INTERVIEW with Producer/Actor LARRY FESSENDEN and Director Glenn McQuaid about I SELL THE DEAD

August 1st, 2009 12:51:00


Festival favourite Larry Fessenden (WENDIGO, THE LAST WINTER) returns to Fantasia with two new films from his indie-horror production company Scareflix, Ti West's incredibly atmospheric 80s horror tribute HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (a smash success at Tribeca and a late but great addition to the Fantasia program) and Glenn McQuaid's period horror-comedy tribute to British 60s/70s horror classics, I SELL THE DEAD.

Fessenden will be on hand with co-producer Peter Phok and first-time feature director Glenn McQuaid for their award-winnning I SELL THE DEAD, a one-of-a-kind horror comedy-adventure film depicting the daily lives and supernatural woes of two lowlife body-snatchers, played by Fessenden himself and Domenic Monaghan of LORD OF THE RINGS fame.

McQuaid was the visual FX artists on Glass Eye/Scareflix Productions THE LAST WINTER, THE ROOST and TRIGGERMAN, and his debut feature picks up where his earlier short film THE RESURRECTION APPRETICE (Fantasia 2005) left off - our protagonists are thrown into a bizarre series of misadventures involving creepy doctors, the walking dead, vampires, ghosts, a fearsome rival gang of grave-robbers, and most deadly of all, a feisty redhead.

Toss in appearances by character faves Angus Scrimm and Ron Perlman and you've got a more rollicking adventure film than anything since RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK!

Glenn and Larry were kind enough to talk with us about the indie success of I SELL THE DEAD, the evolution from short film to feature, and their mutual love of old Hammer films (and Warren Oates!)


I SELL THE DEAD plays Monday July 27th at 9:45pm and again Thursday July 30th at 7:30pm, both in the Hall Theatre. For more details, including full description, images, trailer, website and more, see the film page HERE.


Was the short film THE RESURRECTION APPRENTICE a means of getting interest/funding for a feature? Did Glenn always envision it as a feature?

LF: The way Glenn tells it, when he was done with RESURRECTION he didn't want to leave the characters behind, and that's when he started thinking it might make a good feature. Glenn had pitched several other ideas to me to make one of the Scareflix and I wasn't settled on any of them when one day he came in with I SELL THE DEAD. That's the one to make I said and off we went.

GMcQ: The short film was about me making that first step into narrative film making. I had done a few other things before that but nothing as involved. It really was an important step for me. To deal with a real crew and with real actors was something I knew I needed to do. I truly had no idea it would develop into I SELL THE DEAD, in fact, it sat around for a while before Willie and Arthur began haunting me again. Restless they were...

Obviously the low budget British classics - Hammer, Amicus, Tigon - are an influence. Any favourites?

LF: Glenn can wax on about this. He's a great admirer of Freddie Francis who was a D.P. and a director (TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE ELEPHANT MAN). He also found inspiration in the old Universal horror pictures from the 30's and 40's, which were very dear to me as well.

GMcQ: PARANOIAC is one of my favorites, I really love what Freddie Francis was getting up to with his blocking. He really made the actors work for their money, changing shots from over the shoulder to wide shots to extreme close up all in the choreography! It's also got a terrific performance by Oliver Reed, who is chewing as much scenery as possible. My love for those films is as much about the actors as it about the directors. Peter Cushing is one of my heroes, he could handle whatever insane role they gave him with grace and integrity. He brought so much elegance to those movies; I really think he is one of the greats. 

Was it hard for Glenn to pitch a period film as his first feature? I would think that would scare off a lot of producers because of the added expense of costuming, sets, etc.

LF: Honestly we never thought of it as a challenge or a bold move, just what the job required. I suspect if we'd thought about it more we would have seen the folly. My co-producer Peter Phok and Line-producer Brent Kunkle went around to all the forts in the New York area posing as history students just to see if there were any pre-existing old buildings that we could shoot in. Sure enough, Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island became like our little Pinewood Studio, we shot a great deal of the film there for a bargain.

GMcQ: I had pitched Larry a few other ideas before we settled on I SELL THE DEAD. Some of the earlier pitches were designed to be an "easier" sell to a low budget producer. For instance, let's make a haunted lake movie, in the woods with a skeleton crew. but to Larry's credit it wasn't until I came back to him with a project that I knew I HAD to make that he agreed to partner with me.

What was the casting process like?

