Dir. Larry Fessenden (2001 91 mins, super 16, 1.85)
Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, John Speredakos and Eric Per Sullivan
A blue Volvo makes its way through the fading light this chilly winter evening in Upstate New York. Kim, George and their eight-year old son, Miles, are city dwellers stealing a weekend away at a friend’s country farmhouse. But a fluke accident sets off a chain of events that alters their lives forever and conjures up the ferocious spirit of the Wendigo, a Native American Myth made manifest in Miles’ imagination.
WINNER! BEST FILM
A wonderfully suggestive creepiness permeates every corner of Larry Fessenden’s “Wendigo”.
A lean, brainy horror fable … blurs the distinction between reality and myth,
spiraling us into a harrowing deluge of panic and fright.
WENDIGO succeeds and satisfies in a way that few films even think to attempt.
It is a stunning character piece, a deeply unsettling horror film,
and a meticulously crafted clockwork as spare and tight as a drum.
Fessenden approaches the themes and thrills of the classic American horror movies
through a determinedly modern approach, as if John Cassavetes had been working for
Universal in the early 30’s… for those in search of something different,
WENDIGO is a genuinely bone-chilling tale.
…creates tension and fear out of thin air…
A filmmaker with an uncanny gift for the creation of unsettling moods…
Fessenden manages to use snow, light and wind to create a potent, chilling dreamscape.
A reminder of the days when zero budgets could produce small miracles…
solidly oblique expressionism
Creates an atmosphere of great, unknowable menace that closely approximates
the haunted spirit of Algeron Blackwood’s unforgettable tale ‘The Wendigo.’
…stands head and shoulders above most genre offerings …
one of the best movies I’ve ever seen at capturing the way children interpret the world.
It’s a pleasure to watch this movie, because the director Larry Fessenden
is in complete control of what he’s doing.
Leave it to downtown-ist auteur Larry Fessenden to incorporate class conflict
as the foundation of a horror movie…
a provocative piece of entertainment.
One of the smartest, most resonant horror movies
to come down the pike in a long time…
Fessenden is one of the original talents of his genre.
The sheer virtuosity of Wendigo–which, if one were naïve in regards to the film’s history,
would swear it was the product of Hollywood’s best talents–
stands, not only as a great horror flick, but as an outstanding,
if not daunting, cinematic effort.
…one of the best indie features in years..
Scott Foundas February 5, 2001
A wonderfully suggestive creepiness permeates every corner of Larry Fessenden’s “Wendigo,” a mostly superb bit of modern horror from the writer-director-editor previously responsible for the Frankenstein story “No Telling” and the urban vampire pic “Habit.” Together, the films comprise an accomplished, unofficial trilogy of urban paranoia, alienation and metaphysical dread. And while “Wendigo” lacks the near-epic introspection and longing of “Habit,” it is in many ways Fessenden’s most accomplished and accessible pic to date, making strong use of his fine cast and production values in a thoroughly intriguing exploration of our communal need for myths and their need for us. Pic, which should rivet audiences attracted to the more philosophical elements of “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Sixth Sense,” could build strong word-of-mouth if not misrepresented as a conventional monster movie.
Like the best, early work of George Romero, Fessenden is experimenting here with the overlapping of real and invented horrors, subtly introducing supernatural elements into a pragmatic setting. He gives us a family, traveling from Manhattan into snowbound upstate New York for a weekend’s vacation. And he gives us a father, George (brilliantly played by Jake Weber), who is a violent tempest of internalized stress and unexpressed rage, inextricably chained to his job as an in-demand advertising photog.
The strain on the relationship with his wife, Kim (Patricia Clarkson) is evident, and doesn’t go unnoticed by their young son, Miles (Erik Per Sullivan, also excellent).
When George, distracted, runs over a deer in the middle of an iced-over country road, he quickly earns the ire of Otis (John Speredakos), a member of the small hunting party that had been pursuing the now-injured buck. Otis becomes enraged and George, despite pretending otherwise, trembles in his wake.
Once the family has settled at a friend’s country home, the evident rural quiet and isolation immediately begin to erode. Otis (who lives on a neighboring property) somehow seems to be at the root of it all.
On its surface, “Wendigo” is easily classifiable as a supernatural horror pic with a withdrawn, solemn child and unstable father at its core. It is a scenario purposely meant to recall “The Shining” and “Poltergeist,” but it is only the beginning of what amounts to a questioning of our very conception of horror and fantasy myths. Covering the film with a panoply of textual and subtextual references to icons of cinematic horror, Greek legends and ethnic folklore, Fessenden rips a schism between existential non-belief and more diagrammatic ways of explaining the world. And in the most lyrical scene of the richly textured screenplay, George explains to Miles that all storytelling is but a way of giving meaning to the images and events around us, of distilling virtue from so much chaos and confusion.
The Wendigo, a Native American, shape-shifting spirit capable of taking on any form and combination of elements, is represented as the sculpture of a half-man, half-deer, given to Miles by a mysterious Indian shopkeeper. But really, the Wendigo is a continuation of the suggestion throughout the film of modern man at a crossroads — of all things primal at odds with all things developed, and of civilized man at odds with his own inner, animalistic self.
In pic’s second half, Fessenden further blurs the distinction between reality and myth, spiraling us into a harrowing deluge of panic and fright.
The beauty of Fessenden’s technique is that “Wendigo” can be interpreted in any number of ways, and the film is no less enthralling taken as an intricate windup machine of mechanized thrills, as an inquisitive piece of psychological reasoning, or as a deeply perceptive study of a family breaking apart.
In fact, if there’s a major disappointment to “Wendigo,” it’s only that by the time pic reaches its breathless conclusion, you’re left waiting for another act. Pic’s ending, while perfectly suited to the mythological storytelling being invoked (and sure to provide the fuel for lengthy post-screening debate) comes so abruptly, and on such an adrenaline-racing high, things could continue for at least another reel..
Given the emphasis the film places on the relationship between father and son, the relationship between mother and son, which only begins to take hold in the climactic final moments, craves deeper attention. Fessenden’s films have been so perceptive on matters of the male ego, one can only hope he might turn a similar attention to the female psyche.
Pic’s tech credits are outstanding, highlighted by Terry Stacey’s handsome lensing and the brilliant creature effects, partially designed by Fessenden himself, that combine a variety of stunning photographic manipulations with expressionistic, Jan Svankmajeresque animation.
**** (out of four)
Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo plays like a chthonic rite: it’s terrifying in its brutal purity and delicious in its ability to pull domestic trauma into the well of archetype where it festers. The film is a further examination of what William Blake cajoles in his “Marriage of Heaven and Hell”–that “men forgot that all deities reside in the human breast,” and it justifies itself beautifully in such a Romanticist discussion, in a Jungian explication, and even in a socio-political and historical examination. Wendigo is an extraordinarily thorny film, no question; that it manages to be so without pretension, while providing an experience that is terrifying and gorgeous, is a remarkable achievement. It’s why we go to the cinema: to be fed through the eye, the heart, the mind.
Kim and George (Patricia Clarkson and Jake Weber) drive to a friend’s home in upstate New York with young son Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) to spend a winter’s weekend away from the worries of their therapist/photographer lives. On the way, their car strikes a buck chased into the road by a trio of hunters (led by the deranged Otis (John Speredakos)); a tense exchange evolves through the kind of country/city baiting perfected in John Boorman’s Deliverance. The tension of these opening scenes (and throughout) is simply extraordinary. Even more impressive, however, is Fessenden’s ability to mix the objective with the subjective in the narrative, presenting his horror film as a very literal expression of a child coming to terms with the ugliness of adulthood. Miles first bears witness to cruelty and caprice, then appears to become the arbiter of the kind of savage, allegorical justice that defines most mythological maxims.
Wendigo can be viewed on a literal and a metaphorical level. One can take the events of the film at face value or, more instructively, examine how a child constructs his own sensual world. Watch Miles react to his parents’ anger and his father’s uncomfortable teasing, how a picture book and a bedtime story fuels his night frights, and a moment when Miles wakes from a dream, pauses at the top of the stairs, and leaps across the open space above the landing to get to his parents’ bedroom. The level of humanism and observation in this film is revelatory: it captures the fear so often forgotten in films about the cult of childhood, and it presents a character set that is recognizable and utterly convincing in its subtlety.
It’s very possible that the entire third act of Wendigo is a projection of Miles’ imagination as it tries to incorporate real events with his interpretation of them. In this way, Wendigo joins last year’s crop of reality- and identity-testing films–such modern existentialist masterpieces as Memento and Mulholland Drive. By using the film medium to explore the ever-shifting internal landscapes of faith and identity, Wendigo succeeds and satisfies in a way that few films even think to attempt. It is a stunning character piece, a deeply unsettling horror film, and a meticulously crafted clockwork as spare and tight as a drum. Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo, the concluding film of a thematically connected trilogy including Habit and No Telling, is a horror film for smart people and one of the best holdovers from last year.
