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Can “The Killer Inside Me” Ever Be Satisfyingly Brought to Screen?

Can “The Killer Inside Me” Ever Be Satisfyingly Brought to Screen? (photo)

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If ever there were ever a book destined to both invite and elude a satisfactory film adaptation indefinitely, Jim Thompson’s 1952 pulp magnum opus “The Killer Inside Me” is it.

Much like Walker Percy’s 1961 novel “The Moviegoer,” the spare prose, snapshot precise detail and intimate first person narration of “Killer” project a film directly into the reader’s head more lucid and haunting than anything likely arrive on a movie screen via creative committee.

And, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned, the lead characters in both books (a genial psychopath deputy sheriff in Thompson’s, and an emotionally unreachable Korean War veteran in Percy’s) aren’t exactly the kinds of seize the moment protagonists typically tasked with driving three acts of complications and changes to a satisfying climax that leaves an audience with happily shaking heads when the lights come up.

To my knowledge “The Moviegoer” remains in development limbo as an option contract, some script drafts and memos in a production company file cabinet somewhere in Culver City. Thompsons’ book, on the other hand, was previously adapted to film in 1976. This first attempt proved to be a particularly star-crossed production during which the original director was replaced by former Budd Boetticher screenwriter turned maker of comedy Westerns Burt Kennedy.

06162010_tkim1976.jpgKennedy’s efforts yielded a film notable primarily for squandering the considerable off kilter charisma of actress Susan Tyrell, paired for the second time with Stacey Keach her co-star from John Huston’s essential 1972 skid row prize fighting romance, “Fat City.”

According to author Joe Polito’s meticulously researched biography of Thompson — who along with two dozen novels co-wrote screenplays for Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” and “Paths of Glory” — was still ruing the finished result (and the small amount of option money he accepted for it) on his deathbed when he passed away in 1977.

Whatever faults “24 Hour Party People” and “Welcome to Sarajevo” director Michael Winterbottom’s new adaptation of “The Killer Inside Me” may have, the contempt Kennedy’s shrug of a picture had for its source is not one of them. Instead of opting for a modern dress updating like the 1976 film, Winterbottom and co-writer John Curran have sent “The Killer Inside Me” back to within a half decade or so (judging by the dates of the film’s period music cues) of the novel’s post-war southwestern milieu.

There Lou Ford (Casey Affleck), a clean-cut deputy sheriff in an oil boomtown called Central City, good-naturedly accepts an assignment to visit a suspected prostitute named Joyce (Jessica Alba) on the outskirts of town her in order to encourage her to move on.

06162010_tkim03.jpgBut Lou’s gift for avoiding antagonism (he proudly admits to one law-abiding citizen that despite the badge he doesn’t carry a gun) is turned off, and something very dark within both him and Joyce is turned on after a few slaps in anger lead to some full contact expressions of consensual outré sexuality in Joyce’s boudoir.

While Lou and Joyce carry on clandestinely, Lou’s fiancé Amy (Kate Hudson) is running out of patience waiting to for Lou to pull the trigger, so to speak, on their wedding plans. Joyce, meanwhile, is the object of a financially convenient but otherwise unwelcome fascination by Elmer Conway (Jay R. Ferguson), son of the ruthless town construction magnate Chester Conway (Ned Beatty doing his best work in decades) who may or may not have been responsible for the death of Lou’s…

Well, if you’re familiar with Thompson’s book or with the work of almost any writing graduate of the Black Mask magazine school of crime literature that produced Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Cornell Woolrich and the like, you already know what’s in store. What’s unusual about the novel has more to do with character than with plot, anyway.


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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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.