WEEKEND OF HORRORS
BY G. NOEL GROSS | September 17, 2000
Hodder as Jason, Grefe's STANLEY, Scrimm as The Tall Man (center), Savini as Sex Machine and Quigley as Trash.
Having sheepishly attended to sci-fi shows in Dallas, I wanted to take in the wild wonder of a horror convention and Fango's Orlando extravaganza (Sept. 9-10, 2000) seemed to fit the bill. Because it was their first show in the area, the venue and attendance were rather small. I'd hoped there'd be tons of dealers peddling genre memorabilia, but unfortunately there were SIX -- count em -- S-I-X tables the entire weekend. Among them were the traditional over-priced bootleg video table, reps for AlternativeCinema.com, the ultra-cool caricature sculptures of Barry Crawford (clayguy.com) and the most popular table that hosted a horde of questionable-at-best duped photos of all your favorite stars. But I must say, I was more than a little tempted by the autographed color photo of Mal Arnold (BLOOD FEAST).
Various shots from the dealer room.
What the show lacked in shopability, it MORE than made up for with its guest list: Tom Savini, Angus Scrimm, Richard Liberty, Kane Hodder, Gregg Hale, Linnea Quigley, William Grefe, Robert Masciantonio and others. Sadly, the great Clint Howard was scheduled, but backed out due to the fact he's busy making movies, or some such. Before I get to my notes on individual guests, let's visit the ...
One of the sessions offered both days was "Morbid Movie Previews." During the hour, Fangoria editors Tony Timpone and Michael Gingold would introduce various clips and trailers for upcoming genre films. Throughout the room, THE CONVENT (A+), a flick due in limited release in October and video distribution by A-Pix this January, got a HUGE response. Its opening scene features a goth schoolgirl strutting into a church, to pull a bat and beat and bloody several nuns. Unsatisfied, she douses them (in slow mo) with gasoline and sets them ablaze -- then shotguns their flaming bodies. The scene is SO over the top -- SO graphic, that one can't help but find it ridiculous. Anyway, as the story goes, the nuns come back from the dead, and well, they're pissed. The can-tastic Adriene Barbeau stars. Looks like it could be the best A-Pix release since RAZOR BLADE SMILE or DANCE WITH THE DEVIL. Gingold compared it to the gore comedy, DEAD ALIVE. They're very stoked about the flick. (UPDATE: A-Pix dropped the film shortly before filing for bankruptcy protection. The Convent opened theatrically in Germany, and the filmmakers are still seeking U.S. distribution.) Everyone, of course, is excited about the rerelease of THE EXORCIST (A), which will include recovered footage -- even the famed spider walk. Rob Zombie encourages everyone to take their mom to see his HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES (A) -- in this on-set footage, we met most of the cast, and were promised a helluva '70s-era horror show. Fangoria is releasing a German slasher called SCHOOL'S OUT (B) which features a red-masked killer running with scissors. BLAIR WITCH 2: BOOK OF SHADOWS (B) met with jeers, but I happen to love sequels, and this one looks especially good. Roger Corman's haunted house flick, THE DOORWAY (A), with Roy Scheider looks promising. Ah-nold gets a clone in THE 6TH DAY (C). We'll take another, hopefully more fruitful, visit to Mars in RED PLANET (A). Clive Barker has a video game on the way called UNDYING (C). Winona Ryder's devil flick LOST SOULS (C) has been held for a long time, but should hit screens this year. M. Night Shyamalan puts the camera in front of Bruce Willis again for UNBREAKABLE (C). Indie star Darren Aronofsky creates a horror movie about drug addiction called REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (A). The oddly-titled sequel URBAN LEDGENDS: FINAL CUT (F) offered little to cheer about. A Blair-Witchy telling of a real-life murder cult RICKY 6 (D) sank. Adam Sandler proves he really is the spawn of Satan in LITTLE NICKY (B). The comic-book adaptation of FAUST (B) looks stylish. Prolific B-director David DeCoteau serves up ANCIENT EVIL: SCREAM OF THE MUMMY (D) and the ambiguously-gay frat-boy vampire flick, THE BROTHERHOOD (F). I may have missed one or two, but if I did, they weren't worth mentioning anyway.
