Tag Archives: Film Criticism

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?

Certified Forgotten In Our Own Words: 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?