September 19, 2013

Dread Central Exclusive Interview with Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden


“As of this past Friday the 13th, Season 2 of “Tales from Beyond the Pale,” the inventive radio drama horror series from Glass Eye Pix founder Larry Fessenden and director Glenn McQuaid, is now available for purchase independently via its online store.

If you were a fan of films like I Sell the Dead, The Innkeepers, The Last Winter (directed by Fessenden) or Stake Land, this is the company that brought you those films. Episodes for the new season were filmed live in New York and feature Vincent D’Onofrio, Sean Young, James LeGros and Fessenden himself – a fantastic character actor in his own right. The finished product is a classy, performance-driven version of “Tales From the Crypt” that’s reminiscent of the Old Time Radio shows featuring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Vincent Price.

Speaking with both Larry and Glenn, it’s apparent how much effort and creativity the two have put into this production along with everyone else involved from the actors to the designers.

Dread Central: I remember working on Fangoria Radio a few years ago and we kind of had a Glass Eye Pix night with Debbie Rochon and Dee Snider on the air and I think we played a good chunk of Graham Reznick’s radio play. I don’t know if you guys remember that but I was wondering if he was instrumental in getting this up and running since he was already doing something like this.

Glenn McQuaid: Basically, the idea sort of came out of the desire to get more content out there from ourselves and all of our collaborators without having to jump through all the hoops you need to get a movie made. In that respect, “Tales” grew from an idea to just get more out there. Having said that, just having Graham in our company I think probably, in the back of our minds, opened our eyes and our ears to the possibilities of audio. I worked with Graham on a couple projects and he’s actually quite the audio genius so, as I mentioned, having him there we felt he could come in and really put his touch on the work and I was really happy we could get Graham to write his own “Tales from Beyond the Pale,” “The Grandfather,” with Angus Scrimm and so on. I think that’s actually one of my favorites from Season 1.

DC: And every new episode was recorded live here in New York City, correct?

GM: Yeah, we went ahead and we just recorded live and we were pretty pleased with what we’d done with Season 1 and it was new ground for us. So as we moved forward, we wanted to keep that kind of goal to sort of be breaking new ground with ourselves. The opportunity came up with Clay McLeod Chapman that we could all get together and present the tales live. Very quickly we felt that this would be a great way to kind of keep on our toes with the “Tales from Beyond the Pale” project. I haven’t done theatre since I’ve been sixteen years of age so bringing all of what we had done onto stage and really pulling back the curtain to a live audience was really cool.

Larry Fessenden: It was fun for me because, you know, Dixon Place – I used to perform there in the ‘80s. It’s in a different location but the woman who runs the joint was always an advocator of performance art, so it was kind of two worlds converging for me: the new world of Glass Eye Pix as a film company and then my old roots in the New York performance scene. It had a great energy, I think – that quality. The actors that were involved – people like Sean Young and Mark Margolis and James LeGros and Vincent D’Onofrio – I think they couldn’t help but appreciate a little slice of the authenticity of the New York underground. So, it was kind of a melding of different vibes, I think.

DC: Well, from being from that stage background, have you guys ever thought about doing a classic radio play like “War of the Worlds” or “The Shadow” or even “The Mist” and putting your own spin on it?

LF: I love that you mention “The Mist” of all things. Has that been a radio play? Because that’s my favorite movie in recent years.

DC: It’s the one that William Sadler did. It’s an amazing 3D audio CD and I really love it.

LF: Oh cool, man. I love the idea of tackling a classic like Dracula or Jekyll and Hyde. Even more than the radio classics, that seems appealing.

GM: We had the conversation before and I’m of two minds about it. I really do respect our original goal of “Tales from Beyond the Pale” which was to get new content out there from ourselves and all of our colleagues. I’m really proud and truly really enjoy collaborating with Larry and creating these anthologies. It’s just sort of figuring out what’s missing from the new season; maybe we need a monster here or an old ghost story there. I really like the fact that “Tales from Beyond the Pale” is contemporary and not really harkening back to the early days of the format which I think a lot of people do. But, of course, having said that, I would love to do Dracula! And I think we would do an awesome Dracula. What do you think Renfield?

DC: I think Larry as Dracula would be fucking awesome.

LF: I like it, Drew. Thank you.

DC: What’s the first memory that both of you have being scared? Was it a film? Was it a bedtime story? Or was it a noise?

LF: Well, I can answer because I always say I was wired this way. People say why do I make horror films and they expect to be delighted by my macabre sensibility but in fact it’s the opposite. I’ve always found life quite scary and ever since I was little I was afraid of the dark. I took all the horror films I saw in the daytime very seriously and at night was convinced that Frankenstein was in the closet and even the truck from Duel was going to come crashing through the wall. I had a friend and his mother told stories around the fireplace in these weekend retreats we used to go on and I was always captivated by, I guess, the dark arts. In a way, that’s what the radio plays do for me is they take me back to that storytelling even more than movies.

GM: Quite early I really hooked onto horror and always found it as an escape and a fantasy in a way. And I would shy away from my real concerns. Honestly, I grew up in Ireland in the ‘70s and ‘80s and I was sure that we were all going to get nuked. It was a great fear of mine. I’d watch things like The Beast With Five Fingers and The Curse of the Werewolf. It pushed this fear in a comfortable way which was really therapeutic for me. The earliest, scariest memories of watching a movie I have is actually watching the title sequence for Curse of the Werewolf and just found it very unnerving. It was just Oliver Reed’s eyes staring back at you for five minutes. It was terrifying.

DC: Jordan Hoffman just wrote a great piece on Badass Digest about The Exorcist and how those certain combinations of sound and image produce these really terrifying results. As a director, you’re kind of saying my imagination is more fucked up than yours but, now, with “Tales from Beyond the Pale” you’re now just providing the catalyst for someone’s imagination to run wild.

LF: That’s so nicely put because I really think that is the idea behind “Tales” is to strip away. We have such a glut of imagery and, furthermore, literal imagery. I would say, as much as one looks forward to the design of the new Godzilla, it’s like there’s just going to be nothing left to the imagination and I think that’s the trend in horror. There’s something about stepping back and inviting the audience to participate as they always used to do. If you look at even films from the ‘80s, let alone years before that, it was a kind of participation. You had to suspend disbelief and become part of the fantasy-making when you watched effects that weren’t perfect but somehow had a spunk and a visceral charm. So, surely, by taking the humans away altogether you’re saying, ‘What do you see when I’m having my characters screaming in agony?’”

Check out the full interview and article at Dread Central.

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