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DID YOU READ

Martin Campbell’s short memory about “Edge of Darkness.”

Martin Campbell’s short memory about “Edge of Darkness.” (photo)

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The number of Americans who know that “Edge of Darkness” — this Friday’s Mel Gibson-vs. everyone conspiracy actionfest — is actually a remake of a beloved landmark BBC miniseries is very small; almost no one I’ve talked to who wasn’t working press was aware of it (not even some of the latter knew; then again, I’m one of those pesky Anglophiles). Fewer still, I imagine, will realize that director Martin Campbell directed the original as well, which is some kind of benchmark. There’s a few cases of directors tackling their own work again, but generally within the same medium (Hitchcock’s two versions of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” the Dutch original and American remake of “The Vanishing”). But this is a whole other animal: the compression of five hours into two, 25 years later. As far as I know, there’s no precedent for it.

And apparently, it’s been long enough ago for Campbell to forget a few things about the original. In an interview with CanMag, Campbell said that a scene in which Gibson puts shaving cream on his young daughter “was entirely Mel’s idea […] a scene that Mel improvised with the little girl.” Well no, it wasn’t: it’s one of the very few scenes the remake takes intact from the original, so I guess Gibson remembers the original better than its director.

Now, I know I’m being petty asking Campbell to recall the exactitudes of a production from 25 years ago, but there are a few things he’s wrong about, and they’re kind of crucial. Speaking of his style on the original to ComingSoon.net‘s Edward Douglas, he notes: “I hope I shot the film fairly simply. I didn’t try to do anything pretentious with the way it was shot.” Well, he didn’t. 1985’s “Darkness” won’t be winning awards for convoluted mise-en-scène anytime soon, but it’s far from straightforward. In moments of chasing and running, Campbell tends to put some kind of major obstruction in the foreground to block off space; you can see the directions people are running in and in what order, but you can’t really see where they’re going or, sometimes, who’s pursuing who. He does stuff like this over and over for four episodes, visualizing the confusion of a script that’s already plenty confusing just in outline (until suddenly, in episode five, we’ve put together pretty much all the pieces and it’s time to get on with the chases and speechifying).

01272010_edgepeck.jpgThe other thing’s a little odder. The original version is nothing if not a creature of its time, full of era-specific Thatcherite politics and a very real concern with nuclear weapons. But the “Edge of Darkness” remake has generic politics: without spoilers, what it comes up with could be plausible only to your most unshakeable 9/11-truther. Which is fine: the politics here are a pretext rather than a raison d’être. But Campbell kicks it up a notch in an interview with The Guardian: “None of that mid-’80s stuff is scary anymore. It’s like everyone has plutonium in their back garden now.” Again please? The fact that plutonium isn’t in the hands of potentially mendacious industrialists but in everyone‘s is less scary…how?

Campbell is probably perfectly sincere when he claims “I liked the emotional story, from the original, of Craven losing his daughter. That side of the story is what I loved. The political story didn’t really interest me anymore.” That’s his right. But in a remake that, quite frankly, could use a lot more Gibson-on-anyone violence and a lot less in the way of generic father-daughter bits, it’s a bit inexplicable. And it’s forgetful of what Campbell brought to the original series: not just competently helming a fascinating teleplay that leveled the personal and political (not in the usual facile sense either), but complementing it visually.

[Photos: “Edge of Darkness,” Warner Bros., 2010; “Edge of Darkness,” BBC, 1985.]

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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.