HorrorHound Weekend 2008 Pittsburgh

corey’s highlights…

horrorhound weekend in pittsburgh was awesome. lots of fun was had, much pasta was eaten, too much money was spent, too many drinks were drunk and tons of photos were snapped. below i share some of the latter in an effort to convey some of the many highlights of the weekend.

toys. suffice to say, horror related action figures were not in short supply. personally, i was able to obtain a classic alien figure, a michael myers from the remake, and a jason voorhees from part six (complete with a human head, heart and arm). additionally i picked up a zombie rubber duckie and some buffy lego figures for friends/family.

weird stuff. in addition to toys, the place was filled with the odd and bizarre… most available for purchase. here a young lady will sell you an assortment of skulls, sculptures and body parts, soap with frankenstein’s monster inside or, most strangely, a really creepy gas mask. additionally, they’d also make you up as a zombie if you liked. they have a site at myspace.com/ghoul_school where you can see their portfolio.

zombies. the most popular costume theme was, by far, zombies. stumbling girl zombies, lurching guy zombies, drunk vomiting zombies… all kinds were accounted for. the bloodied surgical mask hanging around the girl’s neck on the right is particularly disturbing to me for some reason.

day of the dead stuff. on the right is the dr. tongue action figure i covet so greatly… thankfully it will finally be released later this year. on the left you can see a young man whose excitement over his recent purchase of a day of the dead ‘bub’ head can barely be contained.

art. the artists at shock-studios.com do some really interesting digital artwork, most zombie inspired. i really like the elm street one and the black & white zombie. i like the return of the living dead-inspired 245 trioxon shirt as well.

dvds. what would a horror convention be without horror movies for sale? thousands of obscure titles were on sale, many unavailable on dvd through traditional means. i managed to obtain quite a few bootlegs and long-lost titles for myself. this included a well-recorded performance of evil dead: the musical, which i haven’t been able to catch live despite my love of the series, due to the fact that i’ve heard it’s only showing in the untamed and frozen wilds of the strange and foreign land known as ‘canada.’

fun and food. on the left you can see the ‘coffin ride,’ which doesn’t initially sound like all that much fun but which seems to have thrilled those that tried it. you sit inside and it hops around like a giant mexican jumping bean while your friends watch you get tossed about from a video feed being shown outside. on the right you can see the near limitless selection of refreshments and snacks offered. pretzels and soda… yum.

cool people. we hung out with some guys from bloody-disgusting for a little bit since we shared a common bond — neither of our groups could successfully get the bartender’s attention. otherwise, they seem to be doing pretty well because, well, damn… look at that sweet HD monitor! on the right is joel robinson from artpusher.net. i was so impressed with his art that i purchased one of his jason voorhees pieces (from part VII, no less) and just picked up a frame for it today. i bought a lot of fantastic stuff at the convention, but this is by far my favorite item… check his website for other, equally impressive pieces.

more weird stuff. i don’t care if it is a coin bank… sleestaks are still creepy. at least they have a clear purpose though… to hold your loose change. but what is someone going to do with this matching green-trimmed demon baby bra and panty set pictured on the right?

fake heads. the one big disappointment for me was that the werewolf head from an american werewolf in london was not on display — but plenty of other special effects heads were, including this very nice werewolf at greg nicotero’s table. additionally you could watch some of the students from tom savini’s school working on various sculptures right in front of you.

costumes. zombies weren’t the only costumes around… pictured here is a female version of ash from army of darkness and an incredibly patriotic skeleton/demon thingy with big hands.

exorcist stuff. get your very own semi-realistic exorcist doll to hang on your wall… or see the female ash from above faux-decapitate a regan mcneal impersonator.

american werewolf stars. in addition to the large number of horror icons in attendance (halloween‘s daeg faerch and danielle harris, doug bradley, tom savini, etc.) — john landis, griffin dunne and david naughton were also all there. an american werewolf in london is the second horror film i ever saw (about 10 minutes after i first saw halloween at age 8), and is thusly 50% responsible for my love of horror. ever since then i have often dreamed of browsing for buffy action figures in the mall that dawn of the dead was filmed in while standing next to john landis… as well as riding in an elevator with a very groggy david naughton. i can now say that both of those dreams have come true.

