Vote for Episode 100!

We have had a blast thus far in the Bit Players lifespan, learning what works and what doesn’t, hopefully getting a little better at this thing called podcasting.

In the interest of continuing to grow and learn and feel closer to the listeners, we wanted to add a seventh pick to each round of selections: one where you, the listener, decides which movie we’ll be talking about! Our main goal here is to have fun, build a community together, and simply talk movies. In this case, movies that we know unequivocally that you want us to discuss.

So, cast your vote below for your top three options, and at the end of the six-week run of movies selected by the Bit Players ourselves, we’ll announce the winner and prepare the episode on that film. We’re really excited about this new addition to the podcast, and we hope that you are too. We look forward to seeing what you guys come up with.

You can also cast your votes on Facebook or Twitter; just make sure to use #TheBitPlayers and we’ll tally your selection along with the rest.

We wanted to celebrate episode 100 in the only way we know how: by putting the power in your hands!

So, cast your vote below for your top three options, and at the end of the six-week run of movies selected by the Bit Players ourselves, we'll announce the winner and prepare the episode on that film. We're really excited about this new addition to the podcast, and we hope that you are too. We look forward to seeing what you guys come up with. Since we have lots of cool stuff planned for the holidays, your selection will be in the first round of picks after the New Year, for Episode 100.

You can also cast your votes on Facebook or Twitter; just make sure to use #TheBitPlayers and we'll tally your selection along with the rest.

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Best Film Villains: Finals Baddest Baddies

To celebrate the Spooktacular month of October, the Bit Players have put together a tournament to honor those individuals that make the month leading up to Halloween such a special one: the movie villains. For the entire month, you can vote on each matchup as we lead up to Halloween, when we will crown the #1 film villain of all time. Whether they’re demented psychopaths, silent slashers, megalomaniac world-crushers, or just manipulative bullies, movie villains have long been a huge part of film history and serve just as vital of a role as the heroes they battle; they often become more revered than even the cape-donning protagonists that serve as their foils, perhaps because it’s easier to see a little humanity in the evildoers than strict do-gooders.

Here we are, after a grueling month of baddie on baddie action: the finals of the Best Film Villains tournament. There were plenty of shockers along the way, plenty of blowouts, plenty of bloodshed. All but two have fallen, and regardless of whether you or we personally agree with the final matchup, there's not a ton of room for argument. Neither finalist's path was easy, and we don't expect this week full of voting to be easy either. It's pretty simple at this point. Pick your favorite movie villain of these two and the winner shall be the ultimate in movie villainy.

You have a full week to vote for your favorite villains as we take our final to crowning the ultimate film baddie.

The voting process will be laid out as follows:
Round 1: Monday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 5
View First Round Results
Round 2: Thursday, October 6 - Sunday, October 9
View Second Round Results
Sweet 16: Monday, October 10 - Wednesday, October 12
View Sweet Sixteen Results
Elite 8: Thursday, October 13 - Sunday, October 16
View Elite Eight Results
Final Four: Monday, October 17 - Sunday, October 23
View Final Four Results
Finals: Monday, October 24 - Sunday, October 30

Read below to pick your champion, and make sure to enter your email address in the matchup in order to be entered into a random drawing for a $50 Fandango gift card. You may vote as many times as you'd like, but your email will only be entered once per day. This means that over the course of the full tournament's 27 days, your email could be entered 27 times to win!

#1 Joker (The Dark Knight)
Baddies Beaten:
Shere Khan
Jafar
Kylo Ren
Jason Voorhees
Michael Myers
#1 Darth Vader (Star Wars)
Baddies Beaten:
Green Goblin
Jaws
Jack Torrance
Predator
Hannibal Lecter

Now that we're actually at this point, it all seems kind of like we should have just done this matchup from the beginning and saved ourselves a lot of work. While Vader wasn't our overall #2 seed, he was the overall #3 in this competition, so his making it to the final is wholly unsurprising, and we had Joker rightly pegged as the overall #1, so essentially these guys just took care of business rather than doing anything surprising or impressive. The unexpected winners have long since perished (by these two villains' hands, no less), and we're left with what now seems should have been pretty obvious from the start.

On paper, there probably couldn't be a closer matchup, either.

As for cultural relevance, they are both in the upper tier of villains that are both household names and immediately recognizable faces (or helmet, in Vader's case), so that aspect of the matchup is kind of a wash. It's the other areas where things actually get interesting.

On the one hand, you've got Vader, who is really the ultimate example in redemption for a villain. His tale over the course of six Star Wars films from innocence to corruption to forgiveness is a very neat package but leaves him on the wrong side of the evil coin. Where Vader excels is the sheer volume of evil he was able to pull off in his short stint on the Dark Side, destroying planets, donning all black badass gear, Force choking friends and foes alike, looking like a roasted marshmallow, the list goes on and on.

Inversely, Joker's story as told by Heath Ledger's portrayal in The Dark Knight is a story of pure, joyful evil. Never distilled, never watered-down by lame ass redemption or "good," just blissful destruction. Some people just want to watch the world burn and all that. It's important to note, however, that he just wanted to watch one world burn while Vader caused (and watched) many burn. We have to assume that Joker, had he the resources, would love to explode other planets too though, so we're really back at square one.

It's a tough choice, but one that must be made.

Best Film Villains: Final Four Baddest Baddies

To celebrate the Spooktacular month of October, the Bit Players have put together a tournament to honor those individuals that make the month leading up to Halloween such a special one: the movie villains. For the entire month, you can vote on each matchup as we lead up to Halloween, when we will crown the #1 film villain of all time. Whether they’re demented psychopaths, silent slashers, megalomaniac world-crushers, or just manipulative bullies, movie villains have long been a huge part of film history and serve just as vital of a role as the heroes they battle; they often become more revered than even the cape-donning protagonists that serve as their foils, perhaps because it’s easier to see a little humanity in the evildoers than strict do-gooders.

The Final Four is upon us. Not everything shook out the way we expected, but this goresome foursome is pretty formidable, if you ask us. Of course, the Foul Fiend region had no chance of seeing a 1-seed come out after the tremendous Jason Voorhees upset over Voldemort, and Hans Gruber gave Darth Vader one hell of a fight, but three of the final four are 1-seeds. This week will truly see some monumental clashes with Joker squaring off against Michael Myers -- pure evil pitted against pure evil -- and Darth Vader taking on Hannibal Lecter -- redemption story personified against one very hungry man with very specific tastes. Either of these duels can go either way, and we expect two very close polls.

You have a full week to vote for your favorite villains as we get one step closer to crowning the ultimate film baddie.

The voting process will be laid out as follows:
Round 1: Monday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 5
View First Round Results
Round 2: Thursday, October 6 - Sunday, October 9
View Second Round Results
Sweet 16: Monday, October 10 - Wednesday, October 12
View Sweet Sixteen Results
Elite 8: Thursday, October 13 - Sunday, October 16
View Sweet Elite Eight
Final Four: Monday, October 17 - Sunday, October 23
Finals: Monday, October 24 - Sunday, October 30

Read below to pick your champion, and make sure to enter your email address in the final matchup in order to be entered into a random drawing for a $50 Fandango gift card. You may vote as many times as you'd like, but your email will only be entered once per day. This means that over the course of the full tournament's 27 days, your email could be entered 27 times to win!

#1 Joker (The Dark Knight)
Baddies Beaten:
Shere Khan
Jafar
Kylo Ren
Jason Voorhees
#3 Michael Myers (Halloween)
Baddies Beaten:
Green Goblin
Jaws
Jack Torrance
Predator

This honestly feels like Joker's first true test. He had a cakewalk to the Final Four, and he turns around from celebrating with his cut-up grin to the glean of Michael Myers' massive knife. As with each of these matchups, we don't blame you for whoever you pick here. These two villains are two of the very few almost pure iterations of evil, and each is represented on film very well, though in totally different ways. On the one hand, you've got Heath Ledger's powerhouse, Oscar-winning performance that of course went on to be surrounded by the type of mystique that only tragedy can bring about. On the other, Myers' silent, faceless, and unstoppable presence has been a mainstay for almost forty years across the Halloween franchise. Both iconic, both irreplaceable (sorry Leto).

#1 Darth Vader (Star Wars)
Baddies Beaten:
The Leprechaun
Loki
Cruella de Vil
Hans Gruber
#1 Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal)
Baddies Eaten:
Imhotep
Xenomorph
Jigsaw
Biff Tannen

Wheweeeee. The matchup we knew would happen but kind of hoped wouldn't. Each of these dudes are absolute legends of villainy. Vader and Hannibal are two sides of the cultural coin, with Vader inspiring millions of Halloween costumes, childhood love, an entire friggin' universe, and Hannibal almost taboo, too evil to even want to replicate or root for, but somehow you find yourself still loving him thanks to Anthony Hopkins' legendary performance. Either way, we have a hunch, despite Joker's overall 1-seeded standing, that the winner of this matchup is our overall winner.

Best Film Villains: Elite Eight Baddest Baddies

To celebrate the Spooktacular month of October, the Bit Players have put together a tournament to honor those individuals that make the month leading up to Halloween such a special one: the movie villains. For the entire month, you can vote on each matchup as we lead up to Halloween, when we will crown the #1 film villain of all time. Whether they’re demented psychopaths, silent slashers, megalomaniac world-crushers, or just manipulative bullies, movie villains have long been a huge part of film history and serve just as vital of a role as the heroes they battle; they often become more revered than even the cape-donning protagonists that serve as their foils, perhaps because it’s easier to see a little humanity in the evildoers than strict do-gooders.

You people are legitimately crazy. We started this tournament off to determine the greatest villain in film, but we overlooked one of the most major factors we could have: we're apparently dealing with the greatest villains in life as our listener/voter base. Lord Voldemort was ousted by Predator. Our first 1-seed down. We have two 6-seeds in the Elite 8. It's pandemonium in the Bit Players HQ. We've got interns running around with their arms flailing. We don't even have interns. That's how nuts this is. Now we must collect ourselves and move on, and present to you the Elite 8 of the Baddest Baddies tournament. We've got only two single-film villains left in Hans Gruber and Joker (though he hardly counts), only one 2-seed left in Gruber, a matchup we completely didn't expect in Michael Myers taking on Predator. This is wild. Do your voting.

Vote for your favorite villains for the remainder of the week as we get closer to crowning the ultimate film baddie.

The voting process will be laid out as follows:
Round 1: Monday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 5
View First Round Results
Round 2: Thursday, October 6 - Sunday, October 9
View Second Round Results
Sweet 16: Monday, October 10 - Wednesday, October 12
View Sweet Sixteen Results
Elite 8: Thursday, October 13 - Sunday, October 16
Final Four: Monday, October 17 - Sunday, October 23
Finals: Monday, October 24 - Sunday, October 30

Read below to pick your champion, and make sure to enter your email address in the final matchup in order to be entered into a random drawing for a $50 Fandango gift card. You may vote as many times as you'd like, but your email will only be entered once per day. This means that over the course of the full tournament's 27 days, your email could be entered 27 times to win!

