Quantcast ICONS Interview with Larry Fessenden - THE LAST WINTER, FEAR ITSELF "SKIN & BONES", WENDIGO, HABIT, NO TELLING

Writer/Director
Larry Fessenden!

Who is this Larry Fesseneden and why do people keep trying to kill him? Our writer, and keeper of The Vault, Jsyn had been goading us to find out exactly that after catching Larry's film “THE LAST WINTER ” earlier this year. If you've followed independent horror over the the last decade then you may have become familiar with Larry's company “Glass Eye Pix”, with which he's directed 4 films, as well as produced a number of others, including Ti West's “THE ROOST ”. Knowing little about Larry, aside from his many acting roles (where he's often killed, Jodie Foster did him in last year in “THE BRAVE ONE ”) Rob G. and myself finally decided to get caught up in some of the features he'd directed.


I'd seen “WENDIGO” a few years back, but we both found ourselves intrigued and drawn into his second feature, the very New York, and very allegorical vampire film, “HABIT”. After watching this boozy, surreal and dreamlike slice of mid-1990's Manhattan which left us with a strange connection to it, we knew that we would have to immediately meet up with Fessenden. We knew this one would have to be an Icons team effort so we gathered up Rob G, the evil Adam Barnick, Jsyn and myself and met up with Larry for drinks in the city.

When our plans to meet up at one of our favorite watering holes The Library was stymied by a surprisingly large (and loud crowd) Larry suggested we move down a few blocks us to Bar A-2, the very place, he told us, where he'd written most of “HABIT”. With that wonderful ambiance, a few adult beverages in our bellies (and oddly, comedian David Cross staring us from across the bar) we got down to business:
- Intro by Mike C. - Interview by Robg., Adam Barnick, Mike C. & Jsyn - 7/08

Robg.: What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre?

Well, without a doubt it was watching the Saturday afternoon horror movies. Chiller Theater, Creature Feature. They would be on every Saturday and it was my favorite place to be in our kitchen where we had our black and white TV and I just saw a lot of bad movies! CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN and some that I’d never been able to re-find. THE CRAWLING EYE was a really strange and unusual horror movie. And of course I saw FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA. So, yes I’m totally a product of the Universal era.
I was thinking recently about doing a Fango convention, because honestly – and anyone that knows my work will concur, I’m just not interested in gore. I don’t associate gore with horror. I associate monsters with horror primarily. I love WOLF MAN and FRANKENSTEIN and THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. I liked some of the spooky atmosphere from B-movies. I never liked THE MUMMY with Karloff, I thought they were too boring, I liked the ones with Lon Chaney Jr. and Tom Tyler! (Laughs) In other words, I really had an appetite for B-movies and all those old black and whites.
Robg.: It’s safe to say that those were the types of films that fed your imagination and influenced you?

Absolutely. And FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND was the magazine you would buy in those days, even more then FANGO, which I think started a little later. There were all kinds of weird offshoots of that. And then CREEPY and EERIE were comic books, they were large format comics. Then I read WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, which I’ve gone on record saying that I want to make the movie of that! No one’s interested in what I want to do, meaning the studios! (Laughs) Those were my horror influences, but ultimately it was always my own perception of life. I always took the dark view of everything. Every dark corner was filled with untold horrors. It’s funny, I’ve never analyzed it, but I came from a comfortable situation, but I was always aware of the potential horror in every corner.
Robg.: You’ve written, you’ve directed, you’ve acted. I think the first thing you went into films for was acting. What led you on that particular path first? How did you get fascinated with the way films were made?

I entered film only knowing the acting. I knew of Karloff and Lugosi. And then I saw the movie called THE MAN OF 1000 FACES starring James Cagney as Lon Chaney. That hooked me into this whole other world, which was sort of the realist dramas of Warner Brothers, starring James Cagney. He played gangsters and did a couple of musicals, but anyway… It was always about the actors.
As I got older, (now we’re in the 1970’s) I was obsessed with Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro and Pacino and Hoffman. I particularly remember back in 1976, there’s one shot in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST where he has his hand on the glass (and this just shows how naive you could be in those days), he had his hand on the glass in one shot facing this way, and then facing the other way he had his fingers in another formation, and I realized “Oh, they must’ve shot the whole scene from one side, and then they must’ve moved the camera and shot it from another end.” So, that’s how wonderfully naïve you could be about movies. In ‘76 I was already a teenager and that’s when I started understanding movies. There was no Premiere magazine, there was no making-of DVD’s, there was no VHS, there were no ways to know.

What I would do with movies is I’d record them on a cassette tape and I would listen to them, and to this day that’s why I love sound, because I was aware of the rhythms of foot falls, a door opening, the sound of a creek.
All of that is how I heard movies. Even when I was older, I recorded JAWS (on a cassette tape) in the movie theater! And I thought it was the most illegal thing I could possibly do! (Laughs) I would sweat at the anticipation! I’d sneak in with a cassette player and recorded it, and as a result I know that movie by heart. And many, many previous movies. I always say, I’m the last generation where film was so precious like that. That was the way that you could even have ownership of something. There were 2 books on JAWS. THE JAWS LOG by Carl Gottlieb and then another one that had two extra cool pictures! But it was all about the little tiny things! That’s what FAMOUS MONSTERS was. There was a poster of dozens of pictures, like remember that image of the woman from THE REPTILE? She has this reptile face? That image – you could look at that for hours and feast on it because it was seared into your brain! I grew up in this notion of single images. It’s a much more precious experience. It’s nobody’s fault that they’re born in this generation. But the amount of media, even that my kid is taking in at the moment is mind-blowing!

Robg.: I miss that! I remember as a kid always seeing this one still from EVIL DEAD 2 that’s just not in the movie and I’d always think, “What is that scene? Where is that scene?” What’s the mystery behind this one image?!

Absolutely! That was another thing! I would always see one picture and think, “That’s not where the camera was!” And I’d be so confused! Because I didn’t realize that they just had a photographer on set, so you think “What am I looking at?” Honestly, I wouldn’t trade that for anything, other then I’d probably connect with a modern audience more if I wasn’t from this time and sensibility. Everything was very potent to me, and in a way, so was life itself, which is why I saw everything as a threat and as very scary.
Robg.: You started out acting, so was the transition into writing a natural one?

