As luck would have it, I was settling in for a Larry Fessenden double feature the same night that Twitter—or, at least, the small corner of the platform occupied by film writers and cinephiles—was working itself into a tizzy about an article in The Guardian postulating a new subgenre of “post-horror.” The basic thrust of the Guardian article is that recent films like It Comes At Night and A Ghost Story are changing the horror paradigm by adding talky drama elements to genre narratives, which is exactly what Larry Fessenden was doing in the ‘90s. His 1991 debut feature No Telling combines a Cassavetes-esque relationship drama about a marriage in decline with the bare-bones structure of the Frankenstein myth, as an obsessive medical researcher turns to neighborhood pets after he finds himself unable to procure the animals he’s convinced he needs to complete his research. The result is rather like a naturalistic take on Re-Animator cut together with scenes from A Woman Under The Influence, as strange as that may sound.
That particular film also touches on themes of animal rights and environmentalism, displaying a social consciousness that was developed more fully in Fessenden’s follow-up film, 1995’s Habit. Like this year’s Colossal, Habit uses an alcoholic protagonist as a metaphor to tie in with the film’s fantastic elements; in this case, it’s Lower East Side resident Sam (Fessenden), who’s been a complete drunken mess ever since his girlfriend broke up with him and his father died within a few months of each other. Meeting the enigmatic Anna (Meredith Snaider) at a Halloween party ignites an obsessive affair unlike anything Sam has ever experienced in his life, but as their nightly rendezvous grow more intense, Sam starts feeling, well, ill. Blending classical vampire imagery—Anna is allergic to garlic, and can’t come in to Sam’s apartment without an invitation—with the pervasive fear of AIDS that hung over every sexually active person in the ‘90s, Habit is not only a metaphorically rich horror-drama hybrid, but a time capsule of the last gasp of bohemia in downtown Manhattan.
Both of these films are available in Shout! Factory’s Larry Fessenden Collection boxed set, and No Telling is also currently streaming on Shudder.
As someone who grew up watching the many horror films of the ’90s, it’s always a bit disappointing to hear the decade get so much flack for its contributions to the genre. Sure, the ’80s are a tough act to follow, considering how many phenomenal, practical FX-driven fright films were spawned during that time, but the ’90s has had its fair share of awesome scare fare, most of which are miles more memorable that the decades that have come since. Even the guilty pleasures of the ’90s- your DEEP BLUE SEAs and ANACONDAs and what-have-you- are much easier to defend than some of the stinkers of the ’80s! So with that on our macabre mind, FANGORIA has decided to list off ten absolutely awesome ’90s horror offerings for your creepy consideration!
With ‘90s New York serving as an all-too-essential backdrop, this story of a mourning, alcoholic misfit who finds solace in a dangerous new lover is one sure to haunt viewers long after the film has ended. Directed by and starring the incredible horror auteur Larry Fessenden, HABIT is a surreal and mature vampire love story that’s far bloodier and more adult than what the TWILIGHT crowd might expect.
Firstly, WOW – what a set! We get the features on four separate dual-layeredBlu-ray discs loaded with extras. Shamefully, all I knew about Larry Fessenden was that he wrote the booklet available with the Kelly Reichardt Collection citing him as a collaborator. And it was excellent. Kudos to my buddy Colin for alerting me to this as a worthy purchase. Was he ever right!
What makes me recommended this so strongly are the films – criminally under-rated – Mr. Fessenden is a force and I love his style. These are cool, if totally imperfect, flics – Wendigo (always had a thing for Clarkson) especially made my day, but Habit is remarkably chilling. I was a shade uncomfortable with No Telling but was swept right up in The Last Winter. I LOVE being introduced to new auteurs like this wayward genius, styles and signatures. The films are weak in some areas but offer strength in visuals. Fessenden’s works here thrilled me. I wish I had a set like this every week to cover. Our highest recommendation to those with an open mind and who appreciate the lower-budgeted horror genre! I’m a fan of Larry Fessenden!
Patrick Bromley over at Daily Dead just wrote a review of THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION.
“If ever there was to be a Mt. Rushmore of modern horror, there’s no question that the face of Larry Fessenden would get prominent placement. One of the patron saints of indie horror, Fessenden is a true auteur and a true original whose incredible career is now being celebrated with the Scream Factory release of The Larry Fessenden Collection, containing four of his films and hours of bonus features that help illuminate just what a vital voice Fessenden has been in the genre for more than three decades. This is one of the best horror releases of the year … Scream Factory has done such great work with The Larry Fessenden Collection that it’s one of those rare cases where the supplemental content is every bit as good as the film(s) it’s supporting.”
ike some rubber axe-wielding Howard Stern, filmmaker Larry Fessenden is fast becoming the King of All Horror Media. With frequent collaborator Graham Reznick he wrote the 10,000-page script for last August’s video game Until Dawn and he is currently overseeing the third season of his creepy audio drama series Tales From Beyond the Pale, with another longtime associate Glenn McQuaid.
As an actor, Fessenden’s recent credits include FX’s The Strain and the now-available-on-Blu-ray We Are Still Here as well as director Mickey Keating’s forthcoming fright machine Darling and Joe Begos’ telekenesis action-thriller, The Mnd’s Eye. Finally, today, Scream Factory is releasing The Larry Fessenden Collection, a Blu-ray set which rounds up the director’s first four films (No Telling, Habit, Wendigo, and The Last Winter) together with an impressive array of extras, not least the best animated short you’re ever likely to see about a werewolf Santa Claus.
And don’t forget — Today’s the release of THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION – collecting NO TELLING (1991), HABIT (1995), WENDIGO (2001), and THE LAST WINTER (2006) on Blu-Ray, with tons of special features, a 24-page book of liner notes, and more.
And see what Fessenden says is the scariest movie to watch this Halloween… all at Enteretainment Weekly
A new series celebrates GEP’s 30th Anniversary with mini-docs about the movies all month long! Today, Fessenden talks art direction and scouting NYC in the 90s to create the look for HABIT. The film screens TONIGHT 9pm at IFC Center with Fessenden & cast in attendance!
Director and Editor: Adam Barnick
Director of Photography/Sound: Ben Wolf
Makeup: Michele Dirks