#1 Joker (The Dark Knight)
#6 Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th)

Jason Voorhees has had probably the toughest road to the Elite 8, taking down the likes of Magneto and Sauron, and now he faces his, and potentially anyone's in this tournament, hardest battle yet in Heath Ledger's Joker. Joker has proven his overall 1-seed status all throughout the tournament, never even coming close to defeat, and he delivered his most dominant win yet in the Sweet Sixteen. Coming into this tournament if you had shown us this matchup, we would've said Joker will win, guaranteed. But we're apparently dealing with the George Mason of Villains in Jason, and a 1-seed upset just might be in the cards.

#3 Michael Myers (Halloween)
#5 Predator (Predator)

Put this one down for easily the most shocking Elite 8 matchup of the tournament, and the most shocking matchup of the tournament at large. Predator, despite simply being a creature acting upon its nature, took down the fucking Dark Lord earlier this week (this can't be confirmed, but we are fairly certain that no other villain in this tournament is called the Dark Lord), and Michael Myers took advantage of Jack Torrance upsetting Agent Smith in Round 2, making quick work of old Jacky boy in the Sweet 16. Anything could happen, here, but Michael Myers has the arguable icon factor going for him.

#1 Darth Vader (Star Wars)
#2 Hans Gruber (Die Hard)

When you set up a bracket like this, you always assume that the regional final is going to be a 1-2 matchup, and even though this is the only one that actually played out, it was always the most brutal one on paper. Darth Vader, one of the most iconic baddies of all time, against Hans F. Gruber (middle name: Fucking). There is probably not any more of a titanic actor in this tournament than the late, great Alan Rickman (who actually was the only actor represented twice in the bracket), and seeing him go would be a harsh pill to swallow. On the other hand, it's Darth Vader. We don't envy you.

#1 Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)
#6 Biff Tannen (Back to the Future)

Finally, we have Hannibal Lecter vs. Biff Tannen. Hannibal has had perhaps the most dominant run thus far, only dropping a handful of votes over the course of three rounds. This one seems pretty simple. Lecter is going to chomp through Biff like a Chrismtas ham.

Best Film Villains: Sweet Sixteen Baddest Baddies

To celebrate the Spooktacular month of October, the Bit Players have put together a tournament to honor those individuals that make the month leading up to Halloween such a special one: the movie villains. For the entire month, you can vote on each matchup as we lead up to Halloween, when we will crown the #1 film villain of all time. Whether they’re demented psychopaths, silent slashers, megalomaniac world-crushers, or just manipulative bullies, movie villains have long been a huge part of film history and serve just as vital of a role as the heroes they battle; they often become more revered than even the cape-donning protagonists that serve as their foils, perhaps because it’s easier to see a little humanity in the evildoers than strict do-gooders.

Things are getting super crazy here in the Best Film Villains tournament. No sooner had we shot our flaming arrow into the boat carrying Dr. Evil's body away are we forced to launch the corpse of Shooter McGavin into the atmosphere as he was taken down by the sick and twisted Jigsaw. We're at the point where no victory is truly an upset, but that doesn't mean they can't be upsetting, and losing the likes of McGavin, Freddy Krueger, Magneto, and Jaws truly hurt. The show must go on, however, so we continue in the tournament with the (Bitter)Sweet Sixteen! Voting will last until Wednesday, so rock it out while you can on these matchups.

Vote for your favorite villains for the remainder of the week as we get closer to crowning the ultimate film baddie.

The voting process will be laid out as follows:
Round 1: Monday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 5
View First Round Results
Round 2: Thursday, October 6 - Sunday, October 9
View First Round Results
Sweet 16: Monday, October 10 - Wednesday, October 12
Elite 8: Thursday, October 13 - Sunday, October 16
Final Four: Monday, October 17 - Sunday, October 23
Finals: Monday, October 24 - Sunday, October 30

Read below to pick your champion, and make sure to enter your email address in the final matchup in order to be entered into a random drawing for a $50 Fandango gift card. You may vote as many times as you'd like, but your email will only be entered once per day. This means that over the course of the full tournament's 27 days, your email could be entered 27 times to win!

#1 Joker (The Dark Knight)
#5 Kylo Ren (Star Wars)

Heath Ledger's iconic Joker squares off against the newest villain in the tournament, Kylo Ren. We have a hard time buying Kylo Ren's pouty-lipped run thus far, and estimate that the Joker should have no problem disposing of the unproven baddie in the sweet 16.

#2 Sauron (The Lord of the Rings)
#6 Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th)

Jason Voorhees had one of the biggest upsets of the second round by taking down Magneto, and the matchup against Sauron actually looks like a pretty favorable one, all things considered. If there's anything this tournament has shown us thus far, it's that voters appreciate some good old tangible evil, and a flaming orange eyeball is about as abstract as it can get.

#1 Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter)
#5 Predator (Predator)

Predator deserves this deep of a run, but this is about as far as we expected him to get. Tom Riddle is too much of a force, and we fully expect him to make a run to the finals, at the very least. Crazier things have happened, though.

#3 Michael Myers (Halloween)
#10 Jack Torrance (The Shining)

Though Jack Torrance was a 10 seed going up against the 2-seeded Agent Smith, his victory doesn't feel like an upset at all. Michael Myers, on the other hand, is as iconic of a villain as there is in this tournament, so if Jack's run continues past this round, we'd be incredibly shocked.

#1 Darth Vader (Star Wars)
#5 Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmations)

Never underestimate the power of Cruella de Vil's puppy-killing ways, but Darth Vader is Darth Vader.

#2 Hans Gruber (Die Hard)
#6 The Terminator (The Terminator)

Hans Gruber has the hearts and minds of voters everywhere. We're already looking ahead to an Elite 8 matchup against Darth Vader, where the universe might turn in on itself.

#1 Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)
#4 Jigsaw (Saw)

At this point, the worst thing Jigsaw ever did isn't all the fucked up mind games he played in the Saw franchise; it's eliminating Shooter McGavin from this tournament. He'll never be forgiven, and Hannibal Lecter is about to chomp him up with a side of fava beans.

#2 Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter)
#6 Biff Tannen (Back to the Future)

Biff! My god! How did you people let this happen, honestly? Freddy Krueger should be facing Bellatrix Lestrange, but here we are, and now Biff is looking down the barrel of a wand with a bright green Avada Kevadra in the chamber.

Best Film Villains: Round 2 Baddest Baddies

To celebrate the Spooktacular month of October, the Bit Players have put together a tournament to honor those individuals that make the month leading up to Halloween such a special one: the movie villains. For the entire month, you can vote on each matchup as we lead up to Halloween, when we will crown the #1 film villain of all time. Whether they’re demented psychopaths, silent slashers, megalomaniac world-crushers, or just manipulative bullies, movie villains have long been a huge part of film history and serve just as vital of a role as the heroes they battle; they often become more revered than even the cape-donning protagonists that serve as their foils, perhaps because it’s easier to see a little humanity in the evildoers than strict do-gooders.

Welcome to Round 2 of the Best Film Villains tournament! It was an exciting few days of voting for Round 1, where we saw a lot of surprising results, which makes us happy, as the last thing we wanted was for this month-long tournament to be too predictable. We had some blowouts, as every 1-seed predictably destroyed their competition, and some matchups go down to the wire. We had the obligatory 12-seed over a 5-seed as Shooter McGavin began what we predict will be a strong run deep into the tourney, and it was sad to see some of these villains go, though we knew it had to be done.

Now the competition begins to really heat up as the field begins to slim down! Vote for your favorite villains for the remainder of the week as we get closer to crowning the ultimate film baddie.

The voting process will be laid out as follows:
Round 1: Monday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 5
View First Round Results
Round 2: Thursday, October 6 - Sunday, October 9
Sweet 16: Monday, October 10 - Wednesday, October 12
Elite 8: Thursday, October 13 - Sunday, October 16
Final Four: Monday, October 17 - Sunday, October 23
Finals: Monday, October 24 - Sunday, October 30

Read below to pick your champion, and make sure to enter your email address in the final matchup in order to be entered into a random drawing for a $50 Fandango gift card. You may vote as many times as you'd like, but your email will only be entered once per day. This means that over the course of the full tournament's 27 days, your email could be entered 27 times to win!

#1 Joker (The Dark Knight)
#8 Jafar (Aladdin)

Joker decimated one Disney villain in Shere Khan, and now we see if he can keep up that pace against Aladdin's foil Jafar. Should the Joker continue his dominance, we might have to rethink whether he's truly a villain or not, as he's taking down our childhood sources of fear, one by one. Jafar is no slouch, however. He slimed his way past the Wicked Witch of the West in Round 1, and hopes to sneak into the Sweet 16 next week with a huge upset.

#5 Kylo Ren (Star Wars)
#13 Pennywise (It)

In one of the most shocking first round upsets, the killer clown from It, Pennywise, took down Ivan Drago. The fight went the full sixteen rounds, with huge swings of votes taking the matchup on a roller coaster ride over the 3 days, but Pennywise pulled it out in the end. If we allowed Round 1 to go on any longer, it could have gone the other way, but it is what it is, and Pennywise now must deal with Kylo Ren.

#3 Magneto (X-Men)
#6 Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th)

Though Jason Voorhees actually had a little difficulty with The Lion King's Claudius in Scar, a strict metallic beatdown from Magneto might not be in the cards. Scar was a hearts and minds vote if there ever was one, a villain that had stuck with millennial voters for as long as they can remember, so it's actually pretty remarkable a strict slasher like Jason ousted the little kitty. Now that he's facing a more similarly culturally aligned baddie, this matchup looks to actually be pretty interesting.

#2 Sauron (The Lord of the Rings)
#10 Sid (Toy Story)

The all-seeing eye of Middle Earth taking on the little dick living next door to Andy in Toy Story. It seems silly when you look at it on paper, doesn't it? Sauron had a world to destroy, and Sid probably straightened himself out with a little child therapy. In fact, didn't he go on to be a mechanic? Mechanics aren't that evil.

#1 Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter)
#8 Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs)

For as fucked up as Buffalo Bill was in The Silence of the Lambs, it's going to be really tough for anyone in the Foul Fiends region to hold a candle to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I mean, nobody is afraid to literally say the name of Buffalo Bill in that movie; they're just afraid to go into his house. Voldemort looks to be untouchable in this matchup, and he doesn't even have to tuck his dick to do damage. Yet.

#4 Immortan Joe (Mad Max: Fury Road)
#5 Predator (Predator)

Immortan Joe and Dr. Evil came down to the absolute wire, with us refreshing the tally nearly every hour and seeing a lead change, but Immortan Joe ultimately won out. Though the seeding had Dr. Evil as an underdog, it's actually very surprising that he lost out to the relative newcomer in Immortan Joe, and now Joe is incredibly outmatched by Predator. A Predator/Lord Voldemort Sweet 16 match seems inevitable.

#3 Michael Myers (Halloween)
#6 Jaws (Jaws)

This 3-6 matchup could be the final in another world where the seeding shook out differently. Two of the most straight-up iconic villains in all of film history. This one is basically a coin toss.

#2 Agent Smith (The Matrix)
#10 Jack Torrance (The Shining)

What an intriguing matchup on paper, and we hope it turns out to be a close one in the polls. While it's arguable that Jack Torrance and his Johnny Carson impersonation has a deeper-sewn iconography in culture, is he a greater villain than the Matrix's Agent Smith? The all-seeing, all-knowing, all-being Hugo Weaving paints the world of the Matrix with an inescapable horror that serves as a greater allegory in today's tech-driven culture, and Jack Torrance just kind of fucks up his family. It's tough to give the nod to such an isolated baddie, but the cultural impact is going to play a huge role here.

