The X-Files

The Truth is Scary

The 12 Scariest Episodes of The X-Files

Catch the X-Files movies Saturday, January 23rd starting at 12:15P ET/11:15 PT on IFC.

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In the early ’90s, The X-Files was a cultural happening, right up there with Pogs and the Bartman. It hit at a perfect moment, spawning catchphrases and racy fan fiction that helped shape the early days of the Internet. With The X-Files: Fight the Future and The X-Files: I Want to Believe airing this month on IFC, we thought we’d revisit some of the scariest episodes the show ever produced. Wake up your inner ’90s child, and let them know they won’t being going to sleep tonight, because the truth is out there, and it is freaking terrifying.


12. “Our Town,” Season Two

We all know small towns have something to hide, at least on The X-Files. That certainly proved true in this second season episode that made us rethink our eating habits. When The X-Files did horror, the writers always strived to find a new slant on an old genre. Here, that meant taking the iconography of cannibals, masked murderers and factory farming, and whipping them together into a uniquely scary stew. “Our Town” isn’t a perfect episode, falling into cliché at times (Scully pulls the damsel in distress routine for the umpteeth time), but it more than makes up for its faults with some genuine scares.


11. “Chinga,” Season Five

What do you get when you combine the greatest horror show of its time with the greatest horror author of the century? The answer is this fifth season episode, penned by Stephen King himself, about a mind controlling killer doll come to life. Whether it’s clawing out your own eyes, or stabbing yourself with a hammer, this stuffed little lady is impossible to say no to. While the episode received mixed reviews, for any fan of King, it’s a must watch. If nothing else, the surprise the network got when they learned that “Chinga” is actually a curse word in Spanish must’ve been pretty terrifying.


10. “Eve,” Season One

Nothing is scarier than twins. That’s just a fact. But what if those creepy twins were just the tip of the iceberg? What if countless clones were made in some secret government lab, all with one purpose… Murder! That’s the idea here, as Mulder and Scully face off against a ragtag band of grimy killer clones, who will just as soon bite your head off as look at you. “Eve” was a creepy first season episode that demonstrated what a mastery of genre the show would have moving forward.


9. “The Host,” Season Two

For any of us that have worried about what monsters may be lurking in the toilet, this episode confirmed our very worst fears. An early effort at the “Monster-of-the-Week” format that would come to define the show, it’s far from a perfect episode. But what it does do effectively is create a creepy monster with a freakish sucker face that plays on our unspoken fears of the unknown. An early indicator of what this show was capable of, “The Host” (and Flukeman) still freaks us out enough to make the list.


8. “Folie à Deux,” Season Five

There’s nothing scarier than losing your mind. That’s what this season five episode explored, when Mulder found himself seeing monsters no one else could. Was he cracking up? Or were they real (and unstoppable) because no one would believe him? Which is really more terrifying? A spooky outing full of fun ideas and creepy visuals, this was one of the few episodes that made you wonder if Mulder was going to find a way out of it in one piece.


7. “Irresistible,” Season Two

The X-Files would do anything for a scare, even if it meant dropping the supernatural for an episode and showing us how terrifying man can be without all the aliens and ghosts to get in the way. “Irresistible” focused on a Scully-obsessed serial killer who takes misogyny to the next level, killing women and keeping their hair and fingers as trophies. The episode stands out thanks to a furiously creepy performance from Nick Chinlund, who imbues his killer with an oily smugness. Featuring one of the show’s all-time best guest spots, this episode really showed why you should trust no one.


6. “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” Season Two

Everyone knows that substitute teachers are a bunch of pushovers. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Milford Haven, New Hampshire, where desks are filled with student’s eyes and hearts, instead of homework. This season two episode explored what happens when those we trust with our kids prey upon them. While the story was fairly conventional, the scares were intense, playing out ritual sacrifice and supernatural suicide against a backdrop of typical high school drama.


5. “Patient X,” Season Five

Most of the truly scary, full-blown horror episodes of The X-Files were stand alone, and separate from the show’s larger mythology. This episode is different. Diving head first into the show’s labyrinthine plot about alien invasion, “Patient X” showed how terrifying visitors from outer space could be. There’s lots of dark moments here. Bodies burned alive. Alien infections. But none compare to the visual of the infected, their bloody eyes and mouths sewn shut, coming for us all. One of the most striking visuals the show ever came up with, it was a moment that turned an episode that was for true blue fans into something that could freak out just about anybody.


