I’m not sure if you guys are aware or not, but legendary horror producer Larry Fessenden is all set to return to the director’s chair with his Frankenstein flick Depraved.
You can check out the film’s poster to the right and a rundown on its cast, crew, and synopsis below.
But today we have a new update on the film as Fessenden recently sat down with Daily Dead and discussed the film a bit more in-depth.
“In a funny way, I want to make all the classics again,” Fessenden told the site. “I’ve made a vampire movie. I want to make a werewolf movie, but Frankenstein is one of the greatest creations of pop culture. The original version is a masterpiece, and oddly enough, it’s a story that hasn’t been done that well since. And it’s often attempted. I feel there’s a core theme in that story that I would like to explore and bring it very much back to this idea of loneliness.”
He continues: “It’s about waking up, and you’re someone, and you don’t know who you are or why you are. And then there’s the question of what brought you into this world. In my story, there will be conflict of the parental figures as the scientist who made him and the other people around him. I’m very interested in the subjective lonely experience of being alive in this world and in this culture, and Frankenstein is such a fantastic, iconic way to look at it. And also, there is the physical body horror aspect to this story, of someone being sewn together, and there’s identity horror, too. There’s so much possibility in it that I’m just overflowing with excitement.”
Are you excited about Larry Fessenden’s return to directing? Let us know below!
Depraved is written and directed by Larry Fessenden and set to star David Call, Joshua Leonard and Alex Breaux as the monster. The movie will be produced by Fessenden, Jenn Wexler, and Chadd Harbold.
The film begins shooting this month.
The contemporary re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s timeless classic Frankenstein centers on Henry, a field surgeon suffering from PTSD after combat in the Middle East, who creates a man out of body parts in a makeshift lab in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The creature he creates must navigate a strange new world and the rivalry between Henry and his conniving collaborator Polidori.
For nearly 40 years now, Larry Fessenden has been a cornerstone of the independent horror scene. He’s directed over 20 projects, produced around 70 shorts and features, and has even performed in almost 100 cinematic endeavors. One of the more recent films that Fessenden has been involved with is Robert Mockler’s Like Me, in which he co-stars alongside Addison Timlin and also serves as a producer.
Written and directed by Mockler (who makes his feature debut here), Like Me follows the social media-obsessed Kiya (Timlin), who sets out to film uncomfortable situations (robberies, kidnappings, you name it) in an effort to gain more fame and notoriety amongst the online community at large. But after she takes things too far, Kiya is faced with the ugly truth that the quest for internet fame can come with a hefty price tag attached.
Daily Dead recently had the chance to speak with Fessenden about Like Me, including what attracted him to the project from a producing standpoint as well as his thoughts on digging into his character, Marshall. Fessenden also discussed the vitalness of a film such as Like Me right now, and how Mockler was able to create something special for his very first time at bat as a director. And because it was recently announced, we also spoke to Larry about his next filmmaking venture, Depraved, which is his own take on the classic Frankenstein story.
Look for Like Me to arrive on VOD platforms on Tuesday, February 20th, courtesy of Kino Lorber.
So great to speak with you again, Larry, and especially for this film. I absolutely loved it when I first saw it at SXSW last year, and, I’m so glad to see it finally getting a chance to connect with audiences now, too. Robert created an incredible film with Like Me, and I’m so excited to see people discover it now.
Larry Fessenden: Yeah, it’s really, really gratifying. I can tell you that it’s so hard to make these movies, because you’re not quite sure what you’ve got, and you have your own beliefs and excitement about it. Then, you wonder if the world will take notice. And at SXSW, we had another film that got a lot of lovely attention, and we were very happy for it, but we wondered if Like Me would get that and here we are, which is great.
Yeah, that’s awesome. Obviously, we’re going to dig into the role of Marshall, but I’d love to hear a little bit about the production side of things first, and what made you decide to get involved with Like Me as a producer.
Larry Fessenden: Well, the project came through Jenn Wexler. She recommended it and wanted to help Glass Eye with putting boots on the ground to actually make the film. It had been workshopped over at James Belfer company called Dogfish. We read the script and it was very, very vital, with the topic of social media and our ongoing struggle with loneliness of the individuals in this society, this culture that is more and more fractured because of cable news, but now we have the internet.
