HorrorHound Weekend March 2012
Columbus, Ohio (Home)
Oh, how I love HorrorHound Weekend: three days of hanging out with fellow horror nerds, buying out-of-print trash flicks on VHS, and meeting horror celebrities like Doug Bradley (Pinhead from the Hellraiser films), Norman Reedus (from The Walking Dead), and Elvira (from...Elvira). HHW comes twice a year and the vibe is always fun, the partying is extensive, and the random movie discussions with friends are excellent. From March 23-25, HorrorHound Weekend touched down at the Crown Plaza hotel in Columbus, Ohio, and it was a top-notch, jam-packed, terrifyingly terrific 72 hours. The only thing more horrifying than the gross-out posters of Street Trash for sale was the hotel pizza, which tasted like a memory foam pillow covered in ketchup and melted soap shavings. But not even such an unspeakable horror could dampen my amazing weekend, which kicked ass for the following reasons:
Women in films are not to be messed with
HorrorHound Weekends always have a good list of horror celebrities: past guests include Sid Haig (the creepy clown from The Devil’s Rejects), Linda Blair (the twisted girl Reagan from The Exorcist), Clive Barker (ultimate badass of horror films and books and the creator of Hellraiser), and other heavy hitters. But this past HHW had a special theme that reflects an essential element of scary movies: women. A popular opinion among many non-horror fans is that these films objectify and victimize women, and exist solely for the purpose of showing killers (often men) chopping girls to bits and having sex with them (often in that order). And yes, horror flicks do treat women this way - but they also treat men in the same manner. What’s more, in the vast majority of horror films the protagonist who confronts the killer in the final act is female (especially in slasher films): Jamie Lee Curtis vs Michael Meyers in Halloween, Heather Langenkamp vs Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm St 1, 3, and 7, and tons of different girls vs Jason Voorhees in the eleven Friday the 13th movies (not counting Freddy vs Jason, where the Final Girl was replaced by - you guessed it - Freddy). In fact, heroic women are so integral to the horror formula that they have been given their own name: the Final Girl. This shit is academically certified - in 1992, Carol Clover coined the term in Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, and this book was a seminal part of giving horror films credibility in academic circles. So if you know a buttoned-up film snob who dismisses horror flicks as misogynist exploitation, just drop a little Carol Clover on him and hand him a copy of the ultra-violent, ultra-feminist I Spit on Your Grave, which forms one of the cornerstones of Clover’s book. The film snob won’t know what hit him when the multiple rapes and castration start, although he will feel enlightened as he’s cringing and throwing up. Zing!
All of this academic film theory is all well and good for the non-horror types, but the die-hard horror fan already knows all of this. Moreover, we love the women from all areas of horror flicks: heroes, villains, zombies, monsters, and any other character they find themselves playing. The programming honchos at HorrorHound Weekend paid homage to our beloved genre’s fabulously fierce females, and themed this past con Women in Horror. The lineup was killer (so to speak): Marilyn Burns (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), Adrienne Barbeau (Creepshow and The Fog), the aforementioned Elvira (nee Cassandra Peterson), and a bunch more. Hell, they even threw in Pam Grier, who hasn’t done much in the way of horror except Mars Attacks and an episode of the anthology horror TV show Monsters, but she’s so damn badass that she fit right in.
This alone would have been a good showing of women in horror, but HHW topped it off with two giants of horror cinema: Julia Adams and Tippi Hedren. You might not know Julia Adams by name, but I’m sure you’ve seen a picture of her: she’s the bathing beauty being carried off by The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Yes, you read that right - 1954s iconic Creature from the Black Lagoon, not the upcoming Michael Bay remake where The Creature is a rapping tuna fish from Laguna Beach.* And what was Tippi Hedren in, you ask? Oh nothing, just a little horror film called The Birds. You heard me right - The mothafuckin Birds.** Hedren was directed by Alfred Hitchcock - just typing that makes my hands tingly (either that or it’s the early stages of carpel tunnel syndrome). I’ve met many celebrities - I even met and filmed Imelda Marcos for the documentary Laban - and I don’t get starstruck that easily. But when I stood in front of Tippi Hedren to get her autograph, I turned in to a blubbering idiot. Or I would have, if I could have opened my mouth. Hedren, like Adams, is a living legend, and I am forever grateful that HorrorHound Weekend had the good sense to feature them as part of their salute to Women in Horror. Just being in the same building with them is worth the price of admission.
*Not a real remake, thank Satan. Unless he reads this article. Shit, I’ve doomed us all.
Michael Fish and GI Jason
I love the vendors at horror cons. All sorts of talented people show up – artists, filmmakers, you name it. This con featured morbid masks from Pumpkin Pulp Productions, pure evil paintings by Nathan Thomas Milliner, scary sculptures by Meatspider Studios, deadly drawings by Donald England, and trippy, twisted art by Todd N. Kennedy. And for fans of macabre and terrifying tales, Baron Von Porkchop was selling independent anthology horror films on DVD.
