Every Wednesday and Friday
From IMDB: “Employees of a software company discover a conspiracy to use the games made by the company to control the thoughts of its customers.”
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear someone saw the Lawnmower Man and decided to try and make their own version, but without access to the special effects. However, Lawnmower man came out a year later so perhaps I’m just sniffing something in the zeitgeist of the time. Indeed, it’s a shame it’s going to inevitably draw comparisons to that movie because it’s really got it’s own character to it. The detective angle is very much played up here, I almost feel as if I’m watching a sort of alternative giallo…where instead of black gloves, we have cybernetic memorization.
This one is definitely worth a watch, and would go well with a screening of other outdated cyber-thrillers like Arcade or Horrorvision.
I realized something this year.
I did about my average number of conventions, and managed to squeeze in two or three I’ve never been to before as well as a few that haven’t been to in a while. I did a bunch of costume contests with a reasonable showing (So did my daughter actually). I crossed several big names I’d wanted to meet off my bucket list in the process. But like I said, I realized something along the way.
This isn’t fun anymore.
I’m not talking about every show or every meeting, but it is an overall feeling brought on by a few diffrent factors. I can feel myself stressing too much about costume contests – I need to do fewer of those honestly, and scale back my cosplay involvement. But there are other factors. Cost is a big one, but to understand this you may need a little history first.
Back when I started on the con scene as a kid, you met the guests for free. You waited in a long line, but you got to see them and get something signed (You had to bring your own stuff, there wouldn’t be anything at the table). Some would talk and some wouldn’t. As time went on, you’d see some people charging a fee or selling photos they could sign. I understood that and was cool with it. It was still a deal for me to be able to buy a photo from Walter Konieg that he signed for me and for me to meet Chekov while he still had hair. The folks charging were usually people who weren’t on the air anymore. If you had a current show on TV, you showed up to promote it and signed for free. Indeed, back in the early days of Star Trek : The Next Generation, Gene Roddenberry noticed that people were having a bad reaction to Counselor Troi. His solution was to get Marina Sirtis on the con circuit and in heavy rotation so she could meet as many people as possible. Marina is a fun lady and charming as can be. As people got to know her and see her panels, it made a difference in how they saw her character. Panels. That was a big thing. Back in those days the focus was on programming – panels , blooper reels, upcoming films, author talks, episode discussion. The focus in conventions was on programming. As things changed, the focus drifted away and became guests. All of a sudden, shows like Chiller in New Jersey didn’t have any programming any more, just guests.
One night, a bunch of the guests at Chiller Theater met up in the bar. They decided that from now on, autographs would cost $20; and the price was set. Some folks would go under that, Some, like Edward James Olmos or Erin Grey would charge a little more. Some, like Lou Ferigno, William Shatner, or Adam West would charge a LOT more, but it was manageable, and they were in the minority – you could just skip them. Besides, everyone could get a picture at the table for free anyhow. And doing things this way, with the prospect of a payday, conventions were able to draw more guests. Then Flashback weekend set up Robert Englund with a $10,000.00 guarantee. He’d make that or they’d pay the difference. His price went up. Both in person and online (In the last six years or so, autographs from his online store have increased from $30 to now $100). Other actors prices started to creep further up (not to mention other guests demanding guarantees themselves) and you had to buy something to get that table photo or it was extra. Then it was extra everywhere. Then the handlers became gatekeepers, with thier hands on the velvet rope and you weren’t getting near these b or c list celebrities without flashing some cash. Now prices average $40-$60 with extra (“Combos”!) charges for photos. Now it’s trickling down to the comic world too, with more and more artists and writers charging to sign books – and those fees keep climbing rapidly too, from free to one dollar to three, to five. Forget about multiple issues signed. There are some superstars like Kevin Eastman and Rob Lifield charging movie star prices, $20 and up.