I was so excited to make one of our little genre films tackling this topic, but I never felt it was didactic, I felt Rob was coming at it from an artistic perspective. And, I just felt that we were possibly in the presence of a maniac who could tap into all these things, and he then brought the movie to us. We nurtured the movie for quite a long time. We worked with many, many different budgets. Jenn Wexler was constantly revising the numbers, so we could do it at different levels, and then eventually we landed with the very smallest version, but still with a great team in place.
Even though this movie wasn’t made with a huge budget, on a visual level, the things that Robert is able to pull off in this film are just so incredibly ambitious. For me, that’s one of the reasons Like Me is such a standout, because there could have been a safer way to make this movie and not lean into the visuals as much, but man, it just has such a punch to it, because of what he was able to do by marrying the visuals with his story.
Larry Fessenden: Yeah, that was very much his MO, as I say. He had these tone reels that were very kinetic and that was an essential part of the vision. What I really love about movies, and this goes back to Alfred Hitchcock, is the idea of cinema. There’s a certain amount of dialogue in the film that brings life to the characters, but, in the end, it really is a visual medium and Rob was determined in the edit to create those jagged little edits.
Then, we hooked him up with James Siewert, who’s a maniac with the camera, and makes his own rigs. The two of them really hit it off, and they were able to create something very special, and that’s why the movie has that kinetic vibe. That’s how it got its punch.
Talk about tapping into your character, Marshall. For me, what is really fascinating is that he’s a guy that’s very off-putting at first, because of certain actions. There’s still a humanity to him, and in the character of Kiya too, where Robert really tapped into this idea that human beings are still human beings regardless of their imperfections.
Larry Fessenden: Absolutely. Look, it’s very clear to me that if advertising and marketing creates a standard that we can’t possibly achieve, and it is entirely the design of the capitalist society to make you feel like you have to purchase things in order to get there. And that’s why loneliness is baked into our American cultural society. And I feel that there are so many scenes where you could just feel that kind of anguish from each character.
There’s the scene with the homeless dude and the eating. On the one hand, you have the theme of eating, and that’s something that Rob clearly wanted to explore in this film. But when she says, “What animal would you be?” He says, “I’d like to be a big fish in the water. A big creature.” And there’s so much sadness there, and you just realize people feel so beaten down by this hyperkinetic world. So yes, this is a movie about social media, but it’s really about where this culture has brought us to today, and it literally bakes loneliness into the pie.
As for Marshall, yeah, he’s a little bit of a creep, because he very possibly oversteps the line with a younger girl, but it’s also unclear if she’s telling the truth in the same token. I think the reality is, it’s two people in a room and I don’t think he’s going down a list thinking, “Is this legal or not?” He says, “I don’t know if I could live with myself if I didn’t explore this opportunity.” And then, of course, the movie spirals from there.
One thing I appreciated was that the script gives some explanation as to literally what damaged him, but it’s nice that it saves that for later on for when you’ve already made a judgment about him. That’s an interesting structural thing, not to lead with that, and, of course, you never really get backstory from Kiya. These are the things that make a movie haunting and intriguing. You don’t have all the answers laid out right in front of you.
For me, it’s interesting because she really wants these connections, but almost for a self-serving purpose. It’s a real internal struggle that Kiya has. I also loved the fact that even though these characters come together in a really messed up way, there’s almost a sweetness to the relationship, too. You can tell Marshall is conflicted, because sometimes he’s posturing with Kiya, and sometimes he’s being very genuine.
Larry Fessenden: Right. I love that you say that. It’s almost like he’s defiant. I think that I played it that way, and I actually maybe believe that. I never thought of it until this moment, but nowadays, it’s almost defiant to be vulnerable. Or to be candid. Because everyone is self-protecting and they’re so aware of how they’re coming off. Marshall’s lost everything in his mind, and so the one thing he has left is just to put himself out there. And this girl is somebody who is ready to receive him for who he is.
Before we go, I wanted to congratulate you on Depraved. I saw the announcement the other day, and that’s really awesome to hear you’ve got a new directing project coming up.
Larry Fessenden: Oh, cool. Thanks, I’m very excited. We’re going to see what we can do. It’s funny, when a movie is in your head, and then, all of a sudden, you’re like, “Oh crap, now I’ve got to go and put it on the screen,” [laughs]. A friend of mine said that making a movie is making as few bad decisions as you can, where it ends up being a ratio of good decisions to bad decisions, and I believe that.
Because Depraved is tapping into the world of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster, I’m curious what is it about this character that appealed to you as a storyteller?
