EXCLUSIVE: Larry Fessenden talks to HMPod

larry-polaroid-2Punching Bill Murray

By Jerry Eberts

One of the busiest all-rounders working in the film industry is Larry Fessenden. Writer, producer, director and musician, he is probably best known as an actor. Three of the movies in which he appeared last year made multiple top 10 lists for 2013: We Are What We Are, You’re Next and Jug Face.

His latest directing gig was for Beneath, about a group of young friends who take an ill-advised paddle across a lake. Lurking in the depths of the lake is a rather large and extremely carnivorous fish.

“I have always loved Jaws,” says Fessenden. “It’s always been a favourite movie. And I love boating, so it seemed a good match. But making a movie on the water means you get half as much work done each day as you expect. If an actor wants to go to the bathroom, you have to send a boat to pick them up, take them back to shore. And everything is kind of tipsy.

“The idea was not to just use CGI, so we used a giant fish puppet that I designed myself. I wanted an oddball-looking creature. Those are porcupine spines on the back of the fish.”

Fessenden says purchasers of the Beneath DVD will find it “filled with delightful extras, behind-the-scenes stuff, how we did it. There’s also a short documentary about my love affair with Jaws — I even built a six-foot replica when I was a kid. Unfortunately, it fell apart when it went into the water.”

Glass Eye Pix, Fessenden’s independent film studio, has been in operation since 1985, backing a wide range of movies. A partial list of horror flicks produced by Fessenden & company includes The Innkeepers, Stake Land, Wendigo, The Last Winter and Hypothermia.

Wendigo is on a few of those ‘100 best movies you’ve never seen’ lists,” says the renaissance filmmaker. “It had a great cast, including Patricia Clarkson. She also recorded the voice-over at the start of The Last Winter.”

The Fessenden-produced Hypothermia stars horror staple Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) as a family man whose family is put at risk as they try to enjoy some ice-fishing.

“I knew that Michael Rooker had a reputation as being batshit crazy,” says Fessenden. “And it turns out he was. But he was great. I liked making that movie. I like B-movies — I’ve produced a number of them! There is usually a redemptive part of the story. I like that. Even Hypothermia is sort of a cautionary tale.”

The outdoor themes of several of Fessenden’s directed movies — Wendigo, The Last Winter, Hypothermia, Beneath — begs the question: Is Larry an environmentalist?

“I’m not a great outdoorsman,” he says. “But I think human society is very disrespectful of nature, of the planet. It’s a nonstop loop of idiocy.”

A few movies in which Fessenden appears that might surprise the casual movie fan include the psychological horror of Session 9, the Jim Jarmusch-directed Broken Flowers (“I got to punch Bill Murray in that one. He was a delight”) and the Martin Scorsese film Bringing Out the Dead.

“I was only on the set for a day, but Marty was great,” says Fessenden. “He was very funny and he knew my movie Habit. I could not have been more flattered. Habit is an underground-vampire-New-York-love-story, but I tried to make the colours of the city look like they did in Taxi Driver.”

Commenting specifically about his acting roles, Fessenden jokes that he’s been killed in “so many movies” — a recent count put his cinematic deaths at close to 120.

The 51-year-old Fessenden is also a mentor, making small but often tasty appearances in movies for up-and-comers such as Chad Crawford Kinkle’s excellent Jug Face (“I’d worked with one of the producers”) and Jim Mickle’s We Are What We Are (“Jim and I had worked on Stake Land previously”).

Glass Eye Pix also produced the recent Birth of the Living Dead, a feature-length documentary about George A. Romero’s groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead. It’s an entertaining movie about making a super-low-budget horror movie in Pittsburgh, with Larry giving his insights about the flick both as a moviemaker and a die-hard fan.

“I’ve loved that movie since I was little,” says Fessenden. “I didn’t choose to make this documentary; it chose me.

“There are many aspects of horror that resonate with me — including the outsider status. There is a certain amount of outrage at life’s arbitrariness. You just have to look at the classic Universal horror movies. Those monsters had a tragic aspect. I love the genre.

“Take the movie You’re Next,” he says. “That’s about revenge, that experience. It’s about what we wish we could do, wish fulfillment — like Django Unchained.”

In between acting, directing, editing and producing, Fessenden also makes music and has an ongoing audio series called Tales from Beyond the Pale, creating online dramas. But much of his time is spent raising money for his next movie production. “Nothing is certain till the money is in the bank,” he says.

