Monday, October 3, 2011

Cinema Wasteland Fall 2011

The fall 2011 edition of the Cinema Wasteland convention was held in Strongsville, Ohio this past weekend. Cody was there, and has returned to share a step-by-step account of one fan's experience.

Cinema Wasteland celebrated a big anniversary this time, as it was the 20th edition of the show. In a convention rarity, the Wasteland has never had to change venues, it's been at the Strongsville Holiday Inn since the beginning. It's a perfect match because as far I'm concerned, out of all of the horror conventions I've been to, Cinema Wasteland easily has the best layout.

This show was the 12th that I've attended and at this point the Wasteland feels like home to me.


I arrived at the hotel a little after 4. Picked up my 3-Day Pass badge, got my room set up, put some flyers out for the Shock Around the Clock marathon, then

4:30pm - All 3-Day Pass holders admitted.

Soon after the doors opened, I went into the dealer and guest room to take a look around. I came with the intention of taking it a bit easier than usual when it came to DVD purchases. September had been costlier than expected and I made some bad deals at the last couple conventions I attended, so this time I was going to practice a bit more self control.

Then I reached the Troma table. I collect Lloyd Kaufman's "Your Own Damn Movie" books, so I had to get a copy of $ell Your Own Damn Movie. And there were fresh copies of his first book, All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger, so I picked that up as well. The Produce Your Own Damn Movie DVD set sounded promising, so I added that to the stack. I had watched the movie Luther the Geek for the first time last October and enjoyed it, and had recently realized that it was written/directed by the same man who wrote/produced The Children (1980) (which I bought from Troma at the spring Wasteland), so I got that as well. I almost picked up the triple pack of Blades/Blood Hook/Zombie Island Massacre, but then self control stepped in. So I stopped at 2 DVDs and 2 books, a total of $75.

The director of new Troma release Heavy Mental was at the table handing out numbered cards for a raffle of sorts. Prizes would be given out at the screening of Heavy Mental, or I could stop by the table on Sunday to see if I won anything. The number on the card I received was the perfect number, the number of my favorite horror franchise, lucky number 13. I was even wearing a Friday the 13th shirt at the time.

I looked around the room some more and noticed that John Russo was selling copies of his movie Dark Craving, a.k.a. Heartstopper (1991). I've long been obsessed with the career of George Romero and by extension the careers of his collaborators. That obsession has been particularly intense over the past year and I have never seen Dark Craving, so I had to buy it.

As I make my purchase, I witness Night of the Living Dead cast member George Kosana, the man who uttered the famous line "They're dead, they're all messed up.", inform a passing girl, "I'm the Sheriff."

Russo asks me if I'd like him to sign my copy of Dark Craving and I do. He pulls out a pocket knife and goes to work on removing the three security stickers from the case so he can get to the cover. It takes a while. Russo starts by commenting on how ridiculous it is to have so many stickers and works up to calling them a pain in the ass and singling one of the stickers out as a son of a bitch. He jokingly says that the only reason I want him to sign it is so that I don't have to deal with the stickers myself. But eventually, the stickers are removed, I get the personalized signature and head off with my copy of Dark Craving.

With the purchases from Troma and Russo, I have spent $95 within forty-five minutes of the doors opening. I retreat to my room to put things away and avoid spending more money. For now.

6:15pm - MOVIE: Frank Henenlotter’s BASKET CASE begins in MOVIE ROOM 1.

A naive young man named Duane comes to New York City carrying a roll of cash and a large wicker basket. What's in the basket? It's his monstrous twin brother Belial, who he was formerly conjoined with and has a telepathic connection to. Belial has revenge plans and jealousy issues, which get the brothers into all sorts of horrible situations.

Basket Case is an awesome early '80s indie with some fantastic moments of homemade stop motion animation.

As they open their large bottles of beer, I see that a couple guys sitting in front of me have brought their own bottle openers to the Wasteland. The party convention indeed.

8:00pm - GUEST EVENT: Join director Frank Henenlotter, along with all of our BASKET CASE related guests, (Gabe Bartalos, Beverly Bonner, John Caglione, David Emge, and Kevin Van Hentenryck), to discuss all things BC after the movie’s screening for the first of two big Henenlotter Film Panels this weekend in MOVIE ROOM 1.

