The New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival held its second event of 2017, and expanded even more with the abilities to present a fan friendly and fun time for everyone including the vendors and stars, the pomp and circumstances not present rather sheer thrilling madness. As oppose to the first, the organizers Ryan Scott Weber (a filmmaker) and Robert Bruce (a pop culture expert) changed locations from the Crowne Plaza in Edison to the Renaissance Hotel in Iselin, which had a far superior and friendlier staff which really seemed to enjoy the fun cast of loony characters (but very polite) parading through their lobby. Sometimes a staff find themselves unsure how to handle such a wild and enthusiastic crowd of fans, however it’s a misconception when dealing with horror fans, say they might represent things of nightmares but they for the most part treat everyone with respect likely because herein they find many just like them. Once more a 3-day event takes forever to get to the launch date, but once it’s started the life force of it begins and by the second day it bleeds faster, and on the final date the beast knows it’s beaten. This event already announced their third convention on the back of the program guides with the dates of March 2nd through the 4th, 2018.
Now, opposed the first one, this time there was constant activities occurring at once, to keep the attendees entertained, with multiple films and Q&A sessions occurring at once, making nearly impossible to be in place for all of it. The last time there were 22 short films, and this reviewer of the films and the convention saw 98% of them, however not the case this time with over 30 short films and 13 feature films. This article is more than just that, it is a review of the events, which occurred at in the vendor rooms, with some of the stars, the films, and other key moments, and suggestions of where some things can improve. First note, this event is already achieving a level of 95 out of 100 so not much more needed, but little things always help.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
Since the first round of films didn’t start to 530p I was able to slip into the vendor rooms beforehand, making the first stop to see Wild Releasing Films, a company I review a lot of their movies, acquired 11-flicks, that’ll last me until March 2018, the NJ Con 3. Thanks, then scoped out the rest of the vendors, stars and so on, before quickly stopping by Robert Bruce’s vendor table, meeting his son, and acquired seven Universal Studios Monsters CVS Bean Bag Plushies, fans know these items. Sadly, a quick check of the time, to move into gear and head to short film area, I hoped to return to the vendor room to meet more of the artists, some great treasures in many of the booths, including from Joel Robinson. In fact, passed by Lunaris Records, seeing the record for The Barn, but in the rush, no time to stop for it, the time for shopping had ended for the night (at least for me), reviewing filmmakers’ work lay ahead.
Once on the second floor and flagged down by other filmmakers, made my way into the extremely dark Silver Room to catch the first short block of films already in progress, understanding already nearly impossible to actually be everywhere to witness everything, actually blessing in disguise it gives so much more for the admission price, very reasonable. A four films in the segment were Call of the Void, Base on True Events, Your Date is Here (2017) from directors Todd Spence and Zak White, involves a clever story with a board game, and Creatures of Whitechapel (2016) a crime and horror tale with footing in Ripper history and Frankenstein’s monster, by director Jonathan Martin. Some might recall Martin’s previous artwork, An Evening with My Comatose Mother (2011) which still stands of all-time collection of 76-festival and industry awards for a short film and acceptance to over 100-film festivals worldwide, some even twice, I saw that movie at the Terror Film Festival in 2011. His recent creation all ready earned him at least 29-wins and 31-nominations, a number which continues to climb fast, if you can try to see on the fest circuit, it also gained wins at the NJ Horror Convention and Film Festival 2.
I stayed seated for the next film; a feature entitled Camp Killer (2016) from writer and director Shawn Jones, in a funny (not intentional) horror flick, with a lot of reference back to Friday the 13th (1980) and Madman (1981) and other highlights in the slasher genre. A story of sheriff dealing with unstoppable killer dealing with never say die survivors and but who the true monster really is becomes an interesting element in the film, but seriously just another slaughter fest flick. As the film end time for a decision stay for short black two or venture over to the Gold Room and witness the insanity of Return to Return to Nuke ’Em High Aka Vol. 2 (2017) aka RTRTNH2, the choice to see part 2. This decision means I miss out of 6 more short films among them Slapface (2017) which Joshua Kaufman, a rising star in the cinema world; also the late night program WTF that aired a film called Reagitator: Revenge of the Parody (2017) from director Dylan Greenberg, who directed Amityville: Vanishing Point (2016) as well as staring in the film RTRTNH2.
Yes, the title actually repeats the first two words, but what else does one expect from Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma team, well this movie throws everything at the screen and enjoyed by a packed house, in fact many people stood around the room to watch it all sickly and sloppy play for scant 72-minutes. Even that short, it contained many gross sequences, which effectively chased out many weak stomach folks, however the absence of a storyline likely played factor too. The movie reunites the lesbian lovers Lauren (Catherine Corcoran) and Chrissy (Asta Paredes) to defeat the evil villains, which attack Tromaville, though trying to understand what happens can stress the brain. Lloyd’s movie contains a laundry list of expressions push to the max level including abundance of fart jokes, full front male and female nudity, duck raping, mutants, tons of gore, blood and ooze, all which serves up as nothing making a sense. Most of the so-called storytelling comes with flashbacks, strange newscasts and some cameos featuring Stan Lee and the late great Lemmy of Motorhead (RIP). Kaufman does an interesting send-up to Silence of the Lambs with regard to the ‘tuck scene’ and he spoofs Carrie (1976) in the opening of his movie and expanding it selfies obsessions gone wild. Simply nothing and no one finds safety as the parodies rapid fire themselves throughout the film going for very cheap gag possible.
