January 8, 2023
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CBR: “Low-Budget Movies Are Changing Horror” Including Fessenden’s BLACKOUT

Even in a genre like horror with many subcategories and aesthetics,
franchise fatigue is real. Here’s why the future of scary films is low-budget.

Larry Fessenden’s Blackout may make its 2023 debut, ushering in a new Monsterverse with a good old-fashioned werewolf flick. Even the most hotly anticipated franchise installment, Evil Dead Rise, is a continuation of what was once a low-budget cult favorite series. As fans look to these low-budget darlings for trend forecasting, they can expect to see more films falling into two camps: pure, old-fashioned fun with fewer metaphors than in recent films and chaotic, eerie, primal and atmospheric horror. And in another decade, perhaps the big box office release will follow suit.

October 29, 2022
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Screen Anarchy: “BLACKOUT” A New Film From Larry Fessenden Wraps Photography

The word is out! Fessenden wraps photography on werewolf movie BLACKOUT, starring Alex Hurt.

A Fine Arts painter is convinced that he is a werewolf wreaking
havoc on a small American town under the full moon.

It’s always a pleasure to talk about a new film from Larry Fessenden, one of the true bastions of independent genre filmmaking out there. Fessenden has just finished photography on his new film, a werewolf movie called Blackout, this month and now heads into post.
A Fine Arts painter is convinced that he is a werewolf wreaking havoc on a small American town under the full moon.
Fessenden has stuck to his roots, shooting around New York’s Hudson Valley and hired Brooklyn-based artist John Mitchell to create the paintings for the main character’s artwork in the film.
“My approach was to blend a naturalistic docu-style with the mythological tropes of the werewolf story, an ongoing interest to blend realism with stylization, and to fuse themes of contemporary society with classic monster movie clichés.” 
His cast is also pretty great too: Addison Timlin (Little Sister, Like Me, Depraved), Motell Gyn Foster (Marriage Story, Foxhole), Joseph Castillo-Midyett (Equalizer, Death Saved My Life), Ella Rae Peck (upcoming Crumb Catcher), Rigo Garay (upcoming Crumb Catcher), John Speredakos (Wendigo, I Sell The Dead), Michael Buscemi (Habit, BlacKkKlansman), Jeremy Holm (The Ranger, Brooklyn 45), Joe Swanberg (You’re Next, Offseason), Barbara Crampton (You’re Next, Jakob’s Wife), James Le Gros (Foxhole, The Last Winter), and Marshall Bell (Total Recall, Stand By Me).
 

I mean, come one, a who’s who of Glass Eye Pix alumni back again for another Fessenden film?
 
from the press release:

The film was produced by Fessenden, James Felix McKenney, Chris Ingvordsen, and co-produced by Gaby Leyner. Collin Braizie was cinematographer, following his previous stint on the Glass Eye Pix production Foxhole. Paintings for the main character’s artwork were created for the film by Brooklyn-based artist John Mitchell.

Blackout was shot at local shops and locations in New York’s Hudson Valley and serves as a portrait of the area including Woodstock, Olivebridge, Andes, and Kingston. Many local merchants generously supported the independent production. Fessenden explains, “My approach was to blend a naturalistic docu-style with the mythological tropes of the werewolf story, an ongoing interest to blend realism with stylization, and to fuse themes of contemporary society with classic monster movie clichés.”

Makeup and special effects were handled by long-time Glass Eye Pix collaborators Brian Spears and Peter Gerner, who previously created the Frankenstein monster for Fessenden’s 2019 film Depraved. Comments Fessenden, “Yes, I’m competing with Marvel and Blumhouse to create my own Monsterverse, but at a very different price-point.”

October 29, 2022
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Indiewire Exclusive: Larry Fessenden’s “BLACKOUT” coming soon!

Larry Fessenden reveals news of his new horror movie “Blackout” and why the genre needs substance to survive.

I am excited to report that Larry Fessenden has wrapped production on his seventh feature, “Blackout,” which stars Alex Hurt as a painter in a rural community who’s convinced he’s a werewolf. If you don’t know Fessenden’s work, you may as well remit your horror buff credentials now — or keep reading, because the persistence of this filmmaker’s lo-fi approach to horror over 40 years is a case study in its own right.

On the subject of horror movies with something to say, well, that’s what the 59-year-old Fessenden has done for generations. At 22, he launched his New York production company Glass Eye Pix and he’s built a remarkable filmography out of spooky horror movies doused in social commentary. (You can also thank him for serving as a producer and general advocate of fellow New York filmmaker Kelly Reichardt.). With the very recent exception of Jordan Peele, nobody has mined more for substance in modern monster movies than Fessenden, but the industry has yet to embrace his work to the extent it deserves.