Ironically, it was CUCKOO’S NEST again. I was acting in high school, I went to a prep school actually and they had a great theater program. I would always be putting these shows on. I saw CUCKOO’S NEST and I read it, and I thought the book is so much better. And then I read the play, and the play sucked. (Laughs) So, I was determined to write the screenplay of the book! So, I wrote this fucking 180 page thing and I cast all the cool people from the school. And I was still young, so I cast all the seniors and everything. And I put on that show, and it was a huge success.
None of the teachers came, but all the kids came and it was sold out and it was a big thing! So, in a way I was already interested in writing and directing to some degree. Then I got a Super-8 camera and I realized that where you put the camera determines how you tell the story. Once again, it was just a little homemade revelation. I didn’t watch a commentary to hear that! I didn’t learn about editing from commentaries, I figured it all out in my own slow, methodical way. I started shooting Super-8 movies, and I became obsessed with editing them. In those days, where you made a cut was the hugest decision you could made! Because you’re cutting this tiny little thing and you have to put the band-aid on and then you have to clean off the sprockets, and then you go “it’s 2 frames off!” So, you have to peel it off, put that back and cut it again. It was a matter of pride if your film didn’t jerk through the projector. I was thrown out of my prep school and all I wanted to do was go to NYU, because in those days that was the only film school.
So, I brought my Super-8 movies that I made, I showed them and I got in on the strength of them, although I honestly think it’s because my parents paid full tuition! (Laughs) I had made 50 Super-8 movies by that time, only a few of which are worth still showing. They would have us in the film school making 16mm movies, which was great and you had new equipment to work on, but what I realized was there was a whole video department upstairs that wasn’t being used by anyone! There was no one up there! I thought I could make sync sound.
So, then I started making feature films. I made HABIT, the original version. The original movie is 70 minutes long, and the irony is most of the movie is me being sick, because I was already having life-threatening panic attacks at that point. So, I made HABIT and video was just this great revelation. I was just a con man. I would get the equipment every single week and I was always editing in there, out until the last minute of them turning off the lights. I got to know all the proprietors, and I would go to these classes and I’d end up doing so much work that they’d say “you don’t have to come to class, but if you come in every month and teach the class, that’d be great!”
So, we had a TV show on public access, which was a great thing. And it was everything from me in drag to doing a cooking show, to a couple of horror episodes. Then I did HABIT around then. And then I directed a 2 and a half hour caper movie called EXPERIENCED MOVERS, which is totally zany. And then I was in this neighborhood working with performance artists. I started making money by editing people’s reels. Actor’s reels and so on. That was in the old days. Steve Buscemi was in the neighborhood, I edited his reel. Mark Boone Junior, his stand up partner. So I got to know that whole community and it was just this very vibrant time here.
In a way, it derailed me because I just started getting involved in the “scene” and with playing music and doing videos with people and working with performance artists, which is how I became a very prolific editor. But, in a way I wasn’t really making the “move to Hollywood” or even in indie film. That’s the other weird thing, the structure, the ambition, the drive wasn’t quite set up the way it is for a kid now.

Robg.: In HABIT, there’s a scene with a photographer taking pictures of naked girls on stairs and you just mentioned working with performance artists. I just was trying to figure out what went into shooting that! Because you’ve got a photographer and a group of naked girls on the stairs in the middle of New York!

Well, also where would that image come from, and that’s exactly the point. You’re following up on what I’m saying. That guy is a friend of mine, who’s a photographer and that is his oeuvre, which is huge Rubinesque women. He would place them on classical architecture, and he’d shoot a lot of them in New York as well as other places like Chicago and Philadelphia. They’re beautiful, beautiful black and white photos and they’re huge! They really are gorgeous. When I was a kid around 1981, a friend and I were doing some illicit drugs and wandering around New York as one did in those days, and I came upon a series of things. It was the trippiest night, literally!
We were sitting in this one place and this homeless guy came up from this box and said, “Who’s that there!” And that used to be in HABIT! I cut it, because it didn’t work so well. But then the next thing we stumbled upon was Marty Scorsese shooting RAGING BULL! Can you imagine?! (Laughs) Right outside of the Copacabana on 57 th Street in Manhattan. It was the scene where Joe Pesci smashes the guy in the back – there was Marty, there was this cab, and there was a guy we’d never heard of, Joe Pesci, smashing a door and my friend and I were like “This is wild, man!”
So for HABIT, I wanted to create that same kind of dreamy night that keeps on going. One weird incident after another. Instead of coming upon a film shoot, I thought we’ll come across Nelson’s shoot and there’ll be these weird naked woman! How weird would that be? So, that’s the origin of that scene.

Mike C.: You said you were caught up in a “scene”. Your character in HABIT, Sam, you really don’t know what he’s up to. Is he an artist? He seems so distracted from what he’s supposed to be doing.
Exactly, and that was the scene in the lower East side. Everyone was sort of an artist or they were living this kind of creative lifestyle, but very likely they were just a drunk, which is that blurred line. In HABIT, he works at the restaurant, but his friend makes this comment about him having money and that’s sort of the whole idea. Unfortunately Sam is lost, because he has no need to have further direction. There are huge paintings by his girlfriend, so he lives with an artist. (The other girl.)
And the other guy is so theatrical, the guy who plays his friend Nick (Aaron Beall) actually had a theater down here called Todo Con Nada on Ludlow when we filmed and in my own mind, I just imagined that he was that kind of a guy; I don’t really show that he’s an artist. In the original cut, Nick - that character is actually performing at the Halloween party, some crazy thing. So you’re a little more aware that he’s actually a performance artist. Which accounts for his absurdly theatrical nature, the way he communicates.
Robg.: HABIT to me is my favorite realistic vampire movie next to NEAR DARK. I hold them both in high regard. What was it about that story that of all the shorts and films you made before, that was the one you decided to remake into a feature?

