Sunday, October 11, 2015

THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION (1991-2006)

THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION (1991-2006) 

Label: Scream Factory I IFC Midnight

Release Date: October 20th 2015
Region Code:  A
Rating: Unrated, R
Duration: 395 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen(1.78:1, 2.35:1) Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Larry Fessendden
Cast: Ashley Arcement, David Van Tieghem, Miriam Healy-Louie, Richard Topol, Stephen Ramsey, Larry Fessenden, Meredith Snaider, Patricia Coleman, Jesse Hartman, Aaron Beall, Heather Woodbury, Erik Per Sullivan, Jake Weber, John Speredakos, Patricia Clarkson, James Le Gros, Kevin Corrigan, Connie Britton, Ron Perlman, Zach Gilford 

Filmmaker Larry Fessenden is a writer, a producer, a director and an actor, a man of many trades and a filmaker with voice and a passion for horror cinema. His first four features are brought together in a new four-disc Blu-ray box set from Scream Factory and IFC Midnight that will see release on October 20th. All four films have been remastered in HD for the first time, along with both loads of brand-new and vintage extras including seven short films and two music videos in one Hell of an attractive package.

NO TELLING (1991) 
Rating: R
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Larry Fessendden
Cast: Ashley Arcement, David Van Tieghem, Miriam Healy-Louie, Richard Topol, Stephen Ramsey

Synopsis: When Lillian Gaines (Miriam Healy-Louie) moves to the county with her husband Geoffrey (Stephen Ramsey) for a quiet summer retreat, she never suspects that meeting activist Alex Vine ( David Van Tieghem) will force her to confront her deepest fears about the man she married, and the bizarre experiment underway in his lab. 



Part of the reason I love this four-disc set is it brought to my attention Fessenden's first feature length movie, the mad scientist movie No Telling, a film I don't think I'd ever even heard of before the announcement of this set. The movie is a rural mad scientist take of sorts about a young and driven doctor whose research into human limb replacement threatens to destroy his marriage to his much neglected wife. His secretive experiments with animals out in the barn cross all sorts of ethical boundaries, even though we don't see a lot of what's transpiring, a lot of it's left to the imagination, and as we will soon discover that is probably for the best. Like many of Fessenden's best works the movie brings to life the humanity of the characters, and in this instance, the inhumanity of science. It also digs into his wife's struggle to maintain the marriage in the face of her husband's science-obsession and her own strength to stay true to him when a romantic opportunity presents itself by way of eco-activist who arrives in the area. 

Unfortunately the movie is a sort of ungainly mash-up of of mad scientist and ecological horror, the latter being a subject Fessenden would explore later with more success with a few movies on this very set. Part of the problem is that this science gone wrong story is a very slow to get a head of steam going, the emotional core of the movie didn't pull me and the wait for the stitched together animal creation made me wait for far too long, when it is finally revealed I can understand why they waited, it just doesn't work very well. 

Every filmmaker starts somewhere, and No Telling is a here Larry Fessenden began, I didn't like it much, but I can certainly appreciate what is was aiming for. While it falls pretty far from the mark I can see the early core Fessenden qualities that would bleed into his later films, the emotional core of the characters is there, and the eco-horror warnings, you can see it there on screen in pieces, but the movie is weak and the acting is spotty. 

NO TELLING Special Features: 
- NEW Director-Approved HD Transfer
- NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director/Executive Producer Larry Fessenden
- The Making Of No Telling (1991) (14 Mins) 
- Archival Footage with NEW Intro by Fessenden (1990) (25 Mins) 
- Short Film White Trash (1979) with NEW Intro by Fessenden and New Music By Composer Will Bates (9 Mins) HD
 - Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel with NEW Intro by Fessenden (1985-1990) (8 Mins) HD 

HABIT (1997) 

Rating: Unrated
Duration:113 Minutes   
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Larry Fessendden
Cast: Larry Fessenden, Meredith Snaider, Patricia Coleman, Jesse Hartman, Aaron Beall, Heather Woodbury


In his second feature film Habit director Fessenden turns the camera on himself as Sam, a New York City Bohemiam of sorts who is down on his luck and at the bottom of a bottle. At a Halloween party he meets a young woman named Anna (Meredith Snaider) and the two almost immediately embark on an aggressive sexual relationship with Anna regularly draining Sam of his blood on a nightly basis. The new relationship separates Sam from his old friends, with his health failing he descends further into madness, as he soon begins to suspect that Anna might be a an actual blood-sucking vampire, but can he stop her before she drains him completely, and does he even want to? 

