I started hearing the rumblings about this con a few months ago, but I was suspicious. Facebook was vague and the website was CONSTANTLY down. So when my friend Rhonda asked me if I knew anything about it I had to reluctantly say no and mentions some concerns.
Fortunately, Travis, the promoter reached out to me to help allay my fears. The website was low bandwidth and kept getting overloaded, he explained. Dark Xmas was reviving an old con that hadn’t run in a few years. His goal was to throw a reasonably priced Horror show with decent guests in the Northern Ohio area. It was good to hear and good enough for me to feel comfortable sending buddies out there. Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it as I already had plans to be in Chicago this weekend shanghaing my best friend off to meet Clive Barker at Days of the Dead. However, not all is lost. I touched base with my friend, director Mark Mackaye who was more than willing to take some time off from editing his latest film Suburban Legends: Life on Rainbow Road, to guest blog for me and tell us all about his experiences at Dark Xmas!
It’s Christmas time again. People singing carols, drinking eggnog and hanging mistletoe. Since I’m not into Christmas I like to try and get through this time of year as quickly as possible. This time of year usually makes me cranky from all the Christmas nonsense, but this year something fell at my feet. Something I couldn’t ignore.
I first heard about Dark X-Mas completely last minute. A week prior to be exact. I fell backwards into finding out about it cause my friends (The Mummy and The Monkey) we’re guests. Woah! A horror convention going on within a half hour away! I gotta go. I arrive to a small hotel on a quiet stretch of road, thinking this place could of been featured in a Dan Bell video. Between that and the lack of promotion I was expecting the worst, however once I headed inside an instantly transported to my comfort zone and the low expectations went away. I see shirts, collectibles and horror vhs as far as the eye can see.
Within a few minutes I already dropped a ton of money, and I haven’t even gotten my autographs yet. I stop and chat with a few people along the way cause if you know me then you know I’m a talker. The first guest I meet is the sweet and lovely Felissa Rose star of Sleepaway Camp. Her laughter radiates the convention and naturally draws you to her. We bonded after about my dog and her bearded dragon both named Loki. I told her about how her character in Victor Crowley is easily my favorite in the film, which launched her into stories from the set. She signed my Camp Arawak shirt and gave me a free 8×10 along with it. Oh and did I mention she’s a hugger? (Matt here. He’s not kidding. I’ve run into Felissa a few times on the con circuit.The first time we met, before she even introduced herself to me she announced “I have to warn you, I’m a hugger!” and then proceeded to prove it. Okay, back to Mark) Felissa is one of the warmest guests I’ve ever met, and she had a smile plastered all over her face the entire time. So did I.
Second up I met Amanda Wyss, who gave Felissa a run for her money and how sweet she was. We shared stories about how a lot of her movies helped impact who I am. Then we just had a lengthy conversation on movies in general. She was really good at not making me feel like a fan but an equal. She signed my Freddy glove (The first blade to be exact cause she was Freddy’s first victim).
I walked around the con a few more times to grab any last minute stuff I didn’t see and chatted with more people on similar interests. Popped in on the Nightmare on Elm street panel, and then discovered it was time to go home. On the way back I had a sense of joy and happiness that some people get around the holidays. But this was just simply brought on by going to a forgotten hotel and talking to others about violent movies. Horror conventions have always brought me that kind of joy, and since Dark X-Mas is practically in my backyard. I’ll definitely be back next year…just hope they get the word out a bit better!
It’s very likely I’ll be skipping Days of the Dead next year, and personally I can’t wait to head down and check this con out myself. I agree with Mark, time to get the word out! A lot of friends went though and I’ve heard nothing but good things from all of them. Check out the photos from the event!
It’s funny, when I wrote up the rest of these Director’s Spotlights, this film wasn’t even announced!
Just a couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to catch this while Green was touring theaters with the film. I was actually incredibly excited about this since there was no stop in Cleveland the last time he toured with a movie.
Made in secret, this film takes the Hatchet franchise beyond the originally planned trilogy, bringing Victor Crowley back for a whole new massacre.
We begin with Perry Shen (because it’s not a hatchet movie without Perry!) on a book tour, detailing his story of what happened ten years ago in the original trilogy (remember, though released years apart, all three movies take place over just a couple days). It moves on quickly though and shifts basically into a single set film – a real departure from the previous movies. Don’t fear though, the gore is just as plentiful and creative as anything else we’ve seen in the Hatchet series. Kane Hodder slices and dices his way through the cast with a renewed vigor. Adam told us “When I told the crew we were doing another Hatchet film, NO ONE was happy…except Kane!” No wonder. He’s now officially played Victor Crowley as many times as he did Jason Vorhees.
