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Fangoria’s June,  2006 Weekend of Horrors:  A Reminiscence

For those who don’t know, the Weekend of Horrors is a convention put on each year by Fangoria magazine in conjunction with Creation Entertainment.  This latest West Coast WoH occurred on June 2-4, 2006, and was held, as were the last three or four, in the Burbank Airport Hilton auditorium, out in the nether reaches of Burbank, CA (a.k.a. The End of the Universe).  I’ve been to nearly every West Coast Weekend of Horrors since the early 1990’s, as it’s an event near and dear to my heart.  All have featured big dealers’ areas with DVDs, books, t-shirts and other goodies for sale; an auditorium where FANGO’S diminutive suit-wearing editor Tony Timpone hosts presentations highlighting upcoming horror flicks; and hordes of autograph sessions that I traditionally skip.  (Forty bucks for an autograph?  I think not!) 

     If you’ve never attended one of these shows you can rest assured that the crowd this year—-by far the biggest I’ve yet experienced--was as you might expect.  For “straight” America I’m sure the reaction would be similar to that of an elderly man I glimpsed staring down, disapprovingly, from an upper room of the hotel at the black T-shirt wearing crowd milling around below.  Yet what never fails to surprise me is the level of politeness displayed by these folks.  I was bumped into several times but always heard an excuse me, was never jostled or cut in front of while standing in line, and could always count on the people in front of or behind me to save my place.  Makes for quite a contrast with some of the black tie events I’ve attended, in which snide comments were the norm and seating available only to those willing to shove their way through any and everyone in their path.

     Having said that, I will admit to one minor problem with a fellow event-goer who I never met face-to-face, but who insisted on erasing my website URL from the whiteboard in the main hallway and scrawling his own name in its place.  I of course erased the dweeb’s scribbling and re-filled in my own, only to come back an hour or so later to find that my unseen nemesis had struck again.  The whole thing reminded me, not unpleasantly, of my experiences on the seventh grade playground: a nostalgic pissing contest!

     But anyway, here’s my day-by-day account of the event, beginning on Friday, June 2, which was frankly something of a bust.  It commenced with a severe lull that threw the entire day off for me, when the folks at Creation--displaying the same organizational skills that caused a near-riot last year when they oversold their ticket capacity and had to turn hundreds of people away at the door--held up the admissions line for an ungodly length of time.  As one who was in that line, sweating his balls off in what felt like 130 degree heat, I can assure you the experience was far from pleasant!  There was talk among my fellow sufferers of storming the hapless volunteer at the door, who kept assuring us the wait would only be “ten more minutes”.  The line was finally let in around 1 PM, a full hour and forty five minutes after the scheduled opening time--AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGH! 

     The quality of the dealers’ area was above average, encompassing a large room, the surrounding hallway and two smaller rooms toward the rear of the building.  There were the usual assortment of DVD, sculpture and make-up vendors, many of whom I recognized from years past.  There was also that old fart John Russo, milking the fact that he co-wrote NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and pathetically so--he was peddling dirt allegedly walked on during the filming of NOTLD (complete with a “certificate of authenticity”) and DAWN OF THE DEAD paychecks.  Can you say Loser?

     At least the freebie table in the main hallway contained lots of good stuff, including full-sized posters for the new OMEN and SEE NO EVIL, and a one sheet for the original HILLS HAVE EYES.  The bummer is that once I’d stood in line to grab those things and navigated the dealers’ rooms (purchasing my usual haul: lots of DVDs), I’d already missed several of the panels I was wanting to attend, most notably a presentation on filmmaker Rusty Nails’ George Romero documentary DEAD ON.  I did manage to catch the tail of end of director Fred Dekker’s presentation, however--Dekker is the helmer of eighties horrors like NIGHT OF THE DEMONS and THE MONSTER CLUB, and revealed that he once wanted to make a sequel to the latter in which the clubbers battle Godzilla.  He also urged fans of the films to deluge their respective copyright holders with emails demanding they be released on DVD. 

     Before I knew it the day was nearly over.  I missed the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3-D and ABOMINABLE panels, as well as a presentation by actor Lance Heriksen.  I did catch part of a promo for a new flick called BROTHERHOOD OF BLOOD with Sid Haig, Jason Connery and a couple German guys who spoke with near-impenetrable accents, and a few minutes of Charles Band, the sleazemeister proprietor of Full Moon Entertainment, who closed out the day with his (yawn) “Full Moon Road Show”.  I bailed on that one ASAP!

