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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #396  (Vol. 8, No. 43) This edition is for the week of October 22--28, 2007.

The Screamfest '07 Experience  by Chris Woods
Halloweenapalooza: The Hallowen Horror Picture Show '07  by C. A, Passinault
Screamfest 2007  by ED Tucker
Halloween & Horrors Overload - 4 Big Events Over One Weekend  by Andy Lalino
"Dan in Real Life"  by Mike Smith
Documenting Living Saints  by Paul Guzzo
Last Week .... The Gang's All Here .... And? .... Where's The Treat? .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 31: Charles Durning - Next Week!  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

Screamfest 2007

I just barely made it to Screamfest this year. Earlier in the week a cold had grabbed hold of me and refused to let go. As I got to the weekend, I still wasn’t feeling up to an extended road trip so I canceled out and sold my Universal Halloween Horror Nights tickets I had intended to use Saturday night. By Sunday morning I was feeling better and decided I could handle the trip to Orlando (as long as I wasn’t driving) and my wife Cindy agreed to accompany me. This gave me some insights into the Sunday operations of the show, which I usually miss, and an opportunity to catch up with fellow Fanboys Andy Lalino and Chris Woods (which I also usually miss!).

I arrived at Screamfest about an hour after the doors opened on Sunday and was impressed to see a decent crowd wandering the halls of the Wyndham Hotel on International Drive. My first scare of the day was at the ticket booth when I found out the Sunday admission was the same as Saturday, $25.00. Most shows reduce the Sunday price since the hours are usually shorter, the dealers tend to leave early and have less of a selection, and many guests only appear on Saturday. I knew better than to even attempt to question the individuals behind the register about this so I bit the bullet and headed in.

Item number one that I will give Screamfest credit for this year is improving the layout of the show by segregating the rooms. The dealer’s room this year was limited to merchants and artists (many of whom were also selling their creations). This made it much easier to traverse the area without having to dodge people waiting in line for autographs. The celebrity guests rated their own room as well and, even though there wasn’t much of a crowd to control on Sunday, it was nice to be able to move about freely. Other rooms were reserved specifically for panels, films, and tattoos and there was even a small food vending area located at one end of the hall.

My first stop, out of habit, was the dealer’s room, which was larger this year due to the relocation of the celebrities. I noted a marked increase in vintage horror posters and promotional materials but the prices leaned toward the higher end. One poster dealer assured me that all his prices were “below book” but a brief perusal of his merchandise left me wishing he was selling that book so I could buy a copy and recalculate the insurance on my own collection! Bootleg DVD dealers were as rampant as ever and I amusingly noted that one vendor was selling pirated copies of all of the Godzilla films while another one on the other side of the room had their legal counterparts for less money! As I was taking one of many random pictures of a fan dressed as Michael Myers shopping in the room, I heard a voice behind me grunt “ask first BEFORE you take a picture”. I informed this bootleg dealer that this was a public area and I was taking a picture of a patron, not his merchandise. If these vendors are becoming this paranoid then maybe it’s time they find a legitimate profession.

One dealer who never minds having his picture taken is Chris Shaw of Spooktacular Toys. Chris has been one of my favorite Screamfest vendors for several years and was personally responsible for me breaking my “no buy” streak last year when I purchased a reissue model kit of the spaceship from The Invaders television series from him. This year he had a nifty Polar Lights kit (also a reissue of the Aurora original) of the Spindrift spaceship from Land of the Giants for me in addition to his usual excellent selection of retro-themed merchandise. Sadly, Chris said this will most likely be his last year at Screamfest due to his perception of the average attendees becoming younger and unpleasant experiences with the show’s promoters. On a positive note though, he is seriously considering setting up a storefront in Orlando that I can guarantee will be added to my must-visit list.

The remainder of the merchandise was a variety of action figures, props, clothing, comics, magazines and even real weapons (something most of the patrons looked like they would be better off without). It may have just been the fact that I was present on the last day of the show, but most of the vendors seemed more generous than usual when it came to dealing. I walked away with a couple of cult movie T-shirts and a small stack of Famous Monsters magazines from the 70’s at very favorable prices. While I spent a total of less than $50 on merchandise, this is still the best shopping year I have had a Screamfest event.

Rounding the corner into the artists / promoters area of the room I noticed Chris Woods filming Andy Lalino and could not resist sneaking up and surprising him. It seems that every time we try to plan something around one of these events we never manage to meet up, so our lack of planning this year actually worked in our favor. I also got to meet Joel Wynkoop for the first time in the flesh even though both of our reputations preceded us. His publicity shot for the show doesn’t do him justice, he’s really a very nice guy! After a few minutes of discussion about press passes (or lack thereof) and convention etiquette, we parted company and I headed for the celebrity room.

