Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cinema Wasteland Spring 2015

This past weekend, the spring 2015 edition of the Cinema Wasteland convention was held in Strongsville, Ohio. Cody was there, and has returned to share a step-by-step account of his latest Wasteland experience.

FRIDAY (April 10th):

It was that time again, the weekend that rolls around every six months when the Cinema Wasteland convention takes over the Holiday Inn in Strongsville, Ohio for a celebration of horror, exploitation movies, and the drive-in/grindhouse era.

This time around it didn't take much preparation to head out to the Wasteland, because I was already in travel mode, having just returned from a three week trip to visit my frequent collaborator Priscilla in her home country of Brazil. I had just gotten back home on Wednesday afternoon, and on Friday afternoon I was heading back out the door.

I arrived at the Strongsville Holiday Inn around 4pm, checked into my room and got things set up, picked up my 3-Day Pass lanyard, and strolled into the guest/vendor room as soon as possible.

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

My first stop was at the table of Ohio-based indie filmmaker Henrique Couto. I own several movies Couto has made (Bleeding Through, Depression: The Movie, Babysitter Massacre, A Bulldog for Christmas, Haunted House on Sorority Row) and was looking to pick up a copy of his latest release, Awkward Thanksgiving. I got a copy of that, signed by Couto and actress Erin R. Ryan, as well as two of Couto's earlier movies, Faces of Schlock and Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches.

I took a walk around the room for a while, checking out the sights and wares, and then it was movie time.

5:00pm - MOVIE: It’s over-sexed monster time as MUTANTIS kicks off the weekend screenings in MOVIE ROOM 2.

It's a popular trend in the indie scene these days to purposely make your movie as terrible as you can, and Mutantis - about a group of people in the woods being terrorized by a horny chicken/lobster mutant thing - is so intentionally poorly made that it would make Ed Wood weep. Bad wigs, fake facial hair, males playing females and females playing males for no apparent reason, every line dubbed out of sync, all within a movie that has a sense of humor that is not to my taste.

Stepping out of Movie Room 2, I saw Wasteland regular Jason Siegel, wearing his trademark fez, making his entry into the convention. I stopped to talk to him for a moment, and he expressed how happy he was to be back in the Wasteland by singing a couple lines from Pink Floyd's "Time".

Then I saw that Dustin Mills, a filmmaker I've written about several times on the blog, had made it to the convention. I needed a copy of his latest movie, Applecart, so I secured one from him before heading off to:

6:30pm - MOVIE: Indy horror anthology, HOLE IN THE WALL, begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Seven directors from Wisconsin, the state that gave the world Ed Gein, assembled to make this solid, troubling anthology, in which the short tales of terror are intercut with a wraparound story involving a serial killer and his farm boy apprentice. Not surprisingly, my favorite segment involved Ed Gein.

When the movie ended, I left Movie Room 2 briefly, but returned to catch some of:

8:00pm - MOVIE: Horror Host regular, Gunga Jim, brings Gunga’s Drive-In to Cinema Wasteland with a screening of Michael Reeves SHE BEAST in MOVIE ROOM 2.

I always enjoy attending Gunga Jim's shows, where he makes a mockery of the movies he's showing by dubbing in humorous observations and goofy sound effects, and this 1966 movie certainly deserves the mocking treatment. Unfortunately, I could only stick around for about 45 minutes before I had to go over to the other Movie Room.

9:00pm - PANEL: SO YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR OWN MOVIE OR SHORT FILM, AYE? We’ve assembled a few of CW’s indy film maker regulars to give you the in’s and out’s of getting your movie project off the ground and completed with a panel in MOVIE ROOM 1.

This panel was sparsely attended, but the panelists - Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best of Happy Cloud Pictures, Fred and Shelby Vogel of Toetag Pictures, and Thomas Berdinski - provided an interesting and entertaining discussion of their filmmaking experiences.

The dealer/guest room was closing as the panel came to an end, so I went up to my room and killed an hour exchanging goodnight texts with my girlfriend.

11:00pm - MOVIE: RAZOR DAYS begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

I had been planning to attend the screening of this Happy Cloud production even before seeing Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best on the earlier panel, but that panel made me want to see it even more. A dark revenge thriller about three women dealing with traumatic, abusive pasts and a group of cannibals, Razor Days is definitely one to check out.

Razor Days was set to be followed by a screening of Jim Wynorski's Sorority House Massacre 2. I was too tired to stick around for that one, but as the Razor Days credits rolled I did overhear Wynorski telling an attendee about the two week journey from starting the SHM2 script to wrapping production. The script was written Monday - Wednesday, casting started on Thursday, filming began the following Monday and was completed on Sunday.

As Sorority House Massacre 2 began, I went up to my room to get some sleep.

SATURDAY (April 11th):

The convention doors opened at 10am on Saturday, but since the first event I wanted to attend wasn't until 11:45, I slept in a bit. When I got out of bed and went to the bathroom, the first sound I heard on Saturday morning was that of my next door neighbors playing metal music.

I headed downstairs and started the day off with a walk around the guest/dealer room, during which I found a vendor who was selling Fangoria back issues for a very good price. I searched through the magazines on my continuing quest to collect every issue with an article about the Friday the 13th franchise, and ended up adding five more issues to my collection.

I then visited the tables of a couple of the celebrity guests to acquire a gift for someone...

By the time these transactions were complete, I was about five minutes late for the 11:45 event I wanted to go to, which was a screening of George A. Romero's Day of the Dead in Movie Room 2. I headed over to the room, and what I found there set the tone for the whole day. The screening was too packed for me to get into.

