The Last Winter (2006)
“What if the very thing we were here to pull out of the ground were to rise willingly?”
Quick summary: A drilling crew, working on behalf of an American oil company, are looking to build a pipeline in the Arctic and create “energy independence”. They’re joined by environmental analysts who begin to suspect that nature may not be entirely okay with this.
Larry Fessenden – the writer, director, actor, producer, editor, caterer, gaffer, best boy etc. of Glass Eye Pix – came to my attention last year when he popped up in Jug Face/The Pit.
Since then, it seems I can’t watch a contemporary horror film without finding him make a cameo or seeing his name involved in the production somewhere (Pod, We Are What We Are, You’re Next, Stakeland, The Innkeepers, We Are Still Here, and the PS4 horror game Until Dawn – which he wrote – to name just a few).
Fessenden has established himself as a huge presence in modern horror. And yet I hadn’t watched any of the films he’d written and directed.
As such, I wanted to kick off this week of horror with a Fessenden double-bill. To start – The Last Winter – or An Inconvenient Horror. Fessenden’s 2006 parable about climate change.
It’s set in a remote camp in the Arctic with Ron Perlman, Connie Britton, and Kevin Corrigan among the ragtag bunch of people who will slowly start mistrusting each other and their own sanity. Being someone who would count The Thing among my favourite films, this suits me down to the ground. There’s something particularly scary about the bright, white, isolating Arctic environment – it reminds me of The Others which successfully encouraged the audience to fear the light more than the shadows. And Fessenden, with his cinematographer, makes the most of the location. Using long, smooth pans and zooms to create a disorientating sense of space while building a tense feeling of impending doom with some patient pacing. The soundtrack’s quiet, gentle piano refrains also add to the thoughtful, poetic tone it wants to set.
As the apocalyptic ending ramps up, it perhaps feels a little unsatisfying. But overall I enjoyed the contemplative ambiguity. Nice to see a horror film tackling climate change too.
“This ground’s been frozen for over one thousand years; we have no idea what’s coming out of it!”
I also watched:
“It can fly at you like a sudden storm without warning, and devour you, consume you, with it’s ferocious appetite.”
Quick summary: A family from the city (passive aggressive dad, Patricia Clarkson! and the creepy looking kid from Malcolm In The Middle) have escaped to rural upstate New York for a quiet holiday, only to ruffle the feathers of some local hunters.
Two thirds of this movie deals with the fall-out of that early run-in – giving this a very Straw Dogs/Deliverance feel. While the other third involves the Spirit of the Wendigo (which is a term used in The Last Winter and seems to be something of a recurring theme for Fessenden). But threaded throughout, Fessenden makes us much more interested in the dynamics of this dysfunctional family. The uptight, workaholic dad with anger issues, the quiet, sensitive kid with a growing inner life that may or may not be seeping into the real world, and the patient and pretty much perfect Patricia Clarkson.
The film makes a smart move by focusing on scaring the kid, which kept me empathically on edge. Some really inventive editing and camera techniques. And the direction feels assured and confident despite the low-budget and ropey effects at the end.
I’m impressed that Fessenden seems intent on creating contemporary American horror myths. Almost as if he’s trying to single-handedly make American folk horror films in the British tradition. Overall, while both movies lost me a little in the third act, I’m a big fan of Fessenden’s style of horror here and plan to seek out the rest of his work.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in Wendigos, there’s a good episode of Lore here that’s worth a listen.
Tonight: Going to go for a witch theme with The Witch followed by Witchfinder General/The Conqueror Worm.
Check out the archive of the horror week here.
I really enjoyed last year’s Horror Month and wanted to return to it this year despite the hefty workload it turned out to be. But, after moving home from London to Edinburgh in September, the timing wasn’t quite right to dive into a month-long Horror binge. Internet needed to be set-up for starters.
Still, I couldn’t let Halloween 2016 pass without doing something, so I decided I’d try and do a shortened version of my Daily-Horror-Film-Plus-Illustration challenge in the final week (or more accurately, the final 10 days) of October. Starting on Friday 21st and finishing on Halloween.
The plan, like last year, is to try and watch double bills each night, then draw an accompanying illustration for one of the films the following day.
I saved the list of film suggestions from last year as I hadn’t managed to work through them all (there were hundreds). It’s here with some new additions – throw me more suggestions on twitter if you think I’m missing anything.
Here’s the artwork for a three page illustrated adaptation of Walt Whitman’s Dirge For Two Veterans. You can read the full poem here. This was commissioned by Oxford University Press for their For The Fallen and other poems book. The book is part of their Graphic Texts series that encourage children to read and learn with comics.
You can pick up a copy of the book here.
