Skin & Bones

Dir. Larry Fessenden (2008 42 mins, 1.78)

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When a rancher leading a hunting party returns home to his family after being lost in the mountains for days, he just doesn’t seem the same. Soon, a terrible mortal struggle ensues against the terrifying monster possessing him.

I’d rank alongside the final chapter of Trilogy of Terror as
one of the scariest things ever made for television. None of the others can match it…


Peter Brown

Doug Jones brings down the house in the creepiest episode to date
Grade: A

When a farmer and father of two young boys comes back to his ranch after being out lost in the wilderness with another hunting party for 10 days, something just isn’t right. And I’m not talking about the fact that his brother is sleeping with his wife but he’s changed … for the worse.

Something straight out of RAVENOUS then follows as HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY’s Doug Jones scares the bejesus out of everyone as a hungry carnivore looking for fresh meat – from his wife, to cows, to horses, to whatever he can get his nasty green tongue around. Grady (Jones) tells the story of getting trapped in the snow with other farmers/hunters when on the brink of facing starvation a voice said to him that it would help him but all he has to do is eat, eat, eat.

Eat you can pretty much gauge then what happened to the other farmers. Jones is downright creepy as the father that is only a shell of what he was and instead is a vile creature only concerned about its ever growing appetite. Frostbitten fingers, frostbitten ears and withered away and looking like something out of Auschwitz, Grady first kills a horse and has a gnarly confrontation with an Indian ranch worker that knows exactly what got inside of him and tells him to fight it but he can’t as it has “already consumed him.”

After attacking his wife and nearly taking a nice big chunk out of her flesh and tearing up the entire house cabin where they are staying, the family leaves the house for the trailer of the Indian ranch helper. Poor Indian guy is the first to bite it (literally) and Grady’s brother goes back to finish the job, unfortunately, the hunger will not be sedated and dear ole brother is the next to go.

After finding his family in the barn, the demon Grady forces his wife to cut up her lover, his brother, for a nice stew in what has to be one of the nastiest scenes ever shown on NBC as we hear and see chop after chop after chop after chop (not to mention the end result). But even worse as he forces her to eat the stew of her former lover before the two sons come to the rescue ending in the family having to put their dad out to pasture.

The story itself is basic: Demonic force invades man and man terrorizes family. But it is Jones and Jones alone that makes this story what it is – the scariest and creepiest episode of FEAR ITSELF of the season. Helped by a simply amazing score that sets the tone from emotionally tormented as brothers face off, to pounding music as Grady attacks the family to the last desperate attempt at surviving this creatures onslaught. This, my friends, is good horror and what we should have been seeing in this series from the very start.


Zack Handlen


“It’s just meat.”

Hey, guys. Scott’s experiencing technical difficulties at the moment—something to do with his dog (seriously!)—so he asked me to step in for this week’s episode, “Skin And Bones.” It’s a purely temporary arrangement, but while I’m here, I plan on stealing all the loose change I can find, making a bunch of long distance calls, and ordering at least a full day’s worth of pay-per-view; wouldn’t want Scott to come back and not feel missed, y’know?

I’d also planned on raiding the fridge, but after watching “Skin,” I think my appetite may be gone for a while.

The pitch: things are not well on the Edlund Ranch. Grady Edlund went into the mountains with a group of men ten days ago, and there’s been no word; his wife, Helena (Molly Hagan) is close to despair, his two sons, Derek and Tim, are angry and confused, and Grady’s brother Rowdy (John-Pyper Ferguson) finds himself caught between them, worried for his brother’s safety while at the same time frustrated at what he considers to be Grady’s inexperience and immaturity. There’s all sorts of subtext a’bubbling, but before anybody can blow too many secrets, a skeletal figure in a parka stumbles back onto the property. Grady’s returned—what’s left of him, anyway.

The doctor says he needs food and liquids, but Grady refuses to eat the stews his wife and sons keep bringing him. Which isn’t to say he isn’t hungry. There’s a look in his eyes that wasn’t there before, a hateful intensity that makes every trip to his room an ordeal. It gets worse when Grady licks Helena’s arm while she’s trying to feed him; he tells her “It tastes good.” Then somebody half-devours a horse one night, and while Rowdy investigates, Grady watches from his room, grinning his skull’s grin.

It’s not hard to see what’s going on, and to the episode’s credit, there isn’t much time wasted on people denying the obvious. Once the family’s Indian buddy gets a whiff of the situation, he starts talking about the Wendigo, and nobody bothers to contradict him. Clearly, something’s off with Grady. It makes you wonder what happened to the men he went into the mountains with; and then Grady himself tells Helena the truth. He was just so hungry. And the voice in his head was just so sweet…

“Skin” is a bit reminiscent of the dark comedy/horror flick Ravenous, a terrific picture about a group of men in the wilderness who start getting really aggressive about the whole “you are what you eat” philosophy. There’s the same isolation, some of the same set-up, but the comedy is largely stripped away; in its place is the dynamic of a family well on its way to implosion even before ancient evil gets involved. The way the Wendigo, by using Grady’s form, exploits those internal pressures reminded me some of the second story in Bava’s Black Sabbath, about a vampire creature that only targets the most beloved of its formerly human self. The problems with the Edlund clan are never overplayed, but always present; when Grady goes so far as to accuse that his wife and brother’s betrayal gave him good reason to be vulnerable to invading spirits, it’s a nastily plausible suggestion.

Grady is played by the whisper-thin Doug Jones, and his work is one of the episode’s biggest strengths. Familiar to genre fans as Abe Sapien in Hellboy 2, the Faun in Pan’s Labyrinth, and the guy with the crescent moon head in those old McDonald’s commercials, Jones’ naturally emaciated-looking body is its own special effects; when highlighted by make-up and prosthetics, his appearance becomes almost unbearable to watch. His performance ranges from empathetic to gleefully cruel, and while he occasionally “shows his top” as the saying goes, he’s always entertaining, and never distractingly campy. Early scenes with him lying in bed watching his family are painfully tense because no matter how hard the others try and pretend, there’s no way that someone who looks that visibly wrong could ever be safe. There’s no question he’ll go on the attack, and whenever someone comes within arm’s reach, you start wincing in advance for the moment when the monster finally breaks free.

The first half hour of “Skin” is well-done suspense basics. The show is expertly paced, always a problem with anthology series, and the feeling of dread rarely lets up. But after a confrontation between Grady and his guilt-ridden brother, there’s a shift in tone, and it’s here where things really take off. See, Grady manages to best Rowdy (even though Rowdy had the gun), and he’s still hungry—but he’s tired of raw meat. So after talking Helena down from shooting him (slightly implausible, but I’ll go with it), he forces her into the kitchen and demands she makes him a stew, one with a very special ingredient. Grady thumps Rowdy’s corpse onto the table, hands Helena a butcher knife, and demands she cut him up. Which she does, and she cooks the parts she cuts and serves Grady up a bowl of fresh, hot brother; but Grady, it turns out, doesn’t like eating alone.

