Well, once again horror fans, friends, and fiends Ryan Scott Weber’s New Jersey Horror Bash took over the Showboat Hotel, in Atlantic City for 3 days, however this past event had a few wrinkles but never threatened the incredible showmanship the team did their best to strive forward and present another great show. Before discussing those issues, lets understand something really cool about being part of this wonderful genre of horror fans, some outsiders look upon the masses as either freaks or sickos, and to us we say thank you, but seriously, a lot people have normal day jobs from doctors, lawyers, construction workers, to even auditors (well that’s already a scary job), but the point is that all welcoming under the tent, we all get to have moments sharing prized collections with others in line, sharing thoughts on these films the passion presented in t-shirt art or tattoos, all of it shows our dedication. As many know I roll in the day before, avoiding lines, get settled with the gear, though one special thing occurred the day of the event, I published remotely the September issue of The Horror Times, it’s a thrill to do that, knowing some of the people covered were going to be at the con too. One thing of importance, this isn’t just an article of the past convention, rather a review of everything that happened, but some might think a significant detail may sway me in delivering a bias view, which was I was a sponsor of the event, nevertheless, I affirm here that this is a clean cut fairly judge observation of the aspects I witnessed. In fact, I must thank Tony Goggles, the Film Festival Director and overall mad guru as well as director of Sodomanic (2015) for redesigning my logo, I had always wanted to be a sponsor of some horror event, this is a cool to be a part of, sort of a bucket list item. I already tried to stop by his table D.I.Why? Films and mentioned the great job. In addition, this is an accurate and honest review of the event, not every convention or festival runs 100% smoothly they all have bumps and unexpected problems, it’s how one solves them without it becoming a chaotic moment that sour the attendee’s enjoyment.
One of the first things, upon arrival aside beating a slew darkening clouds of a slow building storm the customary madness of vendors loading in gear for the convention, however in the past they normally gather at a different area, this piqued my interest. Once I entered the lobby it all made sense, Netflix had taken over the entire downstairs area, with large black drapes hoisted in the air, and heavily guarded from prying eyes, and the press. I later found out this was communicated to all the vendors a month in advance, and hence the venue for the most part was on the second floor, now face it, most people want to walk right into the area, but a steep escalator awaited them for the ascent. The one nice aspect of the event on the second floor, it allowed for a second entry point especially for the vendors, stars, and I, the press to enter/leave to return to rooms. As the customary aspect now found at all conventions, reunions, and this time there were a few options, some shocking for horror fans to witness, if you missed it or were there I guarantee this article will give all the details in vivid remembrance.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11 – DAY 1
It was quite hard to keep my anticipation under control for the event, as the countdown started marching onward, 9am, I am prepping my gear and packing the fest bag. Then mapping who to meet first and where to be, now this fest gives out a great itinerary of who going to be where and when, meaning pro- photo shoots or panels, with that information one can plan their attack. Now some may think that’s a harsh word, ‘attack’ but sadly its proper, one must become very aggressive, because once the event starts there’s only so much available time for both the guests and you, namely as you might not be there all three days, just one night or day. I personally take a different approach and one I’ve evolved from over the seasons of attending these events, at first I handled it purely from a journalist point of view, never indulging in the fan perspective, then I switched that up and did half the event as a fan then reported, this time I did them jointly at the same time, giving full dedication to all.
The first true wrinkle aside from the event on the second floor (which was beyond their control) the entrance line management which had to share the space with check-in services, the entrance to the hotel and security checkpoint. This always seems to have a problem, something never seems to click properly here, but not wanting any delays I arrived 2-hours early, yep 3pm, and stood ready with my print-out paperwork, first in the line. One thing most mumble about in the line behind me, is why the pre-paid ticket holders have to stand in a line to get their passes, that they weren’t ready for pick-up at a table or window.. However, not seeking to hear the complaints, I started a conversation with other fans how they wanted to meet Heather Langenkamp, who was there for a small Nightmare on Elm Street reunion, Claudia Wells (Back to the Future) and Diane Franklin (Amityville II). Soon enough, after a bit of a delay the line for cash and prepaid tickets received the green light enter, at the same time (more grumbles of not-fair), I merely shrug their shoulders and heading over to security, shaking hands with many of those of last time. Since I know the process, I give no problems, fully ready with the procedure up to second floor.
