Certified Forgotten In Our Own Words: Matt Donato

July 1st, 2020 | By Matt Donato

Here we are. Certified Forgotten: The Website! I bet you’re wondering what to expect from this new venture into the Certified Forgotten shared universe. “What is Certified Forgotten?” That’s the same question I posed to both myself and co-founder Matt Monagle.

My idea was to answer with personalized definitions of what Certified Forgotten means to us, which I thought could contrast nicely in the same article. Monagle gave me some fancy SEO explanation as to why we need to split our mission statements into separate features, so here we are. This allows me, Matt Donato, to set the tone of Certified Forgotten.

Monagle, why have you allowed this?

My definition of Certified Forgotten, which Monagle may reference himself later in his accompanying piece, brings me back to 2013’s New York City Horror Film Festival. A year where Motivational Growth beat Relaxer to the punch and Found. slashed my soul to shreds. These low-budget indies rightfully earned accolades, bowled audiences, but never broke the mainstream barrier.

General movie-watchers support a boilerplate definition of “cinema,” that starts and ends with Hollywood presentations. There’s a perception that if films don’t open wide in megaplex theaters, then they’re not worth anyone’s time. Allow me to retort: no? Hence the formulation of Certified Forgotten.

Something’s Rotten in Tomatoes

Enter Rotten Tomatoes, the critical database and gavel-slam aggregator that dictates many a suburban Friday night. Certified Fresh means watchable, since site scrollers refuse to understand deeper Tomatometer workings beyond “red good, green bad.” No pondering how a “rotten” movie could boast an equal number of 5-star and 0-star reviews, while the next Marvel blockbuster logs an extensive collection of mundane 3-star “praises.”

My rant on the public misuse of Rotten Tomatoes would be a 3-day-long Ted Talk (or this article), and it would lament an even more unfortunate truth: if movies don’t draw pages of critic reviews, they’re written off as skippable trash.

© 2010 Lions Gate Entertainment

Alas, I’ve just described the fate of countless unfairly misrepresented indie horror titles. How? Because for a long while, Rotten Tomatoes lacked adequate genre representation across its critical ranks. Because many approved film critics subscribe to outdated preconceptions of horror’s “vile” or “senseless” nature and set premature crosshairs. Or maybe because site clicks are driven by popular franchises like the next Pirates Of The Caribbean extension.

Maybe you think I’m giving Rotten Tomatoes too much credit, but I assure you, my frustrations are valid. Hence why only deep-dive fans know a horror movie like Burning Bright despite it being a Lionsgate release.

There’s the context, so now my answer. What’s it mean to be Certified Forgotten?

Gone, But Never (Certified) Forgotten

Festival darlings that inked a bum distribution deal and were never heard of again beside a single press release blast. Personal favorites that landed during a period where “straight to VOD” was an industry kiss of death that chased “serious” critics away. Miraculous accomplishments in microbudget filmmaking that were never going to be considered by critics with Rotten Tomatoes access.

Certified Forgotten films dare to be different, don’t pander to industry norms, and prove that studio appeal means nothing to a film’s overall quality. Foreign or domestic, Certified Forgotten movies were failed by a system that doesn’t deserve to enjoy them years later. But here I stand alongside Mr. Monagle, championing films we’re granting a second chance.

That’s the vibe we want to keep alive in the writings on Certified Forgotten. We yearn to spotlight the titles others aren’t, and to reignite conversations around movies that are far-past due for their moment to shine. Not only that, but we encourage unique perspectives and experiences to shape our content. As much as movies can become lost, so can compelling voices in a homogenous sea of websites.

The Certified Forgotten Endgame

Here at Certified Forgotten, we don’t want to hear a pitch you could sell to any other horror blog. We want that brain nugget that’s been stewing for ages, where you recontextualize something obscure as only your words can capture. From antique classics to James Wan’s catalog, no matter how many logged Rotten Tomatoes reviews.

Monagle and I rarely agree on movie opinions, but our first “finish each other’s sentences” moment happened the other night when confessing our intentions for Certified Forgotten’s website. His answer reflected mine word for word, referencing the same now-defunct film analysis publication as inspiration.

It’s our pie-in-the-sky goal, but if we can somehow achieve that level of craftsmanship while helping you understand what Certified Forgotten means within your individual context? We could retire with swelling pride.

Then immediately get other jobs; there’s no nest egg-ending here. Then again, what are fame or riches worth when our legacy can tether to films like Cold Prey, Patchwork, and the one, the only, the immaculate, Demon Wind?

If you like what you’re reading and listening to, why not join the Certified Forgotten Patreon community today?

Matt Donato

Matt is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Nerdist, Fangoria, Collider, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, Atom Insider, Flickering Myth, SYFY, and Fandom. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.

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