The Q&A that followed the awesome film was awesome itself. Frank Henenlotter is a great storyteller and he had a lot of very interesting, entertaining stories to tell.

Unfortunately, I had to leave a few minutes before the end of the panel so I could make it over to

9:00pm - MOVIE EVENT: Indiana’s very own Gunga Jim invites you to check out THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK as part of Gunga’s Drive-In "Live" in MOVIE ROOM 2.

I arrived in Movie Room 2 just in time for the end of horror host Gunga Jim's introduction of the screening.

The Gunga Jim version of The Legend of Boggy Creek was then shown, which is the movie in its entirety playing in the middle of an image that makes it look like it's being shown on a drive-in screen. Sound effects and comments are added to the soundtrack to give it a mocking Mystery Science Theatre 3000 sort of treatment, and there are a couple intermissions for comedic shenanigans. It was a fun show.

The Legend of Boggy Creek itself is not exactly a thrilling tale. It picks up toward the end, but the movie is better to watch if you're just in the mood to see a documentary on some backwoods folks.

11:00pm - MOVIE: DARK INTRUDER kicks off a classic 16mm drive-in double feature in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Dark Intruder started out as an hour long pilot for a TV show called The Black Cloak, but when the show wasn't picked up it was turned into a theatrical release. Leslie Nielsen stars as a Sherlock Holmes type with a little person servant and he takes up the task of investigating Jack the Ripper-esque murders being committed by a clawed killer in 1890 San Francisco.

This movie seems to have been forgotten in general, I had never heard of it before seeing it on the Wasteland schedule, but this turned out to be a great little occult mystery and a clever choice to show this weekend, as there is a touch of Basket Case to the story.

12:30am - MOVIE: BAD BIOLOGY, the latest twisted epic from Frank Henenlotter rounds out the nights screening in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Last October, I watched 321 horror movies. Bad Biology was one of them, one of many that I watched for the first time during the challenge, and at the end of month I named it as my Best First Time Viewing.

Bad Biology tells the story of a guy with a giant mutated penis, a girl with seven clits, and her search for a special someone. I couldn't resist the opportunity to watch the movie with a group of people, a few dozen over the course of the movie. There were some walk-outs, lots of laughs and smiles brought to faces by the film's insanity. I really enjoy this crazy flick.

And then I returned to my room and nestled all snug in my bed while visions of dick monsters danced in my head.


10:00am - Doors Open for all pass holders.

10:30am - MOVIE: Saturday Morning Hangover Theater features the silver-masked Mexican wrestling hero, El Santo, trying to solve a mystery between wrestling matches in SANTO IN THE WAX MUSEUM, in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Santo en el museo de cera was made in Mexico and in the English version the lead character has been renamed Samson, but the crowds at his wrestling matches still chant for Santo.

It's an entertaining, very goofy movie with some fun fight scenes and a nice plot for the villain. A horror movie that's safe for kids of all ages to watch on a Saturday morning.

Near the end, a bad guy throws a knife into Santo's back and he collapses to the ground as the criminals escape. Santo's left in a bad spot when the final reel begins... And unfortunately, when the projectionist put on the final reel, instead of containing the last 20 minutes of the movie, this reel took us back to minute 30 or so and showed us the middle section of the movie all over again. Either there was a mix-up with the 16mm film reels, or the English version of this movie is actually an endless loop. As one viewer said while exiting, "We'll never know if he survived that stab wound."

I did manage to find a copy of the movie so that I could watch the last 20 minutes when I returned home on Sunday, but it was in the original Spanish so you could count on dos manos how many words I understood.

To add to the troubles, this screening of Santo/Samson was running about 20 minutes late, into the time scheduled for Son of Ghoul to show Three Stooges shorts. Several people got very restless, having to wait to get their Stooges fix.

During the replayed section of the movie, I stepped out into the dealer/guest room and spotted a copy of Tim Rotter's shot-on-VHS movie Killing Spree on sale for $5. Killing Spree had just come up in a conversation I had with Jay Burleson a few weeks ago, since he's currently shooting a movie on VHS himself.

