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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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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