WEEKEND OF HORRORS
BY G. NOEL GROSS | August 17, 2001
I still feel a little slimy. As compared to the intimate idol worship at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors in Orlando, the scene in Pasadena (Aug. 11-12, 2001) was decidedly more -- how shall I put this -- Hollywood. Instead of a naked celebration of genre pictures and the people who make them, too often this convention's mood meandered toward that of a crass press junket. Despite its apparent bigger-is-better mantra, intermittent looks of abject boredom still fluttered across the faces of even the most diehard of gorehounds. But like the myth of bad sex, the pros still manage to out pace the cons (take that word any way you want) making the overall experience worth the effort, if not the $30 daily admission price. Thankfully, being a member of the leering press -- and your eyes and ears -- my admission was complimentary. Thank you, Creation Entertainment.
FlixMix dominated Fango with news of their Boogeyman DVD thanks to formidable pitchmen like Gunnar Hansen.
Fangoria editor Tony Timpone kicked off both days of the convention with a collection of trailers and promo reels: Anime fans will probably be excited about the A.I.-ish Metropolis (F), but I'm not sure why. The Rollerball (C) remake encourages moviegoers to "go ballistic," while word is part of its delay has to do with the studio's decision to cut the film to earn the now prized PG-13 rating (a reaction to backlash against studios marketing R-rated films to teens). Director Andreas Schaas promises more Violent S@#% in Demonium (D). Look for the screen adaptation of the Faust: Love of the Damned (D) comic on disc soon from Brian Yunza. Director Jack Sholder of The Hidden has a creature feature called Arachnid (A) that looks like it has legs. The Rock apes Ah-nold in the swords 'n' sandals prequel The Scorpion King (B). Jet Li tries not to sound like a member of the Lollipop Guild in the Matrix coat-tailer The One (D). A trite vampire picture called Fatal Kiss (D) didn't draw blood. Stuart Gordon brings the Lovecraft story Dagon (B) to the screen in his typically ferocious fashion. The can-tastic Shannon Elizabeth and that annoying dude from Scream star in 13 Ghosts (C) another FX-heavy William Castle remake. Hope seems lost for the much-delayed Soul Survivors (B), which is the only teen-ensemble horror flick I've been remotely interested in seeing. Snoop Dogg takes his horror fandom to the screen in Bones (A+), which could easily be a surprise hit. There's also two road pictures that look incredible, the lesser of the two is Joyride (A) about teens who run into a murderer on the highway (think The Hitcher meets Duel). But the best one appears to be Jeepers Creepers (A+) which attempts to bring raw '70s horror into the oughts. Do NOT miss this one in the theater.
CineSchlocker favorite Reggie Banister of the Phantasm films was on hand to greet fans and talk up Bubba Ho-Tep. It's a weird-beard mummy picture he made with director Don Coscarelli, Bruce Campbell (as Elvis Presley) and Ossie Davis (as Jack Kennedy). Reggie's the administrator of a nursing home that falls victim to an undead terror and it's up to the geriatric celebs to save the day. He confirms that Bruce IS attached to the fifth Phantasm picture, which is currently on the back burner. Banister also encourages fans to lobby for the release of Phantasm II and III on DVD.
B-stalwart David DeCoteau's Rapid Heart Pictures has carved a unique niche for itself with a series of genre films that turn the tables on convention by objectifying men in the same way horror pictures have typically done women. Instead of buxom blondes running from blood-thirsty killers in their undies, it's chiseled hunks in their tighty whites. Stars Bradley Stryker, Donnie Eichar, Forrest Cochran and Jennifer Capo fielded a smattering of questions. DeCoteau addressed the convention via video tape and thanked everyone for their support. The filmmaker is really a throwback to the golden era of exploitation movies of the '60s and '70s, as he works incredibly fast, shooting complete 35mm films in a week's time. But the quality of what he puts on the screen belies the pace in which it was produced. What a pro. Look for a new special edition release of The Brotherhood with commentary and more in time for Christmas. Also on the horizon are Final Stab (B), Brotherhood 2: Young Warlocks (B) and production is nearing completion on Kiss of the Damned.
Producer Christopher Figg (Hellraiser) was as animated as any proper English gentleman is allowed to be about his upcoming werewolf picture called Dog Soldiers (A+). He aptly describes it as "Zulu with werewolves." The story follows six special forces types who happen upon these beasts of the field and bad things happen. Figg's hope is that the flick will advance the genre beyond the Howling franchise and antiquated (a.k.a. expensive) "transformation" sequences. Could be the best film of its ilk since Project: Metalbeast.
