Sometimes, a piece of 'entertainment' is so excruciatingly awful, so mind-numbingly boring or appalling, the only way that a critic or reviewer can find to fend off those considering seeing or playing it out of perverse curiosity is to... well, massively, comically over-react.
Don't just pan the film; walk out of the theater in disgust, in as dramatic a fashion as possible. Don't just give the game a low score, or even a sub-zero score - pretend you couldn't bring yourself to finish the review at all. Act out as if you are terrified of the show/game/book/whatever. Scream in outrage at the very existence of the thing. Speak as if it has pushed you over the Despair Event Horizon and that the memory of it will drain all the goodness out of everything else you have ever reviewed.
While these sorts of theatrics are not limited to Caustic Critics, they are a favored tactic of several of them when confronted with something that is actually as bad as they usually make everything else out to be.
Usually, this is well rehearsed ahead of time, as the critic has, presumably, actually finished it, or at least isn't watching it as they perform the review. It has been known to occur in real-time, however, especially in game criticism with the rise of 'First Impressions'-style reviews which are being recorded as the critic plays for the first time.
Note that this a trope for critics, not the material they criticize, though it can appear in the reactions of fictional reviewers (in which case it it should be listed for the series or story where it appears).
Examples of Critic Breakdown in Fictional Critics
- Terrible films are the bread and butter of Mystery Science Theater 3000, so this is a natural thing for the series. The protagonists aren't professional critics, but they are trapped in space and forced to watch bad movies (real ones; the fictional part is the setup of the series). The worst of the worst movies actually do drive the cast to the edge of breakdowns, or completely over.
- Manos: The Hands of Fate, perhaps the most notorious of the Joel-era episodes, sent both Tom and Crow into a panic during the opening credits, because they were convinced that they were going to be forced to watch a Snuff Film. Later, both TV's Frank and Dr. Forrester approached the communicator when the other was away, to privately apologize to Joel and the bots for foisting something so awful on them.
- Monster a-Go Go left the bots in a deep depression, which Joel unsuccessfully tries to cheer them out of. They also state that it was just as bad as Manos, which is a pretty severe criticism in light of their reaction to that.
- Eegah! was so bad that Crow and Tom Servo had to take showers afterwards to wash the filth away.
- Red Zone Cuba makes Mike think he's Carol Channing. Tom Servo and Crow have to sing a manic "Bouncy Upbeat Song" to keep themselves from complete despair.
- Invasion of the Neptune Men leaves the cast sobbing and wondering what's the point of living anymore. A surprise visit from Phantom of Krankor pulls them back from a complete breakdown.
- Hobgoblins was so bad, everyone walked out of the theater and left behind cardboard cutouts of themselves.
Examples in Real Life Critiques
Note that examples are given in the category of the review, not the reviewed items.
- When Melissa Mills reviewed Uriah Heep's first album for Rolling Stone in 1970, her critique began If this group makes it, Ill have to commit suicide—a sentence which quickly attained the era's equivalent of Memetic Mutation status.
- In Roger Ebert's review of The Human Centipede, which he disclaimed as not being "so much a review as a public service announcement," he outright refused to rate it:
Ebert: I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars dont shine.
- The Angry Joe Show: Joe is simply in love with this trope.
- His review of Ride to Hell: Retribution opens with him in his gaming chair writhing in agony and clutching at his eyes.
- Similarly, the review video for MindJack opens with him sitting facing the camera, staring blankly and drooling as a voiceover explains that the game Mind Jacked him while he was playing.
- He opens his review of Sonic Free Riders by claiming that the game had ruined his life, draining the pleasure from things like music and food, and declaring that he would start a fistfight with anyone who dared give the game a positive review.
- Brows Held High:
- Kyle's review of What Is It caused him to break down over its disturbing and offensive imagery.
- Kyle tries very hard to hold it together in his review of A Serbian Film, but ultimately snaps and calls NATO over it.
- Played for Drama in his review of Melancholia, a film about depression, where over the course of watching it he grows more and more despairing and lashes out at his friends and job.
- Jim Sterling, especially in the Best Of Steam Greenlight Trailers series:
- Had a screaming fit over Pixel Rising on finding that it is yet one more UnitZ asset flip; he had reviewed seven versions of the same game with different names uploaded by different 'developers' by this time, so a degree of outrage was called for.
- Was sent into a state of existential despair by Digital Homicide's E.L.T.: The Extra-Large Testicle.
- During his "Squirty Play" (Let's Play-style playthrough) of Zen Fish Simulator, he mused first whether he was 'on some secret drug [..] like some government shady psychotropic test', then whether he was trapped in a Jacob's Ladder-style dying hallucination and was really 'on a stretcher in Vietnam or something'.
- Alternated between devolving into child-like gibberish ("it's bad time game, game bad!") and scenery-chewing ranting in his review of Contra: Rogue Corps, which he describes as being the antithesis of a Contra title. Admittedly, this was a Konami title made after the departure of Hideo Kojima, which automatically makes it a something of Berserk Button for Sterling.
- Parodied by Josh Scorcher when reviewing the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Magical Mystery Cure". After witnessing Alicorn Twilight, he went utterly apeshit, screaming, banging his locker, sobbing under a Shower of Angst, but in the end of it, he suddenly calms down and declares, "I'm OK with this."
