The Fangoria Trinity of Terrors in Las Vegas
There’s been many of you who have clamored for more information about the wonderful weekend I spent with horror’s biggest and brightest last weekend, so I’ve decided to relent. Though Halloween has come and gone, for some of us it it never really left. It probably wont leave until next September when it just starts all over again. When it does, I hope that Fangoria Magazine will be back for another year. It was a stupendous weekend.
Las Vegas doesn’t get much in the way of genre conventions. Sure, we get Creation’s Star Trek Convention, but there’s more to fandom than Trek. Now, as the official Ugly Couch Show horror fan, I about wet my shorts when I found out that Fangoria was bringing it’s diabolical horror celebration to The Palms Hotel here in Vegas. I cleared all of my weekend schedule and turned down multiple Halloween parties to make sure I wouldn’t miss a bloody drop. The following is a smattering of my experiences. Some good. Some meh. But all appreciated. I’ll start with the elephant in the room….
THE DEALER FLOOR
Strangely, what is usually the most exciting part of a fan convention, in this case was the most lacking. The dealer floor was separated into one very large ballroom and two smaller rooms. This caused a bit of confusion as the folks who didn’t pony up the $5 for the official program didn’t realize the smaller rooms existed. They were located down a long and winding hallway, far away from the rest of the convention. I felt bad for the vendors hawking their wares in these far reaches. These were some cool folks too; Xseed games and their Ju-on Haunted House Simulator, A Chainsaw/MP3 player meant to simulate the real thing, and glow-in-the-dark horror soap just to name a few. It’s not really Fangoria’s fault. The Palm’s convention area just isn’t big enough to contain a whole dealers floor. But, if you want your horror show to be attached to a movie theater in Las Vegas, your choices are few. The main ballroom was very interesting indeed. There were a few choice vendors (Rotten Cotton, Radical Comics, and Weta, etc.). But it was in the Horror Alumni where it really shined.
The room was row to row with legendary horror names such as George Romero, Bruce Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, Ashley Lawrence, Tony Todd, Dee Walace, Ken Foree… The list goes on. As with many conventions, for a fee, you get a photo and autograph or a photo with a performer of your choice. What separated this event from similar ones I’ve attended is the amount of access. See, there was one HUGE problem for the vendors that weekend…
Attendance was low. Really low.
I heard more than one vendor commenting on the lack of bodies/business coming their way. On Saturday, I bought a shirt and the vendor told me I was the first sale of the day. At noon. Two hours into the event. But, this lack of attendance allowed for all the access you wanted to the actors. You want to know more about shooting life in a cornfield? Ask Courtney Gaines of Children of the Corn. You want know about working with Rob Zombie? Ask Malcolm McDowell or Scout Taylor-Compton. Since there weren’t lines built up around their booths, the actors were happy to spend extra time with their fans. It was also fun hearing them banter back and forth with each other across the hall. As an actor and horror fan, this was a supreme treat. The sparse attendance had it’s boon in the Q&A sessions as well. If you had a question, it was going to get answered. It was as simple as that. No huge lines like in comic-con. Good luck getting your question answered there. Here, the fans ruled the day. It was the biggest Halloween treat of them all.
My largest concern is since there were few attendees, will they bring back the Trinity for another year? Rumor has it, Fangoria is gonna try again next year. I hope so. I hope they get flooded with fans so deep, they have to turn some away. It will keep this thing going year after year and Las Vegas needs more of this sort of thing. But, I digress. Let’s not forget that this was a horror film festival as well. And as a film festival, Fangoria knocked this one out of the park.
The event had full control over two of the screens at the attached Brenden Theaters and they made full use of them. One screen had new movies running constantly while the other switched between movies and Q&A sessions. The movies were a mix of sold and unsold horror films, some of them screened for the very first time. This was very exciting to me. I tried to see everything I could, but of course had to pick and choose in some instances. Here are a few mini-reviews of my choices.
I’ll say this for Bitch Slap, it knows what it is. It is a 70’s exploitation flick made with modern style. It is a sexy, violent, tongue-firmly-in-cheek story of three women looking for a crime boss’ hidden loot in the middle of the desert. It’s what you’d expect from a Faster Pussycat throwback except with a lot more flair. The camera takes every chance it can to lens-f#*k the characters and the script is written with this in mind. A one point, the ladies stop digging to pour water over each other in leering slow motion. But, come on. What were you expecting. The movie is called Bitch Slap for Christ’s sake! The acting isn’t tip top and the story isn’t that deep (see the last sentence), but it tries to throw as many curves as it can at you and in doing so keeps the film entertaining to watch. It ain’t deep. It ain’t moving. It’s empty calories. But, sometimes a Snickers really satisfies. And if that’s what you are looking for in a movie, then this one will satisfy too. Your girlfriend will hate it. Unless she’s really cool. And by cool I mean bi-curious.
I was really excited to see this one. A true throwback to an earlier style of horror film. House of the Devil is the story of a college sophomore who gets in a financial bind when she rents a new apartment. She believes she may have a solution when she answers a babysitting notice at the college. When she meets her employers, she learns that there is no baby. But, after they add to her pay, she decides to stay anyway. Let the horror begin.
