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Rob Zombie on “Halloween”

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By Aaron Hillis

IFC News

[Photos: Left, Rob Zombie; below, Tyler Mane and Kristina Klebe in “Halloween,” Dimension Films, 2007]

While we tend to collectively groan at the mere announcement of a beloved film being remade, it’s easier to be forgiving with genre cinema. That’s not to say there’s anything in dire need of an upgrade in John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher landmark “Halloween,” but the idea of a bloody face-lift becomes more intriguing when the plastic surgeon in question is heavy metal superstar-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie (“The Devil’s Rejects”). Fresh-faced Scout Taylor-Compton takes over as 2007’s Laurie Strode (a part made famous by Jamie Lee Curtis), the victimized younger sister to the white-masked, psychotic mute who spawned numerous sequels, imitators and this very remake, Michael Myers. Whether Zombie’s take will be any better than the recent slew of 70s-horror remakes or their sequels (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “The Hills Have Eyes”) remains to be seen, but at least his supporting cast of cult talent — Udo Kier, Danny Trejo, Clint Howard, Adrienne Barbeau and Mickey Dolenz (?!) — hints that Zombie’s is a genuine labor of psychotronic love. The former White Zombie frontman, who even named his band after a Bela Lugosi horror flick, chatted with me briefly via phone.

Did you have any trepidation tinkering with a classic?

No, not really. [laughs] I didn’t have any interest in doing anything with “Halloween” when the opportunity first came up. It wasn’t something I was thinking about, so I wasn’t really prepared for the offer. But then I thought about it for a while, and you know what? Classic characters and stories can always be told again in a completely different way.

Are there any sacred-cow horror faves that should never be touched?

I don’t think that way. You don’t want to box yourself in because you never know what’s going to happen. If somebody remakes a movie and it’s awesome, great. If you don’t like it, who gives a shit?

Why do you think Michael Myers has lasted so long as a horror icon, especially since Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th” has usurped the silent, masked murderer look?

The first movie is great, so that’s a good way to start. For a character that’s 30 years old, there’s nothing about him that appears dated. Sometimes they come up with these characters which are much more extreme or over the top, so five or ten years down the line, you think, “God, that looks ridiculous.” Anything that’s trendy or in an “of the moment” scenario always becomes dated, but Michael Myers is so simple and classic that I think it’ll always work.

The original “Halloween” featured Laurie Stode as the protagonist, but your update focuses more on Michael Myers’ perspective. How does this work since he doesn’t speak, and are we to sympathize with the serial killer?

Well, he does speak when he’s a child. So really, all his personality and vibe I’ve set up with him when he’s ten. When he does become an adult and isn’t speaking anymore, you feel like you’ve had enough of a glimpse inside his head, that he isn’t just a guy in a mask standing there. You feel something, some sense of understanding the character. I mean, it’s a conflicted movie. At times, you might feel sympathy, but overall, no. He’s a flawed character, to be sure. I’m a fan of making characters a little conflicted because if it’s just “good character, bad character,” it’s too simplistic for my tastes.

Slasher flicks have a very limited, pared-down set of tropes, which have been mined to death in countless sequels, knock-offs, and — no offense — remakes. As both a director and knowledgeable fan, what’s left to do in the genre?

I think what’s left to do, sort of what I was trying to do with this film, is to make movies more character-driven. Over the years, they’ve become very gag-driven. How crazy can the kills be? How wild can the scenarios be? That stuff grows tired. You have to be watching a movie about characters you’re interested in, or you’re just going to get bored. That’s why I turned Michael Myers into a character whose journey you follow; same with Laurie, same with Loomis. It’s not just about a big guy running around doing horrible things — I mean, who cares? You have to have some sense of what you’re watching.

The way I describe it to people, even those working on the movie, I say, “This sounds really weird, but think of this as a real movie.” I swear, everyone thinks there are different rules if you’re making a horror movie. “Oh, the acting should be like this, and that should be…” Fuck all that bullshit, you know? It doesn’t make any sense. That’s why I’ve never been a fan of horror movies that are campy — that drives me crazy. I hate that shit. I want things to be serious. Even a movie that’s not a horror movie, like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” — think about how fuckin’ intense the shit in that movie is, from Brad Dourif’s character killing himself to Nicholson getting the shock treatment. You’re so caught up with these real people, it’s like you’re there living it for real. But when you’re making way over-the-top scenarios, I don’t know… People watch these things for different reasons. I’ve never been a big fan of giant special-effects gags where everyone yells and screams. It’s like a Roadrunner cartoon.

You mention characters a lot, and your films tend to co-star so many unusual character actors, often from classic genre cinema. Do you write parts specifically for them, or is it all in the casting later?

Well, sometimes I have someone specific in mind for a role. Sometimes I don’t. I always knew I wanted William Forsythe for the boyfriend. I always wanted Ken Foree [from the original “Dawn of the Dead”] for the truck driver whom Michael Myers steals his jumpsuit from. You start going through your memory banks and start coming up with stuff.

What about Mickey Dolenz? You don’t strike me as a Monkees fan.

How could you not love The Monkees? I think they’re the reason I even liked music. When I was a little kid, before I even discovered there was a radio or The Beatles, I watched TV. The first bands I ever saw were The Monkees, The Banana Splits and The Partridge Family. When I was in kindergarten, I thought that was the greatest thing of all time.

Many American horror films of late have been of the “torture-porn” variety. Do you think there are sociopolitical implications to that, just as when slashers reactionarily appeared in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate?

Well, I think there was, back in the day. All the directors of those films have always said that, like Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper or George Romero. But I don’t know about now. Do you really feel that the war in Iraq is affecting the average person? I don’t get that feeling. If there was a draft, I think it might be affecting everybody, but people just carry on with their lives. They’re more concerned with Paris Hilton than the Marines.

So you believe it’s a coincidence?

I think so, but maybe the trend you’re talking about is losing its luster. Maybe it’s hitting too close to home, and something like “1408” is grabbing people’s attention because it’s supernatural and seems more like a horror movie. I do know a lot of people who say, “I want it to be scary, not gross.”

You’re known for your encyclopedic knowledge of psychotronic cinema. What’s the sickest, most depraved film you’ve ever seen?

I don’t know if it’s the sickest, but “I Spit on Your Grave” is always one of those films that you’re like, “Eh.” You know what I mean? There are depraved films like “Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS,” but there’s still some stylistic element to it, so that you can watch it. But “I Spit on Your Grave,” what’s the point of this? It’s just such a nasty film, and you’re like, “What the hell?!”

Your artistic reputation is so morbid. Do you ever kick back with a good romantic comedy?

I’ll watch almost anything unless it’s total shit, then I won’t want to waste my time. I don’t have any prejudice against movies; a good movie is a good movie. I think the last one I got out to see was “Knocked Up,” and I thought that was great. “Superbad” looks really funny, I’ll probably go see that. I like comedies when they seem inspired. It’s the same thing with everything else: too many comedies feel like cookie-cutter shit.

“Halloween” opens August 31st (official site).

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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