I often attend and/or am invited to many film festivals and horror conventions, this one, marks my fourth time in this con’s attendance, the third different place, Showboat, Atlantic City, each time I go with the journalist mentality, a checklist in my head, handling the entire time as a business trip. However, this time, I thought let’s try something different, approach it as a fan first and then as a journalist, truly experiencing what the fans see and feel. I did get my press pass, thankful to both Ryan Scott Weber and Rob Bruce, for the opportunity to report on the event, all while obeying the rules and the integrity and the professionalism of everyone involved. Therefore, I received more personal interactions with fans, vendors, celebs and trying to cover all of the great things one could do at the convention. Now, let’s clear up a few things first, no convention, runs smoothly, always little glitches, but the way a festival/event overcomes those issues, becomes what people remember, the frustrations soon forgotten, precision clockwork never really works out, because of the passion of the fans clamoring for mere moments with a celebrity, those few moments often a thrill ride to live over and over again. In addition, a festival or convention often feels like an independent movie set, things tight, a change of command, with the volunteers and the crew trying their best, and when in doubt asking others, it all moves a tad clunky however so what, as horror fans know many times in the movies we see flaws, and yet we want more of the insanity. Some in attendance, compared it top other conventions such as Monster Mania or Chiller, however that’s definitely not fair, those have been going on for years, this one is technically 2-years old, (4 cons, twice a year).
One thing before beginning on my report of the convention, this year the New Jersey Horror Convention and Film Festival, put a list of the films airing at the fest with the time, title, director and summary, this always goes a long way assisting the filmmakers, which is something this event incorporates their passion and the love of the fans for the genre.
I arrived one day before the event, got to see the Ghostbusters’ cars in place and the early start of the tables lined up, a few vendors making their way into place, as I made my way to my room, I noticed the emptiness of the hotel, a place originally filled with gaming long since gone, only a few neon remnants remained. It all helped with the eeriness as the one gets to see the area slowly transform itself into a horror lovers paradise.
DAY 1, FRIDAY, September 21, 2018 – opening day
As common a little chaos occurs, trying to determine which line, the right passes, sometimes a deep breath can help with it at that moment its like the madness at a horserace, with no one truly understanding, there’s plenty of time. Most times, the celebrities are likely not at their tables yet, and others require just a little more prep, I normally use the time to make sure of fresh batteries. Once inside the venue, the size of the area became overwhelming, while standing at the center, nearly impossible to see to either end of the area, hence making it all a fun adventure of awaiting discoveries. First, meeting actor William Katt who starred in the enjoyable television show The Great American Hero, he signed my Turkish poster of Carrie (1976) which he played Tommy the football jock. Of course, he recognized P.J. Soles signature who signed this poster at the last NJ Horror Con, and he mentioned never seeing the version of poster before, noting the texture of the paper and discussing the movie’s production. Shortly afterwards I made journey over to the Film Festival area, always try to see the opening film of any fest, face its impossible to see them all, and the Q&A’s and other attractions, but that’s what makes this event so fun, there’s always something to do, and give the fans a lot for their price of admission. The films felled into four short film blocks over the three days and a smattering of features, hence 29-shorts and 10-features which actually becomes quite a lot, and impossible to report on all them therefore, I selected a few, to mention throughout this article. The film portion contained a slight delay, and many guests still setting up their area, it allowed me the valuable time to stroll through the rest of the floor noting where later to head after doing other things. Tony Goggles who runs the audio/video work for the film festival back manning his post getting everything sorted out, and soon enough the first movie played The Painting by director Rodolfo Guinez Reveco, obviously involving a creepy painting following home to torment her further with nightmarish intent, the next two movies kept the enjoyment up, with A Good Vegan is Hard to Find from Ruben Rodriguez battling morals and actions the love and hate of eating meat. Then Road Trash by Natasha Pascetta, which if I recall correctly a former Indiegogo funded project. Concerning the story of both evil of good intentions and sometimes the dead do more than just speak from grave. All three make for interesting entertainment, but after 13-minutes time to venture to the tables of Friday the 13th