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On “Cabin Fever 2” and where the hell horror film is headed next.

On “Cabin Fever 2” and where the hell horror film is headed next. (photo)

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Horror is in a strange place right now. In a genre currently steeped in remakes, “Paranormal Activity” has become the first original nail-biter to break through to the masses since “Saw,” whose sixth installment showed its (and torture porn in general’s) age by coming in second to “Activity” (in its third week) at the box office this weekend. Likewise, the film “Activity” has been most compared to, “The Blair Witch Project,” recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, reminding everyone what a rare phenomenon it is to get spooked in a new way.

These were the things I was thinking about when I sat down to watch Ti West’s “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” at Los Angeles’ Screamfest over the weekend, coincidentally the genre festival that premiered “Activity” in 2007. A sequel to the 2003 splatter flick that launched Eli Roth’s career, “Cabin Fever 2” was supposed to do the same for West, a young director who’s shown a knack for squeezing scares out of low-budget, highly inventive films like “Triggerman” and “The Roost,” but who’d get his shot at a bigger budget with the Lionsgate-backed sequel. West got the money, but not final cut — he’s since disowned the final product, which is set to go direct to DVD in February 2010.

Still, there’s enough promise in the compromised “Cabin Fever 2,” when paired with his first true masterwork “House of the Devil,” to believe West might be horror’s next great hope. (And, full disclosure, he does have a web series called “Dead and Lonely” premiering on today.) What’s clear from both films is that West’s creativity and screenwriting ability should make him interesting even to non-genre movie fans — and horror is in dire need of more crossover hits.

Of course, true horror fans will get an extra kick out of “Cabin Fever 2” appearances from “The Last Winter”‘s Larry Fessenden, “American Movie”‘s Mark Borchardt and Judah Friedlander (sans trademark hat), but while there’s a fair amount of gore, the film takes a threadbare plot (conveyed in an animated opening credits sequence) of a town whose water supply has been contaminated by the flesh-eating virus from the first film and turns it into the kind of fun that West determinedly depicts as not happening at the high school prom that becomes ground zero. Thanks to the tainted water, never has the stir of a punch bowl been so ominous.

West’s gripes about the finished film have been that the producers amped up the gross-out moments for the sake of a laugh — oral sex from a girl with braces and a suspicious pustule on her lip, an overweight girl’s burgeoning leprosy being mistaken for loss of virginity in a pool, and a male character’s ejaculation of something other than semen — and while he isn’t wrong, the scenarios are inherently terrifying.

Editing may have changed West’s intentions, but they don’t mask his devotion to dialogue and building multidimensional characters, so when there’s a payoff, it doesn’t feel like a cheap thrill. Like his brilliant use of The Fixx’s “One Thing Leads to Another” in “House of the Devil,” West dusts off Patrick Hernandez’s “Born to Be Alive” and tells all you need to know about the teens at the soon-to-be infected high school in a montage of their preparation for prom.

“Cabin Fever 2” ends with a noticeably tacked-on ending — first, a live-action coda featuring two of the film’s producers making cameos as strip club patrons, and then an animated bookend, which prompted one Screamfest audience member to ask producer Lauren Moews why there were different animators for the opening and closing sequences. Moews tellingly responded that opening credits animator Lawson Deming wasn’t available when “we wanted to figure out what to do for the end.” Presumably, West wasn’t around either by that point. Moews added that original “Fever” director Roth had only seen a finished cut of the film a couple weeks ago, with his main comment being “Man, I want that soundtrack.”

Although West’s name came up sparingly during the Q&A, lead actor Noah Segan remarked that his first discussions with the director revolved around “Heathers” as far as influences were concerned, but also veered towards Sam Peckinpah — “We wanted to make something matter today using something traditional.” And regardless of what happened with his first attempt at studio work, West appears to be well on his way to a fruitful career of doing just that. We just hope he has final cut for his next film, “The Haunting in Georgia,” another sequel to a Lionsgate hit.

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Give Back

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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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