10 Things Brian Likes – #8: James Rolfe and Cinemassacre.com

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Ever wish you could make a living by sitting on your couch and talking about pop culture? If so, you’re not alone…so-called “internet reviewers” are a dime a dozen. All it takes is a camcorder, a computer, and an opinion, and you too can cast yourself adrift amidst the sea of amateur critics “broadcasting” from basements across America. If this sounds harsh, bear in mind that I acknowledge the possible hypocrisy – being an amateur blogger requires even less time and technology (no video editing!). But, as in any free market, a superior product will make itself known. A handful of reviewers demonstrate some real humor, insight, and production values, and they rise above the ocean of mediocrity. Like other “Internetainers,” some accrue large fanbases and advertiser interest, and really can make a living of it. Most focus on a specific medium: Linkara covers comic books. The Nostalgia Critic covers film and TV from the 80s and 90s. But my pick for the best “internet reviewer” of all is a man who transcends the label. Native New Jerseyan James Rolfe, better known to the online world as the “Angry Video Game Nerd,” is a skilled filmmaker in his own right. On his website, Cinemassacre.com, Rolfe showcases his passion not just for playing video games, but also for making movies, exploring media history, and concocting unforgettable Halloweens. Rolfe is a man after my own heart, and to see him succeeding in his “nerd crusade” to become an established filmmaker and storyteller is inspirational. And those fans who really “get” Rolfe, and delve further into the Cinemassacre oeuvre than simply the “AVGN” series, will find themselves motivated to do much more than just take to their couches.

Three notes before we begin:

-Many of these videos are rather long. You officially have my permission to take this “article” in several sittings. And, as with the other artists I’ve highlighted, I encourage you to take some time and explore Rolfe’s work beyond what is featured here.

-Cinemassacre videos have a tendency to include frequent, flagrant profanity and scatological humor. NSFWOPWSD: Not Safe For Work Or People With Sensitive Dispositions.

-If you only have time for one video, skip ahead to #10. Trust me.

1. The Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN)

In his flagship series, Rolfe stars as “The Nerd,” a curmudgeonly and foulmouthed version of himself in a white button-down and pocket protector. Each episode, the Nerd tears apart (often literally) a vintage video game which, for one reason or another, ranks among “the worst ever made.” The show’s premise is perfectly summarized in the insanely catchy (and infinitely cover-able) theme song:

“He’s gonna take you back to the past,
To play the shitty games that suck ass…
He’s the angriest gamer you’ve ever heard
He’s the Angry Video Game Nerd.

My introduction to James Rolfe came when an Angry Video Game Nerd episode was featured on AlbinoBlackSheep.com in late 2006. The episode in question was #15, “Chronologically Confused about Sequel Titles.” In it, Rolfe discusses game and movie series with misleading installment titles: If “First Blood” was followed by “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” shouldn’t Rambo III really be called “Rambo II: First Blood Part III”? Even this early in the series, Rolfe makes it apparent that film is his passion as much as, if not more than, video games. From this first video, I was hooked by his humor and his clear knowledge of his subject matter. He has a decent voice and a strong host presence, too…not a given for many “nerds” out there. By the time AlbinoBlackSheep featured episodes 20-22, an epic three-part review of old school Ghostbusters games, I counted myself as an AVGN fan.

At this point, I checked out Rolfe’s YouTube channel and caught up on his earlier episodes. The “AVGN” series began with a pair of simple videos he shot in his bedroom in 2004, incorporating footage from “Bad Nintendo Games” as he reviewed them. The first installment derided Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest for its unnecessarily confusing gameplay. The second (and first to show “The Nerd” on screen) was a review of the NES adaptation of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Rolfe’s pick for the worst video game ever made. This was the first time I felt a personal connection to Rolfe – by coincidence, I too had picked up a copy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 2004 (the year my marching band did a Jekyll-and-Hyde-themed show). It cost me a penny on eBay, and turned out to be worth less than that. The “game” is inscrutable, near-unplayable, and it ends very quickly. Everything on screen is out to kill you, and yet your own “weapons” do nothing. If you do manage to make it past a certain point, the game itself will kill you without warning for violating a rule which is never explained. As the Nerd might say, “What were they THINKING!?”

