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Disc Covering: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again in “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again”

Disc Covering: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again in “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” (photo)

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No! Nobody ever made them like this! I mean the architect had to be a certified genius or an authentic wacko!” — Dr. Ray Stanz, “Ghostbusters”

You’d have to be a certified genius, or maybe an authentic wacko, to make a movie poorly on purpose. But that’s what Larry Blamire did when he made “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” in 2001. He paid homage to the legendarily bad films of Edward D. Wood Jr. by mimicking their style and tone, from the horrific screenplay (“As a scientist I just wish I could appreciate more things like cabins…”) to the equally atrocious acting (“Even when I was a child, I was hated by skeletons!”) to the super low grade special effects. (Know why the alien spaceship looks like it was made out of a toilet paper roll? Because it was made out of a toilet paper roll.)

The general rule of bad movies is they’re only funny when they’re accidentally bad. Yes, “Plan 9″‘s hubcap spaceships and cardboard gravestones are cute. But even with a bigger budget, Ed Wood’s movies would have looked pretty much the same. Money can’t fix a tin ear for dialogue or a tin, uh, eye for camera placement. And that’s why we love Wood’s movies. They weren’t produced by the studio assembly line and test marketed into homogenous pap. They were one weird guy’s personal statement. They’re authentic. They’re sincere.

It should be impossible to authentically replicate authenticity. When lesser filmmakers have attempted to imitate Wood’s style they come off as mean instead of funny — his movies are so bad, they’re too easy a target. Which made Blamire’s accomplishment with “Lost Skeleton” all the more impressive; he didn’t make a parody of a bad movie, he simply made a bad movie. It looked, sounded, and felt like the real deal. If you stumbled on “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” on late night cable and had no idea what it was, you would have to assume it was the genuine article.

And maybe that’s why “The Lost Skeleton” hasn’t become the full-fledged cult object it deserves to be. It’s almost too authentic to be entertaining. But now there is a new film, “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again.” Was Blamire crazy enough (or brilliant enough) to achieve quixotic greatness twice in a row?

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again
Directed by Larry Blamire

08312010_skeleton2.jpgTagline: “So Terrifying You’ll Wish It Were Only a Movie!”

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: Sequel to a film that paid homage to ’50s Z-grade horror by being intentionally bad. Better FX this time; you can’t see most of the strings.

Salable Elements: Not much beyond the fact that it is a sequel to “The Lost Skeleton,” though that’s no guarantee of butts in seats either; the first film grossed only $143,000 in theatrical release according to Box Office Mojo.

Biggest Success: Blamire is a talented guy, but there’s one thing he’s better at than every other writer and director in history: creating silly character names. They’re something of a directorial signature at this point: if a film features “Handscomb Draile” and “Gondreau Slykes” and “Reet Pappin” and “Dr. Ellamy Royne,” it’s a pretty good bet Blamire is involved.

08312010_skeleton3.jpgBiggest Failure: It’s weird to complain that any movie looks too good. But “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again”‘s 2.35:1 aspect ratio, dramatic widescreen vistas, and improved shot composition don’t match its goofy tone or brain-dead characters (the original film was in 1.85:1). On the “Returns Again” commentary track, Blamire says that while the first film was his ode to Ed Wood-style clunker, this time he was trying to recreate “a Saturday matinee thing.” And the plot, which involves the hunt for a rare element through South American jungles filled with horrible monsters, mutants, and Cantaloupe People, does resemble something from an old Republic serial.

I suppose in that context, the visuals do seem a bit less out of place. But if that’s what Blamire really wanted to do, he probably should have scrapped the Skeleton and company and invented a whole new mythos. Bringing back everyone from “The Lost Skeleton” — who all continue to behave as if they’re in a terrible Z-grade horror movie — confuses things. The look is from one kind of movie, and the sound is from another. “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” is still funny — technically, it has way more jokes than the original, and plenty of them are damn good — but the silliness come with a wink. No one will ever mistake this movie for the genuine article.

Best Moment: My favorite character in both films remains The Lost Skeleton himself, a fiendish, dickish psychic skeleton with mind-control powers. The Lost Skeleton is the villain of both films, but he’s also the most likable character since he’s the only one aware that everyone in the story is a total idiot. Of course, it’s hard to control the minds of the mindless, as when he tries to get Animala (Jennifer Blaire) to pick him up and carry him around and she picks up a stick and a rock and a leaf instead (“Ignorant fool! Animala you are stupid!”). That leaves the Lost Skeleton eternally peeved, voiced with perfect haughty exasperation by Blamire himself.

08312010_skeleton4.jpgSpecial Features: include the aforementioned commentary and a ten minute “making of,” mostly comprised of snarky interviews with the film’s cast.

Worthy of a Theatrical Release? It pains me to say it, but no. “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” is a decent sequel, but it doesn’t recapture the alchemical magic of the original. The first “Lost Skeleton” was so deadpan it was practically cadaverish (or maybe Cadavra-ish). The second is much more outwardly (and less satisfyingly) silly. Blamire is working with house money here — same terrific cast, same endearingly dopey characters — but at best this is a break-even proposition. No craziness, no genius. Just competence.

For Further Viewing: relive the classic with this compilation of greatest hits from “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” See you next week. I sleep now.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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