By Mike Watt | July 30, 2004

The unfortunate town of Fairview Falls lies somewhere in upstate New York, and bad things happen there. As documented in “The Tenement”, it was the birthplace of the infamous “Black Rose Killer”, it’s rife with pedophiles, junkies, mute girls with special powers and landlords with second sight. It’s a place where a cab driver can be a killer, and so might be his fare. It’s a town where becoming a werewolf might be better than the alternative.

Fortunately, Fairview Falls exists only in the mind and films of writer/director Glen Baisley. His latest film, the aforementioned “The Tenement”, is actually a prequel to his self-distributed 2001 production, “Fear of the Dark”. While no fore-knowledge of “Fear of the Dark” is needed to enjoy “The Tenement”, there are lots of little details that tie the two films together. Not the least of which is the presence of the vicious “Black Rose Killer”, whose origins are given in “The Tenement”. What’s more, Baisley has two more productions in the works, exploring the town and its inhabitants even further: “Sins of the Father” is currently being edited, and “Fairview Falls” is in the early birth pangs of pre-production.

Baisley explains, “Respectively in the time line, “The Tenement” spans from 1980 to 2000. “Fear of the Dark” takes place from 2000 to 2001. “Fairfiew Falls” is 2005, “Sins of the Father” is 2012. You create little problems in the pantheon when you do this—‘wait, we did this in that year, and that conflicts with that.’ What I find interesting is that they’re sequels and yet they’re not sequels. You can do different things with the characters that you can’t do in true sequels. You can make a character disappear, focus on other things and then bring him back later on. It’s all centered in the same world.”

Tying the four movies together is the central character of “The Black Rose Killer”—a.k.a. Ethan Furnier—who overshadows all other the characters in the stories, to a degree, even when he isn’t on screen. Ethan’s creation—or transformation—into the “Black Rose Killer”, sets of a chain reaction of evil and often supernatural events that taint and permeate Fairview Falls. In “Fear of the Dark”, he’s a masked entity whose crimes set the story in motion. In “The Tenement”, he’s given a face and a name. If watched in that order, “The Black Rose Killer” should come to life for the viewer (but it should not detract if “The Tenement” is watched first).

“All four stories are profiles, examinations of light and dark, what pushes a person over the edge and causes them to do these bad things. At one point I wanted to go into criminology, so I’m fascinated in those themes. The themes of all the stories have that good vs. evil aspect to them. And I’m a big fan of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Smallville’, and we always laugh. You get an episode of ‘Smallville’ where Lana’s trying to kill someone with an axe and the teachers don’t try to do anything? So the twist is that in Fairview Falls, everyone knows about what’s going on, they’re completely in a state of denial. No one’s ever been caught. In ‘Fear of the Dark’, we completely make fun of the police. We show why the Black Rose Killer’s never been caught is because the police are complete idiots. It’s like ‘Police Academy’ meets ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. We have this horrific sequence which is body after body, and it’s not that the Black Rose Killer is so elusive, it’s that the police force is completely f****d! It’s pointed out a little more in ‘Fairview Falls’, nobody knows their a*s from their elbow. And now, the basic idea is that the older generation is in such a state of denial, and now we focus on the younger generation, and they’re just a bunch of dysfunctional kids trying to make their way through life. They come from all these screwed up families where there have been relatives who have either been murdered, or were the murderers. We’re bringing in a lot of fresh faces that we haven’t seen before in the other movies.”

“The Tenement” is only an anthology in theory. The movie centers around the inhabitants of the titular structure, but not precisely the building itself. Often, the narrative is far removed from the apartment house, as the story follows the characters to their often unpleasant conclusions. Rather than simply being four random events, the stories are interconnected—including little “asides” that have little to do with the meat of the primary quartet—spanning almost two decades of the town’s history. Admittedly inspired by Stephen King, Baisley has mapped the timeline and tries very hard, as he’s explained, to keep the details straight. Not only for the viewer, but for himself as well.

“‘The Tenement’ is kind of a culmination of things that have been floating around in the back of my mind as far back as eighth grade. And I’m 32-years-old, going to turn 33 in June.

“In ‘Fear of the Dark’, we follow one of the victims who survives, grows up haunted by this whole traumatic experience as a child. ‘Sins of the Father’ picks up x-number of years later, we get to see what happens with Ethan and his life, and it fills in the missing blanks for all the missing years the movie’s kind of gapped over. It gets confusing,” Baisley admits with a laugh, “even to me. All the movies are interwoven. The woman in the taxi driver story is in ‘Sins of the Father’. The little girl who tells Ethan that he’s too skinny to be a killer, she grows up to be the main character in ‘Fear of the Dark’. It’s so interwoven that there’s a short we did, we won an award for it, called ‘The Family Tree’, there’s a character in there that’s in the alcoholic werewolf story in ‘The Tenement’. It’s funny; it’s almost like Kevin Smith movies, where he has actors playing different characters. But I’m trying to be careful about who I use. Just trying to cut down the confusion for any fan base we might have.”


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