This past weekend (February 23-25, 2007) I stayed at the Wyndham O’Hare in Chicagoland to experience Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors. I was joined by my good friend Mr. Jason Lane and longtime acquaintance (and new friend) Mr. Matt “Zombie Rights Activist” Nieuwenhuis. I would just like to share my thoughts and photos regarding the various guests and activities that occurred over the weekend. I’ll try to recall what I can. (Note: many of the photos will be of Jason, not myself, due to the fact I take better photos with my camera than he does.)
Doug Bradley, Part 1
On the first evening (Friday) we did not arrive at the hotel until after 7:00 due to a thing called “day jobs” and another thing called “travel time”. So we missed Jeffrey Combs, which was unfortunate (my favorite horror film is “Re-Animator”, after all). Instead, we settled in and became acquainted with the place.
We went in the bar (Maxie’s) and after five minutes, Doug Bradley (“Hellraiser”‘s Pinhead) came in. One woman talked to him, but otherwise he was left alone. When asking to verify he was whom he seemed, he responded “Guilty as charged” in his distinct accent. We talked to Doug a bit and got some photos — which was cool not only because the other 100 people in the bar didn’t think to, but because we still hadn’t paid to get in!
Dead By Day / Ralis Kahn
There was a rock show from 9 to 12 that we didn’t want to pay to see. Playing was DJ Brianne, Living Dead Girls and Dead by Day. So we went back to our room (1211) for a while, but returned in a while to look for the pool. There was no longer an entrance fee to see the show, so we caught the headliners: Dead by Day, a metal band fronted by FX artist Ralis Kahn (more on him later). The music was pretty decent and the stage presence was very nice — the whole band was dressed up as cenobites in very realistic costumes. Ralis had a great metal voice, and he would light things on fire, which always helps.
John Russo and Russ Streiner
Before going to the convention, we checked out the vendors in the basement… lots of DVDs, a Troma booth, and more action figures than you can shake a stick at.
But what really stood out for Matt was the “Night of the Living Dead” booth with John Russo (the screenwriter) and Russ Streiner (who played Johnny, the guy who says “they’re coming to get you, Barbara!”). He had them sign the movie and got photos. I also got a photo (these are on Matt’s disposable camera so I’ll post one if I get a copy). I wasn’t buying stuff on Saturday, so I didn’t get anything. I came back on Sunday to get a Russo book (his novel of “Return of the Living Dead”) but they had packed up and left… mysteriously, since they were at the party Saturday night hitting on Debbie Rochon. Matt had bought a graphic novel on Saturday but wanted “zombie dirt” Sunday, so he was kind of bummed out, too.
I asked Russo how he felt about the “Return of the Living Dead” series going to shit. Parts four and five especially are some awful garbage if you haven’t seen them. Russo said he’s only seen parts one and two and that’s all he ever intends to see. I told him that was probably in his best interest because they were trying to murder his baby.
Getting in to the convention was slow on Saturday. Even though we had Silver Passes, we had to wait in line with the rabble. Luckily, all we missed was a bunch of movie previews (and believe me, I saw enough of those over the weekend).
Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees in the “Friday the 13th” series) had a booth where you could buy photos, or just get autographs and take photos. I had heard that Kane was a very fan-oriented guest and really liked to make people happy. I think this was accurate — he was more than happy to pose for photos or sign anything he appeared in (it was fun having him explain to people which movies were his and which weren’t). I had him sign my ticket, although I realized later I had “Wishmaster” with me… damn.
You’ll see in the photo that Kane wears gloves. He has burns over much of his body, so he has to wear the gloves… being a stuntman has its drawbacks. You’ll also see the Insane Clown Posse wristband… Kane is promoting the film “Hatchet” right now (though he didn’t mention this while I was at the booth).