Having reviewed the “worst game ever,” Rolfe ended the “series,” which wasn’t revived until early 2006, when James’ friend Mike Matei convinced him to “finish the trilogy” with a review of The Karate Kid on NES. Production of this third chapter, and positive audience response, encouraged James and Mike to turn the show, at the time entitled “The Angry Nintendo Nerd,” into a full-fledged webseries. Throughout 2006, Rolfe released roughly one episode a month, and production values steadily increased. Matei would occasionally appear as guest characters from the licensed games (Spider-Man, Jason Voorhees, etc.), and Kyle Justin, another of James’ friends, contributed the unforgettable theme song. In October, two particularly ghoulish reviews were released (Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street) – this double dose of Nerd would become one of Rolfe’s many Halloween traditions (more on that in a bit). As the fan following for “The Angry Nintendo Nerd” grew, Rolfe recognized the potential for licensing issues: They couldn’t make any money using Nintendo’s brand. Thus the name-change to the Angry Video Game Nerd, which came just in time for episode 15…the very one I first stumbled across.

In the years that followed, the AVGN fanbase increased exponentially, and he became one of the most prominent “internet reviewers,” rivaled only by The Nostaliga Critic (leader of the reviewer webring “Channel Awesome”), with whom The Nerd had a facetious “feud” throughout 2008. 10 years in, James Rolfe has “taken us back to the past” some 120 times, and moved beyond his NES roots to review nearly every video game console under the sun, including the Intellivision, the Atari Jaguar CD, and the Tiger R-Zone. And only twice has he revised his “worst game ever” judgment:

He dubbed the Super Nintendo version of The Wizard of Oz “as bad as Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.” But only one game has debatably exceeded it in “badness” (the debate is over whether it can even be called a game). And that [ahem] game is Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties, a “full motion video” title for the 3DO which is anything but. I’ll let the Nerd explain it in Episode 74, still my pick for the best of the series.

So raise your Rolling Rock (the Nerd’s beer of choice) on high. Here’s to another 10 years with the AVGN.

2. Movie Reviews

From 2007-2008, I kept up with AVGN videos as they were released to GameTrailers.com (the series is co-sponsored by GameTraillers and ScrewAttack.com). But it wasn’t until fall of 2008, as I was beginning my freshman year of college, that I finally made my way to Rolfe’s own website, Cinemassacre.com, and discovered just how deep the rabbit hole went. I don’t remember if it was this video which brought me to the site, or whether my first visit to the site brought me to this video.

 

Spike.com hired Rolfe to produce a string of movie reviews throughout 2008. Though some of the selections were very mainstream, including Film Favorites inductees Back to the Future and Groundhog Day, all were insightful and funny. My favorite videos were those which focused on more obscure titles, such as Maximum Overdrive, featured above. These allowed Rolfe’s inner cinephile to really shine – in my opinion, the most passionate and interesting part of his persona. This is a man who loves movies: making them, watching them, mocking them, remixing them.

The most comprehensive and educational of the Spike reviews were Rolfe’s “-a-thon” videos, including a “Batman-a-thon” and an “Ed Wood-a-thon.” Hefty in length and laughs, these retrospectives cover a series of films, comparing and contrasting them along the way and providing some historical context. I thought I knew Ed Wood before…I was mistaken. Rolfe caps off his tribute to the schlockmeister director with a glowing review of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood biopic…which I had never heard of. That’s right: My knowledge of quirky movies doesn’t spring from thin air. Rolfe is a B-movie brainiac, and has taught me much. Ed Wood is one of his favorite movies, and now one of mine as well.

It wouldn’t be the last time I took one of his recommendations to heart.

3. Monster Madness

If you couldn’t tell from those last two videos, James Rolfe likes horror movies. And he really likes Halloween. So every October, in addition to the Nerd covering a spooky game or two, Rolfe rolls out Monster Madness, my favorite Cinemassacre series of all.

But let’s jump back again to the fall of 2008, when I was first poking around the website. A couple weeks into my first semester, I suddenly noticed an influx of videos, posted much more frequently than normal. These videos were part of a series called the “Godzillathon,” which at the time I assumed was just another “-a-thon” video made for Spike. Each one was a review of a Godzilla film, with a whopping 29 in total (the 28 main-series Japanese releases as well as Roland Emmerich’s 1998 American film). I watched a handful of them at the time, but didn’t follow the sprawling “-a-thon” with any real fervor.

