"Don't let this be the start of accepting this sh*t in your entertainment."

Horror Show

A movie released to critical acclaim has now been met with intense backlash after fans discovered it included AI-generated images.

Written and directed by siblings Cameron and Colin Cairnes, "Late Night With the Devil," is a horror movie starring David Dastmalchian as a 70s talk show host. Through found footage, it shows a once "lost" live TV broadcast on Halloween, in which the evening's guest, a young girl, claims to be demonically possessed.

Critics and audiences alike have raved about the movie since it premiered at the SXSW film festival — but that goodwill proved to be short-lived. In a scathing and now viral review shared on Letterboxd, a user called out the movie for having AI "all over" certain sequences, garnering thousands of likes and inciting tons of fiery discourse on other social media platforms.

"Don't let this be the start of accepting this shit in your entertainment," the user wrote.

Boneheaded Move

The film appears to have used AI-generated images only in a handful of very minor transitions between scenes, such as this cutaway image of a skeleton. Given that generative AI is a touchy topic among creatives who often feel the tech is stealing their art, though, it's not unsurprising that even a minor offense can be seen as a mortal sin.

Some users have called to boycott the movie. Responding to a circulating image of the AI-generated cutaway, one artist responded by sharing their own recreation of the skeleton graphic, lamenting that "this could have been a dream job for an artist like me."

Following the backlash, the Cairnes brothers released a statement to Variety confirming their use of AI.

"In conjunction with our amazing graphics and production design team, all of whom worked tirelessly to give this film the 70s aesthetic we had always imagined," the directing duo wrote, "we experimented with AI for three still images which we edited further and ultimately appear as very brief interstitials in the film."

"We feel incredibly fortunate to have had such a talented and passionate cast, crew and producing team go above and beyond to help bring this film to life," they added. "We can't wait for everyone to see it for themselves this weekend."

Collateral Damage

As some have observed, the directors' response doesn't attempt to justify or explain the decision — and it's not much in the way of an apology, either.

We're now seeing the pendulum swing the other way, however: after days of backlash, some observers are taking a more measured stance, condemning the tech's use but calling the response overblown.

"Was that a boneheaded move to include [AI] at all? YES," wrote film critic Courtney Howard on X, formerly Twitter. "However, the multitude of Actual Humans who worked on the film deserve your attention."

Overblown or not, the wild ups and downs of this heated saga show a risk for creative directors of all stripes: that audiences currently have little tolerance towards the tech.

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