Because it’s truly autobiographical.

Robg.: So you hold it very personal, HABIT?
Yeah, it’s very personal and I say on the making-of that I would make it again as a 45 year old! And it could be more horrifying, because he’d be married, even have a kid. So he’d be putting even more people in jeopardy with his self-destruction. We’ll see! I don’t know if the nude scenes would be quite as exciting! (Laughs) But the real answer to the question is that it remains my personal testament about living on the edge of alcoholism and fighting off demons of insanity. Which has dogged me my whole life. And feeling I’m… it’s very personal. The panic attacks and just feeling basically out of control. And as much as I have a relatively stable life, I’m just a couple of degrees away from that guy still.
Robg.: The thing I love about HABIT is it’s so New York. It embodies what it’s like to live here. If I ever wanted to give someone an example of what it’s like in New York, I’d tell them to watch HABIT!

It’s funny, because the colors of New York really are red, green and the blacks of night. And the yellow of the endless blur of stuff. I do agree. I feel pretty great about the look of that film, and of course it was a great shoot.
Just a 7 person crew. Frank Demarco was the DP and it was just 7 of us in a tiny car and we’d drive around. A lot of the footage was stolen without permits, and when we needed permits to stage that car accident, we did that on the up and up. That was the last time they had the Ferris wheel at the San Gennaro festival. Which they still have; but now they sell tube socks and “I Love New York” T-shirts whereas then, it was more authentic.
Robg.: I wanted to talk about casting Meredith Snaider in the role of Anna. It’s the one and only film she did and I think she’s a terrific in it! I thought I read somewhere that she now works as a social worker?

Yeah, and she’s a mom too!

Robg.: And a mom! So, what was it about her that she was right for Anna? Did you know her previously? Why did she only do that one role in film?
I always tell this story. Dayton Taylor was my producer, and it was really just he and I that made HABIT. And we put an ad in Backstage, it said, “Some nudity, frank sexual vampire movie. Lower East Side. No money.” (Laughs) And uh, we got a stack of envelopes believe it or not! (That’s the beauty of New York.) Me and Dayton were sitting in a pub somewhere and we pulled up the first envelope and opened it, and I pulled out the picture and said “We have our vampire!” It was the first picture I pulled out and basically I just wanted that androgynous look. I felt she was so beautiful in her picture. She was also staring right into the camera; it was a really good head shot.
Adam Barnick: I think you even say it in the movie that she looks timeless.

Oh yeah! Everything about it. She had this kind of slightly feral female look, which is exactly what I had in mind. Naturally, we auditioned her and she really started to haunt me. I worked with her a lot, she was not a hugely experienced actress, I mean she was in acting class and in school. She was a very young girl, but we did a lot of stuff together and sculpted all the sex scenes, and had a very honest relationship and it was just a really great experience.
Honestly, I think a lot of the opportunities that came as a result of HABIT were scumbags asking her to do nude stuff, and I think it was a little disappointing because she wanted to be an actress! Just in general, acting is an incredibly hard gig. And she drifted away from it. I have seen her since, and I run into her. She’s a mom now and a social worker. She was always into psychology. So, she’s like a real person! But how cool is that that there’s one video on her shelves that she can show her kids or… maybe never show her kids. (Laughs) Yeah, I think she’s great and I still get inquires (about her) on the Internet. Because she’s got a one-sentence bio!
It’s funny, once again; it’s about the over-information we live with. If you withhold information, people go crazy! “Who is she? Where is she?”

Mike C.
: Do you think that helps HABIT’s reputation? The interest in this woman who played that character?


Robg.: Maybe she’s a real vampire!

Well, that’s what’s appealing. It does feel like she just visited this movie and just disappeared.
Robg.: Well, this is something interesting that I wanted to talk about. I read an interview where you said all your films are pretty much metaphoric…

Absolutely…

Robg.: …And that you hope that people take them that way. Whereas for me, I like to take them literally! I like to think that Anna was a vampire for real!

That’s fine with me!


Robg.: I like to think there are ghosts in THE LAST WINTER. So, is that OK with you that I’m taking your films literally?

Absolutely.

Robg.
: I feel that this is the way you intentionally craft your movies. The scene I love in HABIT is when Sam is confessing to his friend that he thinks his girlfriend is doing all this crazy stuff with him. You can think, “well wait, maybe she’s a vampire”, or “dude, you just hooked up with a really crazy New York chick!” I love that it can go either way, and for me, I tend to lean more towards the fantastic.
And in a weird way, so do I. But there’s a part of me that won’t allow myself that. That’s been the reality of my career. I don’t want to explain it. I live everyday with ghouls and goblins haunting my peripheral vision, and that’s absolutely real but I know it’s also totally subjective. It’s just me! Everyone else is like, “What do you mean, Larry? Everything’s normal!” You don’t understand. I’ve been dealing with my whole life that sort of specter of death and disease and decay! (Laughs) That’s just the way I seem to perceive it.
So, my films are very deliberately the two things. I guess what I’m saying is that reality is incredibly subjective. I was just listening to this woman on the radio today talking about schizophrenia. Those people are diagnosingly experiencing hallucinations. You know, I’m not sure about the brain! But who’s to say that I’m not right on the edge. I always wonder how my brain might be working!

