The Larry Fessenden Collection
- Street Date:
- October 20th, 2015
- Reviewed by:
- Bryan Kluger
- Review Date: 1
- November 21st, 2016
- Movie Release Year:
- Scream Factory
- 400 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The films of Larry Fessenden aren't for everyone. They don't cater to the masses like some main stream horror films do these days, but Fessenden is a true cinematic artist who never strays from his vision. His films are haunting, have deep messages, scary, thrilling, and entertaining, even if most have problems with pace and story. This is an excellent set that celebrates the filmmakers most talked about films that is loaded with tons of extras, commentaries, and info about each film. A lot of love went into this set. Recommended!
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'No Telling' is one of those film that you won't soon forget and is one that most likely paved the way for many other horror directors. Filmmaker Larry Fessenden surely knew what rubbed people the wrong way back in the early 1990s and capitalized on that fear and unwanted feelings in people, and brought it to film in the best possible way. Not only that, but Fessenden managed to put a few underlying political and social issues in this film, which was indeed his first feature film, and has gone on to be a cult horror film icon.
'No Telling' is also titled 'The Frankenstein Complex' and by that title, you can easily tell what insane places this story will go. The story centers around a married couple of Geoffrey and Lillian Gaines, where they have moved from the big city to the rural countryside, so that Geoffrey can work without the protests of many people. Geoffrey experiments on animals in that 'Frankenstein' type of way by switching body parts with different animals. As Geoffrey's work becomes increasingly more sinister and chaotic, this drives his wife Lillian away from him. They both come in contact with another neighbor named Alex, who creates this triangle of conflict between everyone that has some dire consequences.
With undertones of corporate greed, farmer's rights, and big pharmaceutical companies, 'No Telling' has a few deep layers going for it. In addition to that, there are some pretty horrific scenes with Geoffrey and his "work", one including the family pet, which is very difficult to watch. There are some amateur aspects to the film in the way of editing, acting, and camera work, but it all works in this sort of grindhouse way. For sure, Larry Fessenden left his mark on the horror world with this film.
Back in the 1980s, Larry Fessenden made a little film named 'Habit', which was a vampire film. When he had more money more than a decade later, he remade the film on a bigger scale and kept the name, and put himself as the star of the film. We've seen this type of movie before, but with Fessenden's take, things stray into a literal and more melancholy mood. When dealing with vampires, there is usually a big supernatural force at foot here, but that is not the case here.
'Habit' centers on sad sap of a man named Sam (Fessenden), who gets by in life by drinking his sorrows away and has recently had some tragedy in his life. He is not a man you would want to really cross paths with on the street, but one Halloween night, he meets a woman at a party and they become intimate. After their encounter, Sam notices a little scar and begins to feel a bit "strange". As he wanders around, he tries to figure out what's happening with his body and mind, as his habit of drinking only enhances every thing.
Fessenden does a great job as Sam here, struggling with his affliction in many different ways. This is definitely not your normal vampire film, but rather a character study of a man who has been dealt a bad hand with his recent life. Perhaps this is why 'Habit' did very well on the festival circuit back in the 1990s. People could relate to this man with a very original and interesting way of telling a story with a vampiric theme. If you're a fan of vampires, than this is one you will want to see, because there is nothing else quite like it.
Perhaps one of Larry Fessenden's most recognizable film is the horror movie of 'Wendigo', which was made in early 2001 and was very haunting. A true horror film at heart, Fessenden starts strong here and doesn't capitalize in the final act to make it one of the horror greats. Fessenden does love the Native American supernatural legend and idea of the Wendigo, which has shown up in more than one of his films, not to mention numerous other horror movies over the years. With this film though, there are aspects that take you into a voodoo trip through the eyes of a child, which is one of the great things about 'Wendigo'.
All of this horror and terrifying imagery is seen from the eyes of a young boy, which is something we don't necessarily see a whole lot these days and Fessenden nails the camera work and story here, until the final few minutes. That being said, Fessenden does add a realistic view and leaves us in suspense as we're not sure what to believe really happened in the film. 'Wendigo' centers on a good family of George (Jake Weber), his wife Kim (Patricia Clarkson), and young Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) as they take a family vacation from the hustle and bustle of New York and head upstate to have a nice, quiet vacation and unwind.