Another wonderful thing the convention did was to publish on the website and Facebook pages, an estimated price listing for the guests and their autograph costs, face it, that’s what brings in the crowds they come to meet and greet their (our) heroes then on to the vendors and film festival. Therefore, once upstairs I passed by Wild Eye Releasing’s large set-up and the hosts of the film festival, numerous vendors before making a bee-line for the first guest I desperately wanted to meet George Wyner. George was actually on-hand for Pop Culture aspect of this year’s convention, and thereby representing part of the Spaceballs reunion. However, I ventured up to his table and patiently waited for a fan to finish in front of me, once face to face I mentioned to him that the film I wanted to discuss wasn’t on his banner (which listed so many of this credits). I then unrolled an Italian insert poster of Dogs (1976) that George just looked in shock over, stating “this was my first actual film role… I’ve never seen this poster in person, first time ever” he went on to discuss the movie, and his experiences on it, then he signed it and then got a photo it “that’s the best, glad I was here to see” he wanted to know how I obtained it and informed him through a highly pressured and expensive auction. It would affect just how many limited signatures I would able to afford, as I intended to visit vendors on Saturday. Next I went across the room to meet PJ Soles, obviously well-known for Carrie and Halloween, who politely gave a warm Hello! I of course replied with my customary “Greetings”, which led to a quizzical look, I explained if one says hello in a horror film they either awake to evil happenings or they highly likely to become slaughtered, but when was the first some states my opening line and dies, hasn’t happened yet. I had her sign the poster of Candy Corn, which she mentioned this was rare opportunity to ask someone if they saw it, she noticed my press pass, and requested and honest answer. I stated I liked her part but that it had a lot dull moments, that fitted into similar slasher movies and that Tony Todd’s contribution thoroughly wasted, she and an associate of hers agreed, it was a waste of his talents. She though recalled me, namely the Turkish poster version of Carrie, I had signed a previous NJ Horror Con, I informed her that I had William Katt sign it which brought great smiles to her, and me too. Then a quick stop by Diane Franklin’s table which lasted a tad longer than expected, a fan of hers in front of me, I think nearly bought every photo and item on Diane’s table, it was fun to watch him show his obsession and dedicate to her craft she projected in each role. As for myself the original Amityville II: The Possession (1982) folded poster, it was a quick visit as the reporter with-in me knew important panels awaited.
I hurried to the Q&A room which was down on the first floor and shared the room with Pro Photo-Op, I had previously scoped out where this area would be found, just did my research the night before this fast moving fest. I made it in time for the 7p panel on the cult classic Frankenhooker a reunion of Patty Mullen and James Lorinz taking the stage with host LeMar McLean, a switch from the customary Mr. Chris Stiles. He does a great job prepping for the guests and working the to encourage audience participation. One terrific change from the previous event, no more arcade all that noise drowned out the speakers, however the noise of photo ops which was separate the room by a black drape curtains gave a slight issue, but remember there was extensive limited room to maneuver. It was a wonderful discussion that gave much insight to the process of making the film, and how the literally stealing fleeting moments to film, while encouraging aspiring filmmakers. The only thing that improve these panel sessions had some sort of artwork of the film they are mainly discussing, a sort of picture to the face moment. After that panel came the outrageous and insanely enjoyable Tristen Risk along the filmmakers and directors of Rabid (2019) remake and American Mary (2012) Jen and Silva Soska! However, handling the questions this time was the Metal Meowstress – Kitten Rose, from Poisonous Pinups Magazine, (though Chris present for advice) the entire event had a book solid room, in fact a lot people were packed in for standing room to hear these women speak about the importance of storytelling that women can, should, exquisitely pull off, while making comments about #MeToo movement. The Soska Sisters mentioned how they got the job for the remake of Rabid, and a very amusing story. Once the panel finished Tristen Risk was introduced to a very nice snake (I didn’t get the name of it or the breed, perhaps python) as you can see by the pictures she enjoyed the moment, no fear but rather a soothing relax engagement that allowed others to understand the natural beauty of both them.