#1 Darth Vader (Star Wars)
#8 Loki (Thor)

Oof. Tough draw, Loki. Someone actually voted against Vader in Round 1, however, so maybe something crazy could happen here.

#4 Captain Hook (Hook)
#5 Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmations)

Is there a closer matchup on paper than Cruella de Vil and Captain Hook? There is a lot to be said for a villain haunting what are essentially children's films, and by deduction their audiences, children, and Hook and de Vil are two of the best in this regard. We clutch our pets close as we watch Cruella attempt to slice and dice 101 (101!) pups, and clutch our fantasies close as we watch Hook attempt to slice and dice Peter Pan. Can you really vote against a puppy killer, though? Really, this whole tournament should have just been a picture of Cruella de Vil with a knife to the throat of a puppy with the word WINNER printed across, but that's why they play the game, as they say.

#3 Calvin Candie (Django Unchained)
#6 Terminator (The Terminator)

Whew, what a tough one. Calvin Candie is probably one of the most hateable baddies in cinema history, committing truly deplorable acts and loving every second of it, and the Terminator isn't even a human with morality to oppose with, so it's hard to truly label him a "villain." However, he's so much more of a recognizable, cool character in film that it's hard to imagine Candie even comes close. It'll take someone/something more cartoonish to take down the Terminator, and Candie's brand of evil is all too human.

#2 Hans Gruber (Die Hard)
#10 Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

Peace out, Leatherface. Take your chainsaw and a goody bag on your way out the door. Gruber is a buzzsaw deep into this tournament, we believe.

#1 Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)
#8 Xenomorph (Alien)

Hannibal Lecter didn't drop a vote in round 1, and Xenomorph is limping into Round 2 after a brutally close matchup against Keyser Soze, so this one is especially intriguing. Hannibal is one of the most complete villains in the entire tournament, with a super high evil index (eating people is not cool), terrific acting performances behind the character, great name, longevity, the works. On the other hand, look at how badass Xenomorph is.

#4 Jigsaw (Saw)
#12 Shooter McGavin (Happy Gilmore)

Given the demographic of our typical listener, we had Shooter McGavin boldfaced as a surprise villain that could make a deep run in our Baddest Baddies tournament. Jigsaw is a demented little fucker, but the comedy factor is a huge one. We'll see.

#3 Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
#6 Biff Tannen (Back to the Future)

The worst thing Biff Tannen ever did was throw his letter-jacketed weight around on Michael J. Fox, while Freddy Krueger has killed countless sleeping teens for decades. He has fucking knives for fingers.

#2 Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter)
#7 Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)

Bellatrix is barely a step below Lord Voldemort himself in terms of evil, but she actually had a hard time with Thanos in Round 1, dealing with a much closer matchup than we anticipated. Hans Landa's is a much more earthly evil, however, which might put Miss Lestrange back on the right track to an Elite 8 berth.

Best Film Villains: Round 1 Baddest Baddies

To celebrate the Spooktacular month of October, the Bit Players have put together a tournament to honor those individuals that make the month leading up to Halloween such a special one: the movie villains. For the entire month, you can vote on each matchup as we lead up to Halloween, when we will crown the #1 film villain of all time. Whether they’re demented psychopaths, silent slashers, megalomaniac world-crushers, or just manipulative bullies, movie villains have long been a huge part of film history and serve just as vital of a role as the heroes they battle; they often become more revered than even the cape-donning protagonists that serve as their foils, perhaps because it’s easier to see a little humanity in the evildoers than strict do-gooders.

To celebrate the Spooktacular month of October, the Bit Players have put together a tournament to honor those individuals that make the month leading up to Halloween such a special one: the movie villains. For the entire month, you can vote on each matchup as we lead up to Halloween, when we will crown the #1 film villain of all time. Whether they're demented psychopaths, silent slashers, megalomaniac world-crushers, or just manipulative bullies, movie villains have long been a huge part of film history and serve just as vital of a role as the heroes they battle; they often become more revered than even the cape-donning protagonists that serve as their foils, perhaps because it's easier to see a little humanity in the evildoers than strict do-gooders.

The seeding was meticulously discussed for about 30 minutes over a group text, formulated with care and precision based on many factors. A great villain is nuanced, and their value to film history is what ultimately determines their seeding. That value can be calculated from the villain's evil index, number of kills, mental instability, badass factor, costume, name, cultural impact, continued relevance, and many more factors that should all be considered carefully as you select the winners of each matchup.

The voting process will be laid out as follows:
Round 1: Monday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 5
Round 2: Thursday, October 6 - Sunday, October 9
Vote Now!
Sweet 16: Monday, October 10 - Wednesday, October 12
Elite 8: Thursday, October 13 - Sunday, October 16
Final Four: Monday, October 17 - Sunday, October 23
Finals: Monday, October 24 - Sunday, October 30

Read below to pick your champion, and make sure to enter your email address in the final matchup in order to be entered into a random drawing for a $50 Fandango gift card. You may vote as many times as you'd like, but your email will only be entered once per day. This means that over the course of the full tournament's 27 days, your email could be entered 27 times to win!

Enjoy, and may the Baddest Baddie win!

#1 Joker (The Dark Knight)
#16 Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)

Well, this one just seems pretty cut and dry, doesn't it? There's a reason that Joker is the overall #1 seed, and though both Joker and Shere Khan, as will be the case with almost every one of these villains, are victims of circumstance, it's just much easier to sympathize with a kitty than a clown.

#8 Jafar (Aladdin)
#9 The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz)

A terrific 8-9 matchup between the Aladdin tormentor and the Wicked Witch of the West. Sources say that Judy Garland was treated terribly by her male costars in The Wizard of Oz and that the only person she spent any time with on set was Margaret Hamilton, the actress who donned the green makeup and prosthetic nose to play the witch. And Jafar was a dick to Robin Williams. Do the right thing here.

#5 Kylo Ren (Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens)
#12 Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)

While still relatively new to the villainous scene, so fresh-faced he hasn't even found a crew to sit with at lunch, Kylo Ren looks to be a pretty formidable asshole going forward. He's already destroyed multiple planets full of people and seems to just be a really angsty dude. Gaston is no slouch, however. Never trust anyone that good-looking.

#4 Ivan Drago (Rocky IV)
#13 Pennywise (It)

Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed. Pennywise is a killer clown. A villainy showdown doesn't get much tighter than this.

#6 Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th)
#11 Scar (The Lion King)

Jason Voorhees has been terrorizing teenagers for upwards of 30 years by this point, and his hockey mask has become an icon for horror. He has single-handedly made summer camp a completely unappealing prospect for spending one's time between school years, undoing all of the work done by Meatballs, Heavyweights and Wet Hot American Summer, but Scar is a formidable opponent for the horror film mainstay, especially for younger viewers who had to witness the trauma of Mufasa's death.

#3 Magneto (X-Men)
#14 Davy Jones (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Magneto has racked up one of the highest kill counts of any villain in this tournament, probably save the planet destroyers who dwell in outer space. Despite his terribly understandable catalyst for evil in the Holocaust, his deadly deeds are inexcusable. Not to mention the metal-wielder takes viewers on emotional roller coasters each and every film, never fully committed to either good or bad. On the other side of the bracket is Geoffrey Rush's Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, whose most evil accomplishment is having an octopus for a face.

#7 Mr. Glass (Unbreakable)
#10 Sid (Toy Story)

Mr. Glass, played brilliantly by Samuel L. Jackson, could have been a real contender with the right resources. Think of him as an indie villain, making low-budget evil magic with what little means he has, but the depths of his evil could flow as deeply as the likes of Vader and Ren: he would totally destroy a planet if he just had the resources. However, Sid from Toy Story was a raging little psychopath and a much more recognizable threat. We all knew a Sid in elementary school, the kid who somehow always smelled like graham crackers and super glue and had that not-quite-there look, so perhaps his proximity to our everyday lives, our neighborhoods, makes him a much more devastating villain.

#2 Sauron (The Lord of the Rings)
#15 Regina George (Mean Girls)

In many ways, Sauron and Regina George are one in the same. When the eye of Sauron shines from the fearsome black skies of Mordor, his will is done by all those in its gaze. Similarly, when the bright blue eyes of Rachel McAdams shine from the fearsome popular girl lunch table of North Shore High, her will too is done. She can manipulate with the best of them, but something tells us that the sheer power and breadth of influence of Sauron is going to be an easy ticket to the Elite 8 against the Joker.

#1 Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter)
#16 Pinhead (Hellraiser)

While Pinhead has the look that makes for a horror villain icon, we just don't see him touching Lord Voldemort in this matchup. The dude was insanely frightening in the books, but once Ralph Fiennes beautifully gave him on-screen life as a magical man-snake, he was cemented as one of the all-time great baddies. We're pretty sure he's the only villain in the competition that literally split his soul apart to achieve immortality, which is like the craziest thing someone could do to themselves. His self-mutilation reached outwardly as well, as he has one of the higher death tolls in the tourney.

#8 Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs)
#9 Khan (Star Trek)

Khan might have the gift of star-destroying on his side, but almost no one can touch Buffalo Bill's creepiness. He's one of the tournament's few (if only) true serial killers, and the fear he has instilled in viewers for decades is a deep-rooted and American one; the reality of getting snatched up and put into a van to live one's last days inside of a psychopath's basement well is probably always somewhere in the backs of American girls' minds, lodged however deeply.

#5 Predator (Predator)
#12 The Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

Even before he became the Skittles-loving running back of the Seattle Seahawks, Predator was always one of the coolest villains in terms of looks, and the multi-film franchise life has seriously elevated his worth as a villain, but we actually see the Grinch as a pretty formidable opponent. Thanks to early exposure through Theodor Seuss Giesel, M.D., The Grinch's villainy is widespread in terms of renown, and Jim Carrey plays the green ghoul perfectly. We're keeping a close eye on this matchup.

#4 Immortan Joe (Mad Max)
#13 Dr. Evil (Austin Powers)

Immortan Joe's villainy is somewhat watered-down by the fact that the dude is high out of his gourd on silver spray paint for the entirety of Mad Max: Fury Road. We're pretty sure anyone would go fucking nuts under those circumstances, and the fact that there's no water probably isn't helping matters. He probably just has cottonmouth like a motherfucker. Dr. Evil, on the other hand. Evil is in his name, people.

#6 Jaws (Jaws)
#11 Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

Yes, we know the shark's name is not Jaws. But let's be real. The shark's name is Jaws. And Jaws's type of evil is a methodical one, hellbent on rage and destruction that completely runs counter to any true shark-like psychology, which makes it a particularly dangerous foe. Its rage is a supernatural occurrence in a purely biological environment, while Bane is kind of the opposite. He's had many incarnations, but perhaps the most famous version is Tom Hardy's in Christopher Nolan's third installment of his Dark Knight trilogy. The main thing going against Bane is the fact that you can't understand a damn thing he says, while Jaws lets his chomping do the talking.

#3 Michael Myers (Halloween)
#14 Green Goblin (Spider-Man)

The Tobey McGuire Spider-Man depiction of Green Goblin is hardly distinguishable from Jingle All the Way's Dementor, in terms of both looks and demeanor, so that's not really doing him any favors. This matchup is pretty much just a formality, and we see Halloween's Michael Myers making a deep run, slicing up opponents with a large knife of victory.

