Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Cinema Wasteland Fall 2018

The fall 2018 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.

The Cinema Wasteland convention is held at the Holiday Inn in the Cleveland suburb Strongsville, Ohio twice a year, one show in the spring and the other in the fall. I have been to over twenty Wastelands since I first attended one in the spring of 2006, having only missed a couple of them in recent years... But when I attended the fall 2018 show, it was a whole new experience.

I used to live in Ohio, just over an hour away from Strongsville, but due to personal losses and tragedies I now find myself living in Tennessee - with no transportation. So I wanted to get to Cinema Wasteland somehow, but I didn't know how it was going to happen. And then Troma announced that they would be releasing my friend (and Life Between Frames contributor) Jay Burleson's movie The Nobodies on DVD on October 6th. A date that just happened to fall on Wasteland weekend.

I've been telling Jay about Wasteland since '06, and when he told me that Troma was going to be releasing The Nobodies, one of my first thoughts was, "I can't wait to see a copy of the movie on the Troma table at Cinema Wasteland." Troma is always a presence at the show, they have a table there at every one of them, and now they were going to be selling my friend's movie there.

A plan was put into action. Jay would get a vendor pass to work the Troma table at Wasteland, promoting his movie and signing copies. His friend Bart Hyatt, who has a role in The Nobodies, would be joining him, and their friend Jason Oddi would be along for the ride. They had to drive up from Alabama to get to Wasteland, so they could pick me up in Tennessee on the way.

After an epic road trip that began Thursday night, we reached the convention venue at about 1pm on Friday. When I spend the weekend at Wasteland, I usually get a room at the Holiday Inn, but this time we opted to stay at the Super 8 that's right across the parking lot from the Holiday Inn. Bart and Od shared one room, Jay and I shared another. I was only operating on maybe two hours of sleep by the time we got to the Super 8, but I couldn't get to sleep just yet. While Jay caught a nap, I ordered some Domino's pizza, and it was delivered by the guy who almost always delivers my Domino's when I order some during my time at Wasteland.

Standing outside on the balcony so I wouldn't disturb Jay, I ate some pizza and looked out on the view. A view I remembered from other times visiting this location. A view of a road I had ridden down with my late mother. Mom always used to go to Wastelands with me, sometimes to go into the convention area, sometimes just to drop me off at the Holiday Inn on Friday and pick me up on Sunday. She's been gone for a year and a half already, but going to Wastelands will always stir up strong memories of her. It brings a sense of melancholy to my time there now.

But mom knew very well that I loved Wasteland, so I was determined to get the most out of the weekend. After taking a nap that lasted maybe 30 minutes, I had my 3-Day Pass ready so I could enter the Wasteland guest and vendor room as soon as the doors opened.

FRIDAY (October 5th):

4:00pm - All 3-Day Pass holders admitted into the Guest and Vendor Room.

3-Day Pass holders are let into the convention 30 minutes earlier than people with the Friday only passes, so I got a bit of a peek behind the curtain when I entered the Wasteland at 4, because a lot of vendors were still getting set up. I took a quick look around, and went to the Troma table at the back of the room - where I saw copies of The Nobodies stacked up among Troma classics like The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke 'Em High, Poultrygeist, etc. I took a picture and sent it to Jay and Bart, who were both still back at the Super 8. That let them know they could start making their way over to the convention.

Jay, Bart, and Od were all at Wasteland soon after that, and I caught my first screening of the weekend.

5:00pm - MOVIE: Catch an episode of The Mummy and The Monkey Show when they gear up for the end of October with their PUMPKIN SPICE HALLOWEEN SPECIAL to start the weekend in MOVIE ROOM 2.

I'm a fan of Cleveland-based horror hosts The Mummy and the Monkey and watch the Hairy Scary Hangout Show they broadcast live over the internet every weekend, so I decided to watch this episode of their edited show. Being locals, the Mummy and the Monkey were there to introduce the screening.

The movie featured in this Halloween special wasn't an older horror film like you'd usually expect, but a documentary about another horror host, I Zombie out of Kentucky. The documentary digs into the fact that I Zombie overcame some terrible things on the road to becoming a horror host - he was very badly burned as a child - and looks forward to his future with great hope... But I watched the movie with a sense of dread, because I knew I Zombie passed away from cancer several years ago. I kept waiting for things to turn bad, but it wasn't until the documentary ended that I realized it had been made before his cancer diagnosis.

