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Fantastic Fest 2008: “The Substitute.”

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09212008_thesubstitute.jpgPaprika Steen, the Danish actress best known for her roles in Dogme films like “Festen,” “The Idiots” and “Mifune,” is to die for in Ole Bornedal’s horror-comedy “The Substitute.” Like, she eats someone whole. She plays the forbiddingly named Ulla Harms, a substitute teacher who takes over sixth grade class 6B and whose hair-raisingly cruel instruction technique is augmented by what seem to be the abilities to read minds, balance pencils on their sharpened tips and force people to say nice things about her. In short, Ulla is an alien, a fact 6B, led by moody protagonist Carl (Jonas Wandschneider), gets wise to early on but the verity of which they can’t convince their well-meaning, oblivious parents, even as it becomes clear she means to abduct the kids and abscond to her brutal home planet in order to use them as specimens in an attempt to understand the human capacities for empathy and love.

“The Substitute” is a family film, but one that’s Roald Dahl-dark. Ulla torments her tween charges by deriding their buckteeth and academic prowess, revealing their hidden crushes to the crowd and, in the case of Carl, mocking his sorrow of his recently dead mother. In one of the most wickedly funny scenes, their parents convinced video games have given their children wild delusions of imagination, the students are dragged, shrieking and swearing they’ll never be seen again, to a bus for a field trip and dropped off by waving moms and dads who sunnily ignore the tears of their terrified offspring. Steen strides through “The Substitute” heels, curled hair and fitted dresses like a Scandinavian take on a certain Van Helen video, but with a disturbing tendency to have all emotion drop off her face until she realizes someone’s watching. The face she turns to other adults is sweet, smiling and competent; the one she turns to the children might have tentacles protruding from it or be dripping with blood from the live chicken she just devoured The denouement’s disappointing, but it was bound to be, because Ulla had to get her comeuppance. I was still pulling for her — it seemed like she’d earned the win.

Columbia recently picked up the remake rights for “The Substitute” and “Just Another Love Story,” the other film Bornedal completed last year (my review from Sundance is here).

[Photo: “The Substitute,” Ghosthouse Underground, 2008]

+ “The Substitute” (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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