An American website has apologised for its "insensitive" one-star review of New Zealand film The Dead Lands after being criticised by local film fans.

The director of the film The Dead Lands, Toa Fraser, has also entered the fray, saying he found the review "funny" but he's happy "people here have got my back".

The piece - written by reviewer Carson Lund for Slant, a New York-based online magazine and published on April 12 - called Toa Fraser's film "a phony collection of storytelling clichés" and criticised the plot for being "composed wholesale from recyclable material".

Released in New Zealand last year, Fraser's The Dead Lands topped the local box office and got positive reviews at home, with Herald reviewer Russell Baillie praising its fight sequences and saying it "may well become a very important film".

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The Dead Lands is director Toa Fraser's tilt at creating a whole new genre - the Maori martial arts movie.

The Slant review - which comes after the film's release on DVD, blu ray and iTunes - criticised its depiction of Maori warriors as "Orcs," complained about "sensationalised exhibitionism," and finishes by saying: "Essentially, the Maori remain dubiously represented".

"The Dead Lands winds up feeling like a cheap haunted house where heinous figures scream at you, make scary faces and jump out from dark places, and, when suspecting their act isn't working, merely scream louder, get scarier, and jump more vigorously."

After heated online debate, with one reader calling it "an offensive review," Slant apologised.

"All we can say is that we apologize for any insensitivity this review reflects. It was not our intent, and we're discussing it behind the scenes," Slant wrote in reply.

Talking to the Herald, Fraser thanked film fans for attacking the review and forcing an apology.

"So stoked that people here got my back. I laughed heaps. They didn't like Boy or No. 2 either so you win some you lose some," he said.

"It is truly humbling to read some of the comments that the movie and the review inspired."

New Zealand reader Maddy de Young was one of the readers who slammed the review.

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"Speaking as a Maori woman of Ngati Kapumanawawhiti, I'd like to let you know that this reading of The Dead Lands is not just wrong, it is offensive to the nth degree.

"The ludicrous fighting style you describe is known to my people as mau rakau and whilst in this setting was heavily violent and offensive, is still today seen at our marae as we greet strangers and farewell our beloved dead.

"Perhaps you need to come out to Aotearoa and watch this film amongst a reo speaking audience and then you will understand the gravity this film has for our people. The quiet murmur of an audience responding to hearing not just our language as we currently speak it, but our language fleshed out to the beautiful form of oratory our tipuna once frequently spoke."

Twitter users also slammed Slant's review.

The Dead Lands has a 67 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with other American reviews praising the film much more than Slant.

"The Dead Lands is ... a blast, and one that delivers an unexpected emotional wallop along with gore, thrills and spectacular scenery," wrote Slant.com.

"A fine example of how an indigenous culture can tell its stories on film," the Winnipeg Free Press said.

* Read the full review here and the discussion thread here.

- nzherald.co.nz