Dark X-Fest 2019
I heard nothing but good things about last winter’s Dark X-Mas. This combined with the stellar gust list they were boasting made it a no-brainer to hit Dark X-Fest this summer. With admission at $15 ($13 if you pre-ordered), the only thing to worry about was getting out there. Hudson is a good drive from me, but it ended up being a shorter ride than I expected, and one hour beats the two and and a half to five hour drives I’ve been known to embark on when I hit out of state shows. Still, the hotel was out in the middle of nowhere and I almost drove past it thinking “This can’t be the place”. Seriously, the desolate and solitary hotel looks like something straight up out of a horror movie. You expect to see bodies in the dumpsters out back and creepy semi-transparent children wandering around the lonely stretches of road outside. I parked in the front, right by the sign (Which said nothing about the convention being at the hotel….), near the entrance I had driven in from. This was not the correct entrance. There was another lobby in the BACK of the hotel that would lead to the convention area. I’d end up moving my car later once I’d gotten my bearings.
A pre-ordered pass allowed you to get into the show a half hour early. If you were counting on that however, you were out of luck. The doors were open, but half the vendors and most of the guests weren’t there. The entire show started about a half hour behind it’s posted schedule and that’s a really bad way to kick off the day. I wasn’t pleased. After the poor organization at the last two shows I’d been to this year, I really wasn’t in the mood for more. It would cause them to run a half hour late for most of the day and eventually jettison the Sleepaway Camp panel altogether to catch up (Monster Bash usually runs late like this as well, but that’s because events run long, not because they start late).
The vendor’s room itself was well planned and flowed., set up into two distinct segments. An electric chair was visible as you wandered in and if you dared to sit down in it the chair would light up and vibrate with a lout buzzing. I found a group of guest in the back but was confused – I could swear there were more. I exited the dealer’s room in search of the movie room and panel room. There was an alcove that opened up past the inflatable Pennywise clown. Before a long hallway, there were doors to the “Chainsaw Room”. All the guests from TCM as well as some makeup guests were there.
Down the hall and guarded by a giant Stay Puft marshmallow man, one room was set aside for movies, and another, with chairs and tables served as the panel room. It was like a small classroom from college, with each row elevated above the other. The guest would sit at the bottom and talk. The room filled up fast, with the tables actually limiting how many people could watch a panel. Fortunately, the attendance was low enough to mostly accommodate the setting, and only a few people ended up sitting on the floor to listen to gusts talk about their work.
Autographs were generally $20-$30, and most people weren’t upcharging for photos. All of this was a nice change from the gouging that’s been pervading the con scene lately. Makeup artist Alan Tuske wouldn’t take any money for autographs (“I’m just here to hang out with the fans!”) and Walking Dead zombie Dusty Horne would only take five dollars if you brought your own piece, then he’d insist on taking photos (“Lets do one normal, and then one scary one!”). Even Alyssa Levine, Zelda from the new Pet Semetary film, was only charging $20 (I’m seeing WAY to many new actors asking for twice that).
Felissa Rose’s line was halfway down the length of the vendors room early in the day. I figured I’d bide my time and by the time I finally got around to her, the line was gone and she was chatting with Paul T. Taylor (The newest Pinhead from Hellraiser Judgement) from the table next to her. As I approached they greeted me and included me in the conversation.
“…and a lot of times, it’s like you get just a side eye,” Felissa was saying.
“Well, that’s the thing,” Paul replied. “One eye is safe. It’s casual, but two eyes is intimate. Looking someone into both of their eyes creates a connection.” He mimed looking at her with one eye, and then gave her both. She turned to me and looked into both my eyes. I almost immediately felt uncomfortable, but suppressed an urge to turn. Paul was right. This was more intimate, and I hadn’t even realized it.
“That’s exactly it,” Paul explained. “We don’t even realize we’re doing it.” Felissa nodded as Paul pulled out his phone. “Especially since we’re always walking around like this -” he then stared with both eyes at the screen. Felissa laughed and shook.
