The good, the bad and the ugly
Optimistically speaking, I sincerely hope that younger horror fans are enjoying modern cons as much as I enjoyed them when I was in my teens and early 20s, because I just don’t have fun at them anymore. Some of the allure has simply dwindled due to the advancement of sites like this one, and some has simply been lost to getting older (standing in line for anything these days is a bit of a tough sell – I’m an old man!). But the sad truth, regardless of personal opinion, is that talent handlers and Creation’s own attitudes have reduced the Weekend of Horrors to a sad husk of its former self (to the extent that it’s no longer even involving Fangoria!). Still, the event wasn’t a total loss, and thus here are some highlights (and their accompanying lowlights) of L.A.’s 2010 Weekend of Horrors!
The Hatchet panel OWNED. Debut footage, a full panel of guests from the film (more than they could even fit on the stage), a rousing Q&A – this is the type of panel that used to be commonplace at a con. Green and company clearly loved being there and brought some of that old-school spirit, which is appropriate for the old-school film they were promoting. In lieu of a lame trailer, Green presented two full unrated kills from the film. Without giving names, in one we see Mr. Crowley introduce the business end of a six-foot chainsaw to not one but TWO characters simultaneously, starting at their groins and working his way up. In the second, Crowley and one of the film’s other new characters (one who looks Crowley’s size) beat the piss out of each other throughout a cabin (Crowley’s?) before Crowley delivers a hilarious killing blow that will surely inspire a few American History X comparisons. And according to Green, these kills – which brought the house down – are among the most tame in the film! With more than double the on-screen kills than was shown in the first film, Hatchet II looks to be a winner. During the panel, Green revealed that they had just submitted the film to the MPAA and will cut it according to their specifications, but it might be for nothing as an unrated (theatrical) release is still being seriously considered, as the film is likely to not have a wide release anyway and thus they wouldn’t need to worry about getting a lot of TV spots and billboards and such. Easily the highlight of the weekend.
Robert Englund did a solo Q&A on which he covered pretty much every topic under the sun. If you’ve ever seen him give an interview, you know he can ramble, and as long as you’re not the guy asking the question, it’s a lot of fun listening to his stream of conscious responses. For example, a guy asked him about working in Spain on Killer Tongue, and within seconds he was discussing how he wants to do Poe adaptations with Jeffrey Combs and Doug Bradley. He also said that he has not yet seen the Nightmare remake, but still wished Jackie Earle the best of luck in the role and that he was not offended by having to hand over the glove (he IS in his 60s after all).
Re-Animator Panel. While they spent a bit too much time showing a clip of Combs’ (amazing) Poe performance in “Nevermore”, it was still great to see everyone together, as the group clearly has a real fondness for each other, and they all remain proud of their now 25 year old film. A Re-Animator musical first mentioned on Shock Till You Drop right here (with George Wendt!) was also previewed, and looks to be as good as if not better than the Evil Dead show. Look for that this fall.
Dario Argento. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him do a Q&A, and despite a few pointless questions from Adam Malin (you’re no Tony Timpone, sir), it was pretty much the only highlight of Sunday, hearing him (and cast members from Demons and Suspiria) talk about pretty much his entire career. He also dismissed the Deep Red remake news as rubbish, though he said he would still like to collaborate with Romero again on something else.
Pretty much every other panel. We had a complete repeat of last year’s Godkiller panel, sans Tiffany Shepis (boo!), which is a perfect example of how lackluster the lineup was this year. It’s bad enough that they were just recycling the same information from 2009, but it wasn’t really interesting the first time around. And while the idea of seeing “all” of the Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees together on one stage is interesting in theory, the sad truth is a lot of these guys simply haven’t done anything else of note in their careers and have told all of these stories before. Sure, Dick Warlock or Kane Hodder are always welcome, but do we really need the recollections of the kid who played young Michael in one shot (in a friggin MIRROR no less) in Halloween 4?
And while Uncle Creepy did a fine job keeping the Myers panel as interesting as possible, John Carl Beuchler proved he should just stick with makeup FX, as he was a horrible moderator for the Jason panel. I could see if he was just thrust on the stage with 30 seconds to prepare, but he had been announced to run the panel since the schedule went up. Yet he seemingly had no idea of the different Jasons used for parts two and five (Kane actually had to remind him to ask 5’s Tom Morga a question before moving on to him), and his opening question for Ken Kirzinger was, “So… hi!” The only amusement the panel provided was watching the actors make faces and snicker to the guys next to them as one awkward, generic question after another came their way. It seems like the guys all get along (even Hodder and Kirzinger were chatting), and I wondered how much better it would have been if they went out there solo like Englund did.
Why would they give a full HOUR to Harry Manfredini (who was also inexplicably with the Jasons – way to blow the concept), when he was sitting at a table all weekend if anyone wanted to chat with him? Do we really need to hear the “how I came up with Ki-ki-ma-ma” story again? Not if you were at the Jason panel the day before, since he told it them, too. Ultimately, it seemed most of the panels were simply designed to pass time and nothing else, and the ever dwindling population in the room (it was never more than 3/4s full at most – the panels on Sunday (save for Argento) were maybe Â¼ full at their peak) suggested that the paying fans would rather be elsewhere.