Me and Angus. The Tall Man addresses the crowd.
The holy grail of my trip was to actually MET one of the greatest icons of modern horror, PHANTASM's The Tall Man. I stood in line for an hour, waiting patiently -- wondering if my digital camera would crap out on me at this most critical of moments -- also wondering why the guy ahead of me hadn't showered for a week. When, finally, my turn arrived. "Mr. Scrimm, I'm very pleased to meet you, sir. I really enjoy the Phantasm fil -- " Fangoria editor Anthony Timpone bounds up, "Angus! You haven't had any water!" Angus politely turns down the beverage. Here I've waited all this time, I've got The Tall Man in front of me, and Tony's distracting him with this!? But, despite the interuption, Mr. Scrimm graciously signed my Phantasm 1 & 4 DVDs (he thinks they did a nice job with the OblIVion disc, but the extras for Numero Uno are much better) and posed for a picture with me -- it was the highlight of my Fango experience. I found Angus to be an exceedingly charming GENTLEMAN -- one of a different era. When you speak to him, he makes every effort to make you feel special, that he appreciates your admiration. He asks your name, where you're from -- and not as a mere pleasantry -- he seems truly interested. He used his time in the sessions to talk about two new films he's in -- one, sorry Angus, looks AWFUL it's called HOLLYWOOD HORROR (F), which is basically another good-looking teens die one by one flick. On the other hand, he showed us footage from another project that looked VERY promising PELGIDIUM GRANGER (A) (or Trigon: The Legend of Pelgidium). It's a super-natural Western starring Star Trek's Denise Crosby. In it Angus plays a preacher, who isn't afraid to do some two-fisted gun shooting when the occasion calls for it. From what he told us, the town is overrun by outlaws, led by who may be Lucifer himself. He also showed a short he did for the Fox TV series "Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction?" called "The Grave Digger's Nemesis." Great piece, where he could really ham it up as a mean-as-hell cemetery man (Except without the spheres). When he was first introduced, he took time to recognize fans he'd corresponded with, that he knew would be there -- calling them by name, and thanking them for coming. He also talked about working with the other guests of the convention -- including Linnea Quigley in FATAL FRAMES. He went on a long riff about Quigley's animal rights work, and how he'd seen her look after stray cats who populated their hotel in Italy during shooting. Angus also expressed his enthusiasm for a project that he, Linnea and Tom Savini would be working on called HELLQUEST. In it Angus would play the director of a psychiatric hospital, and Savini would be his most dangerous patient. Quigley would play Savini's equally-evil sister. And, yes, someone did coax him to do The Tall Man's signature, "Booyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!"
Me and Tom -- who's scarier? Mr. Savini addresses the crowd. The 300 dollar Leatherface mask (I want one). Sex Machine's famed weapon.