The last item on the checklist for the evening, watching The Barn (2016) in the Gold Room, a smaller crowd, but no less enthusiastic, enjoying a movie from director and writer Justin M. Seaman who thought of this story back when he likely an early teen and kept it in notebook, until the opportunity arose to make the film. It involves Sam and Josh in the senior year of high school in 1989, on Halloween and dealing with rules and consequences of violating them. Justin gave a great throwback film, which splashes an incredible amount of blood splattering throughout the screen, and just giving audiences a terrific feel for the flick. Afterwards Justin, Linnea Quigley and cinematographer Zane Hershberger, came up to the front of the room for a lengthy Q&A, which gave great insight to the film, carried on for so long that Tony Goggles got the hotel security to extend the time for the session. Discussing hilarious behind the scenes stories, involving Justin being hit with a van, difficulty in find who to play the monsters, and play names with another cast member (allow you dirty minds to work in the gutter).
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23
Allow me a moment to sidetrack here, I have attended many horror cons and fests as a journalist, and never having the time to shop at the vendor tables, the reason, because I’m there to work, to report on the films showing and the event itself. However, this time thanks to the scheduling, the vendor rooms opened at 10a and the first block of films started at noon, hence leaving me an opportunity to get to partake in the con, in a vastly different method. This marked the first time I ever got something in my vast horror collection signed (aside from when I meet independent filmmakers), the Night of the Demons vinyl collectors record to get the 6-signatures from the cast and director, a huge thrill for me. Not wanting a reproduction poster signed, I figured the album from Lunaris Records (who was in the vendor room) a great choice per Alison Barron who reference to similarities to our names. The signing went fast, with Cathy Podewell and Alvin Alexis at their tables the lines truly had not formed just yet, hence in good shape to complete this indulgence for myself, before returning to an on duty position. However, the meeting of Kevin Tenney an extremely cool moment, and briefly spoke about his film Brain Dead, speaking about zombie birth scene in it. Linnea Quigley, arrived a tad later than the rest, she took the time to greet fans throughout the convention rooms as she made her way to her table. I waited patiently in the ever-growing line, but when meeting her, she recalled me from The Barn Q&A session the previous night, and she asked me about my interest in horror films (I shared ) it was wonderful moment. After her signing and quickly acquiring Amelia Kinkade’s signature, return the double record to safety my hotel room before returning the floor to work.
After another short film block #3 of the festival, a much-awaited film entitled The Dark Military (2017) from director Loren W. Lepre, who also penned the script, about a LIVE webcast on Halloween with individuals trying to survival this special night. The movie really found much love in the room, with great action and takes mostly young adults who find that they become helpless with technology against military survivalist who will this war. An original concept and story, expanding slight from the plots of hunting humans for sport and fun, except Lepre takes the film into interesting twists. The movie simply made me think of Assault of Precinct 13 (1976) meets The Strangers (2008), and that’s deadly standoff.
During the con/ fest things ran fairly smoothly a mock wedding occurring off to the side of the lobby, with Father Evil presiding over it with Lizzie Burden and Hannibal O’Lantern from Creepy Manor, as well as cosplay contests and reunions. Meanwhile a small technical glitch occurred, but the team behind the festival works the fastest to fix the issue occurring with the screening rooms. After a lengthy delay (remember a festival and convention has many working parts, just like a person or in this case a monster, and sometimes things falter beyond everyone’s control), it was time to see a short film called The Violence Movie (1988) from Eric D. Wilkinson who likely handled everything in the movie. He used a VHS Camcorder (yes kiddies, a shoulder mounted camera weigh excess of 3 pounds, and a VHS tape) using a budget of $100 he cast his younger brother, David as the killer (both brothers were on hand for the Q&A). The entire film was about fighting with the killer wearing a hockey mask and later a Freddy mask, and simply a goofy but riotous laughing flick, no way to take serious but just sheer fun. The audience is sad to learn that they couldn’t buy it, not available anywhere – time to rethink that, sell for $5, many eager buyers on hand.
It was much to the shock of horror fans that the feature film, Sodomaniac got scratch from the festival, and a movie called Big Bear took its place. This movie left many wondering of the inclusion into a horror festival, as it clearly represented the comedy genre, perhaps a dark comedy, it contain no true blood spillage and no one died. A story about a guy named Joe (Joey Kern, the director too) who gets dumped right before his bachelor because she’s sleeping with another guy referred to as Dude (Pablo Schreiber) and his team of misfit friends (Tyler Labine, Adam Brody, Zachary Knighton) try to cheer him up in the oddest manner.
