Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cinema Wasteland Fall 2015

The fall 2015 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:

FRIDAY (October 2nd):

Sometime around 4pm on October 2nd, I stepped through the front doors of the Holiday Inn in Strongsville, Ohio, which has been home to the Cinema Wasteland convention ever since the show began in 2000. Although this was the twentieth Cinema Wasteland I had attended, I've been going to them since the spring 2006 show, what greeted me in the hotel lobby was not a familiar sight. There had been talk of the hotel being under renovation during the spring 2015 show, and now the renovations had been completed, including a totally re-designed lobby. My home away from home is looking quite different these days.

As I checked into my room, one of the celebrity guests was also taking care of business at the front desk, and I was in awe of the fact that I was standing beside this guy: Ken Foree, one of the stars of the original Dawn of the Dead, attending this show as a part of the Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III cast reunion.

Room key card acquired, I went up to the room I'd be spending the weekend in and found that the individual rooms in the hotel have also been re-designed. It took some getting used to.

I had a three day pass, so I could have gotten into the convention early, at 4:30, but it was closer to 5pm, when the doors opened for all pass holders, by the time I stepped through the convention room doors and officially entered that unique Cinema Wasteland atmosphere. Nothing had changed in there except the carpet.

One of the first people I spotted was Wasteland regular Jason Siegel, wearing his trademark fez. We exchanged a greeting, then continued our look around at the vendor tables. And I quickly went to work making purchases.

My first stop was the Full Moon table, where I picked up DVD copies of Ooga Booga and Evil Bong 420, as well as Blu-ray copies of Trancers, Trancers 2, and Dollman vs. Demonic Toys. The man working at the Full Moon table that weekend was George Peyton, who has sadly suffered a stroke in the weeks since. I know how devastating strokes can be, I've been through that with one of my grandmothers, so I'm empathetic to what George and his family are going through. I'd like to wish him a fast and full recovery.

My next purchase was a copy of Dustin Mills' short film Black Heart in a White Hell, bought from the folks at the Italian Zombie Movie table.

From there, I moved on to filmmaker Henrique Couto's table, where I bought copies of his two latest movies, the horror anthology Scarewaves and the Western Calamity Jane's Revenge.

Rather than continue to carry the eight movies around in my tote bag, I made a trip up to my room to drop them off, then made my way over to the first movie screening I would be attending that weekend.

5:45pm - MOVIE: CREEPSHOW 2 continues our Pittsburgh connection (and leads up to the first Guest Panel of the weekend) in MOVIE ROOM 1.

As I sat down at the back of Movie Room 1, horror host A. Ghastlee Ghoul, who also helps out with the A/V system in that room, entered and randomly told me, "I never liked your vagina, sir." In response to the heartfelt apology I gave him, Mr. Ghoul told me not to be so reserved, "It's Wasteland!"

As Creepshow 2, one of my favorite films and one of the first I wrote a Film Appreciation article about for Life Between Frames, played out on the screen before me, I came to a realization: I had watched this movie at a Wasteland before. Back at the spring 2011 show, there had been a screening of it in Movie Room 2 that was preceded by a Q&A with director Michael Gornick.

I also recognized one of the people watching the movie from a seat near me: it was Rick Catizone, the film's animation designer and supervisor, checking out his work.

7:30pm - GUEST: We’re continuing the Day of the Dead celebration we started at the last show when Michael Gornick, Debra Gordon, Mark Tierno, and Mike Trcic gather to kick off the first Guest Talk of the weekend in MOVIE ROOM 1.

In addition to directing Creepshow 2, Michael Gornick was the cinematographer on several of George A. Romero's greatest films, including Day of the Dead, which is why he was included on the panel with a trio who had played zombies in that film. They covered some interesting topics - Day of the Dead, Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh, Debra Gordon's appearance in Flashdance, some mention of Mike Trcic's work in special effects.

As soon as the Q&A ended, I made my way over to the other Movie Room.

8:30pm - MOVIE: Horror Host regular, Gunga Jim, brings Gunga’s Drive-In to Cinema Wasteland with a screening of THE REVENGE OF DOCTOR X in MOVIE ROOM 2.