Larry Fessenden: Well, in a funny way, I want to make all the classics again. I’ve made a vampire movie. I want to make a werewolf movie, but Frankenstein is one of the greatest creations of pop culture. The original version is a masterpiece, and oddly enough, it’s a story that hasn’t been done that well since. And it’s often attempted. I feel there’s a core theme in that story that I would like to explore and bring it very much back to this idea of loneliness.
It’s about waking up, and you’re someone, and you don’t know who you are or why you are. And then there’s the question of what brought you into this world. In my story, there will be conflict of the parental figures as the scientist who made him and the other people around him. I’m very interested in the subjective lonely experience of being alive in this world and in this culture, and Frankenstein is such a fantastic, iconic way to look at it. And also, there is the physical body horror aspect to this story, of someone being sewn together, and there’s identity horror, too. There’s so much possibility in it that I’m just overflowing with excitement.
Jenn Wexler’s THE RANGER, produced by Glass Eye Pix and Hood River Entertainment, to world premiere in the SXSW Midnighters section!
Teen punks, on the run from the cops and hiding out in the woods, come up against the local authority—an unhinged park ranger with an axe to grind.
Cast: Chloë Levine, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez, Jeremy Holm, Larry Fessenden
Directed by Jenn Wexler. Written by Jenn Wexler & Giaco Furino. Produced by Andrew van den Houten, Larry Fessenden, Ashleigh Snead, Heather Buckley, and Jenn Wexler. Co-produced by Chris Skotchdopole. Edited by Jenn Wexler & Abbey Killheffer. Cinematography by James Siewert.
Fessenden’s first feature in four years will be produced by Joe Swanberg’s Forager Films.
by Eric Kohn
Few American filmmakers epitomize the spirit of horror made beyond the clutches of Hollywood better than Larry Fessenden, who has directed and produced socially conscious scary movies for decades. Now, IndieWire has exclusively learned that Fessenden is stepping behind the camera for the first in several years to direct “Depraved” from his own script. Billed as a contemporary reimagining of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Fessenden’s project focuses on a field surgeon who suffers from PTSD after combat in the Middle East, and creates a living human out of body parts in his Gowanus, Brooklyn lab.
This is not the first time Fessenden has used the backdrop of a creepy laboratory to explore real-world concerns. His 1991 feature “No Telling” focused on a man experimenting on animals and the impact of the work on his personal life. Fessenden is best known for directing the 1999 New York vampire drama “Habit,” the mystical “Wendigo,” and the eco-thriller “The Last Winter.” He last directed the Chiller-produced monster movie “Beneath,” and has produced countless low budget projects through his Glass Eye Pix, including Ti West’s “The Innkeepers” and Jim Mickle’s “Stake Land.” Glass Eye Pix also produces the radio horror series “Tales From Beyond the Pale,” which premiered its latest season on IndieWire in 2017.
For “Depraved,” Fessenden said he was excited to bring the “Frankenstein” narrative into a contemporary context. In a statement, he called his approach to the story “deeply personal and visceral,” adding, “I’ve been moved by the iconic character since childhood and it is a great thrill to try and put my version on the screen.”
The movie begins production in New York in February. It stars David Call, Joshua Leonard, and Alex Breaux (“Bushwick”) as the monster.
The project will be produced by Joe Swanberg’s Forager Films, which recently premiered Josephine Decker’s “Madeline’s Madeline” at Sundance. “Larry Fessenden has consistently made groundbreaking, intelligent, socially relevant films in addition to shepherding some of the most important young voices in genre filmmaking,” Swanberg said. “We could not be more excited to collaborate with him on this project.”
Robert Mockler’s Like Me is an unshakable film. Here is an aggressive, often angry assault on our desperate desire to connect in the age of likes, follows, and retweets. Concerned with the cinema of isolation, Mockler partnered with genre legend Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) and actress Addison Timlin (Little Sister) to produce a visually visceral descent into the psyche of the social media obsessed. Not quite Natural Born Killers, the crime spree of Like Me is a pulsating and painful conversation surrounding our Information Age addiction.Read full interview HERE
‘Like Me’ peers into dark corners of anti-social media
“Like Me” makes a case for describing one corner of the web as anti-social media, in that the need to connect online can send certain souls toward ever-darker impulses. (Logan Paul, pay attention.)