Reunion/Franchise, their location made for a difficult line management but the fans all remained polite to one another and discussed what each is getting signed in the line, reproduction versus the very few originals. Mainly from the folded to rolled, the originals always folded, the oddity of a half-sheet for Part II, most fans awed over the original poster (held by me) actually I brought originals everything, herein Part 1, 2 and 7. First to sign legendary composer Harry Manfredini who discussed his passion for the compositional work of Bernard Herrmannn, and his famed work in Hitchcock movies, as well classical composers and how their music still influencing dramatic horror scenes in todays movie. Next, Adrienne King, we spoke briefly about her Crystal Lake Wines, (as many know I have quite the collection of wines), when asked I noted 300 bottles, which shocked her a bit, next came Ron Millkie, who found the entire experience very interesting, especially learning not to unfold an entire poster, informed by his assistant. Then over to director John Carl Buechler of Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood who enjoyed seeing an original poster and we discussed the problems and bias of the MPAA a fascinating chat. Amy Steel arrived, soon enough, the rabid fans patiently waited until she set up her table, while once more discussing their memorabilia and the love for the franchise, the sadness about the lawsuit, but the hopeful want for another rising of Jason. Once it was my turn, some of the fans gathered to see this original poster, a British Subway folded poster, Ms. Steel noted the different texture of the poster’s material and how it appears less glossy others commenting very vibrant in color schemes, this became a recurring theme fans curious about other fans’ items, I had not realized this at the event conventions, then again never approached it from a fan standpoint. Afterward I sought out comic book artist Kevin Grevioux, known by most for his creation of the Underworld, but for me it was to have him sign my issue #1 of ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, and no it has nothing to do with 2009 comedy-horror film of the same name by director Kevin Hamedani, rather Kevin’s creation gives a visual and compelling horror and gore story. We spoke at length about the story. Graphics and copyright/ legal mess from the titling and in addition to possibility of making it into a movie, sadly it lathes its resting in-development hell. He really took the time to converse with me, especially about the admiration for the genre, and how some people mess up the storylines of comics to movies, but that shared many of the masses don’t know the comics, rather it just has incredible graphics, names they recognize and it all sells the tickets, backgrounds don’t dick to most. They agreed what I though might be a 5-minute chat turned into a 30-minute discussion, and again, this allowed the fan in me to experience more from the fest and this is what the fans in general desire, that one-on-one time discussing what they love or dislike about a project and the celebrity intelligently sharing thoughts. A key thing I noticed through the event, the fans sharing politeness to each other, moving out the way for those in wheelchairs, and respecting service dogs. plenty of cosplayers.
Soon enough, time to return back to the film festival, as Ari Lehman had yet arrived to the floor as highly possible over at the photo ops and the other stars had ventured to that part of the venue, I saw director John Johnson (who also had his film Plan 9 the remake of Ed Wood Jr.’s original creation, playing at the festival on Sunday afternoon), a short movie called The Big Toe, from Darkstone Entertainment. a delicious and chewy morsel of the dead desserts. As for the closeout feature film of the night came from Daniel Armstrong’s Sheborg a sci-fi movie, appearing as a Terminator clone, but more like Virus (1999) did in a b-movie flair, originally released in 2016 with the title Sheborg Massacre, but getting distribution in November from Wild Eye Releasing. Upon exiting the film area, which did prove a little difficult to always hear the movies, a careful balancing act of the films’ audio and be respectful to the vendors outside the room, Ari, the first Jason, entertained a friendly personal attitude to the fans coming to his table, with about 20-minutes left on the first night. Therefore, I headed over his table to obtain his signature on my Friday the 13th poster, we discussed Manfredini’s musical influence, and how the movie plays more as a whodunit for three quarters of a movie, before becoming a slasher and how Hitchcock’s Psycho gives insight especially to duality in the killer.
DAY 2, SATURDAY, September 22, 2018 – the longest day
Every Saturday at any convention runs the longest and busiest, this place and day no different, with the film festival starting at roughly 10:30am, with Polterheist by director David Gilbank. On the elevator ride down, a woman boarded a few floors later saw a flyer about a missing person, and she hoped their family finds them, and said the Lord’s prayer, she never realized it was for a movie called The Fear Footage, quite amusing.
