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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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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.