Where were we? Snowstorm is looming. I’m just pulling into the Trop.
If you’re the geek/fanboy type like me and you’ve never been to the Tropicana in Atlantic City, there’s one thing that will strike you about it. Their parking garage is almost a replica of the one you see in The Dark Knight where Batman utters the greatest line in movie history “I’M NOT WEARING HOCKEY PADS.”
There’s never a time when I’m entering the Trop that I don’t pretend that I’m Batman in the Batmobile Tumbler navigating the wild mouse roller coaster-like turns and insanely steep inclines of that parking garage. It’s like a ride in itself. It’s also one of the more inviting garages in all of Atlantic City, because each and every one of them is abysmal. Bringing yourself to a near heart attack, getting rear ended, and not understanding the signage are constant possibilities in A.C’s parking garages. At least at the Trop you can pretend to have a run-in with Scarecrow and his goons.
Aside from the nasty accident I passed earlier, things were going strangely smooth. I even found a parking spot about 20 feet from the elevator to the casino. This translates to “I was meant to go to this thing.”
Once inside the casino, it did seem a bit light on people. Is online gambling in NJ taking away from attendance? It’s possible, or it was just the shitty winter weather putting a damper on people’s weekends.
The setting of the Bizarre Expo provided a refreshing change compared to the other conventions that we’re accustomed to. Holding the event at a casino adds a bit of glitz to what’s usually just a bunch of people standing around a hotel lobby or convention room when you really think about it. Chiller and Monster Mania, I love you guys, but the hotel setting is limited and does grow a bit stale. There comes a time after 20 years of a convention that it needs to graduate to the next level of facilities. Bizarre skipped a grade. If only it went to school in the Spring time.
What’s cool about having the expo at the Trop, is that you’re right on the boardwalk looking out at the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Since it was bitter cold, walking on the boardwalk is an activity reserved for those of us on shrooms, people who like running, and those who don’t mind a little hypothermia now and again. Here you have the option to gamble, or you can get really drunk and then walk through two big horror convention rooms as well as a movie screening room. I always choose the horror option.
After I got situated and registered, I made my way into the first large convention room. This room housed the aptly named Bizarre Bazaar. As soon as I walked in I noticed the “look” of the event. Something about the whole space just looked cool. It’s hard to describe, but it’s possible that it was the lighting. It definitely gave the impression that it was a step above other conventions as far as presentation goes. There weren’t as many merchant/vendor tables crammed into a tiny space in the way we are all too familiar with. This gave them a nice boost since it focused your attention to the tables and the people running them rather than missing stuff in order to navigate through a mob of people.
The Saturday installment of Bizarre had just begun. As the day went on more and more people started filing in. Luckily for me, it wasn’t crowded to the point where you couldn’t walk around comfortably. This is important because I get claustrophobic in crowds. Of course, the promoters of the event probably preferred the floor to be packed with people, but it’s way more frustrating for attendees when it’s like that. I always prefer a larger space that’s less crowded to a smaller space with the same amount of people.
Shannon from Mallrats wouldn’t be too pleased with me since I didn’t have much of an agenda. This was a brand new event and I really wanted to enjoy it and take in the scene. As I strolled around, it was cool to run into a few friends at some of the merchant tables.
My buddy Jess Rajs from Gorgeous and Gory was promoting the new 2014 Zombie Pinup Calendar. It’s filled with hot undead women and it’s a perfect gift for the person with a zombie fetish in your life. She firmly believes this one is their best work yet, and coming from a dude who has all of them, I have to agree with her! Check out some of these incredible photos and head over to http://www.gorgeousandgory.com to get your own!
I am a sucker for haunted attractions so I stopped by the Fear Factory Haunted House table. This is a newer haunt that I was meaning to get to this Halloween season, but, prior to its opening, it ran into all kinds of roadblocks from the town and it hindered them from having a proper opening season. Then, after talking to the girls from the haunt, I found out that there’s only TWO MORE NIGHTS of their Christmas haunt, Tinsel Town Terror. Not happy about the idea of missing this. Well, I made it to Bizarre A.C, so perhaps there’s a trip to Mays Landing in my near future for some yuletide terror?
