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Disc Covering: “The New Daughter,” in which Kevin Costner battles a dirt monster.

Disc Covering: “The New Daughter,” in which Kevin Costner battles a dirt monster. (photo)

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Technically speaking, this week’s straight-to-DVD film didn’t go straight to DVD. “The New Daughter,” starring Kevin Costner, did receive a very small release last December. How small? So small that people who cover movies for a living had no idea the film was coming out until the day before it opened (this, by the way, is BAD SIGN YOUR MOVIE IS GOING STRAIGHT TO DVD #3 [even if not technically]).

Web sites like Shock Till You Drop put up incredulous articles the day before “The New Daughter”‘s December release date (chosen, no doubt, to ensure Oscar eligibility) noting the highly unusual circumstance of a film featuring a relatively major star getting dumped into theaters with absolutely no marketing or promotion.

Given that fact, I’m willing to grandfather “The New Daughter” into this column, considering the only way 99% of people would have the chance to see it was when it showed up last month in video stores. It’s sort of like that old adage about a tree falling in the woods. If a movie opens in theaters, and no one realizes it’s playing, did it ever get released?

06152010_NewDaughter5.jpg“The New Daughter” (2009)
Directed by Luis Berdejo

Tagline: How far with a father go to protect the ones he loves?

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: Newly single father of two moves to old country house with incredible views of the mouth of hell. His daughter gets replaced by dirt devil.

Salable Elements: A rare starring role in a horror film for Costner and direction from Luis Berdejo, the Spanish horror specialist best known as one of the writers of the cult film “[Rec].”

Biggest Success: One of Costner’s character John’s two children is Louisa, a young teenager; she’s played by “Pan’s Labyrinth”‘s Ivana Baquero. Disappointed with her missing mother, unhappy with her ill-equipped father, Louisa becomes particularly fascinated by a large dirt mound on the property surrounding the family’s new house. Before you can say “Is this movie really trying to scare me with a big pile of dirt?” Louisa has fallen under its supernatural spell.

The screenplay by John Travis, based on a short story by John Connolly, does a nice job of using her mound-spurred emotional transformation as a metaphor for puberty. Like a lot of fathers of teenagers, John suddenly feels like he doesn’t recognize his own child, like she’s been replaced with someone totally different (and, in this case, she kinda has been).

06152010_newdaughter7.jpgBiggest Failure: I’d call the fact that this “horror” film is not particularly scary a pretty big failure. Berdejo seems to be going for a “Jaws” approach to the scares; we quickly realize something is going on in this house but all we’re shown are fleeting glimpses of weird things crawling in the dark or running just beyond the edges of the frame. That approach worked in “Jaws” because the film was told from the perspective of three men on a boat who couldn’t see their prey. It’s one thing not to show a monster who’s lurking out of view. It’s another entirely to bend over backwards to keep the audience in the dark even as the protagonists see everything.

In one particularly bad scene, John is riding shotgun in a police car with the local sheriff, driving through the woods looking for mound monsters. When a horror movie cliché knocks out their headlight, the cop sticks his head out the window and is promptly attacked and pulled out of the car. Though Costner watches the guy get slaughtered from about the distance of your face from your computer screen, we don’t get a single clear shot of what’s happening, just flashes of arms and legs and Costner giving his best Eric Roberts Surprise Face. Imagine how pissed off you be if you never saw the shark eat Quint and you start to get the idea.

06152010_daughter4.jpgBest Moment: When John can’t figure out why his daughter is acting so strangely, he does what any lazy person does when he has a problem he can’t solve: he looks it up on the internet. For one hilarious montage, Kevin Costner Googles (or the closest fake movie website equivalent) all of his issues.

He starts with “odd behavior, daughter” and when that doesn’t yield “It’s not hormones: IT’S LANDSCAPING!” he enters “lame father” and “Crappy dad.” Since his picture doesn’t come up, he searches “Mound, strange” and then “mound, scientist, South Carolina” which brings him to Noah Taylor’s character, who’ll appear in an all-too-brief role later in the movie. What he should have done instead is Googled “The Amityville Horror” so he’d know how his movie was going to end.

Special Features: “The New Daughter” disc includes a ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurette about the production, which includes interviews with most of the cast and crew. Travis, the screenwriter, talks about the scene that was the hardest to write in the film, picking the one “in the living room where John is holding a shotgun and he’s aiming it at Louisa, knowing that if he doesn’t pull the trigger, him and Sam are going to be eaten alive.” Maybe “the hardest scene to write” is screenwriter code for “the worst scene I wrote,” because it doesn’t appear in the final cut.

06152010_daughter2.jpgWorthy of a Theatrical Release: No, this movie isn’t even worthy of the tiny release it did get. I liked Costner a lot in his late ’80s and early ’90s heyday, but I think there’s a reason that he made so few horror films over his long career: he’s not comfortable in them. His entire persona is based on laid-back charm and tough determination. He just doesn’t play scared all that convincingly; he mostly just rubs his eyes and sighs. Admittedly, the fault there could lie as much with the screenplay as his performance, since it asks so little of the character’s intelligence and so much of the audience’s patience.

I mean, if your family was imperiled, if you were fairly convinced there was something in the woods around your house eating your pets and your babysitters, wouldn’t you’d be at the nearest Residence Inn inside of an hour? You certainly wouldn’t leave your kids at the house on Bloodletting Lane with a decrepit old woman while you go investigate another murder alone. And why doesn’t anyone in this movie have a cell phone? The only people who would find this movie scary are rupophobics, a group that’s probably an even smaller percentage of the American population than the folks who saw this film in theaters.

For Further Viewing: Here’s something that’s truly terrifying: Kevin Costner is the man BP has turned to for help with cleaning up the oil spill.

[Photos: “The New Daughter,” Anchor Bay Films, 2009]

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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