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Five horror movies by comedy directors

Five horror movies by comedy directors (photo)

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Before this weekend, Kevin Smith was always known as a comedy guy. “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” plus his Smodcast podcast and Q&A-slash-stand-up films like “An Evening With Kevin Smith.” He stretched himself a little into drama, animation, and acting, but until his new film “Red State” — available now on VOD — the scariest thing Kevin Smith had ever directed was “Jersey Girl” (I kid).

The transition from comedy to horror is rarely an easy one for directors. Few guys as entrenched in the comedy genre as Smith have ever tried to break out of it, and even fewer have made their break successfully. Here are five interesting — and very different — examples of horror movies made by guys we’d typically classify as comedy directors. We’ll get to see soon enough how Smith’s big move compares with theirs.

“Misery” (1990)
Directed by Rob Reiner
Comedy Resume: “This is Spinal Tap” (1984), “The Princess Bride” (1987), “When Harry Met Sally…” (1989)
Outcome: Very solid. The film earned $60 million, respectable dollars for 1990, and today is widely regarded as one of the best cinematic adaptations of author Stephen King’s work. “Misery” holds up well, too: if you haven’t watched it in a while (or ever) revisit it and check out Kathy Bates’ crazy performance as obsessed fan Anne Wilkes. In 2011, she looks like a prescient figure, the prototype for the ultimate Internet fanboy. George Lucas better hope his car never breaks down on a snowy mountain road…


“An American Werewolf in London” (1981)
Directed by John Landis
Comedy Resume: “Kentucky Fried Movie” (1977), “Animal House” (1978), “The Blues Brothers” (1980)
Outcome: Exceptional. From a practical perspective, the film made $30 million at the U.S. box office in 1981 and went on to earn untold millions more on home video. Its cult grew large enough to justify a sequel, 1997’s “An American Werewolf in Paris.” But even if “American Werewolf” hadn’t made back its money, this one would still rate as the all-time great comedy-to-horror directorial switch. Landis managed to bring his comedic skills to a truly scary movie and made what I think is still the best horror comedy of all time, a film that’s equally good at wringing laughs and screams from audiences. Landis has remained a predominantly comedy-oriented director in the thirty years since, though he’s returned to the horror genre a few times, notably in the big-screen adaptation of “The Twilight Zone” and 1992’s “Innocent Blood,” his version of vampires.


“The Day the Clown Cried” (1972)
Directed by Jerry Lewis
Comedy Resume: “The Ladies Man” (1961), “The Nutty Professor” (1963), “The Family Jewels” (1965)
Outcome: Legendarily bad. Strictly speaking, “The Day the Clown Cried” might not be considered a horror movie. But its horrifying subject matter — a clown (named Helmut Doork, played by Lewis) who leads Jewish children into the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust — and the supposed quality of the final product qualify it in my eyes. I say “supposed” and “legendarily” because only a handful of people have ever seen this movie, which has never been released to this day. “The Simpsons”‘ Harry Shearer, one of the few men who’ve watched the finished film, told Spy Magazine in 1992, that seeing “The Day the Clown Cried” was “really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object. This was a perfect object. This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. ‘Oh My God!’ Thats all you can say.” Lewis reportedly refuses to speak about the movie in interviews, or even acknowledge its existence. He only directed two more movies in his career after “The Clown Cried.” Both, not surprisingly, were comedies.

Shearer talking about “The Day the Clown Cried” on “The Howard Stern Show:”




“Dragonfly” (2002)
Directed by Tom Shadyac
Comedy Resume: “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” (1994), “Liar Liar” (1997), “Patch Adams” (1999)
Outcome: A quiet flop. “Dragonfly” was Shadyac’s follow-up to his surprise 1998 hit “Patch Adams,” and it’s another movie about an altruistic doctor. This guy, played by Kevin Costner, has lost his wife and is starting to think she may still be hovering around him like a ghost (or a dragonfly, her favorite animal before she died). The problem, as identified by critic Stephanie Zacharek in her review of the film, is that Shadyac never quite figured out just how frightening his movie should be. “[Shadyac] layers the movie with lots of mystical-spooky touches that don’t really need to be there,” Zacharek writes. “In fact, they raise more questions than they answer: If [Costner’s wife] is a benevolent spirit who’s simply trying to get her husband’s attention, why does she seemingly cause her cranky, beloved pet parrot to suffer a seizure?” The film made $30 million at the box office, the same as “An American Werewolf in London,” but these were thirty million 2002 dollars, not 1981 dollars, which are quite a bit different.


“Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” (2009)
Directed by Paul Weitz
Comedy Resume: “American Pie” (1999), “About a Boy” (2002), “In Good Company” (2004)
Outcome: An even quieter flop. In fact, I had to double-check this movie ever came out at all in the U.S.; I remembered covering it at Fantastic Fest 2009, and never heard about it again. The film did open in theaters, earning just $13 million domestically and a 38% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was more of a horror-fantasy hybrid than a straight-ahead scary movie, one clearly designed in an attempt to capitalize on “Twilight,” another teen-oriented vampire movie franchise. In a strange twist, Weitz’s brother Chris — who he collaborated with on his early hits like “American Pie” and “About a Boy” — wound up directing the second “Twilight” film, “New Moon,” which opened a few months after “Cirque du Freak” in 2009. That one, as you may recall, was a massive hit.


Do you have a favorite horror movie by a comedy director? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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