Film Buff’s Handbook


Suggested Audio Popcorn:


[1] Noir Deco “Future Noir”

[2] Noir Deco “Cyberpolis”


Massive-B-Horror-Collage-Wallpaper-horror-movies-29491579-2560-1600Last night I reached a significant milestone as Keeper of The Crimson Quill as I applied the finishing touches to my special 500th appraisal double-header. An immense feeling of pride washed over me as, if you had asked me two years ago where I would be by December 2015, then I would have said a pine casket. Writing about films started out as therapy and it is astonishing how things have changed since then. I actually get almost the same level of enjoyment scribing appraisals as I do watching the films themselves and like to think that I approach each one in a different manner from other “critics”. By now, if you have been keeping up, you will have noticed a number of different quirks to my method and I would like to explain a little more about how I arrive at the end product.


To anyone browsing through the appraisal archives it may appear as though I have taken one too many happy pills. While I mark each movie on a scale of one to ten, I have only ever awarded a handful of films a score lower than five. This may suggest that I’m far too easily pleased and, to a certain degree, I am. However, I still know a good movie from a diabolical waste of my time. It’s just I choose not to spend my man hours writing about anything that holds no merit whatsoever. Cruelty has never been my thing and, moreover, I appreciate that somebody has put their blood, sweat and tears into making their dreams a reality. I will criticize if it is warranted but prefer to do so constructively and, if that is too difficult, then I would rather not write about them at all.


Recently I watched a couple of films which I would have been required to be harsh to. Mary Lambert’s Urban Legends: Bloody Mary and Lou Simon’s HazMat fell flat for completely different reasons. Lambert had a $3.5 million kitty at her disposal but it couldn’t save her film from flatlining spectacularly whereas Simon’s first full-length feature tried desperately to appeal but was hamstrung by its shoestring budget. Thus I decided to give both a wide berth as I have no great desire to tell another filmmaker how to suck eggs. This is why I appraise as opposed to reviewing. Generally I write about movies that fall into one of two camps. The classics of yesteryear that I know my readership will have fond recollections of and any up-to-date projects which could do with the extra leg up.


I am aware that I have awarded numerous perfect scores over my tenure and allow me to explain my reasoning for gushing so habitually. Some folk believe that perfection is almost unachievable and while, I can understand this logic, I don’t buy into this philosophy one iota. Should I believe that a film simply could not have been improved upon, given its place in time, then 10/10 seems more than justified. My case in point is this: Gaspar Noé’s Enter The Void is an incredible achievement in head-fuck filmmaking and left me simply thunderstruck 142 minutes after commencing my optical trip. It certainly isn’t for everyone and some may go so far as calling it pretentious claptrap but there truly is no other film out there even remotely like it. A perfect score seemed fully warranted and I vehemently stand by that decision.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, the RKSS Collective’s Turbo Kid walked away with the same score and it wasn’t on account of any technical achievement, as wonderful as that might have been. It reached inside and massaged the heart in my chest and any piece of celluloid that can forge such an emotional connection is worthy of being regarded as perfect in my eyes. For some, entertainment is the be-all and end-all but, while admittedly it is paramount, the media of film can achieve so much more than simply tapping into the joy nodes. I learned many of my life lessons through watching movies and take them very seriously indeed. If I award a perfect ten then, rest assured, I back up that decision with every solitary word that precedes my judgement.


One thing that rattles my cage is when reviews are named and shamed with a 0/10 drubbing. In my opinion, the only way this is feasible is if they forget to include any media on the disc. Even then, they may make a perfectly good coaster for your hot beverage. Anyone culpable of sinking this low should ask themselves some decidedly uncomfortable questions and I would propose finding an altogether new vocation as they clearly aren’t cut out for playing “critic”. I have been on a film set twice now, once for the entirety of a seven-week shoot, and I know what goes into growing a seed into a flower. It’s no easy feat and perhaps these hate mongers should do the same before referring to another’s art and hard graft as completely worthless.

numbers-game-diceThe only reason that I award a score in the first place is because I’m a shameless statistician at heart and I know I’m not alone. Ultimately, I leave that part of the process up to the Crimson Quill and the 1000+ words above my closing judgement offer the truest enlightenment to how I really feel. That shit comes from my soul and I let my head get in on the action so as not to leave it out. If you read my appraisals for any number of lesser-known eighties slashers and I supply them an 8/10 then read between the lines as often my score doesn’t tell the whole story. I do have a fondness for math but words are far more expressive and allow me to cut that much deeper than anything numerical could ever hope to achieve. The Crimson Quill’s Judgement is only ever intended as an afterthought and the way in which I arrive at each score is far more restricting.