In preparation for the movie I actually marathoned the first three films and noticed how seldom Crowley is actually on screen. This time around it felt different and I mentioned this to Adam, asking if he intentionally put more Victor appearances in this film. He bobbed his head up and down almost chuckling.
“I’m so glad you said that. Actually Victor has less screen time in this movie than any of the others! We first screened the film and were like oh crap…the movie is named ‘Victor Crowley’ and he’s barely in it!”
He paused and continued.
“The thing is, even when he’s not on screen, his presence is felt through the entire film, so it feels like he’s there even when he’s not. But believe me,” Green concluded. “we stuck in absolutely every frame we shot of Kane (Hodder). There was nothing left on the cutting room floor.”
For my money, the real stand out performance here though comes from Felissa Rose. Horror fans know her as Angela from the first Sleepaway camp movie. She’s a regular on the con circuit and I run into her from time to time. I mentioned back a month ago that I ran into her at Days of the Dead and told her how much I liked her role.
The thing is, in person she’s the sweetest, friendliest extrovert I know. She smiles and chats and hugs whether you like it or not. Yet the character she’s playing here – Perry Shen’s agent- is obnoxious, irritating and despiciable. The heavy long island accent she puts on is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s such a departure from the Felissa I know that it really showcases her range and I loved it.
At the end of the day, I know I’m not saying a great deal about the film itself. Truth is I was asked not to spoil it and even though the theatrical tour is over, there are still going to be ways to watch this and I’d love for you to go in cold, with no spoilers or expectations. Right now it’s my favorite of all the Hatchet films because of the fresh approach and stand alone nature. Definitely seek this out, it’s absolutely worth a buy.
I like Horror Relm, I really do – I enjoyed it all the way back to that first show they were doing, when they were still located in the Crowne plaza. The DoubleTree Hilton is a good home fore them, back at the Crowne, it felt like they were spread all across the hotel, while here, everything is fit in to one wing of the hotel. There’s a cozy fireplace with a great big Horror Relm banner greeting you as you walk in, a nice touch to have here in the dead of winter.
I’m honestly not sure why I haven’t been back since that first show – it’s a small event, and I really like small conventions. The larger ones I’ve been going to for the last couple years kind of made me forget how much I like these kind of little cons. The big problem with Horror Relm, is that they have far too many repeat guests. I see the same names on that website every year, and the ones that aren’t the same are pulled directly out of the convention circuit. I was planning on going to the show last year as well, but when it came time to streamline my schedule and drop a few shows this was one of the first ones to go, particularly since I discovered that every guest I was going to meet I could find at a different show on my schedule later on in the year. It makes it hard to justify the 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive to get out to Pittsburgh.
That’s a problem they seem to have solved this year… At least as far as familiar faces from the convention circuit go. They manage to grab every Nightmare on Elm Street character they could who didn’t actually appear at HorrorHound last year – a real coup for me, trying to pull together that collection of Freddy victims. In addition to that, Horror Relm gathered a really nice, respectable Return of the Living Dead cast reunion including a few people that had not managed to make it out to Motor City Nightmares last year! The theme thing really seems to work out well for them, especially considering the size of the show.
Horror Relm tries very hard to give you the most for your money. They run a film room, a panel room and an extra one for either photo ops or occasionally the author’s panel – I love that they have different things going on here like that! It’s always been a very literary based show, (which is a little unusual for horror cons) but they also include a best tattoo contest as well as a VIP party and an interesting little bit that they like to call “The Horror Match Game”. This was hilarious, based on the old match game TV show, they broght up a panel of familiar faces – Ken Kish and Amy Lynn Best who I know from Cinema Wasteland, as well as Mike Watts, another familiar wasteland face. They would bring up guests to ask questions, and you would score points if your answer is matched that of the panel that I kind of wish I could’ve got me in on this game, I didn’t realize that you had to sign up for it earlier in the day…
They’re running some very interesting movies as well – I’ve never seen “Spookies” before, and they’ve managed to dig up it’s unofficial sequel “Killer Dead” a film so rare I can’t even find a trailer for it on YouTube! They do have “Spookies” though, as you can see below.
Both great fun although “Killer Dead” was very poor quality and apparently that’s the only way it comes – there is no good print of it out there. I also popped my head in for The Survivors, the newest film from Silver Spotlight pictures. I’m already familiar with their work from “Captian Z and the Terror of Leviathan”, … I know I’ve seen posters for “Red Christmas”. Indie stuff and rare films is one of the best reasons to go to good horror convention and this was marvelous.
