Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cinema Wasteland Fall 2012

Over the weekend of October 5th, the fall 2012 edition of the Cinema Wasteland convention was held in Strongsville, Ohio. Cody was there, and can now share a step-by-step account of his journey through the Wasteland.

FRIDAY (October 5th): 

As I pulled into the parking lot of the Strongsville Holiday Inn, which houses Cinema Wasteland, around 4pm on Friday, I immediately got a big grin on my face. Wasteland weekends mean a lot to me at this point, it's awesome to be able to spend some time twice a year in an atmosphere created by mindsets similar to my own, surrounded by people with common interests, celebrating the type of films I love the most, getting to meet people who were involved with them and learn more about the stories behind some of the greats. Cinema Wasteland is a very unique convention, I've never been to another that offers what it does, and when you're a regular, even if you have social issues like me and don't do much interacting with your fellow fans, you really do get a sense that the Wasteland is family.

Entering the Holiday Inn, I picked up my 3 Day Wasteland pass and got my room set up in time for

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

Soon after the doors opened to the 22nd Cinema Wasteland show, I walked in and began my 14th Wasteland experience. I took a casual stroll around the dealer and guest room, looking over the items up for offer, scoping out deals, star gazing at the celebrities. Then I started buying stuff.

Since I had walked around checking things out first, I had an idea of how to spread my money out among the vendors. My first purchases were made at the table of Wasteland mastermind Ken Kish, where I picked up a copy of The Being for $10 and a previously viewed copy of The Dark Half, a George Romero movie that has been absent from my collection for way too long, for $4. I paid with a 20, got my $6 in change, pocketed the 1 and took the 5 directly to a vendor who had a previously viewed copy of Skinned Deep for sale for $5. Then, I went to a vendor who had a previously viewed Blu-ray of Let Me In, the Let the Right One In remake, available for $10. I paid with a 20, got a 10 back, and took that 10 to drive-in movie/horror host Gunga Jim. At the Fall 2011 Wasteland, I watched the episode of his show that he did on The Legend of Boggy Creek, and this time I finally bought a copy of it from him for $7. I got $3 back for my 10, and took that $3 to a vendor who had the DVD of the movie Blood Shack, a.k.a. The Chooper, which features an audio commentary by the legendary Joe Bob Briggs, for sale for $3.

And that's how I spent $39 on six movies within the first hour or so of the show. I then returned to my room briefly to drop off my purchases so I wouldn't have to be hanging on to the movie screening I was going to attend.

6:30pm - MOVIE: Fred Olen Ray’s camp classic, HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, begins in MOVIE ROOM 1.

A private investigator follows the trail of a runaway teenage girl right into the midst of a cult of scantily clad, chainsaw-worshipping women who have Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface, as their high priest.

I had seen this movie once before a long time ago, and in my youth I was foolishly put off by its low budget feel and sexual humor campiness. As I've aged and matured, this has become exactly the type of movie I want to kick back and watch, with a fun sense of humor and bloody breasts galore.

After the movie ended, during the short wait for the Q&A that was to follow, I went back into the dealer room for another walk around. I was drawn to the selection of movies on one vendor's table and decided to take his "buy four, get one free" deal, picking up copies of the 1978 backwoods killers flick Blood Stalkers, the 1976 classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown, 1988's Ghost Town, the VHS cover of which I used to admire in video stores but for some reason I never rented it, and Runaway, the 1984 Michael Crichton film that pits Tom Selleck against Gene Simmons as a villain with an army of mechanical spiders, a movie that I used to watch a lot with my maternal grandmother. For free, I got the Extended Mall Hours fan edit of Dawn of the Dead, which combines all of the footage in the theatrical, extended, and European cuts to bring the movie up to a 155 minute running time.

I returned to Movie Room 1 to see that Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers director Fred Olen Ray had taken a seat at the panel table but they were waiting for the arrival of actresses Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer to start the scheduled Q&A.