“Wow,” she said.
“I know,” Paul said with some disbelief. “That was a hell of a pep talk…”
“That was totally better than an energy drink!” Felissa continued to laugh as she greeted me in earnest. I unrolled my Victor Crowley poster. The last time I’d spoken with Felissa it had been right after I went to see the movie during Adam Green’s tour. When we’d chatted about it she was able to tell her assistant about how he’d done it in secret. “It was like Finally! I’d been dying to tell someone and she is one of my best friends and I was about to burst!”. I’d just recently re-watched it in preparation for the con. I still think. it’s the best in all the Hatchet series, and Felissa is the best thing about it, something I told her. Seriously, I want to see more of that character from her.
“Oh my God, when Adam told me what I had to do with her I was just like I can’t!” It really is a horrible character and brilliantly broad comedy. I slipped her the cash fot the autograph and after she handed me change, she stopped me.
“Hang on, I really want to sign something TO you. Grab a photo from the table.” I did and she signed it to me, then insisted on taking photos with me. She hugged me and and told me to come out for karaoke later. I mentioned that if I did, it would be with a different face (and a Jason puppet) She screamed in delight and promised to watch for me. I love Felissa. She’s always one of my favorite guests.
Paul T. Taylor is no slouch either. He gets a lot of hate from certain parts of the Hellraiser fan base who really believe only Doug Bradley can be Pinhead. I’m not one of those people though I’ll readily admit I prefer Doug. So does Paul for that matter.
Paul is fun to talk to – he’s a real fan who’s steeped in the lore, from the movies to the comics (as far as talking about how much he’d love to see Kirsty as Pinhead, the way the Boom series had done). It was really illuminating to talk to him about how he approached the character as well as how the movie had been reshot at the close of filming. The original ending was actually completely different, and made way more sense than what actually made it to film. I did a re-watch of Judgment when I got home with a whole new appreciation for the film.
One of the nice things about the recent horror cons popping up in Ohio is the familiar faces. With more in the immediate area, I’m far more likely to have friends there to hang out with. I spied Jason and Tina unloading their car as I moved from the front of the hotel to the back where the entrance was. He greeted me and let me know Beetlejuice would be down later. Inside, I rounded a corner and comletely unexpectedly ran into Jen and Mark, in a group with Jennifer and Chris. I haven’t seen these guys in a while and it was good to be able to hang out for a while. Sarah was set up at a vendor’s table and Steve Eggs caught up with me just after I gored up. Randy was there with teh Retro invasion and Lily absolutely need a photo with me. Mark showed up with his wife Erin and the Black Leaf Coven decked out in thier creepy finest. It was cool to actually be able to see Cliff in his new burlap costume. He’d been showing me photos at the screening of Annabelle Comes Home, but in person is a whole different experience.
Mark caught me as I was popping outside and between drags of a cigarette asked when I was getting made up.
“Right now!,” I exclaimed, heading to my car to make the transformation into Freddy Kruger. Freddy wasn’t a capricious choice, I had actually run another poll during the week to see what people wanted to see creeping around Dark X-Fest. It was a much closer result than the previous one. Uncle Frank took an early lead, but ultimately Freddy prevailed.
I actually went into makeup early, because the day was hot. At 92 degrees outside, I was worried about how my Freddy makeup was holding up in the hot car. Even with the windows down, the temperature is enough to melt glue and dry latex. I had my appliance spread out around my had like a dummy head, keeping it streched and preventing pieces from sticking together. Still, there was some separation by the nose. No biggie. I’d planned on doing patchups anyhow. When the photos came back from Free Comic Book Day, I noticed that the beard by the corner of my mouth hadn’t been entirely covered by the chin and latex. I’d resolved to fix that with this application. I flattened my facial hair with beeswax and applied the adhesives. Between repairs, application and coloring with makeup and blood gel, the entire process only took a satisfying forty minuets. I’d be done in time for the Hellraiser panel. There had been paint leftover from fixing up Mr. Freeze for Akron Canton Comic Con last week, so I had used some on my glove to help make the blades look more metal than plastic. I had brought the ripped sweater that opened to reveal Freddy’s chest of souls. To push the absurdity just a touch further I’d be carrying a large puppet Jason with me. He’d actually been built a couple of years prior with this very idea in mind, but it happened to take me this long to break out Freddy again.