NEW YORK TIMES
Dave Kehr 15 Feb, 2002
A With-It Way to Jump Up and Say ‘Boo!’
The independent filmmaker Larry Fessenden has set himself a challenging project: to approach the themes and thrills of the classic American horror movies through a determinedly modern approach, as if John Cassavetes had been working for Universal in the early 30’s.
In his 1991 “No Telling,” Mr. Fessenden transposed the Frankenstein story to rural New York; his 1997 “Habit” found vampires in the East Village. In his new movie, “Wendigo,” the Wolfman legend becomes the basis for a story of family tension, class warfare and ecological revenge, set again in a snowy, isolated upstate village.
The McClaren family – Kim (Patricia Clarkson), a psychotherapist; George (Jake Weber), a frustrated commercial photographer; and Miles (Erik Per Sullivan), their 8-year-old son – are driving up from Manhattan to spend a winter weekend at a farmhouse borrowed from a city colleague. Just as they approach the property in their tidy little Volvo wagon, a wounded stag leaps out of the woods and smashes into their car.
The animal is followed by three hunters, evidently drunk and quite angry that George has inadvertently stolen the prize they have been pursuing for hours. Otis (John Speredakos), the most unruly of the locals, finishes off the dying animal with a shot from his revolver. George protests, but Otis pushes on, humiliating the city man in front of his wife (who fumes but does nothing) and son (who stares impassively at this first demonstration of his father’s vulnerability).
With this opening sequence, Mr. Fessenden introduces several ideas. There is the contrast between the civilized, soft urban male and his macho country counterparts. There is the tension created within the family by George’s humiliation. And there is the sudden appearance of nature, red in tooth and claw, and ready to rise up against the human violators, in ways that don’t fit into the city folks’ Disneyfied notions of a natural landscape of sweetness and sentimentality.
Dramatically, “Wendigo,” which opens today at the Film Forum, doesn’t do quite as good a job as “Habit” did of putting these ideas and archetypes into play. The script often seems to lose focus in side issues and protracted dialogue scenes. But the core emotions are strong and solid, which serves “Wendigo” well as it moves into the supernatural realm.
The Wendigo of the title is a creature of Indian mythology, an amalgam of animal, vegetable and human components that resembles a very angry tree. A mysterious Indian in the local drugstore offers little Miles a Wendigo figure carved from an antler, giving the boy implicit control over its destructive powers. And when the moment comes, provoked by another hostile act by Otis, Miles is imaginatively able to conjure up the creature and send it out to do his not-quite-conscious will.
As in his previous films, Mr. Fessenden carefully blurs the line between psychology and the supernatural, suggesting that each is strongly implicated in the other. The rampaging Wendigo may be a manifestation of Miles’s incipient Oedipal rage, but at the same time it is a force embedded in nature and history. Such abstract notions may put off fans of the genre in its most elemental, slice- and-dice form. But for those in search of something different, “Wendigo” is a genuinely bone-chilling tale.
Chilling Sprits Lend A Haunting Power to ‘Wendigo’
Larry Fessenden is a filmmaker with an uncanny gift for the creation of unsettling moods, capable, among other things, of bringing out the spookiness and menace inherent in a bleak winter landscape. He makes unusual, almost handmade art horror films, of which the eerie “Wendigo” is the latest example.
“Wendigo” is the third film (the excellent Manhattan vampire film “Habit” was the first, “No Telling” the second) in what the writer-director-editor calls “a trilogy of revisionist horror movies” that take a fresh, unencumbered look at some of the classic fright film themes.
In this, Fessenden is an interesting successor to producer Val Lewton, whose much-admired low-key 1940s horror films such as “I Walked With a Zombie,” “The Body Snatcher” and “Bedlam” have been enormously influential and admired. And, reminiscent of recent non-American horror films such as Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Others” and Guillermo del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone,” Fessenden’s films depend on atmosphere more than shock to unnerve us. “Wendigo” is named after a terrifying creature out of Native American mythology that has been utilized by everyone from poet Ogden Nash to the creators of “The X-Files” and Marvel Comics. As described in the film by a mysterious tribal elder, this half-man, half-deer shape-shifter is “always hungry, never satisfied. There are spirits to be feared because they are angry. He who hears the cry of the Wendigo is never seen again.” If that sentence sends a bit of a chill down your back, you’ll appreciate this kind of filmmaking.
Certainly psychoanalyst Kim McClaren (“High Art’s” Patricia Clarkson), her photographer-husband, George (Jake Weber), and their 8-year-old son, Miles (the self-possessed Erik Per Sullivan), are not thinking of dreaded mythological beasts as they drive through upstate New York on the way to a vacation weekend at a friend’s borrowed country house.
Then, suddenly, a large deer bounds out of the woods and is hit by their car. Almost immediately, a trio of ragged local hunters emerges in the animal’s wake, and their leader, the in-your-face Otis (John Speredakos) uses a pistol to kill the buck in front of an unnerved Miles. This causes a disturbing confrontation between the family and the hunters, which gets even creepier when it turns out Otis lives very close to their destination farmhouse.
Though they try, it’s hard for the family to have a relaxing time after what has happened, with Kim still angry and George, the kind of guy who has a deer on his sweater, not in his rifle sights, looking especially overmatched. The incident has the strongest effect, however, on young Miles. He’s a worried, susceptible child, prone to checking closets for dangerous creatures and in fact visited by ghostly apparitions when the lights go down.
Even in daylight, however, strange incidents begin to happen both around the house and in the town. Is this a case of excitable city folks being unable to cope with the solitude of rural life, or is something strange, something truly sinister, about to go down?
Working with cinematographer Terry Stacey and having the benefit of a wonderfully eerie score by composer Michelle DiBucci, Fessenden is the right director to capture the nuances of this sum-of-all-fears situation.
Making a virtue of necessity, Fessenden manages to use snow, light and wind to create a potent, chilling dreamscape. He employs jagged, almost experimental camerawork in the film’s creature sections, which he says he approached “as if I were embarking on an art installation.”
Though “Wendigo” has weak spots, including an ending that is not as satisfying as it might be, the film remains memorable despite its flaws. This is a properly spooky film about the power of spirits to influence us whether we believe in them or not.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Wendigo (R) **** (four stars/4)
Spending a get-away weekend in a borrowed farmhouse, a city couple has an increasingly tense feud with a demented deer hunter, and their eight-year-old son copes with his anxieties through imaginative encounters with a rage-filled phantasm heÍs learned about from an enigmatic Native American sage. FessendenÍs latest horror yarn is a spectacularly smart and scary voyage into the uncanny realm where hard realities, mind-spinning myths, and hallucinatory visions blur into one another at the speed of thought. Produced on a modest budget, it sports moody cinematography, razor-sharp editing, and real-as-life acting that make most of HollywoodÍs big-budget fakery look laughably tame. If you needed proof that understated chills are far more frightening than bursts of bombastic gore, look no further than this spine-shivering example of indie ingenuity.
Hazel Dawn-Dumpert 19 April, 2001
Eight-year-old Miles (Malcolm in the Middle‘s Erik Per Sullivan) is on a trip to the wilds of upstate New York with his urban-professional parents (Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber), when a freak accident and a threatening encounter with a local (John Speredakos) awaken an angry Indian spirit. Writer-director Larry Fessenden third in a series of re-created features begins with a nod to the original WOLFMAN (and a childhood spent adoring it) before shifting into a darkly beautiful, genuinely scary movie about elemental beastliness that lives in even the most civilized among us. Set against Stephen Beatrice’s multilayered production design and some deftly measured performances, Fessenden’s keen feel for tension and frightful release finds its most refined expression yet.
The nuclear family comes under another sort of terror attack in Wendigo, a nifty supernatural chiller by independent filmmaker Larry Fessenden. A Manhattan professional couple, commercial photographer George (Jake Weber) and psychotherapist Kim (Patricia Clarkson), along with their eight-year-old son, Miles (Erik Per Sullivan), are en route to a winter weekend at a Catskill farmhouse when their Volvo station wagon hits a buck on an icy back road and a subsequent encounter with a hostile hunter (John Sperednakis) turns their getaway into a nightmare.
From the first scene on, Fessenden orchestrates the tensions within the isolated family-George’s barely suppressed anger, Kim’s resentment, the child’s fear of the aggression he senses around him. George frequently teases Miles by playing monster, and before turning in for the night, the boy has his mother check under the bed and inside the closets. (Sullivan’s tight, wizened face eerily expresses his parents’ middle-aged anxieties.) The old dark house may be rattling in the wind and riddled with mysterious bullet holes, but the locus of terror is the surrounding forest. Like The Blair Witch Project, Wendigo evokes the primal fear of the continent’s white settlers-it’s named for the malevolent spirit that haunts the woods in Indian legends.
