I’m sure it was really nice for the guests to have a chance to let loose and enjoy all the free liquor and Hors D’oeuvre they could possible ingest in one night before having to settle in at the autograph tables for the next two days. They were also given the honorable White Hat Ceremony that is a standard tradition for any prestigious celebrities visiting Calgary. Following the ceremony, local alternative model/contortionist Visha Loo put on a very special, very mind-blowing performance—that of which she conducted to the theme song of Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses, and opened with an authentic Reagan MacNeil-inspired spider walk down a full spiral staircase. It was absolutely the most impressive thing I have ever personally witnessed; how a person can actually manage to pull that off is beyond me. Accompanying Ms. Loo in her performance was a young gentleman dressed as the infamous Fishboy from House of 1,000 Corpses. It was a highly imaginative and deeply macabre presentation, and complemented the Horror Con festivities perfectly.
Horror Con: Day OneDiabolique’s first order of business was to take a tour of the vendor area and check out what the Calgary Horror Con had to offer in the way of collectible memorabilia. (I may have been there on assignment, but I’m still a die-hard horror fan at heart, so of course, I had to treat myself to some goodies while I was there.) My biggest gripe about the convention was how small the exhibitor areas were. The first-rate vendors were all crammed into the ballroom, and it was difficult for one to actually stop and peruse the sale items at any particular vendor because of the constant elbow-to-elbow contact and need to keep moving with the constant flow of people coming and going. But I suppose that’s to be expected of a convention that caters to people who are exceedingly enthusiastic about a particular genre, particularly one that is still in its inaugural years. Vendors offered a vibrant array of collectibles, most of which fell into the scope of standard convention treasures—rare books, back issues of magazines and comics, posters, figurines, dolls, random curio items and T-shirts galore. There was a little something to satisfy everyone. Also wedged into the ballroom were the autograph tables of Tom Savini, Bill Moseley, Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman and Jessica Cameron. So you can only imagine how packed the place was between people shopping for memorabilia and those who were lined up to get autographs.
Sick: Survive the Night (Screening)Starting to feel a bit claustrophobic, I headed downstairs to the Sundance Room for the first of only a few screenings that I actually made it to—a decent little independent zombie film, titled Sick: Survive the Night (which had its world premiere at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival). I won’t go into a full review of the feature but I will say that Sick: Survive the Night offers a unique take on a subgenre that, in my opinion, has been done to death… and then some. Rather than your typical tale of flesh-eating savages chewing their way through civilization, Sick: Survive the Night is more about how the consequences of immoral and unethical government/military actions impact humanity. The film often plays out like a character-driven drama, and the performances are surprisingly well done for an independent movie that suffered tremendously from the technical issues that most likely arose from budgetary restraints. But overall, the film offers up some thought-provoking messages about authoritative bodies lacking the moral judgement to do what is best for the public. Also worth noting is esteemed Scream Queen Debbie Rochon’s cameo as Dr. Fehmi. Sick: Survive the Night is a step-up from the slew of crappy zombie movies that are currently saturating the independent film market.
Day One (Cont’d)…After Sick: Survive the Night, I returned to the main exhibit area to mingle with the horror hounds and check out some of the awe-inspiring costumes—my favorite being a precisely crafted, full-body Xenomorph suit that I’m sure was a pain to wear all day as the guy who was sporting it was red-faced and drenched in sweat when he removed the head piece. After stepping outside for some fresh air, I ventured back into the lobby and happened to bump into Michael Berryman. At that point, it was my first time seeing him at the convention, so naturally, I introduced myself and asked if he had a few minutes to answer some questions for Diabolique. He told me he was just on his way to grab some lunch at the hotel restaurant and asked me if I’d like to join him. So off we went. We grabbed a table and ordered a couple of bottles of Stella (liquid lunch of champions) and jumped into interview mode. Stay tuned for my chat with the very well-spoken and feisty Michael Berryman. Berryman and I chatted for about an hour (about halfway through, Cleve Hall and his daughter Constance grabbed a table next to us), then I left just in time to make it back down to the Sundance Room to catch the screening of 2000 Maniacs!. Unfortunately. I think only about 20 people showed up for the classic gory gem, but it was a lot of fun regardless and even better when H.G. Lewis came up to talk about the film and answer questions for members of the audience. To kick off the awesome discussion, H.G. Lewis got everyone in the audience to sing the theme song to 2000 Maniacs!. And everyone in the room chimed in with a healthy dose of enthusiasm. I’d have to say that this was the highlight of the Calgary Horror Con for me. Words cannot describe how sweet and kind Mr. Lewis is, and how much of an honor it was to be in his presence. He responded to audience questions with the sprightliness of an impassioned 20-something-year-old filmmaker—and the man is 84 years old! It was truly a sight to cherish. The Lewis panel wrapped and the con was winding down for the day. By that point I was exhausted, having had a little too much fun at the previous night’s opening gala, so I was basically running on autopilot by the time the 1990 Night of the Living Dead screening started at about 9:00 PM. I made it through about half of the movie and had to call it a night as I was falling into a deep slumber in my theater seat, so unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch the after-screening panel either.