Ken Foree (both “Dawn of the Dead” films, “Devil’s Rejects”) was a really fun speaker. He liked talking about himself, which bordered on the arrogant, but I think he probably just really loved doing what he does. Based on further bumping into him, he seems very much an entertainer who plays to his fans. I don’t recall the questions and answers he did for the most part, but I was able to get a photo (when security wasn’t looking) and he signed my ticket.
One thing I recall was about stunt doubles. When he started out, he didn’t use stunt doubles at all. There is a scene in the original “Dawn of the Dead” where he rolls, turns quickly and has to use his gun. The roll itself wasn’t too bad, but it had to be done on concrete. So years later when he started getting aches and pains, he realized how foolish it was to do his own stunts (though, in my opinion, this adds to the realism of movies — just look at how muscular Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunt double is for “Buffy”).
A note on security: we were not supposed to photograph the stars because the convention was charging $40 for “photo ops” with them. This was really stupid and most of the stars seemed opposed to it. Even bigger names like David Arquette would take photos when security wasn’t looking.
I have mixed feelings on Bill Moseley (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”, “Devil’s Rejects”, “Grindhouse”). He was a decent speaker, and told some good stories about playing Chop Top and Otis Driftwood. He explained what it was like to do the hotel scene with Priscilla Barnes (a very tense-looking scene) and talked about a shower scene he had in another film (I think it was called “Crash and Burn”) where he had to pretend to make love in a shower, and the water was ice cold so he tried to go quickly and the director kept making him re-shoot and slow it down.
Bill signed by ticket. The best part of his presentation, I thought, was Ken Foree yelling things at him from behind a curtain (where he was doing signings). The two had a great interaction and seemed like good friends — a Moseley-Foree Comedy Hour would have been worth seeing.
My mixed feelings stem from Bill’s photo policy. He was the only one I saw who seemed to really not want you to photograph him. He told me he couldn’t get a photo due to the convention policy, but I don’t think he was being completely honest. He also ran a booth where he sold merchandise he would sign. I suppose this was good for fans who wanted to buy things he could sign, but I got the impression Bill was more there for the money and not so much for the fans, which was a real turn off.
Marcus Nispel (director of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake) was in Chicago to talk about his new film, “Pathfinder”. He showed some footage from the upcoming film. Jason and Matt loved it, I thought it was just so-so. Not my type of film. A group of Vikings do Viking-related things… and speak in all Viking languages (with subtitles). I’m not big on all these “Lord of the Rings”-inspired epics (“300” for example) or these subtitled films (“Apocalypto”) when they don’t need to be. I’ll take a slasher film or a mad scientist instead, please. (But that’s my personal bias, not the fault of Mr. Nispel.)
We were all treated to complimentary graphic novels of the movie, and Marcus signed them for us (his signature is two squiggles and two dots). As you can see from the photo, Marcus is very Scottish-looking (and sounding).
David Arquette and Jason Mewes
David (“Scream”, “Eight Legged Freaks”) and Jason (“Scream 3”, “Clerks”) were on hand to show clips from their upcoming film “The Tripper” (which some people, but not myself, saw at the 8 Films to Die For festival in November 2006). It is about a bunch of hippies who get hacked up by a guy dressed as Ronald Reagan (get it? Reagan was The Gipper).
Neither David nor Jason were great speakers. Both were interesting — Mewes has a large and loyal fan base — but they also both stuttered a lot and seemed high on drugs of some sort (though Mewes has allegedly been clean for years). Mewes kept nodding off, not unlike his appearances on the “Evening With Kevin Smith” compilations. It was weird. At my friend Jason Lane’s request, I asked David what it was like to have his house bombed by Canada in the “South Park” movie. He said it was an honor to be bashed by “South Park”.
David and Jason signed a poster of “The Tripper” for me, and Mewes also signed my copy of “Mallrats”. (As many of you know, “Mallrats” is my all-time favorite movie, so that was a very special treat for me.)
