Event Report: ZomBCon: Carnell's Diary of the Dead
I get to the con early and, after a quick check in at my publisher’s booth, I race off to the NWR where the day’s panels are once again taking place. First up, local genre film connoisseur Justin Giallo and I are to interview John Amplas and discuss his involvement in some of Romero’s films – specifically MARTIN. While this is a zombie-biased convention, having Amplas there is too good of an opportunity to not sit down with him and talk about the influential vampire film. Amplas is a slight guy with an easy smile and an open and friendly demeanor. I introduce myself to him and we get to talking. His manor is self-deprecating and you can’t help but like the guy. He openly wonders if anyone will show up for the talk since Bruce Campbell has been scheduled to cut the opening ribbon for the con elsewhere. As the crowd arrives, it is a little less than anticipated, but it’s plain to see that these people love – and I mean love – MARTIN. John, Justin, and I take our seats and quickly get down to business. The discussion ranges from the making of the film to whether he and Romero ever talked about if Martin was indeed a vampire or merely a deeply trouble kid who was suffering from some kind of mental illness rather than anything supernatural. Dr. Steven C. Schlozman (who’d previously mentioned to me that he was a big fan of the film) is in the audience and his background in the mental health field is a deeply appreciated addition to the proceedings.
Back to the Exhibition Hall… Bruce Campbell is on stage, holding court. Bruce is a con favorite and he effortlessly has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. I do more signings and take another break to move about the hall. Once again, I’m struck by the diversity of goods being sold: Tshirtbordello offers a wide variety of shirts & beer glasses emblazoned with sayings and logos of things that are both hilarious and VERY inside (some of the references even I didn’t get), Combat Sport Supply is selling some very nasty looking machetes, blades, and tactical gear the like of which any zombie hunter would be proud to put in his “go bag,” there’s a Zombie Blast 6 hour energy drink which comes in little shotgun shell containers, even something called Zombie Flesh Jerky (beef jerky, really with a few “eyeballs” thrown in for spice). The items are inventive, fun, and delightfully ghoulish.
I head back to the NSW and meet back up with Sean “The Butcher” Smithson. We’re here to interview Prologue Films’ Henry Hobson for a panel called THE WALKING DEAD: SETTING THE STORY which will focus on the creation of opening credits for the AMC television series. As Henry shows his reel, it becomes apparent that he and Prologue Films are the real deal. These guys make some very slick and effective sequences and have created a phenomenal body of work for entertainment and advertising. Their resume reads like a hit list of the biggest films of the day: ROBIN HOOD, IRON MAN, SHERLOCK HOLMES, NINJA ASSASSIN, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, BLADES OF GLORY, ROCKNROLLA, ORPHAN, KARATE KID, SUPERMAN RETURNS… the list goes on and on. Henry takes the audience through WALKING DEAD’s evocative opening credit sequence from initial concept to finished product. He talks about how the concept changed and mutated into the arresting sequence we see today. Once again (and this is becoming a recurring theme of the con), the talk is well received and a lot of people stick around afterward to ask a ton of follow-up questions.
Then, it’s back to the Main Hall for more signings and some quick interaction with more of the guests. Ted Raimi sits signing autographs and making people smile with a well-honed ease. The Ladies of the EVIL DEAD do the same, although they are a bit more reserved. Rather than looking like the evil demons from their film, they come off more like your best friend’s sister. I’m told Bruce Campbell is off heading up a HOW TO KILL A ZOMBIE panel and it seems like a perfect match-up of host and subject matter. Just to the side of all of this, Malcolm McDowell sits smiling, shaking the hand of each person lined up to meet him, and graciously having his picture taken again and again. As I watch him work, I think how grueling it all must be. All of them have been at this for several hours now and there’s still half an afternoon to go. Their availability is obviously much appreciated by those who’ve come here today.
Suddenly, it’s 3:00 PM and I mount the stage here in the Exhibition Hall for my Q&A for the book. I talk a bit about the book’s plot, what inspired it, and how important I feel it is for fans to support the genre they love. Admittedly, it’s all something I’m pretty passionate about and I fear it begins to sound like an evangelical rant. A quick reading of the book’s first chapter later and I’m done for the day.