It was the same old same old dealer room. All of the usual suspects were there – Rotten Cotten, FilmDrunx, the guy selling the Star Wars Holiday Special… nothing I didn’t just see at Monsterpalooza a month ago. Where were the T-shirt dealers? Rotten Cotton had the most extensive collection and it was hardly vast (maybe 20 designs). Rare toys? Memorabilia? Forget it. It’s all just the same stuff you can find at any comic shop or Spencer’s gifts. The few things that caught my eye I know I can buy anywhere (and probably cheaper). And there was a surprising lack of independent filmmakers previewing their films, artists, and makeup gurus as well. The downtown L.A. cons may not have been great, but at least the dealers room was big and well-rounded. But here? You could cover the entire room in under ten minutes and more than likely come out empty-handed.
The venue: While it wasn’t as spread out as much as it was at the LA Convention Center downtown, it was still in a lousy location. I can only pray that Creation rented the area dirt cheap, because the horrid cell phone reception, complete lack of presence (you’d see people wandering around the hotel lobby trying to find the actual con – it was essentially in the basement), and unappealing area (who the hell wants to hang out near LAX all weekend?) made it a very puzzling choice. The parking situation was also atrocious – Sunday was a bit better due to the fact that so few were there, but Saturday was a nightmare before the con had even really kicked off for the day. The Marriott’s guest parking lot would barely suffice for a Target, let alone a convention that theoretically could be attended by over a thousand people. And Creation didn’t bother working out a “talent lot” for the panel guests with the hotel, so you’d see guys like Tom Holland and R.A. Mihailoff walking several blocks from the nearest available parking facility in order to get to the hotel for their panel. Even Saturday wasn’t remotely full, so I am astounded that they would choose a venue that couldn’t even handle half of its guests. It’s no surprise that the next Weekend of Horrors will indeed be returning to Burbank, which has always been the ideal locale for conventions.
First off, let me just say that I’m not against the idea of talent charging for their autograph (especially if they have rented a table in the dealer room). No one is being forced to hand 20 bucks over to one of their heroes, and I know that Creation doesn’t exactly treat these folks like royalty.
If they are there on their own dime and not being paid for their appearance, then why shouldn’t they try to recoup their costs and make a few bucks for giving up their weekend? My problem is: what exactly is our convention ticket price getting us anymore? Before these talent handlers and agents began convincing everyone who ever appeared in a horror movie that they should be charging for every photo and signature, your admission to the show meant you’d come away with a few autographs and mementos. But the cost of an admission has gone up, and we get less and less in return.
Even the “Gold” pass holders got screwed this year, with many of the big marquee names refusing to sign the (previously standard) “complimentary” autographs for Gold pass holders, insisting they buy a separate autograph ticket like everyone else. This was NEVER the case in years’ past – if you bought Gold, you got the autograph of every single person who went on stage, with some minor exceptions (such as when an actor or filmmaker would have to leave the premises once their panel was over due to prior commitments). You also got reserved seating, which is a complete joke as I sat down in the gold section for nearly every panel and never even had to move for the actual seat holder, let alone be told to move by Creation staff. Gold passes were 260 dollars (plus a 7 dollar “shipping and handling” fee that Creation charges – for a ticket that you print out via email), and for that they got almost no complimentary autographs (Hatchet 2 being among them – but Green and most of the cast and crew signed for EVERYBODY for free, not just Gold) and “reserved” seating that was shared by pretty much everyone. The only real perk they got was entry into a (cash bar) party on Saturday night, which couldn’t have been very memorable as I have yet to hear from a single person attending it.
Creation should have enforced that all of the celebrities signed for their Gold pass holders, or offered a refund or discount once it became clear that so many of the stars wouldn’t be sticking to tradition. Otherwise, the Gold members basically got screwed out of 200 bucks, as they got nothing that the general admission ticket audience didn’t get as well (except for the party, which I doubt was worth 200 dollars). And again, the panels and dealer rooms were lackluster, and (as always) the screening room was a joke. Ultimately, your admission bought you the right to spend additional money – it’s like having to buy a ticket to enter a casino.
Ultimately, the only real winner of the weekend was Fangoria, who had nothing to do with the event, proving that it was their input and actual love of the genre that kept cons from being a total disappointment even as the other factors began eating away at their appeal.
I truly feel sorry for fans that flew in from other parts of the country (and world?) for this event and were given so little in return. Scanning the faces in the crowd during the panels and in the dealer room, it seemed everyone was just going through the motions; listening to panels not out of interest but out of “well I paid to be here I might as well listen,” and listlessly walking the dealer room giving polite nods to merchants who hadn’t had a reason to get up from their chair in hours. The whole purpose of a con is to get together with friends, make new ones, and celebrate the genre we all love so much, but if not for the Hatchet panel, I don’t think there would have been a single time during the entire weekend where I felt the passion – on stage or off.
Source: Burt Wilson