Monday, April 20, 2009

My Sunday of Horror

I'm not a big convention guy, or at least anymore. However, between the age of 13 to my mid-20's I would annually attend the Wonder-Con in Oakland. At some point (namely, my first, and to date only, sojourn to the the San Diego Comic-Con in 2002) the lines, crowds and no offense, over abundance of fanboys in a perpetual state of arrested development became too much for me. Still, I allowed my uncle, a proficient micro-budgeted horror director in his own right, to persuade me to attend the final day of this year's Fangoria Weekend of Horror.

The crowds were much thinner than I had expected, perhaps due to the fact that the big names guests like Sam Raimi were not in attendance on the convention's final day, and there were a lot less merchandise tables than I remembered from my aforementioned experiences (more on that below), but the day made for an interesting experience.

I do see some significant areas that could do with improving, and if you will indulge me (hey, it's my blog after all) I would kindly like to provide some suggestions to the organizers.

1. The Trailer Showcase--first things first, the audio/visual presentation just blew, the color frequently went in and out during the trailers (unless there's a lot more black and white films being produced then I think) and when the color was correct, the projection was muddy. There's also significant room for improvement in the programming aspect. The two upcoming horror films I am most looking forward to Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell and the much buzzed about, post Sundance screening this winter, Grace, were not included (despite the fact Raimi was the top listed guest and the Grace trailer was playing at the Lionsgate booth). And while I appreciate your promotion and emphasis on lower budget independent work, I think you did a disservice to the films by stringing all the trailers of unknown films in a row, and bookending them between more known quantities like Terminator: Salvation and Inglorious Basterds. Oh, and a note to the editors of these trailers, the flickering lights and abrasive loud noises are no longer effective, as of, oh 2003.

2. More Merchandise Tables--Focus at comic book conventions have morphed from their original internet (a place to buy comic books and comic book related memorabilia) with the mainstream success of the super hero based movie to a tool for filmmakers and stars to create publicity for their upcoming blockbuster releases. Coincidentally, this shift in focus parallels my declining interests in attending them. Hey, I love films and celebrities as much as the next guy, but I can live with waiting a week or two for the "exclusive" trailer to say, Iron Man 2, to make it's way on-line, or gasp, catch it theatrically. I am more of the find cool, rare or out-of-print posters, shirts, DVDs, books, et cetera kind of guy, and the options yesterday were minimal. There were probably as many tattoo artists as DVD sellers.

3. Celebrity signings--My biggest grip, and I am not sure whose to blame for this, but attendees pay $25 to get in, and inside there are a bunch of interesting filmmakers and actors, but to get an autograph, it costs you another $20 each. This leads me to the assumption that these people are making the money solely from what they sell and not from a cut of the door sales. Perhaps a better solution is to up the entry charge to $30 a ticket and give a percentage of the extra $5 to these horror icons, which this year included the likes of Fred "the Hammer" Williamson, Sybill Danning, Coffy director Jack Hill, Bill "Chop-top" Mosely, and original Texas Chain Saw Massacre final girl Marilyn Burns. And the thing is, I have absolutely no interest in collecting autographs. I do though think it would be interesting to talk to many of these people or just give them a simple "thanks for the memories", but if I wanted to converse with, for example, Corey Haim (who was there) I'd feel either awkward for not being interested in purchasing a Lost Boys still for him to sign and furthermore feel like I am preventing him from potentially making money or I'd feel compelled to purchase said still, which I would frankly have no interest in and probably shouldn't be wasting my money on with a mortgage and all. So what's the result, remember the convention scene in The Wrestler where Randy the Ram and his co-horts sit around wasting away the day with the occasional interruption from a paying fan? That's pretty much the case. But I think if my solution was implemented a better sense of community between fans and filmmakers would be fostered and there'd be more interaction and possibly, just as much if not more financial profit. I am not saying David Hess can't sell DVDs of Last House on the Left, but there shouldn't be the sense of obligation on the convention attenders part if they feel like just chatting with him. It's a sad state of affairs, when the Suicide Girls garner more attention at a horror convention then Ruggero Deodato, the director of Cannibal Holocaust! Speaking of wrestlers, Roddy Piper gave a Q and A and followed it up with an impromptu and might I add, free, autograph signing. The result? Lines around the auditorium that ate into the start time of the next schedule events.

Despite the dearth of what really interested me: vendors, I did pick up some cool stuff. I bought DVDs of Stone, an Australian biker film that is the progenitor of Mad Max and the Ozsplotation movement--which I watched and really enjoyed, it's surprisingly more of a character study than motorcycle chase film, with some interesting cinematic choices including an at times very experimental sound design, and Lucio Fulci's The Psychic from the good people at the Severin DVD table., a t-shirt with everyone's favorite 80's Action B-movie, partially Israeli mob funded, studio logo:

And the crown jewel of my purchases, an original 1975 Jaws poster from the Czech Republic, seen here:

I don't know if I'll rush back to a convention anytime soon, but despite the complaints, I enjoyed myself and witnessed some impressive surreal sights like seeing Trauma founder Lloyd Kaufman talking with a prancing costumed Toxic Avenger.
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