DID YOU READ

Six Murderous Movie Minors

Six Murderous Movie Minors (photo)

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When “Kick-Ass” premieres this evening as the opening night feature of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, it’ll be under the scrutiny of comic book fans who’ve been lusting after the film since director Matthew Vaughn showed clips at Comic-Con. But paying almost as much attention will be moviegoers who might take issue with the character of Hit Girl, the purple-haired heroine with a world-weary rasp, a predilection towards switchblades and an age of 12, as played by the prepubescent Chloë Grace Moretz.

Although she’ll be appearing soon in the more age-appropriate “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” Moretz is no stranger to doing things well beyond her years, having already poured a glass of vodka for Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “(500) Days of Summer.” As Hit Girl, she becomes part of a long movie tradition of killer kids (not to be confused with the creepy kids of horror films) that have been on the big screen since the 1950s, usually with controversy not far behind.

Since there’s no end in sight for these deadly youngsters — “The Lovely Bones”‘ Saoirse Ronan will star as a teen assassin in “The Soloist” director Joe Wright’s next film “Hanna” — we offer up a brief history of the children you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley.

03112010_thebadseed.jpgRhoda Penmark of “The Bad Seed” (1956)

“The Bad Seed” became a big hit in 1956, but it wasn’t an easy road getting there. When Billy Wilder attempted to bring Maxwell Anderson’s play (based on the William March novel) about a murderous young girl as tightly wound as her blonde pigtails, the still-standing Production Code Administration rejected his adaptation that kept the original ending of little Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack) tickling the ivories to “Clair de lune” after she’s set the help on fire and her mother doesn’t succeed in drugging her. They instead gave the go-ahead to a Warner Bros. version that would have the teeny terror get her comeuppance for drowning classmates and tossing out innocent queries like “is it true when blood is washed off anything, a policeman can still find that it’s there?” (Warner Bros. went the extra step and even added a postscript where movie mom Nancy Kelly gives McCormack a right spanking.) Mervyn LeRoy’s thriller has since gone on to become a cult classic and inadvertently launched the creepy kid genre, though Anderson’s original text was intended to shed light on the then-unpopular notion of hereditary mental illness.

03122010_LittleGirlWhoLives.jpgRynn of “The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane” (1976)

Coming off her turn as a teen prostitute in “Taxi Driver,” Jodie Foster had already received her share of controversy before appearing in the Samuel Z. Arkoff-produced thriller “The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane.” But as it happened, most of the criticism of the psychological thriller came from Foster herself, who, according to IMDb, once said of the film, “When people are there to simply do a job they don’t have any passion for, those are nearly always bad films.” And “Little Girl” is definitely a strange one, based on Laird Koenig’s novel about a 13-year-old who lives an idyllic life in a lovely home by the sea, if it weren’t for all the damn nosy neighbors who are curious why they never see her parents. Her father? “He’s in the study working.” Mom? Well, she passed away.

But Rynn’s birthday isn’t on Halloween for nothing, and when she’s not reading Emily Dickinson on the way to school, Rynn is usually arranging the corpses in her basement. Yet she doesn’t have the sensibilities of the hardened killers you see on the rest of this list — in fact, everyone around her seems far more psychotic, from a cape-wearing magician love interest (Scott Jacoby) and a skeevy Martin Sheen who attempts to coerce her by putting out a cigarette on her poor pet hamster. Instead, Rynn is the silent type with a fondness for the potassium cyanide that her father gave her to protect herself if her abusive mother ever returns after their divorce, though she has additional plans for it. The film would win a pair of Saturn Awards for best horror film (though it’s PG) and best actress for Foster in 1977. Here’s a trailer:

03112010_thegoodson.jpgHenry Evans of “The Good Son” (1993)

“I was intrigued by the idea of America’s Shirley Temple playing this really evil kid,” director Joseph Ruben told Premiere back in 1993. The “Stepfather” director wasn’t the first choice to direct a post-“Home Alone 2” Macaulay Culkin in one of his rare dramatic leading roles, but one can only dream of what might’ve happened if the first choice, “Heathers” director Michael Lehmann, hadn’t been bullied off the project by Culkin’s dad, as Hollywood lore has it. Rather than the dark comedy Lehmann might’ve made, Ruben played it straight with a script from Ian McEwan, who would fare far better with the creation of another little cretin in “Atonement,” with Culkin trading in the toy cars and pet tarantulas of his famed franchise for a homemade crossbow and a bag of nails as ammunition. (Come to think of it, all those elaborate Rube Goldberg-esque traps in “Home Alone” were great training for a psychotic kid killer.)

Culkin terrorizes his neighbor’s pets, drops dummies over highway overpasses and steers his sister towards thin ice while ice skating, all in the name of being the center of attention, especially when his cousin (Elijah Wood) moves in after the death of his mother. Although the film didn’t stir much up much outrage on its own, Roger Ebert opined in his review that “The movie is a creepy, unpleasant experience, made all the worse because it stars children too young to understand the horrible things we see them doing.” Even so, the film took in a relatively successful $44 million. Here, watch as Culkin discusses how it was “a lot of fun playing a bad boy”:

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.