#7 Lex Luthor (Superman)
#10 Jack Torrance (The Shining)

The original film version of Lex Luthor, played by Gene Hackman, is almost too comically evil to be taken seriously, and the masterful way that Jack Nicholson portrays Jack Torrance's coming completely unhinged is impossible to ignore, which makes this a particularly paradoxical matchup. You've got pure, globally-aspiring evil portrayed terribly, and an intimate, singular evil portrayed amazingly. Tough choice.

#2 Agent Smith (The Matrix)
#15 Megatron (The Transformers)

It doesn't help Megatron's case that the films through which he ran roughshod were utter pieces of shit, but maybe there's people out there that are huge Transformers fans and throw him a solidarity vote over Agent Smith, the actual, obvious choice here. Few villains are as innovative and compelling as the Hugo Weaving-played program, and Agent Smith's ubiquity and limitless nature in the Matrix franchise is somehow terrifying within that universe.

#1 Darth Vader (Star Wars)
#16 The Leprechaun (Leprechaun)

Nothing we could ever say will convince you that the Leprechaun is the smart vote here, let's be real. Darth Vader has destroyed planets. Planets.

#8 Loki (Thor)
#9 Count Dracula (Dracula)

Tom Hiddleston squares off against Bela Lugosi as Loki takes on the original filmic depiction of Count Dracula. Loki is the master of the heel turn, which is always going to boost his worth in a tournament like this, constantly keeping viewers on their toes. He's also in color, which helps a lot.

#5 Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmations)
#12 Ursula (The Little Mermaid)

Two of the baddest bitches in Disney World somehow got slated against one another, and we couldn't be happier. Cruella de Vil gets the obvious edge because, well, she kills puppies for a living, and that's obviously a super not-okay thing to do, but Ursula is part octopus, which, if Davy Jones showed us anything about villainy, is also not a good thing. Puppies, though. Think of the puppies.

#4 Captain Hook (Hook)
#13 Sheriff of Nottingham (Robin Hood)

Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) and Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) is one of the most even matchups in the first round. Both villains present master classes in acting and pure, theatrical villainy, which makes this one an incredibly difficult decision to make.

#6 Terminator (The Terminator)
#11 Cyrus the Virus (Con Air)

"Put the bunny back in the box!" What's more evil than holding a stuffed bunny hostage while commandeering a plane full of convicts on the way to paradise? Well, maybe the Terminator, but probably not. In the vacuum of The Terminator, Arnold is menacing and an incredibly relentless villain, but given the fact that time has changed so many things about the robot badass, it's hard to consider him a true, classic villain. On the other hand, Cyrus said the words, "if you say a word about this over the radio, the next wings you see will belong to the flies buzzing over your rotting corpse," which is an incredible thing to say. Your choice.

#3 Calvin Candie (Django Unchained)
#14 Chucky (Child's Play)

There is actually a lot of Chucky in Leonardo DiCaprio's Calvin Candie. Endlessly smiling, even more endlessly evil, most endlessly entertaining despite it all. The only difference is the overt racism, but we're pretty sure that Chucky would have slaves if he were capable, so this one might be a wash.

#7 Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
#10 Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

Is Shredder just a dude? It just occurs to me that I really don't remember much about his mythology other that he was super scary as a kid. Leatherface, on the other hand, is very much just a dude who has an insatiable urge to chop human beings to little bits with a chainsaw and possibly eat them with his family afterwards. I'm not even sure Shredder could pull a trigger with his eyes closed and head turned, but I guess he really dislikes turtles, which is pretty fucked if you think about it.

#2 Hans Gruber (Die Hard)
#15 Ebenezer Scrooge (The Muppet Christmas Carol)

Hans Gruber better win this, but there is certainly a case to be made for Ebenezer Scrooge, particularly Michael Caine's portrayal for the fact that his evil is done to Muppets. How could anyone ever be evil to Muppets? God, now we just want to see The Muppets Die Hard.

#1 Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)
#16 Imhotep (The Mummy)

Imhotep doesn't stand a chance, no matter how many times Brian chooses to vote. Hannibal Lecter is film villains.

#8 Xenomorph (Alien)
#9 Keyser Soze (The Usual Suspects)

As far as the coolness factor and looks, Xenomorph is one of the top dogs in this 32-villain fight. It just so happens that the deeply mythological creature from the Alien franchise is facing off against perhaps the king of cool in terms of movie villains, Keyser Soze. The Usual Suspects is built around the mystique of Soze, but an entire film universe is built around the mystique of the Xenomorph species, a constantly developing history and evolutionary background that is constantly surprising and constantly fearsome. You can't go wrong here.

#5 Ghostface (Scream)
#12 Shooter McGavin (Happy Gilmore)

There might not be a matchup more compelling on paper. On the one hand, you've got one of the most recognizable villains in the Scream films' Ghostface, inhabited by many characters across the five films, wielding giant kitchen knifes and carving up highschoolers like turkeys on Thanksgiving, and on the other you've got Shooter McGavin, the hot-shot pro golfer from Happy Gilmore whose evil is too hilarious to get too mad about. In fact, the comedy factor here is what makes Ghostface vs. McGavin the eyebrow-raising matchup that it is; it's one of the few pairings that defines a clear difference between how you see film villainy. Ghostface is commentary on the film villain itself, attempting to satirize the concept we're unpacking throughout this whole tourney, but Shooter is the most cartoonish and ultimately benign force we have here, perhaps the real definition of a film villain throughout history. We want to both fear these figures and know we're completely safe from their grasp.

#4 Jigsaw (Saw)
#13 Dr. No (Dr. No)

Pound for pound, Jigsaw might be the most terrifying villain on this page. The original Saw was so terrifying and surprising, and really displayed the sadism of Jigsaw in a nice way, but it wasn't until the remaining like 7 or 8 movies that the full depth of his evil unspooled itself. There's something incredibly creepy about the fact that Jigsaw does what he does for fun, as opposed to Dr. No's somewhat practical (as far as practicality can go for essentially a super villain scheme) approach to destruction.

#6 Biff Tannen (Back to the Future)
#11 Castor Troy (Face/Off)

Biff Tannen is the film representation of every douchebag bully you've ever met in life, but there is something almost untouchable about Castor Troy's craziness and Nicolas Cage's (and then John Travolta's) unhinged performance. Face/Off is one of the greatest movies of all-time, too. Just wanted to get that statement in, in case Troy gets ousted here and we don't have the chance later.

#3 Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
#14 Ultron (Avengers: The Age of Ultron)

Whereas Ultron tormented Sokovian citizens for about 30 minutes despite his limitless promise as a villain, Freddy Krueger has been terrorizing dreamers for 30-plus years. This is the fundamental difference between A Nightmare on Elm Street's villain and Ultron: longevity. A killer crazed robot is cool and all, but he didn't last very long, did he? Freddy Krueger slashes people up in their fucking dreams with real-life consequences, and has been doing so for as long as any of the Bit Players have been alive. He also doesn't seem to be slowing down.

#7 Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)
#10 HAL9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

Hans Landa would be a delightful person to hang out with if it wasn't for the whole Nazism thing, which makes him one of the more interesting villains in the tournament, but does it make him one of the better ones? HAL9000, on the other hand, is something especially terrifying in a completely artificial intelligence that decides to go rogue and cause some mayhem. Totally not cool to hang out with.

#2 Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter)
#15 Thanos (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Bellatrix Lestrange has a long-standing reign of terror throughout the eight Harry Potter films, in a lot of ways more terrible even than Lord Voldemort himself in that her evil has a human face, and Thanos is blue and in space, which is pretty scary too. If this were five years from now, Thanos's seeding might be much more favorable (and his tournament life), but given that we've only seen the tip of that evil iceberg on Guardians of the Galaxy, we don't see him standing much of a chance against the Dark Lord's number one girl.

The Working Class and Their Boxes Alfred Hitchcock's Films as Socioeconomic Commentaries

Over the course of his fifty-year directorial career, Alfred Hitchcock guided hundreds of characters across his camera lens, gradually building a repertoire of humanity along the way. Scholars have picked apart those characters ad nauseam, typically taking the course of psychoanalysis to explain their often inexplicable actions (inexplicable not because of their absurdity or unbelievability, though sometimes that is the case, but inexplicable simply because placing two-dimensional characters on an analyst’s couch is problematic) and put them in human terms. Of course, there are exceptions, when Hitchcock has stripped the human element away from the action of the film, The Birds (1963) the most obvious example, but that isn’t the only instance of the shortcomings of psychoanalyzing a character in his films. Too often the psychoanalytic work done on Hitchcock’s characters veers into territory of Sigmund Freud or Jacques Lacan, digging into pasts that, quite frankly, the viewer seldom has access to – looking for Oedipal complexes and mirror stage mishaps – when many times Hitchcock is giving the answer for the behavior right there on the screen. If there is one central theme across his work over the span of his career, one that propels virtually every plot, or is at least in the center of every plot in allowing it to propel, it is money. In the process of lauding Hitchcock with praise for his artful directorial vision as an auteur, or a visual representative of the inner workings of the human mind, his subtle views on class dynamics often go overlooked. By placing money at the center of many of his films, Hitchcock is consistently making a comment on the struggles of the working-class, working so often on the margins of his films, against the sublimating leisure class that typically takes center stage; his films are too often passed by as statements on class and the way that set roles in society along with privilege and access to money are constantly reinforcing those roles in ways that make it seem impossible to break free from them.

Perhaps this is such a difficult distinction to make through Hitchcock’s filmography given the relatively one-dimensional casting choices that permeate his films. On the whole, with very few exceptions, when one looks to any Hitchcock film, they can count on an all-white, or virtually all-white, cast. Particularly when Hitchcock arrived in Hollywood, the films were helmed by a cultural figure rather than an actor, a star or starlet already engrained in the minds of the viewers as representations of Hollywood personas or relative brand names. When Jimmy Stewart or Grace Kelly appear in a film, regardless of the often stellar performances given, the viewer may struggle with separating their elevated cultural image with the character portrayed on the screen. So, already there is a struggle with depicting class in interesting ways, because the stars themselves are so firmly of the white leisure class that the characters are too, regardless of what type of person they might be depicting.

However, when one looks at the films as a whole as depicting a certain type of class only, it makes them appear one-dimensional and easily dismissible in this context. Frankly, just because the vast majority of Hitchcock’s characters are relatively privileged white people (and they are), doesn’t mean they should be wholly overlooked as keen observations on the class distinctions at large in America while he is working. Hitchcock is keenly aware of class distinctions, even within the white race, and one need only take the world as he presents it and look inside to find them.

