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The May, 2011 L.A. Weekend of Horrors

The latest L.A. Weekend of Horrors convention, which took place during May 14 and 15, is now over--and, as has been the case with most of these recent events, it was largely a bust. Admittedly, I only really experienced one of the event’s two days; I had a previous commitment on Saturday and so only got a chance to poke my head in on the dealers’ room that day. Yet aside from an evening appearance by John Carpenter, it doesn’t appear that I missed too much (forgive me, but SUBSPECIES and DEMONS reunion panels don’t sound too exciting).

     To read about how the Weekend of Horrors once was (i.e. cool), see here. That was back when the WoH was a jam-packed three day affair presented under the auspices of Fangoria magazine in conjunction with Creation Entertainment. In the last couple years, alas, the cash-strapped Fango has distanced itself from the event, leaving Creation to go it alone. Thus far the results haven’t been too inspiring.

     As with last year’s WoH, this one was held in the convention hall of the LAX Marriot Hotel, located beneath the main part of the hotel. This explains the cramped and claustrophobic feeling of this WoH, which not that long ago filled a sizeable portion of the cavernous L.A. Convention Center. It’s best not to think back to those days, as the quality of the dealers’ room swag has deceased markedly from then to now, just as the presence of has-been actors and filmmakers has increased. This year saw the likes of CONTAMINATION director Luigi Cozzi, ESCAPE 2000 director Brian Trenchard Smith, Lance Henriksen and Ernest Borgnine peddling autographs for upwards of $20 apiece. The film room? I didn’t bother checking it out. Ditto the art “ghoullery,” situated in a stuffy room with what seemed like a very scant assortment of artwork.

     That leaves the panel discussions by various horror folk, hosted by Creation honcho Adam Malin and a giggly chick whose name I didn’t catch. Again, I only caught Sunday’s presentations and so can’t report on what occurred the previous day, but the panels I saw were very much in keeping with the show’s overall vibe--all, that is, except for one.

     That one was definitely not Sunday’s “Ladies of Horror” presentation. Featured were Brooke Lewis (a.k.a. “Ms. Vampy”), DEMONSGerretta-Gerretta, Sybil Danning and Tippi Hedren. Danning, a fixture at these shows, did most of the talking--much of it about her role in THE HOWLING 2(!).
     More interesting was the 81-year-old Ms. Hedren, who’s aged extremely well. She spoke at some length about her initial meeting with “Hitch” on THE BIRDS, getting live birds repeatedly thrown at her throughout the production (being an animal lover, she claimed not to mind all that much) and Hitch’s answer to her question of why she’d venture into an attic alone in the film’s climax: “Because I told you to, dear!” I was hoping Tippie might detail how Hitch propositioned her on MARNIE, but the moderator cut her off and ended the panel before she could do so. Boo!

     Next up was one of those reunion panels so popular at these events. It was the fifth anniversary of BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (oh boy!), with the director and several cast members in attendance. Their primary intent was to drum up interest in a sequel, which is currently on hold because the filmmakers “don’t have a single financier in town” who wants to invest (I wonder why?).

     Following this was an auction of signed photos and posters held by Adam Malin. Nothing auctioned off seemed too interesting to me, but my fellow audience members evidently felt otherwise, as nearly every item fetched upwards of $120.

     Tom Savini was up next. During the first half of his appearance he discussed coming up with various ways to kill people on George Romero’s flicks, how Joe Spinell kept a Savini-created severed head from MANIAC by his TV set, how Savini once visited Manhattan Beach’s late Video Archives at the behest of a pre-RESERVOIR DOGS Quentin Tarantino, and how Savini is the “first degree” of Kevin Bacon due to the fact that Savini killed him in FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH.
     For the remainder of the presentation two directors of an anthology film Savini was pimping took the stage: Jeremy Katsen and Buddy Giovinazzo. As a huge fan of the flick COMBAT SHOCK and book LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN, I was particularly excited to see Mr. Giovinazzo. The latter, speaking in a New York accent so thick I initially thought it was fake, admitted he was excited to be part of the current project because he was told the film “couldn’t be stronger than an NC-17,” an encouraging sign considering Giovinazzo has struggled with censorship throughout his career. Unfortunately he didn’t get a chance to say much else, as the motor-mouthed Katsen hijacked most of the rest of the presentation.