FX dudes Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis of Amalgamated Dynamics were big hits talking about the Tremors trilogy, which I'll be covering soon. They're especially proud to have incorporated fan ideas regarding their subterranean beasties in Tremors 3: Back to Perfection. They were also good natured when it came to answering questions about Alien 4 and the designs for its controversial alien/human hybrid.
It's hard not to like Gary Tunnicliffe. He's like a 10-year-old who's had too much candy and Mountain Dew. This is exactly the sort of enthusiasm for the genre I like to see (in small doses). Gary did some keen severed heads for Dracula 2000 awhile back, and he's also going to be working on Hellraiser 6. Yep, another one.
The famed Boogeymen panel as seen from the cheap seats.
Despite the unashamedly commercial reason these fellas were thrust onto a stage together it was still an absolute thrill for the largest crowd of the convention (600+). We have Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface), Tony Todd (Candyman) and "masters of horror" Clive Barker and Peter Atkins. First, they danced with who brung them by plugging the new Boogeymen DVD by FlixMix which features video clips and goodies from more than 15 horror films. As Atkins quipped, "it's jam-packed with deeply unpleasant moments." I've had a chance to peruse the demo version of this impressive disc. Look for a complete review once I get my hands on the real deal, plus I talk with FlixMix producer Gary Shenk about Boogeymen and what's ahead in his unique world of interactive entertainment.
In time things moved away from merchandising into a true fan's feast. Gunnar was the comedian of the group, turning his wry wit against the panel's most too-cool-for-school member, "Do you think if you said Clive Barker backwards three times he'd go away?" And he also liked to emphasize his "28 year" seniority among boogeymen, and he's still raring to fight, "I've been thinking about challenging Mankind on Halloween. Just making a public announcement that I'm sick of being ripped off and I want to face [the wrestler] in the ring."
My favorite moments were when the discussion turned to flicks of the pop-slasher era and the daggers came out. Barker hesitated starting a rant by asking, "Is there anyone in the house who had anything to do with Urban Legend?" Englund just looked at him and grinned, while the crowd erupted. But Clive went on to say he's tired of "the comedy," while Gunnar agreed saying that merely "winking at the audience" doesn't make for a good flick. "I think for a movie to be a true horror film, you have to have some sort of character who is truly evil, and represents something dark in human nature. There really is no bad guy in Scream, because at the end it's explained that it could have been anyone in the film. They just pick somebody at random. He doesn't drive the film at all. All he does is show up and kill people," the former chainsaw enthusiast lamented. Understandably, Englund played peacemaker, "In defense of my Dr. Frankenstein, Wes Craven, I don't think the Scream films are horror films. I don't think we should hold that standard to them. ... We had exploited so many convenient and unimaginative devices in the genre that Wes sort of stood up and answered the people who were making him apologize and calling him horrormeister, with this Scream movie. It made everybody hip to every single device that a lot of cheap-thrill film directors were exploiting. However, I think it's gotten out of hand ... there's nothing scary about watching Courteney Cox perspire in broad daylight."
Englund went on to confirm that Freddy vs. Jason has the green light. Clive was clearly moved by the crowd's response when Gods and Monsters was mentioned, "It really pleases me that you like that movie as much as you do. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." I was probably clapping the loudest. Brilliant picture. And the fellas rounded things out by citing their favorite horror films: Gunnar (The Haunting)
Peter (King Kong)
Robert (The Innocents)
Todd (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)
Finally, it was announced that the group would do a 20-minute signing of Boogeymen promotional material ONLY, which would not be personalized. Oddly missing from the evening's panel were Andrew Divoff (The
Wishmaster), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) and the great Tobe Hooper who were previously slated to appear.
Where's Corey Haim!? He's listed as the first guest of the day and he ain't no where to be seen. Credited next to his name in the program are the titles Lost Boys, Silver Bullet, Watchers and Backlot Murders (his latest), but I'm itching to whip the little twerp with questions about "working with" Nicole Eggert in the immortal Blown Away. Guess I won't be getting my video sleave autographed either. I sure am glad I staked out my claim on this spot 12 rows back from the stage. You see, the first 200+ seats are high-dollar "reserved" spots, keeping the unwashed masses (who paid $30, mind you) at a distance far more desirable to the "I'm Crushing Your Head" guy on Kids in the Hall than a horror fan. Gosh, I hope the NEXT panel doesn't suck.
Damn. Is it too late to get a $5 hotdog? OK, who knew there was a demand for a Nightmare on Elm Street 4 session!? Andras Jones (Rick), Tuesday Knight (Kristen) and Lisa Wilcox (Alice) muddled through as virtual crickets broke the crowd's silence. Among the amazing tidbits revealed was the fact Tuesday and Lisa didn't become friends until YEARS after the movie, but now they share an internet jewelry business called Toebrights.com. Oh, and that Tuesday and Andras used to do it and stuff.