I took a seat, but the fact that I had just gotten something Romero Dead related drove me to get back up after only a few seconds and go back into the dealer room to make my most extravagant purchase of the weekend, $25 for one thing: a 3 disc set called Day of the Dead: The Dailies, 4 hours of behind the scenes footage shot by special FX artist Tom Savini himself.

Done buying things for the day, and again hanging onto a full tote bag, I headed back to Movie Room 1 for

8:00pm - GUEST EVENT: Join Fred Olen Ray, Michelle Bauer, and Linnea Quigley for our first guest panel of the weekend as they fill attending fans in on how to be a successful Chainsaw Hooker, working in the horror film industry, and having the distinction of actually being named a "Scream Queen" long before the term quit meaning anything to anyone in MOVIE ROOM 1.

This was a nice hour long talk with three people who have had very prolific careers, primarily working on horror and exploitation films. Given that she's done a lot of nudity in her career, I wasn't expecting to find that Michelle Bauer is a rather reserved "woman of few words", an endearing quality in my book. Linnea Quigley is very cool, I've been a fan of hers since the '80s.

Fred Olen Ray is an interesting guy, a rare director who just wants to do his job and doesn't really want to be a recognized name, which is why he often uses pseudonyms and rarely makes convention appearances. During the panel, he mentioned that the people who own the rights to the George Romero films Day of the Dead and Creepshow recently approached him about turning the properties into TV series. He's currently pitching the shows to networks, including Syfy, a station that he and his son Christopher have both directed Original Movies for.

When the Q&A ended, I headed over to Movie Room 2 to join a screening that was already in progress -

8:45pm - MOVIE: Horror Host regular, Gunga Jim, brings Gunga’s Drive-In to Cinema Wasteland with a screening of THE WILD WOMEN OF WONGO in MOVIE ROOM 2.

The Wild Women of Wongo tells the story of the conflicts that arise when the people of an island inhabited by handsome men and homely women discover that there is another island nearby inhabited by beautiful women and ugly men.

As with the Gunga Jim version of Boggy Creek that I watched last year, his version of Wongo has 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. Wongo is a terrible movie, so it was a perfect subject for Gunga's mockery.

After a brief return to my room, it was time for another movie:

11:00pm - MOVIE: The horror classic, BACK FROM THE DEAD, kicks off Friday nights drive-in movie double feature in MOVIE ROOM 1.

A woman becomes possessed by the spirit of her husband's malicious first wife and her loved ones have to figure out how to reverse the situation before it's too late.

I had never heard of this movie before seeing it on the Wasteland schedule and it turned out to be a quite enjoyable first time viewing.

When Back from the Dead ended and while I waited for the next movie to begin, I made a quick stop at the hotel's computer station to do some linking for the Slither Final Girl Film Club write-up, which had been posted automatically around midnight. With that done, I went back to Movie Room 1.


12:30am - MOVIE: Paul Bartel’s unequaled exploitation-comedy, DEATH RACE 2000, ends the night’s 16mm film screenings on a high note in MOVIE ROOM 1.

In the massively screwed up future of the year 2000, the nation's favorite source of entertainment is the annual Transcontinental Death Race, in which gimmicky racers speed across North America, racking up points by running over pedestrians.

This is one of the greatest, most badass exploitation movies ever made and was a perfect one to view at the Wasteland. Though I've seen it before, I haven't watched it nearly enough. I don't even own it on DVD, an issue I need to fix as soon as possible.

The Death Race 2000 screening ended Wasteland Day 1 for me. I made my way back to my room and into bed. Turning on the TV, I found that one of the HBO channels was showing 28 Days Later, so I left that on and drifted off to sleep as the screams of the infected filled the air.

