“THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION” (Blu-ray Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
What defines a “Master of Horror” among the fright filmmakers past and present? Is it the prolific nature of the filmmaker, having had years and years of terror title under their belts? Is it the strength of the films they make, even if they work only once in a blue moon? Or is it the originality of the filmmaker, offering something completely unique and different with each passing title that can’t be seen quite anywhere else?
In one way or another, Larry Fessenden is a filmmaker that falls into all three categories. Yet even for all of his amazing work behind the camera, Fessenden is best known to contemporary audiences for his on-screen roles (in projects such as I SELL THE DEAD, THE STRAIN, JUG FACE and UNTIL DAWN) or his production company Glass Eye Pix, which has introduced the world to the likes of Jim Mickle and Ti West. However, Fessenden is an outright horror auteur and with the help of MPI and Scream Factory, a whole new generation can discover Fessenden’s incredible output in stunning high definition.
THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION is almost a complete career retrospective for the NY-based fright filmmaker, with the exception of his FEAR ITSELF episode and BENEATH (2013), although Scream Factory had already released that film prior to this set. The set comprises of: NO TELLING, Fessenden’s emotionally gut-wrenching story of a couple driven apart by ambition and sacrifice; HABIT, a romantic horror story about a man convinced his new love may be a vampire; WENDIGO, a tale about a family whose vacation is interrupted by a supernatural presence; and THE LAST WINTER, a film about a remote drilling station that becomes subject to bizarre, unexplained occurrences. Furthermore, the set offers almost every facet of the filmmaker’s career, from his music with the Just Desserts to his early short films to his contribution to the ABCs OF DEATH 2 and STAKE LAND shorts, all of which are impressive in their own right.
With each film sporting a unique look, having been shot in different aspect ratios with different film stocks, the high definition transfer for each film is rather exceptional, especially considering that at least one of the films is out-of-print on DVD. While the video clarity honestly depends on the film stock, with the fantastic HABIT being the grainiest of the bunch, the films have honestly never looked better, with NO TELLING sticking out as the one whose visual elements are most complimented by the high-def upgrade. Meanwhile, all the films come with a 5.1 DTS Audio Mix that ranges from immersive (THE LAST WINTER) to, at the very least, complimentary (WENDIGO). But above all, these transfers show just how modern of a filmmaker Fessenden has been 30 years now, with these films each feeling as contemporary as contemporary can be.
However, perhaps there is no set this year that Scream Factory has put more time and energy into assembling than THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION. NO TELLING features a wealth of vintage and archive footage, a 10-minute Fessenden short entitled WHITE TRASH, a Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel and an amazing commentary from a proud yet honest Fessenden. HABIT features “N is for Nexus” (from THE ABCs OF DEATH 2) and an accompanying ‘Making Of’, the original HABIT short film from 1981 and an accompanying ‘Making Of’, a 25-minute HABIT ‘Making Of’, Two Music Videos and another candid commentary track. WENDIGO features two commentary tracks (one with Fessenden and another with actors Jake Weber, John Speradakos and Patricia Clarkson), the 5-minute short SANTA CLAWS, a 30-minute Behind-the-Scenes doc, an interview with Fessenden and even an WENDIGO: THE ANIMATED SERIES trailer. And THE LAST WINTER features a feature-length ‘Making Of’ doc, 20-minutes of Archival footage, three STAKE LAND shorts, the oh-so-catchy music video for TIRED OF KILLING MYSELF by the Just Desserts, a 2015 interview with Fessenden himself and an anecdotal commentary track from the filmmaker as well.
Whether you’ve been singing his praises for years or you’ve never seen any of his frightening features, THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION is a gateway into one of the most under-appreciated and compelling minds in horror storytelling. It’s hard not to become engrossed into Fessenden’s eerie and original worlds, and his perspective on nature, human nature and interpersonal drama in times of duress is unlike any other. THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION comes highly recommended, and once you check it out, there will be little doubt that he’s deserving of the “Master of Horror” mantle.