I watched Killing Spree for the first time on Netflix Instant last October and it stuck in my mind as a bit of cheap, gory insanity. I checked out the trailer on YouTube while talking to Jay and watching that made me want to buy the DVD, especially since the movie isn't available on Netflix at all anymore. Now was my chance, and for a good price.

I took my newly acquired copy of Killing Spree back to my room and got my copy of Crystal Lake Memories out to take back to the guest room. I've gotten a lot of signatures in this book, so with two Friday the 13th makeup artists in attendance this was an opportunity to get a couple more.

My first stop was at the table of John Caglione Jr., who was stepping into the convention world for the first time at this Cinema Wasteland. He got his start working as a makeup assistant on Friday the 13th Part 2 and has gone on to have a very successful career, including winning an Oscar for his work on Dick Tracy and doing the makeup for The Joker in The Dark Knight. I got him to sign the F13 2 section of my Crystal Lake Memories and this is one interaction that I feel like I totally flubbed.

Caglione seemed like a really nice, down-to-earth guy, introducing himself to me as "Johnny". The sign on his table listing his rates also mentioned that "Stories are free", and he seemed willing to tell some F13 2 stories, saying "That was fun to work on." Rather than pursue the stories, I just nodded an acknowledgment that it must have been. I'm an awkward person at all times, it takes effort to keep myself from being extremely awkward. I failed on doing that here. I'm also not very inquisitive, so no specific questions came to mind, though if I really expressed what I would want to know about working on an F13 it would be a request to "Tell me everything!" But that wouldn't work. So I got Caglione's signature and moved on while mentally kicking myself.

I went over to the table of Gabe Bartalos. Bartalos has also done some great work throughout his career, including being the artist who did Warwick Davis's makeup for most of the Leprechaun movies. I only had Crystal Lake Memories for him to sign this time, but if I meet him again I need to add his signature to my Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 mini-poster. Like Caglione, Bartalos was a cool guy and during this interaction I actually spoke a few lines.

1:30pm - MOVIE: Frank Henenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER begins. Grab yourself a date and check it out in MOVIE ROOM 1.

After a lawnmower accident mulches up every bit of his fiancee except her head, amateur scientist Jeffrey Franken sets out to assemble a new body for her, made from pieces of hookers. This is a really fun movie.

3:15pm - GUEST EVENT: It’s time for our second Frank Henenlotter Film Panel of the weekend when we gather up Frank Henenlotter, Gabe Bartalos, Charlotte Kemp, James Lorinz, and Anthony Sneed to talk about everything except the Basket Case films (since we did that last night), in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Another entertaining Q&A from Henenlotter and cohorts, and this time I was able to stay through the whole thing.

4:45pm - GUEST EVENT: It’s time for 42nd Street Pete’s continuing GRINDHOUSE MOVIE PANEL.

There had been a couple others connected to the porn industry booked for the show who were going to join 42nd Street Pete on this panel, but when the time arrived only Ginger Lynn was there. And that was fine, as she carried this hour long chat very well. She seems like a good, cool person and she's looking to do more mainstream work. Cast her!

After this panel, I went over to the hotel restaurant for my one Wasteland meal.

Then I went back to the dealer/guest room for a while, looking around. As I passed George Kosana's table, he told me "I'm the Sheriff. Did you see the banner behind me? That's me." I felt slightly guilty for not getting something signed.

I stayed in the room until 7, which is when:

7:00pm - The DEALER and GUEST ROOM closes for the night, but we can almost guarantee you that the late night shenanigans will keep most of you awake long past your usual bed time.

I went up to my room for a while, meaning to go down to Movie Room 1 at 8:00pm to see actress Beverly Bonner open the Ghastlee Night at the Movies with some stand-up. But I missed it.

Going to Movie Room 2 a little after 9, I see Gabe Bartalos coming out of the room after the screening of Bill Zebub's movie Antfarm Dickhole. Pretty cool that Bartalos checked that out.

9:15pm - MOVIE: It’s the end of the world as we know it when THE COLLAPSED begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

A family struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

I found this movie to be extremely dull, I just couldn't get into it at all. I stayed in the room, but I was so disinterested in the movie that I hooked a single earbud to my phone and listened to the Tell 'Em Steve-Dave podcast in one ear while watching the screen. The podcast was quiet enough that it could only be heard in my ear and no one else noticed, I promise.

