There are two types of movie reviewers in the world, really. The first are the ones assigned by a media outlet to watch and review whatever films happen to be coming out, while the second are the ones who get to select the movies to review. It’s always better to be in the second category, I say, because the first will deluge you with so much tripe that you’ll lose whatever joy you found in cinema.
That’s not to say that those of us in the second category — such as all of the Mutant Reviewers — are exempt from being exposed to movies and moments that we wish we could unsee. I’m not talking about a so-bad-it’s-good kind of experience. “Bad” and weird movies can be quite enjoyable in their own right, especially for review fodder. What I’m speaking of are movies that blindside you with pure awfulness. The ones that go beyond the pale with crudity, violence, gore, and sheer tastelessness.
Sometimes we get a heads up that these movies might be that way (and ignore that warning to our peril), but other times it may come out of the blue. I remember all of those bad reviews of Freddy Got Fingered back in the day sort of egging me on to see it. And it turns out that I should’ve listened, because here’s one movie that I wish I could unsee. And yes, there are others. I really wouldn’t mind wiping out the memory of maybe 20-30 movies that left psychic gunk in my head — images, themes, general nastiness — that isn’t doing me any favors and wasn’t that necessary to be exposed to even if I was to serve as a warning system for others.
I think we all have those movies, and we are certainly aware that there are even worse out there. I’m a lot more picky about what kind of bad movies I see these days… and quicker to stop a film if it’s crossing that line between good-bad and bad-bad (if that makes sense).
Philippians 4:8 is my guidepost in engaging with movies these days, especially ones that I will rewatch in the future. It says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I’ve always thought of entertainment — books, movies, TV — as flawed products that must be sifted and evaluated like a scale. On one side is everything that the above verse describes; the edifying elements. Great characters, funny moments, uplifting tales, silly weirdness, and the like. On the other side is the trash that drags the product down. It’s not worth it for me to see a movie that has a little bit of edifying elements if the trash is too overwhelming.
My hope is to avoid seeing movies in the future that I wish I could unsee afterward, even if I do get a review out of it. Being more informed beforehand is key to this, as is being more willing to shut down a film if I can sense it’s going south in a hurry.