And when I pay it I feel bad. I feel guilty…it feels like a waste – for thirty seconds before we’re shuffled away so the next punter in line gets through. It’s not longer getting that moment with your favorite actor – it’s more mercenary, more transactional; like buying a loaf of bread off the shelf at the grocery store. It’s stopped feeling special. Even worse, I feel bad for the people who get hit with those fees that didn’t realize how much it was going to cost. Kiefer Sutherland all over every poster for Horrorhound, but you better pre-order that photo and autograph (for $80 each) or you won’t even be allowed in the room with him. Or the Flashback weekend where the only way to meet Freddy Kruger was to purchase the $400 package that included the photo and autograph and after party (wether you could stay that late or not). Or the folks that saw commercials for comic con advertising “Meet the stars of the Avengers!” only to arrive and discover that to get a photo with the Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans costs a thousand dollars.
Truth is, I think I might just be done. The high costs, the impersonal nature, the cosplay stress – it all made me reluctant to get out of bed and go to conventions this year. I forced myself up and pushed past my anxiety to go. I’m exhausted doing that, just to feel bad about how much I’m spending or worry about where I place in the costume contest or if enough people recognize the character I’m dressed as, and need time alone to recharge from the oversocilization that so drains introverts like me.
Here’s the thing; comics and horror used to be the domain of the Blue collar guy. The common working man who only had a couple bucks in his pocket. But that’s exactly the kind of guy who’s priced out of this current market. I have a Horror Hostess frined who suggested to me that the prices are what the market will bear. I don’t think I agree with that. I think the market is flooded and overextended. I think it’ll soon crash (I already watched it happen in the Star Trek con circuit. Thanks Creation Entertainment.) and I think this kind of stuff will be the reason. Still, when it comes to horror and film, there’s not much left on my bucket list. I’ve hit all the icons that I grew up with (Though I’d love to get Tony Todd on my Crow poster – but his price has gone up too much for me to afford it. I’ll be content with my Candyman and Wishmaster prints) and all that’s really left are a handful supporting cast to finish a poster or two. I’m glad I got most of them before the con scene turned into a Wal-Mart like corporate industry. The thing is, I’ve heard more than a few actors like Dean Cain talk about how their manager set the prices and it makes them uncomfortable. That’s fine, and I respect that, but… You’re not doing anything to stop it either are you? Same is true of the conventions themselves who vociferously claim they don’t have any power to set or effect pricing. A cap or a suggested rate is within your power. That won’t happen though, because for now it’s making them money – even though it will ultimately be the destruction of the convention scene. The thing is, it’ll be the demise of the small cons first. The sort of unsustainable inflation that the big guys create and tread water in, have the effect of crushing smaller, more personal shows who just can’t absorb the expense. A guest who looks around at the twenty other guests at Wizard World and realizes he can charge more but then brings that same inflated price to a smaller show like the Grafton backwoods comicon where he’s the only guest and the micro economy of the smaller show won’t sustain it. Yet those smaller shows shoulder the expense lest they be completely overshadowed by the giant corporate cash grabs and wiped out of existence. And then, that’s what happens anyhow. The large ones doing the damage will be the last to die. That’s a shame because those mid size and smaller shows have a lot to offer that you won’t find in the bigger, glitzier conventions.
So what does this mean going forward? The thing is, I still enjoy cons as entertainment – when that component is still there that is. Next year, I’ll be focusing on that, and dramatically reducing my appearances. I’m cutting a LOT of cons out, including Horrorhound, Days of the Dead, Geekfest, Lake Effect Comic Con, Fantasticon and Great Lakes Comic Con, and Weplcon. There’s a number of others on the chopping block like Motor City Nightmares, Hall of Fame City Comic Con, Youngstown Comic Con, Cleveland Comic Con and Akron Comic Con depending on what the guest lineup looks like. Zipcon and Woocon probably only if my daughter wants to go and cosplay. Not all of these are bad shows. But something has to give. If MULTIPLE bucket list guests show up at one of these, I may attend (Low key, in and out), but a review is unlikely. However, even though I’m not going to be attending all of the shows, I still plan on promoting A lot of them. Shows like Youngstown and Akron and Great Lakes are sound conventions run by folks who love the genre and I’d still like to see people heading out to shows like this.