Leap forward about a year, to late-September 2009, when Rolfe posted this and I lost my shit:

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Whoa! A horror movie review EVERY DAY!? Wait…wait a minute…Monster Madness THREE!? Only then did I realize that the “Godzillathon” had actually been the second annual installment of Monster Madness, during which a new video pops up daily throughout October. I immediately headed to the Cinemassacre archives and cued up 2007’s original series. By the time October rolled around, I had torn through the Godzillathon as well. All month long, I avidly followed along as “Monster Madness Three” unfolded. And ever since, a part of me spends the year waiting for October.  It’s hard to believe that four more Monster Madnesses have already run their course, bringing the current total to seven, with #8 just around the corner. You math whizzes out there will know that that’s about 200 individual reviews (it would be slightly more, but 2012 was a half-year of sorts). 200 three-to-five minute reviews, covering more than 200 individual films, all delivering your daily dose of scares, silliness, and simian assassins.

Each year’s selections share a rough theme:

2007 – “History of Horror”: Rolfe walks us through the canonical classics of the horror genre, from the days of the Universal Monsters through the 80s slashers and up to the turn of the millennium: Nosferatu. Frankenstein. Psycho. Night of the Living Dead. The Exorcist. Friday the 13thScream. Think of a “classic” horror film and chances are it’s here. Even so, Rolfe manages to slip in a few more obscure choices, such as campy Vincent Price vehicle The Tingler, Peter Jackson gorefest Brain Dead, and The Blair Witch Project‘s found-footage forerunner, The Last Broadcast.

2008 – “Godzillathon”: I overlooked it in its prime, and that was a mistake. And yet, the Godzillathon still feels like the weakest “season” of the series. With a single franchise (and not a particularly “spooky” one at that) taking up the entire month, much of the previous year’s spirit of variety is lost. On top of that, it just feels less “Halloweeny.” Since Rolfe had already covered most of the “milestone” films, however, I imagine he wanted to try something a little different. I guess I should just be grateful that he decided to undertake another Monster Madness at all – a full month’s worth of five-minute videos take a LOT of time and devotion to put together. If nothing else, I learned more about Godzilla than I ever expected to…first off, that the series has enough entries to fill an entire month.

2009 – “Monster Madness 3”: Here’s where I came in. In this third chapter, Rolfe “goes ’round again,” filling in the holes in his initial “History of Horror” lineup. Now we get those films just outside the iconic pantheon: White Zombie. The Invisible Man. House of Wax. The Fly. Child’d Play.


I liked this go-round even better than the series’ freshman season, because it allowed Rolfe to venture further afield with his selections. While the first Monster Madness had covered “the basics,” now I was learning about film’s I’d only read about, or else hadn’t heard of at all. There was Thomas Edison’s 1910 adaptation of Frankenstein, considered the earliest horror film in history, and the Spanish version of 1931’s Dracula, shot on the same sets as the American version by a separate cast and crew working alternate hours. There’s the exquisitely wacky “interactive” flick Monsters Crash the Pajama Party, and the unexpectedly gruesome “Coffin Joe” series out of 1960s Brazil. All in all, “Monster Madness 3” is a perfect assortment of tricks and treats. Oh, yeah, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes made the cut too.

2010 – “Camp Cult”: I feel Rolfe missed an opportunity by not calling this one “Schlocktoberfest.” But I can’t really complain – it’s a whole month devoted to low-budget “Z-Movies!” Fitting with the “Camp” theme, Rolfe introduces each film while sitting in a lawn-chair beside a campfire. Again the lineup is fantastic, with plenty of familiar bombs getting a tip of the hatincluding Robot Monster and, yes, even Troll 2. He also works in some bizarre foreign films, including entries from South Korea and Indonesia. “Camp Cult” is my favorite Monster Madness to date…not because of any of the movies chosen, but rather because of how Rolfe led up to the month. In a series of three videos, he discussed various media from his childhood which had gotten him hooked on old monster movies. “To be a fan of anything,” he explained, “you have to be exposed to it first.” The video which resonated with me most was a nearly 10-minute tribute to Monstervision, a TNT programming block which would air classic monster movies late on Saturday nights in the early 90s. Though I was a little too young to see Monstervision, I caught the B-movie bug much the same way: When I was seven, I discovered a local station which would show vintage horror and sci-fi features every Friday night. I vividly recall the experience described by Rolfe, checking the channel listings and stocking up on VHS tapes. The Monstervision theme does an unparalleled job explaining the appeal of sharing spooky cinematic stinkers:

“You don’t need no special glasses or an insect’s head, just a healthy love for slime and disrespect for the dead.

