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XCU: Extreme Close Up (2001)

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From the producer of Friday the 13th and Freddy vs.Jason comes the next terrifying step in reality TV. An unpredictable and irresistible thriller about instant celebrity, primetime morality... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Karen Webber
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Jane Bennett
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Dylan Dean
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Nuey Phan
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Sarah
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Cody Ironwood
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Terrance 'T-Bone' Tucker
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Parker Eastman Clarke
Richard Stay ...
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Tamikah Jones
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Geoffrey Liddy
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Lew Constant
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Jamaal
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Paramedic
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Drug Dealer
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Storyline

From the producer of Friday the 13th and Freddy vs.Jason comes the next terrifying step in reality TV. An unpredictable and irresistible thriller about instant celebrity, primetime morality and America's endless appetite for junk food TV. Television producer Karen Webber has built her career on her ability to create top-rated primetime TV. But as housemates and crew start turning up dead on the hit show XCU, Karen and her cast of instant celebrities can't possibly anticipate just how extreme their reality show is about to become! Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

28 May 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

To paihnidi tou thanatou  »

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Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)
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User Reviews

 
Caught in the Camera's Eye
17 February 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

How was Sean Cunningham's little-seen XCU, aka Extreme Close-Up, managed to slip through the cracks? News of this film had been circulating through the genre press for quite a while, and expectations were high that it would at last prove to be Cunningham's return to form, the kind of effective, straight-ahead shocker that initially cemented his reputation as one of horror's leading shockmeisters. Then while on vacation in Sun Valley, I was lucky enough to find myself at a benefit screening held by Cunningham himself to show off a newly re-edited and re-scored cut of the film. Although such tinkering is usually a sign of trouble, I was surprised to find that the final product defied any dire predictions. In an age when people actually tune in by the millions to watch shows like "The Surreal Life" without irony, XCU's melding of the prototypical reality show conceit (seven teenage contestants, one house, one week) with a classic slasher film plot (who will survive, and what will be left of them?) feels even more eerily prescient than ever before. A nifty, often clever skewering of that errant cockroach known as "Reality TV," XCU seems tailor-made for "The Real World" crowd, an audience that still confuses celebrity with notoriety, and fame with infamy.

I didn't know what to make of this film at first. It initially seems to be pandering the same exploitative elements it is rallying against. But if the let's-kill-them-off-one-by-one setup is initially predictable, especially coming from Cunningham (best known, of course, for launching the slasher craze with Friday the 13th), at last we have a film that dares to take its high concept all the way through to its bloody end. The script by John Vorhaus and Tim Schlattmann is surprisingly sharp and biting, and doesn't pull punches. Much of the fun of XCU is in the pleasurable uncertainty of never quite knowing who is or are the villains. Is it the producers, the contestants, or the audience itself? Are we ultimately to blame for today's cult of narcissism when we are the ones who won't turn the channel? XCU asks some tough, heady questions, but wraps it up in such a seemingly innocuous thriller-parody that it is more than just fun, but deliciously subversive.

Shot on digital video, XCU isn't always slick, and maybe even cheap. But it does have a you- are-there immediacy to its staged antics that is more authentic than the past three seasons of "Survivor" combined. It is nothing new to say that today's wanna-be reality TV celebrities don't so much act like themselves as mug for the camera. Which makes them prime fodder for satire. But here, a surprisingly strong cast delivers something important than just effective quasi-documentary, improv style performances: they refuse to condescend to stereotypes. Most impressive is Sarah Chalke, now enjoying a hit with TV's "Scrubs." I won't spoil any of the film's twists, but let's just say she gives the story its heart and soul and a nice little reversal. And genre fans will also get a kick out of seeing C. Thomas Howell revel in an atypical role as a slimy producer, and an all grown up Danica ("The Wonder Years") Kellar as an obsessive lesbian. Now, that's inspired casting!

Many critics have lamented that Cunningham has never truly staked a claim for himself in the genre pantheon alongside such contemporaries as Craven and Carpenter. Maybe XCU will change that. This may be the only film he has ever made where it actually seems like he cares about what happens to his characters. Blame him for Friday the 13th if you want, but in a strange way, XCU allows Cunningham to bring it full circle. Because the ultimate irony in XCU is that, if the teenagers of today's Camp Crystal Lake were to find themselves on the wrong end of Jason's machete, they wouldn't flee in terror. Instead, they would try to push him out of the way to get more screen time. Because all that the teenagers in Friday the 13th had to do was to try to stay alive. In XCU, they have to do something far more difficult: they have to try to become famous.


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