A major factor in Hitchcock’s decision to portray the types of characters that he did was actually the audiences that were going to see films. It’s important to remember that when Hitchcock released his first film, The Pleasure Garden (1925), going out to see a film was still a very privileged way to spend an evening. Perhaps Hitchcock felt an obligation – one that wanes away as his career progresses – to portray characters relatable to the audiences that would be paying to see the films. In a study looking at the relationship between consumption of culture and social classes of audiences conducted in 1973, Pierre Bourdieu reported interesting findings. In their article expounding upon Bourdieu’s research, Lisa A. Barnett and Michael Patrick Allen write of his findings, “According to this perspective, culture is implicated with social class inasmuch as differences in cultural practices contribute to the maintenance of social boundaries between social classes. At the heart of this theory is the distinction between ‘high’ or ‘legitimate’ culture and ‘mass’ or ‘popular’ culture” (146-7). Though Bourdieu was researching cultures largely at the end of Hitchcock’s career, his findings are certainly applicable. Hitchcock himself was noted as saying, “It’s just that the public doesn’t care for films on politics.” There wasn’t a mainstream concern, so he didn’t feel the need to portray that area of society early on. Barnett and Allen write that upper-class audiences with more economic capital tended to prefer mainstream films while professors or those in the intelligentsia with more cultural capital tended to prefer art films. Hitchcock was working in the world of the mainstream for most of his career, but somehow did manage to toe the line and bring the art world into the mainstream. However, in order to reach that mainstream status, there was a lot of leg-work to be done, perhaps pandering to those with the economic capital enough to see his films early on. Hence, Hitchcock portrays characters the audience can relate to.

Once film became a more accessible artform to the masses, regardless of economic capital, is when Hitchcock’s films began to take this interesting turn into territory of peeling back the layers of class and portraying characters of all types, all levels of relatability to the growing and shifting audiences.

A great example to start with in talking about Hitchcock’s adept, and perhaps most importantly – certainly most contributing to the lack of mainstream scholarship regarding class – subtle commentary on class dynamics is actually a film that features both examples of Hollywood elite from earlier, Stewart and Kelly in Rear Window (1954). The film features Stewart as L.B. Jefferies, a photojournalist pent up inside his apartment with a broken leg he sustained on the job, and Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont, a young socialite of the upper-class bourgeoisie elite (Kelly essentially plays herself, two years away from becoming the Princess of Monaco). Jefferies has become obsessed with watching his neighbors across the courtyard of his apartment complex, and becomes enraptured in a perceived murder by Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) of his wife. He pulls Lisa and his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) into the plot to expose Thorwald of the murder, and ultimately implicates both of the women in the “detective” work, as he is incapable of moving due to his leg cast.

Much has been made of Rear Window as a reflection on the moviegoing experience in and of itself; Robert Stam and Roberta Pearson write in their essay “Hitchcock’s Rear Window: Reflexivity and the Critique of Voyeurism” that each apartment that Jefferies and Lisa peer into represents a different genre of film: “Miss Lonelyhearts is borrowed from an earnest 1950s social realist film like Marty; Thorwald comes from a murder mystery; the dog couple comes from a domestic comedy. The songwriter belongs in a musical bio-picture such as Till the Clouds Roll By” (201). Interestingly, as a side note, Hitchcock already seems to subvert audience expectations by giving Jefferies (a character with more cultural capital) interest in the murder mystery (a more mainstream film genre), while Lisa (a bourgeois character of great economic capital) interest in the social realism going on in Miss Lonelyhearts’ apartment (a film genre often thought of in the context of the “art” world). The film takes on multi-leveled glimpses at the relationship between audience and film, as the audience watches stars play characters watching “films” in windows across the courtyard, eventually becoming actively implicated in those “films.”

However, Rear Window goes a step further than the voyeurism that scholars often first point towards. Jefferies makes constant references to the neighborhood in which he lives as being more of a poverse area of New York City, often making the implication that Lisa is actually slumming by coming to see him. She certainly does seem a bit out of place in her (meticulously planned by Hitchcock) gorgeous dresses and jewelry, like she’s a film star herself dropped right into the set of a film-lover’s living room. Every character that Jeff and Lisa examine is struggling economically; that much is known simply from the fact of the neighborhood in which they live. Jeff separates himself from them in the sense that he seems to live there as a choice, a comfort to himself, and his upward mobility is constantly accessible to him. Therefore, the characters that they examine: Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn), the songwriter (Ross Bagdasarian), the dancer Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy), and Thorwald himself, are subtly characters of the working-class that Hitchcock chooses to put not only under his own microscope, but that of Jeff and Lisa’s as well. It is through these glimpses that Hitchcock gives perhaps the most vivid visual representation of poverty or economic struggle.

Miss Lonelyhearts operates largely in the realm of love and loneliness, but her choice to kill herself comes in that window of poverty, where her character feels she has no escape from her situation; regardless of the decision coming from loneliness, it has major economic implications. The pianist is shown in various states of despondency as he attempts to pen his piano opus; his sorrow stems not only from his lack of creative output, but the implications that lack will ultimately have on him financially. His life depends on his ability to create, both spiritually and physically: if he can’t write, he can’t eat. Miss Torso too depends on her career, and on a larger scale, her looks, to provide for herself. Hers is a social provision where she seems to force herself in the company of strange men in order to get ahead. Thorwald sees no way out of his marriage other than murder. Quite simply, all of these characters feel backed into corners in which they must make drastic and hugely serious decisions to get themselves out of; Hitchcock colors these corners in different ways, but ultimately they all come back to money, and the lack of it. Even Stella’s role in the film is entirely predicated on money, as she must earn a living and take care of Jefferies. She becomes implicated in foray with danger and detection simply because she must earn her keep in life and take part in the endless struggle of the working-class.

Even the two main characters, Jeff and Lisa, when the whole mess of Thorwald’s mystery ends and they can continue their relationship in what way they see fit, seem to have an ambiguous direction. Jefferies consistently asserts his working-class stature throughout the entire film, insisting that he must work in order to feel worthwhile, and enjoys going into the thick of danger on the job. Lisa, however, lives a privileged life (the life of a princess, essentially), and Jefferies understands that she could never be happy with his lifestyle. They represent practically polar opposites of the spectrum of class. Jefferies is firmly part of the working class, while Lisa is a representative of the leisure class, participating in “conspicuous leisure” (Veblen). Jefferies takes a stand for the working class as a whole by refusing to adhere to a role that the amount of money he makes seems to dictate.

One reading of the ending, with Jeff in two casts now instead of one, and Lisa comfortably reading a fashion magazine as he sleeps, seems to be that the two have found some middle ground in which they can be happy. He craves the adventure and wants her to be more adventurous, and she obliges while still maintaining a bit of herself. There is a fair amount of projection in this reading, however. Nothing seems to indicate that Lisa could be happy in this economic environment, with a husband living in a poor neighborhood and constantly needing to work in order to maintain his own lifestyle and sanity, and their distance doesn’t seem to be bridged in any way in that regard. She still longs for the lifestyle she has grown used to, and finds solace in the pages of that fashion magazine. It’s a subtle nod to their class differences that leaves the audience wondering if the two characters could ever get over that hurdle.

Perhaps that subtlety is what does Hitchcock a disservice when scholars overlook his commentary on class. Films like Rear Window are rife with commentary on social class dynamics, but ultimately that’s not what the films are “about” on the surface. Perhaps his best example of scholarship looking only at the surface level of a film comes in his most defining statement on character: Psycho (1960). As film scholar Mervyn Nicholson writes in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents Class Struggle,” “Critics notice the “dark side” of American society, plainly depicted in Hitchcock’s Hollywood movies; they discuss the alienation and cynicism, the satire, even nihilism, in his films. But the possibility that the alienation in his movies is a function of economic and class issues hardly registers (33)”. Pages and pages of ink have been spilled on the psyche of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and what could possibly make an individual behave in the way he does, but psychoanalysis is only half the story in Psycho.

It might not appear important to the film as a whole as a commentary on psychosis, but it’s nevertheless vital to remember that the film’s catalyst is Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) desire for pulling herself out of the throes of working-class drudgery and stealing money from oil tycoon Tom Cassidy (Frank Albertson). The film’s entire plot is predicated on a character’s perceived need to fight out of the economic corner in which she felt she was backed; the film itself is a grand commentary on the human mind, certainly, but the role that financial ruin plays in the characters’ lives can’t be ignored. Marion and her boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin) are both firmly part of the working class who are struggling to make their own life for themselves, and when Marion meets a caricature of the upper class in Cassidy, she sees an opportunity to make the next step with Sam and pull herself out of ultimately meaningless sex with no prospect of making a family. The film might end up elsewhere, with the focus firmly on a man’s schizophrenic murderous rampage, but one can’t forget where it started: in economic struggle.

In this light, Psycho can be looked at as a film not about psychosis, but one about people’s inability to rise above status, whether it be psychological status, or in Marion’s case, socioeconomic status. Nicholson takes it a step further: “Psycho is all about money—about deprivation, frustration, and the privilege of property. It is about those who work for a living and have nothing—and those who do not work and have everything” (37). In contrast, Psycho is certainly not “all” about money, but it is all about those boxes that humans find themselves in, and the economic box in the case of many of Hitchcock’s films, particularly his later works such as Psycho and Rear Window. He takes on the responsibility of representing the under-represented in film, by giving the marginalized a voice and showing their struggles in ways that bring together both types of audiences, the commercially or culturally wealthy.

In this respect, Hitchcock is one of film’s most important representatives for all types of socioeconomic backgrounds. He is keenly aware of the systems that Nicholson highlights as he writes that capitalistic systems “must propagate the belief that ‘the wealth and privileges of the few are based on natural, inborn superiority,’ the belief that working people choose freely, that the existing system is efficient and just. Or, if not exactly efficient and just, it does not matter, because it is all there is (39).” By placing these characters in boxes that they are despairingly aware of, to the point where suicide, murder, and theft are the only feasible options of escape, we get perhaps one of the most poignantly realistic depictions of class struggle in film. These aren’t characters that can simply be placed on the analyst’s couch and have their childhood repressions expounded upon. These are characters that are wholly results of their environments and the straits in which they find themselves.

So, what exactly is Hitchcock saying about the pursuit of wealth in Psycho, when Marion steals the money, removes herself from her box, only to be brutally murdered? She isn’t murdered for money, but it could certainly be said that she is murdered because of money; money that she didn’t rightfully possess and which ultimately brings her to her death. It might not be such a stretch to say that in all the cases of characters in Hitchcock’s films, perhaps no more exemplified than in Marion, the over-pursuit, the over-extension economically of a character attempting to achieve a higher socioeconomic distinction, results in disaster as an eschewal of the systems that are firmly in place. Economic striving belongs to the privileged, and there are those who will quite simply never achieve higher means. It’s important to remember that simply by Hitchcock showing something, he is not showing his approval. In many cases, it’s quite the opposite.

One of the most explicit examples of a character working up from below the poverty line to disastrous results is the titular character from 1964’s Marnie, played by Tippi Hedren. The film examines one of the most complexly layered characters in any of Hitchcock’s films in the form of Marnie Edgar, a twenty-something living with her mother in Baltimore and traveling around the northeast United States conning various business out of thousands of dollars. Much like Marion in Psycho, she is originally presented as a woman fueled by economic desperation, and while Marion’s thievery only somewhat relatedly results in her death, Marnie is forced into a marriage with a widower publishing CEO named Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). Her openly exposed guilt of robbing Mark results in her having no choice but to succumb to his demands, which lead to a strongly hinted-at rape on their “honeymoon,” followed by an attempted suicide.

