Tuesday, March 29, 2011

HorrorHound Weeekend Indy 2011 - Convention Report

I’ve been going to horror conventions for about six years now, my first being Flashback Weekend in Chicago in 2005. At that point, I really didn’t know too many fellow in-the-flesh fans, but little did I realize how that would change over the coming years. At said Flashback, I met Jon Kitley of Kitley’s Krypt, who had been doing the convention scene for about 15 years at that point. Over the weeks and months to follow, we bonded over our shared passion for fright flicks and have been fast friends ever since – by his side I’ve attended more conventions and horror events that I could count on fingers and toes.

Around the same time, I started frequenting the IMDb horror message boards, which I have often equated to “having found my tribe.” This eclectic, international group of bloodloving brethren would quite literally change my life’s trajectory, igniting a wealth of ideas and conversations, eventually leading to the creation of HORROR 101, everyone’s favorite horror reference book. Many of the contributors to the book were IMDb’ers whom I had never met in person, but over the past few years, I’ve been blessed to cross paths with dozens of them, all of whom have turned out to be just as cool in corporeal form as they were virtually.

All of which brings us to this past HorrorHound Weekend (March 25-27) in Indianapolis, which marked one of the largest gatherings of longtime fellow horror friends that I can recall, an epic blend of our beloved Chicago (and surrounding areas) horror community and the online world. Forgive the rambling tone, but as anyone who has attended one of these events knows, conventions do not lend themselves to cohesive narratives, being comprised of explosive encounters

and random moments.

The adventure begins before dawn on Friday morning, as I stumble to the Kitley-mobile, having camped out on his couch in Aurora the night before. I’ve got a slight nagging in my throat, so we swing by Wal-Mart to grab some meds and snacks for the road. Swing down to Joliet to pick up fellow traveler Matt (aka awesome artist Putrid) from Bob and Nicole’s pad (the two of them will be heading down later to man the DarkSky Films table). We trek southerly, enthusiastically gabbing about the weekend to come. Upon arriving around 12pm at the Indy Marriott parking lot, I receive a text from good pal and WildClaw blogger Anna, seeing if I want to join her merry quartet of IMDb folks for lunch. And after I help haul Kitley’s substantial load of posters, videos and books inside, that’s just what I do.

The lobby of the nearby Quality Inn marks the first time meet-up with online pals Christianne (Chris-435), April (dragoncomet00), and Brian (Pennywise666), and it is AWESOME. Unlike, say, the lunch fare at China King – not recommended. Chris is someone I’ve been wanting to meet for years, being one of the smartest cinephiles I’ve ever encountered – anyone claiming that horror fans are just dumb bloodhounds would soon be put in their place by the effusive elocutions of Ms. Christianne, who penned two of HORROR 101’s most articulate pieces.

April is nothing less than a series of warm hearted virtual hugs made flesh, and her invaluable assistance during last year’s Chase drive for WildClaw endeared her to dozens of Chicago artists whom she’d never met. We will never be able to thank her enough, but darned if I wasn’t going to try, and took every opportunity I could to wrap arms around the gal.

Returning back to the show floor for setup, it’s a virtual horror family reunion. There’s Jill from LixOnline, there’s Don England from Slaughtered Lamb studios, over there Sid Haig and Bill Moseley are setting up their tables. Nathan and Aaron from HorrorHound are running around like madmen clearing up last minute nightmares, while Jessica Dwyer, Matt Moore and Sean Clark lend support where possible. It’s a crazed – and familiar – scene. Jon already has his table set up next to Joe and Jen from Turntabling.net, with South Dakota pal Nancy in attendance for her second HorrorHound go-round. My heart goes a-flutter as I see convention crush Tiffany Shepis making her way to her table, and it isn’t long before I’m over there snapping pics and making plans to interview her later.

The doors open to the public at 5pm and the madness begins. Anna and April head over to meet horror legend Barbara Steele, who turns out to be a class act in spite of rumors to the contrary.

I stop by Re-Animator star Jeffrey Combs’ table to see when he might be bringing his one-man Edgar Allan Poe show to Chicago (Answer: when someone offers to pick up the tab).