I want to try a couple of new ones next year – Dark X-Mas, Retro Invasion and Ohio Who, as well as returning to Monster Bash and perhaps to an Oddmall. But I think I need this list to stay under ten. No more 18-20 shows in a year, and my bigger focus should be shows with great programming, not just interesting guests. If I wake up stressed about crowds, costs or cosplay, I’m not going to go. I can renew my efforts to get autographs through the mail and give myself something to look forward to in the post box.
That said, my tentative lineup for 2019 is:
Neo Comic Con
I only plan on dressing up for NEO and ConCoction. Possibly Ohio WHO or any shows Maddie asks to go to. I may or may not hit a couple more cons than this, but we’ll see. you never know what the new year will bring.
It’s that time of year again, when Cleveland Cinemas smacks us about the head with the celluloid equivalent of a brick wrapped around a slice of lemon. I’m a fan of bad movies, a regular attendee at Cinema Wasteland, and a member in good standing of Cinemageddon. Yet somehow, David Huffman still consistently pulls out the most bizarre movie gems that were never on my radar.
This year, the Cedar Lee theater screened “Roller Blade”… a film that makes “Shredder Orpheus” look like “Gone with the Wind”. Don’t be deceived, there are no actual rollerblades in this film, 1986 was a little early for that. What we do have are roller skates, and butterfly knives tucked in by the heels – thus categorizing them as “roller” blades.
Set in the dystopian post apocalyptic near future that was so popular in the 80s, we’re introduced to our three main factions. For starters, there’s the madman at the acid plant (or is he a puppet? Or is he just wearing a puppet? It took me most of the film to finally come to the conclusion that Santos evil twin was somehow kind of conjoined to an evil mutant. It kind of looks like somebody glued up an old Boglin head onto a baby doll and then spray painted the whole thing brown). On the other side there is a convent full of Nuns in KKK robes – but colored red and blue to make things more confusing. They’re called the Cosmic Order of Roller Blade, and led by Mother Speed. They ally with the local Marshall… Though I can’t tell who was actually in charge. Sometimes he seems to have authority over them, and other times they seem to be calling the shots (After doing some research, it appears he was meant to be there protecting their monastery). There are also homeless people on roller skates pushing shopping carts, and punks who demonstrate how anti-establishment they are by riding skateboards instead of roller skates.
After a lengthy introductions in the first act, the action starts with a blonde in spandex stabbing a dude on the sidewalk because he was foolish enough to go outside without roller skates. She is apparently doing a job for the mutant in the acid plant -work for hire mercenary stuff. When she demands batteries for her walkman he tells her to go infiltrate the convent so that she can steal their crystal McGuffin. It’s not clear what it does other then turning the Nun’s butterfly knives into magic healing wands, but they suggest that humanity will end if it falls into the wrong hands. The blonde lets herself get roughed up by the punks so that she can prey upon the mercy of the nuns and steal their power crystal. In the meantime the acid mutant and Santos evil twin kidnap the marshall’s son because, reasons.
The third act explodes in a climatic battle where Santo’s evil twin uses the crystal to power a sled on wheels across the chasm in an attempt to escape to “Meccho” while the nun and the Marshall look on. They realize the crystal wasn’t that important, and salvation is actually in the human heart.
Don’t let that semi-coherent description fool you. This thing is all over the place. I was encouraged to see the New World logo come up in the beginning. Corman films are usually bad, but fun. Nowhere however, does Corman’s name show up here (Fred Olen Ray’s does though. I assume they abducted his kid to get this thing made). I find myself wondering if they just distributed the movie rather than actually producing it. I suppose it may have been filmed on some of their leftover sets, but it lack the professional panache that you get as a bare minimum from a Corman studio flick. I think that’s a professional grade camera shooting this – the state of consumer electronics in 1986 would have this looking more like Chester Turner’s “Black Devil Doll from Hell” or “Tales frm the Quaddead Zone” filmed around the same time. But they must have spent too much money on the camera because they obviously couldn’t afford sound equipment. This entire thing is sloppily overdubbed – and they knew it when they were filming. Every other shot outside the studio sets involves characters talking into large walkie talkies, strategically placed in front of their mouth so you can’t see their lips move in contrast to the dub. Two exposition scenes have been zoomed into and cropped just above the actors mouths. Entire conversations occur without seeing any lips move. Occasionally grunts are inserted to cover long shots with mouths working. Even the mutant hand puppet can’t synch his mouth with the lines he speaks.