What was so fantastic about this movie is that the film is set in the early 1980’s. Not in that, “Oh, look at us and how nostalgically hip we are” attitude you find in modern “80’s style” films. This film looks like it was made in 1983. They got the style, look, and feel perfect. You could put this movie in any 80’s horror marathon and your friends wouldn’t bat an eye. The layout and the horror all take you back to an earlier time in film making. The start was good and Jocelyn Donahue as Sam did an amazing job as the down to earth college student. In fact, all the performances were great. If I had one gripe, it’s that the middle of the film felt so long. Once the baby(?) sitting started, we watch Sam trying to occupy herself for the longest time. After awhile I started to feel as bored as her character must have felt. And it’s not that I have no stomach for a slow-burn movie. Hell, I’m a sucker for Japanese horror films and some of them are sloooooooooooow. This part of the movie felt padded. But after she gets bored enough to start exploring the house, the film kicks right back into gear and the movie earns it’s name. If you need a break from the Saw style horror film, The House of the Devil is an excellent candidate for you. Disturbing without being over the top. This film can be seen playing currently in some cities.
Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue was the only documentary shown at the festival. It’s also one of the highlights of my weekend. For those of you who watch the Ugly Couch Show regularly, you know that I love deep analysis of pop culture. Nightmares is a documentary about how socio-economic and political events have shaped the evolution of the horror film. Beginning with the original, silent Frankenstein, the film guides us through horror history all the way up to the current Saw/Hostel era. It is very entertaining with just enough scholarship to make me breathe a sigh of contentment. It is richly narrated by Lance Hendrickson and edited at an energized pace. Interspersed with interviews from John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Joe Dante, Larry Cohen, and Roger Corman, this movie was a tremendous delight. Learn where we came from and how we got here. Find it. See it. Master Torgo’s Best-of-Show Award Winner.
Dead Air mixes 28 Days Later with post 9/11 commentary and the final cocktail is pretty satisfying. This was the Official Premier of the movie, so most of the cast and the director (Corbin Bernsen) were in attendance. It’s great when the you are sitting close to the director during a screening. It adds to the experience. Bill Mosely plays Logan, a controversial, big-mouthed talk radio host that is on the air when a terrorist attack releases a toxic gas in various populated centers of the United States. It is a gas that turns people into zombies. Runners at that! Since Logan won’t switch over to the emergency broadcast system, he is able to monitor the worsening situation through live phone calls. That it until some of the terrorists hear and decide to use the station a mouthpiece. I really enjoyed this film. The mash-up just plain works. The mounting horror of what is happening outside coupled with the staving off of the horrors happening in the station meld well together. The pacing is great and I was very satisfied with the ending. It has something to say without being too preachy. But it is a film with an agenda which may turn off some people. I thought it was spot on. The film is just released on DVD.
No.No.No.No.No.No.No.No. I left after 30 min. I went and got McDonald’s. It was better for my health. It may have turned into Citizen Kane after I left. But more than likely… no.
God, I wish I had been able to see the reat of this one! I had to leave early in order to get in line for the new George Romero zombie movie (hee). But I was truly enjoying myself at this depraved, over the top, bad taste, eye scorchingly funny horror movie. The tale is of two sexually mutated human beings and how they manage to deal with it in the world. Before you think this is some sort of weepy drama, she has eight clitoris and tends to kill her mates through overzealous coitus and he has a malformed penis he has mutated through drugs and is now out of control. The movie is about how these two sexbirds find each other and the hell that follows with them. The film is so amazing due to the actors’ earnestness in their roles. You believe they are what they are. And boy is it fun to watch them. Evil Dead II kind of fun. This film gives no apologies, but you will if you show it to your grandmother. Need…to…know…how…it…ends….
Here it is. Granddad had another baby and this one, too, wants to bite your face. George Romero, the inventor of the modern zombie, gives us his sixth foray into his post zombie universe. The film tracks a group of soldiers (plus a survivor from the Diary of the Dead) as they try to make their way to an island that supposedly has controlled the crisis. When they get there they find themselves in the center of a war between families that has lasted for years. Perhaps generations. Between the families and the dead, there’s nowhere to turn, just sides to pick. As Romero has continued on in his filmmaking ventures, he has become more ham handed in his social commentary and this one is no different. This movie has something to say and subtle it is not. However, it did not detract from my enjoyment of this picture. It contains situations and gore you have never seen before in a zombie movie. Ever. Fun story. Great deaths. Thanks George. Again. This film is looking for distribution.
After seeing the very effective trailers for this film, I have been anxious to see it. It tells the story of Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist from Nome, Alaska who came to believe her patients were being abducted by aliens. The movie has an interesting layout by interspersing documentation footage with the actors onscreen narrative, sometimes in split screen. It’s odd at first, but you soon get used to it as it is the footage that makes the film so effective. I’m still very skeptical about the events in this movie, but it was very effective at giving me the heebie-jeebies throughout the film. The actors do a great job at portraying events, but the events play even better through home and police cameras. This film could reignite the abduction fear once again. It can certainly make you question the strange noises in the house. I’ve got a feeling that it will come out soon that the whole thing is fiction and that Abigail Tyler is a character like any other. But, that is immaterial. This film is creepy.
I’m so sorry you missed this, folks. This is a blue moon occurrence in Las Vegas. You learn to take advantage when they happen, for they may never pass this way again. It seemed small, but I had no problem filling my time at the Fangoria Trilogy of Terrors. For those who were able to attend, we few, we happy few, we got to experience something devilishly magical. Savor it. For even if it grows magnificently, we will not have that intimacy of listening to Ken Foree answering questions about politics, John Waters relishing in love of bad taste, or face time with Bruce Campbell. However, with the blood of seven virgin spread into an eight pointed star and a chant from the pages of the Necronomicon, we may see the Trilogy arise next year. God I hope so.
Oh, and Slipknot played a show there.
Addendum: It turns out that a three year contract was signed with the Palms. Mark your calendars for next year, folks. I’ll see you there.
Master Torgo is at your mom’s house right now showing her the extended cut of Bad Biology and saying that you helped write it. Your mom is crying.