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The Film Experiments of Jennifer and Kevin McCoy

Last weekend I saw the delicious DRAG ME TO HELL, Sam Raimi’s celebrated return to his roots in fundamental gore. The great thing about the film is that along with Hollywood-powered special effects, such as protagonist Christine Brown being whipped around a room like a paper doll in a tornado, Raimi uses extraordinarily simple elements, such as, er, big shadows, to scare the living daylights out of us.

As I watched, I was reminded of an art project inspired by Raimi’s EVIL DEAD 2 by New York artists Jennifer and Kevin McCoy.

The McCoy piece “Horror Chase” also utilizes a primary filmic element – in this case, time — but then twists it radically. Their 2002 video features actor Adrian LaTourelle reenacting a high stakes moment from Raimi’s 1987 film, wherein the character Ash is chased around the mountain cabin by an evil spirit. The McCoys built an identical set and then created a series of gorgeous one-shot videos of LaTourelle running desperately through the space, crashing in to walls and closets like a feral animal. Then comes the McCoy tinker. In a gallery space, the film material is played back through custom computer software and hardware that randomly edits between takes as well as varies the speed and direction of the film, in real time. The playback algorithm creates an endlessly recurring but never repeating “chase to end all chases;” Ash is trapped in his crazy frenzy. (If DRAG ME TO HELL’s Christine Brown had to also endure this fate, she would be in a totally new kind of hell.)

The McCoys often work to recontextualize the ways in which media circulates, and by slicing and dicing, categorizing and refiling, they reinvent classic television and film in order to pose questions about story and self (read more about their work here.) A more recent piece incorporates autobiography but still plays with the basics – this time, casting.

I’LL REPLACE YOU, a 2008 16-minute video, is a film experiment in which the McCoys cast 50 actors to play versions of themselves in their daily roles as parent, friend, artist, professor and spouse. The video utilizes the cut to emphasize daily repetition but also the random nature of these roles, for which duties can seemingly be played by just about anyone. As Chris Chang writes in Film Comment, “What better way to replicate the splintered and prismatic subjectivity of waking life than to hire a bunch of strangers to portray it?” Check out the funny and conceptual nuances of multiple moms, dads, teachers, artists and parents below — the video in its entirety. Chang also asked the McCoys, who have been married since 1995: “What happens in the event that a real McCoy is replaced?” “We’ll see about that,” says Kevin. “I wouldn’t notice for a couple of weeks,” replies Jennifer.

I’ll Replace You from Jennifer & Kevin McCoy on Vimeo.