I had a friend hold my place in the Elvira line, while I headed to see Danny Lloyd’s table, having him sign a rare lobby card, which he was unfamiliar with, so hence informing him, a big thrill. Then I asked a few questions, about Kubrick’s treatment of him on set, all which proved false rumors, these and other tidbits shall be discuss in a special Q&A article for Horrornews.net. I then returned to the Cassendra Petererson (Elvira) line, to replace my friend, who informed of his wait time, which I’ll refrain from mentioning, she was at lengthy photo-ops, but once on scene she respectful shared little time with her fans, she signed my Haunted Hills poster, some had suggested I bring a 6-foot standee of her, umm no thank you, especially, as I leaving the fan based reporting and switching over into the more journalistic standpoint.
One thing became evident, Linda Blair had the longest line (with others also having a lengthy line at the opposite end of the venue), in fact her fan line made the organizers to switch around the floor layout, by moving the A-Team television van into a corner area, but that line snaked itself to incredible lengths, and yet her fans remained polite and calm. They allowed other patrons the ability to pass through as people ventured to the Q&As section for the day’s big panels The Friday the 13th and even earlier Linda Blair. I visited with Dee Snider who was very cool with his fans, giving them ample discussions, talking about his lengthy marriage, touring, and of course Strangeland, which he signed my original poster. He commented on the its authenticity and how Linda Cardellini’s parents kept up the poster in their home, telling her because the first poster she was on, but to him the sewn mouth shut.
After a late lunch break I went to Dee Snider’s Q&A panel, in which the focus was on his congressional appearance on the topic PMRC and how those in power were very much surprised he spoke with intelligence, again the old adage of judging a book by its cover. Other topics, included his rebuttal to Gene Simmons’ remark of rock is dead, and how one should encourage dreams, not crush them, in a response to sagging music sales, and of course Strangeland. How his wife read the script first and she screamed at him, before explaining those are nightmare, definitely not wanton fantasies, it was then okay, he tried a sequel, which was to take place the next day, however going back now years later, the whole is very outdated, so need to redo it all. The entire time, very well spent, highly informative, the fans included veterans, teachers, accountants, all in pure escapism from their jobs and seeking to capture the glory of this legendary Rockstar. When asked about a Twisted Sister reunion, his answer sorry not happening, unlike other bands, when you commit to ending it must end, noting for example Ozzy’s No More Tours in 2004, which didn’t happen, or the even Scorpions.
I stopped at the tables for Wild Eye Releasing and discussed the latest in horror not only from their releases but the festival and horror genre in general. In addition, I finally met Todd Sheets in person, a thrill for me, watching his work over the years, we talked about his film Bonehill Road, a classic thrilling werewolf flick, the masks, all the favorites called in to support the project. He graciously gave me a copy to view and even signed a mini poster for me, something else to get framed. Then shockingly appearing next to me the very beautiful and talented Tiffany Shepis who picked up a copy of a film she starred in Asylum of Darkness. I noticed she had shopped at some the other vendors including Skull Island, from how the books were wrapped (Jaws) and another one in her hand. It’s an assumption based on how the vendor cares for the older paperbacks and the directed she came from, if correct she’s got great taste in vendors. I had the opportunity to view the closing features of the night both Bong of the Living Dead, now available from Scream Team Releasing with both Limited and Collectors editions, by director Max Groah, which plays on the pot, pop culture themes, and zombie apocalypse, delivered gore and humor factors for everyone in the audience, with some tight editing choices, and nods to Romero. The recent released of 4/20 Massacre (2018), led to more filmmakers returning to this element of stoner fun, and making it more exciting and thrilling than The Coed and the Zombie Stoner (2014). The final film of the night, came from director and writer Anthony Catanese, entitled Teenage Bloodsuckin’ Bimbos, which stars Bettina Skye among others and from that title one clearly knows the political correctness tossed out the window landing in the dumpster, this flick, completely a passion project, the women vampires, nothing like those of the Hammer Studios, they have true street smarts and a filthy mentality. Their actions filter with cuts of looney roommates, crazed bikers, trigger happy lunatics and skimpy outfits, while hunted by Von Yelsing (not Helsing) and punks galore. A standout moments anti-NJ jokes (can’t recall how many movies do this), a hilarious theme fast-forwarding vampire porno which somehow actually makes sense in the flick, and very cool vampire deaths done in claymation, along with volumes of gore.
