Well, for those unaware this event marked their fifth time holding and already announced that the 6th occurs in October 2019, I’ve been fortunate to cover it each year, as a fest journalist and thankful for earning my press credentials from the great management of Ryan Scott Weber and Robert Bruce among others. For the second time the event took place at the Showboat in Atlantic City, an increase in size of activities, guests, and more movies packed into their film festival, all as a challenge for this one-stalker press horror maniac to cover all for The Horror Times representation, but I did and this article will either regenerate those memories or make you doubt yourself as to why didn’t you attend this great show. A key element to understand a convention is that it’s a very inclusive gathering of fans, no judging goes on unless for the cosplay contest or a awards show, otherwise, fans can walk up to a guest (star) and freely converse with them. Another aspect once those doors open for the event, and beast unleashes itself, just like a horror movie it attacks with volleys of excitement and lulls of rest, with a limited run time each night, never backs away from encouraging everyone to share on social media, and trying to outdo each other with wild moments.
I tend roll in, at some point on a Thursday night, a great way to hangout and meet with friends and fiends, catch-up with everyone, discussing horror genre in general and otherwise having a good time, and like many others this seems to become a thing now, often seeing celebrities and event personnel working to put finishing touches on everything. I have had the pleasure in the past to meet Dee Snider and this time Vinny Appice former drummer of Dio, as well as a chance encounter with Francis McCain, all situations I never take out the camera, (why?) just something I do, I remain respectful at all times; I’m not a paparazzi swarming for the sneaky camera shot. It was though fun see Doug Rogusky, informing me of the time to obtain my press pass and where, as they moved it to a better location from last time.
FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2019
I grabbed my gear, and few items to get signed, and used the same game plan as last year, that worked very well and allowed myself to cover the event from an interesting standpoint, first as a fan and then a journalist. This allows me to understand the atmosphere of the fans, their excitement and troubles or complaints while still maintaining a standpoint of an independent reporter. While waiting to get into line, I hung out with other fans discussing favorite flicks, and one mentioned how he would like to have a Class of 1984 reunion and another thought a Hellraiser reunion with all the cenobites, key people involved, both excellent choices. Now, every festival and convention I’ve ever attended whether as press or fan, has problems some witnessed and others occurring behind the scenes, its how the organizers handle them on the spot or learn from them for next, which makes even better and for many it happens on the first day, aka the jitters of opening day. I would be very remiss if I did not mention, it and this is not a slam of the event, by no means, people started lining up for the tickets, at 4pm in the two lines Pre-Sold, Filmmakers, Press in line #1 and General Admission (Cash Only) Line #2. It approximately 4:15p the ticket booth open, however the general admissions line was moving at a faster rate than the pre-sold, and this caused moans of agony and questioning the reasoning, a technical glitch caused a meltdown on Line #1. It left the fans asking what’s the advantage of pre-sold if you can’t get in early, can’t pick them up sooner, then those same people question why only one line exists for security. I never slam security, in today’s society this is very important to have and with one primary entrance and just one security team nothing left for chance, every bag search, including filmmakers and press, and everyone wand, with hats removed. This line problem cause, it continued to snake itself more on Saturday. Once inside, I made sure to ask Father Evil for his blessing for good event, after all he looks for and smells all the sinners.
One of the improvements from last was the panel discussion, which has become popular at all conventions, but especially this one as they feature legendry stars, composers, and reunions, but this time, one about the new filmmakers on the rise in the genre, is the location it was outside of the convention’s main area, and took over the area across the main hall of the Showboat hotel. Nevertheless, I still had 45-minutes to make that first panel, and used the time to begin surveying the vendors, authors, artists and filmmakers took over the area closest to the board work area while the stars took over the opposite area, of the floor space, very organized. My first stop Harvey Spencer Stephens who played the infamous character Damien in The Omen (1976) and discussed the music of the film and I shared with him how composer Jerry Goldsmith didn’t want to go the Oscars due to his repeated losses over the years, thankfully something convinced him to attend thereby received his only Oscar. Harvey was such a wonderful gentleman, polite to his fans, and taking the time to chat with them. Next, Adrienne Barbeau, my first decision was what to get signed of hers, a decision I made two months ago and switched 8-times, The Fog Vinyl Soundtrack cover made the final cut, and she mention the area they filmed in a beautiful place to visit, she and I had an interesting conversation about John Saxon. Now, I know wait how do you go from getting something sign to Saxon, well when she asked should she personalize it, and said no, she noted how John wants the time he spends with a fan to be meaningful moment. Alright, Ryan we need John Saxon at the Con!
