REVIEW: Fear Itself’s Episode “Skin and Bones” – Directed by Larry Fessenden

Indie genre favorite Larry Fessenden (THE LAST WINTER, WENDIGO) tackles this week’s episode of FEAR ITSELF entitled, “Skin and Bones” concerning a subject that director is quite familiar with.
A rancher, played by Doug Jones (HELLBOY, PAN’S LABYRINTH) goes missing in the mountains for ten days
and miraculously returns home… rather different. Now, his somewhat dysfunctional family must face the
ravenous, supernatural force residing inside him.
What makes this episode really work is the incredible Doug Jones. If fellow HELLBOY star Ron Perlman is this
generation’s Boris Karloff, then Jones is most definitely our Lon Chaney. Doug absolutely owns this
role, his performance shining through the very subtle prosthetics and makeup. It’s clear that this man is
more than just a guy with foam latex stuck to his face. He’s a very rare kind of actor who understands makeup as a tool, and works with it instead of around it. He shifts effortlessly between creepy, scary and physically imposing, transforming himself from the inside out, changing even his voice.
Director Larry Fessenden may be working with a different palette here than what he is used to, but the finished piece is still very well crafted. It must be challenging to keep indie sensibilities while dealing with limited running time, commercial breaks and network execs, and I do get the feeling that maybe he wasn’t able to put as much of himself into the episode as he would have liked to, but then again he has two films that deal with the same subject in a much different way. In a recent interview, he joked that “Skin and Bones” is like the big-budget Hollywood
remake of WENDIGO, and while that observation is not too far off, the finished product is certainly not without Larry’s fingerprints on it. There are a quite a few moments of real dread and fear, and some wonderfully composed, creepy shots of Doug doing nothing at all. I would love to see a director’s cut of this released on DVD if possible.
Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan wrote the episode, and are best know for John Carpenter’s MASTERS OF HORROR episodes, “Cigarette Burns” and “Pro-Life”. The script (which can be read on-line for a limited time) is not bad, it just seems to be following the same beats as their previous episodes with a different setting.
Apparently John Carpenter was intended to direct this episode, but it was ultimately offered to Fessenden. The thing is, having Larry Fessenden direct an episode about a Wendigo is like having George Romero direct
and episode about zombies… it’s kind of obvious. It would have been more interesting to see writers and chosen director tackle material outside their respective comfort zones. Hopefully we’ll get to see that if NBC orders up another season.
“Skin and Bones” is a solid episode of the so-far-so-good season of FEAR ITSELF, worth watching for Doug Jones alone. It airs this Thursday on NBC so be sure to tune in or set your TiVo’s. Check local
listings for times.
-Jay Alvino
Also check out our recent Fright Exclusive Interview with Director Larry Fessenden: