Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cinema Wasteland Fall 2014

The fall 2014 edition of the Cinema Wasteland convention was held in Strongsville, Ohio over the first weekend of October. Cody was there, and this is how he spent his Wasteland weekend:

For one weekend every April and October, the Holiday Inn in Strongsville (Cleveland area), Ohio is taken over by the Cinema Wasteland Movie and Memorabilia Expo, a show where fans get together to celebrate films of the drive-in/grindhouse era and style, meet celebrity guests, socialize with people who have common interests, and in many cases party hard. While the central genre focused on is horror, others that were popular at midwest drive-ins and on New York's 42nd Street back in the day also get their representation at the convention, from spaghetti westerns and martial arts movies to ribald comedies and sci-fi. 

A large ballroom serves as the guest/dealer room, packed with rows and rows of tables filled with DVDs, magazine back issues, movie T-shirts, paintings, handmade trinkets, etc. Off to the side of the ballroom there are two smaller rooms that serve as the venues for a nearly nonstop schedule of movie screenings and Q&A panels.

Although the show began in 2000, I have only been attending since the Spring 2006 edition, when the Wasteland came to my attention by booking nearly every primary performer to have portrayed the Friday the 13th franchise's Jason Voorhees up to that point. I was instantly smitten with the atmosphere of the show and have attended every one of them since. At first, I would just stop by the convention for one day, but as of the Fall 2009 show I began staying for the entire weekend.

The twenty-sixth edition of Cinema Wasteland was held over the October 3rd - 5th weekend, and I was there once again, attending a Wasteland for the eighteenth time.

Given that there's always something going on simultaneously in both movie rooms, it's impossible for one person to cover every aspect of any given Wasteland. Here, working from the program schedule, I have done my best to compile a report on my personal experience at the Fall 2014 show.

FRIDAY (October 3rd):

With check-in time for my room being 4pm, I arrived at the Strongsville Holiday Inn just before 4. I got my room set up, filled my cooler containing the weekend's beverages (just water and Diet Dr. Pepper; Cinema Wasteland is known as The Party Convention, but I don't partake in those shenanigans) with ice, and watched the clock. Single Day Pass holders would be able to enter the convention at 5pm, but those attending for the whole weekend get a half hour headstart.

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

When 4:30 rolled around, I put the lanyard holding my 3-Day Pass around my neck and strolled back into the Wasteland.

Cinema Wasteland is a smaller affair than some other horror conventions out there. I've gone to shows where you need a map to get around from room to room and where the draw of actors from The Walking Dead fills the place to capacity, and though they're fun for a quick walk around to get autographs and buy some stuff, they don't have the same feeling as a Wasteland. Other places feel a lot more impersonal, while the motto of Cinema Wasteland is, "The Wasteland is family." You enter its atmosphere and it's like you've arrived at a home away from home.

Ken Kish, the man who runs the show, has no interest in booking big names just to get more people shuffling through the ballroom, and he has conditions that exclude some of the guests other shows thrive on. Examples being, he won't book anyone who's primarily known for being in a modern remake, and (although one or two have gotten through in the past) he doesn't book celebrities who charge more than $20 for their signature. The guests who are featured at the Wasteland may not always be household names, but they have strong genre cred, they have toiled in the B-movie trenches, and they're happy to interact with fans while charging reasonable prices.

Lately my obsession with the Friday the 13th series has led me to sifting through back issues of Fangoria, seeking out every issue with articles on the F13 movies, so my first stop this show was at the table of a dealer from whom I have previously purchased several Fangos from the '80s. With no more issues about the franchise's '80s entries to choose from in the dealer's selection, I ended up buying some Fangorias that covered 1993's Jason Goes to Hell and 2002's Jason X, while also picking up a couple issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland that had cover stories on the original Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part III.

While I was going through magazines for issues with Jason Voorhees in them, fellow Wasteland regular Jason Siegel caught up with me to say hello and introduce me to his wife Tina.

$85 worth of magazines later, I moved on from that dealer's table and took a walk around the rest of the ballroom, scoping out potential purchases and getting a look at the celebrity guests. Among them were Hammer Film veterans Veronica Carlson, Caroline Munro, and Martine Bewsick (Munro and Beswick were also Bond girls), Geretta Geretta of the '85 film Demons, Kyra Schon from the original Night of the Living Dead, Frankenhooker Patty Mullen, frequent John Waters collaborator Mink Stole, Maniac Cop himself Robert Z'Dar, and porn stars Amber Lynn and Joanna Angel, representing the fact that hardcore films were shown at grindhouses, too.

One guest of honor was unable to make it to the show - filmmaker Greydon Clark, who racked up a slew of credits between 1969 and 1998. Suffering from a back injury, Clark had to cancel his appearance with just a couple days notice, but the screenings in Movie Room 1 still began with a double feature of his directorial work.

