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“Lake of Fire”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Lake of Fire,” ThinkFilm, 2007]

The subject of “Lake of Fire” — the decades-long debate over abortion — is exactly the kind of thing we typically go to the movies to escape from. Director Tony Kaye knows this, and he has no interest in making any concessions to the audience: his is one of the most defiantly uncommercial films ever made. It wasn’t enough for Kaye to make a documentary on abortion, and it wasn’t enough to make it three hours long. It wasn’t even enough to film it in black and white. Brashest of all, he’s dared to make the film even handed; to treat both sides equally and honestly. If he’d presented either side in a particularly positive or negative light, he might have had an easier road to travel, financially. It’s easy to make money preaching to one choir or another. Instead, he ignored all of that on the way to crafting an authoritative and possible definitive portrait of one of the most controversial issues of our time.

Kaye’s been shooting the film, often with his own money and a skeletal crew, for over a decade: the earliest footage we see in the film dates to an anti-abortion rally in January of 1993. “Lake of Fire” follows a loose timeline (and includes graphic footage from real abortions) but the film is largely concerned with letting critics on both sides of the issue expound on their positions. The discussions run the gamut from illuminating to disturbing to infuriating. Your feelings about abortion may not change, but it’s virtually impossible to walk out of the film with anything less than a great deal more information on the issue than when you walked in.

For me, the largest revelation involved understanding more fully than I ever had before how abortion sits at the nexus of so many different issues: from the right to access to birth control, to the belief in the death penalty, to race, to religion, to gender. Abortion draws “true believers” from all sides who want to trade in absolutes while discussing enormous moral, ethical and spiritual issues that are based in the fundamental unknowns of life on earth. Watching “Lake of Fire,” you begin to see this enormous tapestry of the human condition; we all experience things differently yet we try to make ourselves believe we are all exactly the same.

There are many interesting speakers and a range of viewpoints in the film (it’s hard to conceive of any that Kaye doesn’t air at least once), but the most provocative may be the one espoused by The Village Voice‘s Nat Hentoff, a pro-life liberal who argues that abortion is almost certainly murder, and that someone who is truly pro-life is someone who is also anti-murder, and thus also anti-war, anti-death penalty and anti-poverty. As Kaye’s film shows, this is rarely the case.

It’s unfathomable to consider how many choices Kaye must have had to make over the course of shooting and editing his 152-minute opus, and indeed how many of them were the right one, including the decision to shoot in black and white, which not only adds an unsettling dimension to the scenes inside abortion clinics, but also gives the film a timeless look amidst all the ridiculous 90s haircuts, not to mention the air of a historical document. Those who prefer a distanced documentarian with at least the appearance of impartiality will approve of the way Kaye becomes almost invisible within his own film, never seen on camera and rarely heard off it.

The film ends with a sober and non-judgmental account of a woman having an abortion, one who is clearly unfit to raise a child (on her own, after her relationship with an abusive spouse has ended) but who finishes her message of happiness to Kaye’s camera by breaking down in tears about what she’s done. While discussing the abortion with her clinic’s caretakers, she worries that she is “scared of the uncertain” for her unborn baby. Aren’t we all.

“Lake of Fire” opens in limited release October 3rd (official site).


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.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

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:


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.