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DID YOU READ

“Splice” and “Double Take”: A contemporary Frankenstein and an editorial one

“Splice” and “Double Take”: A contemporary Frankenstein and an editorial one (photo)

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You can tell right off the bat that “Splice”‘s genetic engineer couple Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) are a poor fit for button-down corporate science, Canadian horror movie style. No cool Cronenbergian remove for these two! They live together in a warehouse loft, drive a vintage Gremlin, wear t-shirts with iconoclastic slogans printed on them, and urge each other on to greatness with reminders like “Wired doesn’t interview losers.”

After their ongoing experiments to create new hybrid animal life (the first of which appears to be the successful union of a guinea pig and a gigantic human penis) reach fruition, Elsa and Clive (surely named after Elsa Lanchester and Colin Clive, the actors who played the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein” and the doctor in the original 1931 film) prepare to do some DNA knitting further up the food chain.

Their corporate sponsors, however, are having none of it. The research and development stage of their work is on pause, the pair are informed, until the company makes back some of what they’ve spent at the product stage. Making the most of an opportunity to stick it to the Man and to the Man Upstairs, the two scientists splice human DNA to a cocktail of different animals’ DNA on the sly, impregnate a human egg with the result and wait to see what happens. They don’t wait long.

06022010_splice5.jpgAfter a bloody and very messy birth, Elsa and Clive find themselves the incredulous de facto parents of a two-legged, mostly digital creature that in infancy bears more than a passing resemblance to the cartoon drawing of Foot Foot from the cover of the Shaggs’ “Philosophy of the World.” Before long, the creature gains the name Dren, along with arms, fingers and a lithe body and birdlike face primarily contributed by actress Delphine Chanéac.

While nobody can quite figure out what Dren is, exactly, it turns out that Elsa, Clive and their romantic and professional partnership aren’t what they initially seemed, either. Both use Dren’s cloistered early development in and around Elsa’s derelict childhood home as a run-through for the more traditional parenthood we’re told Clive wants and Elsa fears. But the lost sleep, inattention to their jobs and absence of intimacy between the two that most new parents endure soon pale in comparison to the trials, temptations and confessions they face as Dren begins to spread her wings literally and metaphorically.

Director Vincenzo Natali (best know for 1997’s cult favorite “Cube”) and his co-writers struggle to keep to the storytelling high road as much as latter day horror conventions permit by doling out what feels like two movies’ worth of backstory whys and wherefores driving the couple to the egregious lapses in scientific ethics, marital trust and common sense that trip up their discovery and relationship.

06022010_splice4.jpgPortraying the member of the couple with the extra helping of issues, Sarah Polley struggles mightily to keep a realistic foothold on her character even while interpreting “Grey’s Anatomy”-grade dialogue like “I don’t even know who you are anymore!”, “Was this ever even about science?” and “I just wish things could go back the way they were.”

But the mish-mash of reasons and conflicts that drive Doctor Mom, Doctor Dad and baby Dren to a particularly gruesome sequence of late inning story events involving bondage, surgical maiming, semi-incest, rape and worse seem like mis-matched layers of complications peeled from different narrative onions.

While Dren’s CGI augmented manifestations are sometimes impressive to watch — particularly in a bizarre dance sequence the creature shares with Clive — and Chanéac attacks her on-set responsibility for creating artificial life with personality and energy to spare, Dren’s high cheek bones, big-eyed gaze, and smiling rictus evoke a kind of anti-Amelie more than something wholly original or entirely fascinating.

06022010_splice7.jpgThe only passport that would guarantee an audience safe passage through the film’s brightly lit and maddeningly talky middle third would be for us on our side of the screen to have the same fascination with Dren that her onscreen parents do, and yet that allure, repulsive or otherwise, just isn’t there.

Ultimately, what sinks “Splice” is a complete absence of the playfully mordant myth-making that distinguishes executive producer Guillermo del Toro’s own films. Yes the idea of both scientific advancement and couplehood falling prey to the same human foibles is an interesting one. But does it have to be so single-mindedly joyless ?

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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.