     I was back bright and early Saturday morning, where one thing immediately became apparent about the previous day that I hadn’t noticed initially: Friday was remarkably uncrowded.  Saturday by contrast was packed near to the ceiling with sweaty bodies.  It was a sellout day, which made the simple act of walking through the dealers’ area a challenge. 

     I decided to check out the film room adjacent to the convention auditorium, a tight, dark space, actually a hotel meeting room with the curtains drawn and various flicks digitally projected on a wall.  I viewed the end of something called EYES OF THE CHAMELEON, an amateur slasher fest with a chick slashing up everything in sight in a sleazy hotel room.  Unintended laughter was a mainstay.  Next was Lucky MeKee’s MASTERS OF HORROR segment “Sick Girl”, with MAY’S Angela Bettis acting up a storm (some might even say overacting) as an uptight lesbian dealing with a free-spirited lover, a bitchy landlord and a mutant bug.  Fun, gross-out stuff the audience ate up. 

     I also caught some panels, nearly all of which were afflicted with assorted technical problems (take a bow, Creation!).  The first was a presentation by the participants in a new documentary on HALLOWEEN that was punctuated by noisy fart-like sounds.  A jittery Tony Timpone claimed afterward that the noises were “not my fault...I didn’t cause them!” 

     A MASTERS OF HORROR presentation followed with series creator Mick Garris, directors Stuart Gordon and William Malone, and scripter David Schow, all excited about the new season of MOH.  Garris good-naturedly fielded a questioner who asked if it was difficult working with Jack Nicholson on THE SHINING--“I made the other SHINING”, Garris replied.  He also talked about Takashi Miike’s MOH segment, which is going straight to DVD because Showtime found it “too intense”.  He seemed to have more to say, but an ear-splitting fire alarm went off in the middle of Garris’ spiel and wouldn’t cease blaring, despite the fact that there was no fire anywhere in evidence.  The Creation people naturally treated this with all the urgency of a fart on the moon; “Is anyone running this hotel??” Garris shouted over the din of the alarm.  No answer was forthcoming. 

     I later caught part of the HACK/SLASH panel (the alarm by this time having shut off), the contents of which have already faded from memory, and a presentation to promote a slasher called REEKER, about a smelly critter.  At least this panel featured the pretty actress Arielle Kebbel, who spent more time discussing her role in the upcoming GRUDGE 2 than she did about the film she was there to promote.

     But the day’s most important event wasn’t until 6:10 PM, when the inimitable Bruce Campbell hit the stage.  Bruce was his usual smarmy-jokey self, playing the audience like the old pro he is.  He had nothing to promote (although he did reveal that BUBBA NOSFERATU, a sequel to BUBBA HO-TEP, is in production and that long-rumored FREDDY VS. JASON VS. ASH flick is not).  His antics included playing the two sides of the room against each other: “The people on this side are all morons, let’s take a question from this side”...and then, “Let’s go back to the other side, these people are idiots!”  The crowd, by far the largest for any of the panels, loved every minute, especially when Bruce called a fourteen-year-old pink haired girl up to the stage for an impromptu screaming test--when she was done he called after her, “when you get a day job don’t quit it!”  Of course those damned technical problems reared their ugly heads once again, with backstage feedback frequently cutting into Bruce’s mic, although he managed to make a bit out of it with his carefully modulated body language and facial expressions.  I’m amazed this guy hasn’t gone into stand-up comedy or public speaking--I guarantee he’d be bigger than Anthony Robbins were he to do so.

     After Bruce I elected to take off, skipping the popular costume contest.  Believe me, having worked during Halloween at an amusement park for several years on end, I’ve long since had my fill of costumes and make-up!

     Sunday: back again and this time I, having seen enough of the dealers’ rooms over the past couple days, took in a whopping eight presentations.  First was a panel for an upcoming horror flick called THE TRIPPER, with producer Steve Niles and actors David Arquette and Christopher Nelson giving us the scoop.  I was interested in what Niles had to say, but he ultimately said very little, with the majority of the audience questions directed at the soft-spoken Arquette.  There was also a preview of the new OMEN, with a Twentieth Century Fox representative interviewing director John Moore (the producer and make-up FX designer were also scheduled to appear but didn’t).  I thought the film looked stupid (postscript: it is), although Moore did a reasonably good job talking it up, even making the casting of Julia Styles as the title character’s mom sound like a somewhat reasonable idea.  But they insisted on showing that lame teaser trailer with the kid on the swing, which Moore revealed was actually the actor’s screen test.  Timpone chimed in about how he edited a piece on THE OMEN for Fangoria with a final word count that came to (you guessed it) 666.