This cannibal creature was used to grisly effect a few years ago in Antonia Bird’s gross-out, anti-militarist western Ravenous, but Fessenden’s Wendigo is a movie of suggestion and foreboding, most of it filtered through Miles’s spooked consciousness. The backstory is provided when the family drives to town for provisions (at a general store well stocked with toy guns and hunting paraphernalia) and a mysterious Native American informs the boy about the shape-shifting wendigo. To add to the historical guilt, George learns that a nearby town was flooded to make a reservoir for New York City. Fessenden finds a landscape of agonized-looking wooden Indians and totem poles, but it’s the cold emptiness of the Catskills that seems most uncanny-a vacuum into which the beleaguered family (and the audience) can project their fantasies.
Despite occasional intimations of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wendigo is more atmospheric than splatterfying. As the story turns violent, Miles’s hallucinations come to the fore. Among other things, we learn that Svankmajer’s Little Otik may also have been a wendigo: Grounded in Fessenden’s handheld camera, stuttering montage rhythms, and time-lapse photography, the engagingly primitive animated special effects contribute to a mood that’s sustained through the surprisingly somber conclusion.
…Like Abel Ferrara before him, Fessenden reworks well-trod genre territory to fit his own personal vision, and the results are always interesting. His last two features, NO TELLING and HABIT, turned the hoary Frankenstein and vampire legends inside out to offer smart, socially conscious scares that dealt frankly with environmentalism and addiction. Here Fessenden uses the figure of the shapeshifter to explore the legacy of American violence and the great chain of displacement that began with Native American genocide and continues with the exploitation of rural land by city dwellers. But make no mistake: For all its moral concerns, the film is pretty scary. Rather than going for cheap shocks, Fessenden uses an unsettling mix of montage, time-lapse photography and animation to create an atmosphere of great, unknowable menace that closely approximates the haunted spirit of Algeron Blackwood’s unforgettable tale “The Wendigo.” These hills are indeed alive.
AINT IT COOL NEWS
Moriarty July 30, 2001
…the theater filled up completely for the evenings second film, and programmer Mitch Davis took the stage to enthusiastically introduce Larry Fessendens WENDIGO. Having seen it now, I can understand Mitchs wild enthusiasm for it. This is a smart, adult feature that stands head and shoulders above most genre offerings in its naturalistic approach to its characters and its subject matter, a supernatural STRAW DOGS that deserves a wide audience when it is released in the US in February 2002.
The start of the film evokes the start of Kubrick’s THE SHINING, with the sight of a family in a car, driving through a snowy wilderness. Patricia Clarkson and Jake Weber are Kim and George, and Erik Per Sullivan (Dewey on MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE) is their son Miles. Hes seated in the back, lost in his fantasy wrestling match between a pair of action figures, a Shogun Warrior and the Wolf Man. Theres a dreamy, languid quality to these opening moments, shattered when George runs into a deer that darts out into the road in front of them. Its sudden, shocking, and the car is sent into a skid that takes it off the road. George gets out of the car to investigate and sees that the animal is still alive, still twitching. Before he can decide what to do about it, three hunters with rifles come running up, and a confrontation unfolds. One of the hunters, Otis (played with a nice sense of restraint by John Speredakos) goes ballistic when he realizes the antler on the buck is cracked. Kim, in turn, freaks out when Otis finishes the deer off with a pistol not ten feet from their car, in plain view of Miles. It’s clear from the start that we’re dealing with two radically different world views here, and the collision causes instant friction.
It doesn’t help that the house George and Kim are staying in is the house Otis grew up in, a house that was sold out from under him by his sister. He takes random shots at the house, and George and Kim find bullet holes in windows, slugs buried in walls. He also spies on them at night while they’re making love. In this early movement, it would be easy to think this is just another city folks versus the hicks film, but Fessenden is after something deeper, something more universal than that. This isnt George or Kims movie. Instead, we witness it through the eyes of Miles. This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen at capturing the way children interpret the world around them, and that’s due in large part to the simple, unadorned work of Erik Per Sullivan. Hes a natural presence, and he never oversells his big moments. He has a remarkable, easy chemistry with both actors playing his parents, and by putting him at the center of the film, Fessenden frees himself up to explore the way a shadow looks on a wall at night or the way things from our days make their way into our dreams and our nightmares.
When the family takes a trip into town for some supplies, Miles has an encounter in a store with an old Indian man who gives him a strange, handcarved statue of a Wendigo, a vengeful spirit. “Just because people dont believe in spirits anymore doesnt mean they arent there,” he tells the boy, and Miles begins to carry the totem with him everywhere. The threats to his happiness are from inside the family as much as they are from outside, as George wrestles with his role as a father, trying to understand his son and genuinely listen to him. Its great work by Jake Weber, who looks like the American Tim Roth to an almost spooky degree. Until now, I havent really taken note of Weber, but this is the kind of work that proves an actor is something special. Its not a flashy role, but Weber makes it memorable and real. He and Clarkson are totally believable together, and their fights are as honest as their happy moments. Theres weight and history to this marriage, and Miles is the logical result, a kid born out of real love.
An afternoon of sledding kicks off the films final movement, and theres both tragedy and horror in store for the family and for the locals, Otis in particular. I was impressed by the way Fessenden refused to give any easy answers about the spirit of vengeance in this film. Is it karma? Is it something that Miles summons? Or is it simply dumb luck that touches all of us at some point or another? The film is beautifully photographed, and at no point does there appear to be any limitations on Fessendens imagination due to budget. This is the kind of genre film that deserves real attention when it is released next year, and I hope to bring you more news and interviews regarding the film closer to its actual release.
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
This is Film Week, Public Radio’s program on movies and video. We’re joined this week by film critics, Henry Sheehan of the Orange County Register, Jean Oppenheimer of Screen International, and animation authority, Charles Solomon. Our final theatrical film of the week is, Wendigo. The film is set, is it in upstate New York, Henry? It takes a Manhattan family out of the city?
HENRY SHEEHAN: Yes, it, kind of, I guess, what, ten or fifteen years ago, we would have called, a yuppie couple, played by Jake Weber and Patricia Clarkson, and their young boy, who’s played by Erik Per Sullivan, who plays the littlest kid on, Malcolm In The Middle. And . . .
LARRY MANTLE: Who’s great in the T.V. show.
HENRY SHEEHAN: Yeah, and he’s very good. And, he’s actually the central character in this movie. I mean, he’s, everything revolves around him. And, they’re on their way, it’s a dark, they’re on a, first of all, I have to say, this movie’s directed by Larry Fessenden. And, he is, it’s a pleasure to watch this movie, because he is in complete control of what he’s doing. I mean, this is a, this guy is a film maker. I mean, this guy really knows what he’s doing. And, it opens on . . .
LARRY MANTLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) make a friend with a big star, so that he could — (LAUGHTER)
HENRY SHEEHAN: (LAUGH) Yeah, yeah.
LARRY MANTLE: –get the general release movie this week.
HENRY SHEEHAN: This is his third horror film. He, the only, he made one called, Habit, which I saw, and which was also very good. It takes place among drug users in New York City. And, he’s kind of like George Romero. Not that his films are like that, but that he’s chosen to work in a specific geographic area. In this case, New York City, in New York state, and make films his way. And, he makes, kind of, ghost stories, the old-fashioned way. There’s a lot of inference, you know, there aren’t too many onscreen monsters, or blood-letting, but it’s really spooky. And, this starts off, they’re driving down a dark, lonely country highway, they’re lost, and all of a sudden a deer crosses the road, and they kill it. Okay, they hit it, and kill it, which is bad enough, ’cause the car ends up in a snow bank. Well, who shows up but three local hunters, with big rifles. And, one of them is really mad because, not only has this couple, George, is the husband’s name, killed the deer they’ve been hunting for eighteen hours, but he’s broken one of the antlers, or points, which, you know, was going to look really good on the wall of one of the hunters. And, the hunter’s name is Otis. And, here’s part of the confrontation they have.
HENRY SHEEHAN: (CONTINUED) So, you know, right away, you know, no ghost, but very scary. You know, are, you know, and you were with the city people. I mean, you feel just as isolated, and as scared, of these, you know, country folk as they are. And, then the movie proceeds, they go to this house they’re renting. And, this guy, Otis, turns out to live nearby. And, he always seems to be around when spooky things are going on. And, then, the movie, kind of, starts concentrating on the son, who goes into a store with his mother. And, a mysterious stranger gives them a carving of an Indian spirit, called a Wendigo, which is a soul leader that is always hungry, he says it lives between earth and sky, and it’s not angry, but it’s always hungry, and it’s very fierce. And, I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s just, if you like, it’s just very spooky, it’s very chilling, it’s just very well done. It’s just a pleasure to see a horror movie that actually works, and a film maker that really knows what he’s doing.