Publicist be gone! Had directors Albert and Allen Hughes been allowed to appear solo, their From Hell (A) Q&A would have been among the weekend's best. Instead, a studio flack padded out their alloted time with HIS "questions" (a.k.a. copy points). To their credit, the Hughes Brothers were able to bridge this barrier between themselves and fans, while at the same time ruffling the fussy publicist's feathers with unflattering comments about Disney and Hollywood in general. They've proved themselves accomplished filmmakers with Menace II Society and their adaptation of Allen Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel series should be powerful. Especially with Johnny Depp on Jack the Ripper's bloody trail. They swear there's "definitely some Fangoria s@#% going on."
They've got one of the hottest horror pictures to come along in ages, Jeepers Creepers, but stars Gina Philips and Justin Long are danged yawn-inspiring despite their efforts at forced enthusiasm. Their favorite crutch words were "authentic" and "real." Ms. Philips also kept harping about how they played BROTHER AND SISTER. While Jonathan Breck, homicidal maniac on the rise, seemed legitimately psyched about the film and being able to gush about it at Fango. Oh, and bet on a sequel.
OK, so it's not a panel, but ENOUGH with these lame "auctions." Either get something worth reaching for our wallets over, or don't bother at all. The most embarrassing item: a signed John Travolta photo from Battlefield Earth. Bidding was pushed along in $5 increments to the staggering price of $20. Hardly enough cashola left for crack, eh?
The damn, dirty apes are missing. According to my program, it's time for a session devoted to The Planet of the Apes franchise and all they can muster is Eric Green who just WROTE A BOOK about the pictures, but was never actually IN ONE. Oh, and Booth Colman who played Dr. Zaius ... ON THE TV SERIES. It's when Green starts in about the social ramifications of Apes that I throw up my arms and run howling from the hall. Well, duh! That's it. I give up.
A good way to gage a con is to quiz the dealers. Chances are there's a reason if they're grumbling. The skinny isn't good on Fango, which might explain why space rentals were slashed to lure murmuring merchants. Twice as many vendors were in Pasadena than Orlando, but that's not saying much (I counted less than 20). On hand were a gaggle of folks peddling pricey bootleg videos, movie memorabilia, model kits and there were representatives from at least two special-effects make up outfits. A big surprise was to run into the fellas from Brawlin' Broads -- a seedy party video destine to out sleaze Girls Gone Wild. The show features the Boone Brothers who pit trailer-trash vixens in furious, hair-pulling, bitch-slapping matches that make "Jerry Springer" look like "Mister Rogers." A DVD version is planned in conjunction with an upcoming national TV ad campaign, so keep an eye out during your late-night cable travels for that. I definitely recommend it.
It's sort of weird to walk through the dealer room, and there at the next table from a guy selling Metallica concert videos is exploitation legend Jack Hill. I sort of got the feeling he felt a little out of place as well when I introduced myself. I've been stringing together a tribute to his work and look forward to interviewing Mr. Hill after it's completed. He was there with Sid Haig who starred in many of Jack's films like The Big Doll House, Coffy, Foxy Brown and Spider Baby. Haig also starred in Rob Zombie's stalled House of a 1,000 Corpses along with this guy . . .
Bill Moseley embodies what a Fangoria convention SHOULD be. CineSchlockers will remember Bill as Chop Top -- Leatherface's Vietnam veteran brother with the steel plate in his noggin and a CHRONIC dandruff problem. Well, during the course of each day, Bill had his buddies make him over into Chop Top there for all to see. It can't be a pleasant way to spend his afternoon, but to talk to Moseley you wouldn't know it. And fans react -- BIGtime -- lining up for photos and autographs. My snapshot with him was free, but for just $5 he signed my Saw 2 DVD and gave me my very own coat hanger which he used right then and there to scratch is plate. Now THAT'S getting your money's worth. Check out Bill's website at ChopTopsBBQ.com where you can see the trailer for William Hooper's All American Massacre -- a short-film tribute to his pop's classic.
This should have been a lot more fun than it was. I much preferred Fangoria's small show in Orlando to this bloated and ultimately empty display. Neither can hold a skull and crossbones next to Chiller Theatre Expo. If Weekend of Horrors comes to your neck of the woods by all means go check it out -- enjoy yourself. But don't bother dipping into your travel budget.
Gunnar Hansen greets Texas Chainsaw Massacre fans
Reggie Bannister of the Phantasm franchise
Bill Moseley becomes the steel-plated Chop Top
Chop Top of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Genre filmmaker Jack Hill made Pam Grier a star
The lauded FlixMix Boogeyman DVD panel
A view of the less-than-bustling convention floor
Yet another cool space alien I can't afford
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.