The Cutting Room: Larry Fessenden & Glenn McQuaid talk “TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE” and “I SELL THE DEAD 2”Books/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,News Ken W. Hanley
Welcome to THE CUTTING ROOM, a new weekly column on FANGORIA.com that highlights the stories that most share DNA of our print counterpart. Rather than just feature the articles and interviews that didn’t make the cut, this column is dedicated to providing a greater lifeline between FANGORIA Magazine and FANGORIA.com.
Even though some horror fans sadly may not know it, the world of independent horror does extend outside of its cinematic efforts. Whether it’s self-published e-books, live reads, stage shows, interactive experiences or genre-friendly music, there’s a whole world of horror that lives on the fringe and can be found fairly easily. Yet one of the most intriguing avenues of independently produced horror can be found in the realm of audio, and those pioneering the charge are none other than NY-based independent horror gurus Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid.
Outside of their excellent work behind the camera, Fessenden and McQuaid’s radio play series TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE just debuted its third season, ripe with exceptional audio stories from the many frightful friends of Glass Eye Pix. Recorded in the two years since Season Two, betwixt several live engagements including two back-to-back showstoppers at the Stanley Film Festival, this season of TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE offers stories from the likes of RE-ANIMATOR’s Stuart Gordon & Dennis Paoli, THE HITCHER’s Eric Red, BITTER FEAST’s Joe Maggio, UNTIL DAWN’s Graham Reznick, acclaimed genre journalist April Snellings and many more, including Fessenden and McQuaid themselves. Shortly following their amazing performance at the 2015 Stanley Film Festival, FANGORIA caught up with Fessenden and McQuaid to talk TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE Season Three, their live performances and more petrifying projects from the pair…
FANGORIA: Last year, you both brought the house down at the Stanley Film Festival, with many festgoers praising TALES as one of their highlights. When exactly did you both know that TALES would return for the 2015 edition?
LARRY FESSENDEN: I was actually at Stanley during its first year with a film called BENEATH that I was premiering there, and I had just the best time there. In the first year, pretty much everybody was staying at the main hotel, and I was talking to Landon [Zakheim], one of the programmers, and I think I said, “Geez dude, if you’re thinking of doing these immersive events and games and shows like THE PUMPKIN PIE SHOW, you guys should consider doing TALES.” Right then, he lit up and said, “Let’s do it.” So we went and did TALES live last year at Stanley, and that went well enough for us to be asked back to do it this year.
FANGORIA: At what point did you decide what you would be doing with the stories, especially considering how they tie into one another?
GLENN MCQUAID: We always feel as if we’re writing right up to the event, even changing and tweaking things right before the performance. But I think I was watching KEY LARGO on TCM and I was inspired how there was only one setting and this crew, and thought that could be used well with a creepy interior. But I had also been wanting to do something with a ventriloquist and a creepy doll for quite some time, so I started talking to Larry about it. I’m not sure where the idea of making the second story a sequel was, but that came out of the process of working together.
FESSENDEN: Yeah, I just got this perverse notion that, by being the host, I can link together the stories that we perform live. For example, with the live show that we did in L.A., we linked them by saying that they’re all news events, so they weren’t really connected at all except by having the host reading the newspaper. But I think the idea of a direct sequel came to me when Glenn told me his story would be set in the ‘20s, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to jump off that story but in a modern way?”
Also, there’s this notion with sequels that the story won’t be as good because the ideas are already there, yet there’s a certain affection you have when the villain shows up again. So I built it up to where the vengeful doll makes his appearance again, as to work off the excitement that the listener might have in spite of the story. And when we’re doing these live events, the audience is well-aware of the genre that we’re living in and the variations on these stories, since there’s no images we need to create. So we tell ghost stories and stories of alien abduction and whatnot, but we’re aware of how the genre has worked before and we play off of that.
MCQUAID: We also wanted it to be a bit of a surprise that Larry’s story was a sequel, so we really don’t make any hints to the relation until about maybe ten or fifteen minutes into the tale. It was just a nice way of unfolding the evening for the audience.
FANGORIA: Was there anything you had to adjust or change between your performances at Stanley or, at this point, did everything feel like business as usual?
FESSENDEN: It never feels like business as usual. [laughs] Our Stanley 2015 show was actually the first live performance in years that we felt like we had a firm handle on the proceedings, because it’s really difficult to land in a town and basically have twelve hours to put on a live show. In fact, in many cases, we’re meeting the actors for the first time at these events, and that’s aside from all the technical hurdles. But even with a firm handle on things, there’s still much that we learned from our Stanley performance as well.
MCQUAID: The one thing that I have learned from this year’s Stanley performance is that we are getting better at taking the show on the road. We’ve had hiccups along the way, and certainly when it came to Season Two of TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, but I’m certainly pleased and proud with the shows that we’ve pulled off. It’s just, as Larry said, with the shortened relationship with director and actor and also having to lug the equipment in and out [of the venue], it can become quite the ordeal sometimes.