SATURDAY (October 6th):

Saturday morning, my alarm went off at 9:30am and I got ready to go back to the Wasteland rooms not too long after

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

My first stop on the morning of day 2 was at the table of filmmaker Dustin Mills. I had bought copies of Mills's movies The Puppet Monster Massacre and Zombie A-Hole after a screening of Puppet Monster at the spring show, and was surprised to see that he had another movie available this time. This Wasteland weekend was the first chance to buy a copy of Mills's third feature, Night of the Tentacles, and so I showed support for an Ohioan indie movie maker and purchased my 13th DVD of the weekend. I still need to get around to watching Zombie A-Hole, it might be about time for me to have a Dustin Mills triple feature.

With Night of the Tentacles in my tote bag, I briefly took a seat in Movie Room 1, where a screening was in progress.

- MOVIE: What a way to start your day! Saturday Morning Hangover Theater features Bela Lugosi hamming it up in the not to be missed INVISIBLE GHOST in MOVIE ROOM 1.

This murder mystery with illogical twists stars Bela Lugosi as a man haunted by the memory of his dead wife and features a standout performance by Clarence Muse as Lugosi's butler.

I intended to get an autograph from director Jeff Burr on this day, but he hadn't reached his table yet when I took the morning's first walk around the dealer/guest room. After watching a few minutes of Invisible Ghost, I decided to take another walk around.

Burr was at his table at this point, and I had a very nice interaction with him as I got his signature on a picture from Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, which he directed, a picture that I also got Leatherface actor R.A. Mihailoff to sign several years ago. As I told Burr about watching the movie for the first time on VHS when I was six years old, having had to wait for video even though I had desperately wanted to see the movie theatrically, he threw in a second signed picture for no extra cost. He asked me if I'm looking forward to Texas Chainsaw 3D, which is coming out in January. I am, "I'm always interested in seeing some more Leatherface."

The bonus picture was so large that I had to take it back to my room immediately for its safety. I then returned to Movie Room 1 for another few minutes of Invisible Ghost, but the movie wasn't over yet when I had to go over to the other movie room.

11:45am - MOVIE: Belinda Balaski is a young expecting mother looking to keep her unborn baby away from giant rats, in Bert I. Gordon’s FOOD OF THE GODS, in MOVIE ROOM 2.

This is a pretty cool giant animal creature feature, but during this viewing I did notice one very large problem with it - it appears that a ton of rats were really killed during the production. As optical trickery makes the real live rats appear to be larger than the people they share the screen with, the people blast away at the animals with their guns - and unless it's the most convincing special effect in the movie, these rats are really hit with projectiles that break their skin and blow their heads apart. When the rats get caught in a flood, they appear to really drown, too. I'm not a fan of rats myself, after childhood experience of having to regularly go into a barn that was infested with them, I'm afraid of the little critters, but the idea that they might have been killed just for a movie is still troubling to me.

When the movie ended, I went over to

1:15pm - GUEST EVENT: Join Bert I. Gordon and Belinda Balaski after the FOOD OF THE GODS screening to talk movie mayhem with attending fans in MOVIE ROOM 1.

A good Q&A session that covered Gordon's career as a writer/producer/director that spanned from 1955 to 1990, and actress Balaski's experiences working on films such as Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, Piranha (1978), The Howling, and of course The Food of the Gods.

I did not bring up the rat deaths.

At the end of the Q&A, I had an hour before the next panel I wanted to attend, so I decided to fill that time by going to the hotel restaurant for my one Wasteland meal. I was going to wait until after the 42nd Street Pete panel ended at 5:30, but getting to eat three hours early wasn't such a bad turn of events.

With my stomach filled, I was ready for

3:15pm - GUEST EVENT: We’re gathering up Reb Brown, James Hampton, and Art Hindle to celebrate the character actor, or as we like to call them, the unsung heros of TV and film. Let’s see what stories we can pull out of the guys in MOVIE ROOM 1.

