Purveyor of all things celebrating indie horror, Larry Fessenden, brought his Glass Eye Pix team to The Stanley Film Festival in Estes Park, Colorado for a live performance of Tales from Beyond the Pale, the anthology audio play that channels the old days of scary radio dramas. Y'know, that era when all it took was some actors, some sound effects, some music and your imagination to frighten the heebie-jeebies out of listeners. The series has previously featured the macabre works of Fessenden, Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), Simon Barrett (You're Next) and Jeff Buhler (Midnight Meat Train) among many others.
For Tales from Beyond the Pale: The Stanley Edition, Fessenden and McQuaid pulled together an acting troupe which included AJ Bowen (The Sacrament), Martin Starr (Silicon Valley), Jocelyn DeBoer (Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead) and even our pal Sam Zimmerman from Fangoria. Fessenden took a leading role as "Jack Landon."
With the stage set at the Historic Park Theatre in downtown Estes Park, director McQuaid and the actors told a fun lycathrope-inspired story of an author (Landon), who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack Nicholson and checks in to the Stanley Hotel to write a new book "which will be remembered." We'll call this story "A."
Story "B" – which is the tale that Landon pens – cocerns a husband and his pregnant wife (Starr and Ana Asensio) who are en route to the hospital. Elsewhere, a mother and father – in a separate car – have tied up their son, thrown him in the trunk and intend to kill him for the dark secret he holds. These two vehicles ultimately collide and the lives of their passengers are changed in horrifying ways.
This "B" story is undoubtedly the highlight of this tale of terror, but as a whole, it all works. More importantly, what was fascinating about the live performance was seeing the gears of this machine at work. Beyond the actors, the stage was populated by the foley sound effects team – working with various props (from melons, to knives, drinking glasses and a bag of rice), a sound mixer and the music composer. And just off stage: McQuaid, serving as the ultimate conductor, making sure music and sound cues were properly-timed and that the rotation of actors went smoothly.
It took some very slight adjustment focusing on the narrative, but once I got used to it, I could fully appreciate the mechanics of what went into making this live performance work. We were encouraged to close our eyes and just listen to the show, but I truly enjoyed watching the experience. It distills the nature of telling a horror story down to the basics without any sort of flashiness and it was a welcome alternative to the film programming at the Stanley Film Fest.
I know that Glass Eye Pix has done a live performance of Tales in New York City. If they do it again, I encourage you to go. I'll be sitting here in Los Angeles, hoping they share this magic with the West Coast.
Tales from Beyond the Pale's second season is now available over at the official website.