Event Report: New Jersey Weekend of Horrors!
When sitting down to write coverage of an event, there’s a very thin line that is tread when you’re in the position I am. Those who hosted the event let you in as press for the specific purpose of covering it; to me that is the same as an indie filmmaker handing you his film and wanting your opinion. Criticism that is constructive can help a promoter, just like a filmmaker; make their next even better.
But what if that event is a time-honored tradition like the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors? A horror convention that is so ingrained in the minds of fans young and old, it’s hard to imagine this slice of genre goodness without it? The Weekend of Horrors is more than just a horror convention; it’s an institution. It’s the template for all the other horror cons that have come since, be it for good or ill, and because of that I’ve long thought it should be the one to set the example. Unfortunately, by all accounts it hasn’t been the standard by which all others are judged for a long time and the most recent con, my first in many years, was just another example of that.
First of all there was the guest issue; I know what that’s like, having co-hosted our own con back in March. It sucks, intensely and painfully, to loose a big-name guest shortly before the show is set to go on. Fangoria lost Clive Barker, Jeffrey Combs, Lloyd Kauffman, Elisa Cuthbert and a few others. Was it Fangoria’s fault they cancelled? Did the guests suddenly realize they wanted nothing to do with the gathering and bow out? Of course not, each had their own reasons. But the fans don’t care. For the fans, the fact is that guests were promised but dropped off, either at the last minute or weeks before. Either way it never looks (or feels) good.
But Fango’s been around for a long, long time, so they know how to deal with it. Tony Timpone is still up on stage between every panel, moderating most of them (God bless the man, I know I would rather be doing other things) and he’s still smiling from ear to ear. But when major guests drop off, so does attendance.
James Marsters was there on Friday and that was huge…but the problem is James Marsters fans, far and away, aren’t necessarily horror fans. That’s why most of them left when Marsters was done, and came back on Sunday when Marsters was back. In fact, of all three days I would have to say, oddly enough, that Sunday was most well-attended thanks to the once and future Spike, as well as the presence of German madman/fanboy target Uwe Boll. More on him in a minute.
So why was the show so vacant this time out? Sure, guest cancellations had a lot to do with it, but there were still some great stuff going on with Rob Schmidt, Joe Lynch, Boll, Marsters ... no, there’s something else that’s going on with fans and Weekends of Horror that’s causing them not to attend. I hate to say it out in public like this, but I wonder if maybe the involvement of Creation has anything to do with it...
They’re notorious for being less than polite to fans (though I admit the whole crew I saw this weekend were great), and perhaps that reputation is preceding them? Or is it Fangoria’s overwhelming desire to only have the hot, new directors and stars at all the cons instead of focusing on older directors and stars like other shows do? Honestly I don’t know, having never attended a show as anything other than a reporter it’s hard to get a good grip on what works and what doesn’t, but something needs to change in the way Weekends of Horror are being put on before they really do become a thing of the past.
Sorry that took so long, but I felt to be fair to you guys you should know that the show really wasn’t that well-attended and personally, if someone were to write up something about the next Fear Fest, I would love to know the theories as to why; here’s hoping the Fango crew feels the same way.
But I said all that to say this; I had a blast at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. Strange, isn’t it? But ask anyone we hung with and you’ll understand why; sometimes these shows aren’t about what goes on during the day or during the panels, though there were some damn good ones, but what happens when the show winds down and we’re all stuck in the same hotel together.
hanging out with our own crew (namely Nomad and my wife, Michelle) and finally meeting Rob G. and the guys from Icons of Fright was awesome. It’s really amazing to me sometimes how much like a family this whole internet world is these day, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Besides, they’re easily to get along with than my one family most of the time.
On the celebrity side, my first goal was to hook up with Brian Keene (author of The Rising and Conqueror Worms to name a few) so he could record his Dreadtime Story for us (it’s going to fuck you up, trust me), after which we met up with the rest of the authors there for the Leisure Horror panel; Michael Laimo, Deborah LeBlanc, JF Gonzalez and new comer Mary Sangiacomo, not to mention Leisure editor extraordinaire Don D’Auria. Their panel was pretty fun and interesting, and happily all the authors agreed to do a Dreadtime Story for us down the road, so expect some of that sexiness soon!
