The Coronavirus continues to spread, it’s snowing, and I’ve got a blog to share some things with you all this week.
One of the features I wrote for Rue Morgue, and gave back to them too late, was for Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid’s Tales From Beyond the Pale, and audio horror drama the duo produces in yearly seasons. This happened to correspond with the third season, debuting some five years ago. The article I’m publishing here is my first draft Monica turned down, opting instead for a transcript of discussion I had with Larry and Glenn.
Tales From Beyond The Pale, the stellar, often horrifying (in a good way!) Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid audio drama production, is back this month with a new season of audio chills for listeners of the modern resurgence of radio plays. With five years, two seasons and a pair of Communicator Awards for writing and directing, one for Fessenden (The Hole Digger) and one for McQuaid (The Crush); Tales From Beyond The Pale stands out as a premiere “radio play for the digital age.” That is if you like your radio plays disturbing and scary.
Season three will introduce us to new plays by both Fessenden and McQuaid (The Ripple At Cedar Lake), as well as new contributors to the medium; including names well known from 80’s horror cinema. McQuaid is particularity fond of The Hound, as he says “It’s Stuart Gordon directing, written by Dennis Paoli and the music of Richard Band and also starring Barbara Crampton, so it’s a real throwback to the HP Lovecraft days of Stuart Gordon. The piece is absolutely fabulous, it’s really great, it’s like pure Hammer horror and I’m so excited to be working on it.” But the 80’s homages don’t stop there. Also on board is veteran horror director Eric Red whose production, Little Nazis, which McQuaid refers to as “Little Ms. Sunshine meets Fright Night.”
Despite the creative time traveling, the plays still retain a modern approach with an end result that turns up the fright level considerably. McQuaid says “It’s pretty inspiring and mad at how different all these worlds are that we are creating. It’s pretty interesting to switch between stories… It’s pretty wild to be working on a period piece and then switching into something a little more contemporary and suddenly you’re down in the sewers.”
Aside from the setting, horror comes from the imagination and the fear of the unknown, and by removing one of your primary senses, audio plays take scares to another level. That is one of the secrets for the recent high demand for like audio dramas, but in order for it to work, it needs to be relevant. “One of our agendas was to not make it quaint,” says Larry, “but to take it into a more modern context where we’re really demanding the audience listen and help paint the picture with very immersive sound effects and sound design and stories that are more contemporary.”
That’s the key, the stories are written and told in a modern manner and broadcast on a modern media platform, and Glenn thinks these factors have attributed to the success of the series. “I would say that we are contemporary, there are a lot of audio dramas that are being produced that are either the old-time scripts or they’re harkening back to those days. I think that right off the bat that we considered this a vital medium, an absolutely vital medium, to the point that the more we do them the more I’m realizing the potential of pure audio in this day and age.”
That success has led to a list of pedigreed contributors from the first two seasons, who are back on board for the third season. Fessenden finds Jeff Buhler’s Gutter Mouth to be “a spectacular psychological drama about a husband losing his mind, thinking the sewers are talking to him.” He also praises artist Brahm Revel, mostly known for his artwork for Pale‘s comic book and cover art. Fessenden says, “it was great to have him. He’s a great writer…we’re very excited to have his piece.” A standout story from season one was Graham Reznick’s Grandfather, and Reznick has a new offering for season three, as do Dennis Paoli, Joe Maggio, James Felix McKenny, and April Snellings with her contribution, Food Chain.
As with any production, though, it’s the actors that drive the plays as much as the narrative. The first two seasons featured the voice talents of actors as diverse as Vincent D’onfrio and Ron Pearlman. As season three unfolds, we will hear the returns of Pale alumni such as Angus Scrimm and Sean Young, joining Pale freshman the likes of Dominick Monahan, Billy Boyd and Lauren Ashley Carter, alongside Jeremy Gardner, in the aforementioned April Snellings piece, Food Chain.
The ten-episode third season of Tales From Beyond The Pale will be delivered to the masses in digital form and as physical media later this week on October 27 (2015), just in time for binge-listening. “You can listen to all 10!” Fessenden quips, which might not be a bad idea to up scary in your headphones this Halloween.