CONVENTION COVERAGE: DAYS OF THE DEAD- Days 2 & 3
Day two of DAYS OF THE DEAD was upon us. There is no whining about lack of sleep at horror conventions. One just deals with what the morning brings and suffers through it because good horror conventions don’t always come through one’s hometown too often.
Waking up from a night of hard partying (just beer), my buddy Brian and I were slightly hungover. Luckily for me, the website’s photographer Stephanie does not drink too often and was stone cold sober and was helping to get our asses up and running. Also, we had to pick up another member of our entourage and get there in time for all the cool panels and browse through all the vendors tables. Being in such an unmotivated state as I was, a few sips of coffee was all I felt like pouring down my beer-laden throat.
Arriving at the Marriot a bit later than planned, I grabbed some food in the form of a sandwich, bag of chips, and orange juice from the overpriced Starbucks. Oddly enough, now on a highly structured caffeine kick that involves no less than 3 cups of coffee daily, I got none. Since I really did not feel like moving from my perfectly positioned table, coveted for its angle that offers a wide view of all coming and going through the hallway to either the vendors’ room or the bar and restaurant. In this particular instance, I chose to bust out my laptop and sort all the junk into my head into cohesive thoughts and organize a timeline of what I did and where it all fits in to the SHU-IZMZ website. I did realize that I did not set up any interviews with several of the industry folks that I wanted to. I could call it lack of time, but it fell along the lines of lack of motivation and pure laziness.
I poured through the hundreds of photos my trusty photographer, Stephanie Reyes (Reyes Photo Studio) took, many of the interesting ones taken at the Macabre performance and afterwards at the Karaoke sing-along on Friday. Saturday, spent mostly writing a post about the previous day and night’s events, I only visited the vendor’s room briefly right when I arrived at the show. The guys at the Vitamin Pictures table, promoting their short film OTHER (which is fucking incredible!), noticed how rough shape I was in when I briefly spoke with them. Director Daniel DelPurgatorio (TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER), is a solid dude and was kind enough to send me a screener of OTHER and was selling it on Blu-ray at the convention for only $7. That my friends, is a steal! My buddy Brian picked up a copy of OTHER after I told him how cool the movie was. Yeah, your welcome Daniel!
In hindsight, I really should have hit up some of the panels because celebrity panels end up being the most enjoyable and fascinating portion and aspect of any horror convention. DOTD had some really solid panels this year, including the RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD Reunion with James Karen, Clu Gulager, Don Calfa, Thom Matthews, John Philbin, Linnea Quigley, Jewel Shepard, Beverly Randolph, Allan Trautman, and Brian Peck. The panel that I was most interested in listening to was the BLADE RUNNER one. I was stoked to listen to Sean Young, Joe Turkel, and William Sanderson. It was one hell of a panel. I had wished that Joanna Cassidy had stuck around for the panel, but the weather on Sunday was pretty horrific and there were tornadoes zipping around the Peoria area and a couple of people died in the weather and a bunch of folks were injured. It was really windy in Schaumburg at the Marriott and quite a few vendors, guests, and celebs were talking about the weather and freaking out about it. Hell, what could be better than being in some sort of disaster with a bunch of horror fans…but there were also a bunch of juggalos, too…so that might not be so cool.
Like I said, there were a lot of cool vendors, as well as indie filmmakers slinging their flicks and selling the merch to go along with it. Some of those indie filmmakers of note were the guys that made CROSS BEARER and THE CEMETERY. Both directed by Adam Ahlbrandt, both films are solid entries into indie horror and as those that check out this website daily probably already know, if an indie horror film sucks, readers will be the first to know because I will tear a worthless indie horror film, or any other awful horror film, a new asshole. Just because one has a small budget does not mean the film has to be total shit. Working the table for Adam is the ever so lovely Natalie Jean, who also starred in, produced, did stunt work, and worked on wardrobe for the film. I am sure those were the only official titles she got credit for on the film and performed a number of other important and needed skills to help make the film. On THE CEMETERY, Miss Jean starred in the film (accepting the lead actress role only 4 days before principal photography), served as Associate Producer, and did stunt work for the film.
