Jay of the Dead’s Rating System: Do You Buy It or Avoid?

Jay's Rating System

Bribe for the listeners / readers:
If you actually subject yourself to reading all my ramblings below and leave a comment on this blog post, then I will enter your name in a random drawing for a DVD of the French slasher flick “Inside” (2007). Must be 18 years old or older to win. (That movie is a 10 out of 10, by the way. Genuinely scary!) I will announce the winner during Episode 050, which releases this Friday, April 17, 2015.


Side note to recent prize winners:
I apologize for the delay in sending out your prizes. I have them; I just haven’t been able to get to the post office, due to my banker’s hours schedule at my day job. But I will send them very soon. We are always good for our prizes!

Jay of the Dead’s Approach to the 10-Point Rating Scale
In the comments for Episode 049, my good buddy, Juan, called me out on my rating system. And to be honest, I understand why. My rating system isn’t overly intuitive, but I believe my personal twist on the 10-point rating scale makes more sense than any other system I’ve ever heard.

To me, it’s a solution for trying to quantify the quality of an artistic work, in this case, a film. How does one apply one’s subjective opinion about art to a number scale? This is how:

First things first: I rate on a scale of 0.5 to 10, halves are legal. Therefore, I guess it’s technically a 20-point rating scale, since there are 20 possible designations. Zeros are not possible in my estimation, because if someone has managed to wield the magnificent miracle of the motion picture, then that filmmaker at least gets a half point for creating moving images. It’s just my little way of showing respect for the medium.

Grading Scale
It’s important to realize that my numerical rating scale does not equate to the traditional, grammar school grading scale, where 59 percent (more than half of the scale!) signifies failure!

I believe many things in life correspond with the Bell Curve, including the quality of movies. For those who are unfamiliar, the Bell Curve is a visual representation that depicts “a normal distribution,” meaning, the majority of something is average and middling, and the very poor instances or very exceptional instances are rarer outliers.

Bell Curve

Think about it: The majority of movies you watch are OK, right? Just fine. Not too bad, not too good. Just unremarkable one way or the other. And it’s rare to see something truly fantastic or something profoundly awful. Extremes are less common.

Franensteinian 49

I believe the Bell Curve for the quality of the cinema skews slightly to the right, meaning, as a genuine lover of movies, there are slightly more “acceptable” or “passable” movies than unwatchable ones. This is called a negative skew or right-modal curve (the green and yellow one depicted here). In other words, the central point of my scale (the highest, most frequently occurring point) is a 6 — not a 5.
Good Rentals
Therefore, when I rate a movie a 6 out of 10, it’s not a 60 percent or a grade-school “D.” Far from it! A 6 out of 10 to me means it’s “a good movie” that I enjoyed and found satisfying (and think you will, too). A 6 is a decent rental. You may (or may not) mention a 6-rated movie at work the next day. You might think about it the next day, or you might forget about it altogether, but it was a good time while it lasted. This is the highest, most frequently occurring point on my slightly skewed Bell Curve.

A 6 rating is like a “B” on the grade school scale. (I realize that an “A” stands for “average,” but in the U.S., we don’t treat it that way; we consider an “A” to mean superior and exceptional.)

Examples of 6-rated horror movies: “Dead and Buried” (1981), “Broken” (2006), “Juan of the Dead” (2011), “Zombie Town” (2007) and “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” (1986).
A 6.5 out of 10 is a good rental that you enjoyed so much that you’ll even talk about it at work the next day and recommend it to your friends. You are genuinely impressed with a 6.5, and it sticks with you for a day or so after you watch it. A 6.5 is probably a movie that you’ll revisit someday in the future. A 6.5 is like a B+ to me.

Examples of 6.5-rated horror movies: “Blood Creek” (2009), “Extraterrestrial” (2014), “Annabelle” (2014), “Honeymoon” (2014), “Dance of the Dead” (2008), “Killer Mermaid” (2014), “Banshee Chapter” (2013) and “The Pyramid” (2014).

The 6 and 6.5 are good, solid, “can’t-go-wrong” rentals that are worth a $6.99 rental on Amazon, for instance.
Low-Priority Rentals
A 5.5 is below average (what grammar schoolers might call a B- ). It’s worth watching at some point, but there’s no big rush to get around to it, and no big loss if you never do. A 5.5 is worth a $3.99 rental on Amazon.

