So, going in, I wasn’t too excited. We had to squeeze the entire con experience into one day. But there’s a few difference between Monster-Mania and HorrorFind. The dealers’ room in Gettysburg was more focused on original artwork and fan-created memorabilia. Baltimore features more toys, DVDs official and otherwise, old books, comics, posters, and generally less home-made stuff. I always support fans doing their own thing but, from a buyer’s perspective, it’s a little nicer. It’s not as if there isn’t any home-made stuff for sale. Another important difference is that Monster-Mania features extensive Q&A panels, something HorrorFind really should do.
In my limited convention history, I’ve noticed that, upon meeting the guest I’m really excited about, I usually stumble over a few questions before getting embarrassed. Since Asia Argento was the big guest of the weekend, I decided to save her for last, in hopes that it would work through any star-meet-and-greet jitters I might have. The fairly unassuming John Kassir was first. Kassir is really laid-back, giving extensive answers to all of our questions. It’s very clear he loves the Crypt Keeper as much as the fans do. Total research failure on my behalf: I had no idea he was the second voice of Buster Bunny and played the Atom in the ill-fated “Justice League” pilot. He gladly signed JD’s technically still-in-tattered-box Crypt Keeper doll before… Obviously I’m a writer and, at the moment, I’m working on a collection of short stories inspired by horror and its fandom. One of those stories is told from the perspective of an ersatz Crypt Keeper. I decided to hand John a copy of that. The worst outcome being he throws it away and never reads it, the best outcome being he likes it and maybe gives me a quote for my cover. Mr. Kassir said he loves it when fans give make him stuff and even read a line out-loud in the voice. That was awesome. I mean, holy crap, that was awesome.
After the surprisingly long line for Heather Langenkamp, the guest JD was most excited to meet, I decided to brave Asia’s line, which was only getting longer. Idle chit-chat with the Dad in front of me, who brought his very sleepy young son along, help pass the time. (There was, surprisingly, a lot of kids there. Including a babe-in-arms dressed as Freddy. Adorable.) After about a twenty minute wait, I came to Asia’s table. Geez whiz guys, she’s beautiful. As gorgeous as she is on-screen, she’s actually better looking in real life. So much for working through my fan-boy-jitters. I managed to get out two very reasonable questions about the difference between directing and acting (“Directing is like a full meal”) and working with Abel Ferara (“Very intense”) before falling apart into a stuttering, Jerry Lewis-esque mess. I’m sure the very awkward photograph makes that abundantly clear.
Patricia Tallman actually invited us over to her table, asking about JD’s Crypt Keeper doll. (Two cons in a row, this has happened. Obviously, I need to lug around something from my own collection at the next one.) Pat is really nice and energetic. Further research failure: I had no idea about her extensive stunt work. When I mentioned the remake of “Night of the Living Dead” ‘Ripley-ized’ Barbara, she commented that the script was actually written long before “Aliens” and the rise of tough-girl horror protagonists. She couldn’t tell us who her favorite director to work with was, but was very frank about her least favorite: Adam Nimoy, Leonard’s son, directed an episode of “Babylon 5” and was apparently such a huge dick the entire cast petitioned not to have him come back! Over all, she’s great.
My final example of research failure: For some reason, I didn’t connect Edward Herrmann, bad guy in “The Lost Boys” and Herman Munster in the eighties revival, was also Edward Herrmann, dad to Lorelei Gilmore and frequent History Channel narrator. Upon realizing this, I had to get an autograph for my mom, a huge “Gilmore Girls” fan. Total disclosure: I’m also a huge “Gilmore Girls” fan. Edward Herrmann is soft-spoken but friendly, and gladly re-told anecdotes about how long that show’s script was and how difficult acting under prosetics can be. When I sat down for my picture, we even starting small talk about travel and football. That was pretty cool.