     It was around this time that an Earth Shattering Announcement was made from the stage by a Fango employee: Rob Zombie will be writing, producing and directing the new HALLOWEEN flick!!!  Obviously that’s common knowledge by now, but it wasn’t then.

     There followed one of my favorite presentations, a tribute to director Bob Clark.  Anthony Timpone began by presenting the ageing Clark with a Fangoria “Lifetime Achievement Award” (a plaque that frankly didn’t look too impressive) and then spent the remainder of the presentation interviewing him.  Clark, you’ll recall, directed genre classics like CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, DEATHDREAM and BLACK CHRISTMAS, as well as comedies like A CHRISTMAS STORY and PORKY’S.  Clark spoke about the in-production remakes of DEATHDREAM and BLACK CHRISTMAS, both of which he’s excited about, and a new version of CHILDREN he expects to have ready for release in the spring of next year.  Timpone eventually opened the forum to questions from the audience, who seemed more interested in PORKY’S and the Howard Stern produced remake than Clark’s genre efforts.

     Next up were several cast members from SIN-JIN SMITH, a horror flick starring Rowdy Roddy Piper, who wasn’t present.  The panel was from the start dominated by attention-grabbing actor Richard Tyson--best known to me as the psychotic bully in THREE O’CLOCK HIGH--who appeared quite inebriated and rarely let any of the other participants get a word in edgewise.  As for the film under discussion, I couldn’t really get a handle on whether it looks like something worth seeing or not.  The crowd seemed excited about it, though.

     Another essential presentation followed, a chat with the great Guillermo Del Toro, who showed an absolutely mind-blowing promo reel for his new horror-fantasy PAN’S LABYRINTH and fielded audience questions.  The film, I’ll have to say, looks awesome, like a horrific updating of ALICE IN WONDERLAND with all the phantasmagoric imagery of Del Toro’s Hollyweird efforts BLADE II and HELLBOY, but with the intellectual charge of more personal projects like CRONOS and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE.  According to the filmmaker PAN also contains a political angle appropo to our times, evinced by Del Toro’s admission that he’d much rather hang around with “a person with black fingernails than Dick Chaney.”  Cool guy!

     My most vivid memories of the KNB EFX Group’s Howard Berger chat were Berger answering a question about film schools and singling out the Vancouver Film School, my alma matter, as the top of the heap (right on!), and, at the end of his presentation, unveiling the Academy Award he won last year, which drew audible gasps from the crowd.  There was then a feature on “The Year’s Most Promising Horror Indies” with four directors, most notably the British Michael Blassett (DEATHWATCH), who admitted he was having trouble getting his latest film WILDERNESS into US theaters because Hollywood execs don’t believe American audiences will pay to see British accented flicks.  Also appearing was Scott Glosserman, who tried to show a trailer for his film BEHIND THE MASK that the people backstage couldn’t get to work (let’s hear it once again for Creation!), and Scott Sivertson, writer-director of the Jack Ketchum adaptation THE LOST, who didn’t have a whole lot to say.  Timpone, who interviewed all four directors, drew a fair amount of derisive laughter by announcing each of the films as “a horror thriller unlike any you’ve ever seen before!”

     A presentation for TNT’S Stephen King series NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES closed things out.  I sat through this one mainly to hear from writer Richard Christian Matheson, son of the legendary Richard Matheson and an extremely talented scribe in his own right.  He’s the scripter of a N&D episode called “Battleground”, a dialogue-free effort starring William Hurt that, based on what Matheson and director Brian Hensen (son of Jim) said about it, sounds pretty damn interesting.  Also on the panel was actress Claire Forlani, who looked every bit as radiant in person as she does on the big screen...not to mention, bored out of her skull.

     Following were clips from NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES that I didn’t bother staying for, meaning my experience at the 2006 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors was officially over.  Conclusions?  Well, I sincerely hope Creation will learn (yeah, right!) from the many mistakes they made this year so future events will go more smoothly...and if the butthead who kept erasing my URL from the board is reading this, I’ll see you after school mofo!



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