August is here and that means the ladies and gentleman of Final Girl Support Group were summoned to Cherry Hill, NJ yet again to attend Monster Mania, a semiannual celebration of all things horror. Any nerd gathering has its drawbacks, but Dave Hagan and company run a good show. We never miss it.
As you may remember, last spring was a weekend-long tribute to Robert Englund and his slasher alter ego Freddy (see FGSG and Cinedelphia for more details). Although a number of guests were unrelated to a unifying theme this summer, the con could easily have been called “Barker Con.” That’s Clive Barker of course; the infamous British author, director, and artist responsible for Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Candyman, and other explorations of terrifying nightmare worlds and inconceivable pain. An impressive gathering of cast members from both Hellraiser and Nightbreed were in attendance. The buzz of the horror community for a time, the new “Cabal Cut” of Nightbreed, was onscreen daily. Just one hitch. The star of the show was missing. No Clive.
It was a huge disappointment when Barker, scheduled as the headliner since November, had to cancel his appearance in late July for health reasons. The fans, convention organizers, and Barker himself were clearly devastated that he was too sick to attend, but I’m impressed to say that Hagan and the outspoken community of attendees handled the unfortunate situation with class. The staff worked hard to satisfy disappointed ticket-holders and many fans expressed sympathies and encouragement to Clive rather than unfair outrage (though I’m sure some trolls lost their minds). Get better soon, Clive. Meanwhile… the show must go on.
There’s a great deal going on at these events including celebrity meet ‘n’ greets, vendors hawking all kinds of horror memorabilia, costumes, panels, and screenings of films highlighting the guests of honor. What are we there for? STUFF… and friends… maybe staring at actors and intriguing panels. But we must not lie to you, our precious readers. We’re there to fulfill our nerdly needs for hard-to-find films and classics to fill out our collections. Let’s not forget the ever-present quest for feminine horror apparel. May we fly our freak flags in flattering clothes? Must we be forever be banished to XXL t-shirts? More on that later. First… MOVIES MOVIES MOVIES.
I would leave these events with enough films to warrant renting a truck if I could. Sadly, I’m the starving artist type and must settle for a satisfying but reasonable armful. I left the convention with these finds:
- The Deadly Spawn– One needs a cheesy monster movie now and then.
- Evidence– Interesting found-footage title. Never heard of it before the con. Pleasantly surprised. More on this below.
- F– Hoodie Horror. A British school invasion in the tradition of Ils, The Strangers and Eden Lake.
- Hierro– All signs lead toward a flawed but visually stunning psychological horror flick.
- Iron Sky– Nazis on the moon. Udo Kier as the Moon Fuhrer. I shouldn’t have to say more. Amazing.
- Kill List– One of the best horror films of 2011. Worth picking up if you’re not squeamish. Proud to have mine on Blu.
- The Life and Death of a Porno Gang– Another shocker from Serbia. Although I’ve read a few things about the film, I have a feeling we’re in for some uncomfortable surprises. Bring it on.
In addition to my sweet pile of movies, I scored some pretty lady clothes. I’ll be the belle of the ball in my hot new Texas Chainsaw Massacre dress. Thanks, KittyVamp Designs!
Let’s hear from StayFrosty.
StayFrosty: As usual, I started at the Diabolik DVD table. They always have high quality, hard to find stuff, and they know their shit, so it’s fun talking to them in their few seconds of free time. This year I picked up the blu-ray of Halloween 4 & 5 (yeah I know, they’re not great, but I’m completing a collection. Don’t judge me.), the Arrow version of Fulci’s House by the Cemetary, and the blu-ray of Livide. I’m super excited to see Livide, the follow up film from Inside directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. FGSG loved Inside, so I can’t wait to see what they do next.
At every convention, if I have the money, I grab a few movies I’ve never heard of that look interesting, and it’s exciting to hope I’ll find a gem in the lottery. This year JennyD and I chose a bunch together – some known (Iron Sky!) and some completely unknown. And we found a little film called Evidence. We got it for free with the purchase of other movies, or we wouldn’t have picked it up (the description didn’t make it seem very interesting, found footage is a little played out, etc). And when we sat down to watch it, our guess seemed to be correct – we were bored within the first ten minutes. We contemplated turning it off, but decided to give it 15 more minutes. And am I glad we did, because once the movie got going (about the 15 minute mark), it kept the quality going right through until the end of the closing credits. There were some genuinely creepy moments, and while the film does change gears, it never feels forced. I don’t want to give to much away, but this is well worth a watch.