LARRY MANTLE: So, this film gets, kind of, the arthouse treatment, an arthouse release, and all the crummy horror films end up being released all around the country on thousands of screens.
HENRY SHEEHAN: Yeah, I, yeah, I don’t know why, because it’s, you know, the, those films are actually failures, because they depend on just, you know, throwing gore up at the screen.
LARRY MANTLE: Yeah, they’re gross-out, they’re not scary.
HENRY SHEEHAN: Yeah. And, this is very low budget. I mean, there is a little, you do see a little bit of a, kind of a monster thing. But, you know, then, that’s not really what makes it scary. It’s the humans that make it scary.
LARRY MANTLE: Wendigo, the film. It’s by director, Larry Fessenden. Co-starring Jake Weber and Patricia Clarkson, with Erik Per Sullivan. At the Fairfax Cinemas in Hollywood. Rated R.
John Anderson February 15, 2002
Some Game Running
Dispute over a deer leads to terror in ‘Wendigo’
(3 STARS) WENDIGO (R). A city couple hit a deer, and their upstate weekend turns into an experiment in terror. Strongly atmospheric, intelligent and just plain scary. With Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, Erik Per Sullivan, John Speredakos, Christopher Wynkoop. Written and directed by Larry Fessenden. 1:31 (sex, violence, vulgarity). At Film Forum, 209W. Houston St., Manhattan.
CLASS WARFARE has been a bountiful subtext in this season’s movies – “Gosford Park” being the obvious example, but “In the Bedroom,” “Monster’s Ball” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” all doing their particular riff on the socio-economic- distinction blues.
Leave it to downtown-ist auteur Larry Fessenden, though, to incorporate class conflict as the foundation of a horror movie – and making it the scariest part of the piece.
Fessenden’s “Habit” was perhaps the most intelligent and frightening of a rash of modernist vampire films that sort of rose from the crypt of Indie World in the mid-’90s, using the theme of the undead as a metaphor for drug addiction and/or AIDS. “Wendigo” (which follows “No Telling” and is the third in what Fessenden calls his “horror trilogy”) is a bit more conventional, using as it does a great deal of time- lapsed skies and hallucinogenic flashes of the grotesque and gory.
But as they drive their Volvo – it had to be a Volvo – though the slate gray dusk of a wintry upstate New York, Kim (Patricia Clarkson), George (Jake Weber) and their timid son, Miles (Erik Per Sullivan, of “Malcolm in the Middle”), are about to run head- on into the beer-fueled resentment of rural America, and find themselves aliens on their own planet.
What they do is hit a deer – a deer that’s been tracked for 18 hours by the belligerent Otis (John Speredakos) and his two slightly less venomous pals, chased across the highway and into the front end of the family car. George is rattled, both by the deer and by Otis’ anger: The impact cracked an antler, ruining the value of the deer, which Otis dispatches with a pistol shot – thereby sending Kim into a rage, George’s adrenaline into flowing and Miles – poor Miles, wonderfully played by Sullivan – into something close to catatonia.
Fessenden eventually winds up with a far more conventional story than this opener implies it will be – the idea of George’s manhood being rattled by three guys with guns, and the subsequent weekend being colored by this unexpected confrontation with his ultracivilized ego (he’s a photographer), is great stuff – made even better by the thoroughly desolate and accurate portrait Fessenden creates of a specific kind of upstate milieu. Mythic spirituality rears its ugly head – literally – via the title character, based on a Canadian Indian myth (and not the Marvel Comics character, by the way), presumed to be a kind of Druid-like god angered by crimes against nature. And, perhaps, even crimes against people.
That “Wendigo” leaves fewer doors open than you expected it might is almost a disappointment, although the film is a creepshow by any estimation – and, regardless of what end of the Volvo-vs.-Smith & Wesson argument you happen to be on, a provocative piece of entertainment.
In lieu of an unintentional pun considering the film’s plot, Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo is a stunningly impressive shot-in-the-dark. Aptly labeled as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining meets John Boorman’s Deliverance, the prowess of the film’s script allured an aggregation of extremely competent, reputable actors, all of which rise to the occasion. The sheer virtuosity of Wendigo–which, if one were naïve in regards to the film’s history, would swear it was the product of Hollywood’s best talents–stands, not only as a great horror flick, but as an outstanding, if not daunting, cinematic effort.
A photographer, George (Jake Weber), his psychologist wife, Kim (Patricia Clarkson), and their son, Miles (Erik Per Sullivan), retreat into the Catskills from their hectic New York lives. En route to the cabin of a friend, George inadvertently hits a deer and is confronted by a band of local hunters, one of which, Otis (John Speredakos), takes issue with the paterfamilias, claiming that the latter took what was rightfully his, that is, the animal’s life. When the family arrives at the cabin the next day, they not only discover that their nearest neighbor is Otis, but that the cottage is mysteriously and ominously riddled with bullet holes. Shortly thereafter, George is victim to another misfortune which will alter his family’s life forever.
The horror genre is stigmatized due to its tendency to eschew characterization in favor of visual spectacle. However, Fessenden’s feature not only compensates for the sins of its horror brethren, it puts to shame most notable dramatic efforts, which rely largely upon the introduction and development of its players. Yet Fessenden accomplishes such while nonetheless remaining mindful of his audience for, while presenting and delving into his various characters and their predicaments, he proceeds to create and sustain an almost unbearable amount of tension and anxiety in his viewers.
From almost the opening frame, Wendigo immediately explores its central characters but, just as we begin to assimilate ourselves to the various personages, Fessenden jars us out of our lull of voyeuristic comfort by having George collide with a deer. Masterfully, when our pulses nearly regain their normative rate, we instantaneously hold our breath as Otis verbally accosts George, which leaves us to mimic the emotional cues from Miles in that we are equally susceptible to the unpredictable tension between the hunter and the family man. Dauntingly, just as we assume that the air around us cannot become any more electrified, one of Otis’s friends pokes a jab at the irate hunter’s pride. We pause, knowing that the only manner in which the woodsmen’s subverted ego can be aptly vented is through George.
This early sequence is representative of the veteran control and concise execution which is Wendigo. As Fessenden continues to flesh out and humanize his characters, he refuses to cast rote, typecast caricatures as each and every figure becomes both empathetic yet reprehensible, making our (and the characters’) forthcoming dilemmas all the more challenging. Wisely, the ambiguous climax leaves everything to the viewer in that George’s undertow of sublimated aggression is succinctly projected via his playful, but psychologically revealing, utterance to his son, “You’re a dead man, Miles” before we watch as he symbolically undermines authority by taking a snapshot of the oblivious Sheriff, Tom Hale (Christopher Wynkoop), in a comprising, embarrassing position. This is cast alongside Otis, whom we first despise without apology before it is revealed that he is acting under the constraint of familial neglect. After introducing this exacerbating information, Fessenden then issues a heart-wrenching scenario in which George–after Kim highlights the need–earnestly attempts to subvert his inferiority complex in order to help his ailing son, who may be the victim of mental instability or merely an overactive imagination, which is prompted and compounded by boredom (he is an only child) and isolation (an urban child stuck in a remote, rural cabin). Refreshingly, even the character of Miles avoids becoming the stereotypical horror demon or vestal victim as the aforementioned possibilities are commingled with the boy’s growing awareness that he can manipulate those around him. However, the gem of the film’s characterization occurs when Tom confronts Otis as the director unnervingly depicts, with an almost brutal simplicity and ease, an interaction of wills as the power structure perpetually shifts upon a mere inflection or a subtle pause.
Yet, for all of the well-rounded, admirable wholeness of its characters, the crux of Wendigo is its theme of violence and retribution. Ingeniously, the perception and subsequent evaluation of whose violence and which party’s retribution is also left to the viewer after Fessenden introduces the motif of violence committed upon nature via its native and current inhabitants, all before offering potential justifications for such, leaving various individuals and factions culpable. After the camera reinforces its archetypical, viable subjects as it pans over the labels of children’s toys in a local drug store in the form of illustrated Indians, G-men toting guns, and settlers keeping wild animals at bay, we are thrown into interpretive conflict in that, though we abhor Otis for much of the picture, we are obligated to admit that he is living off the land while George, symbolic of the city, is a metaphorical antagonist to nature. What cannot be refuted is that the titular character admonishes unnecessary rage, which accounts for his appearance in the presence of all potentially guilty parties during the narrative. In so doing, Fessenden again denies his viewer ready answers.
