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DID YOU READ

Kids these days.

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Matt Zoller Seitz
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While it’s not unusual for a critic to find cultural resonance in B- and C-grade horror pictures (critics have been doing that for generations, often with an unearned swagger that pretends Pauline Kael‘s "Trash, Art and the Movies" never happened) it is unusual to see one do a full-Kael press and defend such works as, first and foremost, good movies. Yet that’s what Fort Worth Star-Telegram film critic Christopher Kelly does in "Don’t Expect to Escape Nightmares with a Smile on Your Face." Surveying the recent crop of glossy splatterflicks, Kelly starts with a proclamation that had me saying, out loud, to no one in particular, “You’ve got to be kidding me."

"The most gruesomely vivid, elegantly made horror movie in recent memory opened with little fanfare on Dec. 25, 2005 in approximately 1,500 theaters nationwide," Kelly wrote. "Titled ‘Wolf Creek,’ It’s a low-budget shocker from ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ old school, about three carefree twentysomethings whose hiking trip goes terribly awry after they are kidnapped by a maniacal serial killer in the Aussie outback. As is often the case with horror pictures, it was greeted by many critics like a Christmas present wrapped in soiled tissue paper. (Sample review, from Roger Ebert: ‘There is a role for violence in film, but what the hell is the purpose of this sadistic celebration of pain and cruelty?’) The fact that the movie announced the arrival of an immensely gifted new director named Greg McLean — whose patience, control and ability to play the audience like a very cheap fiddle would have done Alfred Hitchcock proud — seemed lost on most adult moviegoers.”

Seitz goes on to invited Kelly to discuss his argument at Seitz’s blog, The House Next Door — the results are fascinating (and refreshingly civil) stuff. David Poland at The Hot Blog has a few things to say on Kelly’s piece as well, while, on the same topic, Devin Gordon at Newsweek covers some similar ground reporting on the new horror wave:

Some critics—smart ones like New York Magazine‘s David Edelstein, not
just nervous Nellies—argue that the trend verges on "torture porn."
Even people within the industry are torn. "It’s not the violence that
bothers me so much as the tone. A George Romero movie was so political
and funny and subversive," says Picturehouse Films president Bob
Berney, who marketed "The Passion of the Christ." "To me, these newer
movies are purely sadistic." Then again, he adds, "I remember my
parents saying stuff like this, and I ignored it. They wouldn’t let me
see ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ and I went 25 times."

Also at Newsweek: David Ansen also makes the whole "horror films=dark underbelly of American psyche" argument.

We do find it infuriating when a reviewer either walks out of or simply dismisses one of the above films based on its subject matter rather than whatever merits it may or may not have as a film — if you’re incapable of comprehending any potential allure such a film may hold for audience, then, fair enough, but don’t go through the motions of evaluating it. "Wolf Creek," "Hostel," the "Saw"s, "The Hills Have Eyes" — they’re all different films of varying quality, but you couldn’t accuse any of them of being coy about their graphic content.

We’ve mentioned before that we believe the recent return to popularity of extreme splatter-fare is just a natural turn for a genre based on both certain formulas and on circumventing expectations to take — however tempting it is to make a sociological argument about signs of the times, 9/11, Abu Ghraib, and on and on…meh. In the end we just don’t buy it, though we understand the temptation. It’s the holy grail of reverse film snobbery — the genre film (and horror seems to get saddled with this expectation the most these days) that trumps all high-minded arthouse fodder in capturing the essence of our time, accidental high art without any pretensions to be anything other than entertaining. We just don’t think any of the titles being thrown out there are that film.

+ Don’t expect to escape nightmares with a smile on you face (Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram)
+ Blood and guts: Christopher Kelly sees art in mainstream splatter (The House Next Door)
+ Horror Porn Is… A Response To 9/11!!! (The Hot Blog)
+ Horror Show (Newsweek)
+ Bloody Good Flicks (Newsweek)

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.