These Monstervision movies serve a primitive drive, cuz’ watching people die can make you feel so alive!”

2011 – “Sequel-a-Thon”: In an interesting twist on the formula, Rolfe spent each week of the month reviewing different horror series, including the Universal Frankenstein films, Hammer’s Dracula series, and the Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween franchises. Though not offering up as much variety as other years, the videos were longer and went into more detail about each film and its place within its respective series. Highlight: The review of Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, which introduced me to the toe-tapping “festival of the new wine” song, now one of my perennial Halloween jams.

2012 –  “80s-a-thon”: For most of 2012, Rolfe was hard at work on a large-scale film project, and didn’t have the time to devote to a fully-realized Monster Madness. Instead, he released a new video every other day throughout October, focusing on horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films released sometime during the 1980s. On “off” days, he re-posted older reviews of 80s films, both from previous Monster Madness cycles and the Spike reviews, such as Maximum Overdrive above. In addition to the reduced pace, this was a down year because Rolfe was finally beginning to show signs of “running out of movies.” Highlight: The Stuff, an anti-consumerist horror flick about killer Cool Whip.

2013 – “Sequel-a-thon”: Rolfe ramped production back up and crammed coverage of five entire series into the month: Universal’s Mummy, Hammer’s Frankenstein, the Gamera movies, the Alien franchise, and George Romero’s “of the Dead” films. It all culminated in a full-length commentary of Night of the Living Dead on Halloween. After the lull of 2012, Monster Madness came back strong. I’m curious to see where the 2014 chapter, set to begin in just a week, will take us.

4. Location Tours

Though Rolfe makes a thoroughly entertaining armchair critic, he’s not adverse to actually heading into the field. In one series of videos, he explores iconic filming locations from some of his favorite movies. Maybe this shows my personal bias (or Rolfe’s own), but I find the strongest entries are those focused on horror movie locales. Here he is (accompanied by Mike Matei), visiting the Evans City Cemetery in Pennsylvania, site of the opening scene from NIght of the Living Dead.

Years later, that video inspired me to make a pilgrimage of my own (to be featured in an upcoming episode of “Count Gauntly’s“).

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Other destinations have included locations featured in everything from Family Matters to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World to The Blob. But my single favorite “location tour video” has got to be the excellently-produced “A Trip to Sleepy Hollow,” in which Rolfe journeys to the very real village of Sleepy Hollow, New York. I’m having trouble embedding it here, otherwise it would be the featured video for this section. Definitely check it out via the link. As in the Monster Madness videos, Rolfe’s love for Halloween shines through.

5. Student Films

As the Monstervision video makes clear, Rolfe’s passion for film and filmmaking dates back a long time. In the early 2000s, he majored in Film at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia (offering a prime opportunity to do a Rocky location vid a few years later). Though not his first films by any means, Rolfe’s student projects are some of the purest expressions of his particular filmic “voice.” And we’re not talking the arthouse stuff you might associate with “college film.” True to form, his films are kooky, spooky, and a little bit gross.

Rolfe’s senior project, “The Legend of the Blue Hole,” seems the most “him” of any narrative film he’s done. Rolfe envisioned the film as the first episode of an anthology series. Inspired by The Twilight Zone and the Weird New Jersey franchise, “Jersey Odysseys” would explore the local legends of Rolfe’s home state. To date, no further “episodes” have been made, but I seriously dig this “pilot,” inspired by rumors of a bottomless pool tucked away in the New Jersey pine barrens (also said to be home to the region’s most famous cryptid, the Jersey Devil). I love both the Twilight Zone and “Weird N.J.,” so it follows that “The Blue Hole” is right up my alley. Rolfe’s personal connection to the area makes the film all the stronger, and the compelling story structure (mild spoilers: time travel is involved) makes for an interesting narrative.

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Couldn’t embed this one either, so you get a marginally less compelling still instead.

Then, just after graduating, Rolfe wrote and directed “The Deader the Better,” a zombie comedy about cemetery caretakers who, night after night, must return their ever-reanimating charges to a deceased state. As the gravediggers say in a line worthy of the poster, they’re “making a living killing the dead.” The film showcases some striking (and spurting and spattering) DIY special effects.