From a purely technical perspective, Wendigo’s ideas and execution are equally impressive in its masterful use of cut- and freeze-frames, slow motion, POV shots, hand-held sequences, steadicam and time-lapse photography, jump cuts, and montages as the beautiful cinematography is exquisitely brought into a cohesive, aesthetically stunning whole on behalf of Fessenden’s concise editing. Not surprisingly, the gentle–yet maliciously ominous–soundtrack accentuates, but never didactically directs or implies, mood and setting throughout. The only facet of the production which one could legitimately quibble with is that a large portion of the work is grossly underlit.
From almost every conceivable angle, Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo is filmmaking at its best. Not only does the director/writer/editor posit an unrepentantly vague–yet never gratuitously convoluted–ethical conundrum, but he does so while remaining true to the genre as his hyper-empathetic characters project their fears and anxieties upon the audience. Wendigo is an example of pure art and–to most mainstream critics’ chagrin–in all places, the horror genre.
WENDIGO had a special sneak preview screening at Slamdance 2001. It has since played at Los Angeles Film Fest, Philadelphia International Film Fest, Orlando Film Fest, Seattle Film Fest, FantAsia Film Fest, Woodstock Film Fest (winner best film), and was seen at the Vancouver film Fest, Kansas City Film Fest, H. P. Lovecraft fest and the Dark Wave film Festival, Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, etc. It was released February 15 2001 at Film Forum in NYC, and in cities across the U.S. after.
FROM THE DIRECTOR (DECEMBER, 2000)
With WENDIGO I’m trying to evoke the power of metaphor in our lives, the basic need to construct stories to deal with the shocks of life. WENDIGO is like a puzzle or sculpture or mosaic of interlocking pieces which tell the story of a child jostled out of innocence as he becomes aware of the anger and aggression all around him. I wanted a spare story, a stylized shooting technique, and a monster that was gestural, so that there d be no hiding the artifice of the story inviting the audience to step outside the experience and ponder its meaning.
The nature of the Wendigo, which is an American Indian spirit that has also been depicted in pop culture (in prose by Algernon Blackwood; a poem by Ogden Nash; in Marvel Comics, The X-Files, Antonia Bird’s RAVENOUS, etc.), is that it is described differently in every account. And so, like some religious parable, the creature s indefinable quality makes it beg for interpretation. I came to it visually inspired by a first grade teacher who told the story and made a lasting impression with his image of the creature: half man-half deer. There is something of the man-animal archetype that holds great potency for me (The film opens with a Wolfman doll).
I approached the project as if I were embarking on an art installation, building first the elements of the creature with technicians, shooting footage in s8mm and DV, building models, and employing comic artist Brahm Revel to make a graphic novel of the story based on my script and real locations. I interested the independent producer Jeff Levy-Hinte on the pitch that we could accomplish much on a low budget because of our extensive preparation, and that the special effects could be accomplished because they d be more German-Expressionist than American-realist.
We set up two crews, first Unit under Terry Stacey’s command, to work with the fabulous actors we hired through Walken and Jaffe casting. And an additional unit to film jagged interstitials and serene nature animations. This to convey the inner perception of the child, and the raging existence around us.
We shot for twenty three days with a crack crew, in the cold, trying to live up to austere and ambitious shotlists, and winging it when necessary. For a snow movie, the warming weather was a curse. But reality was not the agenda.
Post production saw the director in excruciating solitude, editing the images into a subjective dream, and emerging to begin one of the most critical collaborations of the film: The music and sound. It was up to composer Michelle DiBucci to establish a tone for the film in keeping with my vision, made concrete by two years of working with music that had inspired the images. By mapping out the film with temp tracks and sound effects, I try to guide my sound team towards the mood the most elusive element of film, and the hardest element to translate from the inner vision. But DiBucci had access to a wide array of internationally recognized instrumentalists and a battalion of samples effects and was able to compose a rich, evocative soundscape.
Labwork has been extremely complex, translating opticals from the AVID back to film and then reshaping the edit again. Like the Wendigo itself, the film shapeshifts constantly, and even after its premiere, may well change again.
WENDIGO is third in a trilogy of revisionist horror movies that includes my other films HABIT and NO TELLING. On a purely analytical level, I have this to say: Through genre, the language of Pop culture, I seek to step back and objectify the clichŽs in our stories, in particular our horror stories, so that we can see them freshly and think about the assumptions as well the truisms of these stories we retell, these archetypes that haunt our thinking.
For all its layers of potential meaning, WENDIGO ultimately strives to be a mood piece. A visceral, linear ride. A small cinematic gesture. Not all films need to be events. Along with the film, I’ll present a comic, because, since the dawn of the twentieth century, no truly populist work is presented in one format only.
PATRICIA CLARKSON, “Kim McClaren”
Original bio: Most recently appeared with Jack Nicholson in Sean Penn’s THE PLEDGE, and with Tom Hanks in last year’s THE GREEN MILE. She was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her role as the heroin addicted Greta, in Lisa Cholodenko’s Award winning independent film, HIGH ART. Other film roles include Clint Eastwod’s THE DROWNING POOL , Taylor HackfordÕs EVERYBODY’S ALL AMERICAN, and Brian DePalma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES. Clarkson has appeared in numerous TV shows and theatrical productions.
IMDB: This remarkable, one-of-a-kind actress has, since the early 1990s, intrigued film and TV audiences with her glowing, yet careworn eccentricity and old world-styled glamour. Very much in demand these days as a character player, Patricia Clarkson nevertheless continues to avoid the temptation of money-making mainstream filming while reaping kudos and acting awards in out-of-the-way projects.
The New Orleans born-and-bred performer with the given name of Patricia Davies Clarkson was born on December 29, 1959, the daughter of Arthur (“Buzz”) Clarkson, a school administrator, and Jacquelyn (Brechtel) Clarkson, a local city politician and councilwoman. Patricia demonstrated an early interest in acting and managed to appear in a few junior high and high school-level plays while growing up. She took her basic college studies at Louisiana State University, studying speech for two years, before transferring to New York’s Fordham University and graduating with honors in theatre arts.
Accepted into the prestigious Yale School of Drama graduate program, she earned her Master of Fine Arts after gracing a wide range of productions including “Electra,” “Pericles,” “Twelfth Night”, “The Lower Depths,” “The Misanthrope,” “Pacific Overtures” and “La Ronde”. From there she took on New York City where she attracted strong East Coast notice in 1986 for her portrayal of Corrina in “The House of Blue Leaves” and in such other plays as “Eastern Standard” (1988) and “Wolf-Man” (1989).
Known for her organic approach to acting, the flaxen-maned actress decided to try out her trademark whiskey voice in Hollywood at age 28, making her movie debut as Mrs. Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma‘s The Untouchables (1987) starring Kevin Costner. The following years she gained attention for playing Samantha Walker in The Dead Pool(1988) where she starred opposite Clint Eastwood‘s popular “Dirty Harry” character. Playing supportive, wifely types at the onset, she became a strong contender for character stardom by the mid-to-late 1990s, not only on stage but in the independent film arena.
On stage Patricia received impressive notices for her contributions to the plays “Raised in Captivity,” “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan,” “Three Days of Rain” and, in particular, “The Maiden’s Prayer,” which nabbed her both Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award nominations. In 2004, she finally enacted the classic part she seemed born to play, that of Southern belle Blanche DuBois in the Kennedy Center production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. She earned glowing notices. On camera she was offered roles of marked diversity. From the heavier dramatics of a film like Pharaoh’s Army (1995), she could move deftly into light comedy, courtesy of Neil Simon in the TV-movie London Suite(1996). It was, however, her bleak, convulsive portrayal of Greta, a strung-out, heroin-happy German has-been actress, opposite a resurgent Ally Sheedy in the acclaimed art film High Art (1998) that truly put Patricia on the indie map. From this she was handed a silver plate’s worth of excitingly offbeat roles. In 2003 alone, Patricia received a special acting prize at the Sundance Film Festival for her superb work in three films: as a somber, grieving artist in The Station Agent (2003), a cold-hearted cancer victim inPieces of April (2003) and a jokey, get-with-it mom in All the Real Girls (2003). She was nominated for a “Supporting Actress” Oscar for the second movie mentioned.
On TV Patricia received two Emmys for her recurring guest part as Frances Conroy‘s free-spirited sister in the acclaimed black comedy series Six Feet Under (2001). She also received the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics awards for her supporting work in the gorgeous, 1950s-styled melodrama Far from Heaven(2002), as a prim and proper Stepford-wife and deceptive friend to Julianne Moore.
No matter the size, such as her extended cameos in The Green Mile (1999), All the Real Girls (2003), Miracle (2004) and Elegy (2008), Patricia manages to make the most of whatever screen time she has, often stealing scenes effortlessly. Seen everywhere because of her in-demand status in Hollywood, Patricia recently worked for director/actor Woody Allen. Impressed with her small but excellent contribution in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), she was promoted to a lead in his more recent pictureWhatever Works (2009).