movies. we managed to catch three of the seven or eight films being shown. it’s my party and i’ll die if i want to is an incredibly low-budget film featuring tom savini in a rather humorous cameo. it suffers many of the problems of most low-budget horror films (loose editing, bad sound, etc.) but it’s a charming film with some interesting special effects and inspired transitions. i’m particularly looking forward to seeing it on dvd where it uses a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ branched-menu structure to, i’ve heard, great effect. mother of tears is argento’s latest daughter-starring, magic and nudity-filled gore-fest, and it does not disappoint. However, the most exciting of the films was beware the moon: remembering an american werewolf in london. it’s a phenomenal documentary and i can’t wait for the eventual dvd release. the q&a with the director and stars before the film convinced me that john landis has more energy than a chihuahua drinking cappuccinos and has probably done nothing but had fun and made others laugh every moment of his life. no wonder his films are so fun to watch.

posters. in addition the jason painting, i also took home six small posters… my favorite of which are these two japanese one-sheets offriday the 13th (left) and day of the dead (right).

dawn of the dead at monroeville mall. i can now tell my grandchildren that i have seen dawn of the dead inside the mall in which it was filmed. unfortunately, the experience wasn’t all that i’d hoped as they were unable to turn the lights down (see left picture) and the sound system was not the finest. on the right you can see a member of the audience who came well prepared with a sleeping mat, pillow and popcorn. he seemed like a really nice guy, but minutes after this picture was taken he went to ask someone to turn down the lights. when he returned, he had three security guards in tow who he proceeded to berate for their inability to control the lighting… a few minutes later he was escorted out. this turned out to be the most entertaining aspect of the screening and we left shortly there-after to go see a movie we could actually… see.

more cool people. on the right is kevin kangas (well known to listeners of ‘night of the living podcast’), baltimore-based filmmaker of fear of clowns and fear of clowns 2. hopefully we’ll see him again at horrorfest in baltimore, as he’s one of funniest and nicest people we met in pittsburgh.

shown left is the cast of ‘night of the living podcast.’ amy, freddy, chiz, erica and andy were incredibly nice to us and even allowed us to tag along to dinner with kevin kangas and company. there are few people quite as nice as these guys in the horror community, and i highly recommend everyone check out their podcast immediately. like right now. i’m not kidding, open itunes and queue that sucker up.

tom savini. what would a horror convention be without tom savini and his bullwhip? boring — that’s what. he addressed the rumors that he’s been rude to some fans at conventions, which i found quite admirable and convinced me that he’s actually the nice guy i always hoped he was. he also admitted that he’d come out of his semi-effects-retirement if he were offered a directing gig on a friday the 13th film… now, that’s something i’d like to see. get on top of that offer, newline.

Jon’s highlights…

Corey and I just returned from Pittsburgh’s 2008 Horrorhound Weekend, and we had a great time. The folks at Horrorhound Magazine know how to put together an impressive convention, and we met a lot of really great people, including some of the writers for Bloody Disgusting and the gang behind the mic at Night of the Living Podcast. The NOTLP crew were nice enough to let Corey and I hang out with them at their booth and even join them for dinner. We also saw plenty of celebrities, including Daeg Faerch, William Forsythe, and Jason Mewes. Here are some of the other highlights from the weekend.

Tom Savini was at the convention, and I took the candid snapshot of him below at the precise moment he spotted my camera and smashed it with his bullwhip in a terrifying display of whirlwind speed and raw fury.

Well, in all honesty, that picture is simply the result of my poor camera work and the fact that I forgot to turn on the flash button. However, we did see Savini demonstrate his legendary skills with a bullwhip during the carnival sideshow portion of Saturday’s Savini-thon. Savini was incredibly funny, insightful, and generous, and he completely dispelled those pesky internet rumors that he’s a total jerk at conventions.

I’m a real sucker for a sideshow, and Corey caught me on camera puzzling over the mystery that is the Queen of the Fiji Island Mermaids. Aside from the Queen, and Savini’s bullwhip demonstration, the Horrorhound Sideshow also consisted of a portly, tattooed man hula-hooping on a bed of nails.

One of the great things about a horror convention is the opportunity to see new films before they are available to the general public. I was eager to see Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears ever since I heard it was going to be featured at the Horrorhound convention. It’s not quite as good as the first film of the “three mothers” trilogy, Suspiria (which I’ve talked about before), but it’s better than Inferno. The evil Mother Lachrimarum is undoubtedly the most brutal of the three mothers, but she’s also the sexiest, which creates a combination that puts Argento at his very best as he transforms pain and beauty into pure aesthetic spectacle. Argento also continues to indulge in his strange fascination with animals by featuring a sly and evil monkey as one of the film’s primary antagonists. This is one of those films that you can’t quite understand, but that nonetheless has a profound effect on you.