“Skin” has a bit of a shrug for an ending; you get the sense that writers Drew McWeeney and Scott Swan didn’t know how to top that kitchen scene, and didn’t bother trying. You can’t really blame them. Watching Helena choke down bits of Rowdy—the man she really loved, the actual father of her children—to distract Grady long enough for her son to open the gun cabinet not ten feet away from where they’re sitting, is a high-water mark I can’t imagine improving on. The fact that there’s no attempt at a lame kicker ending makes for the perfect final note.

Stray Observations:

–I really, really didn’t expect that to not suck. The show isn’t always this good, is it?

–Forgot to mention, but the Indian ranch-hand goes the way of all ethnic sidekicks. But it’s his own damn fault, really; a hand-axe against a supernaturally strong creature of the night is never a good call.

–“Skin and Bones” was directed by Larry Fessenden, whose previous directorial work includes a movie called Wendigo. Up next, I Eat Your Skin: the Musical, and a series of cook-books with Rachel Ray.


Greg Lamberson

The “Skin and Bones” episode of FEAR ITSELF airs at 10:00 PM on NBC this Thursday, July 31st.
I’ve had a long love for TV horror that’s included DARK SHADOWS, THE NIGHT STALKER (the original TV movie, that is), TRILOGY OF TERROR, AFRAID OF THE DARK, FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY and Tobe Hooper’s SALEM’S LOT. I was ambivalent about Mick Garris’s MASTERS OF HORROR Showtime anthology, partly because I didn’t think some of the representative filmmakers were masters, and partly because TV has always been a writer’s medium, as opposed to feature films, which are the director’s domain, and I was skeptical of Garris’s intention to give his directors more say in those mini-movies at the expense of the writers. THE TWILIGHT ZONE featured outstanding work by directors like Richard Donner, but it’s celebrated for the scripts by Rod Serling, Richard Mathesson, and Charles Beaumont.

I also admit to doubting the creative potential of FEAR ITSELF, NBC’s spinoff sequel to MOH. After all, how could the writers and directors deliver the type of chills that audiences have become accustomed to watching the likes of SAW and HOSTEL at the multi-plex while contending with network censors? Then NBC did something really smart: they hired indie filmmaker Larry Fessenden to helm a script written by Drew McWeeney and Scott Swan (who wrote “Cigarette Burns,” the MOH episode directed by John Carpenter).

Fessenden (interviewed here about this episode), is the director of NO TELLING (a modern Frankenstein riff), HABIT (vampires), WENDIGO (Indian spirit), and last year’s supernatural environmental film, THE LAST WINTER (now available on DVD). He’s also the head of Glass Eye Pix and its low budget horror arm, Scareflix. Fessenden’s films emphasize character and tone over shock value, so it’s unlikely that as a director for hire he would be hampered by the censors telling him to watch out for the gore. In an interview I recently conducted with him for an upcoming filmmaking book he lamented, “Why can’t I just make a scary movie?” As it turns out, “Skin and Bones,” airing this Thursday, features plenty of graphic gore and disturbing moments, and Fessenden has finally made his Scary Picture. It’s a doozey.

As the episode begins, a rancher’s family is distraught because he and his hunting party have been missing in the mountains for 10 days. Then he returns home–minus the other people in his party–emaciated and rather unhealthy looking; almost demonic, you might say. And very hungry…

Swan and McWeeney’s teleplay, which takes the cannibalistic Donner Party as its starting point and explores an alternate version of the Wendigo legend, lacks the elegance of Fessenden’s own screenwriting, but draws the characters and sets up their predicament quickly so that maximum scares can be delivered in the 42-minute running time. Fessenden takes full advantage of the Alberta, Calgary scenery before moving indoors for the claustrophobic horror. He’s dealing with more action (and more overt action) and less dialogue than in his films, so I think he got to flex some different muscles here, to creative effect.

The cast and technical credits are very good, with the make-up frighteningly memorable. Kudos to NBC for allowing so much grue to go out over the airwaves, especially during the scene in which the possessed rancher forces his wife to chop up her murdered lover’s corpse so they can share a reunion dinner. The only time the violence felt truncated to me was at the very end of this very chilling episode.

Bonus kudos to whoever designed the series’ opening title sequence–beautiful!


Brian Tallerico

Just a week after Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter hit DVD, his installment of the Masters of Horror spin-off Fear Itself airs this Thursday on NBC. Fear Itself may not technically be a spin-off of MOH, but Mick Garris has admitted that it came about after Showtime said no to a third season of that anthology series. Garris took his horror friends like John Landis, Stuart Gordon and Brad Anderson (all of whom had done MOH installments) and headed to the peacock network. The result, kind of like MOH, has been wildly hit and miss, but even more so than the Showtime incarnation because the peaks haven’t been quite as high. Come to think of it, Larry Fessenden seems like a perfect fit for Fear Itself. The man, a writer/director who has some undeniable talent, can be wildly hit and miss and sometimes in the same film. (Check out the review of The Last Winter for more on that.) Written by the legendary Drew McWeeny (Moriarty from Aint It Cool News) and his partner Scott Swan, who wrote the two John Carpenter episodes from the first two seasons of Masters of Horror, the newest episode of Fear Itself has its ups and downs, but will probably leave fans as dissatisfied as most of Fear Itself. Even when Fear has worked, it’s really only made us hardcore horror fans wonder what could have been in a third season of Masters of Horror. And when it hasn’t, it’s made us realize where there isn’t a third season of Masters of Horror. Despite a great lead performance and a talented director, “Skin and Bones” falls into the latter category.

In “Skin and Bones”, a wealthy rancher (the truly awesome Doug Jones) returns from a week lost in the mountains and he’s barely alive. Living up to the title, the rancher looks like the walking dead. Even his family is kind of terrified of him and the doctor says his survival, after ten days in the wilderness, is a miracle. Here’s some advice – when a man’s wife (Molly Hagan) says “It’s in his eyes…he looks like somebody else”, take her seriously. In a classic horror set-up, Grady never really returned. After eating his traveling mates for survival, Grady was overtaken by a Wendigo, a flesh-hungry, legendary creature. After an animal on his ranch ends up dead, Grady’s family, including his brother Rowdy (John Pyper-Ferguson) come to terms with the fact that their loved one may actually try and eat them. A disappointingly traditional plotline with a predictable climax ensues.