Though Fessenden does not discuss movies that are still in the planning phase, he says his work on We Are Still Here for director Ted Geoghegan included “a good shoot in New York City, Rochester and upstate.” The haunted house movie costars horror vet & scream queen supreme Barbara Crampton. Expect a release later this year.

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Finally, some days after the interview, my cohost of The Horror Movie Show podcast Mark and I watched I Sell the Dead, a laugh-out-loud horror-comedy about two 18th-century nitwits (Fessenden and Dominic Monaghan) who start the story as grave-robbers and eventually move up the ladder of that profession to ghoul. Below is the e-mail question and answer between Larry and myself regarding this highly recommended movie.

HMPod: I watched I Sell the Dead a couple of days back & hoped you might e-mail me a line or three about that very funny movie. Was it tough doing the English accent?

LF: I grew up doing British accents so I felt pretty comfortable with it. Glenn [McQuaid, the director] is Irish, which is a different accent of course, but he knew a few tricks too, and wouldn’t stand for anything too phony.

HMPod: Is Dominic as funny as he seems? Apart from Lord of the Rings, I am a big fan of his from Lost. He seems able to do drama and comedy equally well.

LF: Dom is such a smart guy and very passionate. He’s acted since he was a child, so he has an ease about the camera which lends itself to comedy. He’s got an impish charm and felt at home on our informal set. We started shooting the day his character on Lost was killed, so I think we caught him at a relaxed transitional time.

Check out his nature show, Wild Things. Dom is using his celebrity and smarts to celebrate the wonders of creepy crawly things. His exuberance is infectious.

HMPod: I Sell the Dead reminded me of Monty Python. Loved the alien bit. Anything you’d like to tell us about the movie would be appreciated.

LF: Love Monty Python! Everyone involved with I Sell the Dead has a special fondness for it.

I Sell the Dead has a very unusual tone for this day and age, and that all comes from Glenn’s sensibility. Also it was a good time for my production company, Glass Eye Pix. We were all finding our way and we knew we were making something unique and outside the box.

Movie vets Dom, Ron Perlman, Angus Scrimm and Eileen Colgan joined our cast of local players. It was the first big film for my associates, producers Peter Phok and Brent Kunkle. It’s when we met makeup man Brian Spears, who we’ve worked with ever since (he did Beneath). We continued our run with composer Jeff Grace, upping the ante with this score.

We all came together and hit a stride, figuring out how to make original films on our own terms. This movie led to The House of the Devil, Stake Land,  and everything since.

EXCLUSIVE: Eric Roberts talks to HMPod

camp-dread-eric-roberts-danielle-harrisMain course: Danielle Harris & Eric Roberts in Camp Dread

The hardest working actor in the world

Eric Roberts’ new movie Camp Dread is a throwback to the hugely popular Friday the 13th movies & the various unholy spawn of that series — specifically 1983’s Sleepaway Camp.

Costarring Felissa Rose (the lead from Sleepaway Camp) & Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5), Roberts plays a no-holds-barred Hollywood producer hoping to resuscitate his moribund horror career in this low-budget slasher from first-time writer-director Harrison Smith.

Roberts kindly, albeit briefly, answered a dozen questions via e-mail — most not about Camp Dread.

HMPod: Your profile on IMDb lists more than 60 movies that are either Completed, in Post-production or in Pre-production. Are you the hardest working actor in the world?

ER: Lots are not quite real, shall we say.

But I do work just a day or two on several projects at once. Crazy. But it’s a new era and who doesn’t “moonlight”?

Please tell us a little about your role as Governor Hughes in the highly anticipated Human Centipede III. Can we expect a movie even more over the top than the first two? (Really looking forward to it. Thought the first two were hilarious.)

ER: That is the way to look at the Centipede movies… as hilarious. I’m going to adopt that from you.

The people making these movies are wonderful.

They were motivated by being disturbed by the light sentences given to child abusers and child molesters. They came up with something that would make the people who abuse kids feel as bad as the kids did… Hence, the Human Centipede.

I can’t actually watch the movies. Too much for me!

Having just watched Runaway Train for about the sixth time, that remains one of the best suspense films ever. Do you have any memories of that movie you could share?

ER: We were freezing!

We totally trusted each other and our director.

Another of your older movies that could be considered on the edge of horror is Star 80. You were certainly a memorable villain. Any thoughts on that role? (BTW, you filmed Star 80 in my hometown of Vancouver.)

