Friday, February 3, 2017


And we're back! Missing summer yet? Of course you're not! We've had plenty of lake effect snow here in the greater Syracuse area and it's glorious. The perfect weather to keep your ass on the couch with a big ass mug of coffee and watch horror movies while the wind howls and whips and the windows.

For this latest edition, I'm looking at two films by art-horror auteur Larry
Fessenden-writer, director, producer, actor. Fessenden has made and/or appeared in several of the best independently produced horror films we fans have. The purpose of this series, of course, I'm focusing on his films WENDIGO and THE LAST WINTER. Both films were released through Fessenden's Glass Eye Pix and both films are the epitome of great winter chill horror.

In 2001's WENDIGO, a family (mother, father, and son) head to Upstate New York for a weekend in the country, but have an unfortunate run in with some locals that gets out of control and leads to the malevolent Native American legend, the Wendigo, manifesting itself from the imagination of the young son. A slow burn and immersive film, Fessenden does a deep dive into character drama, while the tension builds almost subversively. The third act is dizzying and harrowing.
2007's THE LAST WINTER, starring Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade II), James LeGros (Phantasm II, Drugstore Cowboy), and Connie Britton (American Horror Story), THE LAST WINTER is about an oil company in the frozen expanse of Alaska that accidentally release something ancient and deadly from the long frozen ground. THE LAST WINTER is the scarier and more fast paced of the two films, but also mines a bit of the same mythical territory as WENDIGO. This time though, its the ghosts of ancient earth lashing out against man for his trespasses against nature. It's hard not to make comparisons to THE THING, given the frozen setting and isolation/hopelessness faced by the characters, but the comparisons end there. THE LAST WINTER is very much it's own movie and plays up a more psychological horror that evolves into a supernatural descent into violence and destruction. It's a powerful and jarring film, but also very beautiful. And like in WENDIGO,  Fessenden puts a
heavy emphasis on character development, ignoring the good guy/bad guy conventions of typical story telling, instead giving us flawed and real characters who exist in a more realistic gray area.

Both films take full advantage of their settings with Fessenden ratcheting up the terror and dread in thought provoking stories. I recommend both films, highly. THE LAST WINTER is streaming on Shudder right now, but WENDIGO seems a bit harder to track down outside of the LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION box set, which also includes the down beat urban vampire film HABIT.    

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