Just so you know, skipping the merch tables and going straight for autographs is never a good idea. You’ll definitely miss out on cool stuff. I did manage to buy ONE Christmas gift. I was hoping to get a few more, but funds were diminishing. But, I will say that the $5 dollar margaritas were pretty cost effective.
The horror personalities were out in full force and Bizarre offered the opportunity to hobnob with them without getting shooed away due to crowds. Just a few of the actors I saw signing and chatting with fans included Heather Lagenkamp, Doug Bradley, Kane Hodder, John Kassir, Bill Mosely, Tom Savini, Alex Vincent, Micheal Berryman, former WWE Superstar Gene Snitsky, and Clerks’ Brian O’Halloran.
One of the Q&A sessions was going on as I was walking around the merch tables. This one was called “Being Jason,” and it featured Kane Hodder and Steve Dash answering questions from the audience about their experiences playing Jason in the Friday the 13th films. This was enlightening to several members of the audience who apparently have never seen or read Crystal Lake Memories.
Just before I made my way down the escalator to the 2nd convention room, I ran into our NJ friend Ryan Scott Weber, writer and director of Mary Horror and Sheriff Tom vs. The Zombies. At the moment, Ryan was screening Sheriff Tom and we were shooting the shit about the upcoming third part of the trilogy called Witches Blood. It’s coming out soon so look out for it! I also talked with the Jersey King of No Budget Horror, my pal Armageddon Ed.
After a while, weather apps and text messages kept alerting me to how bad the snow was getting up north. This meant that I had to miss out on the costume contest and some of the other truly Bizarre aspects of the expo and hightail it out of Atlantic City. In various parts of the state there was already 3 or 4 inches of snow. Oddly enough, the South Jersey area and Atlantic City was spared and only got rained on. As I made my way back up the Garden State Parkway, I was baffled because all I hit was rain. Then, sure enough, around exit 100, I abruptly entered Hoth. The rest of the trip home turned into my very own Twilight Zone episode called Nightmare at 15 Miles Per Hour.
Hosting a convention in December runs the risk of inclement weather. The snow definitely had an impact on attendance, but the expo kicked ass. If you didn’t make it, you missed out because the organizers improved upon horror fans gripes of other local conventions and it showed. Hopefully if this becomes and annual thing, the Bizarre Expo will only get bigger and more enticing next year. You’re going to look back and wish you were at the first one because you know how many jackasses (myself included) will be bragging about how “I was at the FIRST Bizarre Expo man!”
All these lame horror clones that make it to theaters not cutting it for you? They’re all crap if you ask me. I haven’t been satisfied with mainstream horror output in years. Setting my sights on indie horror has yielded much more entertaining results. Indie horror out of New Jersey is even better, it must be something in the water, or better yet, the tomatoes! The most recent film out of Jersey that I had the chance to check out was Mary Horror, a Ryan Scott Weber production. For horror fans, this film literally has it all: murder, a psychiatric hospital, a witches spell book, and someone even loses and eyeball!
Mary Horror exhibits some of the most technically sound independent film work I’ve seen. Writer/Director Ryan Scott Weber and cinematographer Ryan Coyle soar when it comes to shot composition and incorporating the subtle lighting and Jersey exteriors. Since the movie was filled with interesting settings and the use of real locations such as a hospital and Bernards high school, it all contributed to the realism of the film. The filmmakers were able to build the viewers anticipation as they used their production techniques to suck us into a world that we all could relate to – high school. But that’s only the beginning before things spiral out of control for Mary Horowitz. Yes, I said Horowitz…you’ll see.
The actors took their jobs very seriously and it was clear that they were all in sync with Weber’s vision for the film. Susie Duecker, the actress who played Mary Horror herself, was quite good. It was fun to watch her become so involved in her character. Her transition from typical high school girl to an extremely unhinged one was ghastly and sublime. In my book she really understood the character which is a delicate balance since another actress may have gone on screen acting like a complete over the top psycho and that wasn’t the idea. Credit must also go to Ryan Coyle for the makeup as well as the crew in the costume and wardrobe department. Duecker was creepy as hell when she officially became Mary Horror. I only wish mainstream horror filmmakers could take the hint that simplicity can leave such an impression and we don’t need to see an hour and a half of lame CGI for the film to be unnerving.