ER: We love Vancouver. Keaton, Morgan, Eliza and I just love it. [Keaton & Morgan Simons are Roberts’ stepchildren. Eliza Garrett is his wife.]

I love doing biographies and, unfortunately, Star 80 was a true story.

Your small but integral role as Maroni in mega-hit The Dark Knight opposite Christian Bale & Heath Ledger proved yet again how good you can be in a small part. Do you like being part of such a large cast?

ER: Very much. One of my favorite things.

You’ve done a lot of episodic TV series, including Heroes, CSI, Criminal Minds, even daytime soap The Young & the Restless. Is there much difference between working on movies & TV?

ER: Not any more. Movies and TV are interchangeable.

Y&R uses Keaton Simons’ music, and you gotta love that!

You costarred in Alan Spencer’s Bullet in the Face as Racken. Was that as much fun as it appears?

ER: Follow Alan and me on Twitter. Working with Eddie Izzard. What could be better?!

So many of your movies are in the horror genre. What’s the appeal of horror to you as an actor?

ER: Emma likes horror. That’s good enough for me! [Daughter Emma Roberts is also an actor. See her in Scream 4, among other movies.]

Please walk us through the process of your involvement in Camp Dread.

ER: The producer and director have become my friends. They approached in the standard way and I responded to their passion and their talent.

How was working with Danielle Harris on Camp Dread?

ER: Awesome. I’d do it again in a second.

Any upcoming releases you’d care to mention?

ER: The Novelist & Rock Story.

How do you spend your time when you’re not making a movie?

ER: I’m a Keaton Simons groupie. I go to his shows and to Studio City Farmer’s Market on Sundays for www.pibakeshop.com.

I also work for www.naturalchild.org. And I’m very involved in animal rescue — all animals, including fish, lobsters, birds….

HMPOD.com Podcast 143 — Larry Fessenden retrospective

LarryFessendenGuillotineThe many hats of Larry Fessenden

One of the busiest dudes working in the horror genre, Larry Fessenden is an actor, writer, director & producer. On this special episode of The Horror Movie Show, hosts Jerry & Mark wax rhapsodic about several of Larry’s movies.

Three movies in which Larry acts — Jug Face, You’re Next & We Are What We Are — made HMPod‘s Top 10 list for 2013. A brief review of each movie begins this retrospective.

As producer & director, Larry’s new flick Beneath is a good, old-fashioned creature feature about a gigantic hungry fish in a very small pond, feasting upon the disloyal bodies of naughty teenagers. Larry’s production studio, Glass Eye Pix, has made at least one movie that is not horror, but will make some viewers squirm regardless. The Comedy is the sort of movie that divides an audience into those who love it & those who loathe it.

I Sell the Dead, starring Larry & loveable Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings, Lost), is a blackly comic tale of body-snatching ghouls who are in way over their heads, so to speak.

Two more movies directed & written by Larry wrap up this episode. The Last Winter (2006) is a tale of nature’s revenge on shortsighted humanity, with Ron Perlman playing the sort of swine he plays so well. Wendigo (2001) stars Jake Weber & Patricia Clarkson as nice people caught up in a small-town cretin’s anger.

Expect to see HMPod‘s interview with Larry, exclusive to this site & Eli Roth‘s The Crypt, coming soon.

HMPOD.com Podcast 142 — The Walking Dead S4 finale, RoboCop (1987 & 2014), The Den, Wishmaster

Rub this… Go on… Rub it!

Once again, your dandy hosts Mark & Jerry argue & whine about horror entertainment on this episode of The Horror Movie Show. Zombies, cyborgs, computer maniacs & evil djinn abound.

The guys begin with a final recap for season 4 of The Walking Dead & what a finale it was. Rick & Co. appear to be in a tight spot, though that’s nothing new. We’ll all have to wait till October to find out what comes next.

Though Jerry blethered recently for a few moments about the reboot or remake of RoboCop, Mark has finally caught up & a deeply philosophical discussion takes place about which version is better — 1987 or 2014? No big prize for guessing which flick these sticks-in-the-mud prefer.

The low-budget but well-made shocker The Den is next. Starring Melanie Papalia, this movie was co-written & directed by Zachary Donohue.

Finally, in keeping with the recently instituted tradition of self-education in the field of horror movies, the boys talk about 1997′s Wishmaster. This film started a small avalanche of sequels, so the original must have done something right. Listen now & hear all, O Powerful Listener!