With a horrific run in with some backwoods locals, the family vacation doesn't start out on the right foot. Once at their modest destination, everyone seems to feel that an evil presence is watching them. At the local market, young Miles is told of the Wendigo and is given a figure of the creature, which is when all hell breaks loose. Fessenden weaves an underlying story of Miles' thoughts and feelings through the Wendigo , which makes us second guess as to what is actually happening on screen. It's a fantastic ride for the most part with some excellent performances, especially with Erik Per Sullivan.
THE LAST WINTER
If there is one thing that Larry Fessenden does well, it's mixing an environmental message with horror and the supernatural. His most recent film in this collection is called 'The Last Winter' and is cross between John Carpenter's 'The Thing' and M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Happening', but a better than the latter. This film also has a fairly stellar cast for a Fessenden film that includes Connie Britton and Ron Perlman. 'The Last Winter' takes place in a very isolated arctic landscape where and oil drilling company run by a man named Ed Pollack (Perlman) is drilling for oil. Pollack is making sure the interests of the government and investors are being met.
To make the public happy, they are working closely with an environmental group that is lead by James Hoffman (James LeGros). Things seem to be on the up and up until start turning up dead one by one in mysterious ways. Like 'The Thing', people start to blame one another in this claustrophobic setting in the extreme cold, but there is something else sinister at work here, which brings us to Shyamalan's 'The Happening'. This is where Fessenden sets his underlying message about the environment as if mother nature is getting revenge on us by all the horrors we have committed on this planet, including drilling for oil.
There is also a hallucinatory aspect to this film that will play on your emotions to make you think what is real and what is not, but it never strays from the main story itself. The performances by everyone are excellent and the on location shooting really adds to the dead and horror of the story. Not only does 'The Last Winter' provide scares, but it also has a particular message that we should take better care of a our planet, which is a subject very near and dear to Fessenden.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Larry Fessenden Collection' comes with four 50GB Blu-ray Discs from Scream Factory that are Region A Locked. There is an excellent 24-page booklet inside, that has an essay from the New York Times, a greeting from Larry Fessenden himself, and info about every film, along with tons of images. The discs are housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'No Telling' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. According to the commentary by Fessenden and along with the actual look of the film, this movie was shot on 16mm, which of course hinders the image quality here and there. That being said, this picture looks quite stable and good being filmed in the 16mm format. Detail is fairly sharp and vivid in closeups with tons of light that show slight facial lines and imperfections in the skin. In wider shots and lower lit scenes, the detail goes a bit soft.
Colors are natural, but never striking or bold. There are some fluctuating grain levels throughout the movie with the heavier amounts in the lower lit scenes, which become a bit distracting. Mostly though, the black levels are deep and inky and the flesh tones are natural. There are some minor issues with noise and aliasing, but it's nothing to get up in arms about, leaving this 16mm source looking fairly good on Blu-ray.
'Habit' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Fessenden mentions in his commentary track that this movie was shot mostly in low light conditions and even in some scenes with zero light. With this form of filming, the detail can be fairly sparse. You'll be able to make out small things in closeups, but nothing is really ever vivid or sharp.
Instead, most of the lighting in the film is just the real lighting used on the streets or in the locations. The grain can be heavy at times, but it isn't as bad as you would think it would be with all the dark scenes. Colors are natural if not a little bit pale at times. Black levels are very deep and inky and tend to over shadow most other details. There are some issues with some aliasing and yellow spotting throughout too.
'Wendigo' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is perhaps the best looking video presentation in this set, but is not without its faults. In well lit situations, the detail is rather vivid and sharp, revealing good closeups on the actor's faces and some great practical effects on the supernatural creature. Wide shots turn soft here and there, but for the most part look good.
