The fall 2016 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.
(PLUS: A bonus interview from 2006!)
FRIDAY (September 30th):
Based out of the Holiday Inn in Strongsville, Ohio, the Cinema Wasteland convention got its start in the fall of 2000, and for the first four years it was only held in the fall. In 2003, a spring show was added, and for the last thirteen years Cinema Wasteland expos have been held on both the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October, allowing fans of the horror genre and drive-in/grindhouse era to gather together to celebrate some of their favorite films and meet people who were involved with the making of them, while also picking up some cool items from vendors along the way.
For regular attendees, Wasteland becomes a home away from home, and there's a feeling that those of us who take multiple trips into the Wasteland are a family of sorts. "The Wasteland is family!" has been a saying for a while, and has even been immortalized on a Cinema Wasteland T-shirt.
I didn't discover Wasteland until early 2006, just in time to attend the Spring 2006 show, drawn to it by the promise of being able to meet several men who have played Jason Voorhees over the years - Ari Lehman, Steve Dash, Richard Brooker, C.J. Brooker, and Kane Hodder. As soon as I entered the guest/dealer room, I was hooked. I have attended every Wasteland since, at first just stopping by for one day out of the weekend, and since the fall of 2009 I have been booking a room at the hotel and getting a three day pass to the convention every time.
The Spring 2016 show would have been my ten year anniversary of going to Cinema Wasteland... Instead, it was the first time I've ever missed a show. I couldn't make it to Strongsville because I was in Brazil at the time, visiting my Remake Comparison co-writer Priscilla for her birthday and then visiting the set of an upcoming Brazilian horror movie called The Trace We Leave Behind. I was having a great time away from Wasteland, but being a year away from it had me desperate to get back into that world by the time the Fall 2016 show rolled around. I had conflicting schedules that weekend, but there was no way I was going to miss the chance to get as much out of the Wasteland as I could. I booked a room, got my three day pass, and returned to that home away from home.
4:00pm - All 3-Day Pass holders admitted into the Guest and Vendor Room.
4:30pm - Dealer and Guest Room is open to Single Day Pass holders.
I arrived at the Holiday Inn a little after 4, so the doors to the guest/dealer room were already open, with attendees starting to make their way inside. Before I could, I had to get things set up in my room, and I didn't get back downstairs until around 5.
It was great to step into that familiar room and soak in that atmosphere I had been missing. I walked around for a while, just taking in the sights and sounds. During the tour, I crossed paths with my friend Jason Siegel and we exchanged greetings.
The "guest of honor" celebrities have their tables at the back of the room, so after looking over the vendor tables I went through the celebrity area, seeing the show's cool guests interacting with fans. Among the guests were Edwin Neal and John Dugan from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as Bill Johnson from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I was somewhat surprised that these Chainsaw guests didn't have a Q&A panel during the weekend.
I usually stop by the table of Ohio-based indie filmmaker Henrique Couto at Wasteland shows; since he's so prolific there's always a new Couto movie to buy. I got a couple more this time, his found footage horror movie Alone in the Ghost House and his romantic comedy Making Out. While at his table, I also picked up a copy of his collaborator Eric Widing's movie Primordial, and since Couto is associated with Alternative Cinema he also offers some of their releases at his table, a fact which gave me access to the Werewolf in the Amazon collection. This three disc set contains four feature films and a few shorts by Brazilian filmmaker Ivan Cardoso. My reasons for missing the previous Cinema Wasteland give away the fact that I have an interest in Brazil and Brazilian cinema, and I couldn't pass up the chance to buy a set of Brazilian movies.
5:00pm - HORROR HOST FUN: The MUMMY AND MONKEY SHOW’S TRIBUTE TO SUPER-HOST begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.
The Mummy and the Monkey show is a team-up between two established horror hosts, "Daughter of the Ghoul" Janet Decay and the cool apeman Grimm Gorri. This episode of their show, a tribute to Cleveland based horror host Superhost, whose show ran from 1969 to 1989, was already underway when I stopped by the screening room. I'm subscribed to the Grimm Decay YouTube channel, where this episode is available for viewing, so I just stuck around long enough to watch a couple segments and the Three Stooges short Sing a Song of Six Pants.
Around a quarter after 6, I headed upstairs to my room, where I stashed away the things I bought from Henrique Couto and waited for the next event I wanted to attend.
7:30pm - GUEST: Don’t miss Jack Ketchum and our first guest panel of the weekend (following his Offspring and The Woman double feature) in MOVIE ROOM 1.
