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Haunted House Alternatives

Haunted House Alternatives (photo)

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Haunted houses — those old things? Sure, they’re a staple setting for horror films, but they’ve been done to (un)death. Fortunately for anyone looking for ghostly thrills beyond the creepy manse on the hill where all those terrible things happened that one time, horror flicks have also ventured out into just about every location that can be macabred-up and a few that really can’t. Here are eleven movie alternatives to the haunted house.

Haunted Spaceship

A spaceship is a great place for a haunting from a logistical standpoint because it solves a classic haunted house narrative problem, that being, if this place is so terrible, why do people stay there (generally solved by explaining that either a)they’re forced to by a terrible rain or snow storm or b)they’re being paid to do so)? In a rocket, it’s a simple answer: they can’t go anywhere else because the ship’s the only place where they can do integral things like breathing. So movies ranging from the smart (the various iterations of “Solaris” where a man confronts what appears to be the reincarnation of his dead wife) to the dumb (“Event Horizon,” about a vengeful douchebag of a living ship that tortures its crew) have a pulpy pace-quickening vibe that wouldn’t exist if the characters could just hightail it out of there when things get hairy.

Also see: “Alien” (1979), which substituted a hostile deep space species for a ghost, but still refreshed the genre like no other film.

10292007_hauntedhousalternatives2.jpgHaunted Airplane

True story: After Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crashed into the Florida Everglades on its way to Miami in 1972, killing 103 people, salvaged parts of the plane were used to refit other aircraft — which were then reported to be haunted by crewmembers from the unfortunate flight. Writer John G. Fuller investigated the anecdotes and put together an overheated non-fiction book, and before you could say “This sounds like a job for a TV movie!”, “The Ghost of Flight 401” arrived on the small screen in 1978. These days, air travel is unpleasant enough to send a shudder down anyone’s spine without an assist from the supernatural, but this Emmy-nominated film remains a classy artifact as TV movies go — Gary Lockwood and an early career Kim Basinger star — and managed a few chills that might not even be the sole providence of nostalgia. But it’s the casting of the ghost of the flight engineer that we all remember — who’d have guessed what terrors lurked in the heart of Ernest BOOORGNINE!

Also see: John Lithgow and gremlin to their airborne thing in the final segment of 1983’s “Twilight Zone: The Movie.”

10292007_hauntedhousalternatives1.jpgHaunted Orphanage

If recent regional cinema is to be believed, then the scariest place on earth is an old Spanish orphanage. Guillermo Del Toro set his chilling “The Devil’s Backbone” in just such a place, and now the upcoming “The Orphanage” from Del Toro protégé Juan Antonio Bayona does the same with equally creepy results. Orphanages make nice symbols — for lost youth, or arrested development, or wasted potential — and all of that factors into Bayona’s vision of an abandoned orphanage turned into a home by one of its former tenants. Plus, placing a haunting in an orphanage lets you draw on one of the creepiest motifs in horror: evil ghost children who stare at you silently with their vacant expressions. For some reason, complete indifference is really scary in the eyes of a child. Remember the lesson here, abandoned orphanages — especially Spanish ones — are abandoned for a reason.

10292007_hauntedhousalternatives8.jpgHaunted Prison

Before Viggo Mortensen became Aragorn and before Renny Harlin became known for helming such flashily forgettable action fare as “The Long Kiss Goodnight” and “Driven,” the two made sweet incarcerated horror music together with the aptly named “Prison” (1988). Well, not that sweet, but “Prison” does have the dubious distinction of being one of Harlin’s best as well as the finest film to come out of the late ’80s trend of the return of the vengeful executed (remember Wes Craven’s “Shocker”?). Mortensen plays an inmate who, along with former pro-wrestler Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister and others, is moved into a rundown, just reopened Wyoming prison where the new warden (Lane Smith) was once responsible for the electrocution of an innocent man. Natch, the dude’s ghost has been lurking in the penal complex waiting for a chance at revenge and to kill off characters in all manner of imaginatively gruesome ways. “Prison” was shot on location in the abandoned Wyoming State Prison, an asset Harlin uses to full advantage, with its gothic atmosphere and bedraggled yards and hallways. Ghost aside, “Prison” actually manages to make incarcerated life look wearying, boring and difficult, which is more than can be said for many movies of this ilk.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

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.

via GIPHY

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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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