Last year, Time Out New York named Cannibal Holocaust one of the 50 most controversial movies of all-time. The 1980s exploitation midnight “classic,” about a documentary crew that goes missing in the Amazon rainforest, is “excruciating to watch,” especially the “notorious scene of a naked woman’s impalement [leading] to the Italian director’s arrest for murder.” Men are mutilated, women are assaulted, and the actors tear apart a sea turtle.
Cannibal Holocaust currently boasts a higher Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes than Ghostbusters.
Depending on who you ask, Paul Feig’s reboot of Ivan Reitman’s 1984 sci-fi comedy — starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones — is either pretty dang good, or an evil Boogie Man (not Boogie Woman) taking a dump on your childhood. Ghostbusters is one of the more contentious movies in recent memory: its trailer is the most disliked in the history of YouTube, but the reviews have generally been positive.
Just about the only thing people can agree on: Kate McKinnon is the best.
McKinnon joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2012, at which point she was best known for appearing on The Big Gay Sketch Show. Which is to say, she was known by Logo TV fans. At the time, we wrote, “SNL has had a run of strong female performers lately — from Molly Shannon to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to Wiig — so here’s hoping McKinnon or one of the other women on the show can step up to fill that role.” McKinnon has done exactly that, and then some.
Despite, or possibly because of, not having a character as well-known as Gilly, McKinnon has been the MVP of nearly every episode she’s been in. Her impressions, particularly Justin Bieber, Hillary Clinton, and Tilda Swinton, are superb, and she brings a wide-eyed intensity to a rotating roster of weirdos, like Russian peasant Olya Povlatsky and Whiskers R We volunteer Barbara DeDrew. (McKinnon is SNL‘s first openly gay female cast member, and DeDrew is one of her few lesbian characters.) She brought that same eccentric enthusiasm to brilliant engineer Jillian Holtzmann in Ghostbusters, which, if there’s any justice, will take her from “Bieber impersonator” to A-list comedy superstar.
Ghostbusters cost $140 million to make — it’s a massive production based on an existing property, with reportedly another $100 million poured into marketing. It could have been yet another faceless blockbuster in a year full of them. And often, it is, especially in the special effects-heavy third act. But then there’s McKinnon, gun-licking, impeccably-coiffed, goggles-wearing DeBarge-dancing, chip-chewing McKinnon. She defies every expectation we now bring to a summer movie — you genuinely can’t tell if Holtzmann calling Pringles “salty parabolas” was in the script, or if she was just making it up as she goes along. Mainstream comedies would be lucky to star someone as wonderfully individualistic as McKinnon. She’s an unpredictable comedic roller coaster in otherwise flat scenes, capable of making a tired premise — like the upcoming Women In Business‘ “two competitive women [are] sent on a business trip to Canada” — sound exciting. Here’s some of the recent praise she’s received.
One of the reasons why McKinnon made such an impression is because she’s still largely unfamiliar. We know what she can do on SNL (she’s been nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series at the Emmys three years in a row), but the rest of her recent filmography consists of voice acting roles, like The Angry Birds Movie and “Wife Fish” in Finding Dory. Wiig, McCarthy, and Jones are known commodities, and they give the kind of performances we’ve seen before in Bridesmaids, Spy, and “Weekend Update” on SNL. That’s not a knock! They’re really good at what they do. But considering that McCarthy received an Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids, then McKinnon should get a Lifetime Achievement Award for Ghostbusters.
In an interview with Vulture, Feig called McKinnon a “glorious weirdo” and “one of the most inventive comedic actresses I’ve ever met.” He added, “She adopted this kind of crazy physicality. It wasn’t so much even what she was saying as it was how she was hunched down in her seat with her legs spread apart. She put one foot on the table and had this ‘ready to take on the world’ kind of attitude. I just knew she had to be in this movie.” That sounds identical to the praise Will Ferrell received when he was on SNL. Ferrell wearing an American flag speedo is funny enough, but what elevated that sketch into a classic is his go-for-broke casualness. When McKinnon, who’s also capable of similar offhand oddness, inevitably departs SNL, a cushy part in the rumored Step Brothers sequel, called (I hope) Step Sister, should be waiting for her.
Ryan Gosling will be first in line.