6. Impressive Collections

James Rolfe is a collector, with the sorts of collections that make other collectors salivate. In addition to his painstakingly-catalogued video game collection (including a nearly complete NES library), he owns a huge variety of movies, books, board games, and other media. It’s a collaborative enterprise, to be sure: Many of his games and DVDs come directly from fans. But Rolfe does his part to give back, by sharing his collections…not only via reviews of individual films or games, but also through several long-form videos which explore the size and breadth of the collections themselves.

There are the half-hour tours of James’ and Mike’s DVD collections (Mike’s is actually even more impressive). James offers a helpful tip for collectors: Always leave free shelf space for each category.

There are the tours of “The Nerd Room,” from which Rolfe hosts the AVGN. Since the collection is always growing, he makes a new video every few years.

But most impressive are those videos which show Rolfe’s dedication to preserving and sharing media history. It would be easy (at least in most cases) for Rolfe to emulate his video games, or to get all his movies on DVD. But he takes pride in collecting older formats. One of the coolest examples of this devotion is the Cinemassacre “video store.” In one of the early “Nerd Room tours,” he poked the camera out of the main room, into a smaller adjoining room. At the time it simply looked like a messy closet, but he moved a few things and revealed that much of the room was filled with boxes of VHS tapes. He said he had never had the heart to throw them out. Then he ducked back through the tiny doorway into the main Nerd Room.

A few years later, he revealed (seemingly out of nowhere) that he had found a use for that little side room: He had converted the entire thing into a replica video store aisle, complete with authentic shelving. Now, he uses the room to host many of his movie reviews. In the following clip, James, Mike, and Kyle Justin (the musician behind the infectious AVGN theme) reminisce about the physicality and the “ritual” of traveling to the store to rent a movie. I can relate: I hate to succumb too vocally to “90s kid” nostalgia, but my age group was one of the last to get the video store experience first-hand. I remember selling cub scout popcorn on October nights outside the Blockbuster,  and a few of my favorite films are those I stumbled across while wandering the aisles.

Oh, and Kyle Justin is wrong. “Only James would save his Blockbuster card,” huh? Please. I have two of those suckers. In fact, Rolfe spurred me to go one further. This past January, in Blockbuster’s last month operating rental stores, I trekked to the store in Woodbridge and quite literally cleaned them out. I am now the proud owner of two original Blockbuster shelves: one double-sided aisle shelf, and one of those “big new release shelves along the wall.” Oh, and three uniforms. And three “Blockbuster blue” tablecloths. And that huge marquis which hung from the ceiling and announced “Coming Attractions” soon to be released to DVD.

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I can stop any time I want.

If you bothered to watch “Video Store Memories” all the way through, you’ll notice that Rolfe’s movie collection includes formats beyond VHS. In early 2010, he did an entire series on “obsolete video formats,” with a clip each covering BetaMax tapes, LaserDisc, and the bizarre “C.E.D.,” sort of the “Beta of LaserDisc.” A C.E.D. player sucks the video out of its case without you ever touching the disk itself. I had never even heard of the strange format, but thanks to Rolfe’s enlightening account, I now own a C.E.D. copy of A Few Dollars More (oh, and Thunderball on Beta).

Rolfe seems to genuinely love the history behind the media he reviews. His house is a museum, and he its most knowledgeable curator. And through the wonders of the internet, we can “take the tour” 24/7. Check out this video, which capped off the “obsolete format series.” In it, Rolfe highlights films of which he owns multiple copies on different video formats. It’s all interesting, but my jaw dropped at the end, when he showed off his many copies of King Kong, including a “complete cut” of the movie on real film, which he himself painstakingly assembled by splicing old deleted scenes into a bowdlerized reel. This guy’s got dedication. Taking you back to the past – it’s what he does, time and time again.

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Oh, and like I said at the beginning of this section, Rolfe’s collections aren’t limited to just movies and games. He recently did a series called “Lookin’ at Books,” in which he guides us through his more traditional library. In short, if it’s an item of mass media, Rolfe can discuss it in an entertaining and erudite fashion.