I've never read a Jack Ketchum novel, but the cinematic adaptations of his work - The Lost, The Girl Next Door, Red, Offspring, The Woman - have shown me some very disturbing, brutal things. I didn't know what to expect from a Ketchum panel, but I found that he is like many writers of horrific things: a nice, soft-spoken guy.
Ketchum gave some behind-the-scenes stories about the writing and publication of several of his novels, and said that he tends to write about real world horror rather than the supernatural because it's what people are capable of doing to each other that is truly scary. I have to agree with him on that. Many of his books have been written out of the anger he has felt after hearing about some kind of horrible true event. As he says, he writes the best when he's angry.
8:30pm - MOVIE: Horror Host regular, Gunga Jim, brings Gunga’s Drive-In to Cinema Wasteland with a screening of WEREWOLF OF WASHINGTON in MOVIE ROOM 2.
It was time to head over to this screening as soon as the Ketchum panel ended. I couldn't miss this, because I did miss a Gunga Jim screening that was held at the Spring 2016 show and whenever Gunga Jim is showing a movie at Wasteland it's always one of the highlights of the weekend for me.
The movies shown on Gunga's Drive-In are presented as if they're being viewed on a drive-in screen, and Gunga Jim has added sound effects and mocking comments to turn any movie into a joke - and the movies he picks to show often deserve that mocking treatment.
A fitting film to show during election season, Werewolf of Washington is a horror/comedy that shows what happens when the press secretary to the President of the United States becomes a werewolf. It's also a movie that I find to be dreadfully dull, and I wouldn't have been able to sit through it without Gunga Jim's mockery.
10:00pm - The DEALER and GUEST ROOM closes for the night but the evening is far from over. Movies and Events roll on until roughly 2:00am tonight, so read on!
The end of Werewolf of Washington coincided with the closing of the main room, so I made a very quick trip up to my room, sent some messages to friends and my girlfriend, then hustled back downstairs to watch another movie.
10:15pm - MOVIE: CW guest Sharon Farrell stars with James Garner in MARLOWE, to kick off the Friday night 16mm double feature in MOVIE ROOM 1.
The Marlowe of this film's title is Philip Marlowe, the private investigator character who was created by Raymond Chandler and has been played by a lot of different actors in various movies and TV shows - Humphrey Bogart, Elliott Gould, Robert Mitchum, Powers Boothe, Danny Glover, James Caan. In this 1969 film, it was James Garner's turn.
Most notable for featuring Bruce Lee as a villain who threatens Marlowe in a couple good scenes, Marlowe was an enjoyable movie with a nice sense of humor, but it felt a bit too slow and dry for this time of night and for how tired I was.
I had considered sticking around for the 12:30 screening of the 1981 slasher-esque "Michael Biehn stalks Lauren Bacall" film The Fan, but there's no way I could have stayed awake through that. I went to bed instead.
SATURDAY (October 1st):
10:00am - Doors Open for all pass holders.
The doors were open at 10, but I tend to run late, so I didn't make it downstairs until the first event I wanted to attend had already begun.
10:30am - MOVIE: Saturday Morning Hangover Theater begins with the camp classic Mexican monster flick, THE BRAINIAC, on 16mm film in MOVIE ROOM 1.
As the Monty Python quote goes, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition", and I certainly didn't expect it when I sat down to watch The Brainiac. But this 1962 film does indeed begin in 1661, during the Spanish Inquisition, when a man being burned at the stake curses the people who have condemned him to death. The story then jumps ahead three hundred years, to the time period I expected the film to be set in, when the man returns as a monstrous creature to get revenge on the descendants of the people who killed him.
I really need to watch The Brainiac again to get a proper feel for it, and because I had to leave the screening room before the movie ended, but what I saw was very fun, with the greatest thing about the movie being the appearance of the monster, who jabs its forked tongue into people. That thing looks so ridiculous, it's awesome.
NOON - GUEST: Elizabeth Shepherd meets with fans to talk about her long career in film, television, and stage. As a special surprise, she will do a short reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tomb of Ligeia before we screen the film starring her and Vincent Price following her talk. Meet her in MOVIE ROOM 2.
I'm ashamed to admit that I knew very little about Elizabeth Shepherd before going into this panel, even though she has earned acting credits on 95 projects over the last 57 years and has appeared in films I've seen before, like The Tomb of Ligeia and Damien: Omen II.