Eleri Harris at The Nib asked if I’d like to write a short reaction piece to the Brexit result. After taking a week to finish my tennis comic and get some perspective, I produced a short 12 panel piece which you can read here. Huge thanks to Eleri for her help on this. Short preview below:
Needless to say, it’s been a tough fortnight here.
If you didn’t see my piece about the EU Referendum before the results, it can be read here.
I grew up watching Wimbledon and it would always coincide with the start of my summer holidays. I think, largely because of that, I’ve always had a soft spot for the sport. It’s only been the past few years that I’ve really tried to follow the tour throughout the year, but my love for the sport has grown the more I learn about it.
I was recently talking with my friend, and fantastic writer/journalist, Alex Macpherson – who is much more knowledgable than I am about tennis – and we tried to devise a way for us to collaborate on something tennis related.
This piece for Vox is the result. A 29 panel look at tennis in 2016. Vox don’t cover sport so the we tried to reign ourselves in from the more obscure stories and keep the summary as news-focused as possible.
I really hope we get more opportunities to work together on tennis comics as I had so much fun drawing this. I want to draw an entire comic about Serena Williams. And one about all the up and comers. I also hope I can do some tennis illustrations in the future too. Basically, more drawing about tennis!
Here’s a sneak peek at the piece – the whole thing can be read here. Huge thanks to AD Javier Zarracina for all his help on the piece.
Other tennis related things I’ve been enjoying: The collection of David Foster Wallace essays about tennis – String Theory – is a delight, Alex invited me along to the Roehampton Wimbledon Qualifiers a couple of weeks ago – which I didn’t realise was free to attend – and it was brilliant – loads of new faces and exciting stories, I’m currently reading Love Game: A History of Tennis, from Victorian Pastime to Global Phenomenon which is very interesting, I subscribed to this lovely looking tennis magazine – Racquet, and the Serena documentary on the BBC was great. I’ve also ordered a couple of ESPN 30 For 30 docs – one about Navratilova and Evert’s rivalry, and one about Jimmy Connors. Speaking of 30 For 30 – have you been watching the OJ: Made In America doc? It’s great right? Seek it out if you haven’t!
I was asked by Titan if I’d like to illustrate the September Doctor Who cover. I couldn’t say no to that. It was such a fun commission and I hope I get to try my hand at more in the future.
The solicitations for Titan’s September comics are listed here. I think the order code for this is STL015068.
This is for the finale issue of year two of the Eleventh Doctor – written by Si Spurrier and Rob Williams with art by Simon Fraser.
This comic went live a few days ago on The Nib. I’ve been working on it for a while – trying my hardest to make the forthcoming EU Referendum as accessible and entertaining as possible. It was a huge help working with my editor Eleri Harris who guided me through the process of editing down a potentially sprawling 70-80 panel comic into this relatively succinct 40 panel piece.
You can read the full comic here.
The comic had to to do several things: it needed to communicate the situation to international readers who were not as exposed to the more complex inner workings of UK politics, but it also needed to be useful to those in the UK who were unsure how to vote. I wanted to be as fair and as balanced as possible, presenting the facts and opposing sides clearly – while not being afraid to state my own opinions and disingenuously pretend I didn’t have a bias. I wanted to make sure the comic was honest.
There are all sorts of issues I didn’t cover, and some that I couldn’t spend as much real-estate on as I wanted, but I’m proud of how this came out and hope it’s helpful to people. I hope it provokes deeper dives into some of the issues and concerns it raises and I hope it, at the very least, encourages some more voters to get registered now we have a slightly extended deadline.
If you’re annoyed the comic didn’t discuss a particular issue or skimmed something you think deserved more interrogation, I hope you’ll appreciate that I probably spent days agonising over whether to include it or not, but in the end had to create the EU comic I wanted to see.
Thanks for reading and sharing it if you have already done so.
There are still a few hours left to register to vote if you haven’t yet – the website is here.
And if you want to stay in the EU and want to help out, but don’t know where to start, you could do worse than check out The In Crowd – it has a handy function that helps you find the best way to get involved.
The Guardian got in touch to ask me to illustrate a regular, small column in The Guide.
Every week a different person pitches a new TV show and I illustrate it.
I’m about two months into it so far so here are the first eight illustrations without any context:
I was honoured to be asked to provide the artwork for the cover and here’s a look at the front:
Find out more about Chrissy and the book here.
I love the show and the piece was a joy to work on thanks to a great AD and a fascinating article. It’s a wonderful read for anyone with a passing interest in how TV shows are made, even if you’re not aware of The Americans (you’re in for a treat if you decide to give it a watch).
Read the full thing here.