Examples of 5.5-rated horror movies: “Creep” (2004), “Twins of Evil” (1971), “Aftershock” (2013), “Deliver Us From Evil” (2014) and “Spring” (2015).
A 5 is just merely OK. Mediocre. Nothing notable. It’s like a C grade, yet it’s still a passing grade. It’s what I call “a low-priority rental.” A 5.5 is a little disappointing, and a 5 is a full-blown disappointment. A 5 rating is worth a $1.99 Amazon rental or a Redbox rental.

Examples of 5-rated horror movies: “Apollo 18” (2011), “Stuck” (2007), “It’s in the Blood” (2012), “In Fear” (2014) and “Welcome to the Jungle” (2007).
Now, 4.5 begins the D+ range for me. Typically, movies that are rated 4.5 and below are “avoids” to me. Every once in a while, I’ll still recommend a low-priority rental on a 4.5, particularly if it’s a guilty pleasure. A 4.5 might be a stream it on Netflix or use your free movie code for a Redbox rental. And typically 4 and below are full-blown avoids.

Examples of 4.5-rated horror movies: “Crawlspace” (1986), “The Lazarus Effect” (2015), “Finders Keepers” (2015), “Zombie Death House” (1987) and “Rabid” (1977).

Examples of 4-rated horror movies: “Queen of the Damned” (2002), “Albino Farm” (2009) and “Rawhead Rex” (1987).

I pretty much hate anything from 3.5 down. Anything 3.5 and down would be an “F” to me.

Unsavory Examples:
“Fading of the Cries” (2011) = 3.5 (Avoid)
“The Quiet Ones” (2014) = 3 ( Avoid )
“The House Where Evil Dwells” (1982) = 2.5 ( Avoid)
“Forest of the Living Dead” (2011) = 2 ( Avoid )
“Mutantis” (2014) = 1 ( Avoid )
Now, you might have noticed that even though the half-point ratings should be equidistant from one another (0.5 apart), they’re not in my estimation. I know this is confusing. The best way I know how to explain this peculiarity to my scale is this: The distance between a 6 and a 7 is less than the distance between an 8 and a 9. Think of it like that strong-man, mallet game at the carnival: You have to hammer the platform progressively harder in order to get the weight to ascend higher toward ringing that bell at the top.
High-priority / Strong Rental Recommendation
Now let’s go into 7 and up. If I give something a 7 or a 7.5, then it’s something unique and special. This is a bizarre, nether-region of my scale where quirky movies tend to fall. Sometimes a 7.5 can merit a “Buy it!” recommendation, but usually 7 and 7.5 are just strong rentals and above-average cinematic spectacle. These are in the A-minus range. And of course, these movies are worth a $6.99 Amazon rental, as well.

Examples of 7.5-rated horror movies: “The Children” (2008), “Tusk” (2014), “Found.” (2014), “Contracted” (2013), “Husk” (2011) and “The Dead 2” (2014).

Examples of 7-rated horror movies: “Home Movie” (2008), “Splinter” (2008), “Teeth” (2007), “The Horde” (2009), “Let Me In” (2010), “The Dead” (2011), “All Hallow’s Eve” (2013) and “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax” (2014).

An 8 out of 10 is a Buy it! It’s an A. An 8.5 just barely misses the A+ designation. But 8 and up are contenders for Top 10 of the year lists. And 8 and up are almost always Buys…

Examples of 8.5-rated horror movies: “We Are What We Are” (2013), “Dead Snow” (2009) and “The Evil Dead” (1981).

Examples of 8-rated horror movies: “Pieces” (1982), “Preservation” (2015), “Animal” (2014) and “Dead Alive” (1992).

Movies that are rated 9, 9.5 and 10 are exceptional! These are the full-blown A+ range for me.

Fine Examples:
“28 Days Later…” (2002) = 10
“The Babadook” (2014) = 10
“Inside” (2007) = 10
“Maniac” (1980) = 9.5
“The Fly” (1986) = 9
“Turistas” (2006) = 9
“The Town That Dreaded Sundown” (2014) = 9
In summary, if I rate something a 6 or a 6.5. Take it to the bank: You’ll be pleased with renting that movie. At least, I was.
If something is 7 or 7.5, you should definitely check it out, because it’s special enough to be unique, but offbeat enough that I don’t want to own it or re-watch it multiple times in the future. “Teeth” is a perfect example of this…
Anything that I rate 8 and up you should see in the theater and buy it. If it’s not a buy, I will tell you. But this will only be because it has no re-watch value for one reason or another. Usually, this happens when the movie is blown (for re-watching) once you’ve seen it and know what happens. The fun is in the mystery, and once the mystery is known to the viewer, it’s much less enjoyable. But it’s a blast the first time through!
If I rate something 5 or 5.5, then it’s just mediocre, below average. Stream it on Netflix if you’re bored. Redbox rental.
Anything that’s a 4.5 or below is an avoid, unless it’s a guilty pleasure, but only watch at your own risk.
And obviously, a 10 out of 10 is a must-see every time. As a lover of cinema, you must see it before you die.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Leave me a comment on this post, and I’ll enter your name to possibly win a DVD of “Inside” (2007).

