The Days of the Dead convention which started in Indianapolis, IN in the summer of 2011 is a convention dedicated to the celebration and promotion of all things Horror and Gore. If you’re an 80s horror fan or just discovering scares through shows like The Walking Dead, this just might be the convention for you.
Compared to the other conventions I’ve been to, this is definitely one of the smaller ones. It’s the little con that could though and the fans that were there were glad to have the choice. The Atlanta venue that I dropped in on is only their second engagement, but the turnout was very healthy. On the weekend, they had so many attendees that the fire marshall began towing people’s vehicles due to over parking. I almost got towed myself.
The result of all this though is that the organizers have already secured a larger space and even set a date for next years Atlanta venue. The Sheraton in downtown Atlanta.
This years schedule for the con includes
Roddy Piper, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Micah Sloat, Laurence Harvey, Jake Busey, Alex Vincent, James O’Barr, Sean Whalen, John Russo, George Kosana, a bunch of zombies from The Walking Dead, and Gary Busey?
Various movie screenings were shown throughout the weekend. The one I made it to was for the scoring cut of John Russo’s Return of the Living Dead. Directed by Dan O’Bannon.
Unseen workprint of Return of the Living Dead
Actress and scream queen Linnea Quigley was on hand to introduce the film and even sat in on the screening afterward with the handful of fans who made it to the cons opening night. It’s been at least 5 years or more since I’ve seen the film so, I honestly couldn’t tell you what the differences were between this version and the final theatrical cut, but we were told that this special cut had an additional 15 minutes (approx) of footage and that this cut had never been shown to a public audience before now. I may have to watch the DVD at some point and compare what I saw.
The bottom line though is that this was a great cut of the film, well worth seeing for fans of the film. It was a transfer from a badly aging VHS copy so, it’s not likely to see DVD release without a major cleanup job, but well worth seeking out if it’s ever shown somewhere near you. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch it.
For those unfamiliar with the film, Linnea Quigley is the obsessed with death punker who likes to dance naked on graves.
Men Behind the Mask Panel
You never quite know what your take-away will be from a panel. Sometimes it’s about getting exclusive new info on your favourite celebs or finding out what they’re working on now or next. Other times it’s just a chance to ask that burning question about their work process. This panel was not really either of those.
If I had to name a take-away, it was the opportunity to see just how different these four men are from not only the characters they play, but from each other — being that they’re in the same line of business.
Derek Mears, I’ve seen about at various conventions, but not being a big watcher of slasher films (not because I’m against them, but so many of them are not worth the watch) I’m not really as familiar with him. Ofcourse I know him from the times he’s out of costume and playing various nameless henchmen, but you never really get a good impression of someone from a thankless role like that. At this panel (and my conversation with him earlier in the day) I was able to get a pretty good read on his personality. He’s surprisingly nerdy. Not geeky; nerdy. He’s awkward, unsure of himself, and a bit of a voluminous talker. It’s kind of a strange thing to see from a guy who’s as physically imposing as he is. He’s kind of a teddy bear. Very unexpected.
Nick Principe is the opposite personality. He was the resident douche. The panel host announced each guest as they walked on stage and Nick walked on head down typing away on his mobile phone. He stayed like this most of the panel’s duration with the occasional look up to poke fun at one of his fellow panel companions, or to give wise-ass answers to a question. The highlight of the panel was when, at the end of the talk, Principe leaned a little too far back in his seat and then promptly tipped over onto the floor. Karma caught up to him and the crowd got the well deserved last laugh.
Brian Steele said the least and was also the most even mannered of the bunch. He recounted a quick story of how he landed himself in the monster suit business, having grown up an awkward kid with few friends. Monster movies were his coping mechanism and his ultimate goal in adulthood. Acting behind the mask became his way of shedding his extreme shyness and a way to experience and express himself like he couldn’t out of costume.
Tyler Mane is a showman. No doubt a result of his background as a professional wrestler. He’s also the tallest of the bunch. It was amusing to see him bending through doorways and archways on his way to the stage. He’s an intimidating height really. Very friendly though. He was surprisingly the most tight lipped of the group, however. Especially when asked questions about his past as a wrestler. He was very politically correct and gracious about his fellow wrestling colleagues.
So, yeah. Not really any news out of this panel, but lots to glean about the people themselves. With the exception of Nick, all people you’d see yourself hanging out with at the local watering hole.
Scream Queens Panel
As this panel went on, it began to occur to me just how contrasted this group and atmosphere were from the all male panel that immediately preceded them. Whereas the Monster Men panel was vulgar and testosterone fueled, this “women only” panel was for lack of a better word, sweet. If it weren’t for the unexpected (unexpected?) PSA/self-plugging that Amelia Kinkade steered the panel towards it might have been considered be too much cute to stomach. I’ll mention the Kinkade moment later, but let’s talk a bit about the panelists.
Barbara Crampton whom I think I’ve never looked at quite the same after her turn in From Beyond, Crampton was the stereotypical “actress”. Very composed and careful to keep her answers brief and informative and serious. It’s clear that of the bunch of them on stage, she looks at her profession quite differently. The rest are in it (or is it were) for the fun. Chief among them being Linnea Quigley.
Looking at, and listening to Linnea during the convention, I found it very easy to imagine that she really would have danced nude on some stranger’s grave stone. She’s older now, but every bit as free spirited as she ever was. Unlike some actresses I’ve met, it really doesn’t appear to be an act. She genuinely appears to be that way.
PJ Soles was an interesting and stark contrast to everyone else on stage. She’s the spitting image of a redneck mom. Cam-o jacket, jeans, and red bangs. She’s really settled down, but clearly comfortable in her obscurity. She was also the most genuinely amused by all this fame and adoration she was receiving at conventions. You got the sense, as she recounted her time in the films, that she really looked at them almost from the audiences point of view. Not quite believing she was there herself. Appreciating the time there, but clearly having moved on in her life. A bit of a contradiction, being that she was guesting a panel on that very past.
Amelia Kinkade, on the other hand…Amelia seems to have been permanently affected by her experiences as a scream queen. She doesn’t act anymore, having become a real-life doctor dolittle. She now councils folks on their relationships with their pets. Her most famous character, Angela (Night of the Demons series) is a goth chick obsessed with spirituality and the occult. Ultimately getting her wildest wish and fears realized. Amelia, also spoke at length about her real life awakening spirituality and her realization that she could communicate with animals. She feels now like her shape-shifting on film was a portent of her current life. A being one with nature. As I mentioned earlier, a little unexpected.
With that, the Con was over for me. I stopped by the dealer room and spent far too much money on Cthulhu’s in jars and import J-horror DVDs. All in all, a con I can recommend. If you’re in any of the cities they’ll be in, you owe yourself a look. You might find something worth stopping in for.
For those who look forward to our Geek Spot articles. Stay tuned for WonderCon coverage in a few days.