Robert Kurtzman (writer of “From Dusk Til Dawn”) was on hand to discuss his involvement with various upcoming movies and comics. Particularly one called “The Rage”. I wasn’t really impressed. One film he showed clips from looked good, but I don’t recall offhand what it was… I had him sign “Wishmaster”. That’s really all I have to say about Bob…
Dee Snider, Fango Panel
Dee Snider moderated a panel consisting of Voltaire, Debbie Rochon, the guy who does Fangoria movies and the guy who does the Fangoria comics to give fans an idea of where the company is heading. I talk about Debbie and Voltaire later, so I’ll leave that alone for now. Also, the comics are really of no interest to me (I used to collect comics and have many still today, but haven’t actively purchased them since the days they were only a buck).
Dee is a big man — very tall, and with great presence. When he is in the room, he commands the room. I’m not a big Twisted Sister fan, but Matt enjoyed meeting him and getting his “Strangeland” soundtrack signed.
As for the Fangoria movies, I have my concerns. We have Lion’s Gate and Anchor Bay buying up films right and left. Some of which are really bad. So while I am always in favor of more movies getting better production and distribution, I have to assume that Fangoria will be involved with some of the most awful crap that’s left over. And, of course, being a horror magazine, they’ll give these shit films wonderful reviews. Maybe I’m very wrong or just really cynical, but I don’t have high hopes on this matter…
Also, the Editor — Tony Timpone — seems like a douchebag. I got the impression he saw horror as a business and nothing more. His knowledge of horror comes from his necessity to understand in order to make some bank, not because he actually likes horror films. He’s a sham, a phony, a fake. And he looks like Jerry Seinfeld.
Lloyd Kaufman (“The Toxic Avenger”, “Terror Firmer”) is a fan favorite without a doubt. He’s fun, funny, and knows how to really push the limits of a movie. He showed us about 10 minutes of the upcoming film “Poultrygeist”. Jason asked Lloyd if the film would have any car crashes that end in explosions. Lloyd responded, “do you really think we’d be that cheap?” which I take as a yes. (For those who don’t know, there is a scene where a car flips over and explodes. Not sure where it first appeared, but the scene has been spliced into many Troma films to add action without costing a dime.)
“Poultrygeist” is the Troma film to end all Troma films. I thought after “Terror Firmer” you really couldn’t do much more, but I saw a man’s testicles get torn out and deep fried. I saw a person defecate an egg. I saw another woman have two eggs grow from her chest and then be attacked by the babies inside. I mean, this is a film where possessed chicken-human hybrid zombies take over a fast food place… can you beat that? With appearances by Ron Jeremy, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (“South Park”) and Lemmy from Motorhead.
We also were treated to about five minutes of footage of “Toxie in Iraq”, which I wasn’t sure about. It was either really funny or really offensive. But, that’s Troma for you.
The jury is out on Shawnee Smith (all 3 “Saw” films, “The Blob”, “The Stand”, “Carnival of Souls”, “Becker”): is she a horrible speaker and a bitch, or is she just out of her element? Jason and Matt think she’s awful, I just think she’s misguided.
I will admit she was not a great speaker. She hesitated a lot and her answers were fairly short. The better speakers would go off on long tangents and give us information we can’t find elsewhere (Doug Bradley was the best with this). I got the impression this was due to her being in a foreign environment. She hasn’t been doing conventions 20 years like Foree, Moseley and Bradley. She doesn’t know how to do crowd interaction and she’s overwhelmed by horror fans — who are very passionate about their movies. She’s appeared in many horror films, but I wouldn’t say she’s immersed in the horror world.
Hearing about how the bear trap had to be fit on her head (and held in place with a tongue depressor was interesting, and she spoke highly of the prop department — every detail of the workshop and Amanda’s bedroom in “Saw III” had to be dreamt up by someone. Shawnee, incidentally, saw the cutting kit later that some fan bought fro man auction and was a bit terrified by it.
