Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cinema Wasteland Fall 2013

The fall 2013 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 lastest Cinema Wasteland convention was not only its twenty-fourth show, but also marked an important anniversary for what I and many of my fellow attendees believe to be the greatest genre-based convention there is - this was the 13th anniversary show.

Since I didn't enter the world of Wasteland until it was already five and a half years established, missing the first eight shows, this was my sixteenth Wasteland experience... which is a pretty good run in itself. It's hard to believe that I've been to sixteen of these now, but still, it makes sense given how much it feels like a home away from home to me now.

At around 3:30 on Friday, I arrived at the Holiday Inn that has housed Cinema Wasteland since the beginning, picked up my three day pass at the table in the lobby and bought the T-shirt that had been specially designed for this show, then checked into my room and got everything set up.

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

Soon after the doors to the guest/vendor room were opened, I walked through the entrance with my pass hanging on the lanyard around my neck and once again began making my way through the amazing atmosphere of the Wasteland.

Taking a quick look around, I made my first stop at a magazine and poster dealer, the vendor from whom I had bought several Fangoria back issues with Friday the 13th cover stories from at the spring show. Looking to add more issues to my F13 Fangoria collection, I began leafing through his selection of bagged Fangos... and was pleased to find that the vendor had recently scored a large run of back issues. Searching for mentions of F13 movies, I started putting gaps in that run, pulling out every issue with a hint of F13. The pile of potential purchases quickly grew.

There was an issue that featured Friday the 13th part 1. Part 2 was the main cover story on another. Two issues with articles on part 3. A part 5 cover story. Part 6. An article on censored F13 death scenes. "Jason: Past, present - and future!" Part 7. "How long 'til part 8?" Exclusive coverage on part 8. A tease for Jason Goes to Hell a year before that movie came out.

Within minutes of entering the show, the purchase of twelve issues of Fangoria wiped out 2/3 of the money I had brought with me. I quickly took my haul of Fangos back to my room for safe keeping, then returned to the guest/dealer room to continue looking around.

Writings on the blog have made it clear by now that I'm a fan of the works of Toledo, Ohio-based indie filmmaker Dustin Mills (The Puppet Monster Massacre, Zombie A-Hole, Night of the Tentacles, Bath Salt Zombies, Easter Casket), and my next purchase was made at his table.

I had been disappointed with Mills's second feature, Zombie A-Hole, upon first viewing, but mentioned in my write-up on it that I had the original, 108 minute cut of it, and expressed interest in a director's cut that had since been released. Copies of the director's cut were available on Mills's table, so I bought one. I haven't watched it yet, but I'm looking forward to checking it out. Unlike most director's cuts, this one actually makes the movie shorter, 18 minutes shorter according to the running time on the back, which should improve my viewing experience, since I had felt that the original cut was way too long.

Recognizing me from past shows, Mills asked if he knew me. I told him just from Wastelands, but then let him know that I was the person behind the Life Between Frames blog. He was familiar with my write-ups on his movies and even brought up the possibility of featuring a quote from LBF on a DVD case someday, which would be very cool. I always go into these situations fearing that my social anxiety will make me look like a total dope in front of people but, even though I was a little awkward, Mills and I still had a pleasant brief interaction. At the end, I wished him good luck with the Easter Casket screening that was scheduled for Saturday night and went on my way.

My way took me over to a table where Michael Felsher, a big name in the world of behind-the-scenes special features on DVD/Blus, was offering copies of a live commentary on Friday the 13th: A New Beginning he had recorded with director Danny Steinmann and Ultra Violent Magazine's Art Ettinger at the spring 2009 Cinema Wasteland. I had been in attendance for the recording of that commentary and have been waiting to get a copy of it for four and half years, so I was glad to finally be able to get one from Felsher.

Moving on through the room, I stopped by Dayton, Ohio-based indie filmmaker Henrique Couto's table. I had watched his Depression: The Movie when he had briefly made it available streaming online a while back and enjoyed it, plus I was intrigued by his other features Bleeding Through and the newly released Babysitter Massacre, so I bought copies of all three. While explaining that the tone of each of his movies is very different, as one of the filmmakers he draws inspiration from is John Landis, who makes movies as different from each other as An American Werewolf in London and The Blues Brothers, Couto signed the cover art of all three movies, with actress Erin R. Ryan also signing Babysitter Massacre.

By now it was almost time for the first screening I wanted to attend, so I took my DVD purchases back up to my room, then went back downstairs in time for -

6:30pm - MOVIE: Horror Host regular, Gunga Jim, brings Gunga’s Drive-In to Cinema Wasteland with a screening of ASSIGNMENT TERROR (free barf bags included) in MOVIE ROOM 2.

A showing of this episode of Gunga Jim's show has been scheduled for the spring show and I had been looking forward to it. Unforeseen circumstances kept Gunga Jim away from the Wasteland then, but thankfully the episode was rescheduled for this show.

I got to the room a little early, in time to receive a free barf bag as promised, and after a brief introduction by Gunga Jim himself, the show began.

