Monday, September 5, 2011

Monster-Mania Memories

August 19-21 was one of those weekends that I knew was going to be a great time for me – as well as the still-living members of my family – since it meant making yet another trek to my Grave Away From Grave, the Crowne-Plaza in Cherry Hill, NJ, for another fiendishly fun MONSTER-MANIA convention, where lovers of All Things Scary gather to mingle, meet our favorite horror (and a few SF) personalities, and gleefully part with more of our hard-earned money than we usually care to think about.

This time going in I was most excited about chatting with Lance Henriksen – my enthusiasm not at all dampened, but actually intensified, by the fact that I had already met him at Monster-Mania a couple of years ago. Following some advice from the MM discussion forum, I made sure (still-living) Son #1 and I sought him out shortly after arriving on Friday evening, to score a personalized copy of his recently published autobiography, NOT BAD FOR A HUMAN. Once again, Lance's warm, unassuming and good-humored nature made the opportunity to spend a few minutes with him a rewarding and memorable experience – and demanded a second stop at his table on Saturday, when my entire family was present. Lance quintessentially exemplifies the best of my convention experiences: When a celebrity whose work I admire is kind to my children, and takes time to talk with them and make them feel special. I'm so glad to get to see him again in less than two months, at Rock and Shock!
Lance, with GuidanceGhoul and Son #1

Speaking of celebrities who are awesome to my children, the other major highlight of MM19 was meeting Nathan Baesal, titular slasher of BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON. A true gentleman, Nathan and his wife were extremely kind to my boys and me, Nathan praising Son #1 for his insights into the film. Any uninitiated among you who have not yet seen this truly intelligent, self-conscious, tongue-in-cheek-without-crossing-the-line-into-parody slasher film need to stop reading, acquire and take in this movie now – use the convenient link to the left; I'll wait. Okay, good. As we must now all agree, a horror film that good and smart is one that truly deserves a sequel; yet in a prime example of cosmic injustice, studios are inexplicably not tripping over each other to throw dollars at a Part II. A script for BEFORE THE MASK: THE RETURN OF LESLIE VERNON has been written, and word is it's great – but to see it make that magical page-to-screen transition, the project needs money. Toward that end, Nathan himself pocketed nothing of from his day at Monster-Mania, opting instead to donate 100% of his autograph earnings help fund the sequel. Are you inspired? Good. To find out how you can be a part of making this deserving film a cinematic reality, go and "like" its Facebook page page and click on Support B4TM. For an extremely reasonable donation you are actually pre-ordering an exclusive, donors-only edition Blu-Ray or DVD of the film. How cool will you feel one day as you screen it at home, proudly announcing to your friends that you actually helped get it made?  (Anyone who isn't impressed probably shouldn't be your friend.)
Nathan aka Leslie Vernon, with three masked proteges

Other great experiences, memorable moments and other bits of coolness from Monster-Mania 19:
  • Kristy Jett, with GuidanceGhoul
    Going out for pizza on Friday night with and Ben Scrivens and Kristy Jett, our good fiends from Fright-Rags, makers and sellers of the coolest horror t-shirts a ghoul can pull over his rotting torso. In the three years I've known her, Kristy has become an increasingly prominent figure in the horror fan community, with bylines in FANGORIA, HORRORHOUND and other publications, and originator and organizer of movement to give POPCORN a proper DVD release.

  • Seeing the aforementioned Kristy Jett moderate the aforementioned Nathan Baesal's Q&A session. It was Kristy who actually arranged Nathan's coming to MM19. It was his first time appearing as a guest at a convention, and Kristy's first time as a Q&A moderator. Both did a kick-ass job.

  • Having Erin Gray give Son #1 a free autograph for being a polite, well-mannered kid.

  • Having a toy vendor give Son #2 a free toy (Predator Hound action figure) for basically the same reason.

  • Scoring a British Blu-Ray of PHENOMENA, my personal favorite of Dario Argento's films – and sadly not yet released on BR in the North America. This is one of those lavish packages – loaded with extras, both tangible and on the disc – that put American releases to shame. For anyone not in the know (as I was not, until recently), Blu-Ray discs are happily all region-free, so have no fear of searching overseas to fill those gaping, bleeding holes in your collection.

  • Roxsy, with the (still-living)
    Sons of GuidanceGhoul
    Seeing the hauntingly adorable Roxsy Tyler (of ROXSY TYLER'S CARNIVAL OF HORRORS) again, and having her give my boys custody of a really nice midnight-blue teddy bear from her personal collection.

  • One of the boys said "Candyman"
    five times into the hotel room mirror.
    Chatting with Tony Todd about the upcoming SUSHI GIRL – one film I really wish I didn't have to wait until next year to see.

  • Ghostbuster Ernie,
    with the GuidanceGhoul Family
    Getting a picture with Ernie Hudson, in a Ghostbuster outfit. It's the first time I've ever seen a celebrity dress in character at a convention – an unexpected treat.

  • Boys find out that some zombies
    are a lot cuter than their father.
    Meeting the extremely lovely and charming young (11-year-old) actress Addy Miller, Little Girl Zombie of THE WALKING DEAD's first season.

  • Meeting John Squires, writer of this ghoul's favorite horror blog, FREDDY IN SPACE – an outstanding daily (!) blog and a really nice guy. I wish I had gotten a picture with him, but my camera was up in the room when we finally got to talk, in the wee hours of Sunday morning in the hotel lobby.

  • Danielle, with GuidanceGhoul and sons
    Meeting the beautiful Danielle Harris, who rearranged shooting plans to be able to attend this convention. A true class act, she does not charge her under-18 fans for autographs, meaning that my boys got a free signed picture and I felt even better about paying for mine.

  • Shawn of Warfear, with two
    Sons of GuidanceGhoul.
    Having Shawn, lead singer of NYC-based horror-metal band WARFEAR, praise Son #1 for his knowledge of Italian horror cinema. WARFEAR's subject matter is right up this blogger's undead alley: The first two EP's are inspired by LEFT 4 DEAD and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, respectively. Shawn was giving away both EP's on one CD in the vendor's room – very cool.

This is far from a comprehensive list of positive experiences and pleasant memories from this convention, but I'd better wrap it up, get it posted and move on. I'll just finish by saying that this Monster-Mania ended for me the same as do all of them in Cherry Hill – with reserving my room for the next one! Doing so takes some of the ache out of bidding another farewell to all the fiends, freaks and fun for all those long, lonely months until the madness descends on southern Jersey once again. See you in March 2012, Monster-Mania! It will be a long wait, but, as always, you will be worth it.