Shepherd opened the panel with a dramatic reading of Poe's short story Ligeia, then an interview moderated by Wasteland founder Ken Kish and Art Ettinger of Ultraviolent Magazine followed, with her talking about her career, her view on acting, Vincent Price, and the experience of seeing director Mike Hodges replaced on Damien by Don Taylor after filming had already begun. She had considered quitting the movie when Hodges was let go, but was persuaded to finish her part.
I'm fairly certain Shepherd had attended the screening of Marlowe the night before as an audience member.
I had some time to waste between the end of Shepherd's Q&A and the next event I had to be at - there was a screening of The Evil Dead, but I have seen that movie many times before, including at a previous Cinema Wasteland. So I took another walk around guest/dealer room. There I bumped into Jason, who was now dressed as Hunter S. Thompson.
After taking a look around, I went to my room and ordered some pizza and chicken from Domino's. The food arrived at 2pm and I proceeded to stuff myself while talking to Priscilla about Life Between Frames projects.
Although I didn't eat at the hotel restaurant, I did appreciate the fact that they had meals inspired by the Friday the 13th franchise and the classic film Spider Baby.
3:00pm - GUEST EVENT: Join the attending cast and crew to discuss 35 years of THE EVIL DEAD after the movie screening in MOVIE ROOM 1.
The Evil Dead special effects artist Tim Sullivan is at every Cinema Wasteland, he even has his own room to display his artwork in. This time around he was joined by "the Ladies of the Evil Dead", actresses Ellen Sandweiss and Theresa Tilly/Sarah York, who have been Wasteland guests before, and Besty Baker, who wasn't able to join Sandweiss and Tilly during their last Wasteland appearance. Rounding out the Evil Dead guests was Richard DeManincor/Hal Delrich.
I have heard many stories about the making of The Evil Dead many times, but I find all of the stories to be endlessly fascinating. For me, the experience these folks had making The Evil Dead is one of the great movie-making situations of all time, especially when taking into consideration where director Sam Raimi's career has gone since then. From struggling to make a low budget independent film in a remote cabin in the woods that had no running water, to making blockbusters. It's incredible, and I will take any opportunity to listen to the people involved reminisce about that production.
After spending more time around the convention area and another quick trip to my room, I was ready for another Q&A.
5:30pm - GUEST: Sharon Farrell meets with fans to discuss her long career in film and television after the cool Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode wraps up in MOVIE ROOM 1.
Like Elizabeth Shepherd, Sharon Farrell is an actress I couldn't place off the top of my head, even though she has almost 100 credits to her name and has been in several films that I've seen - It's Alive, The Stunt Man, Sweet 16, Lone Wolf McQuade, Night of the Comet, Can't Buy Me Love. It's Alive I've seen several times, I just didn't make the connection.
During this Q&A, I found out much more about Farrell than I expected to. I won't even divulge the details, because things got very personal and emotional. Suffice to say, she has had a rough time in her life and is doing her best to recover from it. She also didn't hold back on dishing out the behind the scenes stories about some well known actors.
7:00pm - The DEALER and GUEST ROOM closes for the night, but we’ve still got one more Guest Talk, Ghastlee’s Show, Plenty of Movies, and enough late night shenanigans on tap to keep most of you awake long past your usual bed time.
I had to leave Cinema Wasteland very early Sunday morning, so I wouldn't get a chance to take my traditional last walk around the guest/dealer room the following day, nor would I be able to attend any of the screening events (if I had been able to stick around, I would have watched the biker movie Devil's Angels at 11am). The time after Farrell's Q&A ended was my last chance to be in the Wasteland this time around, so I spent quite a while just walking around and hanging out in that room. It's always a bit melancholy to realize that your Wasteland experience is coming to an end.
After saying goodbye to the Wasteland, I attended another Q&A -
7:30pm - GUEST: Carmine Capobianco had a string of fun films released in the video days of the 1980’s and we can’t imagine he doesn’t have a few stores to tell. Let’s pry a few of them out of him shall we? Meet him in MOVIE ROOM 2.
I'm a broken record, because I was not familiar with Carmine Capobianco before this panel, either. I still haven't seen any movies he has been in, I've never watched the movies he talked about working on during this interview, but over the course of this hour he definitely made me a Carmine Capobianco fan. He's a really funny, entertaining guy. I need to check out those movies.
8:00pm - EVENT: It's time for another GHASTLEE NITE AT THE MOVIES to begin. Join A. Ghastlee Ghoul as he hosts another night of... well, whatever it is he does, in MOVIE ROOM 1.