I hurried over to enjoy a 45-minute panel on Indie Horror Panel at 6p, which was the first of the night and hosted by Chris Stiles, who handles all Q&A panels did one that featured filmmakers Brandon E. Brooks, Tony Goggles, Sara Casey, Alton Simpson, Tom Ryan and producer Todd Staruch. This panel gave great insight to everything one needs do in their films, the work of preparation of pre-production, securing locations, not wasting time, because some stars cost more monies. Then accepting what your potential cast can do, sometimes you’re not going get your dream group so you need to be inventful but with the filming on phones anyone can make a flick, they mentioned the importance of promotion. A wonderful panel discussion, just one slight issue, a noisy arcade near the panel area, which was semi sealed-off with a sound barrier partition wall, but everyone learned to deal with the situation.
After the indie panel finished it was time hussle back into the security line to reenter the fest floor knowing only another 45-minutes left before the Mick Garris Panel, therefore, over to meet Francis Lee McCain to sign my original 1984 first edition hardback children’s Gremlins storybook, which was a thrill for her, as she never saw one of them before, she inquired if I own it too – answer – YES! In fact, as a collector I have the paperback version of the book she held and the other books too. Then the next table over sat Zach Galligan once again very polite. On my way spotted another great vendor.
One needs to note this again, as some complained about the prices for autographs, the convention does not set the prices, this is a personal preference of the special guests (stars) they choose, please stop voicing displeasure at the event organizers for this situation, if someone charges too much you can walk away. The opportunity presented itself for me to pop over to Vinny’s table, asking him to sign (and this dated me) my original vinyl Dio “Last in Line” which he admired a lengthy time. We discuss the artwork, and how clearer the design was than a CD version, and digital does no justice, in fact we noted various albums besides his contribution and fascination with the lost art on the albums. Needless, the crowd turn out solidly for the night, with many gather for both Lea Thompson and Tom Wilson, after the first day of the con lasted for 6-hours. With time to spare, and knowing that Photo Op schedule, best to find the popular tables for Pet Sematary actors, namely Miko Hughes, Dale Midkiff and Brad Greenquist, Denise Crosby had stepped away, one box left unchecked.
Then I arrived in time for the 8p discussion panel with the legendary Mick Garris, and needless to say the room was packed for him, I came to realize as many others it was part 1 of 2 nightly chats with again Chris Stiles. It was a wonderful session, even with the slight distraction of the arcade, however only 14-minutes into the interview Chris, made an oops in his response, when discussing Poltergeist and the curse surrounding it. Mick responded with “I might be dead tomorrow, I’ve had a good life.” Chris retorts “Very Cool! Very Cool!” Mick “What that I might be dead?” from there the laughter ensue between them and the room. It aided in everyone realizing how these brief moments in life, something to enjoy and treated as highly sensitive, it’s the motto of the convention and festival overall. Mick mentioned the dinners he arranges with other directors, to discuss their craft as he noted only one director on set at a time so others can admire each other’s work from afar, which led him to briefly talk about the recently passed-on Larry Cohen, who he was part the close inner circle that knew he was ill. He spoke about the Masters of Horror television, touching on the series Fear Itself, then fondly spoke of Stephen King, and humorous talks about the Critters series, as well Batteries not Included. After a resounding applause Mick made good on his promise to spend time signing items (up to 3, all free) for the fans, that lasted well past the 9p conclusion. Curious what I got, simply The Howling (1981) vinyl soundtrack, which shocked him, so few remember his bit part in the end credits.