Adam Barnick: You just might be slightly more perceptive to the point where it’s overwhelming.
Well, exactly. Or whatever my synapses are doing. They’re just putting things together in a different way. You can say it’s slightly hysterical or slightly delusional and so on. Bottom line, I’m an “artist” and therefore I see things differently. I’m sure Guillermo Del Toro sees visions when he looks out. The real point in HABIT and every other film is that those monsters are absolutely real to the people that are experiencing them, and therefore they are real! Their reality is subjective. It’s your subjective truth. In the same way that some people can go through tremendous hardships and rise above it by denying the suffering they’re going through. (I don’t know why I’m bringing that example.)
But someone who can overcome torture, or live in that abject poverty, I admire those kinds of stories – people dealing with extremism. So, my basic premise in all these movies is your reality is your mind and what you’re perceiving. As far as THE LAST WINTER, I don’t think the world’s going to come to an end because little weird demons are going to come out of the earth. I think the climate is going to collapse and human civilization will crumble. I don’t blame the demons, but I think those demons are there for us. And that’s what it’ll feel like, because human beings apply meaning to reality. That’s why we have Greek myths or the great religions. People are telling stories to make sense of physical reality. Those are my issues.
Adam Barnick: HABIT was about how reality is so subjective that you can never completely see something from somebody’s point of view. And how terribly lonely that actually is. You started talking about mythology and religion..that’s what spoke to me the most in WENDIGO. The boy gets his little totem and through that Native-American story, that’s as close as he can get to rationalizing what horrible random things actually happen in the world. That’s as close a comfort as he can get at that age and it’s probably a good thing.
You just said mankind needs those kinds of stories to make sense of things. We’re living in a world that wants to be spiritual, but it’s very false spirituality and a very need-centered spirituality. I agree with the principles and idea behind the order someone can get from embracing organized religion, but the downside is it often turns into spiritual navel-gazing. It’s like “well, there’s me and my group and we have the answer and you don’t, so we have the upper moral high ground.” So, I do feel that your movies are very spiritual while distancing themselves from traditions..

I have often tried to quote Joseph Campbell. It’s a very complex idea, but he says (and this is what my movies are about) “Something can be true and not true at the same time.” Which is to say that the parable of Jesus can be a truth. Jesus or whatever your myth is, that can be a truism. A truth that’s so strong that you live your life by it. It doesn’t make it true. And it doesn’t need to be true to be truthful and that is exactly what Joseph Campbell has said and I’ve always embraced that idea.
Beyond that, my answer to spirituality, and the reason I detest world religions is-yes, I’ll say that on record-they are incredibly human-centric. Narcissistic. For all the endless talk about a higher being, I see no reverence for nature, no reverence for the world around us. I see only rules and laws made by men, and stories about men fighting men, putting men down, I see nothing that impresses me in the Christian religion as it is broadcast to our modern society. We all know that every religion has a tiny, tiny pocket of actual decent people in it. But they’re often very hard to find. I have essentially contempt for religion. I’m quite proud to be on the Atheist website. (Laughs)

Adam Barnick: The good of which religion promises, I feel you do embrace it, especially what we see in Native-American culture’s worldview in your films. Like the ideals are what you’d embrace about them, not elements that drive one inward or against someone else.

I believe very passionately in a reverence of something outside of yourself. A higher moral person and for a sense of community. A lot of people say “if there’s no God, why would you ever do the right thing?” I find that the most contemptible of all thinking. The idea that God is a policeman.


Adam Barnick: Meaning the only reason you do something good is from threat of punishment?

Yeah. ‘How can there be morality without God?’ The whole point of morality is it’s a pact – that is what civilization is. It’s just a deal. You know what? I won’t kill you. I won’t kill you today because I want your beer. That’s already a leap of faith.

Mike C.: What about the way your characters in your films perceive reality and your experience with panic. You mentioned before you experienced panic attacks. And as someone who’s seen how that alters your perception of reality-and how that can be terrifying-what have you experienced that you’ve brought to your films?

I just have my own set of eccentric anxieties. And when they take hold, I’m fully convinced that I’m about to drop dead. Then you have this internal battle of like “Am I really going to take the effort to go to the hospital and go through the role of being diagnosed and sent home in shame that I’m completely fine? Which has happened to me. So, then you start going “to what degree do I really feel like I’m about to drop dead”? It becomes this endless guessing game. I’ve said to my doctor, either I have a heart condition or I’m insane! And I don’t know which one would be better! But, I feel like a lot of people suffer through these things. Look at how much drugs is on TV. I feel it’s an appropriate thing to represent in a film to show a simpatico with the rest of the world. I suffer from anxieties on every level in different things and I do express that.

Most of my characters are not heroic, strong characters. Mind you, I have tremendous admiration for rising above your own fears, and I would hope to show that in a film as well. I come from a point (in dealing with my characters) that everyone is deeply flawed and basically kind of winging it. There’s no such thing as an expert. And I have great admiration for those people that actually are experts and are great leaders. I’m a huge fan of the Shackleton story. He’s the guy who led his team out of the Arctic. I’m fascinated by political leaders with integrity and all those kinds of people because it’s a very, very difficult world. It’s hard to be truthful. We all want to tell little lies so we seem a little bit stronger, a little bit cooler.
I’m always interested in that with my characters. Like the dad in WENDIGO; he’s scared of that hunter guy. He wants to be strong in front of his kid. Is he doing the right thing with the kid when he plays the monster? Like what’s his problem? Is he making the right choices? But then he’s really sweet when he talks about mythology to his kid, there’s an honestness there. Honestly, WENDIGO has some flaws, but there are things about it I think are very beautiful, and that’s great. When he’s talking about mythology to his kid, moments like that, that’s what I like about that movie. Sure, it didn’t make it to the top 10 list of “gore” films. (Laughs)
Mike C.: In a lot of your films, the characters are working themselves into a frenzy. There’s nothing to be afraid of but you’re afraid for them. The way you shoot their reality, it is very dreamlike, it's very unusal. I can relate to it! Having this weird anxious anxiety! Robg. knows this about me! (Laughs) I get all worked up all the time!

I make movies for nervous people! (Laughs) I make horror pictures for nervous people!


Jsyn: From HABIT to NO TELLING to WENDIGO to THE LAST WINTER, we’re here in New York, you talk about being a New York filmmaker, yet all your films seem to get further and further away from New York! (Laughs) Or more so from civilization! Each film seems to get more and more isolated. Is that a conscious effort on your part?

No, I don’t think so, but it is interesting that… I’ll say that location really means everything to me. I really try to absorb a location when I’m doing a movie and capture whatever that vibe is. I made LAST WINTER in a remote place because I really wanted to be where there was snow; and then the oil theme came to my mind and that’s why it was set there. But, I’m not trying to get further and further from people. But it is funny, I was going to make HABIT before NO TELLING, and then a series of events came up, but in a real way, that’s the order, it should’ve been HABIT first. All I really feel is that every location is part of the personality of the film. It’s another character.