There’s a reason that the Wendigo legend persists. It’s a strong one. And Larry Fessenden clearly loves this legend. He directed a film called Wendigo before The Last Winter. There are moments in “Skin and Bones” where Fessenden’s skill shines through. There’s a shot with an emaciated Grady at a barn door that I particularly loved. And Doug Jones simply rules. He’s become one of the most interesting physical presences in film, stealing scenes as the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in Hellboy. His riveting physicality nearly makes “Skin and Bones” worth watching and anyone who enjoys this hour of horror television is going to do so largely for what Jones brings to the piece. But both Fessenden and Jones are betrayed by McWeeny and Swan’s tin ear for dialogue and the derivative nature of the entire piece. “You think that’s your father up there? Well, it’s not!” That’s merely one example of dozens of lines in “Skin and Bones” that horror fans have heard a thousand times before. McSweeny and Swan throw in a slightly interesting (and very disturbing) twist to the final act (every Fear Itself needs a final act twist), but it’s too little too late when the entire first half has felt so overly familiar. The best episodes of MOH and Fear Itself, take concepts that we’ve seen before (because there really are no new ideas in horror) and make them fresh. Jones makes everything he does more interesting, to the point that his involvement almost satisfies that “fresh” threshold, but you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve seen everything around him before. Maybe even on Masters of Horror.


Jason Hughes

Well, first off I have to give props to the make-up and effects departments. In some prior episodes there have been some pretty awkwardly awful effects scenes (“Eater” when her arm is bitten), but throughout this episode, the make-up on Doug Jones (the Hellboy movies) was just astounding. It’s interesting to me that at the NBC website and everywhere I can look, Jones is the only principal listed for this show.

I’ll grant that his performance as patriarch Grady was a show-stopper, but John Pyper-Ferguson as his brother and Molly Hagan as his wife are just as integral to the effectiveness of the story and the emotional power that the character back-story provides. In fact, Doug Jones got third billing in the show credits themselves. I guess they just know where the strength of the show lie. And Jones is a proven master at playing the bizarre and/or downright creepy under heavy make-up, as he ultimately does here. With roles like the Silver Surfer (Fantastic Four), Abe Sabien (Hellboy) and El Fauno/The Pale Man (Pan’s Labyrinth), Jones is absolutely brilliant at bringing these characters to life.

And make no mistake, it is the power of Jones’ acting that truly propels this story into the upper echelons of the short Fear Itself catalog. All in all, the entire cast really helps keep the credibility of this story moving along. Hagan’s was the only face I recognized right off the bat, but she has a very distinctive look about her. In a way I was glad that there were no better known stars in this, as it allowed Jones to steal the show.

And while the horror cliches of the isolated environment, the monster picking off the survivors one by one, as well as getting “killed” multiple times before the final blow really takes him down were all in attendance here, as well as the modern horror cliche of an empowered female not allowing herself to be a victim and even giving the final killing blow, ultimately it didn’t matter. “Skin and Bones” wasn’t about innovative storytelling. It was a classically styled monster yarn told well and acted well.

It’s a testament to the casting director that there were no weak links in the acting ensemble here. And with only seven different actors on-screen throughout, it’s pretty important that they all hold up their edge of the plot and dialog. Even the kids were believable throughout. And much credit goes to writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, who join us from Showtime’s Masters of Horror, for keeping that dialog light on the cheese. In fact with all that solid dialog and a distinct lack of overacting or bad acting in general, this hardly stands up as a typical horror film at all.

The more I think about it, the more pissed I’m getting about it. Half the fun of horror is making fun of the terrible acting and mooning over the girl running through the woods in her underwear tripping over root after root as the monster lumbers after her. What the hell were these guys thinking giving us a well told tale with real sinister elements, a true sense of suspense and an emotional resonance between the characters. Bastards!

In the sense of the classic elements this episode did have, you could argue that it’s little more than the earlier episode “Eater” on a farm. Almost all of the same elements are there, except that the body counter in “Eater” is quite a bit higher. It’s harder to kill a mother and her children on broadcast television I’d wager. But apparently having her eat the secret father of her children is perfectly alright. You’ve got to love American television. Intense gore and violence and even a dash of cannibalism are just fine and dandy but flash a nipple and prepare to give up the farm!

The bottom line is “Skin and Bones” is an excellent little horror yarn told well in the limited format. It’s a great example of the potential of horror on television. And in retrospect, these later episodes have been so much better than those early installments that I can’t for the life of me figure out why the network and/or producers started the series off so weakly. I guess maybe these weren’t finished yet, so maybe the whole product is just improving as it goes along.

The problem is that I’m starting to enjoy these different tales so much that I might like to see Fear Itself return for a second season. Perhaps it could become a summer staple for NBC. It’d be a nice change of paced from the deluge of reality television that clogs up the TV pipelines each summer. On a side note, Fear Itself is going on hiatus now to make room for the Olympics. I’m not 100% sure how the ratings have been or if NBC is committed to putting it back on the air afterward, but I hope they do. If, however, this is our final episode together, they definitely went out on a high note.


Michael Gingold

The rollercoaster ride of quality that has been NBC’s FEAR ITSELF takes another uphill climb with SKIN AND BONES (airing tonight), albeit a somewhat shaky one. After the outrageousness of their MASTERS OF HORROR scripts CIGARETTE BURNS and PRO-LIFE, writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan have here aimed for a more straightforward horror tale—perhaps too straightforward, as even for an hour-long TV episode, the narrative lacks the twists and variety to truly stand out. Fortunately, SKIN AND BONES has a potent pair of talents in key roles: Larry Fessenden as director and Doug Jones as star, and together they elevate the material to good ’n’ creepy levels.

In his superb feature WENDIGO, Fessenden explored the influence the titular Native American legend has on a family holed up in a remote rural home, and SKIN AND BONES presents a variation on the theme. Here, the setting is a horse ranch where Rowdy (John Pyper-Ferguson) has been running things for the week that his brother Grady has been vanished since heading out on a hunting trip in the nearby mountains. Rowdy has been trying to comfort Grady’s wife Elena (Molly Hagan) and the couple’s sons Derek (Brett Dier) and Tim (Cole Heppell)—and there’s the significant suggestion he’d like to offer Elena more than comfort. Things seem to take a turn for the better when Grady (Doug Jones) staggers home out of the wilds—and then they get a good look at what he has become.

Having made his name in roles completely encasing him in makeup (the HELLBOY movies, PAN’S LABYRINTH) or that have used him as a CGI reference model (FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER), Jones here gets to act with more of his own face. He still sports prosthetics (created by the Gaslight duo of Chris Bridges and Kyle Glencross), but they serve to detract from his features rather than hide them, as Grady has been horrifically emaciated by whatever he ran into out in the trees. He’s immediately put to bed by his concerned family, and there’s a weird comic/horrific vibe to the sight of his ghoulish head resting on the pillow, seemingly disembodied from the withered body barely visible through the blankets.