She spoke about how in-fighting can make or break a film. The crew on “Carnival of Souls” couldn’t decide what to make and the many rewrites lead to a complete disaster. Whereas, on “Saw III”, the dispute was about whether or not Amanda and Jigsaw would be killed. It lead to actually constructive criticism rather than animosity. As far as she knows, both are dead in the strictest sense because neither her nor Tobin Bell got calls back for “Saw IV” (she became good friends with Tobin while filming part 3).
She also explained that the Blob was made of the same substance that goes into McDonald’s shakes, which in turn lead her to give up fast food.
The worst thing about Shawnee was the way security handled her. Maybe she’s a big star (and David Arquette isn’t?) or maybe she’s a very attractive woman (she is), but security didn’t need to be all over her. There was no way you were going to get a picture with her, and anything you wanted signed had to pass through security — you couldn’t hand it to her directly. I had her sign a “Saw” comic for my best friend Hannah.
Later at the dessert party was even worse. Two guards would escort her from table to table where she would smile and wave at the fans. It was so incredibly lame. She might have stopped to talk for a bit (the other stars talked and sat with people for a while) but kept getting her arm pulled by security. I am very displeased about this.
Saturday ended with the lame Dessert Party. If you buy the special tickets for the party, you’re a complete idiot. Nothing cool happened here. Ron Fitzgerald did 4 magic tricks (and they were really amateur — things you could learn in an afternoon). Voltaire performed (he did good, but he works for Fangoria so he’s not a special guest). Bill Moseley sat at our table and had some ice cream, but we could talk to him at his booth any time we wanted. The Living Dead Girlz performed (again). It was just not all that interesting.
Jason and I got our pictures taken with Debbie Rochon, which was the only really fun part of the party for me… I’m quite a fan. (I was somewhat impressed that when I went to her booth the next day — see below — she recalled who I was. That was cool, since she obviously met with many people and in my opinion was quite drunk.)
Desmond played Big Brain in “The Hills Have Eyes” and also appears in “Turistas” — he was promoting the unedited version of “Turistas” and signed posters for all of us… and I had a photo taken, though it’s quite blurry (it was taken by his assistant or whatever she was).
Desmond was a good speaker — he brought his Big Brain teeth with him and did some voices and such. He also showed some footage of the special effects from “Turistas”. He wasn’t asked many questions, but for a new face in the horror world I thought he was really entertaining and good at reacting to the crowd.
I talked to Voltaire at his booth on Sunday and bought his CD because I like the song “God Thinks”. I guess I was the third person to say so, and he was going to add it to his Sunday night set… if he did, I don’t know, because we didn’t stay all day.
He asked where I was from and I said “Green Bay”, and he didn’t know where that was. (I’m actually from Kaukauna, but if you live outside my region you don’t know what Kaukauna is. In Wisconsin, I say I’m from Appleton. But if you live outside Wisconsin, you don’t know what Appleton is. So then I say Green Bay which is nowhere near me. If you’re like Voltaire and don’t know where GB is, you’re screwed.) So I had to give him a geography lesson (which is sad that a guy who is in Chicago doesn’t know where Wisconsin is).
He drew a map for me of the United States and explained when you grow up in New York, everything is New York or New Jersey. North is Maine, south is Florida and west is California. Everything else is called “Iowa” and there’s nothing in it. This makes sense, but it’ still sad… I know where many cities in New York are, why can’t he know where Green Bay is?
Have I said enough for much I love Debbie Rochon? I’ll say it once more: I love Debbie Rochon. So I went to her booth and she recalled me from the Dessert Party (I told her I’d be back to have my DVD signed). So I talked to her for a bit, and she was really cool. She signed my DVD (“Tromeo and Juliet”) and a book I got from her (“The B-Movie Survival Guide”), as well as giving me some chocolate and a million dollar bill with her face on it.
One thing I was really curious about was her involvement in such films as “Filthy McNasty” and “Mulva, Zombie Ass Kicker”. I asked her how she went from such classy films as Troma’s “Tromeo and Juliet” and “Terror Firmer” and “Citizen Toxie” to such films as those others, that look like a guy in his basement with a camcorder and a $10 budget. I didn’t mean for that to sound rude, because I really, really liked “Filthy McNasty” — but it’s still a good question.
