There used to be a time when Canada didn’t really have a horror convention. If you wanted to mingle with your favorite horror stars and spend all your money on T-shirts, DVDs, back-issue magazines, and autographs, this usually meant heading south. But along came Rue-Morgue, who not only started a magazine catering to the more cerebral side of horror culture, but also gave Canadians with criminal records and an inability cross the border a horror convention to call their own.
The Rue Morgue Festival of Fear is actually part of a larger convention called FanExpo, which also encompasses comic book, anime, gaming, and sci-fi component. Since so many of us are Renaissance geeks, this massive amount of extra content is one of the things that really sets the festival apart from other, horror-only conventions. Well, that, and scantily clad underage girls in full anime cosplay outfits consorting with middle aged men dressed as storm troopers. Ewww.
That said, the Festival of Fear doesn’t rest on its laurels and let the other nerd disciplines get the upper hand. This year marked the best year yet for the convention, with the horror side garnering what felt like a more substantial piece of the show floor and guest list. Only Rue Morgue could organize a convention with Dario Argento as the headliner, and throw in 2004’s headliner, George Romero, as a “freebie.” I guess it helps that Romero now calls Toronto home.
The Friday night of the festival is usually fairly tame, but Paul (McCannibal) did manage to catch the H.G. Lewis Q&A, which you can kind of read about in between Paul’s ranting about the evils of advertising right here.
Saturday morning started off by proving that Toronto is the new Pittsburgh. The Dawn of the Dead remake, Land of the Dead, and the upcoming Diary of the Dead were all filmed in and around Toronto. Another thing those films have in common is that they all benefited from the mad makeup talents of Gaslight Studio (www.gaslightstudio.com), a Toronto based makeup effects shop. The good people at Gaslight, Chris Bridges, and Kyle Glencross, ensured that Saturday morning started the way every Saturday morning should; with zombies. In between answering questions from Rue Morgue’s Managing Editor, Dave Alexander, Chris and Kyle proceeded to build up a full zombie makeup. Check out the zombie transformation in the Festival of Fear photo gallery.
Afterwards we headed to the Argento “Intimate and Interactive” panel, mediated by Chris Alexander, with Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni of Demons 2 fame on hand as translator. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your tolerance for Argento’s amusingly stilted and irreverent way of speaking English) Coralina’s language skills weren’t employed often. Her “sit there and look hot” skills were taxed to the limit, though.
Argento touched on topics as wide-ranging as his hatred of censors and censorship, the difficulties filming his daughter in the nude, his love of filming Moran Atias in the nude, his vehement defense of his films as not misogynistic, and ended with a strange rant about the Toronto International Film Festival selecting The Third Mother for its prestigious Midnight Madness program as “racist.” The panel ended by screening the North American and European trailers for The Third Mother and, despite the fact that Argento hasn’t made a good film in years, the trailer, full of Argento’s trademark lush visuals and graphic violence, got me kind of pumped to see it.
Up next was a Q&A with Greg Nicotero, co-founder and owner of KNB FX. This is the guy who’s helped bring Evil Dead II, Bride of Re-Animator, Army of Darkness, The Hills Have Eyes (remake), Land of the Dead, and Hostel to the screen, not to mention exclusively provides makeup and special effects for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez and the Masters of Horror television series. The panel started off with KNB’s reel, which served to remind the crowd just how many classics of the genre KNB has provided the effects for.
There was lots of talk about Nicotero’s background as a pre-med student who took time off to work on Day of the Dead and never looked back, but the most interesting part of the Q&A came when Nicotero began talking about his directing career. Many people don’t know that Nicotero directed some of the best scenes of Land of the Dead, including the scenes where the zombies rise out of the water and the infamous zombies feasting scene where the zombie reaches into his dinner’s throat and pulls out his insides.
According to Nicotero, he’s been collaborating with Joe R. Lansdale, who’s already sent him a script to direct for Masters of Horror. Unfortunately Mick Garris won’t let Nicotero direct because, despite the fact that he’s provided effects for a stable full of masters, you can’t be one until you direct a feature length film. The good news is that Nicotero told the crowd that he’s currently attached to direct a big screen adaptation of Lansdale’s seminal work The Drive-In, which prompted spontaneous applause from those in attendance. Nicotero was careful to mention that nothing was set in stone, but the thought of what Nicotero and KNB could do with the Popcorn King is a tantalizing thought.
The final panel of the day provided a nice feminine counterpoint to the testosterone-fueled day. When Adrienne Barbeau walked into her Q&A session, I’m pretty sure everyone was thinking the same thing: “Holy shit she looks good!” This was evidenced by the fact that panel moderator Chris Alexander referred to her as “buxom”, threatened leave immediately to find the topless version of Swamp Thing after he found out about its existence, and actually used the word “Barboobies”. Barbeau, the consummate pro, took it all in stride and in fact was quite forthright about the role her famous chest had in making her career.
She also showed that she’s a savvy businesswoman, and despite not being a follower of the genre herself, she realizes that her main fanbase is composed horror fans. She told the crowd that early in the New Year she would be releasing the first in a possible series of novels entitled Vampires of Hollywood, about a famous scream queen who is also a vampire. Given Barbeau’s famous connections to horror and Hollywood, she’s in a unique position to do a fictional tell all under the guise of a vampire novel.
After a full day dodging sweaty nerds and trying to avert our eyes from exposed underage flesh (where the hell are these girls’ parents!?), we rolled into a pub close to the convention center. It just so happened that this was the location chosen for Argento’s ridiculously overpriced “ultimate VIP” meet and greet. Apparently for $200 you can wait in line to meet Dario Argento in a bar, rather than for free at the convention center. No thanks. We bumped into Karim Hussein (Subconscious Cruelty), and Doug Buck (Sisters remake) who filled us in on their current projects. Karim is currently developing a new film called Terminal Care that he describes as “a sex comedy about euthanasia!” Doug surprised us with the news that distribution of his high profile Sisters remake was being handled by Image Entertainment, and a theatrical run was not yet guaranteed. After spending the weekend ogling and glad-handing horror’s last generation of stars, you couldn’t have asked for an easier going couple of guys to sit around and shoot the shit with.
We ended the night by going to the Giallo Macabro, Rue Morgue party where we talked to Toe Tag’s Fred Vogel about a Frankenstein-inspired project he’s trying to get off the ground, tentatively called Monster, My Child, about a father bringing his dead son back to life. Vogel’s expressed a desire to make a more intimate picture, focusing on the relationship between son and father, but we bet it’ll still be gory as hell. We also got a chance to meet and talk to the guys responsible for the best Grindhouse trailer you’ve never seen, called Hobo with a Shotgun. Unfortunately, this trailer was only screened before the Canadian prints of Grindhouse, but director Jason Eisener and producer Rob Cotterill assured us that they’re working on a feature length version of the picture for the masses.
Even though we couldn’t stay for the last day of the festival, we had a great time this year, and the Rue Morgue crew is to be commended for putting on their best show yet. Thanks to Dave Alexander, Gary Pullin, Stuart Andrews, Chris Alexander, Jovanka Vuckovic, and Rodrigo Gudino for showing us a good time. See ya next year for the fifth anniversary!
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