Grady doesn’t stay bedridden for long, though; he’s got the Wendigo in ’im, and if he still loves his family, he now prefers them raw. What follows is traditional monster-in-the-house stuff, but Fessenden, imbuing SKIN AND BONES with the same rustic/claustrophobic atmosphere he brought to WENDIGO, delivers both tension and a couple of jump-off-your-couch jolts. Alwyn J. Kumst’s cinematography, gorgeous in its early exteriors before becoming eerier when the action moves indoors, is a strong asset, as is the off-kilter score by Fessenden regular Jeff Grace. And at the center of it all is Jones, literally tearing into his role and cutting a genuinely fearsome figure; he really does seem to be inhabited by a malevolent force.

A glimpse or two of Grady pre-possession, to contrast his devolution into a sadistic monster, might have added further depth to the family’s plight, but SKIN AND BONES ultimately finds perennial movie maverick Fessenden adapting to the realm of network TV rather well. Clearly he wasn’t compromised much—a climactic setpiece that can only be described as a truly perverse family dinner is as nasty as anything seen on this series. And Jones’ exposure in this episode will hopefully lead him to more genuine onscreen face time.


Brian Holcomb

Leave it to Larry Fessenden to finally overcome the restrictions of form and content that have shackled virtually every other director who’s contributed to Fear Itself. Is there any other filmmaker working today with more experience and skill in good old-fashioned backyard filmmaking? Just a quick glance at the DVD extras on his excellent film Wendigo demonstrates his hands-on approach to filmmaking: The construction of homemade camera rigs and improvised FX are proof of his DIY approach. Like David Lynch, he’s one of the few proud “amateurs” in an industry of jaded professionals. It’s his personal touch that allows him to color outside the lines, to light and frame scenes through artistic intuition rather than industry trend. This is what distinguishes “Skin and Bones” from the previous seven episodes of Fear Itself. All of the previous installments, including Stuart Gordon’s very effective “Eater,” have a similar flat look to them, much like any quickly shot TV show. Fessenden’s, however, looks like a real movie, with careful attention to light and sound and a creative use of the frame.


Sort of a horror version of Legends of the Fall, “Skin and Bones” tells the story of a rancher, Grady (Doug Jones), who disappears with his hunting party in the mountains for 10 days. When he returns, he is alone and appears quite cadaverous—perhaps even demonic—and with an intense hunger for flesh and blood. Fessenden revisits the legend of the wendigo here again, but within a narrative more akin to the stories of Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen. It’s clear that though Grady has returned in body, his spirit has been replaced by something else, something that made him eat all of the other men in his party. His wife (Molly Hagen) and his brother (John Pyper-Ferguson) both find him terrifying. But it’s not just his appearance and demeanor that frighten them—it’s his direct accusations of infidelity, jealousy and greed that stirs up the tension.

Fessenden normally writes the scripts for his own films but Skin and Bones is actually the work of AintItCoolNews writer Moriarty under his real name Drew McWeeney along with his partner Scott Swan. The pair wrote two of the best episodes of Masters of Horror for John Carpenter, “Cigarette Burns” and “Pro-Life,” and with “Skin and Bones” they provide Fessenden with a somewhat stronger narrative structure than the director’s own scripts. The solid structure allows Fessenden to focus on the actors (who are all fantastic, especially Guillermo del Toro veteran Doug Jones) and the creation of a powerfully minimalist atmosphere. It’s a real pleasure to watch the slow, creeping camera movements amid the intricate lighting, which features shadows dancing all over the ranch from the trees blowing around outside. The approach is quite theatrical and perfect for what is really a family tragedy that happens to involve a possessed patriarch. Val Lewton would’ve been impressed with the literary ambitions within the b-horror framework.

There is one sequence in particular that sums up just how accomplished Fessenden is as a filmmaker. When his brother Rowdy bursts into his bedroom armed with a shotgun, the skin-and-bones Grady unleashes a furious explosion of repressed rage. He accuses Rowdy of betraying him his entire life, of being jealous of him and all that he possessed, including his wife, whom his brother more than coveted. The scene is well played by the actors but it’s what Fessenden does with the editing, lighting and framing that makes the scene special. As Rowdy bursts in, we are shown his point of view as it scans the room’s wreckage. The camera glides past scattered pictures on the floor of he and Grady as kids and of Grady when he was alive and well—just flashes that go by which make us feel the history behind the dialogue that will follow. But it’s the swiftness of the shot and the way the shadows dance on the photos, giving their stillness a kind of frozen life, which makes the shot resonate—mere seconds on screen that speak volumes. Hold on the shot any longer and the effect would become heavy handed and laughable; too short and it would be unintelligible and pointless. Fessenden has become so skilled at his craft that this kind of effect seems like nothing upon first glance. But in the end, everything in the episode is affected by it. “Skin and Bones” is justification for the entire Fear Itself series.


Morgan Elektra August 3rd, 2008

So, before I get into the review for this latest episode of Fear Itself, let me tell you a little story from my past. I grew up in a pretty small town in the mountains of upstate New York, two hours north of the City. A lot of people live in NYC and have weekend homes in the area. It’s a pretty sleepy community in the Catskill Mountains with some great tubing in the summer, gorgeous foliage in the fall and some pretty decent skiing in the winter.

What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, not too long after I graduated from high school and went off to college, a small film crew rolled into the area filming a horror movie. I would hear about it when I called home a lot. The film crew hung out at the restaurant my father and stepmother owned and they’d have interesting stories to tell my parents. And we had friends who ended up being involved peripherally, guides for the local area and whatnot.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited that our little town was going to be in a movie so I got all the info I could about it and went in search of it. But it was an indie film, low budget, and hard to come by. Finally, I stumbled on it in the discount bin at an FYE and blind bought it because I figured “Even if it’s bad – it was still filmed here and that’s cool!”

In case you haven’t guessed yet, the movie was Larry Fessenden’s 2001 film Wendigo. And I ended up taking it back to FYE and trading it in for like $6. Although it was kind of cool to see my parent’s restaurant listed in the credits under catering, the film itself was just a hot mess. After that I became fairly gun shy regarding Fessenden’s work. There always seems to be a kernel there of something interesting, but for me it just never comes to fruition.

This brings us to episode eight of NBC’s Fear Itself, directed by Fessenden from a script by Scott Swan and Drew McWeeny. Swan and McWeeny were responsible for the Masters of Horror episodes “Cigarette Burns” (which I quite enjoyed) and “Pro-Life” (which I thought was pretty retarded). The story centers on the Edlund family, who own a ranch in the mountains of … somewhere. At the beginning of the episode Uncle Rowdy (who names their kid Rowdy? Seriously!) is arguing with his oldest nephew Derek. Apparently Derek’s dad Grady (Hellboy’s Doug Jones) has led a hunting party into the mountains and gone missing and Derek wants to go find him.