As I said, the dealer’s room is fantastic. The only item was actually looking for was the comic book mini-series sequel to John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” Not only did I find that item on my first stop, but the dealer also threw in the four-issue follow-up I didn’t even know existed for half-price. There were a lot of figures for sale. (Apparently the Amok Time Elvira figure I have is now worth 75 dollars in box. Holy crap!) I grabbed a Silent Screamers Nosferatu, three poster reprints (An Italian “Wolfman,” a Japanese “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla,” and some cool “Creature from the Black Lagoon” artwork), and a trio of homemade magnets. JD, meanwhile, got a very reasonably priced Dracula “Motion-nette,” completing a long incomplete collection, as well as a Freddy glove necklace. There were two pushy tables. After getting yelled at every time we passed, I had no desire to buy a creepy art-print of zombies and the Coopertone girl or some indie-flick called “I Spill Your Guts.” Finally, I grabbed a DVD of Jeff Lieberman’s “Remote Control” from the VHSPS booth, who was just as nice as always.
I probably could have caught just about all of the Q&A panels but, you know, the chairs in that room aren’t super-comfortable. The John Kassir panel was good stuff. He talked about his start in theater, his career in stand-up (A career he never actually trained or planned for), “Reefer Madness: The Musical,” and about the mechanics of bringing the Crypt Keeper to life. When a question about motion-capture came up, John talked about his work on the up-coming “Jack the Giant Killer” which, honestly, managed to actually get me kind of excited for the otherwise tepid looking film.
Before returning to the room for the Nightmare Girls panel, we explored a little more. I ran into Karloss Borloff AKA Jerry Moore of “Monster Madhouse” fame again, whom I previously meet at the Alamo in 2010. Unlike Count Gore, Mr. Moore actually remembered meeting me. Or, at least, remembered being there. He was as enthusiastic as ever, gave me another free DVD, and said if we’re ever in the DC area to come up to the show. The creepiest thing at the con all weekend was a woman selling very expensive, home-made “Werepups” baby dolls. Those things crossed right over into the Uncanny Valley. Generally speaking, a lot of the people who were at HorrorFind were also there. Aside from a few sellers, we saw the same Catwoman and Shaun.
By six, the Nightmare Girls panel started. I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since I wasn’t that familiar with Tuesday Knight or Lisa Wilcox. (Or “Faux-tricia Arquette” as absolutely no one else calls her.) Overall, it was a pretty fun panel. All of the girls joked around a lot and the tone was light, if not horribly informative. It would have been more fun if there wasn’t a screaming baby and two rambunctious little kids running around. Even after the panel mediator outright called the woman out on her rudeness, it was still another ten minutes before the mom finally picked her kids up and left. Geez.
The Asia Argento Q&A started at seven, which was maybe the highlight of the convention for me. Asia is incredibly intelligent, giving each question a detailed, long answer. Impressively, the crowd kept the pace, asking insightful questions about her directing and acting career. A fan mentioned how “Scarlet Diva” inspired his own interest in filmmaking, which caused her to tear up a bit. She is funny, up-front, and frank. She recalled working with Catherine Breillat on “The Last Mistress” bitterly, not sparring any words on the director’s harsh demeanor. (“Fuck you, Catherine!” was repeated several times.) When asked about doing her own stunts, Asia replied with “Oh yeah, I love that shit!” She herself brought up the elephant in the room, talking about her own father’s insistence on getting her nude in all of his movies. (“It’s very uncomfortable,” “Obvious Elektra complex”) Her favorite horror movie is Todd Browning’s “Freaks!” Beautiful, smart, funny, and has good taste too. You’ll just have to excuse me if I’m kind of in love now. I’m even inclined to watch “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things” now, awful reviews aside.
So that was Monster-Mania 23. It continues to be my favorite con. The panel administrator promised big things for the next event in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, since it’s the tenth anniversary. New Jersey is a real drive but, well, we’ll see. I’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to start October and the proper Halloween season.
|The day's worth of swag.|