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Fantastic Fest 2008: “The Substitute.”

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09212008_thesubstitute.jpgPaprika Steen, the Danish actress best known for her roles in Dogme films like “Festen,” “The Idiots” and “Mifune,” is to die for in Ole Bornedal’s horror-comedy “The Substitute.” Like, she eats someone whole. She plays the forbiddingly named Ulla Harms, a substitute teacher who takes over sixth grade class 6B and whose hair-raisingly cruel instruction technique is augmented by what seem to be the abilities to read minds, balance pencils on their sharpened tips and force people to say nice things about her. In short, Ulla is an alien, a fact 6B, led by moody protagonist Carl (Jonas Wandschneider), gets wise to early on but the verity of which they can’t convince their well-meaning, oblivious parents, even as it becomes clear she means to abduct the kids and abscond to her brutal home planet in order to use them as specimens in an attempt to understand the human capacities for empathy and love.

“The Substitute” is a family film, but one that’s Roald Dahl-dark. Ulla torments her tween charges by deriding their buckteeth and academic prowess, revealing their hidden crushes to the crowd and, in the case of Carl, mocking his sorrow of his recently dead mother. In one of the most wickedly funny scenes, their parents convinced video games have given their children wild delusions of imagination, the students are dragged, shrieking and swearing they’ll never be seen again, to a bus for a field trip and dropped off by waving moms and dads who sunnily ignore the tears of their terrified offspring. Steen strides through “The Substitute” heels, curled hair and fitted dresses like a Scandinavian take on a certain Van Helen video, but with a disturbing tendency to have all emotion drop off her face until she realizes someone’s watching. The face she turns to other adults is sweet, smiling and competent; the one she turns to the children might have tentacles protruding from it or be dripping with blood from the live chicken she just devoured The denouement’s disappointing, but it was bound to be, because Ulla had to get her comeuppance. I was still pulling for her — it seemed like she’d earned the win.

Columbia recently picked up the remake rights for “The Substitute” and “Just Another Love Story,” the other film Bornedal completed last year (my review from Sundance is here).

[Photo: “The Substitute,” Ghosthouse Underground, 2008]

+ “The Substitute” (Fantastic Fest)


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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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.