LF: Glenn wanted me for Willy, to connect the movie to the short film. We had known Ron Perlman from being in Iceland working on THE LAST WINTER - Glenn was the FX supervisor on that film so we had all hung out in the North country together. And so we sent the script to Ron and asked him if he would do it. Then Peter Phok suggested we go to Dom Monaghan for Arthur and Glenn was excited by that. We sent Dom the script and a series of concept sketches and the comicbook we had started to develop and Dom responded positively to the material. We ended up waiting for several months to shoot, until he was done with LOST, then we had to wait again for Ron to be done with HELLBOY II. Angus Scrimm we had worked with before, and we made a deal where we flew him in to do two roles in two films, the other being SATAN HATES YOU. It was a lot of coordinating: We had to fly Eileen Colgan in from Ireland, and then we had Daniel Manche, we had to work around his school and soap opera schedule!

GMcQ: For me it was tremendously exciting, what started out as a tiny little project was attracting some pretty big names and so it was a great encouragement to me as a writer. I am a huge film geek and believe me I had to calm down and hide the fact that I have loved Ron Perlman in everything since QUEST FOR FIRE! And Dominic Monaghan too, for him to step into the shoes of a character I created was something very special. With Angus Scrimm, Eileen Colgan and everyone else, this was a dream cast for me. It was great to collaborate with them all, especially Larry, as it began with the short film, five years ago!

Where does the comic book transition effect come from? Was it meant to recall old EC Horror comics or something like that? Does Glenn have a comic background?

LF: We hired our old pal Brahm Revel to draw a comicbook (Coming out October '09 on Image Comics), and it greatly inspired Glenn by helping him start to see his movie, and it got him thinking about visual storytelling. I think he just wanted to retain some of that imagery in the film itself. OF course it referenced old EC comics, and the Tales From the Crypt type of pulp fictions. Glenn has a very graphic background, in FX and advertising. In the film we also employed a lot of cg matte paintings to open up the world, where there will be a long pan of the London skyline with a fog around the moon; that was all possible because Glenn knew how we could integrate it and I think it adds to the magic of the movie.

GMcQ: It was a motif that came about in post production. A lot of the animations came from a need to get in and out of the flash backs in a more concrete way. Luckily I have that graphic background that I could fall back on and I knew people like Brahm Revel and Ram Bhat, who did our matte paintings.

Although coming out of totally different genres, the film is almost like COCKFIGHTER or the original GONE IN 60 SECONDS in that they are the only films to depict the inner workings of a specific illegal profession. How much of it is based on actual historical research?

LF: Oh I love COCKFIGHTER. Good old Warren Oates. Well, Glenn is from a working-class Irish background, and I know he wanted to tell a story about people working, about being in a trade. Most of his research centered around a book of gallows speeches that he was reading, where criminals confess their sins to a priest before heading to the gallows.

GMcQ: Ha, I love Warren Oates too, RACE WITH THE DEVIL is my favorite satanic road movie! I love the idea of showing a trade, it's something you don't see much of any more, it's glossed over but I think it's an important character building device, you know, how these people make a living. My father was a floor layer, he would tile homes, bars and restaurants all over Ireland. I was his apprentice for a while and it was a great experience, the most honest days’ work I've ever had. I did a fair amount of research about the art of grave robbing and what lengths people would go to have their loved ones safe from resurrection, but a lot of it got cut from the script.

You're quickly becoming a prolific character actor, in studio films, indie films, as well as your own productions. What's your acting background? Did you have professional training? Did you originally see yourself as in front of the camera or behind it?

LF: When I was young I wanted to be an actor primarily, but even in high school where I was doing plays all the time, I wanted to be involved in all the other aspects of a given production, the writing, the set design, the props and the music. I see it all as one thing, putting on a show. Jack of all trades, master of none as the saying goes.

You're also a producer on HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, which just played Fantasia - how do you pick the projects you get involved with? How does a young filmmaker go about getting involved with ScareFlix?

LF: I respond to material that has come from the heart, that is unique and specific to the filmmaker who's come up with it. I respond to a DIY approach, I like filmmakers that would get a film made with or without me. We don't really take submissions, all the films have come about organically, through a community of people I've met over the years.

GMcQ: I SELL THE DEAD was a very organic experience. It started with me and Fessenden over a few Jamesons and that's probably how it will end!

- Kier-La Janisse

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