5:15pm - MOVIE: Greydon Clark's SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS kicks off the weekend screenings in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Released in 1977, this very silly, low budget, extremely '70s movie was Clark's attempt to cash in on how popular Satan-based horror had been at the box office throughout the decade. It's no Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, or The Omen, but Satan's Cheerleaders, about a squad of high school cheerleaders who get mixed up with a rural cult after being abducted by a pervy janitor, is highly entertaining, with a good sense of humor about itself.

6:45pm - MOVIE: WITHOUT WARNING rounds out our Greydon Clark double feature in MOVIE ROOM 1.

I'm not sure whether Clark's Without Warning (1980) is better known for being a "skeleton in the closet" for cast members David Caruso, Martin Landau, and Jack Palance, or for being a precursor to Predator. Kevin Peter Hall, who would go on to play the Predator, even plays the human-hunting alien in this movie, picking off camping youths and whoever else enters the forest it currently inhabits by attaching disc-shaped parasites to them.

I only remained in the screening room for about 30 minutes of Without Warning, which was long enough to see Cameron Mitchell and Larry Storch fall prey to the alien, before I had to move on to a different screening I wanted to catch.

I took a scenic route through the guest/dealer room from Movie Room 1 over to Movie Room 2, stopping along the way to pick up a Blu-ray copy of The Legend of Billie Jean and a triple feature of movies by H.B. Halicki, the stuntman/filmmaker behind the original Gone in 60 Seconds. This DVD set contains The Junkman, Deadline Auto Theft, and Gone in 60 Seconds 2.

To make up for his absence, Greydon Clark had sent over signed copies of his book "On the Cheap: My Life in Low Budget Filmmaking". I stopped by Ken Kish's dealer table to pick up a copy of "On the Cheap", and with that purchase also got Without Warning on Blu-ray and Satan's Cheerleaders on DVD for $10 each.

7:30pm - MOVIE: Horror Host regular, Gunga Jim, brings Gunga's Drive-In to Cinema Wasteland with a screening of DRIVE-IN MASSACRE in MOVIE ROOM 2.

For the most part, 1977's Drive-In Massacre is rather terrible, reaching a 74 minute running time only by including an amazing amount of filler, like wasting time watching cars park in the drive-in where a sword-wielding maniac keeps dispatching viewers mid-movie.

Luckily, the movie was made tolerable for this screening by the treatment given to it by Gunga Jim. Every movie featured on Gunga Jim's show have had sound effects and mocking comments by the host added over the original soundtrack, it's a show sort of in the vein of Mystery Science Theater 3000, so sitting through the awful movies he tends to pick isn't as painful as they would be otherwise.

Unfortunately, I had to exit the screening about 20 minutes early to get over to the next event I wanted to attend, but I did score a free bloody tie from Gunga Jim while I was in the room.

8:30pm - GUEST: Greydon Clark joins fans after the WITHOUT WARNING screening for our first Guest Talk of the weekend in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Since Greydon Clark had been forced to cancel his appearance at the show, his scheduled Q&A was replaced by an impromptu panel where Ken Kish and Art Ettinger of Ultra Violent magazine interviewed a trio of special effects artists who were in attendance; Dean Gates, whose credits include George A. Romero's Day of the Dead, Maniac Cop 2, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, and some Star Trek; Jerami Cruise, best known for providing the extreme gore of the Toe Tag Pictures releases; and Tom Sullivan, who did the effects on Sam Raimi's debut feature The Evil Dead, and who always has his own room at every Cinema Wasteland, right across the hall from Movie Room 1.

This panel provided a very interesting overview of the artists' careers and insight into what it's like to be the person tasked with figuring out how to bring a project's monsters, creatures, and violent acts to the screen. They discussed how directors should work with their FX guys (either tell them exactly what you want or give them free reign, but don't waste time and money having them make multiple options for you to choose from), the effects they're most proud of, best and worst experiences they've had on set, and how some of their effects were done.

This panel was put together at the last second, but it turned out to be one of the weekend's highlights.

The panel ended at around 9:30, just thirty minutes before the guest/dealer room would be closing for the night, so afterward I took one last walk around the ballroom. Then I headed up to my room and spent the hour plus wait until the next event I wanted to attend chatting with my girlfriend and having my first and last meal of the day.

11:00pm - MOVIE: Camp sci-fi fun when EVILS OF THE NIGHT begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

It's sort of a slasher with a sci-fi twist (you can tell the villains are aliens because they wear clothes that have never been in fashion on Earth), but I couldn't help but view Evils of the Night (1985) as anything short of a tragedy. It was tragic to see Neville Brand, Aldo Ray, Tina Louise, John Carradine, and Julie Newmar having to work in this movie, a terrible attempt to cash in on what was popular in horror at the time while at the same time displaying such lasciviousness that the filmmakers might as well have just gone ahead with making a hardcore porn movie instead. They cast porn stars Amber Lynn, Crystal Breeze, and Jerry Butler, so why hold back?