It was still fairly early in the day and I noticed that there was no line at Felissa Rose’s (of Sleepaway Camp fame)table. You’ll recall I met her back in June last year at Days of the Dead in Indiana. I dropped by her table to chat about that show quickly. She was one of the most fun people I met at that con and I told her so. We drifted onto the subject of her appearance on Adam Greene’s Scary Sleepover a few weeks ago and had so much fun talking about the show concept as well as her specific episode. She grabbed Tiffany Shepis (sitting at the next table over) who had been on last season to join in with her recollections about doing the show. I love Felissa. If I have a con crush, she’s it. To really understand how effervescent she is….here. Let me tell you a story.
A couple came up to meet Felissa and get an autograph. Felissa discovered this fan was having a birthday. She immediately got everyone in the surrounding area up on thier feet clapping and singing Happy birthday. When the crowd didn’t sing it loud enough she raised her hands and got more people singing. It was kind of like that thing where the servers at Applebee’s surround your table and sing you a birthday song crossed with just a touch of a charismatic Church revival…
Back in the dealers room I came across this fascinating model maker. His main display was a stunning graveyard, which he had funded by selling individual gravestones. You could see in a little book who each stone belonged to. There were mausoleums up with names in the back, people, monsters, cars, all sorts of great bits. he hadn’t even brought out the entire thing, as it had grown too big! He also had several dioramas done up utilizing old heroclix and horror clix. nice to see some of these getting a good home.
The dealer’s room was just a bit too small. You can pretty much do that thing to your satisfaction in about fifteen minuets. maybe half an hour. As a result, most of my time was spent in the film room or the panel room.
The Elm Street panel was predictable but somewhat enlightening that I wasn’t aware of some of Ken Sagos other roles, and it was interesting to hear this ecclictic cast talk about later Elm Street sequels. In particular it was interesting to hear about the speed in which they made those movies, how rushed the production was and how lowof the budgets were… You don’t think about that with these films considering how successful they were, but really it seems like nobody want to spend any money on these movies and yet they still came out with these amazing productions!
I ducked out a little early, we did hit some dead space in the show and I missed the return of the living dead panel… I’m still hoping it shows up on YouTube, but figured I could either wait for an hour and a half to see the panel, or I could get a head start on my way back to Cleveland and hit the Ghoul’s 40th anniversary party! But that’s a whole other story, and you can read all about it over at Kreepy Kastle.com!
Again? I’m in Indinapolis again??? Why on earth am I making this trip for a third time in four months? I mean, I remember mentioning after my first Days of the Dead indy that I probably woun’t be back to this one…so why am I here TWICE this year?
Yeah, that’s pretty much the big draw for me. I mean, I said it last time – despite it’s size, I always ahve a good time at Days of the Dead, but it is a long five hour drive and this time I didn’t have the Dark Tower to plow through in the way down (Insomnia this time, but only about half of it) and if it hadn’t been for Angus, I would have skipped this one. I’m very glad I didn’t.
I got my tickets online, both for admission and my autograph ticket for Angus. $30 is actually less than he was charging at Flashback and they went out of thier way on the website to point out that you could take photos at the table with your camera (some guest won’t do that if the con is also selling professional photo ops, but Angus is far to classy for that). the pre-purchase was supposed to give you line jumping privileges as well, but forget that. I got in line a half hour before he was even supposed to be at his table. I had no intention of having a repeat of Flashback Weekend, where i waited a couple hours and the line shut down, missing my chance to meet him. I chatted with my line mate while we waited, and out of nowhere my friend Brandi tackled me while her husband grinned. They’d seen him yesterday, but it was still fun to chat with them for a bit. Mark and Brandi have been hitting a lot of the same shows I have this year – they’re regulars at Cinema Wasteland, but they were also at Motor City Nightmares on a different day as me this year, and Monster Bash last year.
About an hour later I got in. Angus’ line always moves slowly and you can kind of see the man slowing down a bit himself, but it was the highlight to the con for me – one of the best moments from con life ever. It was my fourth try trying to meet him….so happy.
Of course there were other guests I was eager to meet as well. I’ve been wanting to hit a con with Felissa Rose for a while now. I know it’s shallow of me, but wow…she grew up to be unbelievably beautiful! I mean, way hotter than the Springsteen chick that played the character in the later Sleepaway camp films…
But the the thing about Felissa is how remarkably friendly and effervescent she is. She was SO happy and SO outgoing, greeting me with a hug and talking with delight about the movie. I discovered that her real name is Felissa Rose Esposito! I mentioned that Dave, the person in charge of programming Cleveland Cinemas Late Shift is OBSESSED with the film – Felissa wants to come to a screening some time.
