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How a horrific opening made Universal reconsider horror.

How a horrific opening made Universal reconsider horror. (photo)

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People often rhapsodize about how the studios of Old Hollywood had distinct personalities. MGM cornered the market on star-studded prestige melodramas and musicals, Paramount aped Continental elegance under Ernst Lubitsch’s guidance and, of course, Universal had the horror movies. Nowadays, the studio logo is a faceless thing, no longer carrying that kind of iconographic resonance.

But in light of what’s been a very rough 12 months for Universal, the studio might just take it back. Like all major studios, they have regularly attempted to be all things to all people. (Disney has escaped this rat race by building up a brand that, for the moment, has mentally enslaved every 13-year-old girl in America.) The problem for Universal last year was a slate of misfires (financially, anyway) that couldn’t find an audience that knew what to do with them. “Public Enemies” looked like an action movie but was actually another one of Michael Mann’s excursions into the action avant-garde, “Funny People” was too grim to be a crowd-pleaser and so on.

However, the studio definitely was in the Paul Greengrass business, with their gratitude for the Bourne franchise extending to a $130 million budget for the director to make “Green Zone,” an Iraq war movie. Financially, the results are grim enough for not one but two Los Angeles Times post-post-mortems.

Hope is on the way, though, in the form of an infinitely exploitable back-catalogue of remakes and franchise starters. Per Marc Abraham and Eric Newman — the Strike Entertainment producers who preparing a prequel to “The Thing” — “after ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ Universal basically came to us and said, ‘Everyone is remaking everything, what do we have that might be good?'”

03172010_mummyreturns.jpgIt’s a little sad, if not surprising, that the people running the studio know nothing about their own company’s history. But they will soon enough: if Benicio Del Toro’s “The Wolfman” redux and a “Thing” prequel aren’t enough (and the ashes of the last “Mummy” resurrection are still too warm to plausibly reboot), it’s only a matter of time before a suit notices that hasn’t been a “Dracula” remake in a few years and hops on it tout suite. (Starring Robert Pattinson, of course.) “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” will be playing a return engagement shortly thereafter. (Oh wait, that may be first since “Seabiscuit” director Gary Ross is writing one.)

If this trick is tried often enough and success comes with it, Universal could very well successfully rebrand itself as a horror studio once again for audiences who don’t actually care about corporate drama. In the wake of the Weinstein brothers’ success with Dimension, a few corporate subdivisions have tried to consistently establish themselves as solid genre fare for the devoted — Rogue, Screen Gems — but without consistent results.

Is any of this probably a good thing? Probably not. Still, it’s not like there’s a shortage of guys who’ve worked on the limited resources-side of the horror bench who’d die for a chance to get a medium-size budget in return for control. Universal? Ti West? Pleasure to introduce you two.

[Photos: old MGM logo, MGM; “The Mummy Returns,” Universal, 2001]

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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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