Eileen Dietz’s banner starts falling down, so I leap into action, further endearing myself to her after our hour-long convo at HorrorHound Cincinnati. I also ingratiate myself to the lovely (and very tall) Terminator 3 star Kristanna Loken who had locked herself out of her room, helping her find the front desk and convincing them that, yes, she is in fact Kristanna Loken.

Almost immediately following, I run into Indy pal Craig Clark, and we make plans to meet up for dinner later on. I head over to one of the screening rooms to check out Leya Talylor’s documentary of last year’s Vampira tribute, which was great fun.

After cruising through the horror hosts room and the mask makers parlor (both of which are jammed to the gills with oogy goodess), I head back to the main dealer room, where Chicago pals Dan, Coye, Chad, Kristin, Brian F., Brian K, Chris, Jerry, Kirsten and Wisconsin’s own John Pata and Gavin Schmitt have appeared on the scene. Yes, the cast list for this crazy ever-unfolding drama is getting out of control, and things will only proceed in that direction – this is the thing about horror cons: you might arrive knowing no one, but you leave with a few dozen of your newest closest friends.

One of the highlights of the day (and the weekend, for that matter) occurs while I’m standing in the middle of the main dealer room and a young man comes up to stand just outside my personal space, clearly trying to get my attention without interrupting my conversation. “Aaron?” he asks. I nod, whereupon he introduces himself as J. Luis Rivera, aka jluis1984 from the horror boards, aka the inspired author of HORROR 101’s essays on House of Usher and The Fly. J-Lu has come all the way up from MEXICO to take part in this bacchanalia of blood, and seeing mi amigo en mi presencia, well, it was a pretty amazing feeling.

By the time the dealer room closes at 10pm, the party is in full swing. The hotel lobby and atrium are awash with half-in-the-bag horror fans, with photos snapping, glasses clinking and inappropriate behavior galore. Chris from Indiana shows up, as well as fellow IMdb’ers Shelly (hpooh), Stever (ThrownMuse), Sterling (Silverboy76 ) and TruckDrivingMagic Mama (TruckDrivingMagicMama).

Joe Bob Briggs is in one corner, Ken Foree another, and horror hosts are everywhere, in and out of makeup.

There are even scantily clad pole-dancers performing their act in the corner, which is something I’ve never seen at a show before.

But, since my voice is failing and I know Saturday is the REAL big night of any horror con, I eventually excuse myself around 1:30am and head for bed. Yes, folks, this is leaving the party early. The faint of heart and infirm of health need not apply.

Morning comes a little earlier than I would have preferred, body clock waking me at 7am, but it gives me the opportunity to head down to the business office and check email, update Facebook status, make a few comments, then head off to breakfast at the nearby Hampton Inn, where a gaggle of adolescent dance teams have taken over the dining area prior to the day’s competition. Talk about different worlds. I head back over and start preparing a few questions for Ms. Shepis (whose film The Frankenstein Syndrome is screening later that afternoon), and have a brief moment in the elevator with Carlo de Mejo, one of the stars of Lucio Fulci’s House by the Cemetery. The elevator turns out to be a true mecca for celebrity encounters, as I would later meet up with Barbara Steele (wonderful, sweet woman), Ted White (Friday the 13th: Final Chapter), Dick Warlock (Halloween II and III), Derek MacKinnon (Terror Train), Daniel Roebuck (River’s Edge, Bubba Ho-Tep) and Barbara Magnolfi & Stefania Casini (Suspiria), all within those sliding metal doors.

Speaking of celebs, while the show’s headliners were Corey Feldman and the Boondock Saints team of Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus, I never made my way over to their private signing hall. Part of the reason being, well, THEY HAD THEIR OWN PRIVATE SIGNING HALL, and the other being that I had no real impetus to meet any of them. Sue me. However, I did hear that Norman Reedus was quite the character, and his shirt-swapping escapades with Gavin will go down as one of the great convention stories.

I spend much of Saturday in screening room #1, attempting to watch Frankenstein Syndrome (DVD issues hijacked the film, leaving the well-attended room rather frustrated), but my mood was soon lifted by a most enjoyable Halloween III panel that included writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace, maskmaker extraordinaire Don Post, stuntman/actor Dick Warlock, and stars Stacey Nelkin and the one and only Tom Atkins. Hilarity and reminiscences ensue, after which I head up to the hotel room for lunch and a brief impromptu, nap.

