Fantasia/Frontières Exclusive: NSFW concept video and comments for Glass Eye Pix’s THE RESTORATION AT GRAYSON MANOR
Of the 20 feature-film pitches presented during a lengthy session at the Frontières International Co-Production Market at Montreal’s current Fantasia festival, one was especially attention-grabbing. Glass Eye Pix topper Larry Fessenden, director Glenn McQuaid and screenwriter Clay McLeod Chapman offered a vivid combination of animation and live action to sell potential financiers on their project THE RESTORATION AT GRAYSON MANOR, and the latter teaser (which is extremely NSFW) can be seen here exclusively, along with a RUE MORGUE chat with the trio.
THE RESTORATION OF GRAYSON MANOR is about Boyd, a rich young man living a sex-drugs-and-rock-’n’-roll lifestyle, much to the disapproval of his mother, who’s anxious for him to produce an heir. When Boyd loses his hands in an accident, they are replaced by a robotic pair that he can control with his mind. As the proof-of-concept video seen below demonstrates, that’s bad news for a hunky guy who shows up at the family mansion expecting a good time—and our hero’s original, severed hands also make appearances, albeit seen only through Boyd’s eyes as he dreams of them wreaking havoc in the house.
This clip reveals only a few of the unusual elements at play in THE RESTORATION AT GRAYSON MANOR. McQuaid, who previously directed the Glass Eye graverobber opus I SELL THE DEAD, has an enthusiasm for esoteric subgenres within the horror realm, and conceived THE RESTORATION OF GRAYSON MANOR after viewing a YouTube video a few years ago. “It was a French guy, an amputee, sitting at a table, with a mess of wires between him and a robotic hand. The hand was stationary, and he started clenching his eyes and thinking and thinking and thinking, until the hand suddenly started making a fist. The whole idea was that now you can control a robotic appendage with your mind, with your consciousness. So I started to think, well, if you could do that, what would happen if it could be controlled by your unconscious? I wrote a short little story and gave it to Clay, and let him have fun with the script.”
“Glenn gave me free rein,” Chapman says, “and created an architecture where every 10 pages, something terrible has to happen, and it only gets worse.” Although the premise lends itself to an over-the-top treatment, the writer notes, “We’re steering clear of farcical, but there is a bawdy element to it. It’s like a comedy of errors meets Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ meets TITUS ANDRONICUS meets EVIL DEAD II. We want to marry and smash together all these separate themes and influences, while it intensifies and ratchets up to a place where, once you reach the crescendo, all hell has broken loose.”
“Another great influence is Pedro Almodóvar,” McQuaid adds. “I love his early work like LAW OF DESIRE and WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?, and his more popular stuff like WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. I like how insane his plot twists are; there’s something outrageous in his work that seems to have a global appeal. There could be an argument that his earlier films are works of queer cinema, but I think their appeal is much broader than just to the LGBT community. I like the idea of inserting bizarre behavior by these droll, dry characters to elicit laughs from the audience. It’s going to be very enjoyable to watch these people rip themselves apart, along the lines of THE WAR OF THE ROSES or DEATH BECOMES HER, where the performers go for a nuanced take on despicable behavior. I haven’t seen a movie like this in a long time, and it taps into all of my passions.”
Fessenden responded immediately to the idea of adding killer hands to Glass Eye’s rogues’ gallery, and found that bringing the project to Frontières helped the team get a handle on how to pursue it. “It’s always thrilling to see if we can tackle yet another subgenre we haven’t touched on before, and bring the humanity that we always like to have at Glass Eye. Glenn and I often talk about what he’s up to next, and I get excited about it, because I know it’ll be something fresh. It came together quite fast: deciding to do Frontières, getting in and then saying, ‘Shit, we’ve got to show up with something.’ So we put together this fantastic little concept video, and had a lot of fun doing that.
“The first day of the market,” he continues, “was mostly business, and everybody dryly talking about money—which was fine, because that’s what we were there for. The second day, people started asking about the story, and I could see this team come alive, because we were challenged: How’s this going to work? I think answering those questions will help us make the movie, like, what the hell is the crawling hand going to look like, is it going to be CG or practical, what is this electronic hand all about, what is this guy going to look like without his clothes on? So we had to answer some really tough questions…”
“Some really hard questions!” McQuaid interjects.
“And I believe we really came up with the answers!”
Fessenden also believes that the unique nature of THE RESTORATION AT GRAYSON MANOR has been and will continue to be an asset in getting the movie to the screen. “To our minds, all these disparate elements make perfect sense: The modern technology, the old-school crawling-hand imagery, the Almodóvarian spat between mother and son, the Gothic environment and then the queer sensibility, or should I say, the overt sexuality; everybody’s banging somebody.”
“Any port in a storm!” McQuaid laughs.
“This is such a fantastic mashup,” Fessenden continues, “that when people start to see our enthusiasm, it becomes a movie that kind of presents itself, where you can truly picture it. Now, the funny thing is, everybody’s been picturing something slightly different, according to their personal taste, but that’s perfect. We’re not just making a crawling-hand movie because we want to watch the hands go to town; we want to see how those themes can resonate by mashing up some other genres, and, though Glenn’s voice, be able to bring audiences something new.”