The woman is a regular DIY-type gal that is resilient, dedicated, and determined to make it in the business and anything else she does. I really got that vibe when finally meeting her in the flesh, and originally got that vibe from here when talking with her via SKYPE for an interview on the website’s radio show not too long ago. Dropping by her table where she was selling movie merchandise for CROSS BEARER (where I picked up a t-shirt and beanie), I should have also grabbed some of the sexy (and also bloody!) glamour shots and pictures she had for sale. She also models, evident by her natural good looks, and I noticed that the girl could definitely kick some major ass if need be. In high heels, I could actually carry a conversation with her and look straight into her eyes instead of angling my head down to meet the person talking to me. Only briefly talking with her about some movie industry stuff and if the tornados were going to take us all, she had her work cut out for her because she was working the table alone and also was presenting films for the REEL HORROR FILM FESTIVAL presented by JABB FILMS.
The film festival was running 48 hours. I ducked my head in during one film and did notice it was pretty packed and kind of wished the room was a bit bigger to accommodate all the fans that wanted to check out films. There was a decent sized screen and in comparison to other films screenings at other horror cons, I was glad that it was in a private room that was away from all outside noises and distractions. Some cons have films playing in bigger rooms, but the doors are open or its right by a very crowded and loud hallway that is very distracting. Got to say that I was glad that the films were all included in the price of admission and not being screened at another theater nearby and at an additional cost. I did here that the screening room was packed for what sounded like most of the films and maybe in the future a larger screening room may be warranted.
As well as the talented and beautiful Natalie Jean, I dropped by indie filmmaker and bad-joke maker Anthony Cooney from T-Nasty Productions, who has directed, produced, and written indie horror shorts LEAF BLOWER MASSACRE and DIRTY SANCHEZ. With the sequel to LEAF BLOWER MASSACRE in production as we speak, Cooney is a man driven to making his dream of creating sleazy, low-budget, tasteless horror films come to life! With classy titles and subject matter like THE DIRTY SANCHEZ, one can only imagine what lay in store for viewers. I knew Cooney before he was a filmmaker. He is a customer at the record/movie/video game store I currently work at. He always was buying gruesome horror films, horror toys, and flicks that were always violent and gory. He loves that shit! We started a friendship based on having mutual interests in films, primarily horror, cult, and exploitation films. We both like sick shit. Cooney, a bit more of the sicker shit than myself. Usually. I worked with him on THE FUNERAL HOME: FIVE FINGER DEATH, a trailer we made to enter into a contest that we shot in one day and ever since he comes into the record store I work at and sells some of the worst rap cds, horror dvds, and metal albums known to man to get more money to make sleazy and gory horror films. The dude is driven…sometimes I think toward insanity but aren’t those the most interesting characters in life?
Tony had beanies for DIRTY SANCHEZ for sale, as well as other merchandise for his films. He also was selling a bunch of dvds and horror figures to all go towards the funding of his latest endeavor, LEAF BLOWER MASSACRE 2. Hell, I may even have a small role in that film also! I am thinking the dude that gets a nice long massage and body rub, followed up by a scene taking place in a nice restaurant where I eat a nice, juicy steak followed by some beers and fine Cuban cigars being smoked. Tony, got the budget for that scene with me?
As for vendors selling cool merchandise, as always, the husband and wife team of ATOMIC COTTON were there at DAYS OF THE DEAD to help clean out our wallets with uniquely designed high-quality t-shirts! Having bought a bunch of their merchandise at previous cons, they are really kind horror peeps and always got a smile across their faces. They will be guests on my show one of these days, hopefully once I get a phone that works good with my digital recorder. The one I have now I was given by my boss, graciously after hearing that my new fancy Android phone crapped out on me. Never buying a phone made by HTC ever again! So once I get a decent phone to do the interview on, I shall be in business.
The shirts me and my photographer/girlfriend picked up were the KIDS SUCK design with Mama Frattelli (Actress Anne Ramsey) and her lovely, kid-hating face! In fact, me and Stepha are going to debut us wearing the shirts for the Atomic Cotton Facebook page which the photos may then be used for their website and Etsy page. Too bad Anne Ramsey ain’t around to tell Atomic Cotton how much she hates her own shirt…because she hates EVERYTHING! She is the biggest bitch on the planet! Man, that woman scared the shit out of me in every movie she was in. Gives me shivers just thinking about it.
Atomic Cotton also had some cool sticker packs with all their t-shirt designs on them which we got for being superb customers. I think Stephanie is not sharing any of the stickers with me so I am going to have to pick up my own pack. I guess I can’t complain too much, though because she bought my shirt for me. If I had more cash to spend, I probably would have picked up a few more shirts. I get so many compliments on my CRITTERS t-shirt every time I wear it. I love the fuck out of it!