Colors look realistic, but I wouldn't say anything really pops off screen at any certain time. Most colors have a cool palette throughout, and there are no bright primary colors that pop off screen. Black levels are deep and inky for the most part, but there was some evidence of crush, and the skin tones look natural. There was some video noise spikes that popped as well, but other compression issues were non-existent.
THE LAST WINTER
'The Last Winter' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Since this is the most recent film in this set, the image quality looks better than the rest, despite a few minor problems. The movie was shot on 35mm, which gives the film a good depth while not looking overly digital. The detail is fairly sharp and vivid throughout, especially in well lit scenes.
Closeups reveal great facial features and good textures in the wardrobe. Colors don't particularly pop off screen, due to the muted and somewhat decaying color scheme of the picture, but they still look well-saturated. Just don't expect bright primary colors to be oozing out of the image. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are natural. There were no major issues with and banding, aliasing, or video noise here.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and is rather soft and quaint most of the time. Your speakers won't get a work out to say the least. There are some decent sound effects and ambient noises in the exterior shots that are well balanced with nature sounds, but that's about it. The score always adds to the odd mood of the film and the dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow without any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills. Don't expect the bass to kick into any sort of gear either. This audio presentation just won't blow you away, then again, it's not supposed to, but it gets the job done. There is also a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo option here too.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and is on the soft side of the spectrum. Sound effects are low with some quiet ambient noises of the city life. Nothing is ever fully immersive. There are a couple of louder scenes in the film, which pack some heft, but it's nothing to really write home about. The music always adds to the tone of the film without drowning out any other noise and the dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow. There is also a DTS-HD 2.0 stereo option as well.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and does a good job of immersing you in this haunted soundscape. Sound effects and ambient noises of the trees and wilderness blowing in the wind sound great and full here. The rear speakers do a good job with ambient nature sounds as well. The dialogue is always clear and easy follow along, and is free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills. There is a good low end here too, during the bigger scenes with action. Don't forget, there is also a DTS-HD 2.0 mix as well here to.
THE LAST WINTER
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and sounds very good, perhaps being the best sounding film in the collection. Sound effects are robust and loud and always sound realistic. The rear speakers pick up the ambient noises of the wilderness and chilling surroundings nicely that immerses you into the haunting and claustrophobic world. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills. This is a solid audio presentation. Also, there is a DTS-HD 2.0 track as an option here too.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Audio Commentary - Larry Fessenden offers some great and insightful information on the film, the characters, the themes, and what he went through making this movie, including pointing out all of its flaws. Solid commentary track.
Making of 'No Telling' 1991 (HD, 25 Mins.) - Here is an entertaining look at some behind the scenes footage with interviews with the cast and crew. There are a few laughs here.
Archival Footage 1990 (HD, 27 Mins.) - More behind the scenes footage is here with some old and recent interviews with Larry Fessenden.
Short Film: 'White Trash' 1970 (HD, 10 Mins.) - A short film complete with music and an intro by Fessenden.
Early Years: Glass Eye Pix 195-1990 (HD, 8 Mins.) - With an intro by Fessenden, here is a montage and snippets from work by Glass Eye Pix.
Audio Commentary - Larry Fessenden discusses this vampire movie in detail with the themes, tone and characters in the movie. He also talks about how some scenes of the film are from his life.
The Making of 'Habit' 1995 (HD, 25 Mins.) - This is an archival behind the scenes extra with on set footage and interviews with the cast and crew. There are some laughs.
'Habit' 1981 (HD, 18 Mins.) - This is the original short version of the movie.
The Making of 'Habit' 1981 (HD, 6 Mins.) - Some on set footage of the making of the 1981 short.
'Save You From Yourself' Music Video (HD, 4 Mins.) - The music video of 'Save You From Yourself'.
'Frankenstein Cannot Be Stopped' Music Video (HD, 8 Mins.) - The music video of 'Frankenstein Cannot Be Stopped' with a Fessenden introduction.
'N is for Nexus' Short Film (HD, 5 Mins.) - This is a horror short film that was part of the 'ABC's of Death'.