7. Other Series

In addition to the AVGN and Monster Madness, Rolfe has produced several other long-running series. Among the most notable are:

-“You Know What’s Bullshit?,” in which he rants about inconvenient and illogical aspects of modern living, such as the limited capabilities of hotel TVs and the sometimes abstruse nature of DVD packaging. Rolfe’s rant about the uselessness of pennies was actually featured on CNN…well, a censored version, at least.

-“Board James,” in which he reviews (what else?) board games! These are actually pretty neat, and focus on some rather unusual and/or intricate vintage games of the 80s, with adventurous names like “Fireball Island” and “Weapons and Warriors.”

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It seems corporeal game-makers were a lot more ambitious back before video games snatched away their clientele.

The Board James videos also star Rolfe’s friend Bootsy, a musician who provides custom “theme songs” for the games, which are surprisingly catchy. Just listen to his rock anthem for “Tornado Rex” and tell me it doesn’t belong in a commercial. Or on the radio, for that matter. Rolfe brought the “Board James” series to a spectacular conclusion in 2013’s very cinematic “Dream Phone” review. In the almost 20-minute epic, the host characters suffered gruesome deaths at the “hands” of the electronic phone (which turns out to be possessed). They will be missed.

-“James & Mike Mondays”: A recent, weekly series of gaming reviews. These are more simplistic than AVGN episodes, and more akin to “Let’s Plays,” with James and Mike providing commentary as they play through a given game. I have mixed feelings about this series. Over the years, Mike Matei has taken a more and more prominent role as a “host” in Cinemassacre videos, a shift I rather resent. It seems a common problem among “internet reviewers” that they will invite their personal friends along for the ride…even when those friends are less capable or charismatic. By and large, Mike tends to be more crass and less informed on a topic than James (though, as I said, I have to admit the man has an impressive DVD collection). I hope this doesn’t come off as too bitter – I respect that Matei has had a fundamental role in maintaing the Cinemassacre website and producing the AVGN series. But, at least on-camera, I prefer to see him in cameo roles rather than as a prominent host. That said, he does give James someone to “bounce off of,” and…well…they’re friends. Who am I to say who belongs where? Rolfe can feature whomever he wants in his videos. At least he and Mike always seem to have fun. And that’s what comes across as the most positive element of the “JMM” series. It’s just two longtime friends, having fun.

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Their enthusiastic dancing in a recent review of “Kinect Star Wars” had me grooving right along.

None of these other series have captivated me quite as much as the AVGN or Monster Madness. But I respect Rolfe for never hesitating to dabble in something new. Even while writing this article I stumbled across yet another series which had gone entirely under my radar: “Audio Slaughter,” a podcast dedicated to classic rock.

8. Experiments

Occasionally, Rolfe’s dabbling extends into the experimental, as in this test to see just how many iterations of copying and recopying it takes to render a VHS unrecognizable. Click the blue box below to open the video.

 

Maybe that single clip isn’t enough to justify its own section. But hey, I thought it was neat.

9. Cataloguing His Life

More than any one clip or series, it’s Rolfe’s willingness to share his passions which I find most endearing. Want to witness the first time he played Nintendo? Or the moment he came up with the Cinemassacre name? Want to know his personal checklist for officially getting in the Halloween spirit? In sharing the things he loves, he also shares his life story. Though we may never meet, I feel I “know” James Rolfe better than many people I have met. I know his favorite movie, and where he went to school, and who his friends are. What’s more, I’ve actually seen much of his life unfold. Like just about everything else on the site, Rolfe’s life is carefully documented.

He’s shared homemade comic books and home videos of the annual haunted houses he constructed in high school,  as well as some of his earliest film projects. Fans can literally watch him grow up.

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The final installment of the “Six Snix Flix,” begun in 1993, when Rolfe was 13. Last year, the series finally appeared on Cinemassacre.com, just in time for the first film’s 20th anniversary.

Just about the only thing Rolfe doesn’t share is his family. He has a wife and young daughter who rarely appear on the site (though his wife has had an increased presence lately, and seems to serve as co-host of the “Audio Slaughter” podcast). I suppose its admirable that he guards the privacy of others, but it feels weird to be shut out of the present when we know so much about Rolfe’s past. Not to mention that if I ever became famous for being a “nerd,” I think I’d want to rub the fact that I was married in people’s faces. But that’s neither here nor there. For the most part, Rolfe is a very open person, and it’s been nothing short of inspiring watching him progress as a filmmaker.

