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Welcome to the Crypt!

Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

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From the Desk of the Unimonster...

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07 August, 2010

Uni's Trips from the Crypt: Famous Monsters Convention, 2010

Indianapolis is blossoming into one of the “in” places to be in the Horror community, helped by our close proximity to a major metropolitan area such as Chicago, and host for the past several years to the HorrorHound Convention in the spring.  Now central Indiana can boast of another Horror-Con: the Famous Monsters Convention.  Timed to coincide with, and celebrate, the relaunch of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, this third incarnation of Jim Warren and Forry Ackerman’s landmark creation debuts with issue number 251, though there’s a number 250 that’s comprised of a forty-eight page tribute to the late Ackermonster himself.

The original 25-year run of this great magazine, which so endeared itself to generations of MonsterKids as to attain legendary status, has been credited as being the inspiration behind such creative talents as John Landis, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and Peter Jackson.  Though the second incarnation of the title left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans, there’s hope that new publisher Philip Kim will restore the mag to it’s former glory.  The close cooperation of the estate of Forrest Ackerman certainly lends an important cachet to the enterprise that the previous venture lacked.

However, this is not a review of the magazine, but of the convention associated with it.  Held at the Wyndham hotel in Indianapolis from 9 July to 11 July 2010, the Unimonster, accompanied by the Crypt’s official photographer/videographer, spent two days in attendance and can report the convention was a rousing success.

Those who were following the run-up to the convention had some cause for concern, as there seemed to be some confusion initially with the reports that were coming out regarding plans for guests, movie screenings, questions about dealers’ booths, etc.  Despite some early difficulties involving the check-in process (minor ones at that), I was pleased to see that the convention was well organized, and well run.  Occupying virtually all of the available convention space in the hotel certainly helped, as the attendees had room to circulate, varying their time between the screening rooms, rooms where autograph signings were taking place, the dealers room, and other attractions.  Chief among these was the “Hall of the Living Dead,” dedicated to the stars of the Romero …DEAD films.  Several were in attendance, including such notables as John A. Russo, Tom Savini, Russ Streiner, and Judith O’Dea.  The Unimonster himself was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes in conversation with Russo, the screenwriter of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, as well as Leonard Lies, the “machete zombie” from DAWN OF THE DEAD.

As we mingled among the various attendees, it became obvious that Indianapolis horror fans, just as they did during HorrorHound in March, will turn out in droves when given the opportunity.  Fortunately, the organizers in this instance took into account a large turnout, and planned accordingly.  While the exhibit areas were busy, they weren’t so tightly jammed that one felt trapped, as was the experience at HorrorHound.

As always, one of the prime motivations for attending a convention is to reunite with old friends and meet new ones, and there was much of that happening.  Two of the Unimonster’s newest friends are Mitchell and Jessica Wells, of The Horror Society.  This was the second convention I’ve attended in their company, and I find their knowledge of, and passion for, Indie Horror to be quite refreshing.  These qualities are reflected in their web-site, which I recommend to everyone with an interest in low-budget, independent Horror Films (stay tuned for more developments involving The Horror Society—Ed.).

Two other individuals whose acquaintance I made at Famous Monsters were Joe Moe and Cortlandt Hull.  Joe Moe is well known to readers of the Crypt, as he was 2009’s Creature of the Year.  Joe was, in Forry Ackerman’s later years, the Ackermonster’s best friend, bodyguard, caregiver, and in general his right-hand man.  I’ve long been e-mail friends with Joe; it was great to meet him in person.

Cortlandt Hull is the owner and operator of The Witch's Dungeon, which is both a real-world and internet museum he began to pay homage to the great monsters of classic horror, including Dr. Wilfred Glendon, portrayed by his uncle Henry Hull in Universal’s classic 1935 film WEREWOLF OF LONDON.  Cortlandt’s latest project is THE AURORA MONSTERS: THE MODEL CRAZE THAT GRIPPED THE WORLD, a documentary examining the beloved Aurora monster models of the 1960’s, directed by he and Dennis Vincent, and starring Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul.  It is my intention to review this work sometime in the very near future, so this isn’t the last you’ll hear of this film.

Speaking of reviews, the Unimonster came away from the convention with a stack of films needing to be reviewed, and over the next few months you may expect to see my thoughts on films such as PICKMAN’S MUSE, from writer / director Robert Cappelletto [see below], and SHADOWLAND, starring former Hooters Calendar girl Caitlin McIntosh.

One of the films screened at the convention, one that I’ve reviewed this month, is David Kabler’s WANDERLOST.  Written by Kabler and Daniel Judson, it is a rambling, existentialist fantasy-horror, one that quite frankly is a bit too artsy for my tastes.  That’s not to say it isn’t well-executed, and if you enjoy the more avant-garde side of Horror, then by all means give it a try.

Without a doubt however, the big event of the weekend was a panel discussion featuring many of those who were Forry Ackerman’s closest friends and acquaintances.  Joe Moe, Mick Garris, Basil Gogos, Bela Lugosi, Jr. and others, along with Philip Kim and the editorial staff of the new Famous Monsters magazine, met to discuss their memories of Forry, the inspiration he provided to their lives, and the direction that the magazine that he was such an instrumental part of would take in the future.  Much remains to be seen in this regard, but if Kim and company stay true to the vision they laid out for the magazine, then I think Forry would approve.

Sunday at the convention was unfortunately abbreviated for me, but I was there long enough to insure that the final day was a rousing success.  Sunday, as is the norm for my conventioneering, is the day for networking, and there was much of that taking place.  I spent several minutes talking with a group there to promote the effort to honor Bob Carter, better known to those in Central Indiana as Sammy Terry, with admittance to the Indiana State Museum Hall of Fame.  Sammy, a long-time Horror host on WTTV-4, still makes occasional public appearances at conventions, and is frequently seen on local television during the Halloween season.  He has long deserved more recognition for his significant contributions, both to the Central Indiana region and to the broader history of the Hosted Horror program, and I would like to encourage everyone to support this effort to see that he receives this recognition.

Other contacts were made as well, contacts that will bear fruit that I will be sharing with you in the near future.  As I stated earlier, my Sunday session was unavoidably brief, but overall I came away from Famous Monsters Con feeling that it had been a rousing success.  As this was the first FM Con in Indianapolis, there was no reliable frame of reference with which to compare it, but I have to believe that Kim and the FM staff are pleased with the result.   There were few problems; at least few that were readily apparent to convention-goers, and everyone appeared to be having a very good time.  I can certainly attest that I did.

I’m not sure whether the Famous Monsters Con will return to Indy next year, but I hope that it does.  Not only for the obvious reason—that I had a great time and hope to attend it again—but because it’s good for local fans to be able to connect to others in the hobby, and to those who entertain and inspire us.

1 comment:

Joe Moe said...

Hey, my Monster-brother! Thanks for the generous mention in your terrific and detailed blog. It was great to finally meet you in the creeping-flesh too. I think all of us left that Con feeling the hope for a new insurgence of classic horror appreciation. I think we were all impressed by Phil Kim and staff's openness to all of our input. Now that dear Harry Knowles is the OFFICIAL editor-in-chief of the web presence for FM, the sky's the limit! I hope that FM Con marks the first of MANY events that will bring you and I and all of fandom together more often! Beast witches and, of course, need I say: FJA SHALL NOT DIE!