I have enjoyed attending multiple Gunga's Drive-In screenings over my years going to Cinema Wastelands, and I wasn't going to miss the chance to sit in on another one. Although most of the movies Gunga Jim shows are awful, they're made entertaining by the fact that they have sound effects and mocking comments by the host added over the original soundtrack. Unfortunately, a computer error kept the horror host from showing The Revenge of Doctor X as advertised. He gave the audience a choice between a few other movies, and the winner was Horror of the Blood Monsters.

Before the movie began, Gunga Jim handed out "Halloween fortune cookies" to the attendees. Fortune cookies that had been dyed orange and black. My fortune: "When you make a face it will get stuck that way."

I think my fortune wasn't true, because I'm sure I was making faces throughout Horror of the Blood Monsters, it's so horrible. Filmmaker Al Adamson bought the rights to a black & white Filipino movie called Tagani, about cavemen battling vampires and monsters. The problem was, the drive-ins didn't want black and white movies in 1970, so Adamson shot new, color footage about a team of astronauts seeking a cure for the outbreak of vampirism that is plaguing the Earth. They land on a different planet, where they observe its primitive occupants - the footage from Tagani, tinted red because it's now being presented as an alien world. Gunga Jim gave this movie the mocking it deserved.

By the time Horror of the Blood Monsters ended, the guest and dealer room had closed. On my way back to my room, I bumped into Jason Siegel again and we told each other our plans for the night - he was going to go to a screening in Movie Room 2 that was scheduled at the same time as something I was going to watch in Movie Room 1.

I spent around a half hour in my room, having a goodnight text exchange with my girlfriend. Then I headed back downstairs.

10:30pm - TV ON FILM: Need something a little lighter after our block of classic Drug Films? This 1985, Halloween themed Fall Guy episode, “October the 32nd,” with Elvira, should do the trick. In MOVIE ROOM 1.

I grew up watching both The Fall Guy and Elvira, so I couldn't resist getting a 45 minute or so blast of nostalgia with this crossover. For a show about a stuntman, this episode didn't have much in the way of cool stunts, but it was a fun "haunted house" mystery.

There were more screenings scheduled after this, but at this point in my life I've come to appreciate sleep more than I used to. I was ready to pass out when The Fall Guy ended, so I went up to my room and did just that.

SATURDAY (October 3rd):

The doors opened at 10am on Day 2 of the convention, but my goal was to get downstairs a half hour later, giving me some extra time to sleep and get ready for the day. By the time I made it down to the first screening I wanted to attend, I was running about 15 minutes late anyway.

10:30am - MOVIE: Saturday Morning Hangover Theater begins with the classic 50s sci-fi thriller, I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, on 16mm film, in MOVIE ROOM 1.

If you miss 15 minutes of this movie, you've missed a healthy chunk, because it only runs 78 minutes. I'm fairly certain I had seen it before, though, and I enjoyed this 1958 tale of a woman who realizes her husband and other men in town have been replaced by aliens.

As soon as I Married a Monster from Outer Space ended, I headed over to the other Movie Room.

NOON - MOVIE: Can Suzanna Leigh stop THE DEADLY BEES, or will she burn down the village trying? Find out in MOVIE ROOM 2.

I can't say I enjoyed this 1966 movie about a pop singer who goes to the countryside to recover from exhaustion and ends up in the middle of a plot involving killer bees. It's dull and forgettable, so much so that the movie was almost over before I remembered that I had actually watched it before.

There was a tough decision to make after The Deadly Bees ended. Stay in Movie Room 2 for a Q&A with celebrity guest/the film's star Suzanna Leigh, or go watch a favorite of mine in Movie Room 1? Ultimately, the draw of the movie was too much to resist. That movie was:


The screening of this one wasn't ideal, due to technical issues. It was being projected via A. Ghastlee Ghoul's laptop, and for some reason he couldn't get the video player to go fullscreen. So the view we got on the projection screen at the front of the room was of the video player in one part of the screen and the Ghoul's desktop on the rest of it. Still, TCM3 is a fun movie to watch, regardless of the presentation. It's also another movie I had seen at a previous Cinema Wasteland, this one at the Fall 2012 show.

When the movie ended, Wasteland founder Ken Kish entered the room to prepare for the Q&A that would follow. As we waited for the celebrity guests to show up, Kish offered up free DVDs of the movie Hardware to anyone who came up to the front of the room to grab one, while supplies lasted. I was one of the lucky ones who scored a copy.

