Visually nasty, yet personally charming [2020-03-17]For twelve years Dutchman Jeroen B ran the Horrible Reviews channel on youtube- over this time he reviewed all manner of extreme, notorious & cult film fare- he did it in a bright, playful, yet informed manner. The channel had an impressive following of 140K viewers, but in a recent cull of more edgy/ extreme fare, youtube decided in their wisdom to take his channel down with no notice- which was a great, great loss- as his show was certainly one of my favorites on youtube. Luckily he had backups- so slowly but surely he’s re-publishing back episodes on Vimeo. I caught up with Jeroen for an email interview- where discuss his passion for odd/ extreme film, the channel, and Horrible Reviews future.
M[m]: When did your interest in film start- and are there any particular films that started your interest in more shocking/ extreme fare?
Jeroen When I was in my early teens, me and some friends started renting out some of the “classic” (80s) horror movies, like the Friday The 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels, mostly because those were kinda these “forbidden” movie at that age. Afterwards, I kinda lost interest in movies until around the time I turned 20 when during my studies I got was introduced to some “cult” titles. From there I kinda picked up my “love” for B-grade horror movies and really started getting familiar with low-budget horror movies. Basically just trying to watch all the classics first and go from there. It was titles like The Evil Dead and Braindead (Dead Alive) that got me like, “yeah, I love this stuff”. From there I just kept discovering more and more, and I think it was movies like Cannibal Holocaust and Ichi The Killer that started my journey down the rabbit hole for the more shocking/extreme titles.
M[m]: When did the idea of the Horrible reviews channel first come about- and how long was it before you set it up?
Jeroen Again, around the time I turned 20. I became oddly fascinated with these “bad”, cheap horror movies and got really passionate about it. I started telling my friends about it, treating them with all the trivia I learned, but none of ‘em really cared. Can’t blame ‘em, they just didn’t really share this passion. Because I was studying Communication & Multimedia Design at the time and started learning about video editing, I decided to just put all of this passion and interest into video form. I figured, if I just make videos explaining why I like these movies and what’s so great about ‘em, people can just decide for themselves whether or not to watch these. Instead of boring my friends, haha. YouTube was still relatively new at the time but it seemed like the ideal platform to upload and share these videos. It honestly didn’t take long before I set up my channel and started uploading. At the time my channel was known as “lbHorrorReview”, with lb standing for “low budget”.
M[m]: You started off speaking Dutch on your original reviews for the channel, what made you decide to English? And were you a good English speaker before the switch?
Jeroen I did, naturally because it’s my native language. When I started, I honestly didn’t think too much of it, I just felt like it was the ideal way to share videos with friends and family that would potentially want to watch my videos. And the earliest comments on my videos were always just from friends and family. I remember at some point getting a comment from a user I didn’t recognize which made me go like, oh wow, someone found my videos without me sending them a link! And I also remember getting my first English comment, which went something along the lines of “this looks cool, it’s just a shame I have no idea what you’re saying”. That’s when I started realizing that there might be an audience out there besides my personal group of friends, and I figured that if I want to reach that audience, I’d have to switch to English. If you watch my first video in English (a two-part retrospect on the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky) you can hear a very thick Dutch accent which honestly is the worst ha-ha. The Netherlands is generally great when it comes to speaking English as a second language, and now I can confidently say I am, but perhaps not so much when I started doing my videos in English hahaha.
M[m]: The channel before it was shut down by Youtube had a huge following- why do you think people are so attracted to extreme/ shock film, and why are you so attracted to it?
