Three Days in the Spooky Empire

I spent this past weekend in Orlando at…the Spooky Empire Ultimate Horror Weekend! The past couple of years I’ve just gone as a fan, where I pretty much parked myself in the film festival the entire time. This year, thanks to the efforts of Owl Goingback, the convention had an entire author-focused track of programming, so I got to wear a shiny badge instead of a wristband. Sweet.

Friday evening began with a panel discussion of “Evolution of the Vampire.” I haven’t written much vampire stuff (SUCKERS is about vampire poseurs, and “The Big Bite” is about the fact that when a vampire becomes 70 feet tall, its vampirism becomes irrelevant) and I don’t know much about the evolution of the vampire except that Dracula came before the ones that sparkle in the sunlight. Panel moderator Alice Henderson violated horror convention protocol by asking deep, challenging questions that assumed actual knowledge on the part of the panelists, who also included Lynne Hansen and Vince Courtney, but I got through it okay.

Next I went to see a Q&A with the mighty Joel Wynkoop, a local actor that I see at a lot of these horror events and who was involved with one of my all-time favorite low-budget horror flicks from the 80’s, TRUTH OR DARE? A CRITICAL MADNESS. He also plays an alarm clock in the movie ALARUM to amazing effect…and that’s not a joke. He’s a VERY high-energy guy, and it was a thoroughly entertaining hour. 

Then the vampire panelists reunited and went to dinner, where we talked about writing-related stuff. They really don’t even need actual programming at these events–somebody should just organize a weekend of writers going out to eat in small groups.

On Saturday I moderated a panel discussion on “Critters: Creatures With Attitude And Teeth.” Unlike Alice Henderson, I asked such probing questions as “What are your favorite monsters?” and “Audience members, what are YOUR favorite monsters?” The panel, which included Richard Lee Byers, Del Stone Jr. and Steve Alten, got waaaaayyyy off topic, but was a lot of fun. 

I got to hang out with Chris Bridges (who is not really a horror fan, but who wanted to meet Jason Mewes) for a while. I hadn’t seen Chris since the way-advance screening of SERENITY, but now I’ve seen him three times in about a month. The fourth time, he’ll probably zip himself into a body bag and pretend to be deceased. Greg Kurczynski also was able to make an all-too-brief appearance. 

Lynne and I did the first of two signings. I don’t mean to brag, but I sold more autographed copies of PRESSURE than Linda Blair, John Landis, Shannon Doherty, Tippi Hedren, and Adrienne Barbeau sold autographed copies of PRESSURE combined

I did a lively panel called “Bad Guy Fan Club,” again with Richard Lee Byers and Del Stone Jr, and also the demented Adam-Troy Castro, where we talked about the awesomeness of villains. The packed day didn’t allow for a full meal break, so I got a really gross hot dog that didn’t seem to have the pig tails sufficiently ground up.

My final panel was “Choosing Your Monsters,” with Alice Henderson and Mary SanGiovanni. It was an amazingly good panel for 3:00 PM on a Sunday, where people are generally sliding out of their chairs onto the floor and the panelists are saying “Uhhhh” a lot. Alice and I were very mature and did not go off too violently about our shared hatred for Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, despite the opportunity.

Last year, I’d seen the movie BATTLE OF THE BONE, an Irish action/zombie flick with no budget, no plot, no characterization, but an amazing energy level and exhilarating action sequences. The director George Clarke was back with THE KNACKERY, an Irish action/zombie flick with no budget, (almost) no plot, no characterization, but an amazing energy level and exhilarating action sequences. Also a lot of humor. It literally cost less than any single frame of TRANSFORMERS 2 (and I mean the dictionary definition of “literally”) but is a wildly entertaining, fun movie.

And, finally, the world premiere of THE UH-OH SHOW, directed by the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis. I’ve previously blogged about my experience on the set, playing the not-so-crucial role of Sound Engineer Guy Who Gets Killed, and I was very interested to see the movie to discover whether or not I sucked. But I do have to thank editor Chris Woods, because in my scene I am grabbed by the shoulders by the Big Bad Wolf, who is holding a butcher knife in each hand, which posed the following logistical challenge:

a) They were real knives, and so I had to keep my struggling to a minimum or risk becoming an extremely inexpensive gore effect.

b) When somebody grabs you by the shoulders but their hands are full, it’s really pretty easy to get away from them, even if they’re much bigger than you. Try it someday. Give somebody a pair of butcher knives and have them hold one in each hand, then have them sneak up behind you and grab you by the shoulders. You’ll get away easy. 

So I was worried that the struggle would look, in filmmaking terms, “really f**king stupid.” But, thanks to Mr. Woods, the movie cuts away just as he grabs me.  I’ll let YOU be the final judge as to my ability to deliver such legendary lines as “I’ll go check it out” and “What the hell???” but my own assessment is that I was amazingly, astoundingly, jaw-droppingly adequate. 

The movie itself? H.G. Lewis movies defy traditional definitions of “good” and “bad,” but the sheer entertainment value cannot be denied, unless you’re the kind of person who would deny the entertainment value of a scene where this guy gets sliced in half by a giant circular saw, and these ladies are laughing at him, and the guy himself starts laughing and purposely spraying the ladies with blood from his own guts. It’s a funny, splattery, shamelessly silly movie, and if you’re screwed-up enough to go see it, you’ll love it. 

(Thanks to Andy Lalino and Andrew Allan of The Film Ranch for inviting me to die at the jaws of the wolf.)

And that’s pretty much it. Thursday: Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights with Alice Henderson and Jason Patnode! Muahahahahahaha!!!

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