Once the The Mummy and the Monkey Show ended, I took a walk around the guest and vendor room with Jay and bought copies of indie filmmaker Jim Roberts' movie Happy Hour Holocaust 2, as well as a release called Terrible Crap Movies I Made When I Was a Kid, which contains Roberts' earlier movies Scared Shitless and Mask of Insanity.

There was another screening I was planning to catch at 7pm, horror host Gunga Jim presenting the movie Crypt of the Living Dead, but I ended up missing that one. I went to indie filmmaker Henrique Couto's table to pick up a copy of his new release Backyard Legacy, which is basically his version of Roberts' "Movies I Made When I Was a Kid", as it collects over 6 hours of shot-on-video movies he made when he was a youngster. The titles on that one include Vamp Killa, Patches, Patches 2, Bark at the Moon: Malice, Mummy Sleepover Massacre, Teen Suicide, HeadCheese, Nerd's Night Out, Diagnoses Terror, and Songs in the Key of Satan, with Couto's first official feature Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches included as a bonus. I also bought a movie he recently produced, A Raunchy Christmas Story. While I made these purchases, Couto and I started talking, and we had a conversation that went on for quite a while.

After leaving Couto's table, I went back to the Troma table and bought a copy of The Nobodies, which Jay and Bart signed.

Soon after that, it was time for a Q&A panel with one of the celebrity guests.

8:15pm - GUEST: Belinda Balaski meets up with fans after the Bobbi Jo and The Outlaw screening in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Character actress Belinda Balaski, a regular in Joe Dante's films, is like a chameleon as far as I'm concerned. I have seen her in a bunch of movies, but somehow never put it together that it was the same actress in all these movies. Apparently that's not uncommon, as she told a story during this Q&A about a filmmaker who didn't realize which characters she had played in which movies until he saw clips put together in a reel.

Over the course of an hour, Balaski shared stories about her experiences working on films like Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, The Food of the Gods, Cannonball!, Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins, Amazon Women on the Moon, Gremlins 2, Matinee, Small Soldiers, and the upcoming anthology Nightmare Cinema. She also talked about her disastrous meeting for a role in either Carrie or Star Wars, and discussed the acting school she used to run.

It was an interesting Q&A, even though my lack of sleep was really starting to hit me around that time.

After the Q&A, I went back around the guest and vendor room, and spent some time hanging around the Troma table. I was in there until it closed.

10:00pm - The DEALER and GUEST ROOM closes for the night but the evening is far from over. Movies and Events roll on until after 2:00am tonight, so read on!

I accompanied Jay on a quick trip back to our room at the Super 8, then returned to the Holiday Inn for another screening.

10:15pm - MOVIE: Beware THE BOOGENS when they crawl from their abandoned mine tunnels in MOVIE ROOM 2.

I was really tired at this point, but I was glad I decided to watch this 1981 Canadian horror movie about two couples (and one of the most impressive canine actors I've ever seen) who discover that monsters called Boogens have made their way into their basement from a nearby mine. There was some great audience participation and amusing commentary going on in Movie Room 2. There was one guy in the room who was very annoyed by all of this, but I was highly entertained.

The slasher Visiting Hours was going to be screening after The Boogens, but I didn't feel like I could stay awake any longer. I made my way back to the Super 8... where I sent some emails and talked to Jay for over an hour, so I guess I could have made it through Visiting Hours if I had tried.

After getting a good night's sleep and taking advantage of the free breakfast at the Super 8, I was rested and ready for another day at the Wasteland.

SATURDAY (October 6th):

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

I was there soon after the convention doors opened at 10am and took a quick stroll around the guest/vendor room before heading over to Movie Room 1 for a screening.

10:30am - MOVIE: Saturday Morning Hangover Theater begins with the cult sci-fi classic, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, on 16mm film in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Well, I thought I had gotten a good night's sleep, but as I said there watching this 1956 Roger Corman film about Lee Van Cleef teaming up with a creature from Venus that wants to recreate humanity without emotions, sleepiness was hitting me hard. When the midway reel change happened, I decided it was time to go back into the guest/vendor room to keep myself awake.

One of these days I'll have to watch It Conquered the World back-to-back with its 1966 remake Zontar, the Thing from Venus.

