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Cannes 08: “The Chaser.”

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05192008_thechaser.jpgA few ways to cut in line at Cannes: Get there late and drift in with the crowd at the front, looking lost or bewildered. Pretend to only be walking over to get a magazine off the table conveniently by the theater entrance, then glide in through the doors. Shove. Most often, though, someone will just wriggle into a line near the front, and then stoically pretend not to understand the people standing nearby telling him or her to fuck off in various languages. There’s a lot of press at the festival, divided into the strata of white, pink with a dot, pink without a dot, blue and yellow, and trying to get into screenings can be a brutal game. The other morning’s screening of Jia Zhang-ke’s “24 City” was preceded by a struggle resembling a meat run in the supermarket of a crumbling Eastern Bloc country, and when the doors closed and the smoke cleared I was still outside. Instead, I headed to Na Hong-jin’s “The Chaser,” a thriller about a serial killer and missing prostitutes that’s cruel in a way that’s pretty much unique to South Korean cinema. The antihero, with extra dashes of “anti,” is Joong-ho, a disgraced cop now running a call girl ring that’s faltering because two girls have, he believes, run away. He presses another into service despite her being sick, and the client she goes to meet turns out to be a boyish, handsome serial killer (“Time”‘s Ha Jung-woo) who’s got the corpses of her compatriots stored in the basement and buried in the backyard.

“The Chaser” overturns genre conventions like tables in a saloon brawl — for one, the killer’s nabbed in the first half of the film and, unprompted, quickly confesses. Most of the suspense comes from whether or not the astronomically incompetent police force will be able to come up with evidence to actually arrest him — since he was brought in without a warrant, they have to prove he did the things he claims within 12 hours, or he walks. “The Chaser”‘s condemnation of the police makes 2005’s “Memories of Murder” look marshmallow soft — its cops are lazy, careless, quick-tempered, deaf to what they don’t want to hear, more concerned with image than with results and therefore always in search of a way to shift blame. They ignore the killer’s inconvenient claim that one of the girls may still be alive, and achieve a sense of urgency only when it becomes clear that they have to close the case in order to take attention off the fact that earlier in the evening they allowed a protester to throw shit at the mayor during a public appearance. Joong-ho, carrying out his own more violent, though only slightly more competent, investigation, has the more compelling motivation of money to be retrieved, though he also prefers to believe that the girls were merely sold until the disturbing evidence otherwise becomes impossible to ignore.

From all of this, first-time director Na teases out some pitch-dark comedy that’s made even more uncomfortable by the fact that we, at least, know there is a victim in dire need of rescue. But there’s an unexpected third-act incident of such brutality that I was knocked clear out of the film. For all of “The Chaser”‘s bracingly unforgiving views on law enforcement and on life in the city in general, the development I’ll let you guess at pushes too far and too hard; it wasn’t necessary, merely manipulative. There are plenty of others who haven’t minded, though — the film’s this year’s biggest success to date at the Korean box office, and it’s in line for a U.S. remake.

[Photo: “The Chaser,” Fine Cut Films, 2008]

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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.


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.