Another well-made, scary horror movie that oughtta make everyone’s decade-in-horror lists. Great cast led by Toni Collette and her son Alex Wolff (he played The Rock in flashback in a Jumanji sequel), with Gabriel Byrne as the only family member with one foot in reality, Milly Shapiro as the creepy daughter, and Ann Dowd (The Leftovers) as Toni’s grief counseling buddy.

I can’t complain about a well-acted horror that ends with the apocalyptic rise of a demon cult – that is one of my very favorite things – but it seemed while watching that the movie’s themes/intentions didn’t come together. Toni’s dollhouse models and the way Aster shoots the proper house as if it were a model are cool… and the ghosts/seances angle is neat… and Toni’s love/hate thing with her own children is fascinating… then Alex is set up to host his little sister’s spirit and/or the spirit of an ancient king, per the cult which Toni’s late mom and Ann Dowd were in together. Presumably the cult left the signs and words scratched onto walls and posts, but there’s no way the cult arranged the little sister’s complicated death (Alex swerves to avoid a dead thing in the road just as she sticks her head out the window, gasping for air because of an allergic reaction, and is beheaded by a telephone pole), and the cult’s final assault on the family makes Toni’s sleepwalk-firestarting and miscarriage attempts and other psychological eccentricities feel like false leads. I’m not extremely clear how the title factors in, since each of the family women seems to have her own unique set of problems, unless they’ve “inherited” the attention from the late gramma’s cult. I turned to letterboxd for answers and instead found Mike D’Angelo calling it “frustratingly muddled,” so we’ll call it a solid debut with script problems.

Besides the dollhouses (actually they are Important Art Projects) and the phone pole, there’s the daughter scissoring the head off a dead bird, Byrne burning, dead relatives who are not dead, nudity and dug-up corpses in the attic, ants, Alex slamming his own face into his school desk Nightmare on Elm Street-style, and most horribly, a possessed Toni floating up in a corner merrily garroting herself to death. I thought someone on twitter saying this movie is derivative of Kill List would be a spoiler – it was not, but the shot in the trailer and promo stills of Toni watching a burning family member sure was.

Dollhouse season 1 (2009)

Whedon’s project before Cabin in the Woods.
I love this show.
Ends with a motherfucker of a leap into the future.

Echo (Eliza Dushku, Arnold and Jamie Lee’s teenage daughter in True Lies) is lead doll, alongside exotic-looking Sierra (Dichen Lachman from Nepal of a recent nuclear submarine drama series) and Victor (Enver Gjokaj, billed below Harry Dean Stanton in The Avengers – side note: Harry Dean Stanton was in The Avengers?!).

DeWitt (Olivia Williams, Rosemary Cross in Rushmore) runs the place with techie Topher (Fran Kranz, great in Cabin in the Woods), security guy Dominic (sinister-looking, eyes-too-close-together Reed Diamond of Homicide: Life on the Street) and Dr. Saunders (Amy Acker, in the Cabin in the Woods control room), later revealed to be a doll. Harry Lennix (of Titus) is a major part of the early episodes, later takes over Dominic’s job.

Meanwhile, clueless pawn but sweetly determined FBI man Ballard (square-jawed canadian Tahmoh Penikett, Stanley Kubrick in Trapped Ashes) tries to expose the place and protect his too-perfect neighbor Miracle Laurie who is, of course, a doll. Bonus baddie: Alpha (Alan Tudyk, pilot of the Serenity and voice of King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph)

The staff writers moved on to Spartacus: War of the Damned, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Agents of Shield and Undercovers. Directors include Tim Minear (Firefly), Dwight Little (Halloween 4), Elodie Keene (The Wire season 2), Felix Alcala (Criminal Minds), James Contner (Buffy/Angel, TV movies She Woke Up Pregnant and Hitler’s Daughter), David Straiton (Hemlock Grove), Allan Kroeker (three different Star Trek series), Rod Hardy (the David Hasselhoff Nick Fury movie), David Solomon (Buffy) and Joss Whedon (Buffy/Angel/Firefly)

Veep season 1 (2012)

The Thick of It in the USA, wonderful. Veep Julia Louis-Dreyfus is ably assisted by blonde Amy (Anna Chlumsky, star of My Girl), red haired Mike (Matt Walsh of Upright Citizens Brigade), Tony “Buster” Hale and dark handsome careerist Dan Egan (My Boys).

