The panels were my favorite part of the event. We caught the last half of David Naughton’s panel about AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. He talked a bit about John Landis and what it was like working with such an incredible director. Naughton is most known for AMERICAN WEREWOLF, but I came to know him as the, “I’m A Pepper” guy. He seemed very excited to be participating in the con. It’s always nice to see the guest celebrities genuinely enjoying themselves. For example, Gary Busey did not seem to be enjoying himself. Nor did he seem to know where exactly he was. I could be wrong; no disrespect to Busey. He has uttered one of the most iconic lines in film history:
“Utah get me two!”
The next panel we caught was Horror Comics. Kerry Gammill, Bernie Wrightson, and Steve Niles were on the panel. Wrightson is a legend in his own right who has created some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen. Niles is my favorite comic book writer who has created series like 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre. This was a really informative panel that discussed the future of comics (digital v. print) and the success of horror comics. It’s no secret that the popularity of the TV series, The Walking Dead has brought a spotlight to horror comics. The guests discussed censorship in comics and Steve talked a bit about the 30 Days film which was adapted from his book. He even hinted at a possible TV series starring Cal McDonald, the much loved main character of Criminal Macabre. Personally, I am a horror fan who happens to collect comic books so hearing these gentlemen talk shop about my favorite things was really enlightening. After the panel I got to speak with Niles & Wrightson who could not be more pleasant. They talked about how their own passion derives in being fans of horror and that really shows through in their work and delightful personalities.
The panel following that was the ALIEN retrospective with Tom Skerritt and Veronica Cartwright. ALIEN is one of the few films that I can honestly say scared the hell out of me upon initial viewing. I’ll admit, even now after all these years, I still feel a little uneasy watching it sometimes when I am alone. It’s such an incredible and important film that set the bar for modern day Sci-Fi. Cartwright was very candid with her many stories of production and working with Ridley Scott. Tom Skerritt was a man of few words but seems to have fond memories of working on the film. No one knew how essential this film was at the time, but here we are almost thirty-five years later still discussing the chest bursting scene. They talked about working with Giger, Bolaji Badejo, and the infamous cat. Cartwright also talked about continuity and the severe plotholes with PROMETHEUS which is exactly what the rest of us thought after watching that abomination. This was such a cool panel!
We also got to check out the Danny Trejo panel. Trejo is such a lively character! He talked about his troubled past and brushes with the law. He discussed how he came to turn around his life and currently works with troubled youth to aid them in choosing the right paths. He explained that someone once asked him if he feels stereotyped as the “mean & scary Chicano.” His response was,
“I AM the mean & scary Chicano!”It’s really inspiring to see an actor who came from an unconventional background and experience great success in the film industry. He genuinely loves the work he does. Danny Trejo is the real deal! He spilled a few secrets about MACHETE KILLS. An audience member asked what his favorite part about working with Robert Rodriguez was. Trejo responded, “Jessica Alba….Amber Heard…..Michelle Rodriguez…” This was definitely one of the most entertaining panels I’ve ever seen.
Sunday we watched a documentary called ADJUST YOUR TRACKING: The Untold Story of the VHS collector. This was a really interesting film for the VHS collector in me. Although, my collection is nowhere near as vast of some of the subjects in the film. Some collections ranged from 2,000 to 20,000! One guy basically converted his entire basement to a video rental store complete with a counter and computer log. Another guy spent $660 on one extremely rare tape found on ebay. I often find myself explaining the importance of VHS; it’s truly an under appreciated form of media. Only about 25% of ALL films ever made were put onto VHS. Now only 50% of those films have made it to DVD. There are films I own that will NEVER be on DVD or BluRay. This doc did an excellent job explaining the relevance of VHS. It also showcased some local haunts like I Luv Video and Vulcan Video. As a little girl, there was nothing more exciting than going to the video store and picking out a movie based on how disgusting the cover art is. As an adult, there’s nothing more exciting than drinking free beers on Tuesday night at I Luv Video and picking out films to watch. Long live VHS!
The most anticipated panel of the weekend was the final panel: Tom Savini. Prior to the panel, I saw him sitting at his booth. I stared in awe of his glory. An older woman next to me asked if I knew who he was. I began rattling off his extensive resume. She asked about the glossy photo of him with Jason Voorhees and various other monsters. I simply said,
“Yeah, he created those. He’s a big deal.”The woman said, “Then I guess I better get his autograph.” Savini is as important to the horror genre as John Carpenter or Wes Craven. Those guys came up with the ideas, but Savini brought them to life. He single handedly changed the shape of special effects and make-up in films. The man has so many engaging stories from his 40 yr + career. I could listen to him talk for days. In fact, one of my favorite audio commentaries is from DAWN OF THE DEAD in which he and Romero shoot the shit throughout the director’s cut. My only complaint is when audience members ask mundane questions that anyone who reads IMDB or listens to commentaries already knows the answers to. Savini is a cornucopia of knowledge in this field which is why he has his own Special FX School. One of his own protégé Greg Nicotero has gone one to start KNB Efx Group. Nicotero is also the man behind The Walking Dead TV series. The most revealing part of the panel was when Savini explained how he was up for the role of The Governor on TWD! David Morrissey has filled the role nicely, but I would’ve loved to see Tom Savini take a stab (no pun intended) at that character. The resemblance to the comic book Governor to Savini is truly uncanny. Most of all I enjoyed hearing him talk about what it was like to work on a Tarantino set. He recently had a small role in DJANGO UNCHAINED. This may have been the most informative panel yet.
In addition to all the cool panels we went to, we got to see a few other celebrities at their respective booths. Virginia Madsen is very pretty in person. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her in CANDYMAN. I saw Evil Lynn from MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE aka Meg Foster. I was talking to Steve Niles at his booth and up walks Jeffrey Combs from RE-ANIMATOR! I got a little star struck when Chris Sarandon walked by me. Out of all the celebrity guests, writers, and artists, Ross was most excited to see James Hampton. We know him as the dad from TEEN WOLF. Overall, I had a fantastic time. Hopefully, I can go again next year! Special thanks to Ross Ott photography for the pics.