Brings Back the Fun!
It took two years for the impressive New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival to return and occur to produce another incredible show, this time airing on Labor Weekend, which did have some fans unable to attend, but for those there it was a blast, seeing old friends, reconnecting with others, it solidified one thing horror fans are rabid! Before I really dive deep into the weekend there’re a few things to discuss, as this was to a few their first con ever, first guests (the celebs) do cancel from time to time, the convention has no control, filming schedules change and they have personal lives where sometimes situations arise, for example Hurricane Ida caused destruction, chaos, and death. The average event has over 30-guests, and given enough time replacements are usually found, but sometimes it’s too late and it doesn’t happen. In addition, speaking not in their control is autograph prices each star sets their own price and you the fans and patrons have the ability to not pay, the decision is entirely yours. Readers, fans of mine and The Horror Times always wonder how one can do a fair article on a con and fest that I sponsor, very easily I separate the two, after all this more than an article it’s an assessment/review of the event.
Friday, September 3rd, 2021
Normally as many know I roll into this event on Thursday, and stay till Monday, however due costs of the weekend stay at the Showboat Hotel on Labor Day, which was impossible and the only solution was for me to drive from Haddonfield to Atlantic city each day, and one way trip of 60-miles, yeah I sacrificed for the travel time. Hence this day I arrived with a few things to get signed, a customary aspect I do to truly enjoy the event from the fan perspective. Nevertheless, it was getting into line, with my girl tagged along for the ride, we noticed almost all the fans adhered to the notice of convention to wear a mask, which showed that many were willing to assist in their own manner. While it was required everywhere, some encouragement went into the message, though entering the guest room required “masks worn at all times” if not one was strongly ordered to leave. Once in line, which wrapped down the front hallway with fans, chatting and patiently waited for the adventure to start, one person was miffed that it was 5:04p, and weren’t allowed in yet, everyone in ear-shot laughed, as if in 4-mnutes everything was gone, and nothing left, sheesh its always the way; there’s not many thing in life that operates on time; three minutes later the crowd started filing in to the venue. A nice and smooth entry, with printouts to previous years shows, me included great to see many of these people who work behind the scenes ensuring a safe and solid show, such as Chris Sarni, helping to answer questions in polite manner, which is something else the convention prides itself on not rudeness. Any line or guest area usually had Father Evil stalking, prowling and thoroughly interacting with fans, some were very cool with it and other completely freaked.
First, I walked around the vendor room and then headed against the hall to see the guests (which is the film stars) primarily held in one room, first upon entering the room was Terrifier, a huge draw. I was there to gather more signatures for my album cover of Terrifier soundtrack and an exclusive art print of Night of the Creeps for Jill Whitlow. She was a lot of fun, to meet, really very socially with her fans, she noticed my wristband for ‘press’ and made more jokes comments of paparazzi, it makes the meeting so much more when the guest takes the time to conversed with one of their fans. That’s one thing I must say the NJ Horror Con always gets right, their guests are friendly, regardless of the day they bring their A-game! I returned back to vendor room to meet some vendors and then D.I.Why? Films, spoke to them about the film Sodomaniac  which got a update released by Wild Eye Releasing a disgusting movie to some the least, the filmmaker either was going for ultimate gross-out feature or dealing with insanity demons. This way not for the squeamish or faint of heart, but it was here a few years ago I met the owner of Wild Eye, who sadly was absent from the con and hence the studio behind the production of the said flick.
Some in attendance complained (can’t make some folks happy) of the layout and how it’s always changing, but this is misdirected, as the convention operators have no say on the setup, rather Showboat Hotel management does, due to the new $7 million Lucky Snake arcade which removed half the main floor, vendors opportunities, and shifts the Pro Photo Ops. The Film Fest and Q&A Panels were upstairs but not close to each other, in fact there’s quite a few amusing stories about it; while the overwhelming majority of guests were in a large, isolated room, that formerly held vehicles from horror flicks, now this time around no vehicles presented. Lastly, as years before Scaryoke After Party, was in the ACE restaurant but now it too takes place in the Spirit Bar Lounge.
Before we left for the evening, I stopped by the film festival room to watch a few flicks, all in all a fine start to the convention and film festival, what treats were in install for tomorrow.
Saturday, September 4th, 2021
This is considered the biggest and longest day at any convention, in fact, Tony Goggles, Film Festival Director, was one of the busiest, due the postponement of two previous conventions the number of film submissions selected was 104 (shorts and features) increased and therefore a second room was added, one is the former Bourbon Room of The House of Blues and then the second room was in The Heart and Soul. Everyone agreed that the Bourbon Room was one of the most incredible settings for film festival, a balcony with comfy chairs, and floor seating, and powerful audio setup to accompany the films on a large screen. This room would serve as the Awards Show later in the night. Unfortunately, before the day begun at 10a, I witnessed a situation, which showed the talent of Ryan’s team to overcome an unforeseen issue, The Showboat Hotel, experienced a technical glitch, which effected one of the rooms of the fest, but Tony and his assistant worked to resolve the problem. I saw some very entertaining films, though I left the room at 1p at the start Ouija Shark, I just had feeling to return to Guest Room, and my inclination wasn’t wrong, the fans were lining-up constantly for the stars, cast of Terrifer, they were up front and commanding the attention of so many, that line grew incredibly long, and the their vendor table was moved into the guest room, to capitalize on the attention of fans.