We’ve often discussed the lack of horror clothing for ladies at these conventions (let’s get this straight – youth sizes don’t mean girl shirts, and men’s smalls don’t count either), but this year we had a very pleasant surprise. In the corner of the smaller dealers’ room we found KittyVamp Designs (www.kittyvamp.com), run by a young lady who takes giant men’s shirts and remakes them into hot female dresses and shirts. Needless to say, we had to get some of these and if I had the money, I know I would have bought a ton of stuff. As it is, I’m now a proud owner of Dracula and Friday the 13th dresses – can’t wait to wear them! These dresses were well made, flattering to the body, and comfortable. This lady knows her stuff. And whenever I checked, her booth was absolutely packed with women. Take this as a hint, other clothing dealers – there are lots of ladies who want to look fabulous in horror clothing, and KittyVamp Designs is doing it right. Definitely the best non-film find of the convention.
Friends, Fiends, Costumes and Creeps
Takes all kinds to put on a horror show. Takes all kinds. Although your usual suspects (Pyramid Head, Stilt Clowns, Jasons-o-plenty) were present as always and looking good, Monster Mania 22 wasn’t the explosion of costume excitement and creativity inspired by Freddy Con in March. We do enjoy the parade of fake blood and slasher masks all the same.
Speaking of Freddy… some con-goers were pretty obnoxious this year. StayFrosty has promised us a powerful rant on creepers, the issues a woman faces at an event like this, and con etiquette in general. We look forward to it, lady.
Other than a few bad apples, however, we find the event is becoming a more female-friendly space every year. Although the environment has hardly been hostile, it’s safe to say that most genre conventions have been guilty of gender exclusion–addressing and selling solely to a male audience, mistaking women in the community for booth babes, dismissing the knowledge or integrity of female fans–and we’re seeing some significant progress. In 2012, we found slim-fit women’s tees featuring posters for The Thing, Silent Night Deadly Night, A Serbian Film, and more. We bought flattering dresses crafted from men’s horror tees. We met kick-ass women holding down booths who are knowledgeable, eager to talk cinema, and happy to share recommendations. And, in an encouraging turn, less men appear to be surprised by the concept of our blog and the assertion that the hardcore female fanbase is very real. We feel good about where this is going.
Now, a few shout-outs to some of our favorite familiar faces…
Joseph Gervasi and Jesse Nelson of Diabolik DVD
StayFrosty: We say it a lot, but it’s worth repeating – the Diabolik boys know their shit. And without doubt, they have the best selection at the con (probably because they know their shit). It’s a terrific mix of all types of horror (and some that skirt the line into other genres): gory, creepy, exploitation, atmospheric, cult, wild and just plain weird, all from a variety of countries (which means you’ve got to check the region on your purchases, but they’re pretty good about letting you know when something isn’t going to play in American players). What more could a horror-loving blog team ask for? Aside from their awesome selection, Jesse and Joseph are cool guys that are fun to talk to – they know and love movies, and it shows. While we don’t like to interrupt them during vendor hours (their booth is almost always packed), we do love to see them and talk to them, however briefly, about the latest in carnage and weirdness.
Jenny adds: Check Diabolik DVD often for the newest in strange cinema and keep an eye on their sister site Exhumed Films to stay informed about the best damn horror and exploitation events in the Philly area.
Dan Tabor and Scott Cole
Jenny: After burning through our con money and staying up all night for a little horrorthon on Friday, our plan for Saturday was fairly relaxed. We ended up spending the bulk of the day with these fine gentlemen. Intense movie discussion and fun were had by all.
Dan Tabor, super fan and serious movie fiend, writes for local geek guide Geekadelphia. He’s also got some adorable dogs. You’re jealous. Get news, reviews, and even chances to win screening passes and prizes from Dan over here.
Scott Cole is an author, artist, confirmed horrorphile, and occasional guest contributor here on FGSG. (See his review of Saint Nick here.) Visit 13Visions to learn more about Scott’s artwork and writing.
If you’re in the Philly area and you’re sitting down for a screening of some bizarre or obscure horror flick, don’t panic… They’re probably right behind you… Seriously, these guys can be found at most local genre events. They’re good sorts. Say hello.
That’s all for now. We didn’t catch panels or take many photos, but we had a good time.
As briefly mentioned, Clive Barker’s new Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut was screening daily and it was a huge draw for horror fans eager to see the new partially-restored version of the film. We did catch the screening Friday night, but a proper writeup requires a post of its own. Look for a review of the new cut, coming soon, here on FGSG.