In this woolly, weird portrait of maladjusted loneliness, Addison Timlin plays Kiya, a pixie-ish, peripatetic, thrill-seeking millennial who turns phone-captured encounters with fringe denizens of the night — a convenience store clerk who thinks he’s being held up, a homeless man she plies with food — into squirrelly online content designed to stoke responses from fans and trolls alike.
Her crime spree takes a turn when she lures a skeevy middle-aged motel owner (indie horror stalwart Larry Fessenden, who also produced) into a costumed sex scenario involving junk food, torture and kidnapping, but that morphs into a perversely emotional connection over their separate statuses as outsiders. Perhaps realizing his setup is intriguing if dramatically thin, writer-director Robert Mockler deploys a healthy skill with Kubrick-torqued visual experimentation — interjected video installations — that keep the tension up and the psychological terrain appealingly destabilized.
Both impish and melancholy, with Timlin and Fessenden handily shifting the molecules in the air each time they share a scene, “Like Me” has an eccentric bravura to it. It’s like an artisanal cocktail of modern-day danger, pain and alienation: whether it wants you to sip or gulp, it finds its way into your head.
Despite a long resumé as a producer, director, and actor, Larry Fessenden isn’t exactly a household name, outside of diehard horror circles. Fessenden, however, always has the larger world in mind. His mostly low-budget movies all incorporate larger themes alongside the scares. Fessenden acts in and produces Like Me, in which a young woman named Kiya (Addison Timlin) causes a firestorm of controversy via line-crossing prank videos. It’s the first feature from writer/director Robert Mockler, and Fessenden took on the project via his company, Glass Eye Pix. We spoke with Fessenden about bringing new filmmakers under his wing, the role social media plays in our lives, and how this year’s Academy Awards is part of a changing perception of horror movies on a whole.
Given your history working with up-and-coming filmmakers, how did Like Me first cross your path?
Well, I’ve grown up with a lot of movies with first- and second-time filmmakers, and I have a producing partner named Jenn Wexler who became aware of the project. It was sort of looking for a way to get made, and that’s something that we like to try to do. We had a much bigger budget at first, and as time went on, it seemed harder and harder to raise the kind of money we thought we needed. It was more of a road movie at the time, but our motto is to do it at all costs, and so we dropped the budget and reduced the footprint of the story to more like the Rockaways, and we made it for a lower budget.
It was a great experience working with Rob Mockler and [producer] Jessalyn Abbott, they’ve been with the project for many years, and to finally put it on screen was a great triumph because so many movies can die in this process of trying to achieve a bigger budget. If you alter the vision, you can do it efficiently with a great crew, and that’s how we did it.
Is that the kind of experience you’re used to working primarily in the horror genre?
Yeah, that’s really the vibe, and we fill that niche. Obviously, there are great films being made at bigger budgets, and that’s something to aspire to. A lot of the people who make work out of Glass Eye are able to move on and work with more money, but I like the petri dish that is low-budget. You really have to be resourceful and you can break out an artist and catch them when they’re finding their way. Of course, part of this is also helping the artist [and] giving them support. Obviously, Rob had a very unique vision and we were so thrilled to pair him up with James Siewert, his cinematographer, who has a very strong vision as well.
That’s part of it. Pairing people up and getting artists together to really do something unique. When there’s not a lot of money, then there’s not a lot of suits who are nervous who are worried about losing it, so you can be more creative in this sphere.
So you’re able to lend your specific kind of expertise as a producer under these circumstances?
You really go from A to Z [in] every aspect of a production you consider, and you try to find the best way, and the most efficient way, to express what he’s after. He really wanted a bold vision influenced by Kubrick and all the usual beloved artists. So it’s really about listening to what the director’s priorities are, telling them what they probably can’t do, but what’s another version of that. You’re always trying to hit the ambition and the vision and figuring out is there an alternative way to do it.
Also, he never made a feature, so [you] get what is most important on the screen. He had made a short that I really liked that was sort of a scene from the movie. I really liked how he could make a really interesting movie with that confidence you can suffer through some of that stumbling [with] first-time directors.
Was playing Marshall always part of the deal, or did that come along later?
One day he invited me out for a drink and I said, “Sure man, we’ll talk directing.” We’re getting closer and he said, “Actually I have you here for another reason. I want you to play Marshall.” I was very touched because I have an actor’s ego, you know. When you’re invited to be in the movie it’s always special and this is a slightly more substantial role that I usually play. But I told him I had to think about it and then you know agreed shortly thereafter.