Following that panel was the man, the myth, the legend; Steve Niles, there to discuss 30 Days of Night (the trailer for which they showed twice!) as well as his numerous other projects in the works (read about ‘em here). I finally got to meet Steve in person, as well, which was very cool; he seems like a very down-to-Earth guy who just happens to be very talented. Oh, and he’ll be doing a Dreadtime Story for us, too, most likely a Cal McDonald tale (hells yeah).
Then came a moment I had been very anxiously awaiting; the screening of a full scene from Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, which just so happened to be the same scene was saw being shot when we were on set (read about it here). Mike talked up the movie well and I think really got the crowd excited to see it, which is a great thing because I, personally, think it’s going to be one of the best things in theaters this fall.
From there we had other running around to do so we were out of the panel room, knowing we’d be back for Joe Lynch’s Wrong Turn 2 panel (he showed the opening of the movie; everyone was very happy) and made various other connections. Saturday night, always the best night to hang out and, as the kids say, party, was a good one as usual; both mellow and fun. There’s something to be said for a Saturday night at a con, almost any con, being around like-minded individuals who for the most part are finally able to be themselves, if only for a little while.
We had to make sure, no matter what else happened, that we were up early enough to make it to the screening of Uwe Boll’s latest film, Postal. Not just because it was something I’ve been wanting to see for a long time now, but also because it was being intro’d by the man himself, Uwe Boll, making his first convention appearance. I was able to watch the first and last half, but had to bow out about halfway in to check out the Mother of Tears panel with actress Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, of Demons 2 and Opera fame, which was well worth it.
She did some Q&A for a while, then showed about 15 minutes from the film and let me tell you guys, it was pretty freakin’ amazing. Seriously. Everything we’ve been reading about it, that it’s Dario’s goriest and freakiest movie to date, seems to be completely true. I can’t wait to see it.
So I made it back for the end of Postal, which was just as funny as the beginning, and then had the honor to sit down with Dr. Boll myself (with cameraman/co-interviewer Nomad and my lovely wife as well) for an hour of … well, you’ll have to see it for yourself. Suffice it to say it changed my opinion about the director yet again. He’s a helluva lot smarter and more aware than I think anyone really understand until they meet him. I’ll have most of the interview up soon, but since I’m leaving for a week on Sunday it won’t be as soon as I’d like.
Anyway, the interview was great, so I was happy. I managed to get Rob Schmidt (Wrong Turn) together with Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2) together for a pic shortly after, so my geek rating was at an all-time high. We sat in on Schmidt’s panel for The Alphabet Killer and he showed us about 12 minutes of the film which looks a lot cooler than I thought. I had nearly forgotten the supernatural elements that are at the core of the story (about a police investigator who was trying to track the titular serial killer) so it was a pleasantly freaky surprise. Schmidt said the film won’t likely be out before fall of next year, so we have a long time to wait to find out, but we’ll be covering it as much as possible between now and then so don’t you fret.
The last thing we caught before we hit he road for our long drive home was the second episode of Z.E.R.O., the webisodic series put together by the guys at Fearwerx. Though it certainly had some issues, the concept (about a team of professional zombie hunters and what they go through on a daily basis) was solid and the action was top-notch. You can read Creepy’s review of the first episode here, mine will be coming soon of the second.
The show’s creator, Joe Sena, did a great job of keeping the crowd entertained when, halfway through the screening, the hotel completely lost power. Literally, we were in the dark save for the lights streaming in from the outside world. Kinda freaky. But Sena kept us all amused while the hotel got it all in working order again, which certainly helped me appreciate the show a lot more. There’s something about knowing the creator cares about the fans that it always endearing.
Again, I do apologize for this being so long-winded, but I felt it was necessary to cover both the good and the bad of this show, since the Weekend of Horrors is, as previously stated, and institution and one I want to see fixed rather than fade away. Some new ideas and different approaches to how things are run can help a lot.
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