I love the above quote by horror actor Robert Englund. Not only do I agree with it, I live it! I am in full-blown Halloween mode. My favorite blogger has started his annual Halloween countdown and I’m right along with him. I’ve amped up my horror watching, visited two different Halloween stores, bought the awesome flask, seen on the right, and am currently agonizing between 3 different costume options. I’ve also started looking around at the haunted house attractions that will soon be opening in the area and have recently braved the Rehoboth Beach haunted ride. So to keep in theme with horror travel I want to talk about two separate trips I’ve made to horror conventions!
Collecting comics religiously for the past 17 years has left me with around 5,000 issues. Taking that into account, it shouldn’t be a surprise I am no stranger to conventions. Recently I’ve become less enchanted by them as they move away from showcasing comics and towards a focus on movies and TV. I go to find issues I’m missing and instead am assailed by bad sci-fi actors selling over priced autographs. “I’m looking to complete my Saga of the Swamp Thing, please don’t bother me. I really don’t care what episode of Battlestar you were in.” I’m a hypocrite though because that’s exactly what I look for at horror conventions. I want to hear anecdotes from horror movie sets and pay way too much to get my picture taken with some vixen who once got decapitated by Jason Voorhees.
The first horror convention I visited was the (now defunct) Horror Find Weekend which took place somewhere outside of Baltimore in 2001. It was great and by far the top horror convention I’ve been to! There was a medium sized show room where you could purchase anything from expensive busts by Tom Savini to $20 ninja climbing claws (which I totally bought and totally don’t regret owning). Unlike other conventions I’ve been to, the show room was also where the celebrity autographs and pictures took place. Typically the celebs have their own rooms to cut back on lines. This show was small and the actors were only big names to horror buffs so lines weren’t really an issue.
My favorite part about this convention was the multitude of breakout sessions. So many shows lack these! I’ve been to some events where the vendor and celeb autograph rooms are the entirety of the event. Horror Find had a plethora of side activities to keep me from getting bored. I got to sit in a room with a dozen other people to learn how Tom Savini got into special effects and sculpting. To end the session he showed us all what an expert he is at using a whip! Whips and horror conventions…I would understand if you are questioning my extracurricular activities. Afterwards he signed a photo depicting his appearance on The Simpsons which I have packed away somewhere. Sadly he wasn’t very friendly but the other celebs I met made up for it!
Let me say, Michael Berryman is one of the warmest gentlemen I have ever met. You know he’s a great actor because his personality is so far from his iconic role in The Hills Have Eyes. He was soft spoken but not shy. He complimented my Squee shirt and asked me all about it. And rarest of all, he let me take my picture with him free of charge. I’m looking all over for that picture and as soon as I find it I’ll update this post. It’s killing me that I can’t find this photo. This was back before I had a digital camera so it’s somewhere in my stacks of pictures that never made it into a photo album.
Another super guy I met was Reggie Bannister. I love the Phantasm movies and the best part about them are the performances by Reggie and the late Angus Scrimm. Along with being an actor, Bannister is also a talented musician. All I can really say about him is he’s cool. I’m talking Fonzie level cool. Reggie was totally approachable, really relaxed, and seemed like someone you want as a friend. Even with the Tall Man and his terrifying dwarves chasing them, I’m a bit jealous of Mike getting to go on a road trip with Reggie in a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda.
Oh man, this guy. Several of the convention rooms were set aside for local and semi-famous authors. I love the horror genre but I find that there are at least 20 bad horror movies for each good one. This discrepancy is exponentially larger when it comes to books. Movies cost money to make but any fiend can cheaply self publish another vampire or zombie book. I feel like the majority of the horror authors at this conference fell into the “I want to be Anne Rice and write vampire erotica” or “I’ll be a very graphic/slasher version of Stephen King” categories. This guy was the exception. He was the G.G. Allin of suburban Baltimore horror conventions and 22 year old me ate that shit up.
I think if I tried to sit through his reading again I would hate him and myself. He read from his work posted below, shown with the inscription he personalized my copy with, but gave a twist ending. After his narration he sat dead silent for an awkwardly long period of time. I couldn’t help but giggle since I thought this was awesome. When he spoke again he professed that he was extremely drunk, just made up the story he told us, and if we wanted to know how the “book” actually went we would have to buy it. Obviously I bought it. To this day I have never actually read it. Mr. Mellick III is still writing and has 57 positively reviewed books on Amazon. Go forth, purchase, and read “modern literature.”