10:45pm - MOVIE: BRAIN DAMAGE continues our Frank Henenlotter film screenings for the weekend in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Another fun, weird, crazy Henenlotter movie, this one about a talking parasite who attaches itself to a young man and eats the brains of anyone unlucky enough to get too close to them, then giving the guy some compensation by secreting a blue drug-like goop into him.

Some people in the crowd were kind of loud and rowdy during Brain Damage, but I didn't pay much attention. They were enjoying the movie and laughing along with it, so it was easier to let it pass. In an environment like this, with a movie that's been around for a couple decades, I'm all for audience participation. Maybe it was a bit much, but whatever. Someone else didn't let it slide so easily, and at a point told them to shut up. Someone was then called a fat bitch. Things were momentarily uncomfortable in there.

12:15am - MOVIE: 555, the campy and low budget 80’s slasher classic is a great way to end the night’s screenings in MOVIE ROOM 2.

This was my most highly anticipated screening of the weekend. If the crowd at Brain Damage was rowdy, the one at 555 was insane. And mostly drunk. Those expecting a quiet, reverent viewing of this movie left quickly. There were lots of very loud comments and jokes, and this time it was an open mocking of the movie rather than laughing with the movie. And in this case, that was fine too, because this shot-on-VHS slasher deserved it.

The guy who now owns the rights to the movie - having received them in exchange for a diesel boat motor - was in the room and went along with it. After spending years of his life getting a re-release together, the DVD officially went on sale at the Wasteland.

Gabe Bartalos stopped by the screening a couple times, sitting just a few seats over from me to listen to a few minutes of the movie mocking.

When 555 ended, I felt like I was hopped up on goofballs. I felt like my brain was dying. I stumbled back to my room, alternately laughing and saying "Oh my God" and "What the f---".

555 was awful, and I needed to buy a copy of it in the morning. I have a sickness that way.


11:00am - Doors open for all pass holders.

I went down to the dealer/guest room and bought my copy of 555. I had said that I felt like my brain was dying after watching 555, I didn't notice until later in the day that there is a warning on the back of the DVD: "CAUTION: Viewing may cause severe damage to your brain cells."

Waking up on Sunday morning, I felt toasted. I could barely think, I could barely speak. You'd think I was one of the people who had spent the last two days partying. With a clearer mind, it occurs to me that my mental fog that morning might have been a residual effect from the 555 viewing.

NOON - MOVIE: THE CREMATORS are back to wreck havoc in MOVIE ROOM 1.

A meteor that fell to Earth three hundred years ago has now been stirred up from its watery resting place. The large, flaming ball rolls around the oceanside, burning up everything in its path and reducing people into adorable human-shaped piles of ash that look like they were fashioned by children, which are then blown away in the breeze. Characters refer to the meteor as a Dune Roller, I call it a Bay City Roller.

It's a 75 minute helping of cinematic cheese that I enjoyed. Most of the time.

After The Cremators, I take one last walk around the dealer/guest room before it's time for me to go home. I regret that I didn't get to watch Willard at either of its screenings, but that's how things worked out.

I see that the Cujo Blu-Ray is selling for $10 on the Kish table, and I can't pass that up. I make my last purchase of the show.

During my last walk around, I stop at John Russo's table to look at some stuff that he has newly added. Russo isn't there at the moment, but George Kosana is at his table next to Russo's. I overhear Kosana tell a young couple "I'm the Sheriff" while directing their eyes to the banner behind him.

I make my way out of the room. My 12th Cinema Wasteland/my stay at the 20th Cinema Wasteland had come to an end... And I forgot to stop by the Troma table to see if I won anything in that raffle. Damn.

Thanks to Ken Kish for creating and organizing, and thanks to the Holiday Inn for housing the madness every time.


  1. LOL @ Bad Biology! Wow! That's creative!

    It sounds like you had an awesome time, a lot of great movies! I still need to check out Frankenhooker.

  2. Glad you liked the 555 screening - The ultra rowdy actions were not planned as the core gang of Vagrants had no intentions of going to 555. It was a very last minute decision to attend the screening and it was a blast for us. Massacre Video even came up and thanked us personally for adding some life to the flick.