Jeroen Thanks for calling it a huge following! I think I sat at around 135-140K subscribers at the time the channel was taken down, which perhaps is a “huge following” considering the content. I can’t speak for other people when it comes to what attracts one to these types of movies. For me personally, I like extremes in general. Even when it comes to for example looking up the hottest/coldest place on earth. With media specifically, and this might sound super edgy, I just don’t really care for the cookie-cutter, mainstream stuff out there. Nothing wrong with that per se, and I’ll enjoy the occasional product that’s produced for the general audience, I just appreciate it, even more, when stuff deviates from the norm. With cinema, I like it when a movie gives me an uncomfortable feeling, it’s like experiencing something “bad”, but from the safety of your couch. In general, I just appreciate artists that try to go beyond what is “socially acceptable”, especially if in the end it’s also a good product. When I started getting more into the extreme stuff, I’ve also seen (and reviewed) a lot of stuff that in hindsight seems to be mostly made just because it’s so extreme, and I guess that’s fine, it has its audience. But now I’m more into the stuff that’s both extreme, as well as just a generally well-made movie.
M[m]: Could you please discuss the work/ process you went through for each review?
Jeroen Yes, I could. It usually starts with a theme I’d like to talk about. Whether it’s a specific filmmaker, or a genre, or franchise, or just thematically similar movies. Usually, something I think might not be all that well known, but definitely worth sharing with an audience. Afterwards, I select the movies I want to cover, often based on what I think provides a good representation of what I want to show/talk about. Even if I’ve seen the movies before, I (re)watch them, and write down a bunch of notes while watching, stuff I think would be interesting to talk about. Then I write a script based on these notes, everything in all the videos is completely scripted. When I’m happy with the script, I record the video/voice-over, and from there it’s just a matter of editing everything together, pretty straightforward. It’s really mostly the early stage, where I decide what to talk about, which I think is most important. And I usually try to pick something I’m passionate about myself because that’ll make the writing process easier and go more smoothly. I’ve definitely also forced myself at times to write about stuff, for example, the “most disturbing movies” series quickly became the most popular series on my channel, and I noticed that people wanted to see that, so often I just kinda forced myself to seek out these kinds of movies to talk about, even though at times I much rather talked about other stuff.
M[m]: Please list some of the films you were most fearful of before watching? And which have lived up the extreme hype most?
Jeroen Good question. In general, I’ve never really been “fearful” having to watch a specific movie. I remember A Serbian Film being quite hyped up before I got to see it, and I honestly expected the worst. Funny thing, I actually ended up quite liking it and being surprised by how well it’s made. Before that I remember everybody’s fear for “Requiem For A Dream”, I vividly remember my brother saying how he sat there for like 10 minutes after the end credits like “wow…”. Another movie I ended up liking and appreciating quite a lot. The problem with this hyping is of course that often it’s gonna be disappointing. My go-to pick for a movie that’ll always live up to its hype is Cannibal Holocaust. It’s such a unique movie that can never be replicated, and despite it being 40 years old this year, I don’t think it lost any of its punch. Other titles, when it comes to “extreme movies” (that I’ve covered on my channel) that I think deserve its praise, even if the hype wasn’t that big, are Irreversible, Martyrs, Melancholie Der Engel, Threads, Dead Man’s Shoes, In A Glass Cage, Angst, I Saw The Devil, Lilja 4-ever, …, just to name a few random titles off the top of my head.
M[m]: What are your thoughts on Snuff- do you think such a thing exists?
Jeroen I find it interesting if that’s okay to say. I honestly would be more surprised if it doesn’t actually exist. Given the definition of “a movie depicting the killing of people, purely produced to make a profit of a paying audience“, I mean, why not? The world is a fucked up place so why wouldn’t it exist. The fact that apparently, there’s never been a case of an actual snuff movie, doesn’t prove it doesn’t exist or shit like this doesn’t happen. Obviously, it’s super fucked up and anyone involved, being it on the producing or buying/financing side, is the biggest scum of the earth, but I feel like crazier shit has happened, so why wouldn’t it exist? As a topic in fictionalized movies I find it very interesting, it really makes you go like, “can you imagine?” It’s some of the darkest topics you can imagine, and as stated before, I find it interesting when themes like this are explored in cinema.
M[m]: I know recently the channel got taken down from youtube- what were you initial thoughts when this happened and did you attempt to try reason with Youtube?