Upon exiting the film room, I notice the vendors closing down their tables, and looked at the program guide to see what’s next up on the agenda, nothing… strange, I think wait where’s the Awards Show, which had been a hilarious comedy themed show in the past. I asked a volunteer about it and find its starting shortly at the opposite end of the venue, of course, fate sometimes doesn’t like me, but I hurry to the location, prepping camera along, realizing low battery, all the fates conspiracy against me. UGH! However, I get a seat in the front row, switched the batteries and get it all set, just in time. Tiffany Shepis and Ming Chen who both did a great job, and featured guest celebrities such as Tony Moran, Tony Goggles, and event organizer Ryan Scott Weber, they even did a version of the messing up the award just like the Oscars.
Nevertheless, they incorporate the laughter, fun and enjoyment of the meaning working on horror films, and Tiffany got the crown for Scream Queen. The other press on hand, snapped dozens of pictures and blitz of flashes going off, after the show ended. As the crowd dispersed, the normal afterparty thrill had a minor change, no bands playing this year rather an extra show called An Evening with Bryan Johnson and Friends, performed at the same time and across a hall from the Scaryoke After Party hosted by Dennis Hakins i.e. Karaoke. I snagged permission to hang out in the back row, for some much-needed laughter as Ming, Tiffany, Rudy Sarzo and later Ron Jeremy joined Bryan on stage. By the time it all ended I headed back to my room and prepped for the final day.
Day 3, Sunday, September 23, 2018 (aka: Liquid Day)
First, why do I called it Liquid Day, because the day rushes quickly by like that of water, the hours fly by, minutes ticking down to demise the monster event, hushed away until the next nightmare in March. While I was waiting patiently in line for the event to open and security prepped, I talked with various fans, some a little confused where to get pre-sold tickets or general admission, always willing to help them out with simple instructions, had the opportunity to speak to them about the convention. One person, Jonathan, an architect, stated he wanted to meet Bob Elmore of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Part 2), often enough people are surprised many of the attendees have professional day jobs, but really many who are in the Harley Bike rides aren’t Hells Angels, rather they’re average folks enjoying their passions. The same rules apply here, what someone does for a living is just that, it might be far removed from the joy of horror, I mean it doesn’t apply to me as everyday is horror and Halloween. Other fans sought to meet Elvira or Dee Snider, but really they wanted to experience this compared to the other horror events in the tri-state area. Edward Furlong sadly missing action most the convention which disappointed many of the fans at the convention even a few of the vendors wanting to meet him, sometimes a celebrity becomes unsure of the schedule they need to keep, though others stating he didn’t feel well, whichever the case one hopes he’ll be back.
I always wait to the last day of the convention to visit these incredible vendors, I mean I stop by early in the weekend, but just meet and greet, understand their business, but always give the fans first attempt at the items. I tell them I’ll stop by on Sunday and it’s a phrase they hear often, never believing it until it actually happens. They were surprised I am true to my word, as I asked if it’s cash or credit business, it helps on the cash flow. However, on the last day I take a brief hour to visit a few, often it’s a few I know from other conventions, and yet include a few new ones. This time I stopped first at Skull Island friends, always a great collection of items, as I ‘m a horror historian, this vendor has wonderful finds, from fine old magazines of HorrorHound and Fangoria, I secure Scream (1973 Skywald) issue #1 among other get items. If you can’t something this one, becomes a great place to check out, he has a lot to often from Friday the 13th Camp Crystal Lake books, King Kong books, Universal Figurines honestly so much to choose from, that the long-time fan could go nuts with the materials. Then over to artist Spillman purchased a Frankenstein (classic Universal Studios) mousepad and a few mugs,
speaking of artists next seeing my friend Joel Robinson I think by now I have 12 of piece, if you don’t him, think of Scream Factory and many of the horror collector’s edition, he offers so many exceptional pieces with different variations. I then found Joel Robinson, a great artist, who does many of the Shout factory DVD covers, I normally pick up two of his pieces of work, this time Munsters and Night of the Creeps, followed by stopping by author E.L. Books, who I reviewed one of his books called What do you fear, Book One, this time I obtain his latest novel Unleashed. I made way to Robert Bruce’s table, always incredible interesting collection of items, from an orange and green Frankenstein blow mold (that someone snatched up the day before) to vast number of magazines from yesteryear, two more for my collection.
