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Seven memorable movie autopsies.

Seven memorable movie autopsies. (photo)

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While police procedurals have made autopsy montages a common thing on television, on the big screen they’re a little rarer. An autopsy isn’t the pleasantest thing in the world to watch — for the squeamish or unspeakably scared-of-death, the camera’s relentless gaze is a hard thing to hang with.

That also automatically makes an autopsy a set-piece of morbid interest, no matter how gruesome. Here are seven memorable movie autopsies strung across the queasiness spectrum.

05032010_doctorx.jpg“Doctor X” (1932)
Directed by Michael Curtiz

Getting into journalism can be murder, so, naturally, murder is the business of yellow journalism. To get the story on the “Moon Killer Murders” — taking place once a month during the full moon — journalist Lee Tracy has to toe-tag himself and lie on a table, covered up as a corpse while the police and Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill) go over the latest casualty. They’re light on medical details but establish that the scalpel used is only obtainable at Xavier’s academy. They leave, and a now thoroughly unnerved Tracy restores himself to the world of the living.

05032010_act.jpg“The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes” (1971)
Directed by Stan Brakhage

This one’s decidedly NSFW, and probably not safe to watch if you’re in a fragile state of mind in general (even though this YouTube version has been appropriately censored). Stan Brakhage’s unblinking look inside the morgue is silent and intense; bodies come and go, leveled into one solid clump of gray skin, spurts of blood and anonymous assemblies of organs. It’s distressing, terrifying and occasionally disconcertingly pretty. The reason to watch it is right there in the title — you need to see this stuff to know who you are. (It’s also arguably a companion piece of sorts to Brakhage’s equally NSFW “Window Water Baby Moving,” which chronicles the birth of his first child in ways that are almost equally unnerving.)

05032010_electra.jpg“Electra Glide In Blue” (1973)
Directed by James William Guercio

Robert Blake badly wants to be a homicide detective so he can wear a Stetson and strut with the big guys, but he’s just a motorcycle cop, writing speeding tickets and hassling hippies for sport. So when he discovers a dead body, he’s very invested in proving that the guy wasn’t a suicide — after all, who shoots themselves in the chest? He has a screaming match with the coroner, but god-like detective Mitchell Ryan takes his side and goes to the autopsy. The coroner digs and digs, and comes up with a Colt 22 bullet he’s reluctant to acknowledge (he tries to call it just a piece of irregularly shaped metal). Blake’s vindicated and his career is off and running. This is a strange scene in an immensely strange movie. The clip below — which makes it look like just another ’70s motorcycle oddity — doesn’t even begin to give you the idea.

05032010_jaws.jpg“Jaws” (1975)
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Autopsies aren’t only for people — when a shark is going around your beach chomping on the main revenue source, it becomes important to slice up every dead shark and figure out if it’s the culprit. Too bad that shark specialist Richard Dreyfuss is so abrasively eccentric when he figures out what he’s up against in a town council insistent on trying to make the whole mess go away. Dreyfuss’ response is shrill laughter and the bad idea that saying “Is anyone eating this?” is the appropriate response to holding a severed arm in your hand. A later autopsy goes a lot smoother; still, give “Jaws” credit for having that rarest of creatures, the comic autopsy.

05032010_seven.jpg“Seven” (1995)
Directed by David Fincher

There’s nothing funny about “Seven,” but it’s consistently gorgeous, even when that’s counter-intuitive. The first autopsy (which starts about 3:25 in the video below) stylishly cuts from rain on the windshield to water splashing over the bloated corpse of the first death — Gluttony, with the guts in a bag and a great deal of unpleasant detail, both medical and visual. (This is another NSFW excerpt.) David Fincher versus a dead body is kind of like Damien Hirst putting a shark in formaldehyde: it’s just an object, there to be exploited for color and texture rather than something once living to feel upset and disturbed by. It’s a cold-blooded attitude, but it works wonders.

05032010_blade.jpg“Blade II” (2002)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro’s giddy vampire/kung-fu mash-up is better than it has any right to be, with its deranged semi-cubist Michael Bay approach to editing. But some things are too serious to mess around with, and for a dedicated fantasy/horror geek like del Toro, the autopsy of a mutant-vampire hybrid known as the Reaper is too good an effects showcase to pass up. We get a prolonged, gory sequence that’s about as realistic as fake anatomy gets — one reflexive response sneaks in a scare even when there’s no living threat in the room. (Skip to about 8:15 below.)

05032010_certain.jpg“A Certain Kind Of Death” (2003)
Directed by Grover Babcock, Blue Hadaegh

There are no real autopsies here if memory serves (although if you wanted a detailed look at cremation, that’s available), but this documentary account of what it means to work in the coroner’s office and identify anonymous deaths probably sets some kind of record for sheer corpse count — and, since it’s increasingly hard to find in out-of-print DVD form, attention should be paid. It’s disturbing and hard to watch, but essential if you can stomach it — it’s an emotional autopsy, reconstructing people’s lives from the saddest form of decay until they’re built back up into real people.

[Photos: “Autopsy,” After Dark Films, 2008; “Doctor X,” Warner Bros., 1932; “The Act Of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes,” Criterion Collection, 1971; “Electra Glide In Blue,” MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 1973; “Jaws,” Universal, 1975; “Seven,” New Line Cinema, 1995; “Blade II,” New Line Cinema, 2002; “A Certain Kind Of Death,” Winstar, 2003]


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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GIFs via Giphy

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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GIFs via Giphy

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.