Missing the Wasteland showing of Day of the Dead, one of my favorite movies, was a disappointment, but one I was able to brush off. I just went back to strolling around the main room. This tour ended with me buying a copy of Gunnar Hansen's book Chainsaw Confidential, the original Leatherface's account of the filming of the 1974 classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, from Wasteland founder Ken Kish.

With Fangos and the book in hand, I went up to my room and ordered some pizza while I waited for:

1:30pm - GUEST EVENT: As the movie screening wraps up, join the attending cast of DAY OF THE DEAD for a big ol’ panel in MOVIE ROOM 1.

11 members of the Day of the Dead cast and crew were assembled for this Q&A, which may have been the most packed panel I've ever been to at a Wasteland. People were standing up against the side walls, spilling out of the room, sitting in the aisle between the rows of chairs. By the time I reached the room I could only stand in the back to witness what was a very enjoyable chat with a group of people who clearly deeply appreciated the experience of working on Day and the love they've received from fans over the thirty years since.

The Day of the Dead panel was followed by a screening of Hard to Die, which was introduced by director Jim Wynorski and star Peter Spellos, a.k.a. Orville Ketchum. Before the movie began, they assured the audience that it was "Based on fact." They then stood at the back of the room to watch the first five minutes or so before going back to their tables in the guest room.

Since I had just watched Hard to Die about a week before while I was in Brazil and that viewing at Priscilla's was fresh in my mind, I followed Wynorski and Spellos out and spent the running time in my room.

4:30pm - GUEST EVENT: Join Jim Wynorski, Peter Spellos, and Melissa Moore (after the screening of Hard to Die), for “a few great stories about B movies” in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Melissa Moore was unable to make it to the Wasteland, but Wynorski and Spellos provided a very entertaining 40 minute Q&A, during which they talked about their work in the low budget world, dashed all hopes for the long-awaited Sorority House Massacre 2/Hard to Die sequel Orville in Orbit, and revealed how Hard to Die came to be and why it's so similar to Sorority House Massacre 2: after Roger Corman saw SHM2, which was produced by his wife Julie Corman, he told Wynorski to "Make the same movie for me." So Wynorski did.

Following the Q&A, I returned to my room. I went back downstairs soon after the guest/dealer room was closed at 7pm.

7:15pm - MOVIE: Beware! CHUBBIES begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Once again, this was an event that was so packed that I couldn't get into the room. The door was open and people were spilling out of the room, so I stood outside and watched a good portion of this indie horror/comedy, a movie in the vein of Critters and Ghoulies about horny little aliens escaping to Earth from the planet Snerd. From what I could gather from my vantage point, it looked like a fun time.

The door to Movie Room 2 was eventually closed, so I missed the ending of Chubbies while I sat in the lounge area, observing the attendees who were taking part in the legendary Wasteland Saturday Night Party. After a while, I returned to my room.

10:30pm - MOVIE: What do a 1964 Chevy Stingray, a million bucks, and a stash of drugs have to do with two happy go lucky guys looking forward to a road trip? Find out when STINGRAY kicks off the night’s 16mm double feature in MOVIE ROOM 1.

When I made it to Movie Room 1 for this screening, it seemed to confirm a suspicion I had been having all day: I think this may have been the most well attended Cinema Wasteland in quite a while. Even the showing of this obscure '70s movie had a bunch of people sitting in on it.

Basically a ninety minute long chase, Stingray was an enjoyable way to end the second day of the convention. My girlfriend had already bailed on the day when Stingray started, so I called it a night after watching this. In the restroom before going to bed, the last thing I heard on Saturday was the sound of my next door neighbor vomiting.

SUNDAY (April 12th):

I usually only spend a short amount of time at Wasteland on Sundays, since I always have to check out of my room by noon and figure I might as well head back home around that time as well. That was the case again at this show, but there was one more movie I wanted to see after I got everything together and checked out.

I took the elevator down to the ground floor, and during the descent a convention guest, '70s-'80s adult film star Long Jeanne Silver, got on the elevator as well. She asked me how I was and my "Alright" reply got a laugh. She must have thought I had taken part in the partying the night before, not knowing she was speaking to a wallflower.

On the way to the movie room, I saw another celebrity making their arrival at the convention, one who wasn't on the guest list: Night of the Living Dead's Russ Streiner. He seemed to be there just to attend the show.

11:30am - MOVIE: Made for television movie, KILLER BEES, with original TV commercials included, begins In MOVIE ROOM 1.

This 1974 "nature run amok" flick could just have appropriately been called Rich People, since it's about a young man taking his fiancee to meet his wealthy, vineyard-owning family. It's like the network wanted a bee movie with as few locations and characters as possible. It's not an exceptionally interesting movie, but the unexpected supernatural angle makes it oddball enough to be worth taking a look at. The real highlight of this screening were the vintage commercials.

After Killer Bees, I took one last walk around the guest/dealer room and ended up buying two more Fangoria issues from the vendor I bought the five others from on Saturday. With that, I made my exit, saying goodbye to Jason Siegel on my way out of the building.

There's no place like Cinema Wasteland, and as Jason expressed with his Pink Floyd quote, it truly is a home away from home for two great weekends every year. This time it was a little crowded, which disrupted my plans a bit, but I gladly take some inconvenience in exchange for the show having a successful weekend. I'm already looking forward to the fall edition, which is sounding very promising.

As always, thanks to Ken Kish for creating and running the best convention in the land, and thanks to Holiday Inn for housing the madness.

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