Finally, I got to give a shout-out to the guys at VHSPS because every show they are at they always have such cool dvds of recorded VHS tapes that usually are out of print, don’t exist on dvd yet, or are just hard to come by on dvd. Usually selling for around $10 each or 4 for $35, I have no trouble picking up 4 to 8 flicks every time I visit them. This time around, I picked up THE PROJECTIONIST (starring Rodney Dangerfield and Chuck McCann. I also got a kick out of seeing in that credits that Roy Frumkes assistant directed the film. For those of you that have not seen STREET TRASH, get out of my face and watch that film immediately. It is a fucking classic! Seriously, I love that film so much! Frunkes produced that film. He also had a small role in which he gets melting, gloppy flesh fall onto his face and start burning his face. Like I said, one has to have seen STREET TRASH before they die.
Towards the end of the day of the con, I gravitated towards centerfold model, pro wrestler, and NPC fitness/figure athlete April Hunter. She was sharing a table with an artist who also drew some drawings of her, as well as her sexy glamour shots (some of which were nude…HELLO!), and I decided to get a drawing of her from the artist and she threw in a free photo of myself with her. I think that was what really got me to get the drawing. I wanted a pic with her. Female wrestlers are fun to watch and easier on the eyes, especially if the wrestling is not as interesting or as high a caliber as it should be. I also found that quite a bit of her nude pics are up online and easily found with a quick Google search. She was selling some pics at the con, but I wanted to get some original artwork and also not seem like a total and complete pervert.
Overall, the biggest problems that I had with the convention was that there was a bit of down time after the vendor floor closed and the outside tent had the V.I.P. party, which when I briefly was able to connive my way in (thanks to my persistence and the help of a cool volunteer working security at the door that I had a nice conversation about A SERBIAN FILM with- I forget your name but thank you!) looking for my photographer (who had no trouble just walking in with no V.I.P. badge) and was enjoying watching all the people dance and socialize. Oddly enough, it just reminded me of a High School dance with a better D. J.!
Overall, the convention had a much larger crowd than last year, more vendors crammed in the vendor room and outside hallways, and it really was pretty damned packed on Saturday. I think it got to be so crowded that it was a slight turn-off for some conventioneers and in my personal opinion, Saturday was really uncomfortable to move around the vendor and autograph floor, especially when the TWIZTID corner took up so much damn space with their “cave” and 500 t-shirts for sale. The best part of the convention was that it was extremely organized and everything started on time, for the most part. I think starting the first film at the 48Hour Film Fest maybe an hour or two after the staff started letting everyone in since so many people had to wait in line and didn’t have a vendor bracelet or have press privileges to bypass waiting in line.
SHU-IZMZ has been to Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors in Chicago, Illinois, Crypticon in Minnesota, Cinema Wasteland in Ohio, HorrorHound in Indiana, and now Days of the Dead twice in the Chicagoland-area (specifically Northwest Suburbs of Chicag0 in Schaumburg) and I found DOTD to have a great line-up of guests (some of the regulars and some new ones like Lita Ford, Twiggy Ramirez, and Danny Trejo come to the Midwest), have events actually start on time, and only have one or two guests cancel or leave early (Jason Mewes left before Brian O’Halloran could join him for the CLERKS panel on Sunday—possibly due to the horrible weather) and Joanne Cassidy left before the BLADE RUNNER panel and was not present for it. DOTD also announced a day before (I believe) that Joshua Leonard (BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) had to cancel to filming, and also a live concert was included in price of admission. MACABRE was awesome (even though bitch-ass security tossed us out for being cheap and poor, drinking cans of PBR!). I think hotels need to chill on strictly enforcing the no outside food and beverage rule during events such as this. It is just a massive buzz-kill and pisses off those that can’t or choose not to get a hotel room (maybe because they live or have friends/family fucking 25 minutes away!).
Promoter Adolfo Dorta sure ran a horror convention that is catered to the fans, and not the business-end of things. At only $55 for the weekend and $25 for the day, the convention offers a great deal of fun and entertainment. To be honest, I really wish more cons ran as smoothly as this one did and were so well-organized. The best part was getting in on a press pass. I wish other conventions would follow suit and have links/opportunities for writers, bloggers, and website admins to get in to cover events and critique the pros and “cons” (pun intended) of horror conventions. SHU-IZMZ looks forward to next year…and getting some fucking interviews done!