Afterwards time to meet and greet the Circus Rejects and discuss the rash of clown sightings, and how their makeup designs all were trademark and protected. The conversation turned to the attention seekers who missed the point of clowns performing in general, and how the red balloon (IT and Pennywise reference) gag of trying them to sewer grates an ingenious plan, and shocked to learn some consider it a form of a terroristic threat. Needless to say choice words were used to describe that incident, and they offered the opinions on possible legislation to regulate clowns including a national registry, all quite interesting. Also, I met filmmaker Chris Wagler a producer for a film called “One for the Road”, which is known as A Stephen King Dollar Baby Film, which means, King gives the rights out for a story for a $1 and you have limited time to make it, await for his decision on the flick. Basically, the formula of how the filmmaker got the opportunity to make The Shawshank Redemption, they were gathering money to aid in the production costs; one dollar got your name on the credits as a thanks. I gave up that dollar.
The night finished out with another short film block #5 and Miss December while special guest star Crispin Glover, entertained his fans in the VIP only invite room, which it appear some didn’t understand it was an additional cost for engagement, he performed for Saturday and Sunday.
As customary at many conventions, an after party event takes place, now a bit of confusion did occur as to where the bands would be, but easily enough solved by the numerous outstanding work of the volunteers. In fact, without volunteers many things could go wrong, they often become the unsung heroes at an event. Alas, the show had three bands opening their gig in the Sapphire Room, first an acoustic set by Jess-o-Lantern, which was loud intense performance, which set the tone. Next up Stereotytans, which had Alice Cooper flair of a theatrical style, from their entrance, a man in a toga, a warrior with fake swords, and later in the set was the dragging of a doll on the floor, thoroughly entertaining. A moshing pit of fans, clowns (YES!) raised the intensity. Finally, came a true punk band called Charm School and just finished a great set, with an audience of stars, vendors, volunteers and attendees, with many joining into old-school head-banging, foot stomping, raucous good time, and finished with an encore performance by the mighty Stereotytans.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
It’s on this day, that everyone knows the life force of the convention waning quickly, the business of the day ticks down slowly but always great sights to see, and discovering hidden gems from filmmakers both showing their films at the festival and at the tables through the event. One, such filmmaker I found near to Marky Ramone, was from MFTDE (Messenger for the Damned Entertainment) who describe the audience of horror as split into two camps, under and over 30-years old, when it comes to purchasing DVDS. His films akin to those of Misty Mundae, a name the over 30 crowd recognizes easy from the Alternative Cinema days, unfamiliar think Mature Horror. Then a quick walk over to see artist Joel Robinson, his work graces the horror division Scream/ Shout Factory Blu-rays, also other commission work, after another great discussion of his work, I purchased more of his work, this time Carrie. Along the route meeting Grey Matter Art and commenting about their incredible posters, before observing the crowd gathered Dave’s Dark Realm who creates such lifelike body parts, with quite a few buyers at reasonable prices, a quick pause by Skull Island, a vast collection comic books, horror mags, books, DVDs and treasure trove for collections.
At 11a it was time for another short film block (technically the six out of seven) of the event, a misnumbering in the program guide, but without a hitch it launched on time and without a flaw, and contained 4-films; however at the same time, the Summer School Reunion Q&A in the gold room. For the cinema fans unsure of this flick, it’s a comedy movie but features two horror fanatics who have horror theme bedrooms and basically SFX students and considered deranged by the nonsense principle. But a packed audience flooded the silver room for the short film entries a silly but fun movie entitled Attack of the Handface People started the program a clearly plays off of Night of the Living Dead. Followed by a Doll Collector (which reminded me of the Criminal Mind’s 12th episode of season 5 “The Uncanny Valley”) an uninteresting and quirky tale. Next came The Offer and lastly another Troma entry called Dolphinman Battles the Sex Lobsters (2016) is all anyone needs to know about this inane production.
As the day clicked fans shared their love and passion for the genre, exchanging information, talking about making their own projects, it is a great time to share the love for our beloved genre. A crowd gathered for the LIVE commentary by the director and cast of Night of the Demons (1988) a few delays kept it from starting exactly on time and thereby leaving the audience to enjoy the soundtrack. The fans talked among themselves and had an opportunity to discuss horror films with a fan named Raina, she stated it was her first horror convention in a while and love it so much can’t wait for the next, it beats the comic cons nice to heard that. The audience gained a magnificent insight about the movie, including behind the scenes information from this reunion of actors. I decided to start asking fans what reunions would you like to see, and here is the list in order of demand: Friday the 13th Part 6; Nightmare on Elm Street (1984); Sleepaway Camp; Fright Night (1985) and lastly Dawns of the Dead both 1978 and 2004. All fine choices!
Amazing the NJ Horror Convention and Film Festival out did them, and created a fan loving event, which has many buzzing about the next one, the vendor tables already sell, and others reserving their rooms (I did, and applied for my press pass). Some filmmakers hopes the next one perhaps has more Q&A from those who attend the short programs as well as page on event’s main page giving short summaries or links to the films playing at the fest. Either way this con and the people associated with it have created something the true horror fans crave and sincerely want more of it.