The effects guru and genre actor was a constant presence. Savini is responsible for some of the most gruesome FX of film history, including the first FRIDAY THE 13TH, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, CREEPSHOW and his NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake. Most at the show knew him as FROM DUSK TIL DAWN's Sex Machine (the fella with the crotch revolver). Tom talked about his upcoming role as a zombie hunter in CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD. He's also taped an appearance on THE SIMPSONS, in an episode currently titled, "The Worst Episode Ever." The plot is said to center around the comic-book-store guy and his Savini-inspired heart attack. He cracked a bullwhip on stage and lamented his not starring in the recent Antonio Banderas ZORRO flick, as he was going to until Robert Rodriguez opted out of directing the picture. He expressed concern about the future of VAMPIRATES, as one of the producers said, "What if there weren't any pirates?" In discussing From Dusk Til Dawn, he said the sequels "suck." Although, he hadn't seen the second, he admitted thinking THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER was actually a pretty good Western up until the vampires show up. I liked the flick a lot more than Savini, it seems. Someone asked how computer generated imagery (CGI) will impact makeup effects -- he emphatically said CGI greatly HELPS makeup artists, but ran out of time before he could explain. He spoke almost entirely about his acting career, and said he's become a lot more interested in acting, as opposed to creating effects. He also encouraged everyone to check out the horror-makeup revue at Universal Studios Florida, as he was involved in its creation (I'd seen it the day before, great show -- comedy-style telling of how simple gore effects are created. Plus, footage from various films. And a show-ending recreation of Jeff Goldblum's pod folly in THE FLY.) He said his best film experience was working on Dusk Til Dawn. He HATES the lauded "behind-the-scenes" documentary FULL TILT BOOGIE, as he thinks it fails to really give fans any insight, or even interview crucial players (the documentary will be included in the new DVD release, and will be released on VHS later this year.) Savini was kind enough to sign my Saw 2 DVD and pose for a photo with me. Speaking of Saw 2, Tom was selling Leatherface masks cast from the original molds he created for the film -- how much? $300. Savini also cursed the 30th Anniversary butchering of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, going so far to say that when he sees it in the video store, he puts his remake in front of it. On a more serious note, he said that George Romero's wife, upon seeing the new footage, shook Jack Russo and howled, "You RUINED George's movie!" Speaking of Romero, he and Tom are hoping to stage a theatre production of MACBETH -- complete with onstage gore effects.
Me and lovely Linnea. Earlier, Ms. Quigley with fewer clothes.
The scream queen had her own highlight reel -- which included her RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD monologue as Trash (who danced nekkid on a tombstone.) She also had one of the most unique death scenes ever when she was impaled on deer antlers in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. Linnea talked about her start in the business. How she played guitar and sang in a punk bad called The Skirts. Then she asked if there were any demon or zombie fans in the audience. I thought to myself, "Well, zombies are sorta cool." Next thing I know, I'm auditioning as a zombie ... I start to lumber across the stage, then (as I think it'd be funny), I dropped like a sack of potatoes on the floor ... groaned (for real) and staggered back up, took a few more steps, and collapsed at Linnea's feet. Then I hopped up and said, "Grrrrrrrrrr!" as goofily as I could. I'm not sure what possessed me. Maybe one of the demon fans, I dunno. Of the five contestants -- um, I didn't win. But I wasn't the worst. I swear! During the Q&A, still spacey from my pratfalls, I asked Ms. Quigley if she'd choreographed her famed tombstone dance herself. She paused, thoughtfully, and said something about how the director was very particular, and wanted things just so, but, "Yes," she had worked out the routine herself. I told her I really liked it. I mean, I really liked it. Nervous giggles filtered through the crowd. Just when I started to feel like a slimeball, some other dude, a lot sleazier then I could ever DREAM of being -- started harping on how hot she looked in WITCHTRAP. That's the one where she's nekkid (well, she's topless in most of them) and gets her throat slashed by a shower head. I caught her at her booth and shyly asked for a photo with her, only introducing myself as one of her zombies from earlier, "Oh, hi, Noel! You were great!" I got my photo. Whata doll. It should be noted that from the time she left the stage, and I got my photo she actually put on MORE CLOTHES. I hope that had nothing to do with my choreography question. Heh.
Jason chalks up another victim.
Hodder cooly holds forth from his center-stage perch.
