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Opening This Week: Gay zombies, the literal Sundance kid and the Muscles From Brussels

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11032008_alphabetkiller.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Those nursing a Halloween hangover can enjoy a little hair of the dog with some amusing takes on terror, a double bill featuring the greatly missed Bernie Mac and a trio of Fantastic Fest titles coming their way.

“The Alphabet Killer”
Eliza Dushku reunites with “Wrong Turn” director Rob Schmidt for this supernatural riff on the infamous Alphabet murders that took place in Rochester, NY in the early ’70s. Dushku stars as the lead investigator in a series of brutal child killings who’s struck down by a severe mental breakdown. Two years later, her career as a detective is ostensibly over, yet when the killings inexplicably start up again, so do her crippling hallucinations and she must find a way to track down the serial killer with or without the help of her former colleagues at the police department. Timothy Hutton, Cary Elwes and Michael Ironside dutifully fill their positions of obligatory veteran C-list actors in supporting roles.
Opens in Rochester; opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 14th.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”
Having delivered such inoffensive melodrama as “Little Voice,” Brit helmer Mark Herman certainly knows how to tug a heartstring or two, although given the somber subject matter contained within author John Boyne’s source novel, he really doesn’t have to try very hard. Against the backdrop of World War II, Herman crafts a tale of forbidden friendship between Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the blissfully unaware son of a concentration camp commandant, and Leon (Zac Mattoon O’Brien), a young Jewish boy on the other side of the barbed wire fence. David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga play Bruno’s parents, who have a far less innocent point of view.
Opens in limited release.

“Gardens of the Night”
“Labor of love” is perhaps the wrong term to apply to a portrait of abused kidnap victims and their slow descent into emotionally damaged, drug-addled squalor, but writer/director Damian Harris has been neck deep in exhaustive research for his script since the late ’80s, conducting interviews with both victims and perpetrators. Gillian Jacobs and Evan Ross co-star as Leslie and Donnie, respectively, two teens who find themselves living on the streets of San Diego after they were abducted as eight-year-olds by a pedophile (Tom Arnold) and his partner (Kevin Zegers). Now, the discarded pair attempt to resolve their differing reactions to what happened in their childhood. John Malkovich co-stars.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on December 5th.

“The Guitar”
The miraculous role that shopping plays in rejuvenating the human spirit is well-documented, having ably soothed career woes, broken hearts and everything in between on screen for decades. Marking a directorial debut for the literal Sundance kid, Amy Redford, and scripted by New York indie icon Amos Poe, this bittersweet dramedy stops short of suggesting shopping can cure cancer — but implies it certainly doesn’t hurt. Saffron Burrows stars as Melody, a recipient of some truly deflating news from the doctor that inspires her to trust what time remains to the care of retail therapy, starting with that 1963 red Fender Stratocaster she’s always dreamed of.
Opens in New York.

The idea of an slasher film set to a score of Christian heavy metal music might sound more like a trick than a treat for hardcore horror fans still recovering from Halloween. But director Robby Henson seems to have employed all the genre hallmarks (it’s nasty!) to satisfy a suitably broad audience with the Christian-influenced tale of a bickering couple trapped inside a remote motel besieged by the mythical Tin Man, a maniac killer who targets unrepentant sinners. If that piques your interest, just try and avoid IMDb, as the film’s list of credits gives away something of the mystery.
Opens in limited release.

For a fallen action star whose last few direct-to-video dramas have been more like comedies, leave it up to Jean-Claude Van Damme to take a ludicrous premise seriously. The Muscles From Brussels finds himself embroiled in something of a Van Damme Day Afternoon in this surrealist meta-movie from French director Mabrouk El Mechri. Playing a loose version of himself telling a loose version of his story, the dejected “Kickboxer” star returns home after losing a bitter custody battle and getting tagged with a gigantic legal bill he can’t pay. Things go from bad to worse when the bank he goes into gets held up and the local authorities conclude that he masterminded the robbery.
Opens in New York.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer reunite behind the microphone for this sequel that picks up where the 2005 animated safari left off. After the animal quartet left the comfy confines of the New York Zoo for Madagascar, our institutionalized band of colorfully neurotic critters head to Africa, putting Marty the Zebra (Rock), Alex the Lion (Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Pinkett Smith) and Melman the Giraffe amongst their native species. Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter and the late Bernie Mac are among the funny faces who lend their voices to the cause.
Opens wide.

“Otto; or Up With Dead People”
As a spirited champion of low-budget, pulp ham-horror celebrated by a small army of adoring fans for his shoddy production values and characteristically haphazard techniques (including some at Sundance and Berlin, where “Otto” premiered), Canadian queer cinema icon Bruce LaBruce has become something of a heir to Ed Wood minus the penchant for angora sweaters. His latest opus sees Jey Crisfar as Otto, a zombie who rises from the grave to search for his former lover, only to be railroaded into a gay zombie porno by a pompous underground filmmaker (Katharina Klewinghaus). You know, just another one of those kind of movies. In English and German with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Pray The Devil Back to Hell”
Against the backdrop of Liberia’s second devastating civil war, ending in 2003 with more than 250,000 dead, Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker Gini Reticker highlights the ferocious courage of a group of everyday Liberian women and their role in ending the bloody conflict. Mixing archival footage with international media coverage, Reticker charts the formation of parallel anti-war movements (one Christian and one Muslim) who put aside their longstanding differences to come together as one in an effort to bring about peace in their war-torn country.
Opens in New York.

“Repo! The Genetic Opera”
Give him any vaguely plausible excuse to cut people open and throw their insides around and director Darren Lynn Bousman (three “Saw” sequels”) and his queasy color palate are there like a bear to honey — although to be fair, this gloriously daft musical gorefest is a more imaginative excuse than most. After a global epidemic of organ failures gives rise to an all-powerful biotech company that specializes in cloning replacements, Nathan Wallace (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”‘s Anthony Head) tends to his sick daughter (Alexa Vega) and struggles with his job as the repo man who visits those recipients who fall behind on their payments. Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino and Paris Hilton all star in the film that Bousman told Matt Singer back at Fantastic Fest was a unique mix of “Puccini meets Nine Inch Nails.”
Opens in limited release.

“Role Models”
The preposterous idea that anyone would ever wake up one morning and decide they want to be like Stifler from “American Pie” is not lost on Paul Rudd, David Wain and Ken Marino. In fact, the trio behind “The Ten” even recruited the man who played Stifler (Seann William Scott) to star alongside Rudd as a pair of misanthropic energy drink reps that get high on their own supply and wind up learning life lessons when their exploits earn them a community service mandate as youth counselors in a Big Brother program. Jane Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and one of Elizabeth Banks’ many clones (because really, how can she be in so many films at once?) co-star.
Opens wide.

“Soul Men”
The titular leads might not be on a mission from God, but this soulfully retuned effort from Malcolm D. Lee wears the influence of John Landis’ 1980 cult classic like a black-banded fedora. Samuel L. Jackson and late great Bernie Mac star as a pair of former backup singers reunited after a decades-long spat to pay tribute to their former frontman. Setting out on a cross-country road trip, the duo must hash out their differences in time to take the stage at the legendary Apollo Theatre. The equally late, equally great Isaac Hayes has a cameo as himself.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “The Alphabet Killer,” Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2008]


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.