At previous Wastelands, I've watched episodes of Gunga's show that featured The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Wild Women of Wongo, and in fact the copy of Boggy Creek that I own is the Gunga Jim version. Each movie shown on Gunga's Drive-In is played in its entirety 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.

Despite a story that has zombies, a wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster, a mummy, and vampires getting caught up in an alien plot to take over the world, Assignment Terror (a.k.a. Dracula vs. Frankenstein, a.k.a. Los Monstruous del Terror) is horribly, painfully dull. Gunga Jim had an uphill battle with this one, but managed to make it enjoyable to sit through.

When Gunga's Drive-In ended, I made another trip around the guest/dealer room.

In a horror host mood after watching Gunga's show, I stopped by horror host The Son of Ghoul's table and bought a copy of his episode featuring the awesome 1958 horror/sci-fi movie It! The Terror from Beyond Space.

Several Wastelands back, I had contributed $20 to writer/director Cameron Scott's effort to raise funds for his movie Post Mortem, America 2021. Since the movie has now finally been completed, I picked up a copy of it.

Down the aisle from Scott's table, a vendor had used DVDs for sale, 5 for $20, so I picked out five of them - the "trapped in a house with a tiger during a hurricane" movie Burning Bright, the comedy Hot Shots!, and some franchise installments that I needed to complete collections - Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (on a double feature with Hellraiser: Bloodline), the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, and Lost Boys: The Thirst.

Then I went into Movie Room 1 for -

8:15pm - GUEST EVENT: Join writer and director William Sachs after the INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN screening in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Filmmaker William Sachs, best known for The Incredible Melting Man and Galaxina, was joined by actors Stephen Macht and Janus Blythe for this interesting panel, which covered, among other things, how Sachs got into filmmaking, Macht's experiences working on Galaxina and The Monster Squad, and Blythe's experiences on Melting Man and Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive.

With the guest/dealer room set to close at 10pm, I took one last walk around in there after the panel, then went back to my room to order and eat some pizza.

10:30pm - MOVIE & GUEST TALK: CHILLERS begins in MOVIE ROOM 2 with a short talk and introduction from director Daniel Boyd.

The interview Art Ettinger conducted with Daniel Boyd was in progress when I took my seat in Movie Room 2, but I was there for most of it and the Q&A that followed. It was pretty interesting. Then the movie began, and Boyd was sitting near me for the majority of it, having fun revisiting the movie he made more than twenty-five years ago and hearing the audience's reactions.

This was my first time watching Chillers. It's an anthology movie about a group of people stuck in a bus station together passing the time by telling each other scary stories. There's a haunted swimming pool, a serial killer, vampires, supernatural abilities, an Indian burial ground... The movie was made very cheaply and is quite cheesy, but I liked it a lot.

When Chillers ended, I went over to Movie Room 1 for the last screening of the day.

12:30am - MOVIE: Nature fights back against Ray Milland’s hatred of well, most everything and everyone, in FROGS, as we round out the night’s 16mm film screenings with a drive-in classic in MOVIE ROOM 1.

This deadly serious but seriously goofy "nature run amok" movie deals with a group of characters - including some played by Ray Milland, the legendary Sam Elliott (Road House), Adam Roarke (Dirty Mary Crazy Larry), and Knots Landing's Joan Van Ark - trapped on an island by not just deadly amphibians, but also killer birds, reptiles, and spiders. Silly though the movie is, I also find most of the creatures that fill the screen during it to be absolutely disgusting to look at, so it also manages to unnerve me.

I was extremely sleepy by the time Frogs ended, so I made my way up to my room and collapsed into bed, where the latest episode of the Tell 'Em Steve-Dave podcast talked me to sleep.


The convention doors opened at 10am on Saturday, but by the time I was up and ready for the day, I was running late for the first movie I wanted to attend.

10:30am - MOVIE: Saturday Morning Hangover Theater features the sci-fi classic THE PROJECTED MAN, on 16mm film, in MOVIE ROOM 1.

I wasn't the only one running late, as the projectionist was having a lot of trouble with the 16mm film reels. Apparently the film had been poorly rewound the last time it was used. It took quite a while for the problem to be solved, so I was still able to see The Projected Man from the beginning despite my tardiness.

It's not very popular and was mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but this 1966 sci-fi horror flick about a scientist whose experiments turn him into a disfigured madman with a deadly touch made for an entertaining way to start the day.

After the movie, I took a brief stroll around the guest/dealer room before heading over to Movie Room 2.

1:00pm - MOVIE & GUEST TALK: Cult classic, ANGEL, begins with a short talk and introduction by star Donna Wilkes in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Throughout the weekend, I had been taking pictures of sights and celebrities to text to my girlfriend. Donna Wilkes, I took a picture of to send to my sister, because back in the day she was a 
big fan of the Angel movie series, which followed the dangerous adventures of a teenage prostitute turned amateur sleuth. Wilkes played in the character in the first of the four movies. This interview, moderated by Art Ettinger, was an interesting look at Wilkes's career, including her work on Angel and the troubled production of Jaws 2, and her experiences on the genre movies Schizoid, Blood Song, and Grotesque.