I had decided to go hard with the costume this time around since the show was sponsoring a costume contest. While this isn’t exactly as common in the horror convention scene as it is with comicons, it does seem to be filtering in slowly. A lot of haunters love these kind of shows and are eager for the opportunity to strut thier stuff. With only one winner in the adult and kids categories though, I wasn’t expecting to nab a win, but wanted to make a good showing. To my delight, the trophy went to Mark’s Black Leaf Coven. I love it when good things happen to my friends. But even better was who won the kids/teen division. The previous week I had gushed over a killer Ronald McDonald at Akron Canton Comic Con. It was my absolute favorite costume that day and I was disappointing she didn’t win any awards there. She won the kids/teen division at Dark X-Fast and it absolutely made my day (especially beating out that Michael Myers as a furry…..don’t ask).
As the day was winding down I had finally discovered where the show had been hiding Alan Tuskes (in the back corner of the Chainsaw room, past the vendors). I nipped out to the car and grabbed my folder of Items to be signed. As I was coming in I was greeted by a dude with half his face gone. he was hanging out with a reasonable facimile of Glen from Nightmare on Elm Street who both wanted to chat and take photos. We ran over to where the pro photo ops had been – they were done now so we borrowed thier backdrop to take our own pictures. Freddy fought the baseball bat and gored Glen as amused passerbys watched.
We talked a little about our outfits and upcoming plans. The dude wanted to get a Brain Damage costume going with an articulate Elmier. I mentioned that I loved doing suits were things ride on the shoulder and described how I had gotten Baby Groot and my Borg Tribble to sit on my shoulder using magnets. His eyes went wide.
“I never thought of mounting him with magnets! Dude, this is what I love about cons and talking to other cosplayers. The way other people figure out how to do things a way you’d never come up with yourself!”
Finally I was making my way over to Tuskes. I actually caught him on the way over to the dealers room (which I feel bad about), but he was excited to talk – he’d been watching my exchange with the other guys. He poked my chest of souls with an index finger.
“Is that…?” he inquired knowingly. I nodded in acknowledgement. “Great stuff. That expanding foam stuff for cracks and insulation.” He loved it and waved me to follow him over to his corner. Tuskes looked over my collection of pictures appreciatively. As he came to the Dusk Till Dawn 8×10, he asked if I’d ever heard the story of how the film got made. I admitted I haden’t and he proceeded to spin the yarn about Tarintino’s early days at the video store and how the script originally came to him before he really hit. After True Romance and Resivoir Dogs, the studio were asking if he had anything more. Out of his back pocket came Dusk Till Dawn, but he couldn’t direct it. I’m sure this is a story most peole have heard, but it’s exactly what I love about these kind of shows, hearing the stories of the industry straight from the mouths of those who were there.
I found myself so busy during the show that I only made it to about half of one film. I should have spent more time in that movie room. It was about ten degrees cooler than the rest of the convention space. Still, it was worth it. I caught both the Hellraiser panel and the Sean Whalen’s talk. I had stuck around so I could see the Sleepaway camp panel next (which never happened) and found my self captivated by his stories – and the image of homer Simpson in a moo-moo on his shirt.
I probably ended up staying later than I intended to, but that’s the sign of a good show.despite the bad start, I really came away from Dark X-Fest feeling like I’d gotten a real convention experience and had a great time. I’m really digging this show and hope to make it out to the Dark X-Mas show later this year.