While walking around the guest/vendor room, I saw that one vendor had copies of issue #1 of the newly revived Fangoria magazine for sale on his table. If you subscribe to this new Fangoria, you'll get 4 issues a year for the price of $15 each. These copies of issue #1 were being sold for $20 each. Since one story claimed to dig into unfilmed ideas for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, I decided to take the $5 hit and pick up a copy.

I spent a while marveling at this new Fangoria, which was much thicker than I expected it to be. I read the Texas Chainsaw Massacre article, which did prove to be a fascinating look at two treatments that were written for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 in the 1970s, treatments very different from the TCM2 we got in 1986.

When Bart arrived to take his place at the Troma table, he was interested in getting a copy of Fangoria himself, so I directed him to the table where they could be found.

When 1:30 rolled around, there was a screening I wanted to catch.

1:30pm - MOVIE: An uncut print of MY BLOODY VALENTINE begins in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Unfortunately, the movie room was packed by the time I got there. Instead of watching My Bloody Valentine, I ended up hanging out at the Troma table with Jay and Bart some more while waiting for the Q&A that would follow the screening.

3:15pm - GUEST PANEL: The attending cast of MY BLOODY VALENTINE meets up with fans after the movie screening in MOVIE ROOM 1.

The movie room was still completely packed for this panel, but I did manage to find an open seat off to the side of the room. My Bloody Valentine director George Mihalka was joined for this Q&A by cast members Peter Cowper, Lori Hallier, Helene Udy, Rob Stein, Thomas Kovacs, and Jim Murchison. This hour flew by, and it was great to see how much this group enjoys each other's company.

Mihalka ended the discussion by saying that he's still hoping to make a My Bloody Valentine 2 someday... and if/when he does, he has figured out a way to bring the surviving members of the cast back. Even the ones whose characters were killed in the first movie.

The MBV panel was the last scheduled event that I attended during my time at Cinema Wasteland this year. There were other things I considered going to (like a screening of Happy Hour Holocaust 2 that I skipped because I already bought the DVD), but didn't end up going to the movie rooms for them.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out at the Troma table, with another couple quick interactions with Henrique Couto mixed in there.

At one point during the afternoon, the Mummy and the Monkey came over from their table to do an interview with Jay and Bart about The Nobodies. When that happened, I stood off to the side and couldn't hear what was being said, so I didn't know how the interview went until the footage was posted online:

7:00pm - The DEALER and GUEST ROOM closes for the night, but we’ve still got plenty of things to do and some great movies screening until 2:00am or later tonight.

When the guest/vendor room closed at 7, me and my traveling companions headed back to our rooms at the Super 8. I was soon notified that we were going to be leaving that night instead of getting some sleep and waiting until morning.

Sometime around 11pm, we were back on the road again. Back to Tennessee for me, and back to Alabama for the rest of them.

We left earlier than I expected, but I didn't miss out on anything I badly wanted to be there for. If we had stayed the night, I might have went to the 10:45pm screening of Amazon Women on the Moon and possibly (if I could stay awake) the screening of George Mihalka's Pick-Up Summer (a.k.a. Pinball Summer) at 12:30am. If we had stayed until the Super 8's 11am checkout time, I would have taken another walk around the guest/vendor room. If we had stayed beyond that, I probably would have gone to the 10:30am screening of the European cut of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead... But I've already seen Dawn of the Dead many times, and I had already spent more time in the guest/vendor room during this show than I had ever spent in there at any previous Wasteland, so I was good to go.

By the time the Wasteland's doors opened on Sunday morning, I was already settled in at my Tennessee destination.

As always, it was great to be back at Cinema Wasteland, even with sad thoughts and memories picking at me. It was fun hanging out with Jay, Bart, and Oddi, and it was really cool to see The Nobodies on the Troma table at my favorite convention. It's a sight I've been wanting to see for a long time, and I never imagined that Jay would be there to see it with me.

This was a very different Wasteland experience than my previous twenty-something Wasteland experiences, but it was just as enjoyable. Best of all, the guys I went there with had a good time and left understanding why I love Cinema Wasteland so much.

It's tougher for me to get to the Wasteland than it used to be, but I will be back for a future show. Jay, Bart, and Oddi say they will be as well.

In the meantime, if you'd like to order a copy of The Nobodies, the DVD is available on Amazon.

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