A nerd convention is kind of like the internet. You’re surrounded by like-minded people and all the cool shit related to you’d interests that you’d like to buy or at least look at is available right at your fingers. It was during the second day of Monster-Mania 20 that this really became apparent to me.
The second day was mostly devoted to panels and Q&As. The “Re-Animator” panel was the first of the day. Despite the name, Jonathan Fuller from “Castle Freak” joined Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton on stage. As you’d expect, the questions were centered around “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond,” leaving Fuller mostly out of the conversations. At one point, Barbara Crampton actually turned to him and said, “But maybe Jonathan has something to add.”
Jeffrey Combs has something of a reputation as a dick. While he was never rude or standoffish, during the panel he was working very hard to keep all of the attention on him. To his credit, when his phone rang in the middle of the panel, he shut it off. Despite that, there were still a number of good moments. Combs recalled the perils of eating fake brains and frightening children with his grotesque make-up during the making of “From Beyond,” while Barbara Crampton discussed freezing while covered in slime. One of the most amusing moments came when Combs was frank about how much the new “The Dunwich Horror” sucks, which he was apparently in. And there was a lot of general discussing about working with Stuart Gordon, who I really wish could have been there. Over all, a good panel.
Immediately after that panel ended, the ballroom was flooded by lots of young woman who apparently came to lust after Norman Reedus during the “Walking Dead” panel. I opted out of that one in order to grab a few more celeb signatures. But Tony Todd still wasn’t at his table, so I wound up in the dealer’s room.
“The Prey” ended up being a lot harder movie to find then I thought it would be. Only one booth at the whole con carried it. (While there, I also grabbed the missing movies I need for my Godzilla Report Card. Which I’ll probably never write, considering the speed I go at these days.) But now I do indeed own an actual physical copy of my favorite bad movie and I looked forward to inflicting the banjo filled horrors on my friends as much as possible.
The “Monster Squad” reunion started at four and, with that time quickly approaching, I marched back up stairs. While passing the room where all the “Halloween” guests were located, my traveling partner informed me that John Carpenter was about to go on a coffee break and if I wanted his signature, I better go in there and grab it. So, completely unprepared, I was pushed towards Mr. Carpenter’s table. My nerd brain was completely blank and I could think of nothing interesting or provocative to ask. After stumbling through a short question about what his next project would be, that Carpenter sidewayed into a complaint about the basketball season, I quickly stumbled off with my signed glossy, completely embarrassed. During my ten minutes with maybe the most respected living horror director, all I could say was that “Christine” is really underrated. I’m a disgrace to my uniform. (Carpenter wasn’t rude, by the way, but I think he was really looking forward to that coffee break.)
The “Monster Squad” reunion was definitely the thinnest attended panel I saw, though everyone there was obviously a huge fan. Stephen Macht, otherwise known as Sean’s dad, made it apparent early that he wasn’t really a horror fan and didn’t have very much to say. Ashley Bank and Andre Gower were very talkative though. It’s obvious the two are friends and they have a great back-and-forth. They both had a lot to say about the film, the fandom, the rating’s system, what it’s like being a cult classic, working as a child actor, and the generational aspect of the film. The remake question came up, of course, which would be the first of many times the topic arose that night.
I decided to go back down to the signer’s room. Tony Todd was indeed, finally, at his table. As I waited in the short line, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Considering his often absent status, I thought Mr. Todd might not be very interested in being there and meeting his fan. My concerns were for naught. Tony was by far the nicest guy I meet at Monster-Mania. He was friendly, verbose, and sincere. He shared a great story of how he got the part in the “Night of the Living Dead” remake. Basically, he was in the area and, when he heard the remake was casting, he marched over and explained to Tom Savini how passionate he was about the project and how much he wanted the part. All of this was pantomimed, with me in the part of Savini, and Todd didn’t spare personal space. I explained the subtitles of “Candyman” as I saw it, after which Todd said, “You’re a pretty smart guy. You should be a filmmaker.” I sheepishly mentioned that I am, or am at least trying to be, and the tables completely turned. Suddenly Tony Todd was asking me about my movies and giving me a pep talk about following your passion and not getting discouraged. It was surreal. I come to Baltimore to talk to Tony Todd about his movies and he ends up talking to me about mine. What a genuinely nice guy. I’m definitely a much bigger fan now. He spent a lengthy amount of time with everyone at his table too. This is a guy who obviously enjoys meeting people.