The Making of 'N is for Nexus' (HD, 4 Mins.) - Interviews and on set footage of making the short film.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Audio Commentary #1 - Director Larry Fessenden delivers a fun and insightful commentary track here, as he discusses the technical merits of the shoot, the story, casting, the underlying tones of the film, and some funny stories from the set.
Audio Commentary #2 - Actors Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber and John Speredakos deliver a commentary track here that has a few long gaps in between their talking. There isn't much here to listen to as they just talk about their time on the film. Nothing substantial.
Behind the Scenes: Searching for the Wendigo (HD, 32 Mins.) - This is a cool bonus feature that has the cast and crew discussing making the film, the visual effects, and how they shot the movie.
Interview with Larry Fessenden (HD, 9 Mins.) - This is an interview with Larry from 2001 as he talks about the film and his career.
'Wendigo: Animated Series' Trailer (HD, 4 Mins.) - Larry introduces the trailer for the animated series of 'Wendigo'.
Short Film: 'Sant Claws' (HD, 5 Mins.) - This is a short film from 2008 that is worth watching.
Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (HD, 4 Mins.) - This is a promo reel for the production company.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
THE LAST WINTER
Audio Commentary - Filmmaker Larry Fessenden discusses shooting on location in the harsh weather of Iceland and Alaska, as well as casting the film, some of the technical aspects of the shoot, and the story themes.
The Making of 'Last Winter' (HD, 107 Mins.) - This is a feature length behind the scenes look at the making of the film, covering all aspects of the production. This is a great bonus feature with cast and crew interviews as well as the set pieces and on location filming.
Archival Footage (HD, 19 Mins.) - Here is some footage from the making of the film from 2005.
Short Films (HD, 17 Mins.) - There are three short films by Fessenden here titled, 'Origins', 'Jebediah', and 'Mister', all of which are worth watching.
Interview with Larry Fessenden (HD, 23 Mins.) - This is a new interview with the filmmaker who discusses his life and career.
Music Video (HD, 6 Mins.) - This is the music video for the song 'Tired of Killing Myself'.
Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (HD, 4 Mins.) - This is yet another promo short of the production company.
'No Telling' isn't the perfect movie, but it still packs a haunting punch and goes well with the other Fessenden movies. The characters and their interactions between each other sell this movie along with the horror side of things mixed in that stumbles on its own feet. There are some ambitious story telling and characters here and is definitely an original take on the genre. The video and audio presentations are both good and the extras are all worth watching and listening to. Recommended!
'Habit' is not your normal vampire movie, which is a good thing. Fessenden delivers a solid horror film with some social commentary with an excellent cast and good story telling, even if the film tries to mix two genres at once. The video and audio are both passable if not simple, but the extras are definitely worth your time. Recommended!
'Wendigo' is a damn scary and haunting film, one that will stick with you for a while, despite some of the flaws in the story and filmmaking. Overall, the movie still holds up and never caters to the jump out scares of modern day, which is always nice to see. The video and audio presentations are both good and the extras are fairly decent as well. This one of course is Recommended!
THE LAST WINTER
'The Last Winter' is a solid film, one that will stay with you for a few days after viewing. Fessenden has a way of getting under your skin, and he does so very well with this film and it's amazing cast and set locations. The film has some problems for sure, but the overall feel is very satisfactory. The video and audio presentations are both good and the extras are all worth watching. Recommended!
- Four 50GB Blu-ray Discs
- 1080p MPEG-4 AVC
- 1.33:1, 1.85:1, 2.40:1
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- 24-Page Booklet with liner notes by Fangoria’s Michael Gingold, featuring never-before-seen photos, storyboards and sketches.
- New audio commentaries with Larry Fessenden, Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber and John Speredakos; a new interview with Larry Fessenden; making-of featurettes for No Telling, Habit and The Last Winter; Fessenden’s short films, including the rarities White Trash and Santa Claws; Fessenden’s music videos Save You from Yourself, Frankenstein Cannot be Stopped and Tired of Killing Myself; the feature-length documentary The Making of ‘The Last Winter’; behind the scenes featuettes; archival footage and much more.
- Promo Reels
- Short Films
- Behind the Scenes
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