3:15pm - GUEST EVENT: Join the attending cast and crew of LEATHERFACE: TCM 3 after the movie wraps up to catch up on what everyone is up to these days, in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Ken Kish and Art Ettinger of Ultra Violent magazine moderated a Q&A with TCM3 director Jeff Burr and cast members Kate Hodge, Ken Foree, William Butler, R.A. Mihailoff, and Duane Whitaker. It was a very fun and informative hour, and the people on the panel were an entertaining bunch to listen to and watch interact. Messages from missing-from-the-show cast members Tom Everett and Viggo Mortensen were also delivered by Burr and Butler, and Tom Savini, who directed Butler in the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, made a cameo appearance in the room mid-Q&A. Like Rick Catizone, Savini was just visiting the convention rather than attending as a guest.

After a non-stop morning/afternoon, I had reached a long open stretch in my schedule. I took a walk around the guest and vendor room, during which I picked up copies of Ohio filmmaker Jim Roberts' movies Welcome to Deer Creek, Tonight You Die, and Happy Hour Holocaust from the Gross Movie Reviews table, then went up to my room.

Over the next few hours, I watched a screener of James Roday's Gravy on my laptop while exchanging texts with my girlfriend and emails with a friend who was going through a bad day, to say the least. Empathizing with my friend, I also did some stress eating of food ordered from Domino's.

I had planned to watch a screening of an episode of the 1970 TV show Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp, a spy show with a cast of chimpanzees, in Movie Room 1 at 6pm, but decided to skip it. I could handle a few minutes of that, but I didn' t think I could handle an hour of it.

By the time I went back downstairs, the guest and vendor room had closed at 7pm.

7:15pm - MOVIE: The anthology horror film, VOLUMES OF BLOOD, begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Volumes of Blood is an independent production that resulted from a film school program at the Daviess County Public Library in Owensboro, Kentucky, which also served as the filming location. The segments are hit and miss, but it's a cool anthology overall, and I was surprised that a project so closely tied in with a public library would go as far as this does. I would have expected something more family friendly.

After seeing how packed and rowdy the screening of the indie movie Chubbies was at the spring 2015 Cinema Wasteland, I didn't expect to stick around for the following screening:

9:00pm - MOVIE: The horrors of a dick joke gone too far! FANGBONER begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

This horror/comedy comes from the folks behind Chubbies and takes its name from a road I've seen during my travels around the Ohio countryside. I stuck around for the beginning of the movie, and was surprised by the turnout. The room wasn't packed. Where were the people who had seen Chubbies? As it turns out, those people were just running a little late, and the screening of Fangboner was eventually just as packed as Chubbies' was. Once the room was full, I gave up my chair to person who was wearing a really cool cosplay of the slasher from The Prowler. Also in attendance for this screening were Jason Siegel in an awesome Beetlejuice costume and his wife Tina, sporting a look inspired by Jack Skellington.

Another surprise was waiting for me as I stepped out into the lobby. Not only was it much more spacious and brighter than it used to be, there was also a lot less people hanging out in there than there tends to be on Wasteland Saturday night. Maybe I was just out there too early and the partying didn't fully kick in until later.

Returning to my room, I had a goodnight chat with my girlfriend while watching the Chinese horror movie Baby Blues on Netflix. Then I passed out.

SUNDAY (October 4th):

The next morning, I got up, got ready, checked out of my room, and took a quick stroll around the guest/vendor room after the doors opened at 11am.

Soon it was time for the only event on my schedule for the day.

11:15am - MOVIE: The made for television thriller, HIGH RISK, kicks off the days 16mm film screenings in MOVIE ROOM 1.

This 1976 TV movie about circus performers planning a complicated theft wasn't the most intense or exciting heist flick I've seen, but it wasn't bad, and thankfully only ran 74 minutes.

After High Risk ended, it was time for my 20th Cinema Wasteland experience to come to an end as well. I took one last look around the guest/vendor room as post-Wasteland melancholy already started to set in, then made my way home. Another fun and successful Wasteland completed.

As always, I would like to thank Ken Kish for creating the Cinema Wasteland convention fifteen years ago, and giving those of us who call ourselves the Wasteland family a place to gather every six months. Thanks to the Strongsville Holiday Inn for being that place since the beginning. The decor may look different, but it's still the Wasteland.

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