The kickass makeup and practical effects were not used frivolously. The film has an old school horror flair, and although it doesn’t take itself too seriously in some scenes (like the one where Weber himself plays an EMT who beats up his co-worker while being interviewed on TV by a reporter) it still retains it’s spookiness. Without a huge budget, Weber managed to use subtle lightning and dutch angles to create the eerie atmosphere of the film. I especially dug a scene that utilized a strobe lighting effect as Mary was about to “interact” with 2 other characters. What tied it all together like The Dude’s rug was the cinematic quality of Scott Vincent’s score. Some parts were so triumphant and joyful, but still sent the message that all is not going to be well.
Mary Horror is filled with cool cameos. Some of the quick scenes were filmed at Monster Mania while others were full on roles! You’ll see Patricia Quinn, Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, Jersey girl and Bernards H.S graduate Deanna Russo, as well as a hilarious cameo from Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson in the film.
Up next from Weber is the sequel to Mary Horror, Sheriff Tom vs. The Zombies. You can see the preview to this if you go to the showing in Bernardsville on 11/20!
A castle themed exterior seemed fitting for Chiller Theatre. The expo’s relocation to the Sheraton in Parsippany turned out to be positive on all levels. Lines were still long, but not as long and cramped as they were previously. Forget about parking at the hotel, even if you got there early you still had to park across the street. That’s not even a bad thing for a couple of reasons. Parking was free no matter where you parked and at least there WAS parking available. So in some respects this was a positive step forward. If they decide to move again it will have to be to some place really big like Metlife Stadium. (That is sarcasm in case you didn’t sense it.)
Chiller has grown to become such a huge iconic event. I’ve been going since I was a kid and it really has become a mega-con. While Monster Mania keeps with the horror theme, Chiller is more of a pop culture event. All kinds of stars came out this year including Joan Collins, Andrew McCarthy, and Samantha Fox. Dustin “Screech” Diamond was even there. There were rockers, wrestlers, pinup models, and artists, although I was only there to meet one guest in particular this year.
I didn’t think anything could top last year’s Chiller. You might remember when I was sandwiched in between Deb and Hilly from Weird Science. Basically my dream come true since 1985! This year was no exception. Star of Dallas and A Chorus Line, Audrey Landers, announced to yours truly on Twitter that she’d be in New Jersey for the Chiller convention this Fall. I was super excited because she’s one of my main celebrity crushes of all time. Getting the chance to meet her sounded great to me, and of course shopping around the dealer tables is always my idea of a good time.
Once she arrived at her table, Audrey looked literally dazzling in a green sequin dress. She was sociable and looking as radiant as ever. Of course what impressed me more was that she saw my Sexy Armpit T-Shirt and recognized me right away “Hey I know you from Twitter!” she said. Very good memory on her! After taking a photo, we chatted about her having a role in the new Dallas series on TNT, the big Halloween parties she has back home, and the hurricane that’s threatening the area. From there, it was time to do some shopping.
I made it into the dealer rooms and met up with Jess Rajs from Gorgeous and Gory. The brand new zombie pinup calendar is OUT NOW! The theme this year is mermaids! Get yourself one HERE. Also, the official launch party is at Roxy & Dukes in Dunnellen NJ on November 2nd so we will see you there! It was also awesome to finally meet New Jersey’s own Ryan Scott Weber the director of 2011’s MARY HORROR, which was showing at midnight on Friday and Saturday at Chiller. Review of this cool horror movie is on it’s way here at The Sexy Armpit, so be on the lookout!
No Chiller Recap is complete without a run-down of what I picked up. My “shopping cart” wasn’t too full this year actually – I only bought one thing. I actually bought the first thing that caught my eye which was a Lily Munster T-Shirt. I’d never seen this particular one and I wanted it immediately! It was coincidental because my DVR at home was recording the underwhelming Mockingbird Lane at the same time.
That was the Fall installment of Chiller for me. I had a good time with @exiledinNJ and the new venue was cool. If prior Chiller’s left a bad taste in your mouth, I say give it another go in the Spring time. It’s definitely improved on some of it’s flaws.