Which reminds me: Remember that major film project I said Rolfe was busy with throughout most of 2012? Well, it was the one filmmaking endeavor which could possibly supersede Monster Madness among his priorities…realizing his dream of making a feature film. Production on Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie continued well into 2013 (Rolfe began work on the script all the way back in 2006), and editing was a long and arduous process as well. After all, he needed to create the film’s hundreds of special effects shots via practical effects…no self-respecting Godzilla fan would do any less. In addition to his years of hard work, Rolfe needed his fans to get the film made. The entire budget, over $300,000, was crowd-sourced.

And earlier this year, it all finally came together. On July 21st, the AVGN movie premiered (no foolin’) at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, the site of the very first Hollywood premiere in history (Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood in 1922). Rolfe and his film made a national comic-con circuit, and now the movie is available through Vimeo’s on-demand service, with DVDs due out by the holiday season. Here’s James, Mike, and Kyle Justin at an early screening of the film, as Kyle recounts the “History of the Nerd” to a theater packed with cheering fans.

It’s a milestone without a doubt. But I’ve got a funny feeling James Rolfe’s “nerd crusade” is far from over.

10. Cinemassacre 200

Now for something special. IF YOU WATCH ONLY ONE VIDEO ON THIS PAGE, MAKE IT THIS ONE.

As I mentioned, James Rolfe has a penchant for carefully cataloguing just about everything he does. His filmography is no exception, and up until he finally stopped counting sometime last year, he kept precise track of every single film and video project he directed…beginning all the way back in 1989, when he was 9. Each “film” was accompanied in the filmography by a corresponding number. As of its “final” update in 2013, the Cinemassacre filmography consisted of 409 entries, and has climbed well beyond that now. During the years he kept track, Rolfe liked to release particularly meaningful or important films so as to correspond with important numbers. Without further ado, I present “Cinemassacre 200,” the most inspirational film I’ve ever seen. In this roughly 20-minute documentary, Rolfe describes his childhood, and the path which led him to filmmaking. It was this video, which debuted just before Christmas during my Freshman year of college, which made me decide to become a film major. It remains to be seen whether it was a “smart” choice: Lacking Rolfe’s obvious ambition, it’s far from a sure path to a career. But after watching the following, I knew it was the right choice.

Pretty crazy, right? His description of editing between two interconnected VCRs is particularly mind-boggling. All in all, James Rolfe is a passionate independent filmmaker who appreciates history and loves Halloween…in effect, he checks nearly every box on my “soul brother” checklist. I wish him all the best in his future projects, and I thank him for the education and inspiration he brings me.

Speaking of which: Rolfe’s Monster Madness motivated me to get in on the “post-a-day holiday review” game with the Brian Terrill Movie Night “Christmas Classic Countdown” in December of 2011. I hadn’t wanted to blatantly copy Monster Madness, and yet by the next October I realized I couldn’t resist. My “Creepy Classics Countdown” ran throughout the month. My annual Christmas & Creepy Countdowns eventually gave rise to a more ambitious project… which in turn “got me noticed” and invited here to Earn This.

I literally wouldn’t be here without James Rolfe.

rolfe

Oh, and by the way, this popped up over at CInemassacre.com while I was editing.

 

Brian T.

Brian T.

Brian is the host of the TV show Count Gauntly's Horrors from the Public Domain and the creator of Brian Terrill Movie Night. He joined Earn This in 2013.

2 thoughts on “10 Things Brian Likes – #8: James Rolfe and Cinemassacre.com

  1. I really enjoyed this one. The Cinemassacre 200 is pretty inspiring… just goes to show you how hard work and persistence can get you somewhere special. It’s also interesting to see the impact Rolfe had on you in numerous ways. Thanks for sharing.

    (Also, it may just be my computer, but about half of the embedded videos aren’t working right now.)

  2. Yeah, I realized that a couple days ago. I guess it was an unrelated account posting his movie reviews on YouTube, and it just got taken down in the past week or so. I’ll go through and replace them with links.

    Trust that they were working when I first posted the article.

    The videos currently down were:
    “Ed Wood-a-thon”
    “Monster Madness 3 Promo”
    “Monster Madness 3 – The Invisible Man”
    “A Tribute to TNT’s Monstervision”
    “Films in Multiple Formats”
    “Monster Madness 8 (2014) Promo”

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