You could even zombify yourself at Kurt Dinsie’s Pungent Basement Art booth - of course I had to do this. Somehow, as I spoke with Kurt about drawing, horror, and zombies, we came up with the idea of turning me into some other monster. Since Julia Adams from Creature from the Black Lagoon was one of the convention stars, it only seemed fitting that Kurt transform me into such a Black Lagoon-dwelling creature. And so I give you…MichaelFish:
Pretty freakin’ cool.
Speaking of cool, I spent some time at the Fright Rags booth, of course. Fright Rags is a bitchin’ horror t-shirt company with a unique take on horror garb (I’ve written about their excellence before). Most t-shirt companies use reprints of posters – which can still be awesome, of course (I own many of them) – but Fright Rags makes original designs that cover a wide range of scary fun, including horror-themed pop culture parodies like Zombie Wars or memorable fright film scenes like this one from Poltergeist. But man, they went above and beyond this time. Feast your eyes on:
No one messes with G.I. Jason – A Real American Slasher. Fright Rags put out a limited G.I. Jason T-shirt recently, and Fright-Rags owner Ben Scrivens made up special insert cards that were included in every purchase. Although the t-shirt is now out of print (I’m kicking myself for not getting one), the cards were for sale and I absolutely had to have it. Man, these things just drip nostalgia: the faded clearance price sticker, the tattered line where it looks like some eager young kid ripped off the plastic case, the “command file” dossier on the back. What makes this truly special is that it combines fandom of childhood toys with that of one of most badass and beloved movie killers of all time, and these two feelings mix together in a powerful and unique way. I don’t care if the G.I. Jason action figure doesn’t really exist, or that I can’t collect the other imaginary Jason action figures featured on the back of the packaging – just the idea of them sets off such wild fantasies in my head, where ten-year-old me uses Lake Dweller Jason to disembowel Cobra Commander.
They’re coming to fix you, chapel
Have you ever seen Night of the Living Dead? Hopefully the answer is yes, and if it isn’t, then finish this article and go watch it. You won’t be sorry - Night of the Living Dead is a horror classic, and even though some of you might find it dated it’s still highly entertaining and effective. It’s the birth of the modern zombie: every shambling undead corpse from Thriller to Shaun of the Dead owes its rotten re-animated life to this movie.
NOTLD opens with a Johnny and his sister, Barbara, in a cemetery, leaving a wreath at their father’s grave. A strange, tall, pale man (obviously a zombie, given the title) shuffles from behind some tombstones and attacks them, killing Johnny, and chases Barbara, who runs screaming. This scene is about nine minutes long and you can watch it in the video below. Or if your attention span is really short (or you’re reading this at work), just watch from 3:28 to 3:38 and from 7:21 to 8:02.
So what did you notice? A young man and woman (Johnny and Barbara) talk outside their car. Barbara runs from the zombie, hides in her car, and screams as the zombie breaks her passenger side window. Anything else?
How about the chapel in the background?
Chances are that you may have missed it - or rather, you saw it but weren’t necessarily focused on it. Don’t feel bad if you did. I won’t judge you (this time). I’ve seen this film countless times, and I’ve never really thought twice about the chapel. Until recently, that is.
Since the chapel (in Pennsylvania’s Evans City Cemetery) made its big-screen debut in NOTLD in 1967, it has fallen into disrepair, and it’s scheduled to be torn down in September. In other genres, such an iconic landmark might be left to rot, but horror fans are a different breed. We love our movies so passionately, so obsessively, that we will do anything to preserve them. So when Gary R Streiner, Sound Engineer on NOTLD, discovered the chapel’s impending demise, he organized Fix the Chapel, a charity to restore it.
Let’s think about this for a second. The Chapel isn’t one of the key locations in the movie – that would be the farmhouse that our protagonists (including Barbara) take shelter in for the majority of the film. In fact, it’s only on screen for roughly fifty seconds. But to Streiner it was important enough to start Fix the Chapel, and he has had the full support of the horror community: so far Streiner has raised $23,000 of the $50,000 needed to save this beloved landmark.
So when I realized that Fix the Chapel had a booth at HorrorHound, I was ecstatic. I’ve been reading about this for a while, and I was thrilled to learn more. The gentleman at the booth said that he’d had an overwhelmingly positive response at HHW, which delighted me. As I was perusing the table, deciding whether to buy a t-shirt or poster to help the cause, he directed me to group a small coffin-shaped boxes about the size of a zombie’s thumb.
The Gentleman: “The t-shirts and posters are great, but these have been a huge hit.”
After I stopped drooling like a slack-jawed zombie, I grabbed for my wallet as quickly as I could, handed the guy ten bucks, and held my little coffin of joy before my eyes. I have a ton of horror collectibles – posters, movies, action figures, you name it – but this is one of the coolest things in my entire collection. Holding it is like holding film history. It connects me to one of the great moments of the genre I love, and the fact that my meager ten clams helped such a worthy cause just makes it that much more awesome. Horror cons are great places to hang with other fans, get autographs, and other fun crap, but something like Save the Chapel shows how truly deep our love for horror is - and that, ultimately, is why we go to horror cons in the first place.
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