After some head-butting between Derek and Rowdy and a few tellingly over close moments between Rowdy and Elena (Derek’s mom, played by Molly Hagan, who I’ve loved since “Herman’s Head”), an emaciated Grady stumbles into the yard. He’s been missing 10 days and he looks like hell. They get him into bed and the doctor comes and checks him out and basically says “He’s alive somehow. Give him some food.” Thanks Doc, couldn’t have figured that out!

All sarcasm aside, the episode that unfolds from there is pretty solid. As things start to get weird and it becomes clear that Grady didn’t make it through those ten days trapped in the mountains on his own, there is actually a fair bit of tension, due mostly to Fessenden’s strong visual work and Doug Jones’ channeling of his “Buffy” alter ego as one of The Gentlemen. Although a particularly good scene in the kitchen between Elena and Grady is almost ruined by some cheesy one liners.

In fact, if there’s one really glaring weakness this week, it would be the dialogue. From the staple expository speech from the wise old Indian personified by Edlund ranch hand Eddie Bear about the wendigo (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler; good ol’ Eddie Bear explains this fairly early in the ep), to Derek’s repeated whining that Rowdy isn’t his father and can’t tell him what to do, which highlights a pretty unnecessary subplot, the dialogue just falls flat every time.

Aside from the tepid dialogue, there were only two things that bothered me. The camera tricks used for Grady’s wendigo movement which, like the look of the makeup, was reminiscent of The Gentlemen, only on speed, was pretty comical and did not at all fit with the slow, strong visual pace of the rest of the episode. And the fact that this is yet another Fessenden wendigo story was pretty ho-hum. Granted, I thought it came together better than any other attempt so far, but he’s used a lot of the same ideas for each outing. It seems like either Swan and McWeeny wrote this episode specifically with Fessenden in mind, or he went in and tailored the story to his aesthetics. Either way, unless you were attacked by a wendigo as a child, I think it’s time for a change Larry.

Still, all that being said, this was one of the strongest episodes of Fear Itself to date. On the part of Fessenden, it makes me a little less wary of his next project, as long as maybe someone else writes it. And on the part of McWeeny and Swan, I think it makes up for “Pro-Life”. You know what they say, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Well, “Skin and Bones” has got itself one pretty functional peeper. If you haven’t watched any episodes ofFear Itself and you want to catch one, I recommend this be it.

But I’m still not looking forward to next week…


Eric Aug 1st 2008

“Skin and Bones”, the latest episode of “Fear Itself”, was not a total losing proposition for me, and that’s more than I can say about most other episodes. It’s been weeks since I was even motivated to stay up long enough to watch one of these episodes, so thankfully this one was half way decent.

It stars Doug Jones, as a father and family man on a country farm. After being stuck in the mountains for a week, he finally returns home… only, something’s different. It becomes apparent very quickly that he has been “posessed” by some type of entity, and that he has acquired a taste for flesh in the process.

Because of Jones’ former genre credits, a lot of fans were very excited for this one. For my money, he was way over the top, and not scary at all. It was his theatrics however that make the episode mostly watchable, so I can’t say as I blame him too much. There was one moment though, where Jones is running through the house with his arms flailing, and he runs straight through a door and outside. To say that this scene inspired a “hearty belly laugh” in me would be an understatement.

The whole episode basically deals with Jones wreaking havoc on his family, culminating in a pretty nasty scene where he actually makes his wife eat the cooked body parts of his brother (and her former lover). Surprisingly gruesome for Network television, it was also a lowest common denominator type of “gross out” scene. When you have limited time and resources to try and make an impact on your audience though, I won’t begrudge the filmmakers using a bit of gratuitous flesheating to pad the scares.

The acting from the rest of the crew was similar to many of these episodes, ie “bad”. The two children in particular gave especially heinous performances, which hurt the episode a lot since they were required to carry most of the finale by themselves. It’s something I think we’re all used to at this point, so again I won’t begrudge the episode too badly for it.

I did enjoy “Skin and Bones”, and I may have enjoyed it even more if I wasn’t flipping back and forth between this and “Batman Begins” on FX, because let’s face it, in a head to head the two don’t compare very well. Despite enjoying it, I still have not seen a single episode of this show that would pique my interest enough to watch this were it not something we’re covering on the site. So if you were tuning in to see if anything has changed, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

“Fear Itself” has suffered from episodes that ride too closely to their big screen brethren; nearly every episode could be pinned back to a feature length movie in theme and setting. For a change the 8th episode of the series, “Skin & Bones” actually doesn’t feel like a rehash of a movie, and the episode is all the better because of it; this episode has turned into the first “Fear Itself” that I’ve fully enjoyed!For starters, “Skin & Bones” had some high-powered muscle behind it. That’s not to say that the other episodes didn’t, but this one has a track record as far as anthology horror series go. Written by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, both veterans of “Masters of Horror” seasons 1 and 2, they were quite familiar with the format. As a matter of fact, their first go at the scary TV series was John Carpenters “Cigarette Burns” from Season 1, which was quite possibly the best of the season! Also interesting is this episodes director Larry Fessenden. With this chapter revolving around the ghostly ‘Wendigo’ myth, one would think that the story would run close to Fessenden’s feature flick “Wendigo”, blowing my feature length movie hypothesis out the window. Surprisingly, this Fessenden wendigo tale is nothing like the original and still manages to be good.What made this episode good is that it handled its time constraints between commercials well. The balances was metered out so that you had time to relish in the tension before you were bombarded with attempts to get you to buy toilet bowl cleaner. Normally this series would build tension and then cut before you had a chance to become on edge. With “Skin & Bones”, the tension builds and then lingers just long enough to make those tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand on edge. The largest factor in lending to this tension was the father of the family, played by Doug Jones. (Abe Sapien, “Hellboy”!) While many times his antics were more comical than frightful, he still managed to bring to life the possessed father and make him entertaining in the light of the series former sub-par outings. With his frost bitten appendages and gaunt build he managed to be a unique character, even in the world of the big screen. In this day of the remake, a unique character will go a long ways to carry the story; Doug Jones and his wendigo helps to prove it.”Fear Itself” lacks much in the scares department but “Skin and Bones” gives us a glimpse of what the series could be. With a healthy dose of blood in this episode and the shots of cannibalism in action, it managed to push the boundaries for network prime time. Not a masterpiece by any means, it was still a fun episode that managed to stand out from its brothers and sisters and large credit goes to the script of McWeeny and Swan.


Jay Alvino July 31, 2008

Indie genre favorite Larry Fessenden (THE LAST WINTER, WENDIGO) tackles this week’s episode of FEAR ITSELF entitled, “Skin and Bones” concerning a subject that director is quite familiar with.