The dialogue that is used doesn’t help any. There was a moment when shopping cart guy dies for the first time (Yes, I said “First”, as in multiple times) and the overdub gets really hollow as he says “Ow! (not the sound, he says the word)What did I do to deserve this?”. In other scenes, the King James English comes off a particularly distracting. “Hold! Skate not from this place! Word has come that little Chris has been taken!” At one point I turned to Johnny Crayfish next to me and asked “I’m really hearing this right? This is the ACTUAL dialogue they chose and not just a parody right?” He shrugged and shook his head.
After 88 minuets, the credits rolled. The final title card reads “Watch for Roller Blade 2 : Holy Thunder”
You’re kidding, right?
I turned to the back of the theater where the film programmer was standing, bewilderment on my face .
“Does that actually exist?”
He nodded. My buddy Mark spun around and shouted “DOUBLE FEATURE!”.
“Not tonight,” Dave wisely declined this demand. “I can’t believe you guys all stayed through the entire credits!”
I discovered that in fact, not only does a sequel exist – there’s actually FIVE movies in this series (Six if you count the remixed and re-released version of The Roller Blade Seven. Seven if you count the documentary on the unmade Roller Blade 3).
I need to know more. Expect a new Franchise Focus coming next year.
When I made Maddie’s Iron Sapphire suit, I was dismayed that it was more detailed and better looking than my Iron Man armor! That led me to build the single most detailed suit I’ve ever done! The Bones model shows up for about three seconds in IM3, but all that exposed circuitry really makes it the most interesting one to me!
Last year I said it might be a while before I tried this one again. The crowds had become to much and honestly, that round trip to and from Chicago just about killed me. Still, It had been a chance to really cross a couple names off my bucket list and finally meet Simon Bamford (The last Cenobite from Hellraiser to elude me) as well as the unprecedented opportunity to chat with Andy Robinson (From both Hellraiser AND Deep Space 9). So what got me back to this show a second year in a row? First, one of my best friends had recently set up house in Chi-town, so I had a place to stay the weekend instead of doing the trip in a single day.
But more importantly, Clive Barker was coming.
Barker hasn’t done an appearance near me since I’ve been n the convention scene. He was scheduled at Horrorfind back around 2009, but both he and Ashley Lawrence cancelled for undisclosed reasons (So did Angus Scrimm for that matter, and the show shout down the next year. I’ve heard some shady things about it in the aftermath). A few years ago he was scheduled I believe for a Horrorhound (Or was it Flashback? I don’t think it was DOTD….), but that was when the heath issues took over and he cancelled a number of shows. For him to finally make a public appearance like this was definitely enough to make me brave the six and a half hour drive.
We pulled up to the convention center as the snow gently fell around us. It wasn’t a blizzard, but that white garbage sure did pile up around us fast. I know it’s November, but I don’t remember previous outings being this wintry. It’s not that big a deal, after all, DOTD has provided that wonderful overflow parking in the covered garage next door, but panels are held outside in a heated tent and you do have to walk from the hotel into the tent to get to them. It’s kind of a punch in the face, exiting the warm pool area only to be sucker punched by Jack Frost just outside the door.
Once we arrived, my friend Mike and I grabbed our prepaid wristbands and had about fifteen minuets before the doors opened. I always forget how long the admission line at this show gets and pre-registering was the best move I had made. We had enough time to nip off back to the car and grab a camera I had forgotten, then walk past the ticket line, right into the convention and straight over to Barker’s line. Even at open it was already begining to streatch out, but I looked over at Mike and told him “It will NEVER be this short again.”. I was correct. For most of the day, the queue ran around the corner and past the ticket tables.
