Convention of horrors

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lukehead.jpgI should have known better. Years of Comic-con attendance have taught me that geek-convention faux pas 101 is to show up late and somehow expect you'll be able to get inside quickly. True, I had overslept, and the fact that the FANGORIA WEEKEND OF HORRORS convention was being held at the "Burbank Airport Marriott Hilton" was confusing—do I look for a Hilton or Marriott logo? And once the place was found, the Scottish parking-lot attendant had bad news.

"Yu guys haf teken oop all the spaces!" he said. "Yu've felled up all the surroondin' lots as wail!"

Fine. Make it my fault. Force me to be a cheap bastard and look for street parking. I was all willing to pay and stuff, but now that I can't . . . street space found fairly quickly. So now all that remains is a long wait in line at the door, only to find that regular admission is sold out, but the premium admission, which costs twice as much but guarantees you an assigned seat in the events hall, is still available. I take it, figuring I saved a bunch on parking so it's not so bad.

The crowd inside features the usual assortment of greaser-dude/Betty Page couples, heavily tattooed fat guys, and a fake zombie or two, but a large percentage of the crowd are relatively normal-looking folks. Even I'm more subdued than I've looked in the past. The Suicide Girls have a table here, and for once, no one in attendance can even come close to the neon shades and inks they sport. But then, there is that one horror-metal band dressed in Hellraiser Cenobite garb and latex vampire makeup. It's freaky at first, but it becomes hilarious later when I see one of them slumped over drunk in the hotel bar.

I'm mostly here to support my homies—one of my most trusted longtime friends, horror composer and pop musician Jaye Barnes Luckett, is debuting her new CD here, a compilation of soundtrack music from the Lucky McKee/Angela Bettis movies May, Roman and The Woods, as well as the Masters of Horror episode "Sick Girl." But the horror-movie community is fairly tight-knit—once you know a few people in it, you quickly meet more, and I can't turn around without running into somebody else I know. I met actor Marc Senter on the set of The Lost and director Ti West at the LA Film Festival a couple of years ago; now both are on a panel for their new project, Cabin Fever 2. Pretty much everyone on this panel agrees they hated the idea of being involved with Cabin Fever 2, but they swear it's going to be really good and really different! So what's new about it? Producer Lauren Moews emphasized that this time around, they got rid of the cabin and kept the fever. Ooookay. Also they used 300 gallons of fake blood, and American Movie's Mark Borchardt plays a role. No footage is shown.

Rockstar Games, creators of Grand Theft Auto, may have a new culture-war WMD on their hands in the form of Manhunt 2, a game in which you play an escaped lunatic who disposes of his pursuers in gruesome ways: some of those demonstrated were electrocution, strangling, head-crushing and castration with wire cutters. Better yet, this is available on the Nintendo Wii, so you get to actually do all the hack-and-slash and garotting movements for "real." The kids in the audience (yes, parents bring their young kids to these shows) loved it.

Not on any official panel, but there to offer support, was my old college pal Chris Sivertson, director of the forthcoming Lindsay Lohan thriller I Know Who Killed Me. He promises it'll be a "hard R" movie, but not due to any Lohan nudity (to see some skin from her, I guess you'll just have to hit up all the Sunset Strip parties instead). A trailer is expected to debut shortly.

At lunch, I end up at the table next to "Demon" Dave DeFalco, an independent-circuit pro wrestler who also directed the ultraviolent and awful movie Chaos, in which a group of rapist/killers go around raping and killing—ostensibly a cautionary tale to warn kids not to go to raves out in the middle of the woods. Dave dresses like a wrestler for the convention, even down to wearing athletic elbow pads. Lots of fans stop by to get photos with him, which proves that even if your movie isn't good, just putting extreme gross-out scenes in it will garner you a following.

Back at the convention, Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. are busy apologizing for the short, fat Predators in Alien vs. Predator. It seems that they were on a tight schedule and couldn't find any stuntmen in the Czech Republic who were the appropriate 7-foot height. Alien vs. Predator 2 will have better animatronics, they promise, and the movie is definitely going to be R-rated, so they can and will go all-out with the gore FX.

Jaye is up next on the composers panel, alongside the likes of Richard Band (Re-Animator) and Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th). All are tall white guys except Jaye. Due to the fact that the moderator insists on asking each composer to answer the same question over and over, not a lot of ground is covered here, but at least they get Jaye's name right. Back when she was here promoting May, Fangoria's Tony Timpone introduced her as "Joyce."

The main event of the evening was Rob Zombie and the cast of the Halloween remake. Given all the hatred for this idea in the fan-boy community, it's surprising how few hostile questions there are. Admittedly I came in late, but no one brought up the alleged concept of Michael Myers wearing a special "take-a-shit" mask in the hospital, one of the most enduring rumors out there. Asked who his biggest influence as a director was, Zombie said "Scorsese," though he admitted that might not show in his work. Basically, Zombie seemed to be name-dropping quite a bit, especially in an anecdote about how he knew Malcolm McDowell would be in his movie even before he talked to him, and now he and Malcolm are best of friends, and Malcolm now calls him four times a day.

Asked why he cast 7-foot Tyler Mane as Michael, Zombie responded that he wanted it to be believable that Michael could pick people up by the throat and survive near-fatal injuries without having any kind of supernatural power or demon possession. The movie will explain the origin of the mask, but Zombie wouldn't tell what it is. "You guys are determined to ruin the movie for yourselves six months in advance!" he said, clearly unable to count; August is only three months away.

Again, I came in late, but no clips were shown that I saw. The biggest revelation seemed to be that pretty much every actress in the movie does an explicit sex scene and then gets killed, so, y'know, with this crowd, that may be enough. Danielle Harris, who played Myers' niece in the original series, added, "I know some of you wanted to see my boobs since I was 10, pervs!"

Asked about why the character of Michael endures, most of the cast made reference to the fact that he's silent, or the mask, or whatnot, but young Daeg Harris, who plays Michael as a kid, seemed to understand the question differently, commenting that if you're big and have kitchen implements, it's easy to kill smaller people because they can't get away.

When it became clear that Zombie wasn't sticking around to sign autographs, the crowd immediately turned on him with a chorus of boos. Timpone tried to assuage the crowd, explaining that Zombie has to finish editing the movie so it can come out on time. A heckler promptly yelled out: "YOU SUCK!"

Timpone: "Who sucks?"

Heckler: "YOU!"

Timpone: "It's not my fault he's not signing!"

The last panel I attended featured Saw trilogy costar Shawnee Smith, and frankly, all we really wanted to know was whether or not she'll be involved in the continuation of the franchise, considering that her character (and every other significant character) was killed off at the end of part 3. She joked that she couldn't even say the titles of Saws 4 and 5 aloud, but there were rumors she'd make an appearance, so "we'll see." That sounds like a yes. Needless to say . . . no clips.

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