Horror Con: Day TwoDay two of the con was a day of determination; a day of kicking ass and taking names in order to be granted interview time with guests who I was particularly eager to talk. The day started out on a rough note, but by some divine miracle, I managed to get ready, pack all of my belongings and newly purchased horror memorabilia into my car, and make it back to the hotel by the time the con opened for its final day. I was really curious to check out Rabid Love, an independent slasher movie that was screening in the Sundance Room at 12:30 PM—or at least it was labelled as a “slasher” movie.
Rabid Love (Screening)Rabid Love, as the title indicates, is really more of a man-turned-into-a-murderous-creature flick. Evolved from a short film by director Paul J. Porter, Rapid Love gets off to a good start, but sadly loses some of its essence at approximately the mid-way mark. You can tell that the people who made this movie possess a genuine interest in old-school, grindhouse horror. The cinematography is highly reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and the movie is set in 1984—the peak of the original slasher era. On the surface, the plot is as seemingly familiar as any other slasher movie of the ‘80s—a group of friends sets off to a cabin for a weekend of boozing, hunting and sex, but one of them is hiding a deep, dark secret, and eventually they all start getting picked off one by one. A medical anomaly is thrown in for good measure, helping the plot to deviate from typical slasher tropes, and ultimately making for a more engaging viewing experience. Some of the characters are over-acted, and the music is terribly unsuited to the overall atmosphere of the film. But for an independent horror movie that I had previously never heard of, it holds up well for the most part. I also really, really love the movie poster art, which, again, is highly reminiscent of ‘70s and ‘80s horror.
Day Two Cont’d…After the Rabid Love screening, I headed back up to the ballroom where I approached Tony Todd for an interview. Being the second day of the con, it was much easier to breathe and get around the vendor and exhibitor areas without bumping into people. Todd and I decided on a place to hold the interview. We agreed on chatting at his autograph table in case any fans wanted to come up to meet him and get autographs. It was a bit noisy and less personal than how I generally prefer to conduct my interviews, but it went well enough. I was pretty excited to be chatting with the guy who played one of the most memorably bad-ass villains of one of the greatest original horror movies of all time. But thankfully I’m pretty good at bottling up my fan-girl zeal when I’m on assignment. We chatted about Todd’s career, the importance of education and our favourite horror films, so stay tuned for the full interview. Afterwards, I made my rounds again to check out what was going on before I grabbed lunch.
Next up were my interviews with Tom Savini and Bill Moseley—both of which also took place at the autograph tables and were interrupted a few times by fans wanting autographs. I particularly enjoyed Moseley as he seems very open-minded and has a very friendly, kind-hearted demeanour. Based on what I know about Moseley and the words we exchanged during our interview, he’s a genuine fan of the genre that he’s built his acting career within. You can almost see him attending a horror convention just as a fan, rather than a celebrity guest. It was an enlightening experience. I got the scoop on several note-worthy projects that Moseley is involved in, those of which you’ll be able to read about in my full interview with him. Each of my interviews ran for approximately 45 minutes to an hour each, so between the actual interviews and the time it took me to get them, day two of the Calgary Horror Con just flew by.
It was about 6:30 PM by the time my final interview wrapped, so I had just enough time to grab some cash from the nearest ATM and run rampant around the vendor area, picking up a few items that I had my eye on (including a pre-framed original Prom Night poster that I’m pretty happy about acquiring and a copy of Wes Craven’s long-forgotten Fountain Society novel).
ConclusionOverall, the Calgary Horror Con was a great time. I had the pleasure of chatting with some of the most revered names in horror, made some new friends, saw some decent movies and drank plenty of beers… and witnessed someone spider walk down a flight of stairs right before my very eyes! I look forward to seeing where Founder Dan Doherty and Marketing Executive James Saito take the Calgary Horror Con in the years to come and I hope that it’ll continue to grow bigger and better and inspire other horror conventions in the prairie provinces and western Canada. Hopefully next year’s Horror Con will take place in a larger, more organized setting, and feature an even more impressive roster of celebrity guests—although this year’s line-up was pretty awe-inspiring and will be hard to top.
For more interviews and pictures, keep your eyes out this week on DiaboliqueMagazine.com or visit our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter: @DiaboliqueMag. Also, don’t forget to pick up Diabolique Issue #17, our incredibly great and star-studded horror-comedy issue, which is available for preorder now, available at the App Store now for iPad / iPhone users (Free with a Digital Subscription!) and will be on shelves and available for Digital Download on other platforms soon![All Photographs are Copyright of Calgary Horror Con photographer Harvey Moore.]
– By Lacey Paige
Lacey is a devoted horror enthuasiast and movie collector. A recent journalism school graduate, she is currently a contributing writer for Diabolique, Cinesploitation, Absolute Underground and Fangoria. She likes taking long walks in dark, eerie places; reading true crime and horror fiction; and sharing her borderline-obsessive love of horror with just about anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter: @LaceyPaige88.