Introducing ‘Nerdly Musings’ – 1: The Shovel Index

It’s been two months-ish since I decided to start reviewing story-rich indie games…and it’s been awesome. I’ve found myself spending most days thinking of lines or topics to include in whichever review I was currently working on. But as I’m sure everyone who reviews games knows: it’s darn time-consuming, especially doing the research. So the thought occurred to start a new segment to the blog (in addition to the reviews), in which I can write something more free-flowing, and doesn’t take too much time to pen. A space where I can pluck some of the more interesting jumbles of thought from my head like Dumbledore’s memories, and see if they match or resemble the thoughts of others. Introducing Nerdly Musings!

For the first edition, I’d like to tell the story of what myself and a few friends came to know as the ‘Shovel Index’. Come take my hand as we travel back to a magical year: 2011. The year of the last Harry Potter film, planking was all the rage, and 3DS’s were selling like hotcakes. It was also the year of my final year at university. By a small miracle, my schedule for one particular afternoon had aligned with those of my two housemates, so we settled down to watch a film. All three of us were scientists: a physicist, a chemist and an economist (I know, I know, but he insists it’s a science…whatever) so we wanted something grounded in science. We settled on the movie Splice, starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley. We were young and naive. We were curious, and it looked like it could be good. We were wrong. So. Wrong.

WARNING: The following will contain spoilers. But it’s an awful movie and you probably shouldn’t care.

It is an absolute dumpster fire of a movie. It easily could have claimed the careers of both Polley and Brody, but I’m relieved that they pulled through and have subsequently made some great films, though Polley mostly went on to direct. I like both of them as actors. But not in Splice. A quick summary for the unaware: the pair play a husband and wife research team, studying genetics and the effects of combining DNA. When Polley breaks regulations and uses her DNA in an experiment, they succeed in creating a human-like hybrid, with some fish or toad genes thrown in etc. The thing looks like Hellboy’s fishy psychic sidekick, but bald with freaky eyes (she has crosses for pupils), bat wings, and a xenomorph-esque prehensile tail. Nothing you could possibly be attracted to, right? Well Brody is, simply because it has Polley’s DNA in it. Which is beyond stupid. But anyway, they end up having sex, then later on in the film the creature ends up changing into a dude, rapes Polley in probably the most sickening scene of the movie, and murders Brody before finally getting its comeuppance by being killed with a rock by Polley.

It’s easily the most uncomfortable and cringeworthy cinematic experience of my life. We raged at the stupid decisions the couple made, and about 30 minutes in, all three of us knew we’d made a mistake. Over the next half-hour or so, all you could hear from our living room were strangled cries of “Oh God no”, “Wait, what?!?” and “For the love of God, why??” as each new grotesque moment battered and bruised our poor senses.

Then, when we thought we couldn’t take much more…it happened. The moment that would forever provide a yardstick to measure truly brilliant moments in truly terrible movies for the rest of my life. After around 70 minutes of watching through fingers and dreading each new development, there comes a scene where the creature makes obvious her sadistic and violent tendencies by murdering a cat for no reason at all. She’s on the verge of escaping her confinement, when WHAM!! Out of nowhere a shovel to the back of the head from Polley, and down goes the creature!

The effect it had on us was profound. It was like removing the world’s most painful splinter. Dread turned to overwhelming relief in a split second. We cheered and whooped, rewinding the moment over and over again, each time it felt like it was the first. And just like that, the Shovel Index was born.

Put simply, it’s a way of measuring a truly epic moment in a film that’s 99% God-awful. The greater the moment and the more awful the film, the higher the moment scores on the index. Splice‘s shovel moment, being the progenitor of the Index, scores the highest mark: 1.0. To find a moment’s score on the Shovel Index, first give the film a rating out of ten (ten being brilliant), then do the same for the moment. Then apply the following formula:


You can apply this method to other ‘shovel moments’. The first-person sequence towards the end of DOOM scores a respectable 0.5 on the index. This gem of a line from M. Bison in Street Fighter:

“The day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”

scores a darn solid 0.7.

What other moments in film (or gaming) are worthy of recognition on the Shovel Index, and what scores do you give them? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Until next time,



4 thoughts on “Introducing ‘Nerdly Musings’ – 1: The Shovel Index

  1. Ha ha ha this is awesome! I love the fact you’ve provided us with a ‘scientific’ formula – I’ll be using this the next time I’m stuck watching a bad movie or playing a terrible video game. 😀


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