I hurried to the entrance once more, this time it lessened quite a bit after all not much time left in the first night however, knew exactly where I wanted to get to, the Film Festival sadly a missed a large portion of the closeout flick, The Killer Clown Meets The Candy Man from directed Pete Jacelone (some might recall his directorial debut Psycho Sisters ). The storyline set in Chicago, IL 1972 basically involves what two serial killers would do, if teamed up on the same victim, it spars Dean Corll (Edward X. Young) against John Gacy/Pogo (Jeremy Woodworth) they argue in front of their victim, about the possible ways to torture all increasing the fear in the male captor. However, it comes to a crashing when Charles Manson (John Link) appears on the scene, and strange twisted conclusion occurs. One should note Woodworth wore his Pogo often at the fest and to the Awards show, also this definitely wasn’t Pete’s first making a film clowns he has a few on his lengthy resume.
SATURDAY, MARCH 30, 2019
On this day, which is the longest at a con as it awakens at 10a and ends whenever, with all the parties, concerts, and private after parties it definitely showing on everyone’s weary bodies by the Sunday, however this time around for the fifth running NJ Horror Con experienced their biggest turn out they ever had. While I arrive to the prime entrance point at 915a the line quickly grew with both pre-sold and general admission swiftly moving no delays this time.
I headed in the direction to meet John Kassir, who discussed the artwork of the slick design of my original Demon Knight poster, it seems that many of the special guests understood the importance and long lost love affair with the posters. He asked me how many pieces in my private collection, and I said over 400, and we chatted about that, mentioning a friend of his set up books in a small labyrinth design.
The fans in general flooded the floor in a pleasant mood, happy to be on hand for the excitements and all sharing their passion for the genre, many in costumes for both the cosplay contest and others just for the hell of it, some posing others gathering in large groups with fans for pictures. No one had issues, problems, everyone taking their time, visiting the vendors, stars, sharing pics and info, perhaps a filmmaker among them seeking to create a wonderful sickening flick in the future. Once again I left the convention arena and entered into the Gremlins panel area for Q&A with Zach Galligan and France Lee McCain. They chatted their individual casting moments, how Zach was ‘in-love’ with Phoebe Cates, and how he was unsure of how to handle the ad-lib portion, nothing in the end he rested his head on her shoulder; while Frances noted how Stephen Spielberg helped her work out film schedules to do this movie and Footloose. She also told about the plate incident, in the kitchen scene, how the crew started getting too close to her head. However, the best part came when Zach was about Dick Miller on set, and Frances didn’t hear the question, so Zach said, “Any Dick stories?” and everyone erupted in a mighty laughter.
I had the opportunity to meet Linnea Quigley, who admired my Japanese press book of Return of the Living Dead (1985) [ROTLD], and then recalled meeting me from a previous con, for the unique pieces and ask me again about. I informed her my girl looks at as if this is what I like then it’s really harmless, rather could interest of gambling, drugs or even worse, after all I do a lot of charity because she has MS (Multiple Sclerosis). That really broadened the conservation and we spoke about it at length. It led me to meet John Russo once more, and have him sign the LP of ROTLD, which he stated he did not even own, and was jealous of it, though curious he went to note that he begun to get all is articles, writings, and collection of horror in order, I do hope he’s good health, it was ominous exchange.
Two tables that streamed with endless visitors, belong to Damien Leone the director Terrifier and David Howard Thornton, Art the Clown and star of that same film. Damien, took one look at me, recognized me from a meeting in 2008 at the Terror Film Festival, where he first presented Art the Clown in his movie, “The 9th Circle”, which earned him Best Special Effects award. I had told him back that Art makes a great character, and we laughed about it. I considered him at the zenith level of underground filmmaking, as his triumphant film reminds one’s of the sticky floor of 42nd Street flick found at secretive midnight show. These two madmen shocked to learn that their movie being shown and that they had an impromptu Q&A session following it.