Barker was late. The handler explained he’d just had breakfast and was making sure that his sugar was correct (Also mentioning that he was diabetic). About twenty minuets later the line began to move. Inside we were instructed “No personalizations. No photos at the table. Do not shake hands. He’ll give you a fist bump if you like.” It’s a little more than I’m used to at these things, but we rolled with it. Getting to say I fist bumped Clive Barker sounds way more fun than I shook his hand anyhow. He’s quiet. At times he almost looked bored, but mostly I was struck with how frail he looked. Far different than the interviews I had seen and more than a man in his fifties should. Inside his room, he had filled tables and walls with original artwork, books, apparel and photos. I saw a couple volumes I didn’t have and made note to look them up later when I had more money. I pointed out the hardcover of the Scarlet Gospels, noting I had been listening to the audiobook of this on the way up. Barker greeted me and my friend, signed my poster and I told him we’d see him later for a photo. He grinned with finger guns at me.
Our next task was to search out Ashley Lawrence. This was the first time I’d seen her make her way out to the midwest ina long time and she was another one I’d never met. Getting her on my Hellraiser posters would finish them (I don’t see Claire Higgens ever making it stateside). She was set up in a bad spot in one of the halls, creating a choke point in foot traffic, while at the same time somewhat concealing her (Particularly with the brighter Teriffier booth almost across from her).
Ashley is effervescent and charming, and the woman dosen’t age. She kept telling me my hat reminded her of a friend who always wears the same kind. Our photo came out bad and she teased me with a grin “Well don’t tilt you head so weird silly!”
I was pleased. We’d managed to grab both Clive and Ash before the Hellraiser panel that we now rushed off to. I was a little shocked then, when the moderator introduced Barbie Wilde, Nicholas Vance, Simon Bamford…and no one else. While it’s always fun to visit with them, we had this last year, with the addition of Dough Bradley and Andy Robinson. Perhaps it was presumptuous, but I had anticipated hearing from Clive and Ashley at this panel as well and found myself disappointed. We probably heard a couple new stories here, but at large, it felt like much of what we had seen the year previous.
Not so however, with the “Men behind the Mask” panel featuring Jason(s), Michael, and Art the Clown. Kane Hodder was in rare form at this one, wresting control from the moderator who just stared on in amused silence. We got fascinating stories in particular from Jim Winburn who has a long history as a stuntman and did falls in the original Halloween. David Thorton, a newcomer to the genre (fresh off his role as Art the Clown in “Terrifier”) was visibly delighted to be on stage with the others, laughing and sharing his experiences as a new movie monster. I’d actually waited to see this panel to kind of get to know David. I enjoyed Terrifier (and the 2013 anthology “All Hallows Eve” which no one seems to realize proceeded it) and think Art could be ne of the next horror icons, but it was the panel that made me want to meet Thorton. David is chipper and was fun to chat with. I’ve got experience and actual clown training, and it was interesting to compare our approaches to that kind of performance. As for the panel itself, “I was just so thrilled to be up there,” he told me.
We popped around the con, shopping, talking with people and playing with the monsters. Michael Myers in a Captain Kirk uniform was a BRILLIANT gag and he was delighted we got the joke.
“Guys like you are exactly who I do this for,” he exclaimed in satisfaction.
Moving on we grabbed a few more autographs and photos…but it’s not the same. I mentioned a few years ago the disturbing inflation creep I saw infiltrating Days of the Dead. It’s in full swing now. The handlers have become gatekeepers. They are in your face and you aren’t getting near the table without flashing some cash. $30 is the minimum for autographs (Many are more – and quite frankly, a lot of you B-listers don’t have any business charging that). Every table now charges extra to get a photo with a guest.That’s on top of the already high admission prices…
Guys, you’ve priced me out of the game.
I spent twice what I have in previous years, and it’s a drag. It’s almost stopped being fun. Between that and the overcrowding, unless there’s a bucket list guest (and that list is now pretty short), I think I’m done with Days of the Dead. It’s simply highly unlikely that I’ll be back.
A shame. It was fun while it lasted.
(Keep an eye on this blog. I think we’ll be doing a State of the Con pretty soon. Next years going to be different.)