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The Family That Slays Together: Ten Domestic Slashers

The Family That Slays Together: Ten Domestic Slashers (photo)

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If you feel like you’ve seen this week’s new slasher flick “The Stepfather” before, you probably have, even if you’re not a fan of the 1987 original starring “Lost”‘s Terry O’Quinn. That’s because the family-bands-together-to-fend-off-the-one-member-who-turns-on-the-rest trope is at the heart of dozens of horror movies.

Need proof? Here’s a list of ten different types of immediate and extended family members and a notable cinematic example of each going medieval on their loved ones.

Killer Mom

I’d wager that everybody has said “My parents are crazy!” at least once in their lives. But the filicidal mother in 2008’s “Baby Blues” is so far gone into Crazytown that she’ll make you want to call your own mom to apologize for ever implying she was nuts. Colleen Porch plays the killer in question, an exhausted mother of four with a truck-driving husband, who snaps one day and begins picking off her own children slasher movie-style; at one point, she even chases her offspring into a corn field, then tries to run them down in a thresher.

Things aren’t all that terrible for Mom when she snaps — sure, the baby cries and her kids play too rough sometimes, but she’s got a supportive, if busy, husband, and a helpful older son Jimmy (Ridge Canipe) — which makes her psychotic break all the more creepy. Ultimately, “Baby Blues” is upsetting not because you’re terribly concerned for the characters, but because you’re legitimately worried about the psyches of the young child actors who had to act out scenes in which they get savagely murdered by a woman pretending to be their mother. To let your child take part in a film involving scenarios that disturbing is its own sort of crazy parenting.

10152009_TheShining.jpgKiller Dad

“Dad? You would never hurt Mommy and me, would you?” Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) asks his father Jack (Jack Nicholson) in “The Shining.” Chillingly non-committal, Jack’s response is to ask back “What do you mean?” Already insane, Jack’s been driven mad by a toxic mix of writer’s block, cabin fever, alcoholism and ghostly possession by the spirits of The Overlook Hotel. Shortly after that ominous conversation with Danny, Jack wakes from a nightmare — the worst he’s ever had, as he describes it to his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) — in which he kills his family by cutting them up into little pieces. Soon, the ethereal guests of the Overlook urge him to make his dream a reality, and Jack, armed with an ax and a mean Ed McMahon impression, tries his darndest to please them.

Director Stanley Kubrick famously forced Nicholson, Duvall and the rest of the cast to perform scenes upwards of 50 times, a grueling technique designed to achieve a more accurate on-screen representation of madness by slowly driving the actors themselves crazy. It sounds borderline criminal, but it worked; many of Nicholson’s most famous moments, including the classic “Here’s Johnny!” announcement, were improvised after dozens of prior takes. Though widely regarded by critics and horror fans as a classic of the genre, original author Stephen King has never cared much for Kubrick’s movie. Maybe it’s because King’s book argues that a father ultimately wouldn’t be able to kill his child, while Kubrick’s version suggests that, under the right amount of pressure, anyone could kill anyone.

10152009_ToDieFor.jpgKiller Spouse (Non-Children Division)

The first year of marriage can be a trial when your fame-obsessed, porcelain-skinned wife is an unholy combination of Barbara Walters and Charlie Manson. Ask Larry Maretto (Matt Dillon) from “To Die For,” who received a bullet in the head for tying the knot. This lively dark comedy from Gus Van Sant displays Nicole Kidman at full wattage, playing the hollowed-out Suzanne Stone with the bobbing head and scrunched nose of a demented chipmunk.

Suzanne’s only wish and conscious thought is to appear on television, and she’s cobbled together an exterior of plasticine charisma to cover her lack of an identifiable self. Kidman deftly navigates this soulless wonder, adapting her personality to her surroundings, able to switch with the flick of an eyelid. She’s variously a sinuous vixen, a doting domestic wife, a pushy careerist and cold-hearted manipulator, whatever it takes to convince Joaquin Phoenix’s dopey teen to rid her of this vexing husband problem. Kidman gives a tour de force performance that belongs alongside that other legendary idiot box idiot, Peter Sellers’ Chance in “Being There.”

10152009_TheOmen.jpgKiller Son

Even if you have absolutely no interest in apocalyptic prophecies, “The Omen” can scare the hell out of you. That’s because it’s as much about the failings of absentee parenting as it is about the rise of the Antichrist in the form of a cherubic little boy. In either case, the film’s a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of apathy. On one level, Richard Donner’s killer kiddie classic is a Biblical horror film about a kind married couple (Gregory Peck and Lee Remick) who fail to recognize the true nature of their Satanic offspring Damien (Harvey Stephens) until it’s too late; on another, it’s about two disinterested parents too busy enjoying the luxuries of their pampered lifestyle to notice that the caregivers they leave in charge of their son are woefully unqualified, if not dangerously insane.

Even after Peck’s Robert Thorn is finally convinced that his son might be pure evil, he still leaves him in the care of Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw), a woman who showed up at his doorstep one day and announced herself the new nanny after the previous one hung herself at Damien’s birthday party. If your last nanny commits suicide in front of your child, shouldn’t you should be extra selective picking the new nanny? Hell, that’s how you wind up with a…

10152009_HandThatRocksTheCradle.jpgKiller Babysitter

Standard operating procedure for movies about new members of families who appear perfect but slowly reveal themselves to be homicidal sociopaths goes like this: new member of family enters, our protagonist begins to suspect trouble before everyone else, airs his or her suspicions and is ostracized before eventually being proven right and saving the day. But there’s nothing to be gained by playing coy with killer family member movies, because every trailer and ad for the film always makes it perfectly clear what’s ultimately going to happen. No one goes to a movie like “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” to see a nuanced domestic melodrama about people balancing the responsibilities of work and home.

Which is precisely why “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” works so well — it never beats around the bush. We know from the start that Peyton Flanders (Rebecca De Mornay) is not just the Bartels’ pleasant, thoughtful nanny. She’s actually a woman out for revenge, the widow of a doctor that Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra) accused of sexual assault. Well before the family uncovers the truth, we know the whole story; well before they see any of her true craziness, director Curtis Hanson gives the audiences terrifying glimpses, like the scene where Peyton steals some of Claire’s husband’s (Matt McCoy) paperwork, tears it up, flushes it, then begins smashing everything in sight with a toilet plunger. The windows into Peyton’s dementia add a squirmy undercurrent to every scene of seemingly innocent domestic bliss. The tension builds until Claire finally discovers Peyton’s true intentions and gives her a hellacious smack to the face, delivering a deliciously cathartic moment.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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