After the last panel and brief chat with Chris Stiles learning more details about the upcoming panels for tomorrow I bumped into a few horror fans, who recognized me from other events, called out “Baron, Baron Craze” they wanted to discuss remakes, among other things such as promotion and with the time why not head off and share in the friendly exchange of viewpoints. This is what makes this event so satisfying, it allows for many wide open areas to have impromptu moments. Since I was at the center of this discussion no pictures were taken, that I’m aware of, it was great to note the enthusiasm as both pros and cons of the aspect of remakes, noting the difference between remake-rip-off and complete reconstructing of a storyline. Shortly after I returned to the second floor, met with my friends over at Jerks Production, namely Brandon Tanczak and discussed various topics, including his film Aqua (2019) which would go on to win Best Actor for Bill Hargenrader (Congrats!) and seated next to him Jade Figueroa of Necro FX featuring her fantastic work. Afterwards I popped into the film festival to catch up some more aspiring work.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12 – DAY 2
As a sponsor I earned two additional 3-day passes, one for my girl, who is handicapped to attend, and she gave me great insight on how she was treated by vendors, staff and other horror fans. The second pass went to a friend, who acted more as secret shopper/reporter, as I sometimes notice when speaking with fans, they give slanted or sugar-coated answers, as if afraid to give honest opinions. Now for anyone who doesn’t know this day is the biggest and longest of the entire convention, so much goes on, that it tested the limits of a just one person to cover it all, but I somehow do it each year. Therefore, I accompanied my girlfriend, Amy, onto the second floor, and over to the tables of Amanda Wyss, first greeted us but turned her attention to Amy’s tee that read “Best thing about having Multiple Sclerosis is that Zombies don’t want my brain!” Then Amanda started asking a series of questions about the disease along how she was feeling, and inquired about me as a caregiver, this all shows that she likely knows someone with the disease, I replied that I do a yearly fundraiser in order to help people suffering with the illness. She then signed my A Nightmare on Elm Street book, followed by Mimi Craven and Mick Strawn and finally Heather Langenkamp, hence scoping up more signatures in my book, however instead of having them sign the inside cover like many other do for film books, I allow them to choose a random page.
We then venture to Terry Kiser, this was truly a cool treat for me, as my favorite Friday the 13th movie for me is Part 7, but the poster I had him signed was both an original and came with an ominous tone. I first greeted Mr. Kiser and quite frankly told him his character was a complete ass, which others around were shocked I said that, but not Terry he accepted it as compliment as intended, and he agreed, why – that’s what makes an actor most happy, if someone hates their character, as they should, it’s not an insult, but speaks volumes of truth. Then as he started to sign it, I mentioned how John Carl Buechler signed it on September 21, 2018 and then March 18th he passed on, just 6-months later, once finished he just looked at me, I said “I guess you’ll make your next physical…” Terry made sly reply “damn sure” then got some photos with me and him, but he insisted to get one with my girlfriend, and made a comment about staying positive upon reading her shirt. As the time neared 1p for A Nightmare on Elm Street (ANOES) panel, I hurried onward, while I left Amy to wander around by herself.
While I made my way to the next panel, I assisted people along the way to find different places, and why not it’s both polite and in way I feel connected to Weber’s team, always wanting to give a great show to everyone in attendance. Yes, face at any event there’s rude people, but you can’t ever let those individuals crush your dreams and enjoyment. The extraordinary interviewer Chris Stiles handled the event which had a pack room, and included a few cos-players including a Freddy and Nancy, as I waited for the event to start taking the time to ask some what did they think of the event, many gave an affirmative nod, others commented further stating happy to have some more pop-culture involvement (more on this in few moments), some hope for a Robert Englund or Kane Hodder make a presence soon at future conventions. One fan, Mitch wanted more anniversary reunions, like this one, meaning ANOES (1984) marked the 35th anniversary, but he also wanted more obscure horror film representation. Always easier said than done, but alas the panel had a lot of great insight to Craven’s design and how it factors over a few films in the series, because some of the stars present worked together and appear on different flicks. For Example Mick Strawn very animated on how to explain the different techniques in creating the special effects and production designs, who originally wasn’t scheduled for panel (so glad he came), while Heather commented on the real life stalking issue she had, and how some of that got incorporated into the New Nightmare (1994) but that she refused to state one line in the film, and just left as silent disagreement between her and Wes. All in all the hour flew by, we laughed and a there was high audience participation, that I captured on my trusty audio mic.
