EBERT’S THUMB POINTED UP. SISKEL’S down. But Sharon Kissack’s review of Bram Stoker’s Dracula took a direction all its own. “Expect to witness many orgasms,” she advised. “Creepy crawlies such as bugs, snakes and rats appear solitary or in groups. Wolves are maligned.” Kissack, 52, a former gym teacher who lives in Honeoye Falls, N.Y., is the first to admit she’s “no critic.” She is, rather, a woman with a mission—and a business: alerting parents and other concerned folks about anything slithering across a screen, from naked bodies to Dracula’s snakes, which might upset or offend them. Her forum is a 900 phone line (900-903-1117) that she calls Reel Review. Since launching the service in July, Kissack has been clocking calls, which cost 99 cents per minute, at a rate of nearly 50 a week. Reviews run one to two minutes, and callers can choose from among a list of 40 current films.
The idea for Reel Review was suggested by a friend confused about which movies to allow her 14-year-old to see. Kissack, herself the mother of Zach, 21, a college student, and Erika, 24, an aspiring actress, believes the MPAA ratings aren’t adequate because they don’t explain why a movie has been rated, say, PG-13 as opposed to PG or R. “Some people are bothered much less by sex than violence,” she says. People with phobias might not want to see a movie with scenes shot at high altitudes or in cramped spaces. A lot of first-daters, meanwhile, simply want to avoid embarrassing cinematic steaminess.
Every Friday morning, Kissack drives to nearby Rochester, N.Y., and goes from theater to theater viewing new films. Saturdays, she records her reviews in the optometry office of Barry, her husband of 28 years. Despite the healthy response from word-of-mouth and local publicity, Reel Review, says Kissack, has yet to turn a profit. But she has discovered one unexpected payoff: horror films. “I found I like a lot of those movies,” she says. “They’re disgusting and gory, but since I used to dissect cats when I was in college, gory doesn’t bother me.”