Should I watch a big budget production then 5/10 is ordinarily the lowest it can plummet. Take Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween Resurrection for example. On one hand, I loathed what was done with my beloved franchise, and still regard it as by far the weakest entry in the series. However, should I be flicking through the channels and happen upon the final third then the likeliness is that I will still take a degree of guilty pleasure from it. Now flip that on its head and present me a movie made on next to nothing. Should it get more wrong than right then it may well be fighting just to reach a score of five. That is where I become a shallow creature. If it is horror, then two factors can still save the day. Grue and T&A, as shameful as that may sound, can elevate something borderline unwatchable from the bottom of the barrel to as much as a lofty six. There is a method to my madness and a science to my scoring that isn’t that hard to decipher.


My main objective when appraising any piece of art is to make sure that I tick every box for the addressee. Audio is imperative as are any carefully selected visuals and, other than that, my goal is to provide a pleasurable reading experience. One reader has remarked on a number of occasions that, while he has despised the films that I have analyzed, he has thoroughly enjoyed my presentation. This thrills me to my core as I wish to gift my audience the closest I possibly can to a true moviegoing experience. Even if I’m waxing lyrical on something you regard as terrible, I still desire to tantalize those pleasure nodes in any way I can. Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls is considered by many as one of the lousiest pieces of trash to emerge during the nineties but I awarded it a lofty eight without batting an eyelid. My opinion is subjective but, even if you think I have lost leave of my senses, I always back my decision up with sound reasoning.

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I now have 500 appraisals in the bag and fully intend on doubling that tally over the next couple of years. When the moment presents itself, I may veer into introspective writing or fiction if I’m feeling particularly inspired but film appraisals will always provide my bread and butter. When I was barely five, my mother took me to see Snow White & The Seven Dwarves at the local movie house and, two years later, my father repeated the gesture although Jaws admittedly left an altogether different kind of impression and I spent the next six months dreaming of Ben Gardner’s disembodied head bobbing about in the swim. My point being that I knew way back then that film was always going to be a major part of my life and it pleases me infinitely to be able to share my findings habitually with such a captive audience as the Grueheads.


Should you disagree with my analysis then remember that I love nothing more than healthy debate. I don’t profess to know everything and discussion may lead to be considering factors that I hadn’t previously thought of. But I will always remain true to myself and won’t ever be culpable of changing my opinion because of whether or not I am in the majority. The very moment I am guilty of doing such, my words become stripped of meaning. Anybody who knows me will be all too aware that I cannot flourish without truth and integrity. The wonderful thing about the media of film is that one man’s gold is another’s copper. We are all unique and, if the entire free world considers a movie to be entirely lacking in merit, then so be it but it need never apply to us.

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Showgirls is a great example of this. I half expected to be hurled into the dock for showing it some much-deserved love and ignored the Razzie awards it amassed during its brief stay in the public eye. Why should I ever have to apologize for having a soft spot for a movie? Answer: I damn well shouldn’t. As long as I can back up my outrageous claim with supporting prose then I’m more than justified in straying from general consensus. I shall continue in the same manner as it has gotten me this far. 1000 here we come. Thank you to the power of 500 for sharing my passion with me. It means everything and more to know that I can share and that is all the motivation I require to keep on keeping on.


There are thousands of critics out there plying their trade and, to any of them doing so for the right reasons, I offer my eternal respect. We have a job to do guys and that involves telling it as it is. Should being mean-spirited work for you then, by all means, sharpen those knives as I’m sure you will still find your readership. For me however, it’s always been about the love. I may be the Keeper of The Crimson Quill but, at heart, I’m still a seven-year-old child with a few ominous Jaws-themed night terrors and a tweak in my nuts. I’m fairly assured that I’m not alone on that count so, one thousand, here I come. Should I end up suffering from cataracts, then I’m billing you lot for corrective surgery. That’s only fair right?





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