12:30am - MOVIE: Ohio lensed horror film, KANDIE LAND, wraps up the screenings for the night in MOVIE ROOM 2.

After Evils of the Night mercifully came to a conclusion, I stuck around to catch this indie slasher about a group of models who venture into the wilderness for a photo shoot and end up getting picked off one-by-one by a local legend. I love the classic slashers, but this modern day variation where the killers tie their victims up to torture them to death really isn't for me. Just slash 'em with a machete and let's get on with it.

By the time Kandie Land ended, it was 2am and I was exhausted. I stumbled back to my room, sent the girlfriend a goodnight, and collapsed into bed.

SATURDAY (October 4th):

After waking up and making use of the awesome coconut lime verbena shampoo and lotion the Holiday Inn provides, I made my way downstairs and reached the convention after the doors opened at 10am, but right on time to watch a movie.

10:30am - MOVIE: Saturday Morning Hangover Theater features THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, with Vincent Price, on 16mm film, in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend" has been since been adapted into the films The Omega Man (1971) and I Am Legend (2007), but its first cinematic adaptation, this 1964 black and white classic, remains the most faithful and is by far my favorite of the bunch. 

Once The Last Man on Earth ended, I took a walk around the guest/dealer room, but with over an hour to kill I spent most of that time back in my room, texting and having a lunch of leftovers.

1:30pm - MOVIE & GUEST: Join Geretta Geretta as she talks about her work in Italian cult films and introduces Lamberto Bava’s gory horror classic, DEMONS, in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Geretta Geretta's talk with interviewer Art Ettinger was quite interesting, as I came to know a good deal about an actress I didn't know much about prior. She told the story of how she, as a girl from Oregon, took a one-way flight to Italy with the intention of going to college, and upon finding that she couldn't attend the college because she didn't speak Italian, ended up acting in Italian-made movies at a time when foreigners were getting paid about three times more than local actors. She starred in B-movies everyone involved was convinced were A pictures and worked with the likes of Lucio Fulci, Bruno Mattei, and Joe D'Amato, while having to turn down Federico Fellini.

The Q&A led into a screening of the Dario Argento co-scripted, rock 'n' roll fuelled Demons, about an audience getting trapped in a movie theatre by the titular monsters. Demons is a whole lot of fun, one of my '80s favorites. But this particular Wasteland was a very packed show, and a lot of things I wanted to attend overlapped with each other. The Demons screening was another that I had to leave early.

3:15pm - GUEST EVENT: Our lovely ladies of Hammer Horror: Martine Beswick, Veronica Carlson, and Caroline Munro, take the stage to talk all things fantasy and horror in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Sitting in the very back of the packed room during this panel, I really couldn't hear it well enough to be fully engrossed. I can tell you that Caroline Munro is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and this Q&A did amusingly veer into rather non-Wastelandian territory as the actresses gushed over Bambi and shared memories of being in Christmas plays - Carlson and Beswick both played Mary in their youth, while Munro was a little Jesus Christ.

The Hammer veterans gave their seal of approval to the modern Hammer release The Woman in Black, saying it felt like classic Hammer and that they could imagine Ralph Bates in the role that was played by Daniel Radcliffe.

Once again, I had to leave an event early to make it over to another one.


Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the filmmakers and cast who were in attendance, the screening of Revenge of the Spacemen was completely packed, so much so that I had to turn around and exit the room as soon as I entered. Interested in watching the movie anyway, I would later purchase a DVD copy at the director's dealer table for $10.

Since I couldn't watch Revenge of the Spacemen, I found myself with some unexpected time to kill. Usually around this time on a Saturday is when a panel called 42nd Street Pete's Grindhouse would be scheduled. The Grindhouse panel used to be a highlight of every show for me, hearing Pete tell stories of his experiences at true grindhouse theatres and his years as a video dealer was fascinating. Recently, the panel has gotten less appealing to me as it became more focused on the porn star guests. Although I assume 42nd Street Pete was on the 4:30 panel with guest Amber Lynn, it wasn't called 42nd Street Pete's Grindhouse this time, it was just the Amber Lynn panel. I decided not to attend this one, as personally I've had my fill of tales from the '80s porn scene. The stars of that time seem to have mostly all done the same things with the same people at the same places, so once I had heard a couple perspectives on the same sexcapades, I lost interest in the XXX Rashomon. No offense intended to the hosts or guests.

With an hour and a half spent walking around the guest/dealer room and hanging out in my room, I was then ready for the next panel.