Jsyn: For example, here on the East Coast, we get all 4 seasons, we get snow, we get heat. But when you were thinking about writing something like THE LAST WINTER, it was almost like you wrote a location and dropped the characters in the middle of nowhere. Is it because we live here, in New York and are surrounded by it all the time? The idea of mental escape?

I love reducing things to one of the 4 elements, and it’s true, THE LAST WINTER is just one season, one color, one vibe.

Adam Barnick: You even reduced the environment even further! Several people die and then the complex burns down. The two people with two opposing points of view are then in the middle of a white void; absolutely, literally nothing. That’s what it takes for them to start pulling together.

Robg.: Is it true that that was your first mental image you had for THE LAST WINTER, which in turn inspired the whole thing? I thought I read that you had this image in your head of two people from different religions and races in the middle of nowhere.
That’s exactly right. I wanted the actor that tortures Marky Mark in THREE KINGS. Cliff Curtis. He’s a great actor! I imagine him with someone else, because I wrote it after 9/11 and imagined it’d be a Muslim guy. But there’s a famous Kurosawa movie called DERSU UZALA. And it’s about a British colonialist and he’s being navigated through nature by this Native guy. I love the idea of someone having knowledge being able to have more power then the guy who has power. Because in the wilderness, the only thing that will keep you alive is your understanding of nature. It has nothing to do with your standing in society. So, that was sort of the beginning thought, as you said, very reduced. And it was a matter of figuring out how to get them there.
Robg.: You’ve lived with THE LAST WINTER for a while now. It’s been 2 years since you completed it. How does it feel that it’s finally going to be out there?

Oh, I’m so excited. It comes out on DVD July 22nd, 2008. It’s been a long journey and it’s been fun, no real complaints. Just impatience! Because among other things, I am passionate about the issues. You can argue that this is a pretty relevant time for it to come out! It’s about oil shortage, it’s about drilling in ANWR where they’re talking about drilling again. Once again, not solving any of the real problems, which is that we can’t count on oil anymore.
So, it’s perfectly contemporary and it is an irony if you’re liberal politically. You’ve been reading about this shit 15 years ago and the public is barely catching up. Yeah, I wrote a book on environmental filmmaking (http://www.glasseyepix.com/lowimpact/) in 1992 and I have a whole thing about global warming and it’s something we have to deal with. It’s not that I’m so clever, it’s just that I’m reading that kind of information and the rest of the world is reading some other kind of information. I’m excited about THE LAST WINTER coming out, there’s a great, pretty funny making-of…
Robg.: Which is longer then the movie itself, right? (Laughs)

It’s longer then the movie itself! And it’s 2 hours of truly “fly on the wall” stuff. What it’s like to make the movie, and you see us figuring out stuff and planning stuff and things not going well, and things going well. All the characters are very vibrant. We’re really in the middle of the process and it’s fun. It’s not going to be for everybody because it’s not dry interviews.
Robg.: This is arguably your biggest film. Was it the hardest to shoot and make compared to your previous films?

Yeah. It had the most challenges. Every film is hard, because you’re trying to keep the quality up. I have a friend and he observes (and he might’ve been quoting another person) but making a film is to make as few mistakes as possible. There’s so many decisions to be made! Every costume. I just did this episode of FEAR ITSELF, every costume, every single thing. “This napkin? You want this napkin?” And you think umm, yes, yes, I want that napkin.
But then you’ve just committed to a black napkin. And you get on set and there’s a black table and you’re like “Oh my God! I made the wrong choice! It should’ve been a red napkin on the black table! Oh fuck! I’m fucked!” (Laughs) And… maybe you can switch it out, but you can’t always switch it out. Every decision matters and there’s only one person they ask that question of. The fucking director! So, you can talk about TV is really about producers and whomever, but no, at least from my experience, it’s the director.

Jsyn: I absolutely love THE LAST WINTER. It was on mine and Adam’s TOP 10 list last year.


Oh, thank you!

Jsyn: I saw it in theaters with my girlfriend and when it was over, we were just sitting there. She likes films, but not the way that we look at it, and…

Are you saying you got laid because of THE LAST WINTER? And that’s why you love that movie!

Jsyn: No, no! (Laughs) I just thought it was a perfect film. I don’t know what it was about it, but there’s a line in THE LAST WINTER that says we’re basically grave robbers of the earth. I thought that was one of the most brilliantly written lines in any recent films I’ve seen. It capsulated the whole film into that one sentence. It seems now with M. Night’s THE HAPPENING, this new eco-thriller trend, did you know it was going to eventually curve into that sense of the environment being the victim, and we’re the monsters?
My whole opinion about that is that is how I feel. It’s never been a calculated notion. I mean, NO TELLING is technically an environmental horror movie as well. It’s about pesticides and weather we should experiment on animals and what is correct and so on. I do believe (and I’ve said it before) that these will be the themes of the next generation of horror movies, because the fucking world is collapsing! I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but all this flooding that’s been going on? Hello! If you read the old tracts about the problems of global warming, one is going to be flooding.
All these tornados? How can it be that there’s tornados in the news every fucking 3 weeks? It’s just so crazy! So, what’s going to happen is that the world is going to start to destabilize and people are going to start telling stories about that. It’s a natural thing. They may have it as “mother nature” being avenging, or they may have it as be about people running out of supply, or how their neighbors are starting to prey on them. I think 2012 is supposed to be a big date. I don’t buy into that stuff, but I think 2012 – I wouldn’t expect the world to end in 2012! (Laughs)
Adam Barnick: Well, I’m reading THE MONSTER SHOW right now. And THE MONSTER SHOW analyzes horror movies pretty much from when they started making them up to until around the 80’s it seems. And it shows the perfect examples of how all the horror movies, even the crappy ones, the fun B-ones we grew up with. They all reflect something…

Mike C.: That’s why horror in the 90’s was so boring? What were we upset about?
(Group Laughs)

