Well, we've officially entered the darkest, most terrible timeline: Community's hiatus has begun. After airing its last new episode in December, NBC surprisingly aired reruns (including Season 2's brilliant stop-motion Christmas episode) instead of plugging the hole with another rerun of The Office or something, which is what they usually do. But as of January 12th, 30 Rock had come back from its own hiatus (due to Tina Fey's pregnancy), so there was no repeat adventures in the study room - until the vague "Spring" date arrives, we won't have any new OR old Community episodes airing on NBC.
Fans have, of course, come up with ideas on what to do on Thursday nights, usually with some sort of Twitter component that can keep the show's strong buzz going and thus continue to have a "presence" that the network (and advertisers) can see. All are excellent ideas and fans should most definitely do their best to participate... but I have my own idea. One that's a little more up my alley; namely, horror movies.
Now, I don't think you should watch the Halloween episodes every Thursday (well, actually...). No, what I'm suggesting is a movie starring one of Greendale's brightest students, the 2007 direct to video horror flick Born, which boasts the feature film debut by Annie Edison herself, Alison Brie. I caught the flick in the summer of 2009 and was quite impressed with Ms. Brie's performance; as I've mentioned before, I actually got more interested in Community - already/only on my radar thanks to Chevy Chase - because it also had "the girl from Born" in it.
While Brie probably wishes it was Caroline Decker starring in the film now that she's made it big, it's actually one of the most impressive horror-centric "skeletons in the closet" I've ever seen from a future star. While Kevin Bacon and Tom Hanks' turns in Friday the 13th and He Knows You're Alone hardly hint at the stardom that awaited them, one can plainly see that she is destined for something more respectable than a direct to video horror flick where she gets raped (off-screen) by Kane Hodder. Believe me, I've seen a ton of cheap DTV horror flicks over the years (I watch one every day, in fact), and good or bad, I am almost never compelled to praise the acting of anyone that I hadn't already heard of; I may give Lance Henriksen or someone like that props for giving it their all in junk like The Seamstress, but the newcomers usually fade from memory by the time I actually write the review.
And let me tell you, this isn't some generic slasher movie either; as much of a delight Brie is here, the movie's a ton of batshit fun even when she's not on-screen. It starts off with Kane Hodder visiting a shrink played by Joan Severance (top billed for some reason), telling her that he's a demon and how he made a deal with the devil to become human. We then learn that he's actually Brie's older brother (who the hell made THAT casting decision?), and that she factors into his plan to become mortal again, before he returns to hell. Or something. Here, let Kane explain it - this is a direct quote from somewhere around the halfway mark, where he brings us up to speed:
"The deal is this. Satan lets me become human again if I knock up my sister, force her to kill six people during the pregnancy, and give birth to my demon kid."
No one ever questions why Satan would come up with such a random and complicated plan, or how Brie managed to be born to parents who are around 50 years older than her (her sister is played by the mom from Pet Sematary! She was like 6 years old when that came out!), but it's certainly fun watching it get carried out. Especially since it also involves an ex-soldier turned priest, a Cardinal (also played by Kane, a plot point I still can't understand), a pair of naked blond twins, and an albino. Plus the demon baby itself, rendered with lovably cheap CGI and able to pop out of Brie's stomach and then go back inside (healing the "burst wound" in the process). Add in all the random asides like the best friend character who runs a domination based sex line, and you have the makings of a camp classic... and THEN you add in Brie's performance, which really elevates it into the WTF Hall of Fame.
See, the crazy plot might be enough for some movies, and let the lead actress sort of play it straight - Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, for example. She's not required to do much beyond fret while everyone else gets to chew the scenery, but thankfully that isn't the case here. In Born, the demon can also take control of its host, leading to many scenes where Brie sort of "Gollums out", arguing with herself - the human side will cry in pain, the demon side will laugh and taunt. As the film progresses she gets crazier and crazier - needless to say, there's plenty of colorful profanity to enjoy.
And the R rating isn't just for the F-bombs - there's a half dozen or so kills as well, some of them quite gory. Brie beheads a guy, scrubs someone to death in a tub, tosses a dude out of a window... it's wonderful. Hell there's even a sex scene, and those folks who make the kind of creepy gifs of Annie bouncing around in her Santa suit or whatever will have a field day with it as she (spoiler) more or less fucks the guy to death.
Again, this stuff impressed me before Community ever came on the air. I wasn't watching this movie specifically for her, as you might now - hell I hadn't even HEARD of her (by the time this hit DVD - over two years after it was shot - Mad Men was already on the air, but I have not and still have not watched it). To me, it was just another daily horror movie for me where I had no expectations; if anything I was most interested in Kane, in one of his then-few non-stunt, full blown acting roles. I couldn't tell you the name of the actresses who appeared in any of the movies I watched just last week, but her game performance stuck with me - at the time I even compared her favorably to Nic Cage. As with his turn in Vampire's Kiss (my favorite performance of his, ever), it's the sort of thing that really hammers home the fact that it's all too rare that anyone gives a real memorable performance in a horror film (outside of the folks who are best known for their genre work, I mean).
It also reminds me of how lame most DTV movies are. This thing is far from perfect - it's way too long (105 minutes!) and the 3rd act drags - but I'll take that over the half a dozen "six kids on a road trip break down and run afoul of a local madman" movies I'll probably end up watching before the month is over. The indie/DTV market should be full of movies like Born, where the fact that it doesn't have to appeal to all demographics and be suitable for multiplex crowds frees up the filmmakers to go all out and be a little nutty. Hell, in the two and a half years since I watched this for the first time, I've probably seen 300 modern DTV horror movies - why is this the only one in which a pregnant girl leaks acid (think "water breaking") that melts the dude she just killed? It's a shame, really. I would love to write a review claiming "fans of Born will definitely enjoy this one". Instead it's usually "yet another Saw wannabe..."
Hell even the making of on the DVD is kind of weird; instead of focusing on the director or the actors (though Brie is given her due), we hear about the line producer's divorce, learn the difference between offline and online editing, and watch the "turmoil" that erupts when Kane brings the wrong jacket on set. Without even going back to read my review I remembered this when I watched it again today - as soon as I saw the line producer I was like "Oh yeah, this bitter lady." In other words, this making of is more memorable than half of the movies I see.
Needless to say, if you can score a copy by Thursday, it should more than fill your need for entertainment if you're not a fan of the other sitcoms Community used to be partnered with (when it comes back it likely won't be on Thursday, sadly, unless NBC opens up the 10 o clock block for another pair of sitcoms). I wish there was a horror movie for every cast member that can get us through these dark times, but most of them have escaped the genre's clutches - try as I may I have been unable to find a teen slasher starring a young Joel McHale. However, you can also enjoy a brief turn from (a brunette) Gillian Jacobs in Richard Kelly's sci-fi/horror film The Box, and I'm pretty sure one cannot consider their life complete until they've seen Chevy battle Dan Aykroyd and his penis nose in the bizarre Nothing But Trouble (described more than once as a cross between one of the Vacation movies and Beetlejuice). No matter what I would advise you skip Ken Jeong's cameo in Vampires Suck, however - being reminded that Friedberg and Seltzer are still making movies while Community remains in limbo is too soul-crushing a thought to bear.