I learned the budget is much higher than I would expect (I won’t tell you how high), and how great the director (Chris Seaver) is — he’s “a member of the Troma family”, according to Debbie. Also, he is allegedly going to be segueing into bigger budget films soon that might have a higher quality. I’m quite interested, because while the filming is poor, the writing is brilliant and I’d like to see more of this.
I would have talked to Debbie longer, but I think other people wanted to and my friends were in the auditorium waiting for me…
Doug Bradley, Part Two
I think I mentioned above Doug Bradley was the best speaker of the weekend. This is one thing Matt, Jason and I are in agreement on. He was funny and told some great stories about how hard it is to use the bathroom when you’re strapped into a cenobite suit.
Doug spoke of his love for Shakespeare and the theater work he did with Clive Barker, leading to their long friendship (and how that also got him the role of Pinhead without auditioning). It was interesting to hear about his theater career, something not really well-known to many people probably.
One person asked him to explain “The Killer Tongue” (which you should see if you haven’t), which Doug freely admits he signed up for simply because the plot was so outrageous. So, he ran through the whole plot in his own words and it was pretty amusing. Hearing an old Englishman speak about nuns, cross-dressing poodles, and Robert Englund is always good.
We learned that to master the Southern American accent in “Pumpkinhead 3” he kept Johnny Cash in constant rotation on his iPod. Doug even sang a few lines for us.
What got the best response from people was when someone asked how many pins were in his head (and we learned the makeup man always removed one for good luck at random before each shot). Doug didn’t know and asked if anyone in the audience knew. Nobody did. So he joked, “this is the difference between horror fans and Star Trek fans. Trekkies would know how many pins, the gauge of the pins, the metallic composition and so on… horror fans just say — ‘hey, they’re pins, that’s fucking cool!!'” Everyone laughed.
Ralis Kahn, Part Two
Ralis Kahn, makeup and effects artist and singer for Dead by Day spoke of his long career working on many movies and with a wide variety of bands. No one really knew who he was (which Ralis is used to) and spent more time cheering when he mentioned bands they liked (Marilyn Manson, Devil Driver, Iron Maiden) than asking him insightful questions.
I don’t know Ralis either, unfortunately. Here are some films he worked on: Faust, Dogma, Resident Evil: Extinction (he showed us some footage he shot of a zombie getting its head blown off behind the scenes), Stuart Little 2, Progeny, Waitress, Tenacious D: Pick of Destiny, TV: The Movie, and many more… he often goes uncredited.
Joe Lynch is an unknown… he had a small role in Troma’s “Terror Firmer” (which ties him to Lloyd Kaufman and Debbie Rochon, making this a Troma-packed weekend). Now, he’s the director of “Wrong Turn 2” despite no serious directing experience.
Joe had a horrible potty-mouth and was more like an enraged fan than a professional. But that make him fun to listen to, because he got more excited about everything than most of us… he showed a clip from “Wrong Turn 2” and it looked really good. Disemboweling, a vegan being fed entrails (nasty!) and Henry Rollins. Oh, and Ken Kirzinger, the actor who replaced Kane Hodder as Jason.
If Joe Lynch can match Rob Schmidt (the director of “Wrong Turn”) then he has a chance to go places… Schmidt really impressed me with “Right to Die”.
If you’re into horror films, go to this. I will definitely be at the 2008 Weekend of Horrors in Chicago! I also recommend ordering the gold or silver tickets and not just the $15 passes. Jason says he wants to just get the $15 ones next year, but I will tell you the extra cost pays for itself: the photos, the signatures and the freebies are pretty cool. And, of course, the better seating. (Many people who went on Saturday did not get a seat — the seats were sold out by noon.)
Heck, if I wanted to, I could sell my signed merchandise back for more than the cost of my ticket… but why would I do that? I’m proud of my “Fango swag”!