Doug Bradley (aka Pinhead) presented some of his current work, including the premiere of his new series called Spine Tinglers, which consists of classic works of fiction read by Bradley with accompanying video and sound. H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Outsider” is the first of this series, and watching it was one of the best moments in the convention. It’s much more than a glorified book on tape (or book on video). Bradley’s on-film reading was mesmerizing, but never obtrusive, and he commissioned terrific music and Lovecraft-inspired artwork to accompany the reading. It really brought Lovecraft’s eerie, yet beautiful language to life. Bradley had never seen this work with a proper audience, and his interest in our opinion was sincere and actually rather sweet. I highly recommend this to any fan of literature or really good horror. In fact, what are you waiting for? You can watch a free 3-minute preview of Bradley’s “The Outsider” here.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that Dawn of the Dead was filmed in Pittsburgh’s Monroeville Mall, which just so happened to be right next to the Expo Center where the convention took place. The mall provided a great place to grab a quick bite (Corey and I have decided that NYC has nothing on the Steel City’s local pizza) and it also gave me the chance to walk in the very footsteps of Romero’s living dead. The mall’s famous fountain doesn’t exist anymore, but the pool next to which I’m standing in the picture above is the location of some great moments in the film. On Saturday night we actually got to watch Dawn of the Dead in the mall, but poor sound and lighting made it really difficult to see or hear it. But we got to see some of Dawn of the Dead’s original cast of zombies as they introduced the film, and all the proceeds went to charity, plus we had a blast being there with so many Romero fans.

We were treated to another premiere over the weekend when Paul Davis screened his film Beware the Moon, a witty, thorough, and well-crafted documentary about the making of An Ameican Werewolf in London. Landis and David Naughton were also present at the screening and indulged the audience with a Q&A session. Landis was manic, but also brilliant, funny and completely entertaining. In fact, I’m now convinced that Landis is not just a film director, but a smiling, energetic, benevolent force of nature. Of course, Landis makes films for a living, but it was inspiring to see a skilled filmmaker who so obviously and thoroughly loves what he does. I didn’t get the chance to really talk to Landis, but our paths did cross. After the convention closed on Friday night, I made my way back to the hotel to ask the front desk where I might find a purveyor of fine cognac, or perchance a nice bottle of chateau vin touis. Who am I kidding? I asked where I could grab a six-pack of beer. However, I was out of luck, as Pennsylvania has some strange rules about when and where you can buy adult beverages. And just as I was expressing my frustration over the prospect of spending the remaining night without any cold suds, I looked to my left and saw John Landis standing there, larger than life, and smiling right at me as if he had just witnessed the most interesting and amusing thing he had seen all night.

We all love to celebrate the classic films by Landis and Romero, but the real heart and soul of any horror convention is independent film. There were plenty of underground films screened over the weekend, including Tony Wash’s It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To, which we saw on Friday. The death scenes in It’s My Party are fun and sometimes outright stomach-churning, and the special effects are terrific). Plus, Tom Savini makes a funny cameo appearance. However, this is a film that’s really meant for DVD and not the big screen. I later learned that it’s actually a “choose-your-own-adventure” film in which the viewer gets to decide such things as whether or not the final girl will survive, and, if so, how she will survive. Sadly, the film screening couldn’t recreate this, and without this really intriguing use of audience interaction, the film tended to drag at a sometimes unbearable and painfully slow pace. In fact, a few audience members got outright panicked when they tried to leave the theater, only to discover that the doors to the theater were locked. I don’t think this was an intentional act on the part of the director, as the doors turned out to be simply jammed shut and not really locked, but the fact that we were trapped in the theater did make the experience a little more thrilling. Still, I wholeheartedly support Wash and his independent Scotchworthy film company. Corey bought the DVD of It’s My Party, and we’re both eager to see the film as it’s meant to be experienced.

There were lots of collectibles at the convention, and I regret not buying the Chop Top action figure, which, as you can see, sold very quickly. The action figure came with such accessories as a straight razor and coat hanger, plus a mask that lets you switch between hippy Chop Top and psycho Chop Top.

Chop Top is one of my all-time favorite horror film villains, so I was very happy to learn that Bill Moseley, the actor behind Chop Top’s groovy, metal-plated brain, would be attending the Horrorhound convention. Coincidentally, I had just written a tribute to Chop Top for this very blog, so I brought it for Bill Moseley to sign. Not only did he gladly sign it, but he also asked for a copy for himself, which I luckily had with me. I must have looked either nervous or hungry, because he gave me a cookie after he signed my blog post.

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