     Next was A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’S Heather Langenkamp, promoting her new documentary I AM NANCY. She showed extensive clips from the film, which evidently profiles NIGHTMARE’S effect on Heather’s life. Doesn’t sound too interesting to me (there are already several books and movies about NIGHTMARE’S impact), but Heather promised that I AM NANCY contains “an important message for the screwed-up times we live in today.”

     Heather Langenkamp remained onstage for the following panel, a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies reunion featuring cast members from various NIGHTMARE sequels. I’ve seen most of those films and didn’t recognize any of the people on the panel, the most entertaining of whom was a rotund black guy who appeared in a couple of the NIGHTMARE flicks, and was apparently “the first African-American to survive a horror film.”

     Nope, nothing too inspiring came out of the above panels, but there WAS a presentation toward the end of the day that nearly repaid all the boredom I’d suffered leading up to it: the first ever convention appearance by Asia Argento!
     Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Asia. I’ve always found her acting hit and miss, making little impression in the likes of xXx or her father Dario’s films (in which she’s nearly always miscast), yet in BOARDING GATE and THE LAST MISTRESS she’s the epitome of cool--and that’s how I’d sum up her appearance here.
     Fetchingly garbed in a mini-dress and clearly blitzed out of her skull on God only knows what, Asia was the closest thing to a rock star I’ve seen at any Weekend of Horrors (not counting the numerous appearances by Rob Zombie). Her heavily accented speech was halting and shaky (it sounded like she was going to burst into tears at any moment), her demeanor fragile yet quite blunt (she’d frequently signal boredom and/or dissatisfaction by tapping her microphone against the side of her chair, resulting in loud thumping from the speakers).
     Asked if it was difficult growing up in a showbiz family, Asia’s breezy response was “Are you kidding? It was great!” Other subjects she covered included Marilyn Manson (“He has incredible aesthetics and is a very smart guy”), Abel Ferrara (who got Asia into trouble because he had her kiss a dog during a striptease in GO GO TALES), her role in Sophia Coppola’s MARIE ANTOINETTE (“A lot of champagne, everyone was drunk…I don’t remember much of it”), the fact that she appeared in seven movies last year but “not all of them are very exciting,” her understandable discomfort with doing nude scenes in films directed by her father (who himself has no problem with it), and the fact that the latter didn’t speak to her for two years after she turned down a role in THE CARD PLAYER.

     Following was yet another reunion, for which Asia remained onstage. It was for THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, and included FX man Sergio Stivaletti and second unit director Luigi Cozzi, neither of whom spoke much English. Most of the audience members’ questions went to Asia, who called STENDHAL her own favorite of the films she made with her father (because it’s “so fucked up”) and complained of how her voice was dubbed for the film’s U.S. release even though she spoke English. Asia also revealed that it was the first Italian feature to use CGI, and that her father claims to have had the actual Stendhal Syndrome as a young man.

     The final presentation was by doll maker Christy Kane, who screened a visually impressive, highly Tim Burton-esque black-and-white short called CALLALILLY starring one of her creations and helmed by KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE director Stephen Chiodo. As for Christy herself, she was lively and cute, and gave out free DVDs of the aforementioned short. Too bad she was stuck with the unenviable task of following up Asia Argento (a tough act for anyone), and a largely deserted auditorium.

     And with that the weekend was over. The next one of these, FYI, is set to occur in 2012. Maybe I’ll be there--but that’s a big maybe!

                    

--5/19/11 

     

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