JAKE WEBER, “George”
Original bio: Co-stars in the thriller THE CELL, and the submarine actioner U-751. He stars with Brad Pitt in MEET JOE BLACK, and with John Cusak in PUSHING TIN. Extensive film credits include, Dangerous Beauty, THE PELICAN BRIEF, and Oliver Stone’s BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. He has appeared on Law & Order and NYPD BLUE, and extensively on and off Broadway.
IMDB: Jake Weber was born on March 19, 1964 in London, England as Jake T. Weber. He is an actor, known for Dawn of the Dead (2004), Medium (2005) and Meet Joe Black (1998). He was previously married to Diane Weber.
ERIK PER SULLIVAN, “Miles” — Made his film debut in ARMAGEDDON, and went on to play Fuzzy, the dying orphan in the bubble in Lasse Hallstrom’s THE CIDERHOUSE RULES. Erik is currently starring as Dewey on the hit TV show MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE.
JOHN SPEREDAKOS, “Otis” — Worked for director William Friedkin in the courtroom drama RULES OF ENGAGEMENT and can be seen in the 1992 film SCHOOL TIES. Speredakos has appeared in numerous television episodes including LAW & ORDER and NEW YORK UNDER COVER, and in the series, SIRENS and RETURN TO LONESOME DOVE.
CHRISTOPHER WYNKOOP, “Sheriff” — Christopher Wynkoop has been a regular player in Spike Lee films including BAMBOOZLED, SUMMER OF SAM, HE GOT GAME, CROOKLYN and CLOCKERS. He has been working in film since the 80Õs when he appeared in MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON, GHOSTBUSTERS, and GOING IN STYLE.
LLOYD E. OXENDINE (Elder) is a New York based artist. This is Lloyd’s first film role.
kim PATRICIA CLARKSON
george JAKE WEBER
miles ERIK PER SULLIVAN
otis JOHN SPEREDAKOS
sheriff CHRISTOPHER WYNKOOP
Elder LLOYD E. OXENDINE
Everett BRIAN DELATE
Billy DANIEL STUART SHERMAN
Martha JENNIFER WILTSIE
Brandon MAXX STRATTON
Earl RICHARD STRATTON
Little Otis DASH STRATTON
Mechanic DWAYNE NAVARA
Store owner SHELLEY BOLDING
Nurse SUSAN PELLEGRINO
Wendigo JAMES GODWIN
EXTRAS: EILEEN SCOFIELD, DEBORAH PERROTTA, LISA M. NOTARI, EDWARD PETERS, SCOTT WHISPELL, JOSEPH C. FELECE, KIMBERLY RAMALHO, CAITLYN MASSE, DANIEL P. GLASER
LARRY FESSENDEN writer, director, editor – winner 1997 IFP “Someone to Watch Award”is the writer, director and editor of the art-horror movies HABIT (1998 Spirit Award nominations for best director and best Cinematographer) and NO TELLING, OR THE FRANKENSTEIN COMPLEX. As an actor, Fessenden stars in HABIT, co-stars in Ilya Chaikens debut feature MARGARITA HAPPY HOUR (Sundance 2001) and appears in Martin Scorsese’s BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, Steve Buscemi’s ANIMAL FACTORY, and Brad Anderson’s SESSION 9. He was actor, editor and associate producer of Kelly Reichardt’s critically acclaimed debut film RIVER OF GRASS. Fessenden has created numerous video and film features and shorts since 1979, and he has played and recorded with the band JUST DESSERTS since 1987.
JEFF LEVY-HINTE producer – is a film editor, producer, and post-production facility operator. As an Editor he has worked on a wide range of video and film projects, including When We Were Kings, which won the 1996 Academy Award for best documentary. He served as the Executive Producer of Jesse Peretzs First Love, Last Rites. He was a Producer of High Art, a feature film by Lisa Cholodenko that premiered in the competition section of the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and was released in the United States by October Films. Under the Antidote Films Banner, in partnership with Michael Hausmans production company Cinehaus, he has recently completed American Saint. He is the proprietor of Post 391, Inc., a post-production facility; and is the co-owner of Dig It Audio Productions, an audio post house providing complete sound services for video and feature film.
TERRY STACEY director of photography – shot Tom Gilroys feature debut, SPRING FORWARD, and Brad Andersons HAPPY ACCIDENTS. He was cinematographer on the indie hit TRICK, the Good Machine cult classic, LOVE GOD, and the road movie, THE DREAM CATCHER. Stacy was principle cinematographer on the TV series WONDERLAND.
STEPHEN BEATRICE production design – worked as Art Director on SUNDAY and graduated to Production Design on JUST ONE TIME, STRINGER and the Sundance 2000 success, GIRLFIGHT.
DAYTON TAYLOR effects producer – is the President of Digital Air Inc, and the inventor of TIMETRACKTM, a patent-pending camera system which has been featured in American Cinematographer and Scientific American magazines, and at the Smithsonian Institute. He was production manager of Fessendens 1990 film NO TELLING, and producer of Fessendens HABIT. Taylors short film, LOVES CHOICE, is in the permanent film collection at the Museum of Modern Art.
JAY SILVER effects cinematography – was the camera assistant on Fessendens HABIT and on Ed Burnss SHES THE ONE. Before moving to New York he worked on big pictures like With Honors and Natural Born Killers, and on the television series THE UNTOUCHEABLES. Transitioning to director of Photography, Silver has shot numerous short films, commercials and 2nd Unit on features. His dv experience includes a documentary on an expedition up Mt. Kilimanjaro on New Years Eve 1999.
MICHELLE DIBUCCI, composer – is an internationally recognized composer working in film, concert performance and theatre. Her film credits include the music for Twins, directed by Andrucha Waddington; Stephen King’s Creepshow directed by George Romero, and the docudrama Journey, directed by Indian filmmaker Chitra Neogy and released on Mystic Fire Video. DiBucci has composed music for over 30 theatrical productions and has collaborated with some of the leading figures in avant garde theater including Leon Katz, Radu Penciliescu and the late John Michael Tebelak, best known as writer/director of “Godspell”. More recently she has collaborated with director Gerald Thomas on a variety of international projects including her opera, “Grail: Portrait of Faust as a Young Man” which received its premiere in 1997 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ms DiBucci’s concert compositions have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She received her New York debut at age 23 under the baton of maestro Lukas Foss in his series Meet the Moderns with The Brooklyn Philharmonic. She has received commissions from Kronos Quartet, Lincoln Center Institute, Manhattan Wind Quintet and The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. For the past 8 years, DiBucci has been on the faculty at The Juilliard School teaching in both the music and drama departments.