4. “Sanguinarium,” Season Four

Talk about medical malpractice. This fourth season episode explored the trust we place in our doctors to not go batty and start ritually sacrificing us while they’re all up in our guts. Plastic surgery was just becoming a way of life in the ’90s, which meant it was a fertile subject for satire. And what is horror but satire with blood? X-Files creator Chris Carter saw the potential in exploring the glamorous industry’s dark underbelly of vanity and pride. It’s not much of a leap from paying a doctor thousands of dollars for the perfect body to selling your soul for one. And, of course, there’s plenty of blood to boot.


3. “Field Trip,” Season Six

This sixth season episode was a head-trip, for both the characters and the audience. What’s real and what’s a hallucination? In the episode, Mulder and Scully both find themselves under the effects of a potent, psychotropic spore that causes them to vividly hallucinate. We see them kidnap aliens and die horrible deaths, all while still trapped inside their own minds. Each time we think they’ve made it free, we realize this is just another layer of fantasy. A mind-tripping horror show that leave us on the edge of our seats, “Field Trip” was one of the most innovative and freaky episodes in the show’s run.


2. “Detour,” Season Five

You’re lost in the woods, being hunted by a monster you can’t see. AND you have to deal with some serious sexual tension with your work wife to boot. That’s the premise of this classic episode from the show’s fifth season which pits Mulder and Scully against nature itself, by way of a chameleon-like “Monster-of-the-Week.” The monster in this episode was one of the show’s best, blending into its surrounding just enough to be anywhere, while always tipping us off with its disturbing, glowing eyes. If we can all agree to ignore its similarities to Predator, this is one of the show’s very best episodes.


1. “Home,” Season Four

One of the most controversial outings in the show’s history, this season four episode was so brutal, so graphic, and so disturbing that some fans felt like they’d been betrayed. In a sense, this episode posits what would happen if Mulder and Scully wandered into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but with a bit less chainsaw, and bit more inbred freaks. The show would never again create freaks as disturbing as The Peacocks, who were almost scarier for their way of life than their brutal murders.

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Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Optimus Prime in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, from Paramount Pictures.

Rotten Apples

10 Rotten Movie Franchises That Need to Stop

Catch the "Too Rotten to Miss" movie Scary Movie 2 tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

We live in the age of the blockbuster movie franchise. If you want a green-light, you better have tights, a light saber and decades worth of backstory and fan love to build on. And while we love some of these franchises, some just keep getting new entries despite horrible reviews, audience indifference and an utter lack of care from even the people making them.

With IFC and Rotten Tomatoes celebrating “too rotten to miss” movies like Scary Movie 2 this month, we thought it high time to point out just a few franchises than should be retired to the bottom of your Netflix queue. Here are 10 “rotten” movies franchise that need to just go away, please.

10. Transformers

Transformers
Dreamworks Pictures

Hollywood execs, we get it. You grew up in the ’80s, and now you want to produce everything you loved as a child, only make it a lot worse. Here’s the thing: while a show like Stranger Things took all the tropes and style of ’80s movies, and created something new, lingerie commercial director Michael Bay went the opposite way, taking a title and basic concept, and creating a pile of garbage made out of robot parts.

If poop jokes mixed with racism, misogyny and incoherent fight scenes are your thing, this is the franchise for you. If you have even the slightest respect for character or basic story logic, you have to admit this franchise has been awful from frame one. Yes, we were alive in the ’80s, but some things are best left in the past. Unfortunately, with a sixth movie, a Bumblebee spin-off and a proposed G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover movie in the works, this franchise will probably outlive us all.


9. Scary Movie

Scary Movie
Dimension Films

True, its been a couple of years since we’ve been subjected to one of these, but you know that Jamie Kennedy or the Epic Movie guys are sitting in a writers room somewhere, pitching jokes on how to merge The Purge with a fart joke. This franchise started out in a mediocre place, a Wayans family knockoff of better movies like Airplane, and things went downhill from there. You shouldn’t be able to spin five movies out of a few Scream jokes and a Carmen Electra cameo.


8. Alvin and the Chipmunks

Alvin and the Chipmunks
20th Century Fox

Designed to appeal to kids who love ’50s novelty albums and pun-y titles, the Chipmunk franchise feels like it was made by a prop comic from the Uncanny Valley. Full of rapping CGI rodents, and a paycheck cashing Jason Lee, 20th Century Fox has somehow made over a billion dollars off a series of diminishing “Squeakquels.” We do secretly sort of hope these movies keep getting made, just so David Cross keeps getting forced to star in them.