Item number two that I give the Screamfest organizers credit for this year is moving toward a quality versus quantity strategy when selecting guests. Last year’s selection was an extremely incongruent variety of mainstream horror, worn out welcomes, and square pegs from outside the genre like a Munchkin actor from The Wizard of Oz and a musician from the Go-Gos! This year it was obvious some serious thought went into the mix and it was firmly rooted in horror.

Early guest announcements this year looked very promising with Gunnar Hansen (THE Leatherface from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman from the original Night of the Living Dead. Sadly, Hardman passed away from pancreatic cancer just a month before the show date and this undoubtedly lead to Eastman’s cancellation. Other guests included Robert “Freddy Kruger” Englund, Doug “Pinhead” Bradley, Kane “Jason” Hodder, and Shawnee Smith from the recent Saw films. There were a few multiple offenders like Ricou “Creature from the Black Lagoon” Browning, special effects master Tom Savini, and a personal favorite of mine, Michael Berryman who was the inbred mutant by which all others would be judged in the original The Hills Have Eyes. Even though I personally witnessed her sell an autograph last year, Lisa “Wednesday Addams” Loring apparently decide not to return!

As I entered the fairly vacant celebrity room around 1PM, I made a straight shot to the far side when I spotted Gunnar Hansen’s table. Unfortunately he was on his way out to a panel discussion but stopped long enough to chat and tell me he would be back in about thirty minutes. My only other stop was to see William Forsythe who played loose cannon Sheriff John Quincy Wydell in The Devil’s Rejects. Forsythe proved to be as much of a character in person as the ones he plays as he greeted me in shorts, T-shirt and bare feet! I had him sign my one sheet poster for Rejects and he told me that, while Rob Zombie will not commit at present, there is a possibility for a prequel to the film. Since Forsythe’s character was killed in Rejects, a prequel would give him a welcomed opportunity to return. Scanning the rest of the room, it looked like most of the guests were unoccupied and some even looked bored. On one row there was a group of actors from Friday the 13th, Part 3 (the one in 3D) that included composer Henry Manfredini who did the famous soundtrack for most of the series. Sadly this row was deader than a Camp Crystal Lake counselor after promiscuous sex but then doing a reunion from the second worst film in the entire series (edged out of the number one spot by the abysmal Part 5) probably wasn’t the best idea.

At this point I headed back to the dealer’s room to do some more shopping a kill a little time while waiting on Leatherface. As I attempted to browse the merchandise there were blood curdling screams amplified across the room every five or six minutes as patrons were recorded for part of some online contest. This was a very inconsiderate move on someone’s part as it made it extremely difficult to talk business with the vendors and rapidly brought on Excedrin headache #47! I cut my shopping short and headed over to the panel room where a helpful staff member told me he had no idea how much longer the panel ran (oh yeah, I forgot this is Screamfest – why did I bother asking?)! Realizing the futility of the situation and my limited number of options, I gave up and went to wait dutifully by Mr. Hansen’s table.

My diligence finally paid off when Hansen returned about twenty minutes later with lunch in hand. I couldn’t resist making a few barbeque jokes at his expense (he was having fries) which lead to a discussion about the culinary differences between Florida and Texas barbeque (had I been there longer Gunnar I would have shown you the difference). I also couldn’t resist telling him the story of how I met his fellow actor Ed Neil (The Hitchhiker) completely by surprise years earlier. Hansen still keeps in touch with most of the cast but only he, Neil, Marilyn Burns (sole survivor Sally) and John Dugan who played Grandpa, are currently doing shows. He showed me several photos and envelopes he has signed by the entire cast and crew including the late Jim Siedow (Drayton Sawyer – The Cook) and Paul Partain (the wheelchair bound Franklin). At the $700-$800 asking price they were out of my league but still great reminders of all the people who worked so hard to make that ground breaking film. I had to settle for having my original one sheet from the 1980 re-release signed instead.

The 2007 Screamfest showed some marked improvement in key areas that I congratulate the promoters for addressing. Hopefully future events will feature better informed staff members and a separate room for screaming! With a $25 admission price, they will have to keep up a strong celebrity showing and continue to increase the number of dealers. At the moment this really only adds up financially if you are interested in attending the majority of events at the show and want to stay for the entire weekend but not for the casual or specialized fan..

"Retrorama" is ©2007 by ED Tucker.   All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.