Ultimately, deep-rooted psychological problems come to light within Marnie, and Mark serves as somewhat of a savior of reconciliation between her and her mother, with whom love was stinted from growing following a traumatic incident early on in Marnie’s life. Whether purposeful or not, Hitchcock has again displayed the futility in upward mobility among the poor; Marnie and her mother are “grindingly poor,” according to Marnie herself, her mother has resorted to prostitution just to provide for their family of two, and Marnie sees no way out of her straits. Mark represents a bailout of sorts and he is seemingly covering Marnie and her mother in a warm blanket of wealth, but the film’s previous 119 minutes hint strongly at the fact that money isn’t going to be a clear reprieve from the problems Marnie has. Marnie ironically tells her mother early on that the Bible says “money answereth all things,” but Hitchcock makes it plain that this couldn’t be further from the truth for her. Hitchcock wraps things up tightly in a bow for the viewers at the end of Marnie, with her psychological dysfunctions worked through and hints at a happy future with Mark a possibility, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that Marnie’s pursuit of riches got her raped, all but kidnapped and held hostage, and her horse killed.

Further than the simple pursuit of ownership, Marnie is particularly interesting in displaying the repercussions of ownership when obtained. Whereas Marion never fully owns her prize in Psycho, Marnie seizes control of the wealth she desires; however disastrous it becomes – it becomes so in life. As Michele Piso writes in “Mark’s Marnie,” “Marnie revolves around the contradictory notion of ‘belonging’ as a matter of possession or domination on the one hand and belonging as a flow of giving and taking, of affinity with a place or a beloved, on the other” (286). Mark and Marnie are in a constant struggle for possession, with the object of possession shifting as the power struggle progresses; Marnie originally seeks to continue with her con and obtain a large sum of money from Mark and his business, while Mark only seeks to obtain Marnie herself. As Mark gains the upper hand, he hopes to obtain her love and sexuality, which he ultimately forcefully takes from her, just as she forcefully took his money from him – as Piso writes, “The convergence of differences that could result in a shared public world occurs instead as private collisions, acts of violation and invasion. In Marnie’s case, the invasion is robbery; in Mark’s the violation is rape” (282). Mark’s desires of possession continue to lay solely in Marnie herself, while hers shifts to her own autonomy, something he feels he can provide by helping her, ultimately getting what he wants in return. The opposing searches for possession in Marnie highlights a frightening economic realization: the poor simply seek autonomy, free-will, a chance, escape, while the rich seek to maintain their hold on the poor. Marnie and Mark are Hitchcock’s most clear-cut examples of the oppressed working-class fighting to escape their box.

Maybe scholars are forgetting that simple fact when they overlook Hitchcock as a keen observer of social injustices when it comes to class. He certainly shows a very slim subset of characters, all of varying degrees of whiteness and varying degrees of privilege, but the differences in their abilities to rise above their station are great. The trend may change over time. In his essay “Reputation Building and the Film Art World: The Case for Alfred Hitchcock,” Robert E. Kaspis writes of Hitchcock’s changing reputation as a master of the art world, “The transformation of Hitchcock's reputation is an intriguing case study of how an ‘artist’ or ‘auteur’ is socially constructed and of the forces which influence reassessments of reputation and cultural meaning” (15). The same shift in perception could very well take place when it comes to class dynamics in his films. The examples are there, even aside from Rear Window, Psycho, and Marnie; Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) overextends his status by murdering rich women, Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda) in The Wrong Man (1956) is a man in dire economic straits, and because of that perception of him in his society, is wrongfully accused of a crime. Hitchcock is keenly aware of the boxes in which we live, and the various ways that people attempt to rise out and above them, and it’s in these moments in his films that the viewer comes closest to their own realities and some semblance of humanity in his work.

Vote for Episode 50!

We have had a blast thus far in the Bit Players lifespan, learning what works and what doesn’t, hopefully getting a little better at this thing called podcasting.

In the interest of continuing to grow and learn and feel closer to the listeners, we wanted to add a seventh pick to each round of selections: one where you, the listener, decides which movie we’ll be talking about! Our main goal here is to have fun, build a community together, and simply talk movies. In this case, movies that we know unequivocally that you want us to discuss.

So, cast your vote below for your top three options, and at the end of the six-week run of movies selected by the Bit Players ourselves, we’ll announce the winner and prepare the episode on that film. We’re really excited about this new addition to the podcast, and we hope that you are too. We look forward to seeing what you guys come up with.

You can also cast your votes on Facebook or Twitter; just make sure to use #TheBitPlayers and we’ll tally your selection along with the rest.

We have had a blast thus far in the Bit Players lifespan, learning what works and what doesn't, hopefully getting a little better at this thing called podcasting.

In the interest of continuing to grow and learn and feel closer to the listeners, we wanted to add a seventh pick to each round of selections: one where you, the listener, decides which movie we'll be talking about! Our main goal here is to have fun, build a community together, and simply talk movies. In this case, movies that we know unequivocally that you want us to discuss.

So, cast your vote below for your top three options, and at the end of the six-week run of movies selected by the Bit Players ourselves, we'll announce the winner and prepare the episode on that film. We're really excited about this new addition to the podcast, and we hope that you are too. We look forward to seeing what you guys come up with. Since we have lots of cool stuff planned for the holidays, your selection will be in the first round of picks after the New Year, for Episode 43.

You can also cast your votes on Facebook or Twitter; just make sure to use #TheBitPlayers and we'll tally your selection along with the rest.

[gravityform id="1" name="Episode 43" title="false" description="false"]

In Conversation with Rich Vreeland It Follows Composer

Composer Rich Vreeland, more commonly known by his nom de plume Disasterpeace, has been making music at a furious pace for the past decade-plus, standing as an early model in the digital age for producing and releasing music under one's own terms and growing as an artist in the public eye with each release; the digital-era musician must constantly look forward and allow for organic changes in style and tastes, as seemingly every note occurs under the public eye. Vreeland seems to have utterly embraced this concept wholeheartedly, not only for the ever-shifting tone and style of his music, but his involvement with exploring new media as worlds for his music to inhabit. Ever since his first MIDI-based score to a cell phone game, Vreeland has been working to let his music not only inhabit the worlds in which they're placed, but to actually shape them as well, pushing understanding of not only what can be done with music in games, but how the player themselves can become an author of the experience through their in-game choices as they influence where Vreeland's work goes.

Perhaps the strongest indicator of his willingness to experiment with the medium is the great leap that Vreeland has taken into the world of film with his brilliant score for David Robert Mitchell's film It Follows, released early in 2015. Vreeland was just coming off the success of his highly interactive score to 2012's platform game Fez when Mitchell, a fan of the musical work done in the Seumas McNally Grand Prize-winning game, approached the composer to score his upcoming horror film. Though the experience of scoring a full-length film was quite different than he was used to — going from nearly a limitless musical grid to working with the construct of visual linearity and permanence proved jarring — the work on It Follows is nothing short of astounding. Vreeland admits that the number of horror films that he has seen in his life can be counted on one hand, but when you watch It Follows the score plays like that of an enthusiast completely in his element.

Jeff sat down to chat with Vreeland about the constraints that working in film offers as well as the more freeing elements, as well as his artistic upbringing that started as early as middle school as the graphic design go-to for his fantasy wrestling league and what's in store for the future of his music, whether it be in the world of film or not. Read the full conversation below and check out our episode on It Follows in a couple of days.

The Bit Players: Just to start out, I wanted to know a little bit about you, like where did you grow up, did you have any siblings, what was your early life like, with regard to specifically music, but just in general as well?

Rich Vreeland: I grew up in Staten Island, New York. I grew up in a musical family; my mother played piano and sang, so we had a piano in the house for most of my childhood. My sister's been singing since she was very little, and my stepfather was the music director at our church, so I was surrounded by music for most of my childhood. You know, they would have band practice in the basement. My stepfather was also in a Beatles cover band, so there was a lot of Beatles in the house. So I was always surrounded by it, but I didn't get into music until high school.

The Bit Players: Was that a conscious rejection of music, or were you just not interested?

RV: No, it just hadn't occurred to me. My first real interests were sports, video games, computers and design, and like, visual design — drawing and making stuff. So that was kind of where I started as a pretty young person. At eleven or twelve, I started messing around with my mom's Macintosh — she is a graphic designer, so that was around and that was where I started with getting into being creative.

I would make fake newsletters for the street, and make up fake companies so that I could do logos. I used to screw around with Microsoft Word templates and make fake certificates and brochures, all kinds of stuff. That evolved into doing web design, and as a teenager I was big into doing fantasy wrestling, which is a very unique sort of thing.

The Bit Players: I've seen stuff like that, where, I don't know if it's the same kind of concept, but you get points for a well-delivered promo. I'm a huge wrestling buff, too, so I don't know if you saw me light up when you said that.

RV: [laughs] Yeah, I mean, growing up, I was obsessed with wrestling. I went through a pretty serious wrestling phase, and what was really cool about fantasy wrestling — or eWrestling, I guess is what they would call it — it wasn't like other fantasy sports; it wasn't about statistics or any of that other kind of stuff, but it was really about writing. So, I got to do a lot of writing — a lot of creative writing — as a young person.

The Bit Players: So, like, almost fan-fiction for wrestling, in a way?

RV: Yeah, it was like fan-fiction, but you create your own wrestler and you get to write about him or her.

The Bit Players: Oh man, I wish I had known about that when I was growing up.

RV: [laughs] I was super into it. I had all of this creative energy to do visual stuff, so I kind of became the graphics guy. So people would seek me out to make artwork for their wrestlers or visual material for wrestling events in eWrestling federations, logos. I did a lot of websites for eWrestling federations and stuff, so that was where I started being a freelancer. I mean, I was getting maybe twenty, thirty, forty, fifty bucks to do something.

The Bit Players: That's a hustle, though, when you're an eleven year-old. Did your love for creating music stem from that also? I know that a huge part of video games, and especially, I'm sure for you, is the audio component of it, so did you latch onto that and think, "Wow. That'd be kind of cool to get into that too?"

RV: Not immediately. I think playing games, I always really liked the music, and I'm sure I would hum it — hum the crap out of it. But it really didn't occur to me that I could make music for games until the opportunity was thrust in my direction.

I was in college, doing graphic design stuff, and had only been writing music for about a year or two, but I was continuously getting more and more involved with it. I started posting my music on the Internet and stuff, and I was still kind of hovering around the eWrestling forums at this time. I was like seventeen or eighteen so I was kind of on the tail-end of it, but I was posting music everywhere. I was posting music there, on some of these old communities like GarageBand.com, which was unaffiliated to GarageBand the software, and SoundClick — do you remember that one? — so, what ended up happening was I posted some of my music, super early stuff — distorted guitars and drum-machine, very nu-metal, prog-metal type stuff — and someone was like, "Hey, I really like your music. I work for a company that makes cell phone games. Would you want to write some music for us?" And I was like, "Yeah! That's crazy, I never thought I could do that." And this was before smart phones, so I was asked to make MIDI files for cell phones, so they had this kind of simplistic sound.

The Bit Players: I guess that would also be in your riff-making wheelhouse, too. Is that just basically a single melody line that you're having to work with?

RV: Well, you know, since it's general MIDI, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. But, for me, very early on, I realized that trying to do recordings with guitar, drums, bass, all this kind of stuff, was really hard. It was really hard to get the production good and to get good takes. So pretty early on, I discovered tracking, using synthesizers to emulate those instruments and then using tablature software to write out guitar tab so that I could keep track of my ideas. And it also had MIDI playback, so that became my go-to piece of software to write music in the very beginning.

