Director: Michael Steinberg
Screenwriters: Eric Weiss

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Wicked may look like a genre film, but in truth it is an exhilarating hybrid that continuously surprises and amuses. If it could be classified, it would be called a suburban horror story or family thriller. As director Michael Steinberg explains, “I used the story of Electra as a sounding board and dressed it up as a pop art murder mystery.”

“Place” is of utmost importance in understanding this grisly tale. Set under the glow of streetlights, where the manicured lawns stop abruptly at the edge of a tumbleweed wasteland, there exists the pastel stucco wonderland known as suburbia. It is here that a gruesome murder has taken place. With police lights flashing on the cul de sac, the Christiansens, a normal dysfunctional family, have just lost a family member. And now this family is turned inside out, exposing marital infidelity, sibling rivalry, and a few other neighborhood indiscretions.

First and foremost, Wicked is fun to watch. Steinberg instills humor at every turn, and the cast is up to the challenge. All the performances teeter on the fence between melodrama and neorealism. The lighting is noirish and steeped in shadows, only they glow in primary colors instead of black and white. Steinberg not only captures a style; he captures a mood. He constantly keeps you guessing what evils lurk under this sterile façade. With the state of family values as they are, there may be a darker side (if possible) to his twisted tale. Could this story actually happen in the world today?

Michael Steinberg, Director
Michael Steinberg was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, and attended UCLA Film School. In 1992 he codirected The Waterdance with Neal Jimenez; it won the Audience Award at Sundance and the Spirit Award for Best First Film. He next directed Bodies Rest & Motion, which premiered in the 1993 Dramatic Competition at Sundance and was an official selection at Cannes. In 1994 he cowrote and produced Sleep with Me, which premiered at Toronto and was also chosen as a Cannes Film Festival official selection.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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