5:30pm - MOVIE & GUEST: Patty Mullen talks with fans before introducing the camp horror cult film, DOOM ASYLUM, in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Art Ettinger's interview with Mullen covered how she went from being a Penthouse Pet of the Year to acting. Her experience working on Doom Asylum - in which she plays the dual role of a mother and, years later, the daughter - was discussed, as was the movie she is most popular for, Frank Henenlotter's Frankenhooker. Mullen expressed interest in working with Henenlotter again, either in a Frankenhooker follow-up or on a project he's planning that would serve as a meta sequel to his Basket Case franchise.

Post-interview, Doom Asylum began. Coming late in the horror genre's '80s slasher cycle, the 1987 film tries to make up for jumping on a trend that was going out of style by being filled with extremely goofy humor. So goofy that one character, a girl who misses her deceased mother, takes to calling her boyfriend Mom. Sex and the City's Kristin Davis made her acting debut as one of the wisecracking villain's victims. How much you enjoy Doom Asylum will depend on how much its humor appeals to you, and I get tired of it well before the movie is over.

I got so tired of Doom Asylum that I took a break from it toward the end.


When I returned to the movie room to take my seat, I found that I was sharing a row with Jason and Tina Siegel for the screening of this 2014 indie, which is itself an extremely goofy movie. It covers the same ground that many zombies have trampled before, but it was entertaining.

After that Movie Room 2 double feature, I returned to my room to spend the next hour or so having dinner and talking with my girlfriend, saying goodnight since she wouldn't be awake by the time the next movie ended.

The Saturday night party was in full swing in the hotel's lobby area by this point, which the guy delivering my food found out, since he had to walk right through the throng of partiers. Along the way, he was offered $20 in exchange for my food by one person (and the order was only $15), while another person offered him a bottle of Jack Daniels in trade. The delivery guy kept true to his customer, though, and got the food to my door. Once the food was in my possession, a Wasteland attendee with a camera strapped to his head started interviewing the delivery guy in the hallway and asking him to do shoutouts.

With my belly full and my girlfriend going to bed, I made my way back downstairs to the last event I was going to be attending this day -

10:30pm - MOVIE: DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE, with Martine Beswick, kicks off the night’s 16mm double feature in MOVIE ROOM 1.

While this female twist on the old Jekyll and Hyde story is a well made movie, as you would expect from Hammer Films, and smartly written, tying in real world events in an interesting way, I also found it to be incredibly slow. It seemed like it took way too long for Sister Hyde to make her first appearance, and then even longer for the character to actually do anything interesting. It was a good movie overall, but certainly not something that I'm going to be adding to my regular viewing rotation.

After struggling through the pacing of Sister Hyde, I went back up to my room and called it a night.

SUNDAY (October 5th):

The convention doors open at 11am on Sunday, but since my check-out time was noon, I made sure to get out of my room before taking one last walk around the guest/vendor room. Although the show goes on until 5pm on its last day, I typically leave the Holiday Inn around noon or 1 o'clock.

I came to a tough decision during my time at Cinema Wasteland. Since 2001, I have been attending theatrical horror marathons in Columbus. The name and venues have changed, sometimes the marathon has been 24 hours long, sometimes it has lasted 12 hours, but for thirteen years I was always there. However, this year another theatrical horror marathon had caught my attention by including Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter in their lineup. The dilemma: this 12 hour marathon in Cleveland was scheduled for the same day as a 24 hour marathon in Columbus. Should I stick with tradition and the marathon I had enjoyed since '01, or should I go to Cleveland and see a Friday the 13th? By the time my Wasteland weekend was over, the thought of getting to see Jason Voorhees on the big screen in one of the best movies of the series had led me to choose the Cleveland marathon. Tickets for the Cleveland marathon were on sale at one of the vendor tables, so I got one, along with a shirt for the event. Which just so happens to have Jason Voorhees on the front of it, wielding a bloody machete. A nice addition to my Friday the 13th T-shirt collection.

While taking my last look at the guest and vendor tables, I bumped into Jason Siegel again, which was quite fitting. He was there to greet me when I arrived, and he was there as I was about to exit. I told Jason I was out and made my departure.

As always, I had a great time at the Wasteland, soaking in that comforting atmosphere that can't be duplicated by any other convention. The only problem was that it seemed to fly by too fast. I need April to come around so I can get back to Cinema Wasteland once again.

I want to say thank you to Ken Kish for masterminding the Wasteland and giving we fans a place to gather twice a year. Thank you to my fellow fans for always making that Holiday Inn a great place to be. And thank you to the Strongsville Holiday Inn for putting a roof over our crazy heads.

The Wasteland is family, and I'll see my Wasteland family again in six months.

1 comment:

  1. Cody, it's Jason. Always glad to see you, my friend!!!