I went straight over from the Capobianco Q&A to this event, which is sort of a drunken variety show. I usually don't go to the Ghastlee Nite at the Movies, but it's a Wasteland fixture and I wanted to get as much Wasteland out of this Wasteland as possible, so I sat in on this for a while and watched some shenanigans.
Then I returned to my room to start getting prepared for my early departure in the morning. While I was in there, I saw Henrique Couto say on Facebook that the hotel TVs picked up MeTV, on which horror host Svengoolie would be hosting the 1957 horror film The Monolith Monsters at 10pm. So I switched on MeTV and watch Svengoolie for 20 minutes or so.
10:30pm - MOVIE: Can a carousel unicorn go bad?… Find out when CAROUSHELL begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.
I had thought of attending this screening, but I had a feeling that the movie room was going to be packed. My suspicion was confirmed when I took a walk down there right before the movie was scheduled to begin. Rather than squeeze in there, I went back to my room and continued watching Svengoolie until I fell asleep.
SUNDAY (October 2nd):
11:00am - Doors open for all pass holders.
The Cinema Wasteland doors opened at 11am, but I was out of the hotel at 7am because I had a very hectic day ahead of me. You see, I had another convention I wanted to stop by that weekend, a convention where several Friday the 13th alums were guests, including many of the Jasons I met at my first ever Wasteland. Sunday was also the last day for that other convention, which was a 5 hour drive from Strongsville. I had to make that 5 hour trip, meet people and get signatures at the other convention, and then make the 4 and a half hour trip back home in time to watch and review the two episode season finale of Fear the Walking Dead for Arrow in the Head. The first episode of that began at 9pm, giving me 14 hours from the time I left the Wasteland hotel, with at least 9 and a half of those hours being spent on the road.
So after a year away I had to leave Cinema Wasteland about six hours earlier than I would have otherwise, but I did everything I wanted to get done while I was there, and best of all is just the fact that I got to be there. Wasteland time is a requirement for survival.
Whether I return to the Wasteland in six months or if it's another year, I will definitely be back. Thanks to Ken Kish for continuing to put on the best show in the land and to the Holiday Inn for continuing to house the Wasteland. I am grateful.
By the way, the first Cinema Wasteland show I ever attended was immortalized in director Joe Ostrica's slasher The Horror Convention Massacre. Ostrica filmed his movie at the Spring 2006 show and it was screened at the Fall 2006 show. Before the screening, I conducted an interview with Ostrica for the website Pit of Horror, and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of that event I am sharing the interview here:
Q: Can you set up the basic story of The Horror Convention Massacre for us?
Ostrica: Sure. The premise is quite simple, really. A maniac is on the loose at a horror convention, bumping off the special guests, attendees and hotel employees. Caught in the middle of all of this is a hotel employee named Aaron (played by Bryan Jalovec) who is having the day from hell. He gets called in on his day off, his girlfriend dumps him and now he has to deal with all the "freaks" at the convention. Everything points to Aaron as being a prime suspect.
Q: The idea of filming a horror movie at and around a horror convention is a great one. What inspired the idea, and made you decide to go through with it?
Ostrica: Thanks. I think that's one of the strengths of our film too, the basic premise. I've been attending horror conventions the past six years or so, especially in Ohio. I'm a huge horror film buff, a filmmaker and a fan of conventions. One day I was walking around Cinema Wasteland and all three of those elements came to me when I saw people walking around with makeup all over them. I thought to myself, "What if that wasn't makeup and it was real blood? What if there was an insane person running around this show and actually killing people?" The movie was born out of that simple concept.
Q: How was filming in a functioning, packed-with-conventioners hotel?
Ostrica: It was insane! We knew we had only one shot at it as the convention takes place over a weekend. We estimated that we shot for 44 of the 52 hours we were at the convention. Talk about maniacs running around! We were the crazy people thinking we could pull this off, but we did it. Of course, we shot additional scenes later on, but the core of the film was shot at Cinema Wasteland. It was important to do that. You have a real functioning show going on. It would be nearly impossible to duplicate all that activity on our limited budget.
When you have a small budget, you have to take advantage of what you've got as your disposal and one of the best things we had was the energy of a live convention. I think we did a good job of capturing that energy. Plus you have numerous extras at your disposal. People would track us down after hearing about us shooting there and would ask if they could be part of the film. Some people even landed speaking parts. Plus you've got beautiful women, horror fans in crazy outfits and celebrities right there.
Q: Who are some of the "famous faces" we can expect to see show up in the movie?
Ostrica: Well let's just say we have the original Jason from Friday the 13th, as well as actors that have appeared in The Devil's Rejects, Slither, the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, not to mention a well-known B-movie scream queen.