FESSENDEN: We also have to give credit to our crew, including Graham Reznick, who has always been by our side and is a master of sound, as well as our foley artists, Chris Skothdopole and Tessa Price, who have really developed a knack for the trade. We’ve been doing this together for so long that our minds have basically melded, so they’re always on the same page, which is fun and helpful.
FANGORIA: Doing a vocal performance is a different process than a physical performance, to be sure. Considering that as well as the on-stage dynamic, how do you approach embodying the characters that you perform in addition to your hosting duties?
FESSENDEN: Well, I can’t say that it’s the hardest thing to do in the world, since that would have to go to fighting wars and building computers, but it was hard to keep track of the characters and sometimes until the very last minute. Luckily, Glenn pushes me as a performer and he’s right to do so, because that’s how I can inject my sense of humor into some profound psychological realism. But you have to really lock yourself in so that you can bounce back and forth from the characters. And one thing I had to remind myself of was that the doll character was a part of the ventriloquist’s experience, so I had to tighten up my mouth to realize that.
But these are the joys of hammy acting which I, of course, specialize in! I do remember doing the voices for my son and he went, “Oh, so you’re just going to do a bunch of cliched voices?” and I said [in the dummy voice] “Shut up, kid!”
FANGORIA: You guys recently performed at Fantasia as well. Do you have any future performances to look out for that you can tell us about?
FESSENDEN: We are booking a few upcoming dates, but we’re certainly not working the circuit. [laughs] The live version is a part of our agenda to just make cool, off-beat entertainment to remind people just how wild these stories are. I don’t think we can announce anything just yet, though.
MCQUAID: Besides, the live version of TALES has given me a lot of confidence as a writer because we’ve certainly been more active than we have in the past. Between being in the studio and being invited to festivals like Stanley and Fantasia, it’s like we’ve become a part of this machine that is pushing us as writers to get these stories out of us. I’ve written about 5 or 6 TALES and many of them have been under-the-gun, but I’m fortunate that this has been such a great ride.
FESSENDEN: At the same time, we’re always looking for new collaborators and it’s been exciting to go to film festivals where TALES are in the air and corner a filmmaker to say, “You gotta try your hand at this!” Usually, they get very excited and that’s when I start pursuing them. For Season 3, the collaborators who joined us have been very big and as much as I love the challenge of writing these stories under the gun, it’s been equally refreshing to seduce others into TALES. So we have some old collaborators, some new collaborators as well, including April Snellings, who we brought into the fold and that story is dynamite.
FANGORIA: Is there any horror subject or subgenre that you would like to tackle in future TALES seasons or shows?
MCQUAID: One of the things that is great about doing TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE from an artist’s perspective is that we can go basically into any direction or do anything we want and we’re not necessarily limited by our budget. So the sky is the limit, and my own piece for Season 3 and deals with a ripple in the space/time fabric, and is best described as a sexual/bi-sexual science fiction noir. So we’re having fun with mixing tropes, and that freedom excites me more than any specific thing or creature.
FANGORIA: If the opportunity arises, would you be willing to expand the TALES brand into other avenues, whether it be television, comic books or an anthology film?
FESSENDEN: Glenn and I could never leave anything well enough alone, so if the opportunity arose, certainly with comics since I love that idea, I’d say sure. But we’re sorting out the future of TALES with the time that we have and, frankly, our budgets. If we had our say, we would have taken over television and developing TALES figurines.
FANGORIA: Do you guys have anything else that’s immediately coming out? Is there any hope for another installment of I SELL THE DEAD, even possibly in the TALES universe?
MCQUAID: I do have a few feature scripts behind me know that I’m eager to get to the right people. So I’m super keen to get rolling on a few of these scripts that I’ve been working on in the past few years and I’m super proud of them.
FESSENDEN: I also have a new feature I’m pretty determined to make in the next year, and also, Glass Eye Pix is still looking to produce stuff. We have a couple movies that shot over the summer, and 2015 is our 30th Anniversary, so we have a Blu-ray of my films that is out now as well as a couple of other things.
MCQUAID: As for I SELL THE DEAD, the idea of a TALES sequel is interesting but I do have a feature script for a sequel that is really a lot of fun and, as Larry said, we can’t leave well enough alone with the characters of Blake & Grimes. It’s certainly interesting to me to do something else with that story, but at the moment, I’m still convinced that this script can be made into a feature as well. But we’ll see; I don’t want to jinx anything.
FESSENDEN: And I don’t think it’s jinxing anything to say that Ron Perlman has read it, as well as Dom [Monaghan] so it’s all about lining up the stars and figuring out the financing. Making movies has become more difficult, and while making a sequel certainly has the following of the original movie, it also comes along with certain expectations. The first film was shot in Staten Island on a low budget, and with the sequel, we wouldn’t go crazy and lose control. But we’re all ready for it and just waiting for it to happen.
MCQUAID: I think we’re all really excited for it; it harkens back to the original and the world it built, and pretty much, this one is about Blake & Grimes losing a prized corpse but this time, they need to assemble a group of pals to get it back. But that’s all I’m saying!