I awake to John Pata’s phone call, telling me to come down and join him and Chicago pals Jackie and Beth for a screening of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. I tell you now, friends, if there is any justice in the world, you will be hearing plenty about this film in the months to come because it’s kinda awesome. Funny, gory, and extremely well performed, this is a winner and I can only hope it finds distribution soon. SOON. Following the screening, the dealer room had closed, and I run into Wisconsin pals Dave Kosanke and Ryan Olsen as they were heading for the exit, having made the trek for just the one day. (Madness!) Dave is the creator and progenitor of Liquid Cheese, the movies and music fanzine to mangle your mind, and I was thrilled to have the latest issue slapped into my hand as we part company.

A group of no fewer than 15 hungry horror fans then proceed to caravan around Indianapolis, searching for a restaurant that can handle our size and breadth. Mazatlan, across the parking lot from Olive Garden, fills the bill nicely, with service and edibles that very nearly eclipse the nightmare El Dorado scenarios of last year. With the exception of a couple pieces of General Tsao Chicken on Friday, I manage to maintain my vegetarian status for the entirety of the weekend, no small feat for someone who regularly cleans the plates of everyone else at the table. Then it’s back to the hotel for a marathon session of laughter, hugs, photo ops, movie chat, reunions, hula hooping, alcohol consumption (not by me, mind you, but the drinks were a-flowing), with my raspy voice growing weaker by the moment.

Nothing more annoying than losing one’s voice at a horror con – although I suspect that losing one’s keys would probably come close (Hi Jon!) Finally, after my throaty laugh has been reduced to a chirpy cackle, I decide to call it a night. 3am and out.

By Sunday, I was feeling pretty wiped out, but still riding high on the buzz that was my appointed interview with Tiffany Shepis that morning. Lo and behold, she showed up right on time and ready to roll, despite having come down with a nasty cold. (Germ factories, these horror cons, with all the hand shaking and hugging.) We had a lovely 15-minute chat, talking about the Tromatic early days with Tromeo & Juliet and Troma’s Edge TV on through her many collaborations with Rolfe Kanefsky, culminating with discussions about her soon-to-be released Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula, The Violent Kind and Frankenstein Syndrome. Enthusiastic and charming to the last, a few minutes with Tiffany leave no doubt as to why she is a fan favorite. A horror fan herself as well as a consummate professional, she is able to geek out with the best of them, and never fails to give 100% while on the floor.

When our interview concludes, I’m feeling that my weekend has reached its high point and I spend the rest of the day relaxing at the Kitley’s Krypt table with Nancy, chatting with prospective customers, fellow fans, friends old and new.

I take a few more strolls around the various rooms, but it’s all casual from there on out. More photos are taken, more laughs are shared, a few tears shed, and eventually, it’s time to start packing things up and heading for home.

While the excitement of meeting celebs is all good and fine, it’s the opportunity to interact with people who share a common interest that is the main attraction for me, and it’s the reason why I will continue to attend conventions for years to come. Yes, though the cost of admission, hotel rooms, meals and memorabilia limits me to only a few each year, I look forward to each one with a fresh sense of anticipation… because no two shows are ever exactly alike, and heaven forbid you miss out on that special moment. Hats off to Nathan, Aaron and Jeremy for a successful weekend…and thanks to everyone who helped make this one of my favorite shows on record.


  1. Very good report! Felt like I was right there with you!

  2. Yeah, dude! It was an amazing weekend.

  3. Yeah. China King pretty much sucked. It's too bad you didn't come with us to the Thai place on Saturday. It was pretty awesome.

    All in all, a terrific weekend with lovely, lovely people. It was so great meeting you at last!

  4. the best 2 pics are the Sabrina photobomb and the closeup of Putrid.

  5. Heh. I asked Jeffrey Combs that exact same question. If and when that does come to pass, I may have to crash on your couch again.

  6. Looks like you had a great time. You're so lucky to be in such a cool part of the world with so many fellow horror fans.