I wanted to go straight from the Wilkes Q&A to the screening of The Hills Have Eyes (1977) that was going on in Movie Room 1, but the room was so packed that I decided to skip it and spend the next hour and a half or so wandering around the convention.

It might have been during this time that I stopped by the table of actress Janet Jay, a.k.a. horror host Janet Decay, The Daughter of the Ghoul, to buy the four Daughter of the Ghoul episodes she had for sale. Three of these episodes featured movies - The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, The Terror Beneath the Sea, the Ohio-made Venus - while the fourth was a special dedicated to the spring 2013 Cinema Wasteland.

3:15pm - GUEST EVENT: After THE HILLS HAVE EYES screening, we’re gathering up the attending cast and crew of the film for a panel in MOVIE ROOM 1.

I managed to get a seat in the still-packed room to witness Art Ettinger and Wasteland show runner Ken Kish's great hour long talk with THHE stars Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Martin Speer, Suze Lanier-Bramlett, and composer Don Peake about the making of that film, a classic which is one of my all-time favorite horror movies.

4:30pm - GUEST EVENT: 42nd STREET PETE’S GRINDHOUSE begins with special guest, Seka, the "Platinum Princess of Porn" herself. Join Pete, (more than likely CW promoter, Ken), and the always outspoken Seka as they talk about her career in the adult industry, her new autobiography, and so much more in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Pete's panel started soon after the Hills Q&A cleared out, and he was indeed joined by Ken Kish for an hour long chat with Seka. I was in the room for a good portion of the panel, then I went back out into the guest/dealer room for a while and back up to my room for some more dinner ordered from Domino's Pizza.

5:45pm - MOVIE: William Smith stars in PIRANHA, PIRANHA as "Caribe", a crazed hunter that likes to hunt people, in MOVIE ROOM 1.

I returned to Movie Room 1 for this movie, which takes a long time to get around to letting William Smith reveal himself to be a crazed people hunter, time largely filled with long sequences of the characters travelling through the countryside while music plays. The movie was so incredibly dull that I put in my earbud hooked to my phone so I could listen to the rest of the Tell 'Em Steve-Dave podcast as I watched it.

By the time Piranha, Piranha had ended, the guest/dealer room had closed for the night and there was a Q&A I wanted to check out going on in Movie Room 2 - writer/director Chester Turner talking about his career and specifically his 1984 movie Black Devil Doll from Hell... Unfortunately for me, this room was really packed, there were even a lot of people standing, so I decided to skip it and go back to my room for a while.


I didn't have great expecations for a movie with this title, figuring it would be a horror/comedy with the sort of sense of humor that would probably grate on me. As it turns out, it's actually a surprisingly serious minded and dark movie, digitally manipulated to look like it was shot on old, low grade film. It was much better than I expected it to be.

The next screening was the highlight of the weekend for me.

10:30pm - MOVIE: Dustin Mills EASTER CASKET may change your life for the better as it begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

With Dustin Mills and cast/crew members Erin R. Ryan, Janet Jay, Brandon Salkil, Sherriah Salkil, and Dave Parker in attendance, Mills's evil Easter Bunny opus was played to an audience that received it very positively. It's a very funny movie, and the audience was totally on board with its humor, filling the screening room with laughter throughout. With its entertaining story and characters, badass but silly moments, hilarious scenarios, impressive visual effects, and a scope much larger than most filmmakers on Mills's budget level aim for, Easter Casket proved to be a huge crowd-pleaser, and I enjoyed being a part of that crowd.

I wrote about Easter Casket and this screening in last Friday's Worth Mentioning article, and as I said there, Mills and his work have become a big inspiration to me as an aspiring filmmaker, and I believe he deserves a lot more attention than he's getting. Any horror site out there that's not covering Dustin Mills Productions is missing out on something awesome that's going on in the indie world.

After Easter Casket, I stood around in the party atmosphere of the lobby and lounge areas for a short while. There were midnight screenings that I could have caught, I considered it, but I was very sleepy at this point, and anything else would've just been a comedown after the fun of the EC screening. So I made my way back up to my room and crashed for the night.


My checkout time was noon on Sunday, so I had my room cleared out and my stuff packed into the car by the time the Wasteland re-opened in the morning.

11:00am - Doors open for all pass holders.

Since I had already made all the purchases I was going to (and was nearly out of money anyway) and there are no guest panels scheduled for Sundays, I was ready to head home at this point, but of course I took the time to take one last walk around the guest/vendor room, getting my last fix of the Wasteland world to hold me over until the next one.

When my time at the 13th anniversary Wasteland came to an end and I left the convention at around noon on Sunday, I was leaving with twelve more issues of Fangoria and sixteen more DVDs than I had when I entered on Friday.

As always, my weekend was a great one, a lot of fun, and a highlight of my year. I'm glad these shows exist for me to escape to every six months, so thank you, Ken Kish, for creating them and keeping them running, thanks to the Holiday Inn for continuing to put a roof over our heads, and thank you to my fellow attendees/Wasteland family members for making this show as uniquely awesome as it is.

See you all again in April!

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