Horror fans are a friendly bunch. Anyone who has ever read a Sun or Daily Mail headline might be surprised at that, in fact, very mundane piece of information. And it’s a mundane fact that was proved by attending Horror Con 2017 on May the 13th and 14th at the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham, now in its third year. While some might think it odd that a place celebrating the wonders of the horror genre – known for its grisly depictions of death and destruction – could be a place buzzing with positive energy and joie de vivre, the rest of us would just shrug at them and turn back to once again marvel at the guy who came dressed as zombie Jon Lormer from the Father’s Day segment of Creepshow (complete with severed head cake topper).
Horror Con continues to go from strength to strength, in terms of it guests, stalls, and organisation. This year featured horror luminaries Sid Haig (Coffy, House of 1000 Corpses, The Devils Rejects), Heather Langenkamp (Nightmare on Elm Street), John Jarratt (Wolf Creek), Cassandra Peterson (Elvira), Linda Hayden (Blood on Satan’s Claw) and Thom Matthews (Return of the Living Dead). David Warner (The Omen) was also due to attend but had to cancel due to filming the new Mary Poppins film (that old excuse). The actors were an affable and approachable bunch, happy to chat, sign memorabilia and snap selfies with the Con goers (for a small fee of course).
Guest Q+A’s gave folk a chance to hear more in-depth thoughts of the actors present; Sid Haig began his talk by thanking the audience for their support over the years – “I’m sitting here because you’re sitting there”. He segued from that into talking mainly about his early career and the films he made (and friendship forged) with Pam Grier in the 1970’s, and the aborted attempt Quentin Tarantino made to cast him as Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. His work with Rob Zombie was also touched on, the two men having clearly become firm friends since Zombie persuaded him out of semi-retirement by casting him as the one of the more iconic modern horror villains, Captain Spaulding. While Rob Zombie films may have their many detractors, the fact that he bought Sid Haig back into the public consciousness has to be a positive in anyone’s book, as Sid Haig is engaging, gracious man and the world needs people like that. Heather Langenkamp was also on fine form and charmingly surprised at the amount of people in attendance that came to see her. Despite having to have to field questions about Nightmare on Elm Street for most of her career she gamely answered them all again in a witty and prepossessing way, revealing how the memorable death of Johnny Depp in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was actually due to a mistake by the film crew turning the rotating room the wrong way, and how she wished that a little humour had been injected into the character of ‘Heather’ in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare as the character was so serious and she considers herself a fun and outgoing person. A sentiment with which I heartily agree. John Jarratt, a relative newcomer to the convention circuit, is a man with charisma reserves to spare. An energetic and naturally funny man, he chatted on as if he were down the pub with a group of mates, making close to the knuckle remarks (I won’t repeat his comments about Rolf Harris) and having a ball doing it. There was also a showing of the trailer for his new film Boar, which looks like a fun Friday night with a glass of wine watch. He revealed that the Wolf Creek television series has been renewed for another season, and that a third Wolf Creek (2005) film is also likely, to finish the saga.
Also in attendance was Graham Humphreys, a man who even if you don’t know his name, you know his work. Responsible for some of the most memorable horror VHS covers/Film Posters of the last 30 years – Return of the Living Dead (1985), Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead (1981), Basket Case (1982) – the list goes on. Chances are if you went into a video shop in the 1980’s and were swayed to rent a film due to cover art, Humphreys was responsible for that. He is also one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was selling various prints, posters, bookmarks and original concept sketches for his work. And tea towels, of which I bought one. I love a good tea towel (and with that, the process of turning into my mother takes another step towards inevitability). Happy to chat, take photos and sign the various pieces of his work people bought at the Con and from home, Humphreys should definitely become a mainstay at Horror Con, if at all possible. Shout out also to his stall partner Keith, another genuinely lovely soul who didn’t bat an eye when my boyfriend rushed up to the stall within 3 minutes of the convention opening while they were still setting up and pouncing on the concept sketches like a starving man on pizza when they had barely been placed on the table.
For the horror fan with time (and money) to burn between signings, actor Q+As and professional photo ops there was a plethora of stalls selling various enticing wares, from posters and prints to figures to masks to jewellery to taxidermy to t-shirts (my top tip in that last category being that the lovely guys from Last T-Shirt on the Left are the ones to watch). Talented tattooist Joe K Worrall was on hand selling prints and tattooing signatures from the stars onto people willing to make a permanent show of devotion. The Monster Charity Project was showcasing some very impressive customised Frankenstein heads that are due to be auctioned in support of the Make A Wish Foundation. We also attended a Q+A with Gary Smart and Neil Morris from Cult Screenings UK/Dead Mouse Productions, a company that have in recent years become known for the incredibly loving and detailed books and documentaries on Return of the Living Dead, Hellraiser (1987), Fright Night (1985) and An American Werewolf in London (1981). They gave a candid, entertaining and informative talk, from the origins of the company in arranging screenings of films such as Return of the Living Dead to the logistics involved in making the epic 9 hour documentary Leviathan, about the making of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), and about upcoming projects RoboDoc (a documentary about the making of the Robocop films), a Lost Boys (1987) book and the just started crowd funding on Indiegogo IT documentary. They are also branching out into original fiction, with an intriguing sounding short film called The Offer which is being currently filmed. They also had encouraging words for any fellow creative types in the room – to just go for it. Everyone starts somewhere, and there is nothing to be lost by trying, making the initial contact with people you would like to work with because you never know where it might lead (becoming friends and lunching with Fright Night director Tom Holland in this case).
It is a good message to put out there, one that certainly resounded with me, and from my experience at Horror Con, typical of the attitude of people who attend, appear and work there. If the organisers hadn’t used that ‘can do’ spirit there wouldn’t be a Horror Con at all after all. And it’s that attitude that helps Horror Con get better and better every year. Let’s hope next year, it’s fourth, doesn’t echo the tagline for Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter (1984).