Q: How hard was it to talk them into appearing?
Ostrica: It wasn't very hard landing them. I think they felt our passion and enthusiasm and our film gave them an opportunity that every good actor lives for, a chance to shine in an improvisational moment. They were great to work with and all of them do a terrific job in the film.
Q: What were The Horror Convention Massacre's main influences?
Ostrica: With The Horror Convention Massacre, I wanted to do my take on a slasher exploitation film, similar to the ones of the 80's that I grew up watching on late night cable. When you watched one of those films, you knew you were going to get the goods with plenty of bloody kills and some naked girls. It's safe to say we've got plenty of blood and boobs in this film, so the fans will not be disappointed. (laughs)
Also, in the past 10 years, the slasher film has turned into a watered down PG-13 or lame slasher lite flick that barely earns its R rating with a bunch of teeny bopper actors that look like they should be modeling clothes. I was getting sick of those films and I know the horror fans were too. We wanted to take the genre back and give the fans what they want. This film, if rated, would definitely be R rated. Even the nudity is 80's style as it's way more than just a quick boob flash too. There are no limits with this film. As for specific names, I loved the movies of John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven and Brian De Palma growing up. I think you'll see some of that influence in my film and hopefully we pushed the envelope like they did back in the day.
Q: What kind of equipment was used in the filming and editing of the movie?
Ostrica: We shot the movie on a Panasonic DVX 100-A camera. It's a 24-p camera, which means its shoots in 24-frames-per second mode, the same as film. I used this camera on my comedy "GUYS" (see www.216films.com) and am very pleased with the results. I used to be a film snob, saying I would never shoot anything on video as I had never seen much of anything I liked on the format. Shooting digitally with a the 24-p camera cuts the budget down a lot and it gives a nice film-like look. My editor Rob Schultz uses Final Cut Pro. It's also what my editor on "GUYS" used and I love it.
Q: How will horror fans not attending Cinema Wasteland be able to see the movie? Is a DVD planned?
Ostrica: Absolutely! We have a DVD now available loaded with lots of special features for just $15 plus shipping. As independent filmmakers, we know how tough it is finding extra cash to spend on entertainment, so we wanted to give the fans a very reasonable price to enjoy our film. They can write to me at MySpace at www.myspace.com/ossprojects to get a copy (let us know if you want some OSS stickers or an autographed copy) or go to our website at www.oldschoolsinema.com.
Q: How do you feel about the current state of the horror genre, and what do you want to bring to the genre with your contributions?
Ostrica: Acually, despite my complaining about the recent slasher films, I think horror is definitely on the upswing. Filmmakers like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth and movies like the Saw franchise are really pushing the limits of how far you can go. It seems like the hard R-rated gruesome horror film is back, so that's exciting. Even the remakes are getting better. I enjoyed The Hills Have Eyes a great deal, as well as The Descent. I hope to explore other aspects of the horror genre. My next film is more in the spirit of Return of the Living Dead and Dead Alive, with a unique setting. It will be more ambitious than "THCM." Also, it will be nice to shoot outdoors this time! (laughs)
I don't want to do just one type of horror film. I want to be all over the map and never repeat myself.
Q: You're based out of Cleveland, what is the current state of independent filmmaking in the area?
Ostrica: That's a good question. There is a lot of talent in Cleveland, that's for sure. I've been fortunate to work with some great crews and terrific actors who are committed to our projects. I'm a big admirer of the Campbell brothers, who did a few horror films under their Speed Freak Productions banner and are now getting ready to take a non-genre film to the film festival circuit, so I'm excited to see what that's like. The problem is, as I'm sure it is in any small market, there are a lot of negative people who are either jealous or just want to rip anyone who is not part of their projects. In a small market like Cleveland, it makes more sense for the film community members to help one another out and support each other in any way they can. Only then will Cleveland find itself on the map like Austin or other well known film cities.
Q: You've started your own company and are making movies independently, on your own terms. Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers out there who are thinking about doing this themselves?
Ostrica: The number one thing I tell everyone is start making movies, now! A lot of people talk and I kept finding myself surrounded by other talkers who did nothing else. I feel like I should already have a couple more movies under my belt by now, but that will happen very soon I think. You've got to surround yourself with people who are active filmmakers and work with them. Even if you're just shooting stuff with a small video camera around the house, get to work and get something done. Every day spent on set is a day you learn something new or learn to solve a problem. That's what filmmaking is, basically, coming up with solutions on how to get the material shot for the day in the time and budget you have.