While this occurred the Q&A panel had Tom Arnold, which was a lot of fun an amusing gentleman and then at 2p John O’Hurley, this all went to show the excitement that the con brought to the fans, as the film fest rooms operating, guests enjoying the attention afforded to them and vendors all at once. WOW!
I then took a longer, more in-depth stroll in the vendor room, looking at few customary masks/prop creators, always fascinates the style and quality, of course there many of the horror figurine merchandisers. However, what always catches are the eye, from sculptors to artists, although the con, visitors, and myself definitely marvel at their work, I like to extend a piece of advice, know your audience, one individual brought 27 x 40-inch paintings ranging in cost of $2000 to $2500; exquisite in style and design, but not for the current crowd on hand, I know it’s done to entice the buyer, or offer up a poster print of it instead. A few folks I overheard talk about it the large paintings, it was easy to determine who they spoke off, and the price-tag was a genuine sticker shock. So often when I attend these events, and see this become a big issue for vendors who miss-judge the market and horror fans’ wallet.
Needlessly happy to meet many of the authors on hand, such as Neil A. Cohen always a pleasure to speak with, he had a prime table almost center stage to greet many guests, and nearly across from him was E.L. Jefferson, I had just reviewed his book Touched By Evil then wandering about I met an industrial metal band American Grim and then found another table with two more authors Daniel J. Volpe and Aron Beauregard, who’s table was very popular. Their books’ artwork gave that appearance of pulp horror, not like the heavily sanitized commercial crap often in the bookstores nowadays, rather the brutal and quick understanding of the story intent, after all it’s noted the book covers have 1.5-second to attract the reader. Curious about their work search for the authors on Amazon. During my travel I located an interest table “Guide of the Unknown” two podcasters Kristen Anderson and Will Rogers whose show was/is about curiosity involving paranormal and horror movies, which has over 203 episodes and was fun meeting again, there’s so much to do at the event, no could ever say they were bored.
At 3p I headed to the Q&A Panel room, hosted by the talented Chris Stiles, he was conducting a small reunion with cast members of Night of the Creeps  with Jason Lively, Jill Whitlow and Allan Kayser; Jason arrived first, with energy and sheer comedic force, all in prepping the crowd on-hand, and Allan, both joking about walking 15-miles to the Q&A room, with someone else commenting the very tall escalator was not working (I didn’t witness it hence unable to confirm). They noted how the second was like a ghost town, perfect place to film a horror movie, which it’s sort of like, so many corridors, empty rooms it’s an interesting location. Also, Allan noted that Jason has all the energy staying up crazy hours and watching the sunrise, cause don’t get that experience often – ah the attitude sleep when you’re dead is so true. Their panel was very amusing, and the stories told were very interesting especially about director Fred Dekker.
I spent a longer than usual time in the film festival room, which was going to serve as the location the award show, enjoying the movies, and having a lunch/dinner break, a little after 6p the movies ended, and one other person was in the room a few rows up thoroughly enjoying the films shown; I was about to leave, but realized that she didn’t know the schedule. Hence, I just informed her the film fest was over for the day, but that her ticket got her into the cosplay contest and LIVE awards show. In hindsight perhaps a title card needs to come up on the screen informing the audience of what else to do the event, especially for those unaware of the program, a form of a ‘call to action.’ Anyway, we walked together to the panel room chatting about classic horror and then modern storytelling from the new filmmakers. For the first time in quite some time in attending this con, I headed to the cosplay event, it was very packed and worked to get my spot to take pictures – always polite.
There are some people that asked the importance of seeing people in costumes, however it goes much deeper, often they are aspiring costume designers, showing their skills with latex (mask making) or makeup/special effects, or just sewing/stitching regardless of the technique some do it all as an extension to show other filmmakers and producers what they can do on modest budgets. There was Chris Stiles helping people up and down steps – some suggested quietly there should be a ramp or some railing – some near falls almost happened, but Chris was amazing in the right place to save the day.
Then it was time to hike back up to Film festival room for the 7p Awards which actually wasn’t that true, it more of a filmmakers meet and greet, the reasoning behind it to make sure that everyone arrived on time and had a chance to find their place. There I saw director and actor Loren W. Lepre promoting his latest flick The Dark Military , which has a Blu-ray, loaded with a ton of extras, and thanks to him informing me it was available on the free streaming services of Plex and Tubi. Then meeting up with Edward X. Young discussing his projects and thoughts on the horror genre and con, finally discussing press aspects with fellow journalist Todd Staruch, mainly not getting in each other’s line-of-sight at the awards. It’s often a one-shot attempt, hence it’s a very focus moment for the press on-hand. Among some of the filmmakers in attendance to supports others was Brandon E. Brooks, and hosting the event was none other than Newt Wallen assisted by Justin Silverman and Crystal Nicole, it was Justin who got some shouting from the audience when he inadvertently stated Albert Hitchcock who made the legendary Psycho – oops, the crowd yelled back ALFRED! Yet, it was still a lot of fun, Newt did his best on short notice.