- An inversion of this parody happens when he found out about the development of Hyrule Warriors: He Squees so hard at the joy of two of his favorite series crossing over, but then calmly says in the end "It's going to suck because it's not a true Zelda game." He had to put a disclaimer that the last part is a joke.
- The Mysterious Mr. Enter nearly gives up during his review of Mega Babies, and needs a pep talk from his mentor in order to finish it up. Also, Where the Dead Go to Die disturbed him so much that he shows his face in a vlog to explain why it's too depraved for an Animated Atrocity review. Aside from a quick snark at The Problem Solverz for now needing glasses, he sounds emotionally deadened throughout. The concept that such a film could be made, and worse yet with the alleged intention of comedy, traumatized him to the point of delaying his Mars Needs Moms review to think about the abomination he'd just watched.
- The Nostalgia Critic has built his entire career on this trope, particularly after his review of Batman & Robin had him undergo such a breakdown that he had to be restrained by orderlies in three Time Skips, and even after calming down, could not say or hear the words "Bat Credit Card" for years afterwards without leaping into another homicidal rage. Doug Walker, the real person behind the persona, has stated more than once that his fans watch his show for the freak-outs and will constantly bring up a trigger phrase (like Bat Credit Card above) to see what reaction he'll give in person.
- His review of Foodfight! opens with him wandering into his home in a daze. He then snaps, destroying the DVD with the garbage disposal followed by frantically smashing every product in the kitchen which was featured in the film (or on the DVD jewel case).
- The NeverEnding Story 3 causes the Nostalgia Critic to go Laughing Mad, go to the hardware store and buy a hammer, and smash the DVD in a fit of rage.
- He gets so depressed during his review of Son of the Mask that he literally begs The Devil himself to kill him. The Devil refuses, because he just loves the idea the Critic is undergoing a Fate Worse than Death.
- His earliest stint at this during the review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, whereas five minutes after believing that the movie's going to be an improvement over the two previous films... he's seen without his jacket under a Shower of Angst crying and rambling "OH MY GOD, IT'S SO TERRIBLE! IT'S SO TERRIBLEEHHAHAHAHAHA—", and doing a lot of crazy breakdowns before declaring it the worst thing that no one should ever have to see and inventing the word "Horribufuckus."
- His review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green opens with him going How Bad Can It Be before doing a Time Skip during which he saw the movie and became so (literally) murderously enraged that he killed a neighbor's cat before he could stop himself. He still feels a lot of regret, though.
- ProJared has had several:
- Playing Oscar was such an awful experience that he spends the entire review lying on the floor and questioning his life when not despairing about the game.
- The opening of his review of Virtual Hydlide replaces his usual "I'm playing..." line with a shot of him slumped backwards with an expression of slack-jawed horror, able only to muster a miserable croak by way of description.
- SomeCallMeJohnny is mostly a down to earth game reviewer, but even he has his moments:
- His first instinct upon finding out he had to review Superman 64 was a Big "NO!", followed by telling the demon who gave the game to him "fuck that". Later, after putting up with the Fake Difficulty and the game's Obvious Beta status and getting nothing out of it, he gave the game a -64 out of 10 after realizing that it's his review and he can do whatever the hell he wants.
- Downplayed in his Shadow the Hedgehog review, in which he just silently drops the controller and leaves upon seeing the Black Arms race appear from the sky. He comes back anyways, but he's clearly unhappy.
- Johnny's frustration also hits its maximum peak trying to kill the final boss in Ecco the Dolphin, before angrily giving up, saying that Ecco died saving his kind and quickly tore the game cartridge off his Sega Genesis.
- He also got fed up trying to wrestle with the controls to Sonic Free Riders (to be fair, it is the Kinect), to the point where he started damning the Kinect towards the end of his look at.
- He hates Super Mario Sunshine with a passion (or to be precise, the hoops he had to go through to get the lackluster 100% Completion reward), to the point where he got drunk mid-review.
- The Quarter Guy had this kind of breakdown during his 'Top 10 Worst Mavericks' when describing Tornado Tonion, screaming "He's just an onion!!" every time until he's left in a whimpering mess reciting that in a Madness Mantra. The funny thing is that Tornado Tonion is just #2 in the countdown; it gets even worse when he talks about Flame Hyenard.
- The Spoony Experiment: their review of Ultima IX has Spoony comically perched on the armrest of his chair in a fetal position and swallowing pills pretty early on, but eventually culminates in a severe Mood Whiplash, when he suddenly breaks character and relates a very personal story of his childhood and how much the Ultima series meant to him growing up, concluding on a very serious reflection on the trauma its bungled finale had inflicted upon him.
- Mother's Basement: His review of The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar closes with Geoff saying that he was going to go stare at a wall until the memories of the series faded, but that he might review something better 'when I can feel positive emotions again'.
- Romance novel review site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books have elevated this trope almost to the level of a Signature Style for their negative reviews. It's usually Played for Laughs, albeit sometimes rather dark ones, but when a book goes into certain territory (such as offensive stereotyping, cavalier handling of Rape as Drama and especially Romanticised Abuse) it becomes the exact opposite.
- When reviewing Wolf Creek in 2005 on Australian TV program At The Movies, film critic David Stratton claimed that he was so spooked by the film, he couldn't rate it.