A rancher, played by Doug Jones (HELLBOY, PAN’S LABYRINTH) goes missing in the mountains for ten days
and miraculously returns home… rather different. Now, his somewhat dysfunctional family must face the
ravenous, supernatural force residing inside him.

What makes this episode really work is the incredible Doug Jones. If fellow HELLBOY star Ron Perlman is this
generation’s Boris Karloff, then Jones is most definitely our Lon Chaney. Doug absolutely owns this
role, his performance shining through the very subtle prosthetics and makeup. It’s clear that this man is
more than just a guy with foam latex stuck to his face. He’s a very rare kind of actor who understands makeup as a tool, and works with it instead of around it. He shifts effortlessly between creepy, scary and physically imposing, transforming himself from the inside out, changing even his voice.

Director Larry Fessenden may be working with a different palette here than what he is used to, but the finished piece is still very well crafted. It must be challenging to keep indie sensibilities while dealing with limited running time, commercial breaks and network execs, and I do get the feeling that maybe he wasn’t able to put as much of himself into the episode as he would have liked to, but then again he has two films that deal with the same subject in a much different way. In a recent interview, he joked that “Skin and Bones” is like the big-budget Hollywood
remake of WENDIGO, and while that observation is not too far off, the finished product is certainly not without Larry’s fingerprints on it. There are a quite a few moments of real dread and fear, and some wonderfully composed, creepy shots of Doug doing nothing at all. I would love to see a director’s cut of this released on DVD if possible.

Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan wrote the episode, and are best know for John Carpenter’s MASTERS OF HORROR episodes, “Cigarette Burns” and “Pro-Life”. The script (which can be read on-line for a limited time) is not bad, it just seems to be following the same beats as their previous episodes with a different setting.
Apparently John Carpenter was intended to direct this episode, but it was ultimately offered to Fessenden. The thing is, having Larry Fessenden direct an episode about a Wendigo is like having George Romero direct
and episode about zombies… it’s kind of obvious. It would have been more interesting to see writers and chosen director tackle material outside their respective comfort zones. Hopefully we’ll get to see that if NBC orders up another season.

“Skin and Bones” is a solid episode of the so-far-so-good season of FEAR ITSELF, worth watching for Doug Jones alone. It airs this Thursday on NBC so be sure to tune in or set your TiVo’s. Check local
listings for times.


Doug Jones being made up by Chris Bridges and Kyle Glencross of Gaslight Studios


Excerpts from an interview with Fessenden by Greg Lamberson for FEAR ZONE, July 18 2008

How did you become involved in FEAR ITSELF?

All I know is I got a call from Mick Garris and Andrew Deane back in November, and they were really positive about THE LAST WINTER which had just had a theatrical run and gotten good reviews. They wanted me to be part of the series. They pitched it to me as a writer-director gig, and so I came up with a pretty cool idea, that I was very pumped to do, but it turns out to have been kind of like a story they were already doing, so then I half-heartedly pitched a few other things, but over time it became clear they already had commissioned a series of scripts and they wanted to produce one of the stories they already paid for. Mick Garris had withdrawn from the project by the Spring, but Andrew Deane stuck with me and offered me an episode.

The episode you’ve directed, “Skin and Bones,” was written by Drew McWeeney and Scott Swan, who wrote the “Cigarette Burns” episode of MASTERS OF HORROR that was directed by John Carpenter. Although MOH was a very director-centric series, TV is generally a writer-producer’s medium. As a screenwriter-director, were you allowed to make any contributions to the existing script, or were you strictly a director for hire?

I think on most TV you are stepping into an existing series with a set cast and the story-line and the DP and crew, everything’s in place, so the director is just a bit of flavoring on top, but with an Anthology like FEAR ITSELF, the director is really stepping in to make a mini movie, so I at least felt absolutely like I was steering the ship throughout the process, except for the obvious reality that there was the producers, the financeers and the network; a lot of different agendas behind the scenes. But you know, that’s the bargain. As for the script, there again, I thought they were handing me a fully aproved-don’t-touch-a-thing kind of a document, but then they started giving me notes and that opened up a whole opportunity to do rewrites and make the piece my own.

How about casting? Did you have any say, or were you handed a cast?

Again, with casting I had all the freedom in the world as long as the producers, Lionsgate and NBC approved my choices, the actors were available and would take the offer on such short notice. Ha! In other words, it was near impossible for anyone to agree on anyone and we weren’t fully cast until a day before the shoot. However, early on I said I wanted Doug Jones (PAN’S LABYRINTH, HELLBOY and HELLBOY II, SILVER SURFER) and he went through approval very fast and that was the central, grounding choice on the whole project. I told all the producers Doug was his own special effect and they’d save lots of money, and it turned out to be true, he was awesome beyond my expectations. After much haggling we got the other cast members (Molly Hagen, John Pyper-Ferguson) and I felt so lucky; they weren’t “names” per se, but it was such a great ensemble of authentic smart players. We were all like-minded in our approach to the material.

You filmed in Canada. What did your prep entail, and how long was your shooting schedule?

Prep was 10 days, and the shoot was 7. Edit was 3 days to a director’s cut and then a couple weeks getting notes form all the powers that be. Then a week for sound, mix, color time, boom! You’re on TV. My episode comes out to the public the same week my feature THE LAST WINTER hits video shelves. That one I started in 2001.

I would imagine FEAR ITSELF was the first time you had to direct without any of the people with whom your accustomed to working. What was that experience like?

The thing is, I don’t work with the same people each film. It seems that way from my company Glass Eye Pix were we produce low-budget movies, with the same group of artisans. But my own directing career has been a more lonely path, where each film has been completely unique: THE LAST WINTER was shot with an entirely Icelandic crew. I don’t mind. I like to go out and win over new hearts and minds and my FEAR ITSELF experience was a good one. I liked the crew very much. My D.P. Alwyn Kumst was a tough Afrikaner and I liked his energy and drive; all the crew were seasoned and professional, a responsive, well-oiled bunch. Of course you become exposed to the internal politics that they are all going through because they’ve been slogging through the show for months– but you’re there such a short time, you barely get into all that.

Did you find the shooting pace any more breakneck than working on an indie feature?

There’s never enough time. Your needs expand to the amount you’re given. It’s like with money. Never enough no matter how much you got.

How has the post production process differed from your regular routine? I know you hate for other people to edit your work!

I was very lucky because I liked my editor Lynne Willingham very much. She prepared a cut for me to react to and then I revised from there. I prefer to encounter the raw material on my own the first time, but this was more efficient and she’s a good cutter. As well, she has a very good “bed-side manner” which is the editor’s most essential quality; she lets you follow your muse without a lot of resistance. We had a great time for our tiny week together. I thought the director’s cut was pretty strong, and in fact the producers were very happy. But then there are notes from all the other parties and the piece gets knocked around a bit. Some of the notes pushed us to make it stronger, but the difficulty for me was that I’d left L.A., I was no longer in the room with Lynne, and that just changes the process from instinctual to cerebral, because you’re giving notes over the phone. So slight disappointment with the very end of the process, but no complaints. I’m back in New York working with the Glass Eye Pix regular composer Jeff Grace who is doing outstanding work, it will elevate everything in the show. I’ve stolen Jeff from two of the Glass Eye movies we’re trying to finish at the same time, I SELL THE DEAD and HOUSE OF THE DEVIL.