After grabbing some dinner (I highly recommend the Nautilus Diner, by the way.), I made it back to the Mariot for the eight o’clock John Carpenter Q&A. I was always told you should always get to a panel a half an hour early, in order to get good seats. Which I did for the first two panels I was at, which ended up being an unnecessary move. So I figured, obviously, there was no need to get to this panel early. Clearly a lapse in judgment on my behalf, seeing as how Carpenter was the biggest guest there. The room was packed and we ended up with lousy seats way in the back.
Carpenter sure knows his fans. He had the audience eating out of his hands the entire time. Every time he swore or talked about receiving royalty checks for sequels or remakes, the entire crowd erupted in laughter. It was a candid hour with the director, in which he talked at lengths about the classics, the current film climate, his famous friends, and his general attitudes about filmmaking. There was a lot of remake talk, with Carpenter expressing general ambivalence over the subject, as long as he gets paid. (Though he did meet the inevitable Rob Zombie question with a flat “No comment,” which resulted in thunderous applause.) But it wouldn’t be a real dynamite Q&A without some idiots or assholes in the audience. One guy, who was holding a beer the whole time, apparently came all this way, just to ask, and I quote, “What the fuck was up with “Escape from LA?” Because that movie was just fucking shit.” He was immediately booed, since “Escape from LA” rocks of course, and Carpenter dismissed the guy with the middle finger and a nice “Fuck you.” Another guy delivered a rushed, confusing, poorly worded question about the Snake character from “Metal Gear Solid,” which was interpreted by Carpenter as meaning an “Escape from New York” game was in the works. (“I hope they pay me,” was his typical response.) Another guy asked, “What it’s like to work with Tom Savini?” The answer? “I don’t know, I’ve never worked with the guy.” Overall, this was definitely the most entertaining panel of the evening. I don’t know if I’d call J.C. down to Earth but he sure is a great speaker.
This was immediately followed by the “Halloween” reunion. The monitor was obviously getting tired at this point and, honestly, the kid (now adult) who played Tommy and a smattering of random Michael Myers didn’t prove for the best guests. All wasn’t lost though. PJ Soles had a good anecdote about the difference between working with Carpenter and Brian DePalma. Charles Cypher’s obvious dislike of Rick Rosenthal was great. Tommy Lee Wallace had a lot of good stories about the making of “Halloween III,” the initial reaction, and the cult following it’s built up over the years. And thank God for the guy who asked Dick Warlock about “Spaceballs.” He gets bonus points. But the most bizarre questions of the evening goes to the guy who decided it would be fun to ask the “Halloween” cast what their favorite kills from the “Friday the 13th” movies were. “You’ve got the wrong franchise,” the monitor said. Sadly, Tom Atkins was mostly left out of this one. Not a single “Night of the Creeps” question.
And now comes the oddest moment of the whole weekend. While having a private moment in the packed bathroom, I overheard a discussion from the line of guys at the urinals. Dick Warlock step up to do his business, when a sarcastic fan said, “Gee, Mr. Warlock, I know it’s not the best time, but can I get a picture?” He took it in good humor and even followed up with, “Now you can tell all your friends you’ve pissed with Michael Myers.”
The con was definitely winding down by Sunday morning. Much to my surprise, most of the guests and the majority of the vendors were still there. I grabbed “Silent Madness” and “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” a Godzilla and the “Wolfman’s Got Nards!” t-shirts. By that point though, most of my resources were worn down and there wasn’t much left to do. I walked around and took in one last good look at everything before getting back on the road.
Overall, Monster-Mania 20 was a blast. It was all I had hoped for and more. Meeting with PJ Soles and Tony Todd are memories I think I’ll treasure forever. It was probably the best first con experience I could have. You won’t hear any horror stories from me, no two-hour waits in line, no asshole signers, and no pushy vendors. I can’t wait to get back. How about HorrorFind in Gettysberg next year, readers? That is, unless Monster-Mania gets George Romero or Bruce Campbell. Get to work on that, you guys.