It’s funny you say that. It’s true in a way. I think the “torture-porn” tradition makes perfect sense under Bush. I also think zombie movies are popular because our soldiers are coming back wounded and battered, and there’s this post-apocalyptic trend that will keep on happening. I mean, they’ve been making those movies for a long time, but I think they’re going to take a new urgency. And then things like THE HAPPENING and THE LAST WINTER.
Adam Barnick: One of the things that freaked me out, and you expressed this so well in THE LAST WINTER is that everything’s not going to just go overnight. It’s not like you flick a switch off. People don’t worry about the nuclear bomb because if a bomb goes off in Manhattan, the mentality is “Oh, I’ll just turn to dust, I won’t even feel a thing. It’ll just be over.” But, it’s probably not going to go like that. It’s probably going to get to the point where everyone you know gets cancer at 40. People will still live, it won’t all turn off like a light switch.
The image in James LeGros’ last scene in THE LAST WINTER, in his mind it’s his last chance to go home. And that’s why I feel that film is so deeply sad, because no matter how much we clean up-and there’s no reason to stop & go into apathy, we can at least improve things or hold off decay; but we’ll probably never, even if everybody joined hands and did everything, get back to the environmental purity of hundreds of years ago. Or even 100 years ago. The species that died are never going to come back, there’s always that sadness.
That’s the other thing – I’m interested in the melancholy of horror.

Adam Barnick: And Jeff Grace’s score for THE LAST WINTER really hits that.

Robg.: It’s one of the best scores I’ve heard in a genre film in years.
That’s great. I’ll tell Jeff you guys said that! I just read the opening chapter of LOVELY BONES yesterday. It was sitting on set and I started tearing up. It’s about this girl who’s murdered in the opening chapter. We all know that Peter Jackson is going to make that film, so it’ll be fun to see how he handles it. But, she narrates it and she’s in her version of heaven, that’s the theme of the book. But she’s like, “So then I died, and I don’t know why I made that decision to go with him into his weird hiding place. He seemed like such a weird old man. I’ll never understand why I made this choice.
And I remember when he took my hand…” The idea of this series of vague thoughts, “I should have not done that”. And then he’s lying on her and raping her and she’s thinking back, “I remember feeling so bad, and I felt sad for my mom.” Anyway, what I’m getting at is it’s the poignancy of horror that I find interesting. I’m not interested in the modern fetishizing of “Hey dude, did you see when his brain was like… coming out?” In real life, when that happens to your friend, to your family, to yourself, that’s not your reaction! So, what’s happened to our horror entertainment that people are so into that stuff?
Even NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which is a very violent movie and I love that movie- it was the horror that I responded to, not the spectacle. I don’t care what the FX guys can do, I’m more interested in “How would that feel? What would your reaction be to that?” I still see horror as cathartic, and I think maybe that’s different from kids now or certain types of audience members. I don’t know what they go to horror for, it’s more like a porn thrill, ya know?
Jsyn: Do you think they’re really afraid of something like THE LAST WINTER or LOVELY BONES because it’s the truth of what’s happening?

People are afraid of the truth. That’s the sad reality. People don’t want their buttons pushed. They want to go and be entertained.
Jsyn: It’s like people like having their blinders on, whereas the rest of us when we do see a film with an impact…it’s like THE LAST WINTER, why the fuck isn’t everybody talking about this movie? Why isn’t everyone covering this movie?

Well, the fact is that so many people find that film deeply annoying. Same with WENDIGO and so on. Which is fine, I understand. But also, it’s very, very endearing that you would take it the opposite way. I can’t even tell you what that means to me! It means I’m not insane. It’s funny, it goes back to the anxiety thing! “I’m not having a panic attack!” (Laughs)


Jsyn: After I walked out of THE LAST WINTER, I wasn’t talking about the film, I was talking about you! I thought, this guy is thinking exactly what I’m thinking. It made me think “Wow, I’m not crazy either! I’m not the only one who wants to see these films!”

I always say that not a lot of people like my movies, but the people who do like them are so relieved that they exist. Because they’re like “Oh my God, that’s how I feel!” About the relationship of the genre to their reality. The real scary things in life. The feeling of insecurity, feeling that you can’t count on things. Look how we failed Katrina! Does that ever get under your skin? That in fact, the “heroes” aren’t going to be there for you? There’s nothing more terrifying. You grow up thinking there’s heroes, “good guys”, the government, whomever, “these systems work. It’s the modern world, we know how to deal with this stuff.” Then you realize, shit, nobody’s funded this stuff? There’s no real plan? That’s why George Bush’s America is so scary. Because they are not interested in helping you. They couldn’t fucking care less!

Mike C.: I’m really relieved that films like yours exist. But do you think something like THE LAST WINTER gets swept under the rug a bit because the real world is so challenging and scary? To play Devil’s advocate, are you sure people don’t want to see or be challenged when they get enough of that in real life. You don’t need a horror movie when you watch what happened with Hurrican Katrina, for example, do you?

My notion of the arts is that they are cathartic and you’re actually working through something and you’re communicating and so the sad reality is what you’re saying. People have put the arts into another area. They are diversions. Real escapism. I’ve always objected to the notion of movies as entertainment and yet I love Fred Astaire movies.


Mike C.: Those were made in a very challenging, difficult period in history. Look at horror during the 60’s, what was popular? Hammer films and crazy monster movies were popular. This wasn’t stuff that was challenging people and maybe today, it’s just too much.

Adam Barnick: Were those entirely studio pictures though? Because then you had indie directors like George Romero..

Mike C.: Yes, but that was later in the decade. Works like Larry’s will probably now start to turn (people) around. It’s 8 years of garbage and people are finally starting to turn around. It took that long?

Jsyn: Even the theme of escapism though, and the thing that I find strange is I think there’s plenty of room in art for an aspect of just pure escapism.

I agree.