Fessenden looks pretty run down here as Sam, by design, here we have vampirism as a fitting metaphor for addiction, as his unnatural lust and dependence on Anna grows his friends are driven away, while he attempts to rekindle a friendship with his ex. I loved the urban setting, the Bohemian-loser lifestyle portrayed, it's a contemporary movie but it manages to pay homage to the classic bloodsuckers of yesterday in a '90s NYC setting. Anna arrives and lives on a boat anchored in the harbor, straight out of Nosferatu. She must be invited into a home before entering through the door, she only arrives on scene during the dark hours, and there even a Van Helsing type older character who attempts to warn poor Sam about his new lustful lover. Habit is a very NYC-centric movie, a dirty and grimy production with an authentic New York vibe, at times you might think this was an Abel Ferrara movie, and that's a very nice compliment.

The acting is quite good, Fessenden seems like a man genuinely losing his mind and his grip on reality, aggrivated by alcoholic tendencies. Things have spiraled beyond his control and his dependence on his blood-sucking lady friend might just prove to be his undoing, and we're rooting for him, despite the fact that he's a mess of a man hes a good guy. There's a thick layer of psychological horror at play throughout, lending the possibility that perhaps Anna is not a vampire at all, but maybe just a horny blood-junky and Sam might just be imagining it through a haze of alcoholism and depression. Habit is a movie that will stick with you for awhile after watching it, a very interesting art-horror take on Dracula.  

HABIT Special Features: 

- NEW Director-Approved HD Transfer
- NEW Audio Commentary With Actor/Director/Writer/Editor Larry Fessenden
- The Making Of Habit (1995) (24 Mins) 
- Short Film Habit (1981) (18 Mins) HD
- The Making Of Short Film Habit (1981) (6 Mins) HD 
- Save You From Yourself Music Video (4 Mins) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 
- Short Film N Is For Nexus From Magnet Releasing's The ABCs Of Death 2 (4 Mins) HD 
- The Making Of N Is For Nexus (4 Mins) HD 
 - Frankenstein Cannot Be Stopped Music Video with NEW Intro by Fessenden (7 Mins) HD 

WENDIGO (2002) 

Rating: R
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Larry Fessendden
Cast: Erik Per Sullivan, Jake Weber, John Speredakos, Patricia Clarkson

Larry Fessenden's Wendigo is the movie that made me aware of him as a filmmaker, I've longed loved the Native American lore of the Wendigo, and when I saw it on the movie shelf at Block Buster some years back I could not snap it up fast enough. The touching story of a young family and their tragic trip to the Catskills of Upstate New York won me over, for the most part. On their way to their winter getaway the couple have an accident and are besieged by a group of armed deer hunters, one of the hunter named Otis (John Speredakos) has some major beef with the father (Weber) over a chipped deer antler. It's a typical rural folk don't care for city folk encounter, but it sets a threatening tone that carries through the entire movie. 


One day while in town a mysterious Native American shopkeeper tells the son (Malcolm In Middle's Erik per Sullivan) tells him of the Wendigo, the half-man, half-animal spirit of legend, which chills the young boy to the bone. The shopkeeper gives the young boy a wood carving of the creature, and the idea of the mythical beast fills his head and dreams with terrifying thoughts. 

Meanwhile the boys parents struggle with grown-up stresses involving family and rednecks who may or may not be taunting the family, the boy himself attributes the darkness surrounding the family to the spirit of the Wendigo, culminating in a final third of the movie which beings the Wendigo to life, and in a manner that sort of harkens back to the dismal No Telling creature, it might leave you underwhelmed. 

Where the story excels is the 70s period setting and tone of the movie, it has atmosphere to spare and the cinematography is pretty great, Fessenden's movie definitely lean towards art-horror and this is no exception. Patricia Clarkson and Jake Weber are fantastic as the caring but emotionally duressed parents, both are phenomenal actors. For his part the young Sullivan handles the role of introverted kid with a wild imagination very nicely. Likewise, Speredakos as the redneck menace is a simmering menace, his distaste for the family is palpable from the beginning, what starts as maybe just a simple lets pick on the city folk turns into a dangerous game with tragic consequences. 


Wendigo has a lot going for it, an sweet retro art-horror aesthetic, the period setting, the winter environment, an underlying redneck menace, psychological terror and a great cast of actors who bring it together very nicely. What is does not do so well is bring on the wendigo in a form that won't make you laugh, a strange antlered tree-creature, which at times won't elicit a giggle,but there are a few shots. I loved the mythology, the settings and characters of Wendigo, the end might not live up to build-up but I dig this film a ton, recommended. 