TOM LAVERACK, songwriter, Hold Out – is a prolific songwriter and singer who has recorded and performed out of New York for ten years, while serving as a social worker for the homeless. Laverack has played music with Fessenden under the band name Just Desserts since 1980. Albums include Sentimental War (Earhorn Disks, 1987) and Give Up the Ghost (1998). Laverack has solo CDs entitled Out of the Blue (1999) and Gift Horse (2001). He composed the score for Fessendens 1991 feature NO TELLING
KEY PERSONNEL | CREDITS
A GLASS EYE PIX / ANTIDOTE FILMS production
writer, director, editor – LARRY FESSENDEN
producer – JEFF LEVY-HINTE
director of photography – TERRY STACEY
production designer – STEPHEN BEATRICE
music & soundscape – MICHELLE DIBUCCI
casting directors – SHEILA JAFFE, GEORGIANNE WALKEN, MARY-CLAY BOLAND
special effects producer – DAYTON TAYLOR
special effects photography – JAY STEPHEN SILVER
casting associate – KATHERINE EGGMAN
art director – ANDY BISCONTINI
set dresser – SHELLEY HERBERT
property master – WILLIAM BOOTH
assistant props – JOANNA M. WRIGHT
hair/make-up supervisor – TISHA KOEPPEL
costume designer – JILL NEWELL
wardrobe assistant – TIFFANY PENTZ
storyboards/comic – BRAHM REVEL
creative consultant – BECK UNDERWOOD
unit production manager – APRIL BLAIR
production supervisor – GWEN BIALIC
1st assistant director – CECILY KASTON
2nd assistant director – ALYSON LATZ
2nd 2nd assistant director – DAN BRILLMAN
gaffer & b camera – KIP BOGDAHN
best boy electric – SCOTT LEVY
electric – RORY WILSON
additional electrics – STEVE BECKER, CURT JENTSCH, MARK LABATTE, EDWARD MATTSON
key grip – DOUGLAS KENNEDY
best boy grip – TIM “LOPEZ” REILLY
grip – CRAIG STRIANO
grip/electric assistant – DAN SCHWEIGER
additional grips – HASHIM AL-MASHAT, ALAN BLAGG, GREGORY CANGEMI, ANDREW FISHMAN, ERIN GRGIC, MATT KRAMER, VINCENT MANGANO, KEVIN TAYLOR, ATTIKA TORRENCE, OSAGYEFO TORRENCE
1st assistant camera – CLAIRE CARIO
2nd assistant camera – NIKNAZ TAVAKOLIAN
b-camera 1st assistant camera – OLIVER CARY
b-camera 2nd assistant camera – MARA GALUS
camera loader – JOSEPH LANGFORD
sound mixer – JOSSE TORRES
boom operator – VINIT PARMAR
2nd assistant director – ALYSON LATZ
2nd 2nd assistant director – DAN BRILLMAN
key production assistant – PATRICK FLOYD
set production assistants – CHRIS KOESTNER, GREG OLLIVER, JENNIFER OLLMAN, TERESA REILLY, JOE SMALLEY, HUNTER THOMPSON
unit p.a. – MICHEAL KRANENBURG
office assistant – KRISTEN KUSAMA
script supervisor – DALE CAMERON
location manager – BEAR SCHMIDT
still photographers – OLIVER CARY, WHITNEY BLAKE, RICHARD SANDLER
miles stand-in – ERIK KARWATOWSKI
child services – ALAN SIMON
on-set tutor – ROGER RAWLINGS
assistant to the producer – KIT HUI
assistant to the director – JEFF WINNER
production accountant – BETH M. SCHNIEBOLK
associate effects producer – MARK NAPOLETANO
“wendigos” designed by LARRY FESSENDEN
“CREATURE” created by DIRECT EFFECTS
supervisor – TIM CONSIDINE
creature effects – RACHAEL PAGANI, AMY TAGLIAMONTI
creature rigger – JOSHUA TURI
direct effects crew – JIM OJALA, JONATHAN CUPINA, SCOTT FIELDS, LARA MEDA, NIVES SPALETA
mechanimal legs – SCOTT KOLB & ELECTROKINETICS, CALEB CRYE
“TWIGGY” – design, construction & puppetmaster – JAMES GODWIN
“SKINNY” – reconstruction & puppetmaster – TIM LAGASSE
puppeteers – JAMES GODWIN, TIM LAGASSE, LEIGH SECREST GODWIN, JIM NAPALITANO
glass effects – JOHN STIFANICH
stunt coordinator – MANNY SIVERIO
stunt assistant – ROY FARFEL
stunt performers – ELLIOT SANTIAGO, KEITH SIGLINGER, JEFF WARD
EDITED AT GLASS EYE PIX POST 391
assistant editor – PAUL ZUCKER
additional assistant editors – JASON BRODKEY, ADRIANNA PACHECO, JEFF LEVY-HINTE
sound edited and mixed at DIGIT AUDIO, NYC
supervising sound editor & rerecording mixer – TOM EFINGER
sound design – NICHOLAS MONTGOMERY
dialogue edit – ABIGAIL SAVAGE
assistant sound edit – RYAN CLARK
foley artists – NANCY CABRERA, NICHOLAS MONTGOMERY
post production supervisors – PRIA THAKRAN, CHERRY MONTEJO
COLOR BY DUART
super16mm to 35mm blowup DUART
color timer – DAVE PULTZ
titles & opticals
produced and designed by CYNOSURE/HEAVY LIGHT
optical supervisor ROB LUTRELL
logo animation KRIS SCHUMACHER
negative matching – NICK DIBENIDETTO, N & D FILM & VIDEO
camera support – CAMERA SERVICE CENTER
timetrack effect produced by DAYTON TAYLOR at DIGITAL AIR
grip & electric package – EASTERN EFFECTS, Scott Levy
additional grip & electric
DRAGON’S HEAD PRODUCTIONS, INC.
PARIS FILM PRODUCTIONS
GENERATORS STRIKE FORCE
Music Composed, Conducted and Orchestrated by MICHELLE DIBUCCI
Music Produced by MICHELLE DIBUCCI with EDWARD BILOUS and GREG KALEMBER
Music Recorded at EDISON RECORDING STUDIOS, NYC Engineer GARY CHESTER
Music Mixed at Smack Music & Sound, NYC Engineer GREG KALEMBER
Composers Assistants SUSAN SHUFRO, JENIFER SCATURRO, PAWEL SEK
Frame Drums, Featured Percussion, Overtone Singing & Chanting – GLEN VELEZ
Female Vocals – VALERIE NARANJO
Wood & Alto Flutes – PAULA BING
Drums & Percussion – VALERIE NARANJO
Guitars – JEFF MIRONOV
Bass – ALEX BLAKE
Marimba & Vibraphone – YOUSIF SHERONICK
Piano – JOHN KLIBONOFF
Oboe & English Horn – MATTHEW SULLIVAN
Solo Violin – KRYSTOF WITEK
Solo Viola – JULIET HAFFNER
Solo Cello – TED MOOK
Violins – KRYSTOF WITEK, PAULINE KIM, CONWAY KUO,
HELEN KIM, WOLFGANG TSOUTSOURIS, ANI GREGORIAN
Native American Singing – PHILIP SILVERTHORN
Recorded at Intuitive Sound, Marietta, GA
Producer – ROBERT BOWER
Engineer – ADAM ZUPPARDO
written by TOM LAVERACK
Gutiar & Vocals – TOM LAVERACK
Percussion – GIDEON EGGER
Guitar – MARC SCHULMAN
Produced, engineered and mixed by GIDEON EGGER
publisher – Hair o The Dog Music, inc
c & p 2000 May Ying Music, Inc.
WENDIGO a film by LARRY FESSENDEN © 2001 wendigo productions
Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES
“Michelle DiBucci’s score is a mesmerizing listen … spare, chilling …
With exceptional creativity, DiBucci has crafted a dark, melodic fairy tale”
“BEST OF 2002: Composers to Watch, MICHELLE DiBUCCI for Wendigo”
ON THE SCORE
IN STORES NOW!
Composed, Conducted and Orchestrated by MICHELLE DIBUCCI
Produced by MICHELLE DIBUCCI with EDWARD BILOUS and GREG KALEMBER
Recorded at EDISON RECORDING STUDIOS, NYC. Engineer GARY CHESTER
Music Mixed at Smack Music & Sound, NYC. Engineer GREG KALEMBER
released on PACIFIC TIME ENTERTAIMENT
FROM THE COMPOSER: “In Wendigo, a tragic death causes people of different social backgrounds to step out of their isolated worlds and confront one another. As the conflict escalates, a separate reality made from Native American Myth and childhood fantasy immerges and ultimately consumes everyone.As a composer, it was my task to express the complex emotional feelings which underlie this strange and secretive world. To do so, I created a score which features Native American percussion, flutes and vocal melodies with a childrens choir and string orchestra. After all the natural sounds were recorded I shaped them into a kind of musical collage in which the various sound worlds fade in and out of one another like a reoccurring dream whose images are never far from the surface of the imagination.”
Michelle DiBucci Fall 2001
Michell Dibucci, composer – is an internationally recognized composer working in film, concert performance and theatre. Her film credits include the music for Twins, directed by Andrucha Waddington; Stephen King’s Creepshow directed by George Romero, and the docudrama Journey, directed by Indian filmmaker Chitra Neogy and released on Mystic Fire Video. DiBucci has composed music for over 30 theatrical productions and has collaborated with some of the leading figures in avant garde theater including Leon Katz, Radu Penciliescu and the late John Michael Tebelak, best known as writer/director of “Godspell”. More recently she has collaborated with director Gerald Thomas on a variety of international projects including her opera, “Grail: Portrait of Faust as a Young Man” which received its premiere in 1997 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ms DiBucci’s concert compositions have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She received her New York debut at age 23 under the baton of maestro Lukas Foss in his series Meet the Moderns with The Brooklyn Philharmonic. She has received commissions from Kronos Quartet, Lincoln Center Institute, Manhattan Wind Quintet and The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. For the past 8 years, DiBucci has been on the faculty at The Juilliard School teaching in both the music and drama departments.
Glen Velez, percussionist is often globe-trotting on an international touring schedule which has taken him to six continents. Recently voted Best Percussionist of the Year with a 2001 Drummies award by DRUM! Magazine, Velez has emerged as an international soloist and seminal figure in the history of the frame drum. Over two decades ago he brought a new genre of drumming into the Western music world by creating his own compositional style inspired by years of drumming studies from various cultures. He introduced Remo Belli and the Remo Drum Company to the world of frame drums and initiated, what has become, a whole line of drums from world cultures. After fifteen years performing and recording with Steve Reich (1973-1988) and Paul Winter (1983-1998), Velez is working as a soloist while continuing to collaborate with a variety of top-notch professionals in many genres. Twentieth century music guru John Cage wrote a piece especially for Glen in 1989. Velez has also played with notables such as Pat Metheny, Richard Stoltzman, Suzanne Vega, Howard Levy, Zakir Hussain, and Oregon. His own compositions have been featured on National Public Radios All Things Considered and John Schaefers New Sounds and have been commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and Readers Digest. He has written music for theater and dance and recorded hundreds of albums on ECM, CBS, RCA, GRP, Warner Brothers, Deutsche Gramophone, Geffen, Nonesuch, Capital, and Sony. In addition, he has several instructional videos and ten recordings of his own music on CMP, Music of the World, Sounds True, Interworld, and Ellipsis Arts. As a master teacher who conducts workshops worldwide, Velez developed his own teaching method called Handance. Velez has also designed his own Signature Series of frame drums for the REMO Drum Company and has recently designed a handmade frame drum series for the Cooperman Drum Company.
