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Fantastic Fest 2008: “Ex Drummer.”

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09242008_exdrummer.jpgInteresting that at a festival that celebrates visceral cinematic shocks — the over-the-top splatter of “Tokyo Gore Police” and the “we dare you to walk out” boundary pushing of “Martyrs” and “Deadgirl” — the two most disturbing films I saw weren’t horror at all. The first is “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and the second Koen Mortier’s feature debut “Ex Drummer,” which wins the prize for moral decay. It’s been compared to “Trainspotting,” and, like that film “Ex Drummer” has visual style to burn and threads of seedy surrealism, but in terms of content it makes Danny Boyle’s work look like something from the Disney vaults. “Ex Drummer” would kick you in the teeth if it had a pair of steel toe boots and feet to wear them on, a whirlwind of nihilism in which every character is either an impulsive animal, a destructive misanthrope or a willing and deserving victim.

Adapted from Herman Brusselmans’ Flemish-language novel of the same name and set in Ostend, on the Belgian coast, “Ex Drummer” is the story of how three brutish men — a singer with a lisp, a bassist with a paralyzed arm and a half-deaf guitarist — approach a successful author with the idea that he’d be a good drummer. They want to form a punk band with only disabled members, but they’re undeterred by the fact that Dries, the writer, neither knows how to play drums nor has a handicap. He, on the other hand, sees them as ideal sources for material, and, on impulse (“I think I want to step outside my happy world”), joins them in rehearsing for what they’ve all decided will be a lone gig.

“Ex Drummer”‘s sense of overwhelming dread initially comes from the presumption that Dries is out of his league, and that his adventures in slumming amongst those whose day-to-day includes assault, domestic abuse, child neglect, monstrous sex, drug use and general living in their own filth will quickly prove his downfall. That dread later comes from the realization that Dries is the most horrific asshole of them all, an idle sadist who’ll annihilate the miserable lives of his bandmates and their friends and families just for sport, and then retreat to his beautiful waterfront condo and waiting girlfriend. After a while, the onslaught of unredeeming behavior becomes numbing — no one who’s not an angry goth teenager can buy into a world that’s so top-to-bottom grim. But Mortier’s box of visual tricks is inexhaustible, and most of the ones he tosses on screen stick: A character’s slippery sanity is represented by his only being able to walk on the ceiling of his bloodstained flat; a massacre pauses to allow its victims to offer a final rueful, bloodstained confession; a character walks away smoking and the world falls down; bike rides through town are shown in reverse, from ringing doorbells to a random beating; and every interior space outside of Dries’ immaculate apartment is a claustrophobic hellhole of peeling wallpaper, crumbling plaster and strained mattresses on the floor. Bleak, bleak, ludicrously, inchoately bleak — but exhilaratingly made even so.

[Photo: “Ex-Drummer,” Mercurio Cinematografica/Quad Productions, 2007]

+ “Ex-Drummer” (Fantastic Fest)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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