.

The Kidd - [Laughs] To get a better job.

C. Robert Cargill - That motherfucker. And this is the family we’re supposed to...

Scott Derrickson - I know that when I go to work... The Devil enters my children. He should know better.

C. Robert Cargill - And this is the family we’re supposed to care about. And it’s like, well why? You haven’t given me anything interesting that... You know, you take out the supernatural element, and I’m watching THE SHAGGY DOG with Tim Allen. I’ve already seen that movie 20 times, and it’s like, “Oh, here’s a monster. Gwargrl!” How am I supposed to be invested in that film? But then you look at something like THE THING. And THE THING is... This group of guys, they’re all very different, they’re forced to interact with each other, they don’t all get along, you know. And now you’ve got body horror going on, you can’t trust anyone, you don’t know who to trust. They want to trust their buddies but they can’t and you slowly watch them get picked off one by one. You’re invested in these... You care about Macready. Macready is fuckin’ awesome! You don’t want anything to happen to him. And that movie doesn’t end well. They end up freezing to death in the snow to keep this thing from getting out there. And that’s a fuckin’ horror movie.

Scott Derrickson - I think the ending bad thing is the main thing, because that was the consistent note we got from all the major studios that were interested in it, the darkness at the ending. And the reveal that it was children perpetrating these crimes, it was just too much for them to stomach.

The Kidd - But how much of that is driven by franchising, or franchise modelling?

Scott Derrickson - None. It’s purely about the fact that they have short term memories, and they think that what works, and what audiences want is happy endings. What they’re forgetting is that the biggest horror film of the last 10 or 15 years was THE RING, that ends with this mother and son sending this video tape out into the world to kill everyone!

C. Robert Cargill - And SAW! SAW ends with the villain winning. THE SIXTH SENSE ends with our protagonist being dead the whole time.

The Kidd - The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series...

C. Robert Cargill - Yeah! The PARANORMAL series...

Scott Derrickson - Part of the problem, I think, is that a lot of... The studio system that puts these horror films out... they’re not horror film fans. They understand the value of the genre, but there’s not a deep investment in the genre from a personal point of view for a lot of people. They don’t particularly respect it or like it, and I think what they forget is that there was an era where big studios were making amazing horror films that were hugely popular. THE SHINING, THE OMEN, THE EXORCIST...

C. Robert Cargill - ROSEMARY’S BABY.

Scott Derrickson - ROSEMARY’S BABY! With major stars, and those are the best horror films, the scariest horror films. Hopefully at some point the tide will turn and both actors and executives will recognize that there is absolutely just as much prestige and respectability to great horror as any other genre. But unfortunately, the sequelitis of the 70s, 80s and 90s led to a disrespect for the genre that has contaminated, I think, the way a lot of people in power feel about the genre.

C. Robert Cargill - I just figured out how we can explain it to them in simple terms. Here’s how you do it! You pull the execs aside and go, “Have you ever seen a Nicholas Sparks movie?” “Well of course I have! They make lots of money! They’re very profitable!” “If you had a choice, would you let the couple at the end of the Nicholas Sparks movie go off and live together?” “Well no! In a Nicholas Sparks movie, someone has to die, thats how it works. Either somebody totally loses their memory and can’t connect on a romantic level, or they die! That’s how Nicholas...” “Well exactly! Just as that, horror stories have to end with the people dying... Something terrible has to happen to these people in order for us to be scared, the same way that someone has to die in order for someone to cry. That’s how it’s done!

Scott Derrickson - And you know what? If they’re gonna die, why not behead them?

C. Robert Cargill - Yeah!

Scott Derrickson - There it is! We have fixed the genre!

C. Robert Cargill - There it is! Nicholas Sparks, baby! Bam!

[Big high-five of celebration]

Scott Derrickson - Nicholas Sparks plus beheading equals massive hit.

C. Robert Cargill - Dump truck of money!

The Kidd - Whoever thought that we’d be thanking Nicholas Sparks for anything.

C. Robert Cargill - Well that’s why Harry hired me.

The Kidd - Honestly, I’d be able to talk to you guys all day, so I really appreciate it. One quick question, because I know that we get asked it all the time. Is Massawyrm retired? Semi-retired? Lurking in the shadows?

C. Robert Cargill - Well, semi-retired I think is the best way to put it. You know, it’s really complicated to review mainstream films in this day and age. Because we take so many meetings, we talk with so many people, we work with so many people, that... It’s not hard for me to stay unbiased. I know that theres discussion over... A lot of people say, “Well I could stay unbiased.” It’s not about staying unbiased, it’s about appearing unbiased. And it’s very hard... All it takes is one talkbacker to say...