“In Mr. Velezs hands, frame drums produce a galaxy of timbres and inflections; remarkable rhythmic fireworks.”
NEW YORK TIMES
“Velezs music led to the essence of improvisation and composition and made one happy to hear it.”
“The audience was rapt, absolutely still except for those dancing in place.”
THE VILLAGE VOICE
“More than just one of the planets most versatile percussionists, Velez proves a captivating composer.”
“. . . intellectually tough, cosmopolitan, and centered in the musical (and spiritual) wisdom of East meets West.”
LOS ANGELES READER MUSIC
Valerie Dee Naranjo (vocals, percussion) began singing with her family early in life and traveled with them as a child throughout the Southwest and Mexico to learn about her fellow Native peoples music and instruments (Ute and Navajo).She has sung in schools, community centers, and substance abuse clinics throughout the Navajo reservation. Valerie sang and drummed with the Native American womans group Ulali. She has given performances and workshops on six continents and has arranged, performed and recorded with Philip Glass, David Byrne, Selena, Tori Amos, Hugh Masekela, and the international percussion ensemble Megadrums. Valerie currently performs with the Broadway production of The Lion King and NBCs Saturday Night Live Band.
Phil Silvertorn Jr. (Native Chants) Of Anishnabe, German and French Canadian ancestry, Phil resides in the Southern Appalachians of North Carolina. He is a musician, artist and re-educator in the ancient ways of primitive survival skills, and founder of Learn the Ways of our Ancestors and the Manitou Trading Company. As a musician with the Intuitive Sound record Label, Phil offers his musical talents that include ceremonial chants and singing, guitar, flute and percussion in sacred and meaningful expresions on a number of recordings and live performances.
Paula Bing (wood & also flutes) Enjoys a dual career as both a performing artist on flute and as a a music education specialist. She has performed with many orchestrial and chamber music groups throughout New York, including the Brooklyn Philarmonic, Queens Symphony, Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey and the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York. Ms. Bing has recorded for numerous feature films, CDs and documentaries, and most recently played with the Broadway Show MISS SAIGON. With storyteller and author Margaret Wolfson, she has tored Europe, Asia, Sweden and Australia, performing and improvising on a variety of flutes, sound design percussion and folk harp.
Sophia Ramos Dupre (Vocals, Finale) doesn’t just “gig”; that word is too puny to describe her concerts. Sophia’s spitfire performances have the aura of once-in-a-generation rock & roll happenings, leaving audiences mesmerized and intoxicated. Conjuring the combined spirits of Hendrix, Mercury and Jagger, Sophia prowls her stage like a groove-crazed sorceress, wielding her astonishing voice like Luke Skywalker’s sword. Sophia’s talents are not news to her fellow musicians. In her brief career, she’s already attracted a star-studded list of studio and stage collaborators: Jason Newsted of Metallica; Paul Simon; Karl Wallinger; Billy Bragg; Michelle Shocked; Joey Ramone and Psychotica, with whom she appeared as featured vocalist on their main stage Lollapalooza tour with Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine. On her stunning new self-titled CD, Sophia confesses loss, struggle, faith and survival with honesty and wisdom. Indeed, Sophia is the rare composer who has both mastered her craft and tapped the wellspring of universal emotion with sincerity and a mighty dose of brute force. Sophia’s impassioned voicealternately James Brown and Chris Cornell, lyrical insight, and physical charisma empower her infectious melodies.
Named VH1 Break.through Best Undiscovered Artist
“A Bronx-bred banshee…Imagine Chaka Kahn morphng into Ozzy Ozbourne mid-wail…” VILLAGE VOICE
“Brash Wit and Intelligence…Janice Joplin-meets-Gladys Knight…” VIBE
Frame Drums, Featured Percussion,Overtone Singing & Chanting – GLEN VELEZ
Female Vocals – VALERIE NARANJO
Wood & Alto Flutes – PAULA BING
Drums & Percussion – VALERIE NARANJO
Guitars – JEFF MIRONOV
Bass -ALEX BLAKE
Marimba & Vibraphone – YOUSIF SHERONICK
Piano – JOHN KLIBONOFF
Oboe & English Horn – MATTHEW SULLIVAN
Solo Violin – KRYSTOF WITEK
Solo Viola – JULIET HAFFNER
Solo Cello – TED MOOK
Violins – KRYSTOF WITEK, PAULINE KIM, CONWAY KUO, HELEN KIM, ANI GREGORIAN, WOLFGANG TSOUTSOURIS
“Finale” Vocals SOPHIA RAMOS DUPRE
Drum programming GREG KALEMBER
Native American Singing – PHILIP SILVERTHORN
Recorded at Intuitive Sound, Marietta, GA Producer – ROBERT BOWER
Engineer – ADAM ZUPPARDO
Composer’s Assistants SUSAN SHUFRO, JENIFER SCATURRO, PAWEL SEK
“THIS WEEK’S RECOMMENDATION: Composer Michelle DiBucci has emphasized the Native American aspects of Larry Fessenden’s eerie horrorshow, WENDIGO (recently issued on CD to coincide with its recent release on DVD – Pacific Time PTE8534). The film draws from Native American mythologies as it tells of an ancient spirit that may or may not have evil traits, encountered by family of cityfolk who confront some rural toughs on a winter vacation. The music is dominated by soft percussion and high-end vocals, chilled by frequent synth wind sounds. The result is a compelling soundscape that crafts an eerie mood even for otherwise innocuous scenes of family interaction”
RUE MORGUE, FEBRUARY 2003
“A monster movie about childhood and myth, Wendigo impressed us enough last year to write it up in a feature story (see RM#25). The soundtrack album took a while to make it into our offices, but I’m not surprised to learn that the music is largely responsible for the metaphysical dread that permeates the film. Riffing from the movie’s twin motifs (Native mythology and childhood fantasy), composer Michelle DiBucci combines Native American percussion, flutes, chants, and vocal melodies as well as a children’s choir and string orchestra with the occasional – understated – horror movie flourish. It’s an artfully crafted representation of the film’s themes, full of fear, wonder and reflection. Available from glasseyepix.com. ***** (5 out of 5) — Greg Chant
“MONSTERS AT THE DOOR: If you’ve run out of gas in the midnight woods, Wendigo (Pacific Time) is the last thing you want draining your car radio’s power. But in the comfort of your home’s cd player, Michelle DiBucci’s score is a mesmerizing listen. With spare, chilling effectiveness, Wendigo conjures the forest demons in a little boys fevered imagination. Female voices, monstrous howls, violins and native American percussion create a snowy landscape as creepy as all get out. With exceptional creativity, DiBucci has crafted a dark, melodic fairy tale that makes for a ghost story well told over a campfire.”
In Stores March 2002 on Top Dollar Comics
FESSENDEN: “Before there was a film, I knew I wanted to make a comicbook based on the script I’d written. And I knew that working with a comicbook artist, Id be able to create basic storyboard concepts, and have an opportunity to pre-visualize the film before production. I met Brahm Revel the day of the Colombine Murders, through a mutual friend, while they were students at New Yorks Cooper Union. Brahm was ripe to design his first full-length comic book, and we embarked on a collaboration that would last two years, from before pre-production to after post.”
BRAHM REVEL: Born 24 years ago in the old port town of San Francisco. He was raised in the heart of the Mission district, by a single mother and a small child named Camus. At the tender age of 17 he headed east to try his luck in Old New York. After a four year bid at the Cooper Union he relocated to a dilapidated warehouse in Brooklyn to draw comics. His first professional work came when an eccentric benefactor named Larry Fessenden, commissioned a 75 page comic adaptation of his movie Wendigo. Since then Brahm has made rent as a realtor, a wallpaper manufacturer, a print technician, and an amateur bullshit artist. Hes done illustration work for Supreme Skateboards, Broke-in Magazine, and other independent filmmakers. He doesnt have a web page or a cell phone and has a great fondness for cheap beer and monkeys who think they’re people.
Available in New York City at:
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4 WEST 33RD STREET
OPPOSITE THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
NEW YORK, NY
200 WEST 40TH STREET
NEW YORK, NY