Exclusive: Larry Fessenden talks THE STAKELANDER, PSYCHOPATHS and more
Last year, filmmaker/writer/actor Larry Fessenden told us about his involvement in the upcoming VR game UNTIL DAWN: RUSH OF BLOOD, and we’ve now got some words from him about his current and forthcoming feature projects—most notably THE STAKELANDER (pictured), the highly anticipated follow-up to the acclaimed vampire-apocalypse chiller STAKE LAND.
Produced by Fessenden and Peter Phok for Glass Eye Pix and Dark Sky Films’ Greg Newman, THE STAKELANDER will premiere as a Syfy original movie. Nick Damici returns as writer and star from the original, as does actor Connor Paolo; Jim Mickle was succeeded as director by BODY’s Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. The storyline sees Martin (Paolo) reteaming with ghoul hunter Mister (Damici) to wipe out a revitalized Brotherhood and its new, vampiric leader after they destroy his home of New Eden. The cast also includes Laura Abramsen, AC Peterson, Bonnie Dennison, Kristina Hughes and Steven Williams.
“It takes place seven years later,” Fessenden tells us, “and it’s incredible to pick up with the characters and meet Connor as Martin again; he has settled down with Bonnie, and then eventually reunites with Mister, so we have all the important players come back. Then there are a whole new bunch of characters who are sort of similar to the nun and Belle and all the folks in STAKE LAND. It’s a swath of incredibly likable people. And that’s what’s fun; it really feels like a sequel that delivers the same charm. I mean, some fans my think of STAKE LAND as a great vampire/zombie film, but let’s face it, its true appeal is the texture of the apocalypse that Mickle created, and then the characters you really care about, and they go through hell! There’s always a great sadness to the STAKE LAND movies.
“All of that has translated well with the new filmmakers,” he continues, “and I think people will find it very satisfying. And maybe in this day and age of binge viewing, as soon as the lights come up and the credits roll on this one, they’ll want a third! I’m not saying there are any plans for that—this is not a teaser announcement—it’s just that what a good sequel does is make you say, ‘Oh, cool, this story is worth revisiting.’ ”
Although Mickle chose not to return to the director’s chair, he did remain involved with THE STAKELANDER. “I’ll be candid,” Fessenden says, “this is a very similar budget [to STAKE LAND], and it’s not that he’s gotten snooty, but he has his TV show [HAP & LEONARD, which is going into its second season for Sundance TV], and I think he felt like he’d done that experiment already—made the movie at that budget level. But he was very supportive, and he’s one of the executive producers on the new picture, and he definitely talked to Nick a lot about where the story would go. So he was a godfather to the project, which was nice. The real trick would be to get him back for the third, although there are many ways to go; there’s also Damici himself directing.”
Indeed, it would seem logical for the writer/actor to take the reins himself, and Fessenden laughs, “Well, in a way, he already does; in fact, it’s the director’s job to keep Damici in line! But with the right team, that would be fantastic, and we’ve talked a little bit, Nick and I, about doing that on the next film. I keep talking like there will be another one; that’s an unknown right now, but one always has to fantasize. That’s how you make movies in general—you have to dream and scheme.”
Among the other features on Fessenden’s slate is PSYCHOPATHS, the latest from DARLING and CARNAGE PARK writer/director Mickey Keating, in which the producer also takes an onscreen role. “I just saw a cut of that, and it’s a really stylish and completely trippy film. We’re very excited by it, and it’s fun to watch the way Mickey works. The edit is a very critical part of the shaping of his movies, so this one has undergone quite a few changes since he wrapped. It’s fun finding the movie’s final shape. And then we have a film called LIKE ME that we’re very excited by, which is by a newcomer, Robert Mockler. That’s sort of about the Internet generation, and there’s a little bit of mayhem in that film. It also has really unique visuals.
“In fact,” Fessenden says, “the next crop of Glass Eye movies are kind of pushing the envelope of the visual, and departing from straightforward storytelling. That’s fun, and the whole point of the company: to be experimental and have a little bit more out-of-the-box thinking, when people are starting out and doing their early films on small budgets. You know, if you can’t compete with crane shots, you can compete with conceptual ideas and editing and stuff. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, editing was so much more interesting than it is now. Even though there’s a sense that it’s faster now than in a traditional movie, it doesn’t push your buttons the same way. So I’m very happy to have these two films. And then there’s STRAY BULLETS [a crime thriller marking the directorial debut of Fessenden’s son Jack], which is very traditional, and STAKELANDER is more straightforward; it feels like an ’80s horror film, very nicely composed. So Glass Eye’s got lots of stuff, including a non-genre film [by writer/director Ana Asensio] called MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND.”
Among those experimental projects is also THE RANGER, on which Glass Eye producer Jenn Wexler will turn director (see our previous story here), and which Fessenden says “is in a good place.” But what of Fessenden’s own next directorial project? He hasn’t gotten behind the camera himself since 2006’s THE LAST WINTER, and seems long overdue. “Well, I’m working very hard and have been for some years, actually, to get something made,” he says, “and of course, I never talk about those things until they have a green light. I have some cast in place for a movie I’m trying to make this year, but I’m very accustomed to pushing things a couple of months, and it wouldn’t be a bad film for the winter. Usually I’m very season-specific, but this one is supposed to have bare trees, among other things. I really want to get back to directing, because I’m getting older, and I want to do a few more movies that are my own. Of course, I love all my ‘children’—all the other filmmakers and their projects. It’s a particular aspect of my personality that I truly get excited by other people’s movies, but then I also get frustrated, so hopefully I’ll be back in the saddle soon. We’ll see.
“And then I have lots of acting stuff coming up. I’m in PSYCHOPATHS and LIKE ME, and I’m in something by Bob Odenkirk [GIRLFRIEND’S DAY], lots of crazy things. More death scenes! I don’t know what I’ve done wrong, but I keep getting punished for it!”