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A Heart-Stopping (Literally) Premiere

A Heart-Stopping (Literally) Premiere (photo)

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In a horror film, it’s usually the audience that’s freaking out, but that wasn’t the case Saturday night at the Tribeca Film Festival, when Michael Cuesta’s “Tell Tale” made its world premiere. Right as the stylish retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” reached its climax, one audience member’s heart literally stopped, at least momentarily, as the film was suspended and an ambulance was called. (Though Cuesta initially suspected it might be a stunt on the part of Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free, the director was later told it was likely a fainting spell or a transient ischemic attack.) Apparently, it wasn’t the only breathtaking moment of the evening — though there were far less serious implications as Brian Cox gave a chilling rendition of Poe’s classic at the film’s afterparty.

Cuesta and Josh Lucas couldn’t stop talking about either of the two events when they sat down to chat about “Tell Tale,” which stars Lucas as a single father whose recent heart transplant has led to unfamiliar palpitations and an unexpected violent streak.

What’s as strange as what happened at the premiere is that I read you had to shoot a scene at an Amtrak station where a man is run over by a train only a week after someone had died there from exactly that. Did anyone feel like this film had an omen against it?

Josh Lucas: Someone said last night afterward that the ghost of Poe reared his head. [laughs] The production didn’t really have those issues. It’s one of those films I felt like there was an awareness enough to feel it around you to know that you needed to be protective of it. Last night, that was part of what was so uncomfortable too, that like something like that could go down, or something like the train incident as well.

Michael Cuesta: The production was very difficult in more of a logistical way, but [the train incident] happened and it was so upsetting and I remember thinking, shit, I hope the movie’s not cursed. Poor man, he was a train worker, he was killed [and] we all had to go to track school for a half a day and I lost a half-day shooting. Producers wouldn’t pony up another day — that’s a lot of money. So that was the first “oh shit.” [laugh]

JL: You are making an Edgar Allan Poe film. [MC laughs]

Since the horror genre in general has changed quite a bit since the days of Poe, I got a sense with this film that what’s old is new again since the storytelling is so nuanced — is it even appropriate to call “Tell Tale” a genre film?

JL: It’s alright to call it a genre film because in a sense, we all knew we were setting out to make one. The source material is Poe, so you automatically have an elegant literary depth. There’s a reason those stories can take hold of a society [so they can] still be told now.

MC: I approached it as a horror film. When I was making the film, I always referred to [the original story[ just for the inspiration. I co-write stuff — I’m not really a strong writer — and I looked at his prose and it’s so evocative that I would close my eyes and say “what would that look like?” That had a lot to do with the look of the film. And what do you feel when you read the “The Tell-Tale Heart”? It really does what I like to think happened last night a little bit. Josh’s performance is so intense, and it really hit me last night because it was the first time I saw it on a screen that big with an audience. He captured that Poe insanity — teetering on the brink from the get-go.

Josh, the characters you’ve been playing in recent years seem to have a quality of knowing all the answers — or at least they seem to think so — and here you’re playing a character where you have no answers for your actions or why you’re in this situation. Was there a different challenge for you with that kind of a role?

JL: I think I’m more interesting in playing a level of vulnerability, and what I really liked about this character is playing someone who’s intensely vulnerable, intensely out of control. The challenge of [playing] a man who’s doing monstrosities — violent, horrible acts — that are not of his [own making]. In watching some of those other movies [I’ve done recently], what I felt was lacking a bit was a vulnerability. That’s what attracted me to Michael’s filmmaking, and why I thought this was not going to be an obvious genre film. You have a director that deals in the abstracts, pieces that are not clear cut, and can take a movie like “L.I.E.” and have compassion for a monster.

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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.