The last semi-clear memory I have from the convention was the amateur film festival. I say semi-clear because all I remember from it was that it was immediately past the lobby on the right and I saw a black and white movie that I surprisingly enjoyed. For the life of me I cannot remember the name or plot of the movie. I think it was written and directed by a lady about my age and I recall being very intrigued by it. But that’s all I can really say about it. Real helpful for everyone.
More recently I went to Monster-Mania 28 (2014) in Cherry Hill, NJ. I had a great time at this con but didn’t enjoy it as much as Horror Find Weekend. The celebrities that attended were much bigger names, there was a much larger and varied show room, and the guest panels were of a higher quality. Unfortunately there are only a small number of panels spattered around the day, on-going classic movies (movies I’ve seen a million times), and long lines for expensive autographs. After 2 days wandering around the show room I became bored and was kind of over it. Also the convention has become a bit watered down, like the comic shows I earlier complained about, and now invites in celebrities like professional wrestlers. While they might appeal to the same crowd, they do not belong at a horror con.
Rather than focus on what I didn’t like about this event, I’m going to talk it up and mention the things I loved! I did have a good time and would attend again, but only for a day and not the whole weekend. Also I need to budget more for this rodeo. Everything from the t-shirts to the autographs are a bit steep.
That leads me to my first positive! I got to meet Mads Mikkelsen, the awesome actor who portrayed Hannibal Lecter on TV. This was his first and as far as I know, only convention appearance. He seemed very entertained and was great at his question and answer panel. A man at the conference cosplayed as Buffalo Bill, wearing only pantyhose, panties, a blonde wig, feather boa, and head band. At the panel he first asked Mads about his interaction with his costars. Immediately after, in a deep Buffalo Bill voice, asked “Would you fuck me?” Mads lowered his head, covered his face with one hand, and then said into the microphone, “Yeah, probably.” I didn’t think I could like the man anymore until that moment.
For those who didn’t watch the show, Mads wore fantastic suits on Hannibal, usually matched with paisley ties. As a man who owns way too many ties, I appreciate his wardrobe, I only wish I had the money to dress as snazzy as Hannibal. As far as I know, I was the only one in line who brought a tie for him to sign. I also paid loads of money to get that autograph and my picture with him. Sadly I can’t seem to find the photo of us together. I suck at taking care of pictures. Hopefully this blog will teach me to be more responsible with such things.
As I mentioned the panel discussions were great! There were 2 reunion panels I sat in on and found extremely interesting and entertaining. First was most of the main cast from the zombie spoof movie Return of the Living Dead. The second was the three leads of They Live!!! The late Rowdy Roddy was hysterical, humble, and most likely stoned. He was open about smoking weed because it helped the chronic pain in his back from wrestling. As expected he stole the show at that panel. I also sat through an interview with Michael Berryman. As I mentioned, I’m a huge fan of his. I learned that he’s kind of a hippy and very involved with a wolf conservation group. The man is a saint.
The only actor who’s autograph/picture I sought, besides Mads, was Keith David. Platoon is one of my all time favorite movies and Keith’s King is one of the best characters. I bought a picture of him from another great movie, Men at Work, with the expectation of getting it signed and a personal photo with him. Sadly when I got to the front of the line, having already paid , Mr. David stood up and walked away on his cell phone. He didn’t acknowledge me at all. After 2 or 3 minutes of waiting for him, I asked his assistant for my money back and left disappointed. I found the whole experience rude and it put me into a bit of a fussy mood. I like to believe he’s not normally like that but I probably won’t pay for a picture with him again.
What did cheer me up later that day was the shopping. I purchased 2 souvenirs from the show room and neither had too high of a price tag. The first was a walking, giggling Sam from the movie Trick ‘r Treat (seen on the left). This is hands down one of the best Halloween movies and he is the best personification of the holiday. Screw you, Great Pumpkin. Sam currently resides in my office alongside wind-up Gamera and all of my Phineas and Ferb figures. My second purchase was the fantastic t-shirt shown to the right.
I also met a photographer and writer named Tony Urban. These are not just hobbies for him, this is his occupation and the man is damn good at what he does. I hope in a future post to review a horror travel book that he had published. It’s a gorgeous book that I just haven’t gotten around to read. I promise to have it read before Halloween though!
This makes my 10th post! I think it’s fair to say I’m a prolific blogger!