“I’ve been living in this world of low-budget impatience for years,” Fessenden told me over Zoom this week. After spending nearly a decade scraping together the budget for his last movie, the stellar 2019 “Frankenstein” adaptation “Depraved,” Fessenden decided not to wait. He took a communal approach to the production, shot in New York’s Hudson Valley with local merchants donating props. He self-financed the production with a handful of investors in part using residuals from previous Glass Eye productions. “I just wanted to skip all the angst on this project,” he said. “There’s a rock ’n’ roll aspect to just going out and making movies quickly.” Fessenden laughed as he declined to comment on the precise budget. “Let’s just say it’ll be eligible for the John Cassavetes Award,” he said. (The Spirit Awards category highlights projects made for under $500,000.)

With his missing tooth and tousled hair, Fessenden looks like a genuine creature of the underworld. His movies feel that way, too. Their themes range from global to intimate, starting with the alcoholism at the center of his masterful vampire thriller “Habit” (1995) and continuing through the climate-change allegories of the “Frankenstein”-inspired “No Telling” (1991) and “The Last Winter” (2006). During that time, Glass Eye became a kind of mini-factory for substantial horror stories produced on a small scale, with Fessenden helping launch the careers of directors like Ti West (“Pearl”) and Jim Mickle (“Sweet Tooth”).

The typical Fessenden movie is made for a few hundred grand and looks like it, but not in a raggedy way. The smallness of his movies enhance their intimacy and give the eerie impression of a world coming apart at the seams. When I profiled Fessenden for the New York Times in 2011, I compared his collective and its support of no-frills genre filmmaking to Roger Corman, but Corman ultimately wormed his way into a Hollywood system that Fessenden keeps at arm’s length. “I was never good at the parties,” he said with a chuckle.

After acclaim for “Habit,” Fessenden navigated a number of studio offers that didn’t gel, for obvious reasons: He wanted to bring substance to the genre, and studios wanted market-ready products. They batted away his pitches for “Mimic 2” and a reboot of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Perhaps the greatest irony from this period is that Fessenden once pitched Miramax genre label Dimension Films an adaptation of Marvel Comics’ “Werewolf By Night,” decades before the MCU took off.

The recent black-and-white “Werewolf By Night” adaptation on Disney+ certainly provides an innovative riff on Universal monster-movie tropes, but it’s more of a superficial homage than an attempt to grasp the fundamental horrors at the root of the originals. “We’ve seen all kinds of werewolf movies,” Fessenden said. “To me, it’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde story, a form of madness, and a lot of my concerns are there. As the political system unravels, do you keep fighting for democracy or just keep leaning into the hysteria?”

Notions like that don’t translate into a tidy pitch deck. “In the end, maybe this is the zone I belong in,” Fessenden said. “I don’t mind. It’s a more organic approach to filmmaking. I have my hands in every department.”

Fessenden wasn’t wowed by the original “Halloween” in 1978, arguing that much of the discourse around that franchise was less about the movie than the life it took on later. “I thought it was just horror for horror’s sake,” he said. “I really liked the metaphorical grit of movies like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ whereas ‘Halloween’ was just scary music for the sake of the next kill. It just felt like a spookfest.”

After “The Last Winter,” there was a period when WME represented Fessenden. For a few years, he was attached to direct an English-language adaptation of the Spanish horror film “The Orphanage” for New Line, with Guillermo del Toro as the producer. That project fell apart due to budgetary constraints while the rapid-fire pace of Hollywood’s IP hunger annoyed Fessenden again and again.

“My favorite agent email read, ‘Stephen King’s ‘It.’ Any int?’ He just wrote ‘int,’” Fessenden said. “I wrote back saying, ‘Sure, what about it?’ He’d never respond.” After the “Orphanage” project fell apart, Fessenden found out that his agent had dropped him. “If you haven’t had a hit by now, I don’t think they’re really looking for your cooperation,” he said.

Fessenden isn’t the biggest fan of Blumhouse, which resurrected the “Halloween” franchise among other commercial horror coups. While the company has managed to produce complex horror successes like “Get Out,” there’s a reason why Peele went on to start his own production company.

The Blumhouse model prioritizes low-budgets with the potential upside for key creative forces, but it’s still a factory and that can lead to a lot of rush jobs, like “Halloween Ends.” For all the talk of its box office being hurt by a day-and-date release on Peacock, I suspect this second sequel to a quasi-reboot might have found legs if audiences weren’t already exhausted by yet another “Halloween” movie. “Let’s be honest,” said Fessenden, who has yet to see the film. “We’re talking about the commodification of something that is supposed to be pointed and say something real about society.”

He cited the original “Night of the Living Dead” as the template that all modern-day horror filmmakers should consider. “It’s about society breaking down during Vietnam and the racial struggles of the time,” he said. “At their root, horror movies have to discuss things that are horrific. So I think it’s a problem to commercialize this genre.”

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