ADAPT THIS: “Underground” by Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber


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With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a new comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from the industry’s top comic creators about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.

This Week’s Book: Underground by Jeff Parker (w) and Steve Lieber (a)

The Premise: When two rangers investigating a local cave get caught up in a violent dispute over the land, they’re forced to flee into the depths of the mountain to evade their pursuers. As they venture further into the cavern, the rangers must use all of the tools at their disposal to get out alive and avoid the criminals chasing them.

The Pitch: Imagine all the claustrophobic terror of “The Descent” without the creepy monsters, and you’ll understand the appeal of Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s five-issue miniseries.

Originally published in 2010, Underground is a tense, frightening story about subterranean survival that also captures all the best aspects of a classic chase film, with its main characters on the run from thugs who outnumber, outgun, and outmuscle them — but can’t outwit them.

Both “The Descent” and “Buried” received heaps of praise for tapping into the scare factor of dark, confined spaces, and Underground succeeds in not only making that environment the centerpiece of the story, but also making the cave a character of sorts. Throughout the story, each twist and turn presents both the rangers and their pursuers with a new challenge, whether it’s submerged lakes, narrow passageways, deep caverns, or darkness-dwelling animals of one sort or another.

There have been one or two films set in caves over the years, but like “The Descent” most of them resort to blending the natural fears that accompany spelunking with some sort of supernatural or science-fiction element. Underground, on the other hand, has its human characters facing a very human threat — though the danger comes as much from the gun-wielding criminals pursuing them as it does from the inner workings of the mountain.

Given the right amount of imagination, a talented filmmaker could find some creative camera angles and set pieces to capture the scope of the cast’s predicament, giving audiences more than a few reasons to squirm as the film’s characters find themselves moving ever deeper into the darkness. This, combined with the relationship of the two rangers — who we know to be more than just professional colleagues — could likely make for some interesting juxtapositions of tight squeezes and two people deciding whether they’re getting too close for comfort.

Finally, while Parker and Lieber did a great of developing their principle characters in five issues, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the two rangers, as well as the criminals on their trail. Developing Underground into a feature-length film leaves ample room for a writer to shape the characters and give them more depth, which is always a nice way to flex creative muscles and put your stamp on a story.

The Closing Argument: In many ways, Underground combines the tense, dramatic narrative of an Alfred Hitchcock film with the natural terror of being trapped in a dark, uncertain place. The fact that the “place” is a massive cavern only opens the door to a long list of additional, environmental sources of fear, whether it’s bats, pits that appear to be bottomless, or watery tunnels that may or may not be your only escape route.

In the right hands, an “Underground” movie could be the scariest thing to hit the screen in a long time, and finally bridge the gap between celebrated scare-fests and critical darlings.

Do you think “Underground” would make a good movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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