It was an interesting hour spent with these three actors. Art Hindle talked about working on movies like Black Christmas, The Octagon, Porky's, The Brood, and the fact that David Cronenberg actually has a good sense of humor. Reb Brown, the '70s TV movie Captain America, talked a bit about his first film, Sssssss, and the Cage movies, but seemed to spend the most time on Uncommon Valor. James Hampton work covered included F Troop, The Longest Yard (1974), The Cat from Outer Space, and Sling Blade, but Hampton did the least amount of talking of the three. At this age, he seems to be rather scattered, and after one answer he passed the talking off to one of his other panelists with "Now somebody say something that knows what's going on."

As the actors exited the room after the Q&A, I nodded at Reb Brown and he nodded back and added to the acknowledgment with a wink. For me, that ranks up there in coolness with the time I shook hands with Fred Williamson.

It wasn't a long wait before the next panel began:

4:30pm - GUEST EVENT: 42nd STREET PETE’S GRINDHOUSE begins in MOVIE ROOM 1. Join host, 42nd Street Pete and his special guest, Sharon Mitchell, as they talk about Sharon’s career in both the adult film industry as well as her more mainstream film roles and passion for helping people with various dependancies.

Although some in the audience, particularly females, seem to get a bit uptight during the porn star panels, I find them to be pretty interesting. As Sharon Mitchell discussed her time in porn, beginning in the '70s and continuing on into the '80s, I was reminded of Boogie Nights by the way she put some things. In the '70s, the porn stars were real actors who did stage plays between movies, the movies were real movies with stories and characters, they were shot on film and projected in theatres. It was a legitimate art form. Then it all went downhill at the dawn of the video era.

Overheard in the audience: "She says the p-word like it's nothing!"

I had an hour to kill before the next event on my schedule, and spent it by walking around the dealer/guest room and then hanging out in my room for a little while. When the hour was almost up, I went to Movie Room 2.

6:30pm - MOVIE & GUEST INTRO: Jeff Burr’s LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 begins in MOVIE ROOM 2. We’ll either have director Jeff Burr out to introduce the film, or have him out after the credits roll for a little talk. Stay tuned to find out which Jeff prefers as we near show time.

While sitting in the room waiting for the show to start, I was glad to hear a fellow audience member state that she loves Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4: The Next Generation, especially Matthew McConaughey's performance in it. Though it's certainly a flawed movie, I have a soft spot for TCM4, so I liked hearing it get some rare praise.

Jeff Burr soon arrived in the room and sat down for an interview with Wasteland panel co-moderator Art Ettinger of Ultra Violent Magazine. Burr is obviously an awesome guy, my earlier interaction with him and this interview were the highlights of the weekend for me. Burr's had a pretty cool directing career as well, mixing smaller personal films with work-for-hire horror sequels like Stepfather II, Puppet Master 4 and 5, Pumpkinhead 2, and of course TCM3. I'd be up for a career like that.

Following the interview, which lasted around 40 minutes or so, the movie began. This was the screening that I was most looking forward to, a chance to watch TCM3 with a Wasteland crowd, and I enjoyed this viewing of the film very much.

TCM3 was a New Line Cinema production, the studio's attempt to turn Chainsaw into their new horror franchise as the fire was dying down on the Nightmare on Elm Street series. They even attempted to make Leatherface's signature weapon more iconic by giving him a chrome chainsaw with the enscription "The Saw is Family". New Line's franchise intentions didn't pan out, though they'd get another chance with the series when they distributed Platinum Dunes' TCM remake and its prequel a decade later, but TCM3's troubled production still resulted in a movie that's a lot of fun and I have a lot of nostalgic attachment to it. I still remember anxiously looking forward to the movie's release in 1990, the first issues of Fangoria I ever bought featured screenwriter David J. Schow's journals from the making of the movie and I read those articles over and over. Later in the '90s, I would have a triple feature of the first three TCM movies (4 hadn't come out yet) every day after school. The Texas Chainsaw movies are very important to me.

