Monday, October 5, 2015

The Larry Fessenden Collection (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - The Cold, Socially Conscious Heart of Independent Horror

This collection is necessary. The great Larry Fessenden has created Horror that is thought-provoking and challenging for decades. If you are unfamiliar with the name, you certainly know his work if you’ve been watching Horror regularly over the last twenty years. My first experiences with him were Habit and Wendigo, both featured on this list. Since that time I seem to encounter him in spurts as actor or behind the lens. Most recently I enjoyed his performances in We Are Still Here, Pod and Beneath. Scream Factory along with IFC Midnight have given us a collection of works with gallons of extras and some very slick packaging. If this is your first encounter with Fessenden’s work, prepare to think. If you are a fan of his movies, get ready to drool.

The packaging is a hard case with booklet inside, updated artwork and the Blu-ray holders inside are like pages in a book. One for each movie.

Let’s go through each movie/disc.

No Telling (1991)

Oh this is a truly creepy movie with all the Fessenden hallmarks. It’s well produced, looks great and shot well, but the what really shines here are the performances. Fessenden gets the maximum amount of performance from actors especially when the character is driven, ruthless and, often times, mindless. The protagonist in this picture kind of sneaks up on you, lulling you into a sense of false comfort before dropping a dramatic, powerful effects sequence that pulls both your heart strings and your guts right out in front of you.

No Telling is really a mad scientist story, and as with most Fessenden movies, nature is being butchered or disfigured in order to make way for the will of man. You can almost think of his pictures as rape/revenge pictures complete with adequate back lash and highly developed sense of anger. This isn’t for those of you who can’t watch animal cruelty, no matter how fictionalized. There are mean spirited moments that are upsetting, some involving the mistreatment of animals, others, the mistreatment of humans.

No Telling isn’t an easy watch, but it’s a great one.

Excuse the condition of the trailer.

Habit (1995)

I remember seeing Habit just after it came out on VHS. I wasn’t familiar with Fessenden’s work, but I certainly was going through a vampire kick, watching all the obscure vamps I could. Habit seemed like a good candidate to fill my sanguine urges,but unfortunately, due to slow pacing, I couldn’t really get into this one. While I appreciate the strange almost Urban Gothic nature of the picture as well as a stunning performance by Fessenden himself, the move itself drags. It’s dark and quiet. I suppose that when you compare it to many of the vamp flicks I’m used to these days with powerful bloodlettings and fast paced action sequences complete with a healthy dose of special effects, this one kind of feels more dull.

That’s not to say it’s a bad picture, but it is one that is meant for the lovers of the slow burn Horror combined with Fessenden’s love of creating dark fantasy pictures out of social commentary. In this instance the title Habit gives over to the blood lust of a vamp and the addictive nature of humanity forming a reciprocal expose on drug use and sexual lust. From a heady, academic perspective, Habit plays out nicely and is fully of the kind of literary prowess that college professors love.

Wendigo (2001)

Wendigo was an excellent experience for me. I remember the first time I saw it. A truly unique Horror picture with a real family at the center that felt almost like it could have been my own. It portrays a side of life that is fringe but right in my face living in Northwest New Jersey on cusp of the woods and on the door step of New York City. 

Fessenden has a knack for making movies feel cold surrounding some very warm characters that you can really get behind. With some unique storytelling and a creature that lurks in legend and in the woods, this is an urban legend come to life made for the coldest times.

This is by far my favorite movie in the set.

The Last Winter (2006)

Man is it nice to see Ron Perlman in a Horror picture not made up like a comic book character. The Last Winter is an environmentally conscious Horror picture that spends half of its time developing characters and the other half making you believe their insane before a very strong, haunting finish. It’s a slow build, but that makes it great complete with the kind of denial that has become common place when discussing global warming or human impact on the environment. A great statement by Larry Fessnden who often uses fright pictures to convey socially relevant concepts. He doesn’t shove it down your throat. He just gives you an idea and then shows you how it might kill you.

Interestingly enough I was actually challenged to watch this movie for a Horror movie watching competition along with The Thaw from Ghosthouse. What a great pairing of movies with different spins on the same general concept. While The Thaw goes for the gross out, The Last Winter is thoughtful and eerie. Watching both pictures together makes for a nice balanced evening.

Each disc includes some short films that are fairly interesting though they seem moderately experimental and playful. Do not expect full fledged ideas ready for anthology insertion. The set also includes an updated interview with Fessenden.

You can order The Larry Fessenden Collection now!

From Scream Factory:

Four tales of terror from multi-talented filmmaker Larry Fessenden – he's a writer, a producer, a director and an actor. In this box set, he brings together four of his films, in HD for the first time, along with both brand-new and vintage bonus features including short films and music videos.

Includes 24-Page Booklet With Liner Notes By Fangoria's Michael Gingold And Never-Before-Seen Photos, Storyboards, And Sketches.

Titles Include:

No Telling (1991)
Habit (1995)
Wendigo (2001)
The Last Winter (2006)

Bonus Features


NEW Director-Approved HD Transfer
NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director/Executive Producer Larry Fessenden
The Making Of No Telling (1991)
Archival Footage (1990)
Short Film White Trash (1979) With New Music By Composer Will Bates
Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (1985-1990)


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


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)
Interview With Larry Fessenden (2001)
Wendigo: Animated Series Trailer
Short Film Santa Claws (2008)
Theatrical Trailer
Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (2010)


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
Archival Footage (2005)
Short Film Jebediah
Short Film Origins
Short Film Mister
Tired Of Killing Myself Music Video
NEW 2015 Interview With Larry Fessenden

Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (2014)

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