This became the part where I had other scheduled interviews and needed to cover the vendors on the second floor, while preparing for the LIVE awards show not wanting to lose my seat and position therefore sadly, I couldn’t attend the remaining three panels that all feature a venture into the pop-culture aspect. Among the afternoon’s panels Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Police Academy (which was thoroughly insane especially with Michael Winslow making many of legendary mouth-sounds) and finally schedule as Carmen Electra. One should note that Charlie Sheen was in attendance, a tad odd for some of the guests at the convention, trying to determine his horror connection, well I suppose The Wraith (1986), Grizzly II (1983) and the horror-comedies Scary Movie 3 thru 5. I made way over to author E.L. Jefferson to discuss his novel Unleashed which I reviewed, and that he loved, how I would begin to reveal part of the plot only to switch gears and leave the reader dangling ff the edge grasping to discover more of the story. Also, I mentioned some criticism that he even heard from others and his editor, which stated sometimes the scariest horror is that told in the ‘light’ meaning the cursing needs to be justifying not just there cause you can, rather meaningful intent, one can be ‘blue’ the language but not offensive without regard to both the characters and respect to the readers. It was an overall wonderful and insightful discussion and he then handed me his next novel Touched By Evil.
After a wonderful discussion with Rob the owner of Wild Eye Releasing, who was sadly missed at the previous convention, that included upcoming horror flicks such as Jeremy Sumrall’s Pick Axe (2019). I inquired if any more movies in the vein of the foreign movie The Forest of Lost Souls (2017) and more recent documentary Scary Stories (2019) we spoke of the pluses and minuses of various upcoming filmmakers, and how some learn from the previous mistakes and others are destined to repeat them. However, what was very great to see when I arrived at his table the creator and founder Damon Della Greca of Slasher App, a very creative app for horror fans, filmmakers, creators, and one I belong to. Rob even took the time to introduce us both, which is something he does often, putting like-minded people together, and seeing what they can create and advance both art and themselves. That’s a great hidden aspect of this event! I then headed into the film festival room and took a place in the front row, first up the much hyped Artik (2019), a film from Tom Botchii Skowronski which entertained the audience, showing how one mysterious man can upset the sick demented family plans of homicidal maniacs. As the time crept slowly to the award show, a wonderful horror comedy called Playtime’s Over in which a child named Dee (Evan Reames) is obsessed with horror films and uses homages to them to terrorize her babysitters, it’s filled with references to many great horror films from Carrie to Psycho all from the creative mind of director Tony Reames and also starred Haley Leary (Strip Club Massacre ).
The room started to fill with friends and family all on supporting the fellow filmmakers, preparing for the Award Show, for a few it’s just another award, but a cool design, and many others it’s that first achievement showing they can do this, that others understand their art and conceptual design, proving to family that their craft is visible. One plus no Q & A panels occurred at the same of the award show, as last time, meaning everyone had the opportunity to attend.
Normally in the past Tiffany Shepis served as host of the Awards, however due to a change in shooting schedules, she needed to decline, therefore the Soska Sisters and Tristan Risk did the hosting in impromptu fashion. A raucous event got crazier and wilder, the laughs and smiles reign supreme, but unlike those stuffy award shows, i.e. Oscars, that if a host cannot be there in person, they can pre-record a video and have that play at the show, what an incredible achievement in cinematography the ability to play a video of someone peaking to the audience – what will think of next. While the show doesn’t feature a lot of BS it is straightforward, humored-filled and not quite politically correct, it makes everyone feel very welcome in the venue, which feels very encouraging. Of course once the show ended everyone especially the winners gathered outside in film festival lobby for photos, videos, interviews, with all types of media, struggling for their ideal shots, and yet somehow not too pushy, especially one journalist understanding the best position to affix themselves in for those great moments. The winning filmmakers exchanging business cards (even with all the technology this little card still rules) and hints of working together on future projects becoming quite clear, the world changes with a win in front of peers. Meanwhile one fan film aired Friday the 13th: Vengeance, after the award show, ah once again torn in the location I need to be in, doing the interviews and photos or watching a film, clear indication where I choose from the photos.