After the event ending and a little wrap up occurred it was a quick jaunt down to the Spirit Lounge, shockingly it already was crowded with some of the patrons of the award show, I met one horror fan named Ralph, who had really enjoyed his day at the event, was down for just Saturday, his big thrill was meeting Night of the Creeps cast and Tom (I figured he meant Arnold); however he noted a downside to the hotel and stressed not the con “there’s a stage here to do karaoke – LOVE IT; but there’s three steps to climb, no railing and room is very tight, to discourage handicap fans” he was correct on both cases. Likely more changes coming; these can’t affect the con. When asked if he’s coming in November I go a thumbs up “Hell Yeah”!
Sunday, September 5th, 2021
Sundays in the convention world are often the sluggish to start, late night of parties, enjoyment from all welcomed Awards Show, but it’s considered ‘liquid day’ as it’s going race by, like water through a strainer, by 5pm the beast goes asleep until it’s called once more by the creator of the madness. I arrived at 930a and saw a smaller group of folks in the line for tickets, often it’s those seeing any bargains, or just frankly the only time they could attend, either way the guests and activities all up to meet greet with professionalism. I made way to find Susan Backlinie’s table, and learn she was in the vendor room, by vendors with Jaws merchandise, a wonderful pleasure, who insisted you remove your mask to speak with her, no fear to shake one’s hand, a proud stuntwoman, and we discussed her work in Jaws, she knew everything that was going to happen, unlike the rumors she has heard, who have to, must trust your stunt assistants. Then a brief chat about the film Day of the Animals, sadly unsure why my mic, didn’t work, lost that interview opportunity such is life, but again, she enjoyed every shot she did in the film industry, and noted you got to work hard. I had her signed my Jaws album on the cover.
As time grew short, I hurried to Q&A panel room, up the working escalators to be in place for the Terrifier panel at 11am, while on their site it was listed as two different panel one at 1 and another noon, one with the stars and other featuring cast. However, Chris asks for an assistant to gather Damien Leone and did David Howard Thornton “Art the Clown” and Catherine Corcoran. While waiting I asked do you know if the volunteers knew exactly who to bring up, if everyone associated with the flick comes up, and he jokingly commented “Huh? They wouldn’t do that…” I informed him the program states 1-hour for this panel the website the other layout of guests. In the end, everyone was on hand for the discussion and was a very informative chat. Among the stories were a few times that David come very close to being shot, as he freaks out passersby who informed police and S.W.A.T. teams and how Catherine got stuck in a full body rubber/latex suit and Damien almost had to call the fire department, noting it would be a difficult explain the situation and likely bring more polite. Now, it might sound weird or bizarre, however this is common on indie film shoots, I know from personal experiences that involved police. David also mentioned his character “Art” borrows input from the comedic greats of all time, Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. It really does help to nail down the flourishes his character makes and the pratfalls and the usage of his harkens back to Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers. It was a nice sized crowd on-hand for this very filled stage.
I often stay to the bitter end of the convention watching the last Q&A panel that this time involved Billy and Lisa Zane, stopping by the film fest for the last movie, however this year it was sadly different, all the driving and work on Monday had me in a tight beartrap, and hence I left slightly before 3p. Although I noticed there was a few fans in the one of the film rooms watching the final flicks, it’s refreshing there were nearly eight people watching, I repeat ‘viewing the super large screen’ not tapping on their phones. In addition, one saw people engaging in fun chats and sometimes exchanging business cards, still a thing between true professionals.
While the last few hours of the con, had the opportunity to talk about arranging future promotion work and then just briefly discussing the convention with fellow attendees, some who hope for more Friday the 13th reunions of the later sequels and one gentleman, Markus wondered if more stars would appear from the lost classics of 70s horror. Well, anything is possible, and though the con ended at 5p, the horror ride, never truly ends, because they return November 12th, and I will be there again, using the Slasher app to set up meetings. Final assessment, it was great to have the con back, a 2-year absence is had to return from that, no fault of the organizers just a small pandemic and something which occurs once every 100-years, so perhaps a slightly big deal. Ryan’s team worked tiresomely to put on a great event, and while some volunteers did bow out, often due to their own safety concern and few whenever they realize all the hard work that goes into running the event. Overall, 98% people obeyed and observed the requirements to wear masks, not just around the guests but also among those on vendors floor, and even other fans, no need to become anger by a sign or request, it was all fun to see fans enjoying and showing their dedication to the horror genre.
The guest list is already being generated for the November 2021 con!