A quick stop at artist/sculpturer Jose Souza III, who creates many one-off fan-art created from Evil Dead to Universal Monsters and does a fine job of making monsters and creatures.
A 1-hour Q&A panel with Cassandra Peterson, sadly didn’t start on time, and the audience became quite fidgeting, but a solid appeal from the NJ Horror Con, reps worked on keeping everyone calm, this became a tough choice for me, as Mrs. Claus played at 11:56am, however I luckily saw it previously under the originally title of Stirring, from director Troy Escamillia. Of course, if one’s curious of the title change, the word ‘stirring’ wouldn’t mean much to both overseas viewers and those unfamiliar with Christmas stories or songs, but everyone knows of Mrs. Claus. Upon her rival the questions peppered away, and she did a fine job for the fans, and lasted for half-hour.
As I proceeded back to the film festival room, I saw the Vinegar Syndrome table, and needed to stop, to comment on their wonderful movies, how they released the obscure titles, the forgotten treasures of exploitation of truly low-budget horror films. I truly like the outer box covering of Body Melt, and that they corrected their policy of ordering groupings of pre-order films, informed they discovered the issue in a previous black Friday/cyber Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion on the films, and noted the October 5-horror film collection, as well the sexploitation-horror movies, such as The Sexocrist Devil. I could talk for hours on their product, but I returned to film festival, to watch the final four films, which included Plan 9, a movie which played previously at the event. This followed by the two short flicks Anadellia (director Brian Andrews) a story about the friends and siblings investigate a grandfather’s will, and the wealth he spoke of it, however often wealth to many means financial when the riches one might possess come in spiritual form, ghosts and other abundances of demonic spirits. An interesting aspect happened in the room, as it filled for the upcoming movie Abducted, a cosplayer dressed as Michael Myers entered towered over a patron, freaking them out, before sitting down in the front row to watch the movie. These are things that happened spontaneous at an event, capturing everyone’s attention and the crowd enjoying the thrill. Next up, Tom Ryan, who directed and wrote the film Abducted, which is not a repeat of the film show on the opening night, this one dealt with UFO visitors and who they could meet, a willing and peaceful citizen or a serial killer, and who becomes the abducted. The final movie of the convention and festival was none of than Killer Kate! (2018) by Elliot Feld which starred Alexandra Feld as Kate and Tiffany Shepis as Christine, who gave her all for the movie, dedicated to completing her task in the flick. The movie references quite a few films from Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Friday the 13th, Part 7, The Sand (2015) to pop-culture such as the television show Fixer Upper in Waco, Texas; all of it made for a wonderful entertainment for the remaining viewers and some of the volunteers. As the movie finished out with a theme Thelma and Louise, crowds in the venue room began breaking down the vendor tables and others acting goofy singing songs such as “That’s Amore” originally performed by Dean Martin, however the crowd repeated “When the moon hits your eye like a big Pizza Pie”, upon exiting the place had a weird surreal feel occurring, with several cars, ubers, taxis and even a limo picking up guests for a mass exodus.
As I walked over to the Hard Rock for drinks and a meal, I recalled the event in vivid detail, always amazed at how much work goes into planning the convention, all the details, and planning, and once it actually arrives, the beast all facing its demise. The only major thing the fest truly needs to work on, is line management, from organizing an earlier start time for pre-sale tickets /press sales, perhaps 3p, and regular sales at 5p. However, these truly become minor details, and this fest already on its way in creating more horrors for the passionate fan base, especially noting on their site March 29 to 31 as staking the claim for the next time unless the madness and raising hell.
This fan, journalist and horror historian, can’t wait for the next one, as always willing to support the independent filmmakers and genre itself.