The Kidd - Plant.

C. Robert Cargill - No, not even the word plant, but even... “Massawyrm’s reviewing this Screen Gems movie, and I happen to know that he’s in talks to write a movie over at Screen Gems. Gee, coincidence?” And the problem there is that it’s not just that you look bad, it’s that you make the project, and the people that you know look bad, because it makes it look like they need to have that. That they need that assistance. And they don’t! So, I’ve mostly stayed out of it. I was actually going to review a bunch of undistributed films from Fantastic Fest, but Harry ended up dropping the ball and not getting me and AICN badge, so I couldn’t get into most of the things that I wanted to see. So I’d like to still review some undistributed stuff, or stuff that I’m completely unattached to, but for the most part right now, between my novels and between screenwriting, I just don’t have the time. So semi-retired is the best way to put it, and I may pop my head in every now and again, but going back to what I was doing before... I just don’t have that time anymore. I don’t have the 80 hours a week to dedicate to being a film critic.

The Kidd - Alright. Thank you very much.

C. Robert Cargill - Thanks a lot, Billy.

The Kidd - Absolutely.


SINISTER opens in theatres this Friday, October 12.



-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • What a tool.

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 12:38 p.m. CST


    by Righteous Brother

    I agree.

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 12:39 p.m. CST

    And starring........Johnny Drama

    by thelordofhell

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Seen this in the UK

    by GordyDuffNI

    At the weekend, it's understandably getting a lot off coverage on here and has generally positive reviews, which baffle me a bit as I, along with friends found it not remotely scary, which when it comes to horror films pretty much makes it a failure in my book. Ethan Hawke is good, despite the catalogue of typically idiotic things the script requires him to do and at least it doesn't have a cop out ending.... ... Oh and as others have pointed out the Big Bad does strongly resemble a Slipknot reject.

  • Please tell me that doesn't **actually** constitute a "brilliant idea" in today's Hollywood.

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Why did Wyrm get fired from AICN?

    by dr sauch

    Also, congrats to him, because this looks great and he's an excellent writer, looking forward to his books.

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 2:15 p.m. CST

    Love live Massa

    by Rob

    Miss his reviews immensely. Also, why did he get fired by Drew?

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 2:24 p.m. CST

    So is everyone on AICN taking turns to interview him?

    by loafroaster

    I know the boy done good and all, but why not mix it up a little?

  • Is that true? Wyrm was one of the better reviewers and while I did like Mori's reviews; overall, he can't touch Wyrm's reviews (nor Vern's nor Capone's, natch). Mori, to me, always blew any cred he had when he had those temper tantrums with the AICN tb'ers. Post after post of the equivalent of throwing poop at one another...I get the frustrations but to actually bother responding to them? Why? Who cares? But what's this drama about Moriarty firing Massawyrm? Is this true?

  • I still have to see your flick but regardless, CONGRATS MASSA!

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 5:07 p.m. CST

    The story of why Massa got fired...

    by Mickey Dolenz This was the story where it happened. As I recall, Massa got caught talking shit about Drew (Moriarty) at the Austin Film festival by some of Drew's friends that were there. This all happened right after the whole JJ Abrams Superman review debacle. So Drew was pissed at Harry, and when this happened, Drew took it out on Massa, who was Harry's buddy. Harry let it stand because Drew was on the verge of quitting. That is the story, at lease as it circulated back in 2002. Massa came back on an occasional basis in 2005, and then Drew left in like 2008 to help start HitFix. The whole thing was a bummer, because they were probably the best two writers on AICN. But they're both successful now, so fuck it.

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 7:22 p.m. CST

    mr_truth - Yep. A Fascist Nazi Ban-Hammer.

    by Darth_Kong

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 9:44 p.m. CST

    Mori was always thin-skinned and a drama queen...

    by DougMcKenzie

    WTF was with his massive overreaction to Kevin Smith buying his own film rights at Sundance that one year? I swear you read Mori's take on that and its like Smith murdered Mori's kids. BTW what Smith did with Red State was the exact same thing that Redford did with Downhill Racer all those years ago. I remember getting into it bad with McWeeny in the chat room when I tore a strip off Cigarette Burns which I thought as really fucking derivative of better works. The guy was a typical critic that can't take criticism himself. Best to stay to reviewing other people's work McWeeny.