DID YOU READ

“V/H/S” co-director Joe Swanberg talks horror, beer and independent filmmaking

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If you’re a fan of horror movies, you’ll probably love “V/H/S.” The Sundance darling was the brainchild of indie filmmakers Adam Wingard, Ti West, Joe Swanberg, David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid and the directing quartet known as Radio Silence, and features five various shorts that, when combined, present a stare-at-your-lap-for-a-third-of-the-movie tapestry of found-footage terror.

The film is finally hitting On Demand on August 30 and is due in theaters on October 5, and in anticipation of its arrival for public consumption, IFC had the chance to catch up with Swanberg to chat about his segment of the movie. His 17-minute-long short, “The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger,” tells the chilling story of a college student who turns to her long-distance medical school boyfriend when she begins to fear she is haunted by a ghost. The story is told through recorded Skype conversations, and ends up being one of the most unique takes on a classic horror trope that I personally have seen in many years.

Swanberg is best known for his work in the mumblecore genre thanks to films like “LOL,” “Hannah Takes the Stairs” and “Silver Bullets,” so it was a bit of a surprise to see his name on the roster for “V/H/S.” But, as he explained during our conversation, his involvement in the anthology was just his way of starting off on a new direction of his career.

IFC: What inspired you to use a Skype conversation to tell your story?

JOE SWANBERG: I’ve been trying with a lot of my films to sort of chart the way communication’s been changing. So my second feature “LOL” that I made is kind of all about technology and cell phones and laptops and how that stuff is helping and hindering communication. “Uncle Kent,” a movie that I made two years ago, is about a guy who’s sort of heavily into Chatroulette and Craigslist, so it’s just interesting to me.

It’s tricky stuff for films to deal with because the technology’s changing so quickly that I think Hollywood is hesitant to invest a lot of money and research into movies that use technology that may not be relevant in a year or two. But with independent film and shorter stuff like the “V/H/S” segment, it’s a really good opportunity to dive into something that may not be all that interesting for a feature film, like using Skype. I feel like getting to do a 17-minute segment in “V/H/S” was a lot more realistic — and having the whole thing taking place over Skype — than thinking about doing a feature film involving Skype.

IFC: But at the same time it was one of the most surprising because the bait-and-switch came out of nowhere, and that was largely based out of our preconceived notions of long-distance relationships. Can you talk a bit about the inspiration for that?

JS: Simon Barrett wrote the segment that I did and he’s somebody who I’ve collaborated with as an actor. I’ve acted in a bunch of films that he’s written that Adam Wingard has directed. So they sort of brought me into the project. I had acted in Ti [West]’s “V/H/S” segment, but it was really Adam and Simon sort of lobbying on my behalf so the producers would sign off, because I’m like nobody’s first choice for a horror anthology. They believed in me and gave me that shot, but Simon wrote it knowing that I would direct it. We kind of talked about different ways to shoot it and felt like just going full in for the Skype thing made a lot of sense.

Also, it is one of these kind of things where basically everything on the Internet is an illusion or could be fabricated. It was really fun to play with that idea for this long-distance couple. And it’s really scary to think that the person you’re talking to who you’re thinking is a long way away is actually right next-door. I think that’s kind of an old horror conceit. That kind of goes back to the old scary story of the babysitter who is getting prank phone calls and they call the police and they say the calls are coming from inside the house or something. I feel like that’s a great classic, and it’s still really scary. The idea is still really scary. I think it’s more scary when it’s somebody you love and trust. That makes it way worse.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.