51 thoughts on “Jay of the Dead’s Rating System: Do You Buy It or Avoid?

    • Don’t feel bad one bit. You’re not a jerk. It was a fair question. One time on Movie Stream Cast, I had a director get furious with me over my 6 rating for his film. (I forget the details now.) But in short, he thought I was giving him a 60 percent or a “D.”

      And had he understood my rating system, he would have known that I was calling his movie “a good, solid rental.”


  1. That explains a lot. Still though, why there should be so much difference between a 7, a 7.5 and an 8 and yet anything 4 and under is essentially all the same seems a little inconsistent. Now that I have the Rosetta Stone to Jay’s rating system I will tell you I watched High Lane yesterday and it was a 5.5

    • Nice! Thanks for trying out “High Lane,” Peter. I can totally live with a 5.5, because that’s still a Rental. That’s fair. At least you’re not criminally underrating it like Wolfman Josh. He can be shockingly dismissive sometimes for an indie filmmaker…

      To answer your other question: Think of it like food. There’s just a certain quality of food that you won’t eat. Everything 4 and below is an Avoid. Whereas, when it comes to good food, there is a spectrum that requires a little more nuance if you’re ever to distinguish between fine dishes. But bad food is simply just bad. No differentiating required; ya just don’t eat it.

  2. @JOTD – So, I was actually “with you” more on your ratings scale before this blog post. Now, I’m totally confused… well, confused might not be the right word, but it seems weird to me that their is far greater distinction between a 5.5-6.5 for you than an 8-10. I’m not going to criticize you like a big jerk (eh hem, Juan) because whatever makes the most sense to you is what you should do, but this unbalance in your rating scale struck me as odd.

    In the end, though, as long as we understand how you apply your ratings, we’ll be able to get an idea of what you thought of the film. So, this blog post is definitely helpful.

    One thing I definitely don’t understand, though, is how you can rate THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN a full 0.5 point higher than IT FOLLOWS. That’s either a travesty, or a typo. Must be a typo… I’m sure that’s a typo.

    • Great question. That is confusing. I even considered leaving it out, but I’ll try to explain better, Dino:

      Imagine you kept a list of the most recent 100 movies that you’ve watched. Next imagine that you wanted to rank to TOP 25 of those 100 movies. Now think about the amount of “fine point consideration” you’d need, in order to sort the Top 25 into their proper ranking and order.

      In other words, 75 of the movies would simply be disregarded. There’s no real reason to painstakingly compare those 75, because they’re not in the Top 25, and they’re all basically in the same boat as “the un-chosen movies.”

      But if you want to accurately rank your best 25, then you have to really compare and contrast the fine points of those movies.

      Most movies are mediocre to average — 4.5 to 6.5 range. Since most fall into that range, it’s easy to classify them there. But truly great movies — ones that are special — need to be considered more carefully (in my book). And this is why it’s harder to climb through the upper ranks of my rating system.

      And there was no typo. “It Follows” is an 8.5 and “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” (2014) is a 9 to me. “It Follows” could have been a full-blown 10 and a Masterpiece to me, but you’ll hear an hour-long, in-depth review of it this Friday.


      • ““It Follows” could have been a full-blown 10 and a Masterpiece to me, but you’ll hear an hour-long, in-depth review of it this Friday.”

        Nice, can’t wait for it!!!

      • @JOTD – Your explanation makes sense. I just don’t necessarily agree with it for how I rate movies, which is totally fine.

        Besides, as Wolfman Josh often says, it’s the discussion that provides the most value when considering your impressions and opinions of a movie.

    • I will enter anyone in a drawing for The Dead Poets’ Society DVD who watches the entire clip at the link above and agrees with me. 😉 Haha. Sorry. That’s rude to highjack this post. You should watch the clip though.