When TCM3 ended, I remained in the room for

8:45pm - MOVIE: WITCH’S BREW begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

This was an entertaining indie movie about a cursed batch of home brewed beer and the horrific fates that befall the people who are unlucky enough to get a sip of it.

Writer/director Chris LaMartina was in attendance, wearing a Harold & Maude hoodie that a girl I used to know would've loved. He stood at the back of the room for much of the movie, watching along with us, laughing when the audience groaned at the death of a liked character.

Following Witch's Brew, I stepped out of the movie room and into the party atmosphere of a Saturday night at Cinema Wasteland.

At a point, I heard the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd come from the bar area, and realized there always seems to be some Skynyrd at some point during a Wasteland weekend.

I had planned to check out the 10:30 screening of Nailbiter in Movie Room 2 and the midnight showing of Chesty Anderson, U.S. Navy in Movie Room 1, but instead just ended up hanging out in the lobby and lounge areas of the hotel for around three hours. Among the crowd of socializers, I saw Jeff Burr hanging out at a table of indie filmmakers - Chris LaMartina, Henrique Couto, Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best. That's a group I would've liked to join, but I've got social anxiety and don't want to intrude.

My time in the party world was elongated by the fact that I had to wait quite a while for the computer station to become available. When the computer was free, I got online to do some linking to the Cat People (1942) Final Girl Film Club article that had been automatically posted around midnight. That done, I headed to my room.

On the way back to my room, I saw that the partying had already caused someone to leave a puddle of puke in the first floor hallway. When I reached my elevator, after pushing the call button, I noticed there was blood smeared around the button panel and a little bit on the button itself. When I got inside the elevator, I saw that there was blood smeared on the button for my floor as well. That button I pressed with my shoe. If I were anywhere else other than Cinema Wasteland, especially Wasteland on a Saturday night, when several people were in costumes coated with fake blood, the sight of blood on the elevator buttons would've been more alarming. Even so, my OCD did cause me to wonder if I might have gotten some Hepatitis on my hand when I pressed that blood-dabbed call button.

Going to bed, I turned on HBO and found that the 2011 prequel to The Thing was on, so I drifted off to sleep as the screams of the infected filled the air.

SUNDAY (October 7th):

Checkout time was drawing near soon after I woke up on Sunday morning, so I packed up my stuff and checked out of my room before going straight to Movie Room 1.


11:30am - MOVIE: MACON COUNTY LINE returns to kick off the days 16mm film screenings in MOVIE ROOM 1.

A drive-in classic co-written and produced by and co-starring Max Baer, Jr., best known as Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies. Baer came up with the story for this film and started writing it on the backs of his Hillbillies scripts during breaks on set. The story follows two young men and the female hitchhiker they pick up while taking a road trip through the American South in the 1950s. Through misunderstandings and prejudice, the travellers end up on the bad side of a small town cop (Baer).

I had seen this movie once before but hadn't really connected with it. That wasn't the case this time. This time, it was the perfect film at the perfect moment, viewed under the perfect conditions. I loved it.

The screening of Macon County Line was the end of my 14th Wasteland experience. After the movie ended, I took one last walk around the dealer/guest room, then exited the Holiday Inn.

I rode back home through a beautiful fall countryside, a sight that, not surprisingly, really put me in the mood to watch some FleshEater. By that night, I was starting to feel a little off, and when I woke up the next morning, I had a full-fledged head cold.

So the final list of things I got at Cinema Wasteland 22: 13 DVDs, 2 items signed by Jeff Burr, and a cold.

As always, a huge thanks to Ken Kish for creating Cinema Wasteland and continuing to organize these awesome events, allowing me to have these weekend experiences twice a year. I was very happy to receive an e-mail recently announcing the dates for future Wastelands through 2016. I will be at every one of those shows if I have anything to say about it, and hopefully beyond, for as long as the Wasteland exists.

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