Kane Hodder teased her from across the isle with an empty whisky bottle.
“You finished it without me?”
“Yeah well,” Kane replied. “I had another signing later last night…in one of the hotel rooms….with my penis….”
Felissa laughed and rolled her eyes at me
“Because we all know I have penis envy….”
If you’ve seen Sleepaway camp, you’ll get that joke. If not…go watch Sleepaway Camp.
More hugging and then I was off to see Imogen Boorman – the little girl from Hellraiser 2. Another remarkably happy person, and really pleased to talk about the movie, and what it was like workign with everyone. She seems to have genuinely good memories of this film, and it’s remarkable that this was her first con appearance.
Finally, off to see Tony Moran before the Angus Scrimm Panel started. Tony was the unmasked Michael Myers in the first Halloween, and man is he a chatter. He reminds me of Robert Englund in the way he tells stories constantly, entertaining the entire line as he does. I loved hearing about his disbelief that donald Pleasence was going to be in the movie and that being his main reason for taking the role. It was funny that he never told anyone he did the film and his family was surprised when they saw him on screen – years later!
PJ Soles had a panel with him but there’s just one problem…..
The next day she lost her voice! She’d been coughing all con long and it finally caught up with her. Saturday she posted this sign at her table.
Angus’ Panel was fun – I never realized that he played Abraham Lincoln in a short educational film. Apparently it’s on the Phantasm 2 blu ray which is a good reason fro me to go and find that. He gave soem interesting insight on Phantasm 5 as well, something I can’t wait for. But his hearing isn’t good, sometimes he’d have probelms hearing the questions and perhaps get a little lost in his answers. I love hearing him speak. He has a great presence and you really feel how much of a career he’s had.
I caught Tobin Bell’s panel as well, another very humble person talking about working his way up in Hollywood. Fascinating to hear about his scenes in Goodfellas being almost comepletely cut out, Scenes with Sharon Stone in the Quick and the dead being trimmed down, and this happening again and again until saw – where NOTHING got cut! Fun listening to his surprise about hearing someone call him a horror icon for the first time…
They had him settled in a little side room which I found curious. His traffic never seemed as heavy and Angus. The Scrimm line wound all the way down the hall and around the corner all day. For some reasons, conventions seem to consistantly underestimate the turnout for Angus Scrimm. If anyone should have a side room with barriers and a twisty line it should have been Scrimm.
I ran into my friend Jeff from back here in Cleveland, a couple times actually and each time he was wearing a different face. Days of the dead has more cosplayers than your average horror convention and it’s something they encourage by bringing in groups like monsters amoung us and doing both costume and make up contests.
They really went the extra mile this time around, by creating a bunch of environments and settings for photo ops. Empty rooms, open coffins, the local haunted house created an asylum in brought in a cage and populated them with their own monsters as well that you could pose with. It gives the car on a distinct flavour, and a much more fantastic atmosphere.
I really do like days of the dead, and a lot of that has to do with how even though they’re big con, they try very hard to put on a great show. I got my little girls gremlins and fright flicks trading cards from the “don’t eat the gum” booth, which they loved.
the autographs I got this weekend were my prize, that I and the time spent with some great people, in particular my line mate whose name completely escaped me…Brian?
He’s another one of those guys who shares with me just as much love for the Phantasm films as you can imagine. We talked about meeting the rest of the cast – he actually got in to see Angus at Flashback. He plays in a KISS tribute band which led to us talking music, and discussing Reggie Bannister’s CD. I asked if he ever heard Bill Thornbury’s music, but he hadn’t. I’ve got one and he did tell me he knew Bill played – he’d see his country stuff and his religious stuff. Bill plays music in the worship band at his curch, just like I do at mine and we enjoyed talking about that. Brian recalled that Bill was very genuine and sincere about his faith – it had impressed him. He’d gotten a bad crack in his windshield on the way to a con that Bill was at, and Bill had prayed over him for a safe trip home.
Yes. I’m that guy – the one that still talks about Jesus even when he’s at a horror convention.
Anyhow, we were in lines for both Angus and Tony, and bumped into each other by the cage, then took pictures for each other. You made my con a lot more fun dude, and I hope I see you again.
Oh, but I have more pictures….of course I have pictures…..