Jason Voohrees was in the house to promote JASON X, which he SWEARS will not suck. Even if machete boy is flying around in space. Yep, someone freezes him, and David Cronenberg thaws him out 500 years later, or some such. And, yes, the story pretty much ignores the finale of FRIDAY THE 13TH: JASON GOES TO HELL -- a picture Kane isn't really a fan of. He talked about his stunt work, all the actors he'd worked with ... didn't have kind words for Steven Segal, but really respects Mel Gibson. Probably the most enlightening part of his presentation, was a clip show from the 13TH films that illustrated how the MPAA destroys them. There'd be a clip of how the film was cut to please the ratings board, than how it was actually shot -- in almost all cases ANY blood or gore was trimmed, and the scenes as filmed were far more horrifying. He also lamented the fact the Internet Movie Database has such an incomplete record of his career. Most all of the questions he fielded were Jason-centered. But I raised my hand, "You may have answered this before." Kane, "Well, if I did, I'll have to kill you." [Big crowd laugh.] "What, if anything, do you remember about making PROJECT: METALBEAST?" Kane hangs his head, and smiles, before going into a explanation how he got talked into doing the flick. I asked because I'd seen PMB on TNT's MonsterVision and LOVED it (unlike Joe Bob Briggs). Kane was the CIA werewolf ultimate warrior -- and he says the suit was one of the most uncomfortable he's ever worked in. I caught him in the signing line, and had him autograph my Metalbeast home video. He said they'd sent him a preview screener, but he'd never seen the printed video artwork. He signed it for me. Too bad I left my Todd McFarlane "Jason" action figure at home (no one else did -- and he says Florida has the bloodiest figures he's seen so far.)
Bill poses with the only fan who DIDN'T ask him about Herschell Gordon Lewis. Earlier, discussing his own illustrious career.
Here's the happiest accident of the show. I stuck around to see William, not really knowing much about him. Well, I didn't THINK I knew the Floridian director. Turns out, I'd seen his JAWS coat-tailer MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH on TV as a kid. His flick was about a fella who somehow befriends some sharks, that chew on all the folks he doesn't like. Bill ripped the story off a movie he'd made earlier, but instead of sharks, the guy had a buddy rattlesnake named STANLEY. Grefe made a name for himself in the drive-ins during the '60s and '70s with films like those and DEATH CURSE OF TARTU and STING OF DEATH. And he even talked an out-of-work William Shatner to play a murderous playboy in IMPULSE (or Want A Ride, Little Girl?). The footage he showed from the film contained a truly brilliant shot from inside a car sliding in and sinking into water. He explained exactly how the shot was done (using a junker car and an underwater camera). He also told great stories about snake and shark wrangling. They'd caught and beached a tiger shark for an under-water ballerina scene in Mako, when his crew asked if they could pull the shark's teeth to sell (they were getting $20 a piece for them, thanks to Jaws mania). The shark was on the beach for an hour, when they shoved it in a tank with an actress ... when it hit the water, it WOKE UP, and immediately latched onto her leg. Thankfully, she was only nearly gummed to death. Bill learned about working with sharks as the second unit director on LIVE AND LET DIE. Good news! Grefe's flicks will soon be distributed on DVD by Something Weird Video, the folks who brought us the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Ironically, it was Grefe who helped Herschell get his bearings when the gore king first arrived from Chicago to make movies in Florida. Sadly, when I talked to Mr. Grefe, he told me Mako may not arrive on DVD too soon, as he'd lost the rights to the film. Though, you can still find copies floating around on VHS. What a unexpected treat, to meet a drive-in legend like William Grefe.
The folks from Universal Halloween Horror Nights showed up with their latest creation, Jack (a really mean clown). THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT producer Gregg Hale showed up to push his new Fox TV series "Freaky Links." No one much cared to ask him for his autograph. Richard Liberty (DAY OF THE DEAD's Dr. Logan) talked about the joys of being a working actor.
The autographs I scored. An up-close look at the show's program.
Although I was disappointed with the lack of vendors, the show was a unique experience. I can imagine at larger events, the amount of interaction with the stars would have been dramatically less. It's hard to beat being able to walk up to someone like Angus Scrimm, or Tom Savini and just say, "Hi!" or ask them a detailed question about their career. Another interesting aspect, was that NO ONE charged for their autographs. Now, they'd love it if you bought one of their photos or books to have them sign, but they would just as readily sign whatever piece you lugged along. Even when I accidently bumped into The Hitchhiker from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE at a Dallas sci-fi show, he was charging $5 for an autograph. Sorta takes the magic out of it if you ask me. In short, I highly recommend attending a Fangoria show near you, but MY next stop will be the famous Chiller Theatre convention.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.