So the first couple of gigs that I did for cell phone games, it was all stuff that I wrote in guitar tab software and then just exported as MIDI files.

The Bit Players: Was guitar your first instrument?

RV: Yeah, it was guitar; that's why I got into guitar tab editors. Because I had all these ideas on guitar and I was getting frustrated with trying to record it straight. I got into the habit of coming up with a riff and then transcribing it into tablature, and then I would arrange around it with other MIDI instruments, like bass and drums and other things.

The Bit Players: I remember sitting in class in high school, writing guitar tablature on my graphing calculator to wile away the time, just messing around.

RV: [laughs] Wow.

The Bit Players: So was guitar-based music your first push as far as getting you past the point of casually listening and into playing?

RV: Yeah, it was a culmination because my first real exposure — my first real dive into music was playing guitar, so the music that I was really interested in at that time really reflected that. I was listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin, Rage Against the Machine, Tool &mdash lots of bands with very riff-oriented music, and lots of odd timing, so that became the foundation of a lot of my ideas.

The Bit Players: I can see that, because with It Follows, which is the work I'm most familiar with, it's got a very ambient overall tone, but there is a serious sense of melody — especially with the main title theme. That's an epic riff, you know?

RV: Yeah, it's kind of a Morricone-type of thing. That's what I was thinking of when I wrote it. What if Morricone did an evil western or something? [laughs]

The Bit Players: I actually think he kind of is; he's about to do that new Tarantino movie.

RV: Oh, right. Yeah, I'm excited about that.

The Bit Players: So when you first started playing, was it on your own? Did you ever get into any bands?

RV: I was never in a band band. I banded up with friends at times, and we called ourselves a band, but we didn't really play shows. I had a couple of friends who I used to jam with, but, really, it was like one winter that we jammed; it's one of my fondest collections of memories, but I haven't really jammed a whole lot since then. It's actually really hard to find people to jam with that you have good chemistry with, and when I went to Berklee College of Music, all of my jam experiences were a bunch of people — probably more than was needed in a single room — playing some kind of traditional song form, like a blues or something, so it wasn't really my thing.

I have one other jam experience that I recall really fondly, and that was when I was jamming with a reggae band playing Rhodes [laughs]. There is something about jamming that I really enjoy; just the give-and-take, the human aspect. So much of what I do is alone, so I think to be able to collaborate in real time, there's something really satisfying about that.

The Bit Players: Yeah, I agree. And you're right; you have to fall in with the right people. You know, the great bands seem like it's almost destined that they were to meet. It's almost not like they sought out to find a band, but they just sort of find each other.

RV: Yeah. It's not without a lot of hard work, but there's usually a seed there in the beginning where there's something special there.

Rich Vreeland

The Bit Players: So, going back to before you started to really make composing for video games your livelihood musically, can you remember a time when you interacted with music in a video game that opened your eyes to the fact that this was an entirely new type of artform? I should preface this by saying that my fellow hosts on the podcast are basically prodding me to drop Banjo Kazooie into the discussion.

RV: [laughs] Well, I mean, Banjo Kazooie — I actually know the composer, Grant Kirkhope.

The Bit Players: Oh, is that right? [laughs]

RV: He's a good guy. The music in that game is really good. But, Banjo Kazooie, to me, in a lot of ways, takes a lot of ideas from Super Mario 64. Not just in the game design but in the design of the music. There are certain things, where the music will change — the instrumentation will change based on whether you're underwater or not, and things like that, but I think for the most part there wasn't a whole lot of interactivity in that music. It was mostly just loops with that one feature or a few features like that that were interesting and a lot of good writing. Just good writing.

Growing up, I don't think I noticed a lot of game music that was doing really interesting things with form and structure. I think that's the strongest thing that sets music in games apart from other artforms or other forms of music. In a lot of ways, the closest thing to game music in terms of potential is some of the stuff that started happening in the fifties and sixties and the things that have come after that, you know, ideas with aleatoric music and music by chance — game music in the traditional sense: going back to, I think it was Mozart, who had designed a game around music where you rolled dice and the dice determined the order of the sections of the piece to be played, and there were hundreds of them. So I think the potential for music in games is really creating this feedback loop between what's happening in the game, the interactivity, the unpredictability, the non-linearity, all these kinds of things, tying music to that and how music can react to that, inform that, and change over time. With the exception of games like some of the LucasArts stuff in the early nineties, which was way ahead of its time; games like Monkey Island had really sophisticated music systems where the music was always changing and transitioning really smoothly from room to room — most of the music outside of that was loops. The large majority of it is loops.

But even in Super Mario World on Super Nintendo they were starting to do things like, when you're walking around there's music; when you jump on Yoshi, they add a little percussion track [laughs]; just little touches like that. Or in Yoshi's Island, on the map screen, depending on how much progress you've made in the world, they'll add more and more layers to the music. Just little touches to kind of give the player a little bit of dopamine, a little bit of feedback about their progress. So there were things happening, but I don't think I really noticed any of that stuff until I actually got into making music for games and realized there was all this potential to do stuff like that.

The Bit Players: I almost think that when you're playing games and you might not notice the music speaks to the way that the composer has integrated it into that world in such a seamless way. It's like you don't think twice about the music in a lot of ways — that's the atmosphere that you're in; that's just the music that plays in this world.

RV: Yeah, hopefully the music is really supporting the experience of playing and isn't drawing attention to itself in a negative way.

The Bit Players: Right. Do you find that that's something that's liberating when composing? That you have this open world — obviously you want to complement it in a way, but you're adding a new layer to it that's more interactive than the loop-driven work of the past.

RV: It's some of the most challenging work that I've had to do.

The Bit Players: I can imagine. It seems so intimidating; a blank canvas in the purest sense.

RV: And lately I've been experimenting with creating music systems that go way beyond using loops. I scored this game called Mini Metro, which is a game where you kind of build and manage a subway system in real time — no, faster than real time [laughs] — and there are no loops or recorded pieces of music in the game. It's all sample-based and procedural. So the music is evolving and growing in size based on the game data, based on the size of your subway system, the number of lines, the types of stations on each line, what the passengers are doing, are they getting off, are they getting on; all these little interactions have sounds attached to them. The sounds of the trains moving around have tonal sounds, and they're attached tonally to the line that they're on; each line has its own tonality. You could have four lines and line one is playing C, line two is playing E, line three is playing G, line four is playing B, and they're all going to have their own inherit rhythm that changes as that line changes. And then tapping into the data — what's the capacity of this station? How many passengers are in this station? The more full the station is, the louder the sounds that come out of that station will be; the emptier it is, the quieter it will be. Just all this kind of stuff, kind of creating a one-to-one analogy between what you're seeing when you're running the simulation and what's happening with a musical experience. So, yeah I spent about a year making that, and it's about 90% code.

The Bit Players: That almost sounds like you're in collaboration with the player in making the score.

RV: Absolutely. There's a sandbox — it's limited, and they can only go so far, but I've curated the experience so that it's never going to sound terrible. Hopefully [laughs]. But at the same time, their decisions and how they play the game will directly change the sound.

The Bit Players: That kind of brings me around to something I was interested to get your opinion on, regarding game composing and film composing and the composers themselves who are doing that work while "classical" or Western art music has kind of gone out of vogue with the common listener. There's hardly going to be any contemporary composers that scholars can look to in that world, so do you see this world that you are involved with kind of standing in? To me, game and film music would be the new artform that we could look to in the future the same way contemporary scholars look to opera. You mentioned Ennio Morricone; there's no reason for his name to be right alongside Beethoven's at some point.

RV: I don't know if it will replace the "classical" space — which isn't really an appropriate term, but I don't know what you would call it — but I think that space is in danger because it has less visibility and people seem to be, in general, more interested in popular culture, and I don't think that's part of popular culture, really. But there are still composers in that space that are doing really amazing work. You know, people like John Adams. I think it's great that there are other media, multimedia artforms like cinema and games that allow composers [pauses] it can be somewhat isolating work, but it's nice that there are different ways to collaborate with other creative people and I think there's something really nice about multimedia because it allows people of different media to come together to create something that's larger than themselves.

It's a slippery slope to get into talking about comparisons, like where you'd put Morricone versus somebody like Beethoven. It's almost an impossible thing to talk about because context is so important to that. Music is this chronological thing.

The Bit Players: I'm just always fascinating by thinking about, you know, in 200 years, what is going to last in the "music canon?" Obviously it's so different now because everything is preserved.

RV: It's hard, because history is being recorded, and things are continually changing at a more and more frequent pace, so there's an exponential curve to the history of music, I think.

I mean, the 20th Century is just crazy. Just the amount of stuff that has happened in the 20th and 21st Centuries. And there's so much more music being written everyday now than there was a couple hundred years ago; it's not even close. So, to think 200 years from now, what's going to be going on? That's almost unfathomable [laughs]. Hopefully we'll all be — well, you and I won't be alive, but —

The Bit Players: Hey man, we might be. Who knows what will happen?

RV: [laughs] Hopefully there's still a record of all this stuff in 200 years.

Rich Vreeland

The Bit Players: So when you were so entrenched in the video game world, how did you come across David Robert Mitchell and It Follows?

RV: He came across me; he played the game Fez that I scored in 2012 and liked it, and reached out to me. We kept in touch, and about a year and a half later we started working on the project together.

The Bit Players: How was that a different experience than your work with Fez and the games that came before that?

RV: It's different in a lot of ways. It's not just different scheduling, but also the culture of games versus the culture of film. The involvement is different. Pretty much everything about it except for capturing emotions and that kind of thing. Everything else is pretty much different.

Scoring a game like Fez, there's some pressure, but for the most part we were taking our time and giving it the time that it needed, and I had a year to score that game. I felt really comfortable with that amount of time. Everyday I would load up the latest version of the game and play it, and then I could go in myself, because the developer and I designed a tool for me to do all kinds of dynamic music stuff with it. So everyday I would go into the game and I'd say, "I want to do this today, or I want to do that, I want to make music that reacts to thunder in this area where there's thunder, or I want to create some music that's always slightly different — you know, it's made up of forty different little pieces of music that weave in and out of each other randomly — or music that changes based on time of day, or music that changes based on the altitude, or whatever." I could do all of these things on my own once the tool was created. I could just go in and do those things and edit the levels myself, and then the rest of the team would wake up the next day and play the game and suddenly hear the stuff that I did, and say, "Wow this is so cool; I've been in this level like 600 times over the last three years, and this is the first time I've heard music here."

There is a very intimate quality to working on games, especially independent games, where I feel like I'm completely in the loop, and we have a lot of time to do what we need to do, and I feel invested. If it's an independent game, I'm likely to keep a lot of my rights for the music or have revenue share — a really reasonable amount of revenue share, much more than you'd get on a film because there's far less people working on the game and generally they're not beholden to any outside funding if it's independent, although that is possible from time to time — so the legal stuff is really simple comparatively.

