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Night Fever: The World of Obsessive Fan Movies

Night Fever: The World of Obsessive Fan Movies (photo)

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A crowd eagerly watches as a man dressed in a white suit performs an elaborate disco routine to the sounds of the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing.” Sound familiar? It should; it’s the signature sequence from 1977’s “Saturday Night Fever.” But now the scene belongs to another film as well, “Tony Manero,” named after John Travolta’s Brooklyn disco king character. In this version, a middle-aged “Fever” fanatic named Raúl Peralta (Alfredo Castro) appears on a Chilean TV show and reenacts those famous dance moves as part of a contest to determine the country’s best Tony Manero impersonator. Raúl’s impoverished struggles in late ’70s Chile resemble Tony’s in late ’70s Brooklyn (a reason, no doubt, he responds so strongly to “Saturday Night Fever”) with one crucial difference: where Tony strains against obstacles he encounters, Raúl simply removes them. If that obstacle happens to be a person, he kills him. Raúl’s violent activities and compulsive need to reenact every facet of Travolta’s routine, from the number of buttons on his slacks to the flashing lights of the disco floor beneath him, makes “Tony Manero” the latest and quite possibly the most unsettling entry in the subgenre of creepy movies about obsessive fans. In order to understand why it’s so uniquely scary, we’ve got to first consider its predecessors.

Traditional obsessive fan movies grow out of a subcategory of thrillers involving stalkers, where an innocent invites a seemingly harmless person into their life, never suspecting their new friend or lover is a deranged, homicidal maniac until it’s far too late. One of the earliest archetypal films of the stalker genre is an obsessive fan film as well: 1971’s “Play Misty For Me,” directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. He plays a Dave Garver, a late night disc jockey at a jazz station in Carmel, California, where each night he provides “a little verse, a little talk, and five hours of music to be very, very nice to each other by.” A woman calls Dave every night asking him to “play ‘Misty’ for me,” and one night at a bar, Dave picks up a woman named Evelyn (Jessica Walter) without immediately realizing the two are one and the same. Dave thinks of Evelyn as a one-night stand; Evelyn thinks otherwise. She takes out her frustration on Dave’s cleaning woman, and later on his girlfriend, Tobie (Donna Mills), which leads Dave to race in his car to save her, with Eastwood suggesting the character’s fragile mental state by intercutting the sequence with shots of Evelyn slashing a portrait of Dave’s face with a butcher knife. The terror of the Evelyn character comes from her persistent insinuation and a kind of curdled fake politeness strangers mistake for the real thing.

06302009_PlayMistyforMe.jpgFor fans like Evelyn, it isn’t enough to meet their idol; they need to possess him forever. It’s a truly queasy thought, but this desire to materialize and memorialize is at the core of many real world fan-artist relationships. We’ve all swooned over a film or a book we’ve loved, and a lot of us have tried to recreate that first giddy high by repeatedly rewatching the movie, or collecting the action figures, or completing the set of “Star Trek” collector’s cups from Burger King. In obsessive fan movies, the need to possess is often giving extreme expression via the act of kidnapping. A famous example is 1990’s “Misery,” where James Caan’s novelist Paul Sheldon is rescued from a near-fatal car wreck by his biggest fan, a seemingly cherubic nurse named Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). As Annie tells it, the roads are blocked by the storm, the telephones lines are down, and anyway, Paul’s legs are too injured from the crash to move to a hospital, so it’s up to Annie to nurse Paul back to health in her spare bedroom. Most of this is malarkey, invented by Annie because of her fixation with Paul’s popular series of romantic historical novels about a character named Misery (her mantle is practically a shrine to them, with a signed picture of the author flanked by two stacks of novels).


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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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.