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“Re-Animator” and “The Perfect Crime”

“Re-Animator” and “The Perfect Crime” (photo)

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Pulp is as pulp does, but sometimes its context is the pivotal factor — take Stuart Gordon’s outrageously uncomfortable, justly famous 1985 classic “Re-Animator,” adapted from a nothing Lovecraft story (cowritten by Gordon, career snickering cheese-master Dennis Paoli and theater vet William Norris). The indie-made movie, which initiated the still-seething stream of cheap Lovecraft filmizations, was very much a creature of its time — released tentatively and briefly into busy multiplexes and the last few real urban grindhouses left by the mid-80s, “Re-Animator”‘s ludicrous gore, humor and theatrical elan zoomed right over most audience’s heads, and so it sank unceremoniously (and despite a glowing, albeit characteristically clubfooted, review by Pauline Kael).

Ah, but by 1985 VCRs were just becoming standard operating equipment for most homes and dorm rooms, and VHS-renting video stores were cropping up like mushrooms on every street corner, ushering in the era of low-cost, low-impact, risk-allowing movie choices, and therefore the now-market-dependent principle of scantly released features finding new audiences on video. Gordon’s film found a new audience in a big way — generations of shelf-scrounging renters discovered this ghoulish hopfest, and then passed on the good news, so that by now it has accumulated five straight-to-video sequels and ripoffs, including the upcoming “House of Re-Animator,” which brings Gordon back to the franchise for a scenario set in the White House.

Gordon was one of the original founders of the experimental Organic Theater group in Chicago; his dalliances with movies have been erratic, with “Re-Animator” remaining his premier achievement. (It beats out his recent David Mamet adaptation, “Edmund.”) “Re-Animator” is such a fierce, energetic, high-flying concoction that every aspect of it feels like a well-tuned joke — from its timeless, TV-tinged university setting to the iconic acting to the balls-out comic gore, which predated Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead 2” by a few years, and in any case set a new standard for discomfiting dismemberment satire. Lovecraft’s young intern Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, in a performance that should’ve made him a household name, not just a psychotronic favorite) is a megalomanic wacko with a reanimating serum he tests out at every opportunity, resulting in crazed, out-of-control corpses staggering about, body parts (including intestines) perambulating on their own, and, in the film’s most Dantean set-piece, the defilement of a young blonde’s naked body (Barbara Crampton paid her dues here, but never cashed in) by a long-tongued severed head held by its own headless body. It’s delirious, unpretentious chutzpah of a kind that no one — not even Gordon — has been able to tap reliably since. The ersatz sequel, “From Beyond” (1987), is almost as transgressive and hilarious, but after that, the magic was gone.

Scabrous fun of a newer stripe, Álex de la Iglesia’s “The Perfect Crime” has this nasty Spaniard, in a crowd of nasty Spaniards, going more and more glitzily commercial. De la Iglesia made a splash in the mid-90s with “Acción Mutante” (1993) and “Day of the Beast” (1995), inventively offensive genre blasts barely released here. Since, he’s apparently become an ironic Hitchcockian-Tashlinian, evolving into his country’s most daring camp satirist after Almodóvar (when Almodóvar bothers with satire). This aggressively misogynist murder fantasy is set entirely within a department store, the ladies’ section of which is the kingdom of vain, womanizing sales-god Rafael (Guillermo Toledo). Everything is changing-room-nookie bliss until a contest for the position of floor manager is upset by a rubber check, and a scuffle produces an accidental corpse; butchery, blackmail, skullduggery and hijinks ensue. De la Iglesia has no fear of tastelessness — the demonization of the cast’s only plug-ugly woman (a lovelorn schemestress played by Mónica Cervera) would be cheap and insulting if it weren’t for the film’s speed, wit and generally low view of humanity.

“Re-Animator” (Anchor Bay) and “The Perfect Crime” are both currently available on DVD.



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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