Oh, curious about the winners here’s the list:
Later in the night, after some downtime, many of workers, volunteers and attendees headed over to the A.C.E. restaurant for Scaryoke hosted by Michael Winslow, who enhanced the evening with his motor-mouth musical madness. Its great time had by everyone for both the primal songs and those that only seek cut-loose thoroughly enjoy the libations and all knowing that only one day remain of this fun convention, also cool to bump who into on my way out, Loren W. Lepre, director of The Dark Military and actor in various films, always interesting one meets at these events. I stopped for a private drink with my friend give me his inside scoop and most of it full on positives though, state sometimes the volunteers seemed a little confused or non-engaging, never least telling people what or who to see, where to go, often seeing many people sitting on steps playing on the phones. I asked what the opinion of the pop-culture was, for the most part some like as these stars were in horror films in general, but obviously many wanted more horror reunions, especially with the shocking moments of Sid Haig suddenly passing.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13 – DAY 3 – FINAL DAY
My girlfriend and I headed to the vendors early on, knowing this viciously fun animal was mere hours from closing down, the morning though seems to start off, sluggishly slow, with a no-show from a filmmaker for a scheduled interview, all that is typical sometimes in the business. This day is sort of a zombie trance day, sad it’s almost over, and yet happy cause it only means more fantastic fun to come from the rest of October and a countdown to the next one. We took the opportunity to enjoy some of the vendors, first stopping by Deadly Grounds Coffee (Real none of that K-Cup stuff), sadly no hearse this time for obvious reasons. Then a few comic book tables and onward to Artist Scott Spillman and then Amy decided she wanted walkabout on her own, realizing that everyone treated her fine with her handicap, which we both know is not the case at many private business – A+++ NJ Horror Con!
I stopped by to see Father Evil for his blessings for a final safe good day, and then by Psychothematic Media and their support of the independent film Fauna (2020), which had their special effects successfully done by Cycloptic Props. I had the opportunity to speak with the filmmakers about their project which is a classic creature feature flick, finally a different direction not just merely a zombie or slasher movie, while those are acceptable one needs some variety. I look forward to seeing this movie! As the day marched onward, I travelled by the vendors, especially those of custom artwork such as Erick’s Custom Movie Monsters, wonderful displays (sadly out of my price range – such is life). Next up the artist Bryon Winter, another incredible artist, has work I marvel at, then again, I might have talents in promotion, vivid words, but when it comes to drawing people that merely stick figures and even then their losing one’s head. I actually found myself enjoying the stroll pass numerous artists such Marko Grasso, a man to does phenomenal custom wood carvings of horror icons and other unique décor. I had to check some of the wonderful Halloween mask tables as many know I am huge collector of these creations, namely Mischief Night Collectibles, they had many of the Trick or Treat Studios masks, I mentioned how there isn’t one of Norman Bates’ mother or even a head prop of hers. Just so many great vendors, nearly impossible to cover them all, but always worth one’s time to check them out, they after all are the backbone of any convention, and need your support. A few more panels occurred I met with Edward X. Young and b-movie actor who often seems to channel Vincent Price into his roles, none so more clear with his flick Bigfoot: Blood Trap (2017) who’s original artwork definitely played to the Misty Mundae and Seduction Cinema style exploitation style, but changed over to Wild Eye Releasing’s new line of film called Raw and Extreme. A simple enough storyline of a mad scientist wanting to have a Bigfoot impregnate a human woman thereby breaching the species. Edward mentioned how the film destroyed his political aspirations, but otherwise he seems to have no hard feelings as he was very jovial about the film. I decided to see this newish version exploit the bigfoot and sexploitation subgenre markets, well simply its definitely not for everyone, some of the most inane images place onto a screen. Once the flick ended, Rob once again (THANKS!) arranged an interview with Edward and actor John McCormack I grabbed a quick interview as I noticed that many vendors were closing down a tad early, but then again after 3p solely shows the lifeblood of this beasts dwindling fast.
Luckily though, for the dedicated attendees, filmmakers and fans the next event was already announced which will take place March 27 to 29th, 2020 here at the Showboat Hotel and with those dates after my annual fundraiser for MSAA, I’ve booked my room, and signed for sponsorship, once more.