Now that you’re back in NYC, you can direct episodes of LAW & ORDER!

No, FEAR ITSELF was a very special experience, I was given a lot of respect. I’ve been on LAW & ORDER as an actor and no one listens to the director, it’s the actors and the d.p. Running the set. Wouldn’t do that except for the paycheck (which would be reason enough in these times).

(writer) Moriarty Offers His Thoughts And A Sneak Peek For SKIN AND BONES!

Doug Jones, “Grady Edlund”

The youngest of four brothers, Doug Jones was born on the 24th May, 1960, in Indianapolis, Indiana, and grew up in the city’s Northeastside. After attending Bishop Chatard High School, he headed off to Ball State University, where he graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications, and a minor in Theatre.

He learned mime at school, joining a troupe called “Mime Over Matter” and doing the whole white-faced thing. “I was a mime for one summer at Kings Island theme park in Cincinnati, Ohio after graduating Ball State. Scaring children from Kentucky is basically what you do down there,” he said with a laugh. Doug has also worked as a contortionist. “You’d be surprised how many times that comes into play in commercials. They’ll want somebody to hold a box of Tide funny or something. I once squished into a box for a commercial for relaxed fit jeans.” He is nearing 100 TV commercials now, including the McDonald’s character he made famous around the world, Mac Tonight.

After a hitch in theatre in Indiana, he moved to Los Angeles in 1985, and has not been out of work since – he’s acted in over 25 films, many television series (Including the award-winning Buffy The Vampire Slayer, his episode ‘Hush’ garnering two Emmy nominations) over 90 commercials and music videos with the likes of Madonna, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Marilyn Manson.

Although known mostly for his iconic work under prosthetics, such as the floppy zombie ‘Billy’ in the Halloween classic Hocus Pocus, or the lead Spy Morlock in the 2001 remake The Time Machine, he has also performed as ‘himself’ in such highly-rated films as Adaptation with Nicholas Cage, Mystery Men with Ben Stiller, Batman Returns with Danny DeVito, and indie projects such as Stefan Haves’ Stalled, Phil Donlon’s A Series of Small Things, and as ‘Cesare’ in David Fisher’s
daring 2005 remake of the 1919 silent classic The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari.

But it is his sensitive and elegant performance as ‘Abe Sapien’ in Hellboy, which stormed to the top of the U.S. box office in the spring of 2004, that has brought him an even higher profile and much praise from both audiences and critics.

In 2005 he renewed his association with Mexican director Guillermo del Toro when he starred in the title role of ‘Pan’ in del Toro’s Spanish language fantasy/horror project El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth). He also has a cameo in the film as ‘The Pale Man’, a gruesome creature with a penchant for eating children. Working once more under heavy prosthetics in both roles, he also was required to learn huge chunks of dialogue in archaic Spanish – which he did perfectly.

2005 continued to be a hectic year for Doug, with roles in Doom, The Benchwarmers and Lady in the Water, the latter being the brainchild of award-winning cult director/writer M. Night Shyamalan. The year also brought success for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the film reaping three awards at the Screamfest Horror Festival in Los Angeles, including the coveted Audience Choice Award.

He also stepped out from behind the prosthetics for several roles, most notably to guest-star as freaked-out drug addict ‘Domino Thacker’ in the episode ‘Blood Hungry’ of the hugely popular TV series Criminal Minds, his jittery, unnerving performance being lauded by cast, crew and audiences alike. Doug has continued his collaboration with Guillermo del Toro into
2006, as he reprised his role as ‘Abe Sapien’ by voicing the character in the new Hellboy Animated television project, recording two 70- minute animated films.

On December 18th, 2006, he finished filming his role as the ‘Silver Surfer’ in the upcoming production Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, due out in cinemas June 15th, 2007.

On May 16th, 2007, Doug headed out to Budapest, Hungary, to reprise his role as ‘Abe Sapien’ in the sequel to Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, set to begin filming May/June 2007, and once more under the direction of Guillermo del Toro. He will be playing all of ‘Abe’ this time, voice and performance, as well as performing two other roles, the ‘Angel of Death’ and ‘The Chamberlain,’ both under heavy prosthetics.

Doug is married and lives in California.

Molly Hagen, “Elena Edlund”

Molly Hagan grew up in the Midwest surrounded by a golf course, rock quarry and cornfields. Her love for the theatre became apparent when she couldn’t stop performing for her 6 siblings, parents, and local fauna. Molly always knew she wanted to be an actor. After her high school drama teacher threatened her with, “you’ll never work in this school again,” Molly headed for Northwestern. Finally, surrounded by like- minded people with like-minded interests, Molly began to relax.

Upon graduation, Molly moved to the big city (Chicago) to live her dream. And lived it she did: acting, waiting tables and living on a budget that only allowed for oatmeal morning, noon and night.

In 1985, she moved to Los Angeles after her Chicago Agent (Joan Ellis) blazed a trail. Since that time, Molly has lived and worked steadily in LA. She loves to hike, backpack and practice Yoga.

In 2005 she climbed and reached the summit of Kilimanjaro. In 2006, she got lost in the back country of the Sierra Nevadas trying to ascend Mount Whitney.

John Pyper-Ferguson, “Rowdy Edlund”

Though he may not draw instant name recognition among U.S. viewers, Australian character actor John Pyper-Ferguson boasts a resumé that reads like an exhaustive index of filmed entertainment, from the mid-’80s onward. It packs in theatrically released Hollywood B- pictures, A-list releases, telemovies, one- and two-shot series episodes, and much, much more. A thespian typically at home in supporting roles, this Aussie import became such a frequent on-camera presence that he was soon difficult, if not impossible, to miss.

Pyper-Ferguson actually debuted in Canada — auspiciously so, with the lead role of Sonny Hamilton, a character seeking information on his family history, in the prime-time drama Hamilton’s Quest. He then segued to Hollywood film roles, with small appearances in such pictures as the slasher movie Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987), the Mel Gibson/Goldie Hawn vehicle Bird on a Wire (1990), the frat-boy comedy Ski School (1991), and the John Ritter gag-fest Stay Tuned (1992). After a brief (brief) appearance in that same year’s Best Picture winner, the Clint Eastwood Western Unforgiven, Pyper-Ferguson spent the rest of the 1990s working in mostly forgettable fare, such as the telemovie Children of the Dust (1995) and the Z-grade sci-fi movie Space Marines (1996).