So that's the game side, and working on It Follows specifically, it feels like a rush all the time, and everything is urgent because there's so much money being spent everyday and there are a lot of people involved, so it's really about efficiency. There are a lot of parties involved, you know? I had to sign, like, three or four contracts with different companies, and keeping rights is not easy; it's tricky. Because the film got into Cannes Film Festival — and that's a big deal — in order to really take advantage of that opportunity for the film, I had to score the film in three weeks. If I didn't, I don't know what would've happened. There's like a locomotion that seems to exist with the creation and release of films where things have to happen at a certain time, otherwise it's not going to fall together in the right way. So it was stressful. But in a creative way, there were parts of it that were a little bit easier; it's less intellectual and for me it's more straightforward to score a film. You figure out the aesthetic and you just try stuff. You just write music and try stuff until it feels right. Obviously a game like Mini Metro, I would spend hours everyday just thinking about systems and thinking about these really high concept design analogies and stuff like that. And then I'd have to create systems in code, so it was a very different kind of process. In a lot of ways, it's the inverse to scoring a film.

The Bit Players: So It Follows was like a vacation for you.

RV: It was like a really stressful three-week vacation, yeah [laughs].

The Bit Players: So, I noticed, going back and checking out your video game work, and specifically Fez, a lot of the themes were resonating in the It Follows score. Specifically the track "Death" struck a chord as being one of the main themes from It Follows, and I read that the Cannes time constraints were a factor in throwing together a temp score. Can you tell me what changes ultimately came about from the temp score to the final version?

RV: Well, we kept a lot of the intention of the temp score, as far as what the temp score was achieving. The general timing of the temp score, how it was capturing a certain level of energy and emotion in the scenes, we used all of that because it was working really well. You know, just general tone, general emotion, general harmonic ideas, aesthetic: all of those things were taken into consideration when we were moving on from the temp score. That all being said, it's not like I was listening to the temp score, and then writing, and then listening and writing and going back and forth; it was more like I had a really solid understanding of what the temp score was doing; I'm going to forget it and just kind of remember the properties that were working and write something new with those in mind. So in a way, it was just a really nice foundation, a conceptual foundation for me to work from — especially given that I only had three weeks. The Fez cues were the same kind of thing; the "Death" cue is the inspiration for the title theme to It Follows. It was really about this simple harmonic progression and this sort of long, drawn-out, kind of eerie tone that "Death" had, and then everything else kind of fell into place around that.

The Bit Players: Man, when that title theme comes on, during the outer shot of the pool, right?

RV: Yeah, when they're walking to the pool.

The Bit Players: Oh, my god [laughs]. The theater was rumbling; it was perfect. One of my favorite parts of the whole experience was your score. It matched the tone of the film in so many ways; one of the most striking things about It Follows was this feeling that it was kind of lost in time. There were elements that seemed like — okay, is this film taking place in the eighties? — and then the character has this Kindle, kind of futuristic device, and the cars were modern, so it was cool how Mitchell removed time from the equation to kind of suspend you in the film, and I felt like the score did the same. On the one hand, the synths sound very analog and classic, but they were recorded all digitally, so you're using this modern-day, even future-minded technology, so the score and the film synthesized really well in that way. I was actually curious about your digital leanings, and how far they go; do you find that recording digitally and obviously releasing digitally free you in any way, or is a purely environmental stance?

RV: I think it's both. I think everyone has a slightly different relationship to creative tools. I can certainly see the value in having physical tools. There's something inspiring about playing with physical knobs and instruments — I love playing my piano, for instance — but for me, from just kind of wanting to have a clean space to work in and to be really portable so that I can really work from anywhere, having as much of my stuff on my laptop makes my life really, really easy. The technology is such that there are so many options on my computer that I can do, and you can really get so many different kinds of sounds out of it, and people are getting really good at modeling old analog gear. The trade-off to go back to analog gear or having a bunch of hardware is not really worth it for me based on my values and interests. I'm not an audiophile at all. At the same time, I do care a lot about the way that things sound, but the nuances between using an analog compressor versus not using an analog compressor — those kinds of things are just a bit above my own ability and as a proxy interest [laughs].

The Bit Players: And it's gotten to the point now, where this isn't even a question of audio fidelity or even truly sensing some difference between the two. It's the vinyl versus digital, film versus digital argument; everything has gotten so close together in quality. I heard this recent interview with Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, where he's a film purist; he shot all of the series on film, and someone showed him a digital clip and he couldn't even tell the difference.

RV: That's what I mean; most people can't tell the difference.

The Bit Players: It's more of a psychological difference.

RV: Vinyl is totally psychological, in my opinion. It's the act of holding a record, looking at the artwork, putting it on the turntable, putting the stylus down; there's a catharsis, a tradition to that, that people really like. That really easily becomes a conversation or kind of a shared experience, you know, you sit on the couch and listen to a record, and I think you have to work for those kinds of experiences when you're using digital technology because right out of the box, that's not the experience you're going to have. You have to cultivate that in a very specific way.

The Bit Players: But at the same time, you can record an entire album and it will be available to your fans instantaneously.

RV: Right, and that's one of the huge benefits of digital. It's just — it's easy. And, thinking about the future and moving forward, it's a lot less resource-intensive than mass-producing a bunch of PVC discs and then shipping them across the world [laughs].

The Bit Players: And for many of them to end up in the Urban Outfitters sale bin anyway. I'm a vinyl collector, and I totally agree that the experience is what draws me into it, and that it brought back something in music to me that I felt like had been lost with the disconnected way that I was communicating with music and listening to music; it had just become too easy to acquire and not know anything about.

RV: I think, in some ways, it's human nature that we have such easy access to music now that it's a lot harder [pauses] the thing about vinyl that's really good is that it kind of forces you to sit down with a record and listen to it front to back, one track at a time. It's enough of a nuisance to get up and switch the record that people tend to have more intimate experiences with music through vinyl. But I don't think that that's an inherit negative of digital music, I just think that because digital music is so accessible and so convenient that you need to be more actively thoughtful about how you're interacting with digital music, otherwise it's easy to fall into the habit of "gimme gimme gimme" and "I'm going to skip through every song."

The Bit Players: That's so true. And you know, maybe that's actually not even a disadvantage of digital music, but an advantage of it, that you're being asked more as a listener to actively engage with it, and it's not the inherently active engagement that vinyl is.

RV: Yeah, that's how I feel about it, completely.

The Bit Players: Do you read digitally? I started thinking about this, going down all of these rabbit holes, like, how far does this go?

RV: Yeah [laughs], I definitely started going into digital with reading too. It's easy enough that I can send pretty much anything to my Kindle really quickly, but the only thing that I keep is a little collection of graphic novels and stuff, because I don't feel that the technology is good enough to experience graphic novels digitally. I think the ideal, for me, is a color e-ink type of situation. I don't like the idea of an e-reader having a back-lit screen. Maybe it wouldn't be an issue if the software that ran those screens was more cognizant of our health and melatonin levels and stuff like that, especially at night. That's another thing that I take pretty seriously.

I've been using this app f.lux for a long time, which kind of matches the luminosity of your screen — it kind of mimics candlelight at night and kind of goes down with the sun. It's supposed to be easier on your eyes. Because, at night, I don't know if you've noticed this, but if you ever go camping or something, there are no streetlights around, you're not under fluorescent lights like you would be at your house, and it's really easy to get tired and fall asleep. I think staring at a screen, a bright blue light until eleven or twelve or whatever, it keeps you up and makes it harder to fall asleep.

The Bit Players: Oh yeah, they're destroying us, man.

RV: Yeah [laughs]. So that's why I like e-ink, because it's like a book, and there's no light coming from it. You can read a Kindle by candlelight; it's kind of strange, but it's one of my favorite things to do, reading my Kindle by candlelight [laughs].

It Follows OST

The Bit Players: One thing that I thought was so funny, doing preliminary research about the score to It Follows, is that the automatic assumption walking out of that theater is, "Man, this guy is really tapping into John Carpenter," and I read the Pitchfork review of the album, which even goes so far as to say the film "wouldn’t exist without John Carpenter’s movies, and neither would the score." And then I found out that you're not all that familiar with his work.

RV: Yeah, I'm not super familiar with his work. I haven't seen any of his films, so I don't know how his music functions in the context of his films. I think he has a real knack for creating these really simple, functional pieces of music, and I think we definitely tapped into some of the aesthetic ideas — we used some of his pieces in the temp score, but I don't even know how many. I think some of the themes that we used were inspired by it, this simple rhythmic, pulsing thing was something that we talked about as an idea. I'm the furthest thing from a student of horror. I can count the horror films that I've seen on one hand, in my whole life [laughs].

The Bit Players: And has that not changed since It Follows?

RV: Well, people have sent me some films with interest in me working on them, so I've seen some of those [laughs]. So maybe the count has gone up like one or two, but it's still one hand.

The Bit Players: Yeah, I would imagine that you're being embraced by the horror community now.

RV: I think I have been. But I don't know how interested I am with working on horror films, to be honest.

The Bit Players: So was it more of a personal connection that you and David shared that got this happening?

RV: Well, there were a couple of things. I felt that where he was coming from was very unique. You know, [The Myth of the American Sleepover] has nothing to do with horror at all, and reading this script and getting the sense that the character interactions would be a bit similar to that film, but that it would also have this psychological quality, it seemed like it was going to be this really unique film. And it was also a horror film that I felt like had a heart. It wasn't just arbitrarily dark and twisted. I want the things I work on to have a heart, so I was attracted to that.

The Bit Players: So I know you jumped right back into games, but do you think that there's a future with film? Maybe not with these horror films that you're getting unsolicited copies of, but —

RV: [laughs] Well, all of the projects that I'm working on are projects that have been in development since before I started working on It Follows. So I haven't really taken on any new projects in about a year. But I have four games that I'm working on right now, and my intention is to wrap those up sometime next year and then take a sabbatical for a while and work on some personal music projects. But I would love to work on another film; it's just a matter of when and which one.

The Bit Players: Well at this point, I would imagine that you would fit right into the Tim Hecker, Oneohtrix Point Never, you know, art music world, that you could take this out on the road. Is that something that you've considered?

RV: Yeah, I played shows for about eight years as Disasterpeace, mostly doing guitar with backing tracks. I had a drummer for a few years, too, and that was kind of fun. I felt like it was good for a while, but I wanted to do something more, and live performance has never been my focus, and if I do it, I want it to be my focus. If I'm doing a one-off show here and there, I don't feel like the amount of time and energy I'm putting into it is worth it. I feel like I'd have to do a tour for the amount of time and energy I'd put into it to be worth it. It's something that I think about from time to time, but it's not something that I'm interested in right now; I'm more interested in writing and producing, and also I've been getting into creating music tools, like music software.

But one of the things that I intend to do during my sabbatical is to work on my personal album, and that stuff is definitely tourable. It could be done in a live setting.

The Bit Players: Is that material vastly different than the score and soundtrack work you've been doing?

RV: It has a lot of the same harmonic sensibilities, because I feel like I have a very specific palette, but people who have heard it have said it reminds them of Randy Newman. It's kind of through-composed, and lots of figures — almost riff-oriented piano music, but kind of dark. It's a product of my own limitations as a piano player [laughs], and it has vocals.

The Bit Players: That sounds really cool. And would that be released under your name or would that be Disasterpeace?

RV: It would probably be Disasterpeace. I've been using that name since I was eighteen, and I feel fortunate that I picked a name that, in my opinion, hasn't aged poorly. I think it could have been very easy to pick a really stupid name at the age of eighteen and then a couple years later, think, "Wow. I've got to get rid of this stupid name." So I'll probably roll with it forever.