  3. I love this rating system. I may have to highjack some of this for my own ratings in the future when I recommend movies, plays, books, et al. to others. It’s very clear and concise and gives far greater credit and nuance to the “good” stuff you might see in a horrible movie or the “slight misses” you may find in a great movie. Now, regarding the movie examples themselves I find myself differing in opinion on a great majority of them. (Dance of the Dead??? Really?) I still love this podcast and also wanted to thank you for a recommendation last week when you briefly praised “Animals”- I really enjoyed that movie. A fun ride, absolutely.

    • RedCapJack – Thanks for your comment, and feel free to hijack any of this. I’m glad you found it useful.

      To Everyone:
      I knew it would be a huge risk (and very distracting to everyone) if I included examples of movies that fall into each region.

      But I was hoping that everyone would forgive the instances where they vehemently disagree with a particular film, in order to get a sense of where certain kinds of films fall on the scale. To put it more simply, doesn’t this paint a picture?

      10 = 28 Days Later…
      9.5 = Maniac (1980)
      9 = The Fly
      8.5 = Dead Snow
      8 = Animal
      7.5 = The Children
      7 = Teeth
      6.5 = Annabelle
      6 = Dead and Buried
      5.5 = Deliver Us From Evil
      5 = Apollo 18
      4.5 = Finders Keepers
      4 = Queen of the Damned
      As you browse down through that list, you can get a sense of the gradient of quality. And I know it’s all subjective, of course, but it makes perfect sense to me.


      • “Animal” 2 points above “Dead and Buried”? I’m a defender of your ratings system Jay, but that is absolute insanity!

        • Yes, actually. I stand by that one, too, David. “Dead and Buried” is cool, but a little bit of a snooze-fest… “Animal” is definitely two points more fun and enjoyable to me than “Dead and Buried,” but once again, don’t get distracted and miss the overall forest of my rating system, due to a few trees … or some Beastly Freak animal might attack you. : )

          • Don’t worry Jay, I wasn’t missing the point of your post, I was just being wilfully obtuse.

            But “Dead and Buried” a snooze-fest? Sure it’s slow in places but that’s all part of its classic, suspenseful approach. And boy does it have a hundred times the atmosphere and originality of “Animal”. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun with the latter film, what it did it did pretty well and I’m glad I followed your recommendation, but it’s kind of generic and predictable and I fear much more forgettable than “Dead and Buried”.

            But I hate arguing with you Jay, so I’ll change tack and point out that I really appreciated how in-depth and illuminating this blog post was. It’s always interesting to see the mechanics behind the hosts approach to criticism. I also love the idea of having more written content on the site in the form of these blogs, it could be a great way to spark debate and tackle topics that might not fit into the discussion on the episodes.

            Keep up the great work my good friend!

            • I agree with David’s sentiment – having written content intermixed with the episodes is a good thing, and I hope we see more of it in the future. I wouldn’t mind seeing some quick mini-reviews posted again, too, like you did before HMP episode 1 launched.

  4. Nice, thanks for taking the time to explain it in-depth. I like your system, especially the mid-range ratings. Usually people deem anything below an 8 as meh and everything below 7 is, most of the time, considered bad or below average.

    Can’t believe you gave Blood Creek 6.5 though, ugh!

    • Jay, by explaining your system you made friends, but by showing your ratings you made even more enemies haha. Don’t worry bro, I’m with you ’til the very end.

  5. Jay, you are a true gentleman, my friend. And according to all of your charts, you’re a scholar too. But really, thank you so very much for taking the time to put this together. You really didn’t have to explain yourself. Like Dino said, if you’re happy with your system and it makes sense to you, then that’s all that matters. I’m sure that everyone appreciates all the work you did here. It’s very thorough. Please know that I was partly messing with you when I called you out. It was never my intention to ridicule your scoring system or anything like that. I was just expressing my confusion just as Josh and Doc themselves have done in the past. Josh is to blame though. He put me up to this. He said that if I made fun of your scoring system, that he would return to MPW. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse :/

    • Juan,
      You’re truly one of my favorites… And a big reason for that is precisely because you challenge me (and you’re always respectful and friendly about it).

      As you can obviously tell, I take these things very seriously, and they all make sense inside my head. (It probably doesn’t translate once I spew it out to everyone else.)

      But I think anyone who’s ever heard Josh or I wrestle and deliberate over our ratings and exactly what they should be… anyone who’s heard us do that can tell that we’re trying our best to provide an “accurate” rating for our listeners’ benefit.