For most of the following decade, Pyper-Ferguson eschewed feature-length films and landed guest appearances on acclaimed television series ranging from CSI and ER to Arli$$ and Nash Bridges. Following a bit part in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, Pyper-Ferguson then signed for a regular role as Joe Whedon on the hit prime-time family drama Brothers & Sisters (2006)

Gordon Tootoosis, “Eddie Bear”

Gordon is a descendant of the great Plains Cree leader Poundmaker and served as a band chief as well as vice-president of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. In earlier years he became a cowboy and is now a champion calf roper and team roper. He and his brother Wilfred are accomplished powwow dancers, dancing at the annual powwow at Battleford Saskatchewan which draws thousands of natives from all across North America. They also toured Europe and South America during the 1960’s and 70’s.

He later became a movie and television actor,making his film debut in 1972 in Alien Thunder with Donald Sutherland but is probably best known for his role as villain Albert Golo, band council chief, in North of 60.

Tootoosis, has successfully battled an alcohol problem and has been sober for more than 25 years. He quit smoking several years ago, a habit he’d had since he was 12. He says Charlton Heston and Anthony Hopkins are the most impressive actors he’s worked with. But notes, “I’d like to work with Marlon Brando. I don’t know if that’s possible. That would be the ultimate. He’s always been my hero.”

Gordon and his wife Irene married in 1965 and had three daughters (Disa, Alanna and Glynis) and two adopted sons (Lee and Clint). In 1997, daughter Glynis died from cancer at the age of 28. Gordon and Irene are now raising her four children.

Bret Dier, “Derek Edlund” — Brett was born to act. He enjoys making people laugh while using his great improvisation skills. Many of his goals he has been able to achieve. He has his first Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, has reached the 6th grade in Conservatory Music (in piano) as well as the Suzuki Method. (He has been playing since the age of 4). He is been in the Jazz Band in High School and obtained honors. He is an accomplished swimmer getting his Medallion Medal toward a lifeguard certificate. He also enjoys playing the guitar in a band and is self taught. Breakdancing has also been a priority when not acting.

Cole Heppell, “Tim Edlund” — Cole Heppell was born on November 11, 1993 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is an actor, known for Red Riding Hood (2011), The Fog (2005) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010). He was featured in the TV series, “The Dead Zone” on two different occasions. Cole also appears in the feature films, THE FOG and THE SANDLOT.

LARRY FESSENDEN (director) –
Larry Fessenden is the writer, director and editor of the award-winning art-horror movies HABIT, NO TELLING, and WENDIGO. His most recent film, THE LAST WINTER, starring Ron Perlman, Connie Britton and James Le Gros, premiered at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, was distributed by IFC FirstTake and is now available on dvd through Genius Products. Fessenden recently directed SKIN AND BONES starring Doug Jones for NBC TV’s horror Anthology FEAR ITSELF.
long bio

Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan are a writing team who teamed up with legendary director, John Carpenter on seasons one and two of “Masters of Horror”. The two writers have worked together since high school and have been working professionally as writers since 1994. The writing duo both reside in Los Angeles.

ALWYN KUMST (Director of Photography) –
Alwyn Kumst past cinematography work include episodes of “The Dresden Files”, “Mutant X” and the “Roxy Hunter” series. In 2000, he received a Gemini award nomination in Best Visual Effects for “Amazon” and a Genie Best Achievement in Cinematography award nomination for THE DIVINE RYANS. For FEAR ITSELF Alwyn shot “Eater”, “Community” and “Something with Bite.”

GasLight Studio Inc. was formed in 2006, by Kyle Glencross and Chris Bridges. Together they offer 30 years of combined international experience in the film and television industry. Toronto’s leading special FX company GasLight Studio provides high-end animatronics, special makeup effects, creature design, human replicas, models & prop designs on time & on budget. Kyle and Chris’ credits include: Diary of the Dead, 300, Saw III, Silent Hill, Land of the Dead, Blade 2, Jason X and Mimic.Gaslight Studios

JEFF GRACE (music score) –
Jeff began his film and television music career in 1998 as a composer at the New York music house Ruggieri Music. From 2001 to 2004 he was an assistant to Academy Award winning composer Howard Shore working on the three films of Peter Jackson’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Martin Scorsese’s THE GANGS OF NEW YORK, David Cronenberg’s SPIDER, David Fincher’s PANIC ROOM, and Frank Oz’s THE SCORE. Through that association, Jeff worked with such artists as Renee Fleming, Annie Lennox, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Kronos Quartet, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Terry Edward’s London Voices, and top studio orchestras and musicians in London, Los Angeles and New York.

Grace has scored several independent films since debuting with THE ROOST in 2005, including THE LAST WINTER, LIBERTY KID, I CAN SEE YOU, TRIGGER MAN and JOSHUA.

Active as a composer for concert and stage, Jeff was selected for American Opera Projects’ 2005-2006 Composers And The Voice Series. Jeff worked with composer Robert Ruggieri on scores for A Hymn for Alvin Ailey (ballet and film) and Double Exposure (ballet) for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (directed and choreographed by Judith Jamison). He has also worked with Gil Goldstein, providing orchestrations for trumpeter and Verve recording artist Roy Hargrove.

"a simply amazing score" — Peter Brown, IFMAGAZINE FEAR ITSELF - Original Score From The Series (2009, CD -various artists)Includes 7 tracks from Jeff Grace for the Fessenden-directed "SKIN AND BONES"AVAILABLE THROUGH iTUNES and AMAZON


Notes from Fessenden: When I got the script I went directly to my concept artist Brahm Revel. We have worked on several projects together includingWENDIGOTHE LAST WINTERI SELL THE DEAD and WHAT ARE YOU VOTING FOR? I needed to talk to someone about how the wendigo in this story would look. I made sketches and then I had Braham re-do them so they had gone through both our filters.


These first images established the look that carried through to the film. I thought of Doug Jones for the part of Grady. Of course I knew him from Guillermo Del Toro's movies, but I'd never seen him without makeup on, I just knew I needed a very physical actor. I don't know how it came to me, it came to me suddenly, I don't even remember when. It was one of the best ideas I've ever had.

On the left below, sketches we'd done before thinking of Doug for the role. On the right, Dougie from some publicity photo and below, bellowing as Grady in SKIN AND BONES. Even his bone structure matched, it was uncanny. I told the producers he would save them money because he was his own special effect. What I didn't know is that he is a great actor as well.

For the scenes in the kitchen I envisioned the open jacket with a fur collar. The coat was created by costume designer Jenifer Haffenden



Aside from our own sketches I compiled some reference photos for the fx team. I had hoped the creature in SKIN AND BONES would be iconic like so many of the characters seared into my brain from books and movies.

reference photos