Jsyn: For example, my comfort food of movies is GHOSTBUSTERS. I watch that movie like… twice a week, I fucking love that movie…

You want to know my comfort food? It’s the JURASSIC PARK movies. I just love to watch the fucking dinosaurs! Even the new GODZILLA. The American GODZILLA, just because I like to watch those little guys run around. (Laughs)


Robg.: You may be the only one with that GODZILLA one. (Laughs)

I probably am! It’s probably the worst movie ever made. But the way his tail sweeps across the third story, I can watch that over and over! (Laughs)

Jsyn: Even the escapism films that we enjoy are superior to what we’re considering escapism now. It’s like lazy escapism. They’re not even putting effort into the art that’s meant to be fun! I don’t understand that.

Well, one thing that’s happening with movies, and I knew this was happening. In 1978 when HALLOWEEN was popular, I thought “Oh this isn’t good for us” because Hollywood finally realized “Oh my God, we can make low-budget horror movies and make money!” And I feel it’s very perverse that the studios are making all these horror movies. They’re really just cookie-cutter films that are directed by very talented rock video guys, so they have this pizzazz to them. But I don’t know why they’re being made, whereas horror movies used to have a broken spirit behind them, there was somebody trying to get at something, there was somebody that was tortured by something, there was a sense and an authentic feeling to a lot of movies. LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, some of these movies are so freakin’ weird. PHANTASM. What’s going on with that movie? Whereas now, you see THE GRUDGE 2! Number 6, the 5 th remake from a script by so and so. I don’t know what I’m seeing anymore? What does this mean?


Mike C.: LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH would be the perfect double-feature with HABIT.

(Laughs) It’s just a weird fucking movie, right?

Jsyn: As a filmmaker, you decided you weren’t going out West. You were staying here because the only way you could do what you wanted to do was if you stayed here and did it yourself.

Robg.: I thought that I read you’re being courted by Hollywood types for things here and there.

Well, yeah that’s true, but nobody’s telling me to move out there and I don’t think that would happen. It’s too sunny! (Laughs) There’s no seasons! In the end, I need to be around certain trees and a certain type of landscape and that’s what feeds me. I’m not going to move anywhere anytime soon. It’s fun to take some time away from home and that’s it’s own education, but I wouldn’t move to LA.

Once again, it’s a world only about filmmaking and business, and that is not what feeds the artistic mind, and I don’t claim to be a great “artist”, but I claim to need that nourishment that comes from hanging out with people, cooking and barbequing and drinking beverages and reading and being in nature that makes sense to you. Having the seasons. I can be courted by Hollywood, but they know I’ll just be visiting and not coming out there for good.

Mike C.: What don’t they get about New York? Because we’ve heard the phrase “those weird New York guys” about us!
Well, you appear not to be playing the game. And I have these 2 agents that I really like and I’ve always told them from the minute we started together that I was going to be confusing to them. And indeed, they do think and talk about movies in a certain way. It’s a great collaboration because I just tease them and they tease me back, but the fact is we are thinking about these things differently. I really believe that movies have a – it takes a year to make a movie. THE LAST WINTER has taken me up to 5 years to live with that movie. It has to matter; it has to be about something. It’s a struggle, you don’t necessarily make good money doing it, certainly on the low budget stuff I’ve done. You’re doing it for another reason and it has to matter.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re just finishing up I SELL THE DEAD (for SCAREFLIX) and that’s a movie about grave robbing in the 18th century! This movie has no social message. I’m not talking about social messages, I want to make that clear. But then it’s about vigorously being about entertainment. It’s about one man’s vision. Some crazy Irishman! It’s not something I conceived of like “How can I make money? Oh, I’ll make a grave robbing film.” No. It’s about “Let’s follow this crazy dream and see where it leads us!” And it’s all about the aesthetics. It’s just a crazy aesthetic soup of crazy recollections and Irish storytelling and some funny actors. It’s nothing but total entertainment.
But you walk away and it hopefully feels fulfilling because you’ve seen something that’s handmade. It feels like it’s really been put together by a bunch of crazy people and that in itself is nourishment in this day and age, when everything is just market tested and market researched. I was going to say I had a great experience on my FEAR ITSELF episode, but I swear to God, the last week, I’ve gotten so many fucking notes, just whittling away at anything that was unique about it. And now I’m just fucking tired of it!
Just… let it be what it is! I don’t care what you expected it to be. I came in under budget, I came in on time. It’s a wonderful performance by Doug Jones. Let the thing have some life! I don’t care if it makes sense to every fucking viewer. Let it go!

I found the whole thing to be quite charming. It’s almost like summer stock. They cycle these directors in, they each do a weird little episode and on it goes. It’s kind of like Scareflix.
Adam Barnick: This was a pre-existing script for FEAR ITSELF, right? How was directing a script from someone else?

That was fun. I did a lot of work on the script just to make it my own.

Adam Barnick: I don’t know what it’s about yet but does it follow the themes of your previous movies?

If I told you what it’s about, you’d laugh. It’s a fucking WENDIGO movie! Can you fucking believe it? They sent me the script and said, “There’s only one weird thing, Larry. It’s a Wendigo story.” I was like “Fine. I’ll be the go-to guy for that!” Talk about remaking HABIT, I’ll also remake WENDIGO! Um, but it’s a different take on it.
It’s by Drew McWeeney and Scott Swan, who wrote for Carpenter and as you know, my episode was meant to be for John Carpenter. And it’s funny, because back in November when they were first talking to me, they said “Oh and John Carpenter’s making a Wendigo movie.” And I said “Oh my God! Well, I have to be in it, because I’m your go-to Wendigo guy!” Little did I know I’d be actually directing it. It’s totally unrelated to my own film, but it’s a freaky story. I really liked the structure of the script and that’s what I stuck with. There’s a basic premise, which I tried to bring out that was already in there. I think it’s cool; it’s got a strong sense of location. I’d actually be curious to hear what you guys think and weather it does actually relate to my other films. I don’t know what it is?


Adam Barnick: I know Doug Jones has some prosthetics in it, but it’s rare we get to see his face like this.

Doug is fully performing in this. I think he’s going to be very prominent as Abe Sapien in the new HELLBOY because I know he demanded to use his own voice. He not only has no facial make-up, he’s also naked in my film! (Laughs) So, it’s all Doug Jones all the time. It’s really beautiful and he’s a great character. It’s got all these macerations.