7. X-Men

X-Men Oscar Isaac
20th Century Fox

If we can all be honest with ourselves, these movies have been a mixed bag for the past decade. (Even the foul-mouthed spin-off Deadpool made fun of how self-serious the franchise has become.) In an ever expanding quest to turn the series into a dumbed-down version of the moody mutants’ ’90s cartoon, the stories have gotten paper-thin, the performances phoned in and the monster makeup just this side of Grimace cosplay. (We’re looking at you, X-Men: Apocalypse.)

Do we really need to see Hugh Jackman’s take on Wolverine for the ninth time? There is only so much steamed chicken and protein powder this man can eat before this franchise legitimately becomes a form of torture. Fox Studios, there are enough superheroes on the big screen right now. Maybe let this one go, and a decade from now Marvel can reclaim it and make some good movies again.


6. Tarzan

Tarzan
Warner Bros.

There have been over 200 projects starring Tarzan since pictures started motioning at the turn of the last century. 200! This vaguely racist story of a white man taming the, ahem, Dark Continent, has been told ad nauseam. We know Hollywood loves to keep beating iconic characters into the ground, and Tarzan probably has near universal name recognition, but that doesn’t mean that anyone wants to, you know, go and watch a movie about the guy, no matter how ripped Alexander Skarsgard’s abs are.


5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Tarzan
Paramount Pictures

These “heroes in a half shell” were a stretch for movie stardom back at the peak of their popularity, but thanks to some ingenious work by The Jim Henson Company, and Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap,” they were able to have a moment during the early ’90s.

Now, decades later, Michael Bay’s desperate desire to ruin all of our childhoods has found its way to these pizza loving turtles with ‘tude. The CGI monstrosities that have resulted can barely be called movies. Like the Transformers franchise, but with more creepy scenes of an anthropomorphic turtle hitting on Megan Fox, these movies are a nail in the coffin of ’80s nostalgia, and need to be put to bed before Bay starts sniffing around the Thundercats.


4. Now You See Me

Now You See Me
Summit Entertainment

Magic tricks are impressive when you see them performed live. The fun is in wondering how they could possibly do that. When you watch a bunch of Christopher Nolan castoffs performing CGI tricks created in post production, the only thing you’re left wondering is what the point even was.

This is perhaps the strangest movie franchise to come along in awhile, a collection of genres tropes quilted together by a cavalcade of filmdom’s best supporting actors. Take a bit of Ocean’s Eleven, and a touch of The Prestige. Add a pinch of Morgan Freeman and James Franco’s brother, and cross your fingers that audiences will be dumb enough to line up for a sequel to that movie they didn’t totally hate when they saw it on an airplane that time.


3. God’s Not Dead

Pure Flix Entertainment
Pure Flix Entertainment

The Christian movie genre has blown-up over the last decade. God’s Not Dead, and its sequel, were beneficiaries of this expanding audience, raking in tens of millions of dollars at the box office. But, despite connecting with an audience, all is not well in God’s Not Dead-land.

These insipid movies, that never met a straw man they didn’t hate, tell laughable stories about the evils of college campuses and the ACLU, full of cartoonish villains whose sole purpose in life is to crush good Christian souls. With a “who’s who” of “Remember Them??” in the cast, including TV’s Superman Dean Cain and TV’s Hercules Kevin Sorbo, these movies are as poorly produced as the message they’re espousing. God may not be dead, but the careers of the filmmakers behind these movies should be.


2. Bridget Jones

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

It’s been more than a decade since the last Bridget Jones movie was foisted on us, and in that time young Bridget has remained the same self-involved, unrealistically clumsy mess. With pacing that makes each movie feel 10 hours long, sub-par slapstick and an unlikeable lead, the Bridget Jones trilogy too often feels like Sex and the City without the sex or the city.

Just because the book series your franchise is based on churns out another entry doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get the gang back together. Well, some of the gang, considering Hugh Grant wisely let Dr. McDreamy himself Patrick Dempsey fill in for him this go around. Remember when Renee Zellweger was an acclaimed, Oscar-winning actress? Yeah, that was a long time ago…


1. Avatar

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Seriously, is anyone really excited for the four sequels that James Cameron has promised us to this box office breaking blockbuster from 2009? Yes, at the time the 3D wonderland of CGI planets and tail sex was a revelation, making us overlook the fact that we were watching a hokey Dances With Wolves knockoff starring an actor with the approximate charisma of a broken toaster. But over the last few years, Avatar has slipped from the public consciousness. When’s the last time you popped in your Blu-ray of it, or saw someone cosplaying a Na’vi, or even mentioned it in casual conversation? If Cameron were making one sequel, okay, but four? FOUR? Maybe it’s best to just remember Avatar for what it was — a blue-hued fluke, and move on.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” flick Scary Movie 2 this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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