Knowing the time of the Terrifier showing, thanks to the program guide, and even though I’ve seen it countless times, I’m simply addicted to the flick, after all I review it here, I went to the popular Nightmare on Elm Street Reunion, which feature cast members Mark Patton and Kim Myers from Part 2 and Ken Sagoes from Part 3. Once more hosted by Chris Stiles and a wonderful discussion how after countless years part 2 actually found love from the fans.
Once I returned to the film festival room, I enjoyed watching Terrifier in an audience of fanatics was truly wonderful filled claps, hollering and blodlusitng excitement. Damien and David headed the Q&A, along with a few others, however David mentioned his audition, where he had to mimic the beheading of a person, not something he learned in his improv classes. They also discussed how intense the scenes were with the plastic bag over the head of actresses, and it caused some stressful emotional breakdowns, while David needed to switch from caring off-screen to maniacal on screen. It sounded similar to Bill Oberst Jr. technique of Papa Corn in Circus of the Dead (2014), and frankly the method acting of many great actors, though Thornton’s movements of an early Jim Carrey in antics on the television broadcast In Living Color. I stayed at the film festival and acquired the proper seating for the Award Show, which started around 730p which proceeded by a slew of metal music blaring over the speakers. The stage area fairly darkened due to a weird lighting issue everything on one circuit, causing both no steps to climb on the stage and just one side cast light.
THE 5TH NEW JERSEY AWARD SHOW
The event hosted mainly by Tiffany Shepis and Ming Chen, though aided at times by Richard Grieco, who blew off his own film’s premiere, due to creative differences, and also joining them on stage Linden Porco. As always it’s a fun non-serious award show, which saw winners from every background including an Iraq War veteran, who earned a resounding round of applause. One downside was that at the same time as the Award Show were star panels for first Felissa Rose and the Adrienne Barbeau so fans had to decide which to attend, although Felissa finished just in time to join in on festivities on stage. After the award show, the winning filmmakers gathered around for numerous photos in front the entire press corps, with dozens of flashes firing offend some going crazy with their poses, all of it joyous fun, holding their awards. Sadly, I missed part two of Mick Garris discussion, but my job of covering the filmmakers with photos, video and interviews needed to come first. One needs to note, that I have the photos, video and audio of the entire event, maybe I’ll release it eventually.
Then, 9p at the A.C.E. Bar Scaryoke hosted by Crypt Keeper (John Kassir) played on, with Richard Grieco in attendance, Denise Crosby (who reportedly lost her voice by the next day), and later on Felissa Rose, the madness continued for quite a while, even Tony Goggles got into the mayhem. Nevertheless, I needed to leave the action and hurry over to the Showboat’s 12 Bar by 10p for Ari Lehman’s band First Jason performance, which had a slight delay due to a soundcheck issue. The band seemed confused as why the audience was about 10-feet away from them, but came from a traffic cone on the floor warning of outlet on center of the floor with many heavy cords plugged into it, and then the video gear of the band on tripods push the audience further back.
SUNDAY, MARCH 31, 2019
Everyone, truly seems slightly winded Sunday morning, but security right on the mark, as well as me, we chatted for bit before the event started, I always tell them thanks for what he does and have safe day, giving respect. Once inside the clock, started to a final countdown, no time to hang out, one must hit their targets, think of this way the last 30-minutes of slasher movie, you know the body count adding, people missing (the stars some need to roll out early of filming engagement), and when that bell tolls it all ends, until the next sequel or reboot. Therefore, I stopped to see upcoming horror author E.L. Jefferson, and we spoke in depth about his book Unleashed, and for those unaware he served in law enforcement for over 20-years. I asked him if the writing of hideous scenes in his books, was a therapeutic method to expel the horrors he witnessed in his career, as he really can’t share those torturous acts with family and he informed I’m the first to truly understand that, while making the connection.