Adam Barnick: He’s got this great Chaplin quality to him, and it comes out in all the creatures he does. I’d love to just see him be him, because I think he can still bring all (his talents) to that.

And he’s oddly unique and specific in this, but I suppose one can start analyzing his different performances. (His involvement) alone makes it interesting. Even that, I had to pitch to the network. I had to beg them because they had no idea who he was. But he is unparalleled, he’s awesome. I’m so honored to have worked with him, especially at this time where I think he’s really blossoming into the limelight, because Abe Sapien is a huge element of the new HELLBOY, and I think it would be a great time to be associated with Doug and I’m just so happy for him. Out of the blue, I’d never thought about casting him and I don’t know where it came from, but I must say, and I rarely say this, it was one of my best ideas I’ve ever had. (Laughs)


Robg.: You said at FANGO that you’re essentially just using all of Del Toro’s cast now. (Laughs)

Yeah! (Laughs) Now, I just have to cast the chick!

Robg.: It seems like you’ve got a lot of films in the works with Glass Eye Pix and SCAREFLIX. It’s nice to see a bevy of East Coast filmmakers making these types of films. What can we look forward to from your film company? What are you excited about?

Well, I’m very personally involved with I SELL THE DEAD, because we spent 2 and half years on it. I got Ron Perlman to be in it. My producer Peter Phok got Dominic Monaghan to be in it. It was a great shoot. I was in it, so I still do love acting. It was a great character and I love the setting. I love (writer/director) Glenn McQuaid. It’s a charming movie and unexpected in the market place. I have no idea how you guys will react or how anyone will react to it! It’s such an odd bird. But to me, it’s a cozy blanket. Who wouldn’t want to watch this on a Sunday afternoon? So, there’s that. And I’m excited about Graham Reznick’s movie I CAN SEE YOU, which is more ‘out there’ but a true example of my insistence on supporting auteurs. Ti West of course has made an extremely eccentric movie called HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. It feels like it was made in another time.


Mike C.: Well, AJ Bowen’s in it and we love that bastard!

Yeah, AJ Bowen is awesome in it. I know you guys have been a supporter of his.

Adam Barnick: That’s the thing you were talking about before about the singularity of visions. There’s no subtext in THE ROOST; it’s a killer bat picture!

Yeah. But to me, the subtext (in THE ROOST) is the pacing. There’s something incredibly subversive about Ti’s pacing and he takes that to a whole other level.

Adam Barnick: But you are still seeing someone’s singular vision. It’s a popcorn picture, but it’s not a generic popcorn picture.

Yeah, that’s the point. Nobody likes a lecture. My movies happen to be a little sociopolitical but that’s just my tick. The fact is what I find more interesting is unique filmmaking and unique artistry and that’s what I’m interesting in supporting. Then Jim McKenney’s movie SATAN HATES YOU, which is out of control. That movie’s completely insane. We just filmed yesterday a scene with the Devil, and 2 incredible bosomy succubi and smoke machines. It’s insanity! I’m in this one!

Mike C.: But do you survive?

(Pause) No. (Laughs)

Robg.: Is it true that there’s a video clip of all your on-screen deaths?

Yeah, yeah! We showed it at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater one year, and the only reason I haven’t put it on YouTube is that one of them is from Ti’s movie CABIN FEVER 2, so we’d be sued by Lionsgate in a second! My beloved collaborators on FEAR ITSELF and every other movie I’ve made! I did a movie with JT Petty. A 20 minute film…


Adam Barnick: Was that the short prequel to THE BORROWERS?

Exactly, and that’s called BLOOD RED EARTH. That’ll be great. It’s as cool as THE BORROWERS in my opinion. It’s the same creature presence, but it’s sort of in a Native American setting. It’s really cool, very, very atmospheric. JT’s awesome.

Adam Barnick: Did Lionsgate come to you asking you to produce these prequels for JT’s movie as a backstory?

My old comrade Douglas Buck, who made SISTERS and of course CUTTING MOMENTS, he hooked me up with JT. I think JT wanted a local film company to do his stuff. It was interesting because I had an association with JT’s cinematographer Phil Parmet because he shot ANIMAL FACTORY, a Steve Buscemi movie that I’m in. So I knew Phil, who also shot THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, and actually I tried to get Phil to shoot SISTERS. So, I’ve always been a huge fan of Phil’s. The idea is to have as big a community as possible; and Doug is up in Canada doing his stuff. He’s got a new project he’s working on and that’s very exciting.
I’m mostly interested in community. I’m not talking about factory farming. I’m talking about little farms that produce the vegetables locally, and that’s what kind of entertainment I’m interested in. Not just huge slaughterhouses and huge fields and fields of vegetables that have to be sprayed with pesticides in order to grow. I’m talking about little communities that are filled with like-minded people and everybody is like “Hey, let’s put on a show!” And then the idea, with DVD, you maybe can get distribution for those kinds of projects and just keep people on edge. You don’t know what you’re going to see when you watch an unknown little independent movie. You go to the multiplex, you know what you’re going to see. You have no idea what your entertainment’s going to be if it’s been brewed in a local economy.
Robg.: Any idea what’s next for you in terms of writing and directing?

I’m going straight to Hollywood and selling out as fast as I can! (Laughs) No, I do have a big Hollywood project that may or may not happen. I keep withholding saying what it is, but one day I’ll just spit it out to all of you guys because enough is enough. I was recently in Mexico writing, and I would like to go back there and make a really down and dirty Western/Horror/Apocalyptic picture. That’s something I would like to do. Then I have a beautiful non-horror picture I would love to do. Tom Waits and Ron Perlman as brothers.
Robg.: Wow!

Ron wants to do it, I just have to talk to Tom about it! That would be the most beautiful thing. I finally get to make my musical! Ron Perlman as a lounge singer. It’s awesome! Fuck horror, this movie will make you happy! And I don’t make those kinds of movies often! But I love this script and I’m going to try to get that out there as soon as I can, I just need to give it a polish and get it to Waits!


Special Thanks to Larry for his time!

VISIT: WWW.GLASSEYEPIX.COM
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