And then that became another way that I was creatively engaged, the character changed a little from what he had originally written and as it does when you work with a director and you have specific actor, everything on the page alters slightly, that’s also the magic of making a movie.
It’s interesting because Marshall spends the bulk of the movie as a victim of Kiya, but he puts himself in that situation initially through revealing some kind of unpleasant aspects to his character.
Well, I really feel that whenever you play a character you have to find the sympathy, and of course the real fun thing, I always say this, if you play a villain, you have to humanize him and I try to direct that way as well. You know if I have a character that’s obviously the bad guy, you still try to find the humanity, because even bad people don’t think they’re bad. That always gives a dimension other than the classic mustache [twirling]. So that’s just my natural inclination, leading with empathy.
Clearly, this dude is coming up to see this young girl and it’s a little inappropriate, especially nowadays. But I come as a character through his obvious loneliness. Basically, his brain cells are shattered, [but] he does have a backstory where he basically fucked up and lost his daughter. So there’s a lot of loneliness to his character and the fact that he makes bad choices, I think, is driven by that fundamental sadness. And that’s always a way into a character.
Obviously social media has become a sort of weapon in the arsenal of the horror genre. But here it’s more than just the method, it’s the madness, too. All of Kiya’s actions are driven by the pageviews, the comments, the reaction videos, all the controversy she’s creating online.
Well, it’s Rob’s project first, and it’s his world. I think he’s one of those guys that’s on YouTube a lot. Instagram, Twitter, sort of tracking life in that way, that’s a medium I don’t have any engagement with. And I have a lot of questions about how social media is dividing us and confusing us, so I have a point of view which is why I get very excited when someone brings a project that fits that niche. I always say the reason I like producing is because I can’t make all these movies myself.
But to be able to produce the movies that address social media and loneliness is fantastic. It’s all Rob’s vision, but I’m very excited to be a part of getting that out into the world. And what I like about the way he uses social media is that he used it cinematically. You know there’s a lot of movies about our engagement with social media that show the screen all the time, and I think what he manages to do is instead show the fracturing of the mind, and that’s a much more cinematic depiction of what’s happening to us. We’re sort of becoming impatient, fractured, we’re incredibly lonely whilst feeling engaged.
So I like that it’s still a cinematic expression and that also has to do with James Siewert’s camera work and all the colors that Rob wanted to use, and this very fractured editing where you’re just being thrown from non-sequitur to non-sequitur and the animations and all of the editing style is jiggery. I think he’s sort of expressing how our brains are sort of fractured rather than the alternative, [which] is constantly showing someone on their computer. But that’s not interesting visually.
It all speaks to your larger body of work. It’s horror, but there’s always some kind of underlying philosophy to it. But there’s always been a kind of aversion to the genre, in terms of a mainstream acceptance. But this year, movies like Get Out, a comparably low-budget horror movie that also speaks to much larger social issues, is up for some Academy Awards. Whether or not it’s a longshot to win, do you see this as a larger acceptance of the genre?
Well, I think this is an exciting day to be talking about this because there’s Get Out, which is social commentary as well as horror, [and] horror has always done that. That’s what’s thrilling about it. That’s why it’s perennial. That’s why it always works. Westerns come and go, but horror, [has endured] since the 30s, since the 20s, from the very first movies people are engaged with fear and their anxieties. Horror movies express the natural anxieties and obviously [Jordan] Peele made a mega movie about racism that we get to see through the lens of horror. So it’s sort of a safe way to address that.
I mean we had Moonlight last year, also fantastic, but that was considered high art and drama, whereas to do it in a horror film is to have access to audiences [who] are more open. But also we have Shape of Water, which isn’t horror, but it’s a monster movie. And what could be more spectacular that [it’s] being recognized, because the thing about that movie is that it’s just about a creature that’s an other? I would argue that that’s also about race and using metaphor to express our anxiety is such a powerful thing and this is really the value of fantasy is to use metaphor. It’s actually a way to depict race, sexuality or [another] niche for the viewer.
It’s so important that these movies exist and Guillermo Del Toro is about the power of the monster. So it’s a great moment in cinema to have these so-called B-Movies recognized for the power [and] the catharsis they offer the audience.
Like Me opens in New York and LA on Friday, January 26th and will be available on VOD February 20th.
We’re excited to host a livestream Q&A with Like Me director Robert Mockler and genre icon Larry Fessenden that will be moderated by our own Matt Donato. The event will begin at 8:20 pm ET, so make sure to be on our Facebook page to catch the action!