Jeroen Honestly, I didn’t know what to feel. I couldn’t really believe it. I mean, imagine, I started working on this channel back in 2008, when they took it down, they took down almost 12 years of work with it. The fact that I’ve always kept back-ups of all the videos and even the original project files kept me pretty sane, otherwise I would’ve really lost my shit. When it happened, I kept telling myself, I’ll work this out, I’ll probably get it back online. But when they almost instantly rejected my appeal, I was like, oh shit, this is really happening… Turns out, YouTube is really hard to reason with, you’re never gonna get like a one-on-one with an actual human being, at least not when your channel is as “small” as mine was. It’s just a bunch of automatic emails/responses that you have to deal with and that’s basically all you have to work with. And then it’s just like boom, 12 years of work down the drain. As of right now, I’ve made peace with it, you can say about it what you want, how unfair it is, how there are other channels that blah blah blah, but at the end of the day, it’s a private company that makes its own rules, and I violated their community guidelines and this is the result. It sucks, really bad, and I hate it, but apparently, there’s not much I can actually do about it. And all of that over a bunch of titties. Can you imagine!
M[m]: I believe you're trying to put up the old episodes on another site- what is this, and how many have you put up thus far?
Jeroen You’re correct. When I shared the news of the channel being taken down on my Facebook page (facebook.com/horriblereviews) I got a bunch of comments from people saying I should start a new channel on this and that website. I’ve looked into most of these but ended up going with Vimeo (vimeo.com/horriblereviews). Vimeo is a well-established, well-respected platform, and I figured it’d be perfect to at the very least re-upload all of my old videos. It’s not meant for new stuff, but really just as like an account with the whole Horrible Reviews “back catalog”. The problem with Vimeo though, even with the (cheapest) paid account, is that you have a weekly upload limit of 5 GB. So I can only upload a handful of videos each week. As of right now (February 14th <3) I’ve uploaded 90 videos, out of the 196 in total that I want to upload. So roughly I’m halfway.
M[m]: What are some of your recent buys/ new discoveries film-wise?
Jeroen Over time I’ve built up quite a bit of a physical collection, in my opinion. There’s always gonna be people with bigger collections, but right now I sit at around 1300 movies (https://letterboxd.com/horriblereviews/list/movies-i-own-on-dvd-blu-ray/), which I think is quite something. Recently I’ve been going more for quality over quantity, and mostly try to limit myself to the more fancy/limited releases, usually put out by these “boutique labels” like Arrow, Severin, Vinegar Syndrome, etc., or just movies I really want to own. Some releases I’m quite happy with that I recently got in are Second Run’s re-release of Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders (even though I kinda hate the transfer: https://letterboxd.com/horriblereviews/film/valerie-and-her-week-of-wonders/4/) and Blue Underground’s re-release of House By The Cemetery. Some releases that I’ve pre-ordered recently are Arrow’s Jodorowsky boxset and Third Window Film’s Tsukamoto boxset. As well as a few releases from Eureka (Kwaidan and Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain) as well as BFI’s Takeshi Kitano 3-disc collection). Discovery-wise I honestly keep discovering new stuff on a daily basis, some good, some bad, but that’s what I love about cinema, there’s an almost endless amount of “back catalog” that’s out there to discover.
M[m]: is it fairly easy to get more extreme film fare in the Netherlands, and what is the country's censorship in general like?
Jeroen It’s not really any more easy than getting ‘em from the UK or the US, but that mostly has to do with the fact that The Netherlands is just a small country and doesn’t have that many/big distribution companies. The market for physical media is just too small, I presume. I used to get a lot of Dutch releases when I first started my collection, but these were always the more “general/mainstream” titles, as these would get a release here. If you want more obscure titles, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
The censorship here I feel has always been quite lenient. The Netherlands has always been quite a tolerant, liberal country for the most part, and that’s being reflected in its lack of censorship. I remember picking up movies like Ken Park and A Serbian Film at this (now discontinued) home entertainment franchise store. But again, since the market is so small here, there’s not THAT much being released on home media, to begin with.
M[m]: I know you have an interest in hip-hop- please discuss some of your favorite albums?
