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]



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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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