Then I attempted one last time to meet Felissa Rose, I’ve actually tried other cons and even this event, always missing her, and really thought the fates conspired against me, I hung around her table, other volunteers saw me, and spoke to them that difficulties in meeting her. I saw Tiffany Shepis, told her I enjoyed her performance at the Award Show the previous night, but as the day wore on, I needed to leave and return to my first job reporting on the event, as I knew the last panel I wanted to witness started at 11a the Pet Sematary (1989) reunion. However, I honestly broke the horror rules, went back to one last time to see if she appeared, and the troublesome clouds cleared, volunteers surrounded Felissa telling them about a tall fan of hers on the press circuit wanting to meet her. It was a stellar moment, she gave me hug signed a poster for and gave personalized photo and even took a picture with me, she just took the time to actually talk to me, amazing other fans had gathered around and took the time share their favorite films of hers; too. The first time I’ve been in front of the camera at Festival or Convention.
I hustled over to Pet Sematary panel luckily enough to a get front row seat, while waiting for the start I chatted with some in attendance that spoke about reunions they like to have it range from C.H.U.D. to Ghoulies to Scream. Finally time for this discussion session to start, a highly packed event, and everyone took out camera and videos, but Denise asked everyone to put them away, and just listen, all in attendance obeyed. It actually made for a fun and interesting panel discussion, I think it was the first time I ever witnessed it. Dale Midkiff kept making the error of not talking into his microphone, but Denise took overwhelming control of panel, noting, how Stephen King promised them dinner, yet they realized then (several years later) they never got it. She also noted the hardest day of filming and how later that day driving back to her trailer in the woods she hit a fox and literally lost it mentally screaming and crying. She told many amusing stories of their film, as did Brad and Dale, however this journalist does the audio of the chat; which will air on Baron’s Crypt in upcoming weeks.
Shortly after the panel ended I got her signature on my German Pet Sematary poster, and final completed my checklist, as I headed over to the film festival, I stopped by a filmmakers Thomas Ryan’s table to purchase a Blu-ray of Theatre of Terror; then my friend Newt Wallen’s table to see artwork movie posters of his
and also rising talent of Brett Mullen (Bombshell Bloodbath ) and talked his film Bloody Ballet how it change titles from originally Fantasma. I noted the possible change to piggyback on Suspiria’s remake release, and he agree, but inform his movie pays homage to Dario’s masterpiece. Lastly, stopped by Artist Spillman’s table getting Michael Myers’ mug adding to my collection, because I enjoy my coffee.
Upon my arrival to the Film Festival, I learned from Tony Goggles, the fest was running behind by 1-hour, we chatted about his indie filmmaking panel from Friday, and then I mention when if ever would I get a copy of Sodomanic, and with that he hurried off to his vendor table a grab one of the last copies. FINALLY! Well it was time to enter into the theater area to see the last of the films. shorts and features, which included several movies, among them for example Guilty; Evan Curtis’ Night of the Living Dead, Theresa and Allison, a vampire flick that won Best Feature at this year’s Fest, and the close-out slasher film Kill Teaser.
At that point it was strange to leave the event, the first time, when I left the theater, the convention floor, was practically stripped down, ninety-percent of the vendors vanished, long since I was the last one-standing, while quite commonplace for I to be the final journalist but with the film festival delay by a hour. It was great time, meeting horror fans, filmmakers from many places some even traveled from the west coast, and a few even further away, which shows the growing impact of Ryan and Robert’s Con and Fest, and their great team has on the aspiring dreams and terrorizing nightmares of the cinematic qualities growing by leaps and bounds, and thankful as always for the opportunity to attend the event as the press representing The Horror Times. Some might see my approach far too serious, however, I take the time to enjoy myself, but do from a position of a fest journalist with the mission to report and review on the quality and quantity of activities that this event offers to the fans, the best bang for the buck and that answer is an overwhelming five bloody skulls of approval for all fiends and sickos!
Until next time when I see you at the next event in October 2019!
NJ Horror Con October Event Page – HERE
NJ Horror Con and Film Festival Facebook page – HERE
NJ Horror Con Website – HERE