Certified Forgotten in Our Own Words: Matthew Monagle
Last week, Matt Donato made his case for Certified Forgotten as the newest horror publication on the block. This week, it’s my turn to reflect a little on our brand-new website.
On the one hand, Donato and I always knew that we wanted to launch a written counterpart to our podcast. One that would leverage the (relative) success of the podcast and provide us with an opportunity to bring the Certified Forgotten ethos to a wider audience. On the other hand, that approach meant having a clear idea of what this ethos meant to us.
It’s one thing to ask a podcast guest to choose horror movies with five or fewer reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but this approach has always been more the symptom than the underlying cause. To understand my approach to the Certified Forgotten website, you have to understand what draws me to these underseen movies in the first place.
The Origins of Certified Forgotten
Unknown to either Donato or myself, the seed for Certified Forgotten was planted at the 2013 New York City Horror Film Festival. Although our professional paths would not cross for another couple of years, we each attended the festival – shout out to the now-defunct Paracinema Magazine, who provided me with my first ever press badge – and found ourselves enamored with a handful of the same films.
Don Thacker’s Motivational Growth and Scott Schirmer’s Found created the template for a type of film that we would both gravitate towards in future years: festival standouts that seemed to fade into direct-to-video obscurity.
Years later, these two films would become a major talking point in our podcast discussions. When Donato and I decided to start the Certified Forgotten podcast, we knew that our wildly different tastes in horror movies would play well off each other. We also knew that we wanted to focus on the discovery of new films above all.
In our own ways, both of us are unceasingly optimistic film critics. We prefer to praise the films we love rather than condemn the movies we hate, so any podcast we launched would be rooted in this same spirit of discovery and positivity.
What we didn’t expect was how quickly our guests would embrace finding movies with five or fewer reviews. My initial worry that the criteria would prove too restrictive was almost immediately proven wrong; week after week, our guests would bring us some of the most passionate titles in their personal collections. If anything, the feedback we’ve received from our guests has been that they have trouble narrowing it down to just one choice.
And that got us thinking.
The Certified Forgotten Mold
For me, the perfect Certified Forgotten essay straddles the worlds of popular film criticism and academia. When I try to articulate the kind of writing I’d like to develop at Certified Forgotten, I think about the students I got to know during my time in Columbia University’s graduate program. Each of my classmates brought their own unique perspective to the discipline of film studies, but invariably, each of them was drawn to elements of film history that needed a champion.
Essays, class projects, and even dissertations were built around cinema that most people would never think to seek out. Their passion for these films – and their drive to convey the importance of each title to a larger audience – played a huge part in my developing skills as a writer. It also taught me that no movie was too small or too obscure to warrant a thorough examination.
This, then, is how I describe Certified Forgotten. I’ve often said on the podcast that I am drawn to movies that would be the subject of one kick-ass college paper. This sentiment reflects both the enthusiasm of the writers and the relative obscurity of the films. Plenty of people have written about John Carpenter’s The Thing or Wes Craven’s Scream, but the challenge-slash-satisfaction of finding something new to say about a truly underseen film is often the best part of writing about horror.
Since launching the website, we’ve been lucky enough to receive pitches from all around the world that cover a wide variety of domestic and international horror films. And as we continue to refine our taste – our “brand identity,” if you will – we feel that Certified Forgotten could be that home for the horror kids who have a movie they just need to talk about.
If there’s some how-to guide to launching a horror publication, I’m pretty sure that Matt Donato and I are doing everything the hard way. There are podcasts that receive a thousand downloads in a single day; we crossed that threshold for the first time after a year of biweekly recordings.
We don’t presume to be in the same tier as the Horror Queers or Faculty of Horror podcasts of the world. This means – to steal a phrase kicked around a lot at my day job – that we are in a position where we have to build the plane while we fly it.
But. If Donato and I do hold up to our end of the bargain – if we offer competitive rates, a distinct platform, and access to whatever small horror network the two of us have managed to build up – then Certified Forgotten might just become home to some of the most interesting horror writing online. After all, as author Tess Gerritsen once wrote, “Only the forgotten are truly dead.”
And we have such (web)sights to show you.
If you like what you’re reading and listening to, why not join the Certified Forgotten Patreon community today?