WENDIGO Special Features: 
- NEW Director-Approved HD Transfer
- NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director/Editor Larry Fessenden
- NEW Audio Commentary With Actors Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber And John Speredakos
- Searching For The Wendigo – Behind The Scenes Featurette (2001) (32 Mins) 
- Interview With Larry Fessenden (2001) (8 Mins) 
- Wendigo: Animated Series Trailer with NEW Intro by Fessenden (3 Mins) HD 
- Short Film Santa Claws (2008) (5 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 
- Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel with NEW Intro by Fessenden (2010) (3 Mins) HD 

THE LAST WINTER (2006)

Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 101 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Larry Fessendden
Cast: James Le Gros, Kevin Corrigan, Larry Fessenden, Connie Britton, Ron Perlman, Zach Gilford 


The Last Winter was far and away Fessenden's most accomplished film at the time, it takes his eco-horror passion to the next level with a story about a doomed team of oil scouts on the Alaskan tundra as they prepare to drill on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the team is headed by the stubborn Ed Pollack (Ron Pearlman), a can-do company man who is at odds with environmentalist James Hoffman (James LeGross) who is on-site to advise the company. The winter has been unseasonably warm and the permafrost is soft, Hoffman objects to bringing in heavy drilling equipment, fearing it will irrevocably damage the protected lands, this is the source of the initial frustration at the drill-site.

Separate from that, but related, are concerns about the mental healthy of several of the staff at the site, everyones a little on edge and Hoffman's sexual relationship with Pollack's second in command, Abby Sellers (Frasier's Connie Britton), seems to rub the crew boss the wrong way. As tempers  begin to flare strange things start to happen, the crew are acting funny, and things begin to turn deadly, beginning with a crew members who seems to have wandered off it the frozen tundra naked in the dark of night, found frozen to death the next day, crows having pecked his eyes out, truly a disturbing sight. 

With the crew members death things escalate pretty quickly leaving Pollack grasping to control his team, while Hoffman postulates that the thawing permafrost is releasing a deadly "sour gas" which might be affecting the minds of everyone. Other theories begin to emerge, such as the spirits of the fossil fuels below ground are restless and seeking vengeance, or that the Earth is somehow turning against mankind. 


The spirit of the wendigo returns in a way for this film, the movie is loaded with spectral "ghosts" of animal who are not glimpsed directly very much, but left me with a vision of demonic caribou who at various times are present and attack a few characters. I do not think that special effects are Fessenden' bag, but of the four film here I think the practical and digital stuff here is by far his best work to date.

What he does well is nail a very specific apocalyptic vibe that creeps in early and sinks in deep by the end, it's is creepy stuff but the environmental message might be hammered to death a bit too much for some, but I dug it, at times it brought to mind John Carpenter's The Thing, with the isolation and apocalyptic hopelessness. 

LAST WINTER Special Features: 
- Director-Approved HD Transfer
- Audio Commentary With Co-writer/Director/Producer/Editor Larry Fessenden
- The Making of "The Last Winter" – Full-length Documentary Featuring Deleted Scenes (107 Mins) 
- Archival Footage (2005) with NEW Intro by Fessenden (19 Mins) HD 
- Short Film Jebediah (3 Mins) HD 
- Short Film Origins with NEW Intro by Fessenden (8 Mins) HD 
- Short Film Mister (6 Mins) HD 
- Tired Of Killing Myself Music Video (6 Mins) HD 
- NEW 2015 Interview With Larry Fessenden (22 Mins) HD 
- Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (2014) with NEW Intro by Fessenden (4 Mins) HD 
- Includes 24-Page Booklet With Liner Notes By Fangoria's Michael Gingold And Never-Before-Seen Photos, Storyboards, And Sketches.

The four-disc set arrives with brand-new HD transfers approved by Larry Fessenden. Each movie has a commentary, some are newly recorded and benefit from hindsight, wendigo specifically has two new audio commentaries from the cast and director that was great.  All four films have the option of English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround or DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles and a host of bonus content, including Fessenden's short films, music videos, Glass Eye Pix sizzle reels and behind-the-scenes video footage, a lot of it with new intros from Fessenden. 

All four movies are housed on separate Blu-ray discs inside a single Criterion-sized Blu-ray case with a slipcover, both the Blu-ray sleeve and slipcover feature a painting from The Dude Designs which captures the essence of the release with the characters erupting from the top of Larry Fessenden's head, which is very cool. The collection also features a 24-page booklet with Liner Notes By Fangoria's Michael Gingold And Never-Before-Seen Photos, Posters, Storyboards, Sketches and quotes from Fessenden describing each of the movies. This is a fantastic set, and despite not loving all the movies within I loved the package, the bous content, the attention to detail, this is quite a tribute to the wild-haired Larry Fessenden and Glass Eye Pix and what they've accomplished through the years. Here's hoping we have another volume in a few years, Fessenden has only directed one feature post The Last Winter, the fun killer fish movie Beneath (2013) for the Chiller channel, but he's been busy producing (Late Phases) and acting (We Are Still Here), but the world needs more Fessenden! 3.5/5

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