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Tribeca 2011: “Rabies,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “Rabies,” Reviewed (photo)

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It can be a lot of fun to see American popular culture refracted through the prism of another country. “Rabies,” is the first Israeli movie made in that quintessential American genre, the slasher film. And it does feature many of the slasher cliches we’ve come to know and love: the dog that wanders off too far into the forrest, the killer who can magically sneak up people without making a sound, the car full of nubile hotties that gets lost in the woods. But what starts as a rather typical slasher film with Israeli accents eventually reveals itself to be something a bit more complicated. “Rabies” has a point beyond exploitation, I’m just not sure I agree with it. Or maybe what I really disagree with is the way that point is made.

We’ll get to that in a second. First, the plot, which, to my disappointment, does not contain any actual rabies. Mostly it’s about several groups of people who wander into the woods of an Israeli “fox preserve” where they encounter a jumpsuit-wearing, animal trap laying serial killer and each other. There’s the brother (David Henry) trying to find someone to help him free his sister (Liat Har Lev), a park ranger (Menashe Noy), his girlfriend, and their dog, the lost hotties (Ania Bukstein and Yael Grobglas), and the two cops (Lior Ashkenazi and Danny Geva) who are called in to find them. You know how this movie goes: people head off into the woods alone when they shouldn’t, then get picked off one by one until the last virginal woman is left alive to defeat the evil.

But that’s not how things turn out this time. Writer/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado have assembled all these genre elements only to deconstruct them. The real menace here isn’t some crazy guy with the knife and some bear traps, but the regular people who, angry and scared and confused, lash out at those around them. In “Rabies,” civilization is fragile, and ordinary people are just as prone to violence — or to tacitly condone it — as psychopaths. Keshales and Papushado’s faith in humanity is nonexistent and their worldview is bleak. Given the events in Israel in the last two decades, maybe that’s not too surprising.

So “Rabies” should be an intense and personal film. But the events in it and the choices the characters make are so consistently absurd that they undermines “Rabies”‘ entire argument. Keshales and Papushado’s concept is rooted in the idea that normal people are capable of unimaginable evil, but no one in this movie acts like a normal person: everyone is depraved and deranged and even the relatively lucid ones in the bunch snap easier than a twig in an ice storm.

I will give you one example. Almost the entire movie takes place in this fox preserve. After order has begun to break down, two of the girls from the lost car are running for their lives from other characters. They stop to rest and notice a fallen sign warning them to beware of landmines. Which, of course, creates great tension in any scene with the girls because we keep waiting for one of them to step on a mine. Fine, it is a horror movie, and the constant threat of death by sudden explosion definitely qualifies as horror in my book. But wait: why are there mines in a fox preserve? We know there’s a serial killer setting up all kinds of traps in this place, so maybe he put them there? But if a serial killer was putting mines around to kill people and get his jollies, why would he put up a sign warning people about them? Bloodthirsty and conscientious. What a guy.

Keshales and Papushado do a nice job juggling a large cast and numerous parallel threads of action, but too many dumb convenient plot devices sully their central conceit. In order to arrive at their chosen ending, one improbable event after another has to happen exactly right until the chain of coincidence and misunderstanding transforms the entire film into one enormous Idiot Plot. All of that strains credulity in a movie that is all about arguing that the real world — not the one populated by the fantastical psycho killers of popular culture — is the place we need to fear. The parable could probably only have come from foreign filmmakers. But the goofy, nonsensical narrative is as American as they come.

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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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