The Kids In the Hall are back, comedy nerds. I mean, the die-hardiest fans among us realize that they never really went away, having gotten back together numerous times since 1996’s Brain Candy feature for live tours, comedy shorts, and the like. But this is their first substantial filmed effort in 14 years and hold onto your wigs and costume jewelry, because Death Comes To Town – which lands tonight on IFC at 10 p.m. – is KITH turned up to eleven.
Our friends and fellow nerd brethren in the Great White North, of course, got to see this epic miniseries of oddity eight months ago. Okay, and some of us might not have been so patient for that U.S. air date. (Hey, if it’s good enough for Dave Foley, it’s good enough for me.) Britain’s The League of Gentlemen has been cited as an influence on Death Comes to Town, and if you’re familiar with the former you’ll definitely see its impact on the latter, in the often pitch-black comedy of a small-time town populated with big-time freaks. Even the lone return appearance by a character from the Kids’ 1990’s sketch series is one of their stranger, skeevier creations. And I don’t mean Bellini. Bellini is pretty much a requirement, isn’t he?:
Here’s the thing, though : While I can definitely lay claim to more than five laughs over Death Comes to Town’s four-hour cumulative running time, which as UK film critic Mark Kermode stipulates should be a fair litmus test for a successful comedy… wellll, I didn’t really love it. There’s a lot of high-octane insanity going on here driving toward the big mystery of who killed the mayor of Shuckton, Ontario and why, and though the set pieces involving individual characters and storylines usually work on their own, some repeat gags lose steam the more they’re utilized and the manner in which they’re woven together doesn’t always gel. (Caught myself around episode six thinking “Guys, you’ve got an hour left. Denouement!” I know, probably a bad assessment for a surreal comedy, but maybe that’s my old-school miniseries gauge talking. I know, it’s not the fucking Thorn Birds. Shutting up now.)
I’m looking forward to watching Death Comes to Town again and seeing if the stuff that irked me the first time isn’t as much of an issue. That said, even it felt a little scattershot at times, there’s plenty to be enjoyed. Remember how Cancer Boy was minutely scandalous when Brain Candy came out? This show is crammed with Cancer Boys, each gleefully pushing the boundaries of good taste, and it’s hard to choose a favorite: Mark McKinney’s Death, holed up in a seedy motel getting hammered on owl’s blood and lusting after chubby redheads, is up there. So is Scott Thompson’s hairless town coroner whose, um, attachment to Bruce McCulloch’s late mayor gets a leeetle bit freaky. Foley’s scarcely grieving mayor’s wife is great, and his indistinctly foreign veterinary nurse is even better. And then there’s Rampop (Landon Reynolds-Trudel) – the mayor’s son who mostly runs around squawking and sees everyone, except Death, as giant psychedelic butterflies. Rampop is probably the most awesomely strange creation the Kids have ever realized. (Well, at least since “Sausages”):
Sound off about Death Comes to Town below – and share some of your other favorite KITH classics while you’re at it. (My pen! My pennnn!)