Jeroen I most certainly do, besides cinema, music, and hip hop, in particular, is one of my biggest loves/passions. I’m the kind of “old guy” that’s mostly into the early 90s stuff, not because I don’t want to give the new stuff a chance, it’s just, there’s so much fantastic hip hop made during the golden age, even besides the obvious stuff, the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang, and KRS-One, and I just absolutely love that sound. From that era, recently I’ve been listening to a lot to these guys from Zig Zag Zig/Foods Of The Gods, which had a bunch of unreleased tracks released through the always magnificent Chopped Herring Records. And when it comes to more recent stuff, I was really surprised by Tha Roach Killaz, who recorded a bunch of tracks back in 2016, which were released in 2017, again on Chopped Herring Records. Those are just some examples of some of the stuff I listen to recently, but just like with cinema, there’s an almost endless “back catalog” of amazing hip hop (from the 90s). Again, I have to give love to Chopped Herring Records who made an art out of re-releasing tracks and records from forgotten artists and giving them a new life/platform, which often makes you wonder like, how did these guys never land a deal or drop a release back in the days?
M[m]: You’ve done a few hip hop tracks your self- can we still find any of these online?
Jeroen Hah, I did. Back in my mid-20s, I recorded a bunch of tracks, I even did a handful of gigs as part of this hip hop group. Good times that I love to reminisce over. I’ve actually made sure though that no recordings of this are online (anymore), as there wasn’t that much recorded that I am actually like proud of. So no, you won’t be able to find that, unless you hack my back-up hard drive haha. I do however have a mix of some of the beats I made during that time, and I’ll proudly share that, as I still think there’s some really cool stuff in there: https://soundcloud.com/neorayhs/neoray-beat-compilation
M[m]: You often crack open a beer or two when your reviewing- what are some of your favorite types of beers/ brand?
Jeroen Haha yes, I do! I’ve kinda made it into a running/reoccurring “joke”. I’m actually quite fond of trying out all kinds of different craft beers, but in my videos, you’ll most likely see me crack open a Brouwers Pilsener. It’s actually just the store brand beer from the Albert Heijn, the biggest grocery store franchise here in the Netherland. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s okay. You have to keep in mind, there’s days that I record these videos on for example a Tuesday morning, not exactly the time to be enjoying some fancy beer. Craftbeer-wise, my favorite style, very specifically, is a bourbon-barrel-aged (Russian) imperial stout. These usually come in at around 12%, so not something I want to drink while recording a video haha. But I’m all open for any kind/style of craft beers, from gose/sour beers to IPA’s to the more traditional Tripels or Quadrupels, or honestly like whatever. I love it when breweries experiment with throwing in all kinds of spices or aging their beers on random barrels like rum- or tequila-barrel aged beers. I don’t have a specific brand I’m a big fan of, although there’s a few American (micro)breweries that usually don’t disappoint like The Lost Abbey, Avery, and The Bruery. From The Netherlands, be on the look-out for De Moersleutel, they release some crazy over-the-top stuff!
M[m]: Any chance of new episodes for the Horrible reviews channel on Vimeo, and what do you see as the site's pros/cons compared with YouTube?
Jeroen The Horrible Reviews account on Vimeo is really only there as a platform for all the old videos from the now terminated YouTube channel. I am contemplating making new videos, but I’ll most likely first at least try to do this again on YouTube, but under a different name/account.
The main pro when it comes to Vimeo over YouTube is that you can just upload whatever the hell you want. With the obvious exceptions, but they’re not gonna freak out over a pair of boobs, for example. But that’s about it when it comes to pros, at least in my situation. It’s way harder to reach your audience, you have an upload limit, there’s no real easy way to monetize your videos… So as a (regular) content creator, YouTube is really the place to be, Vimeo is more suitable for like “serious artists”, which sounds sarcastic perhaps, but I hope you understand what I mean.
Thanks to Jeroen for his time & effort with the interview- Horrible Reviews Vimeo page can be found here https://vimeo.com/horriblereviews, and it’s facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/HorribleReviews/.Roger Batty