      And that’s actually where film critics become useful: If you can figure out where your tastes fall in relation to a (consistent) film critic, then you can usually know how you’ll feel about a film. For instance, every time Josh rates a movie, I just subtract two points and then I know where I’d probably rate it! He’s almost always exactly two points higher than I am.


  6. @JOTD,
    This is my first time commenting. I have recently discovered Horror Movie Podcast and I think I’ve found my home. I’ve listened to several podcasts, but I absolutely love you guys the most! I have listened to your Halloween and Friday the 13th series around ten times already (my favorite franchises). I dig your rating system. I also appreciate that you and all the guys take the time to put so much into this podcast. I enjoy all the episodes and am glad to have found others who love horror like I do. I truly value your opinions and take them into account before watching. (Promise I’m not kissing ass for the drawing.) Keep up the good work!

    • Ha ha, Allison, you’re awesome. I loved your comment, and you cracked me up. I get elated — almost giddy — when we find another female horror fan! Thanks so much for listening. HMP is your home, and you can live here with us as long as you wish. : )

      I hope you’ll post more comments on Episode 050 from your feminine perspective on “It Follows.” Wolfman and I review that movie, and I think the only thing that was missing (besides Doc and Kyle) was a lady’s viewpoint.

      Thanks for writing and for listening!

  7. Hey guys! I love the show, especially the longer episodes.
    Jay it was awesome to hear that you’re from Wheeling, that’s where I live and listen to the show from! I heard the episode where you were kung-fu fighting on top of the parking garage. That’s great!
    I think Wolfman Josh should review the short Moondog Airwaves (no it’s not about our lovable bike riding hero of Wheeling) it has Steven Ogg from GTAV as Wolfman Jack, who obviously turns into a werewolf. It’s a short horror comedy, but I can’t find it anywhere. Also I’ve only heard Josh mention it one time, but I’d love to hear a review of Murder Party if you haven’t done one yet. It’s a slasher movie that is full of gore and laughs. I give it an 8.5 and I own it, it was one of those obscure pick ups from the Blockbuster half price table years ago. The only reason I even picked it up is because the cover looks like Weird Al in a bad LARP costume.
    Anyway love the show guys! Keep the Wheeling Feeling alive Jay!

    • “Murder Party” is one I’ve been curious about for a while. It’s an earlier film by the guy who made “Blue Ruin” which is astoundingly good. Not horror and much more serious than “Murder Party seems to be, but it has its share of bloody violence and is an excellent film.

  8. Once you’ve gone through the steps, the rating system makes sense… On a certain level, anyway. Where I tend to find the inconsistencies are where perhaps your co-hosts may or may not be following the same system, and there are wild variances.

    Similarly, I agree that using the ‘bell curve’ system might seem relatively straightforward on paper, coupling it with a standard number system can seem a little strange. I’m not implying that you haven’t been using your own system, but like another poster mentioned, it seems odd that essentially half the grade would be designated to unwatchable movies lol.

    If it were me, I’d simply designate 5 as the ‘average’. Or, use a letter grade system, since you’ve been making the comparison anyway lol.

    On the other hand, it’s probably going to be a pain in the #$@& to make those adjustments now that you’ve already reviewed a boatload of films, so maybe just stick to what you’ve been doing haha.

  9. Okay, your rating system makes a whole lot more sense now that you’ve discussed and qualified it. Still, intuitively, I lean towards using a more traditional grading system…(again, High Lane, we give about the same numerical rating but you see that as a rental, but I call it an avoid). I just saw the new film Unfriended and would love to hear your opinion on it. Signing off, Nisu from Portland, Oregon. Keep up the good work!

      • You know, I wasn’t really sold on it….I never cared for any of the characters, apparently they are all horrible people. I felt like they threw in lot of screen glitches to make it seem like real video chatting, but I felt it covered a lot of bad effects. I do admit I had fun while I was watching it, for the most part, but certainly would never revisit…5.5 out of 10…

        • That’s pretty much what I suspected. I had mild interest in seeing this in theaters, but think I’ll wait until it’s on VOD. Thanks Nisu Shah.

  10. Ok guys, since you had so many people buy Jan-gel I think you guys should buy Porkchop. It’s a slasher flick set in West Virginia. It’s not found footage but it has a lot of shaky cam. Please find this and review it. I picked this and two sequels up at a horror convention last year and you can find it on Amazon.

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