DID YOU READ

Director Joe Dante talks “The Hole,” horror and how 3D has a bad rap

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Back before “Avatar” changed the 3D game, “Gremlins” director Joe Dante created a little movie called “The Hole” with the intention of toying with how 3D can be used. Unfortunately, theaters have since been swamped with converted 3D films ever since “Avatar” proved the medium can be a box office boon, and “The Hole” is only now getting its time in the spotlight.

“The Hole” tells a story of a family who moves to a small rural town after living in the city. The two sons — played by Chris Massoglia and Nathan Gamble — discover a mysterious hole in the basement of their new home and, though it is locked and bolted, they manage to open it and become subjected to the darkness inside. It is at that moment that the 3D becomes a factor and takes the movie up to the next level. Since there weren’t any big actors starring in the movie, Dante considered the 3D to be the draw all unto itself.

A lot has changed in the years since Dante made “The Hole,” but the movie still has played around with the 3D genre in ways only directors like James Cameron and Martin Scorsese have tried. IFC had the chance to catch up with Dante in a recent phone interview and talk to him about what drew him to 3D and how times have changed since he first decided that this would be his next project.

IFC: First off, I just wanted to say that I was at the Comic-Con presentation for “The Hole” back in 2009 and I was really excited when I read that the movie was finally coming out.

Joe Dante: [laughs] Wow, it’s been a long time.

IFC: It has been a long time! I’m just kind of curious what your journey with the movie has been since then? I know you went to a couple film festivals.

JD: We’ve done the usual festival route that you do with pictures and stuff, and we won an award in Venice for 3D, it was great. But it was pretty frustrating to see the theaters that we thought were going to be running our film clogged up with fake 3D movies that have been converted, which we didn’t know about when we were planning our picture.

We were pretty careful about figuring out how many theaters were 3D capable and whether or not there was anything going to be available to play in them. And then, all of the sudden when we were finished, these big blockbuster “Clash of the Titans” kind of movies were playing and they were suddenly in 3D even though they hadn’t bothered to make them in 3D. So we kind of got crowded out of the initial run of 3D, and then more and more films kept coming out and theaters were harder and harder to get and we didn’t have a distributor because we didn’t have any big stars and it was difficult to get a distributor for quite a while. So now finally this thing is seeing the light of day.

IFC: Unfortunately I had to watch this on DVD so I couldn’t see the 3D effects as you meant it, so I was wondering if you could describe your process of shooting this in 3D. Obviously you did it before stuff like “Avatar” came out, so I’m curious what your mentality was in approaching the 3D element of the movie.

JD: The reason I recommended doing this in 3D was because I said this is sort of a small film and it’s about fears and a lot of it takes place in a basement, so there’s a possibility people will find it claustophobic. So I think if we use 3D correctly, we can draw people in, make them feel like this is part of their story and that they’re in the basement with these kids and that they go down the hole and, rather than throwing things at them, try to draw them in. That was really the intent, basically. The 3D was sort of like an extra character for me in the movie. Not that it doesn’t work okay in 2D — I mean, the movie has got a story and that’s fine — but it really was designed to be experienced with the extra dimension.

IFC: How would you say 3D has changed since you made this movie?

JD: Well the equipment I used is probably obsolete. All this stuff changes so much that I’m sure the cameras are smaller now, I’m sure they’re lighter. I was already happy with how small and light they were because I had done a previous 3D film for Busch Gardens called “The Haunted Lighthouse” that had been like a ride film, and that needed two 70 mm projectors hooked together to make a 3D image and it was very, very, very cumbersome. Comparatively these cameras were so much better. They were rock steady and had really good focus and were very easy to work with, and now I have a feeling that it would be even easier — and probably cheaper and simpler — to make a 3D film because the cameras are just getting smaller and smaller.

IFC: Would you be interested in shooting another 3D movie in today’s moviemaking environment?

JD: Oh sure. I think 3D gets a bad rap. I think there’s a lot of people who think it’s just a gimmick. And there are some people who can’t legitimately see 3D, that’s another issue, but I think used correctly and used dramatically, 3D is a storytelling tool, and that you can enhance a story — maybe not every story, but certainly certain stories — with this particular technique.

IFC: Between this and “Gremlins,” you make small, seemingly-innocent things seem so terrifying. How do you approach coming up with objects to use in your horror/thriller films?

JD: It’s never really been intentional. Once I did “Gremlins” and I have these little ankle-biting creatures, then I found myself doing the sequel, then I found myself doing a feature called “Small Soldiers” where they were these toys and there were malevolent but also little, then I ended up doing “Looney Tunes” where Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny were small, I kept thinking, “This is film two, film three, film four.” And so there’s film five or whatever which has another maniacal toy that can bite your ankles off, so maybe I just have a thing against ankles.

IFC: Seriously. Is there something in your past — like a clown or stuffed toy — that made you scared of this stuff?

JD: No, no, believe it or not, but I always found clowns rather… unpleasant, I was never actually afraid of them. [laughs]

IFC: Well you make a terrifying one in this film. You also have told several of your horror/thriller films through the eyes of children, so what do you find so appealing about telling a story that way?

JD: Some of the best horror films — there’s a movie called “Invaders From Mars” that’s told entirely from a kid’s point of view and it was done by a great art director and he made the whole movie look like a dream, which was very influential to me, and of course I saw a picture called “Night of the Hunter” when I was a kid, which is a crazed preacher versus running away kids, which was also a very scary movie, so I think to view that kind of malevolence through the eyes of innocents is a particularly compelling way to tell a story. It hasn’t recurred in my movies on purpose, because you look back and you go, “Oh, I see a pattern, [laughs] a pattern in my career that was never intended.” But it does end up informing the things that I’m drawn to.

IFC: What keeps drawing you back to the horror and thriller genres?

JD: What keeps drawing me back is that’s what people keep asking me to do! [laughs] Once you’ve done something that’s done well, they want you to do more of them. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have loved to do Westerns or love stories or whatever, but that’s really not viewed as my bailiwick.

“The Hole” hits theaters on September 28 (opening in LA, Atlanta) and will be available on DVD, Blu-ray iTunes and VOD on October 2.

Are you interested in seeing “The Hole” when it finally hits theaters? Tell us in the comments section 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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