Sat. May 21st, 2022

Because we were so inconspicuous, I could steal shots of our environment. I kept an eye open for, and often captured, those ‘happy accidents’ when amazing or unusual or insane New York City moments would unexpectedly cross through the plane of our fiction.

Fessenden also steals moments in time in the “Impact Addict” shorts that he filmed in 1987 with the post-Evel Knievel/pre-“Jackass” performance artist David Leslie. Fessenden and Allyson Smith shot Leslie as he beat and/or blew himself up in a variety of NYC settings, including a Chinatown Lunar New Year parade that looks like it was filmed with stolen cameras and then edited by an aspiring impressionist painter. The “Impact Addict” films will screen at MoMA in a terrific bundle of early Glass Eye shorts along with “White Trash,” a Fessenden-helmed short that would later be reworked as the opening scene of Reichardt’s “River of Grass.”


The horror genre is just the commercial mold that Fessenden and his fellow misfit filmmakers have tried to refashion to their lo-fi sensibilities and alienated tastes. It’s to Fessenden’s credit that each new directorial credit seems to be his best, including “Skin and Bones,” his fantastically creepy episode of the short-lived 2008 prime-time TV horror anthology series “Fear Itself.” “Skin and Bones” feels like an extension of Fessenden’s signature interest in the Wendigo, a flesh-eating Algonquin-American wraith who, in Fessenden’s “Wendigo” and “The Last Winter,” heralds either an ecological paradigm shift or a hallucinatory sort of mass psychosis. The most horrifying conceit in Fessenden’s movies is that while we could be living in a beautiful world, we definitely aren’t and the future doesn’t look great either. So what does that feel like, sinking into exhaustion with a mix of dread and excitement? What does a perpetual and inevitable collapse feel like, tiptoeing up to and then splashing apart on the edge of yourself?

Fessenden’s gothic dramas are about a weirdly intimate sort of apocalyptic guilt that is; they’re his way of protesting the post-industrialized world that his movies exist in spite of. It’s fitting then that “Beneath,” the only so-so entry in Fessenden’s body of work, is also included in MoMA’s program. That shrill, tongue-in-cheek horror pastiche is the only time Fessenden’s semi-successfully shoehorned himself into a prefabricated mold. At one point, Fessenden also worked on an unproduced remake of “The Orphanage”; there was also some talk about adapting Marvel Comics’ Werewolf by Night series, though that sadly appears to have been more of an unfulfilled desire than a tentative plan. Maybe it’s a good thing that those dream projects never materialized. Who wants a Larry Fessenden remake or a Larry Fessenden comic book movie when we’ve instead got “Depraved,” Larry Fessenden’s characteristically inventive and soulful riff on “Frankenstein”?

By admin