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Glenn McQuaid’s Bisexual Killer Hand Movie, Larry Fessenden on Horror Remakes and More From TFI Live

Glenn McQuaid's Bisexual Killer Hand Movie, Larry Fessenden on Horror Remakes and More From TFI Live

Since 1985, Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix has been producing vibrant, interesting independent horror films, from Fessenden’s own “Wendigo” to Glenn McQuaid’s “I Sell the Dead” to Ti West’s excellent “The House of the Devil.” Fessenden and McQuaid can’t always find enough money to turn their ambitious, idiosyncratic projects into films, but they’ve found another way to express themselves with the horror audio play anthology “Tales from Beyond the Pale,” which lets horror filmmakers and writers like McQuaid, Fessenden, Graham Reznick and more create spooky stories solely through creative use of audio.

Jason Guerrasio of Tribeca Film Institute’s monthly podcast “TFI Live” spoke with Fessenden and McQuaid about the series, their lives as independent horror filmmakers and more. The whole show is worth a listen, as it includes excerpts of their show and some Halloween horror movie recommendations (including “Burnt Offerings” and “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death”), but here are some highlights. 

1. Glenn McQuaid has always loved
anthology films.
 McQuaid has worked on anthology projects before “Tales from Beyond the Pale,” including the popular “V/H/S,” and he speaks of his affinity for them.

Some of
the early movies I saw were some of the old Amicus movies like “Asylum” and “Tales from the Crypt.” Even watching TV shows growing up, we had a Roald Dahl
TV show called “Tales of the Unexpected.” They were just these rather adult,
quite nasty teleplays, quite dry in that British 70s way. It’s really cool to
be able to tap into that world. Even “I Sell the Dead” is an anthology movie. I
use the same protagonist and antagonist, just in different settings and
stories.

2. Larry Fessenden believes Glass Eye Pix
is all about anthology. 
The collaborative nature of “Tales from Beyond the Pale” is perfect for Fessenden, too, as he believes his production company is all about anthology.

What
I try to run is a community of filmmakers where we help each other in one way
or another. Glenn knows about effects and titles, Graham Reznick is a sound
designer as well as a director. I think Glenn and I just wanted to expand that
mission to the idea of having short-form audio plays, which are more affordable
than making movies, and get some of our comrades we met at festivals involved
and have a lot of voices and a lot of stories out there and really celebrate
the diversity and possibilities in the horror genre, which is something I’m
obsessed with.

3. Fessenden wanted to touch upon all
types of horror with “Tales from Beyond the Pale.”

Horror is such a broad genre. You can have
a cautionary tale with a sort of mythological bent. You can have the slasher
film, which is more about immediate terror of home invasion. You can have
science fiction, you can have aliens. All of this is possible in the audio
format, so we’ve had a blast inviting filmmakers and also literary authors, all
types to join us in our tent.

4. Fessenden and McQuaid on working with Sean Young. One of the collaborators McQuaid and Fessenden welcomed on “Tales from Beyond the Pale” is Sean Young, who at this point is better known for her eccentric behavior than her more recent roles. But while McQuaid and Fessenden note that she can be a bit out there, both praise her for the passion she brings to the roles. McQuaid talks about working with her on the episode “The Crush,” which he wrote.

I think Sean really loves the buildup to the actual filming and performance. There was a lot of passion from her. A lot of it is bananas, but it’s passion, and it gets us talking…she’s great. She’s a little kooky, beautiful woman, and very passionate.

Fessenden adds:

Sean is great. She’s really feisty, and smart as a tack. She likes to show that she’s been on some big sets, and get in with the crew, and keep everyone on their toes. She can be a little bit exhausting that way, because she knows what’s going on in the room more than anyone else, but all of this is part of her charm. She’s one of the guys, she’s got strong opinions, a lot of passion, and like Glenn says, she’s a real artist.

 5. Fessenden on addressing social problems
through horror.
Many of Fessenden’s films tackle social problems. Guerrasio mentions 2006’s “The Last Winter,” a “The Thing”-style horror film with an environmentalist bent.

That’s
certainly been my agenda, to address, not in a didactic way I hope (though some
would accuse me of it), and engage with social issues and the collapse of
civilization, which I think is imminent as far as I see it, and urgent to
address. What better format than horror? You could make a documentary, but to
just do straight drama about what a mess we’ve made is not as compelling to me
as bringing in the supernatural, all the textures that horror can embrace.
That’s why I love it. It’s an aesthetic thing, it’s beyond the themes of the
film.

5. McQuaid’s trouble with taking on familiar tropes. McQuaid talks about how he isn’t likely to take on a more mainstream horror project along the lines of a vampire or zombie movie.

I have difficulty trying to mold some of my ideas into something as specific as the horror tropes going around right now. A while back it had to be a zombie movie, or a ghost movie, some of the cyclic things going on in horror. I wish I could apply my ideas to a bloodsucking movie, because it would be great for my career, and there are some people who can tackle those tropes and bring something really original, I’ve nothing against that. For me, it’s always a little sideways.

6. Fessenden almost remade “The Orphanage.”  Fessenden believes that horror remakes need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, but that it “seems somewhat corrupt when there are so many original ideas out there.” He did, however, almost make an English-language version of Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Orphanage” with Guillermo Del Toro.

I worked with Guillermo Del Toro, and we made what we thought were improvements, or at least alterations, to the original, setting it in a New England and making it a ghost story. I considered “The Orphanage,” and was honored by the whole enterprise because it’s Guillermo, he hand-picked me to do it, he believed I had something to bring to it. Everything about it was a great experience, contrary to the one-sentence summary of what happened, which is that we parted on differences in casting. Actually, I think a certain level of reality crept in, and they realized that the type of actresses that they wanted were not going to meet their price point.

8. Fessenden on the difficulty of finding
funding.

I never used to
have more than one project… I used to have one story I was going to make, and it
would take me three or four years to get it together. Now I actually accumulate
scripts, and it’s a little more heartbreaking to glance over them and see that
I have ten years of work if I can get the financing. It’s a little tougher,
because in a way Hollywood has figured out that horror is a business. Horror
was always an outsider genre, people didn’t want to touch it. So you went to
the mad uncle of the family or the dentist to get the money, whereas now it’s
more formal. You can go to Lionsgate and pitch, but they have something very
specific in mind. More films are made, you have easier access to equipment, but
there are other things that make independent filmmaking still a struggle, and
that’s part of the dynamic of being a filmmaker.

9. McQuaid doesn’t do Kickstarter.

I guess I’m sort of old school, I’ve been
selling my wares before the advent of it. I’m used to a different way of
approaching people for money. I’m not against Kickstarter, and I’ve got plenty
of friends who are doing it, and it’s been incredible for certain projects.
Kind of leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth when I see people using
Kickstarter that could get the money, who are using it as more of a promotional
way.

10. McQuaid on his bisexual killer hand
movie “Restoration.”
 Someone fund this.

Well, we’ve got a great scripts (laughs). In a way I’d like to just publish the
script with some illustrations. It’s an homage the killer hand movie, and it’s
got a bisexual tint to it, so in a way it marries the old gothic movies to
something much more sexual, Spanish and Almodovarian in a way. Marrying those
worlds through a desire for me, as a gay man, to talk about sexuality in the
funnest way is to couple it with horror. The script’s in a great place, it’s a
movie that’s going to require more money than people are willing to throw at me
for an outsider project. It’s not a vampire movie or a ghost house movie, it’s
something else.

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