Fantasia 2015 Review: TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, Where Death Smells Like Watermelon!
It was not looking good my friends. A couple of us just got out of our last screening for the day at Fantasia and were about to hoof it down to a local comedy club for the first ever international presentation of Tales From Beyond the Pale when we looked outside.
The heavens had opened up in an attempt to dissuade us from travelling to our destination to taint our ears with devilish linguistic largess. God was opposed to our desires and his rage translated into forks of lightning across the Montreal skyline. And it almost worked. We fled underground and arose at the other theater thinking we would have to resort to more cinema when God let up his guard. The rains ceased. The ankle high tidal waves slowed to mere puddles.
I'm not saying that there was a dove with an olive branch but we took it as a sign that God was distracted and looking the other way so we made our move and booked it before He knew what we had done. Let our children bear the punishments for our sins. We were going out for libations both spiritual and supernatural.
As stated before we made it our mission to bear witness to the first ever international presentation of the live radio show Tales From Beyond the Pale. As we were entering the club a Fantasia staff member and horror filmmaker himself said that he caught the show at Stanley Film Festival and that he watched the show for the first play and then closed his eyes for the remaining shows. Because that really is what radio plays were, theaters of the mind.
So rather than jostle for a seat closer to the stage we took up reserved seating at the bar at the back of the room. Why? Because I was on the guest list because that is how I frakking roll at Fantasia.
And it was seating at the frakking bar. The less you have to move to get drinks the more time you have to drink.
We could still make out the manic manipulations of the show's creator Larry Fessenden as he added some physicality to his performance in the second show. And we could just make out The Battery's Jeremy Gardner making out with his hand during the third act. We left the rest of night's workload up to our ears, and our livers.
What was old is new again. The radio shows that previous generations would entertain themselves by in years gone by should have been a lost art form. But horror filmmaker and producer Larry Fessenden has, for the past five years, been turning out regular seasons and live performances, radio plays for the digital age as the main site states it. And since Fessenden's work and passion is slanted to towards the horror genre the shows take on that dark and twisted nature.
So, armed with guest stars, top horror writers, musicians and some dandy foley artists Fessenden has set out to bring back that tradition and inject it with his own dark energy. The foley artists had all manner of tools up there with them. The small door was cute. They used half a watermelon and a butcher's knife for the stabbing effects (hence the title). ScreenAnarchy's own Izzy Lee was performing that night and she said that if you are close enough to the stage you can smell the watermelon when someone gets stabbed in the story. How's that for having that on your subconscious on every Summer picnic from here on out? There was just all manner of tools, practical and digital, for providing a soundscape for every tale. Fessenden, doing his best Crypt Keeper homage, introduced each radio play.
The first radio play was Hidden Records by Douglas Buck. A young man living with his fundamentally religious mother may wonder what his father was really like. One day he meets a jazz pianist (played by The Candyman Tony Todd!) who has been holding on to the only recording his dad ever made. But the recording held a dark secret message and family secrets are exposed. The confrontations will turn deadly and murderous in the end. Of all three radio plays Hidden Records played it the most serious. Bolstered by terrific live music and the groovy growl of Tony Todd's voice you could say it was the most soulful as well. Then the guitar would wail and scream just like the victims in the climax. The first radio play helped set the mood for the night.
The second radio play was Speaking in Tongues by Glenn McQuaid, who is also the show's other curator with Fessenden. To appease the partisan masses this second tale was set in Montreal and for us anglophones we had to be patient as half the dialogue was in Quebec French. Just like Fessenden's character Mr Glas, we had to wait for the translation, which was no trouble at all. In the story Mr. Glas came to Montreal to find four people and collect their memories. Think of it like a supernatural Collateral. He was going to combine the words in their memories to make a phrase that would kill him. Because he is immortal and he wants to end his life now. Fessenden was delightful as Mr. Glas. Our own Izzy Lee lent her vocal skills as one of his victims. The mix of comedy and horror really picked up in this second play. The real highlight was Fessenden up on stage. I was trying to follow the advice of our filmmaking friend from earlier but it is just as fun to watch the performers as much as it is to listen to them.
The final play of the night was Barricade by Larry Fessenden. The Battery's Jeremy Gardner was a newlywed husband who takes his new wife to a secluded house. They are about to consummate their marriage, including the making out with one's own hand, when a earthquake shakes up the area. Subterranean creatures come out and attack anything on the surface. Tony Todd returned to the lineup as a worker from a nearby research facility. Admittedly details got kind of lost as events escalated and Fessenden started hammering boards in background as the characters boarded up their honeymoon destination, but I believe that they were responsible for making the creatures and now everyone was going to die. By the third act the balance between horror and humor skewed favorably towards humor. And funny is good. Barricade was the remote location of Night of the Living Dead combined with small creature horror flicks like Ghoulies.
All in all, it was a terrific night out. The perfect way to cap off my week in Montreal. And it was a nice change of pace, something different but complementary to the festival going experience. And before God could find us we ran back into the night, to the Irish Embassy Pub to close out the morning. For though our eyes and ears had their full of dark spirits our livers could afford one or two more pints of dark Irish stouts.