Also great: receptionist Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) and white house go-between Jonah (Timothy Simons of an upcoming Kevin Costner baseball movie).

Created by the great Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It) with cowriting by In The Loop collaborators Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche, Time Trumpet writers Sean Gray and Will Smith, and Peep Show creator Jesse Armstrong. Directed by Iannucci, Christopher Morris (The Day Today) and Tristram Shapeero (Community).

United States of Tara season 1 (2009)

Diablo Cody’s gift for snappy, hilarious dialogue and Toni Collette’s adeptness at her multiple-personality role made this a joy. Let’s see, she plays herself (harried mom mostly cleaning up after her own messes), “T” (sex-crazed teenager), Buck (alpha-male biker), Alice (perfect housewife), and mysterious unnamed poncho-wearing monster.

Tara’s married to patient John Corbett (Northern Exposure), has sister Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt, title character in Rachel Getting Married) and kids Marshall (Keir Gilchrist, star of It’s Kind of a Funny Story) and Kate (Brie Larson, Scott Pilgrim‘s rocker ex-girlfriend). Also great: Nate “Rob’s brother” Corddry of Studio 60 as Kate’s boss and Patton Oswalt as Corbett’s coworker.

Directors include Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), Mark Mylod (Ali G Indahouse, The Fast Show), Brian Dannelly (Saved!), Tricia Brock (Killer Diller), Tommy O’Haver (Ella Enchanted) and John Dahl (Rounders)

Look Around You season 1 (2002)

Suppose I first looked this up because Edgar Wright plays one of the scientists. Faux-vintage science program. I kept watching since the episodes are only ten minutes each, and got more into it as the concepts and experiments grew more absurd (“Ghosts” was a highlight). Cowriter/star Peter Serafinowicz played Shaun of the Dead‘s uptight roommate, and director Tim Kirkby is working on Veep. It’s probably worth looking up The Peter Serafinowicz Show.

Jon Benjamin Has a Van season 1 (2011)

I guess this isn’t coming back… Benjamin getting his own absurd live-action comedy show was too good to last. A well-assembled self-aware sketch show that worked at least half the time.

Jon’s cowriters: Leo Allen (of Slovin & Allen), Nathan Fielder (who got his own show Nathan for You this year) and Dan Mintz (voice of Tina on Bob’s Burgers), all of whom wrote for Important Things.

Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore (2013)

Weirder and more conceptual than I’d expected. Lots of sex jokes, an extended parody of The Vagina Monologues, a couple of skits. Mostly a miss, but I loved her Sally Jesse Rafael impression and her fake meltdown, repeatedly stumbling over the word “airplane” and requesting a glass of water.

Holy Flying Circus (2011, Owen Harris)

Opens with a fart joke then a sweary joke, and never gets funny, throwing out faux outrages and pained Python references in place of jokes – but it features Mark Heap wearing a beret, so that’s something. Lots of speech-impediment humor: stuttering and tourettes are hilarious. I suppose Life of Brian, which this movie is defending, scores laughs from Pontius Pilate’s lisp, though. Builds to a reenactment of an infamous talk show appearance pitting pythons against clueless religious types – since the dialogue quotes from the actual talk show, it would’ve been nice to just watch that instead.

From a writer on The Thick of It/In the Loop/Veep and a Black Mirror director. Fake Cleese was in Smack the Pony and Hippies, Fake Chapman played something called “Top Hat” in Van Helsing, and Fake Palin is Edie’s newspaper editor in Downton Abbey. I did enjoy the sword/lightsaber puppet duel.

So this is where Toni Collette came from. She plays a loser from a hopeless family in a nowhere town trying to impress her nobody friends, who moves to the city and finally (and convincingly, not all-at-once in a cheap montage) finds herself (alongside dark-haired friend Rachel Griffiths). Writer/director Hogan later made My Best Friend’s Wedding and a version of Peter Pan.