As long time readers of these pages will attest, I love conventions. The chance to gather with your fellows, to bask in an environment so fully given over to something that’s so much a part of who you are, whatever that might be, is regenerative and exhilarating. Even the Unimonster can tire of Horror, and even the Unimonster occasionally needs to be reminded of why this genre has held him enthralled for a lifetime. Nothing does that like a convention, and rubbing shoulders with those who share that love.
For several years now, the HorrorHound Weekend has visited Indianapolis’ eastside, haunting the Marriott East hotel the first weekend in September, making it the perfect lead-in to the fall season, and the beginning of the extended bacchanalia that is the celebration of Halloween in the Crypt. For most of that time, I’ve been attending the convention, and have happily watched it grow into a major event on the calendars of central Indiana Horror fans. As usual, this year I and the Crypt’s devoted photographer (and Uni-sister) Cathy Willis arrived early, but not so bright, at the soon-to-be-jammed venue, secured our parking spot, and walked next door for what has become a pre-convention tradition for us, breakfast at the Lincoln Square restaurant.
Normally, this doesn’t warrant mentioning, as in the past the food has been enjoyable. Not great, not spectacular, but good, well-prepared, and filling; just what’s needed to fuel us up for a busy day. This time it was not. In fact, both Cathy and I found the food to be so disappointing as to merit special attention here. I hope that this was just an aberration, and next year it will return to its previous level of satisfactory service. Unfortunately, the staff of the Unimonster’s Crypt will probably remain ignorant of the answer, as our pre-convention breakfast will in all likelihood shift to the nearby Bob Evans.
Once we’ve checked in and gotten our credentials in order, my first priority is connecting with old friends who I only get to see at conventions. This year, I was lucky enough to run into Count Gore De Vol practically upon walking in the door. The Count is an old friend, and a reunion with him is always the highlight of a convention.
Another familiar face was Tom Sullivan, the Special Effects wizard behind the original Evil Dead. One of the first interviews I conducted as the Unimonster was with Sullivan, at the 2004 Horrorfind convention in Baltimore, and it was a pleasure to reconnect with him here in Indy. It was also a pleasure to introduce Cathy to him, as together we were able to convince her that The Evil Dead is a movie that she should see—hopefully sooner rather than later.
The next old friend of the Crypt that we encountered was artist Chris Kuchta (The Monsters in Monotone: The Horror Art of Chris Kuchta—28 February 2009). I’ve been a fan of Chris’ artwork for years now, ever since I interviewed him for the Crypt, and that art has only gotten better. I’m no more an art critic than I was then, but I know what I like, and I like Chris’ art!
After renewing old acquaintances, the next item on my agenda was touring the HMA-Mask Fest exhibits. The HMA, or Halloween Mask Association, has been an integral part of HorrorHound Indy for several years now, and for me, one of the highlights of the convention. For someone whose childhood was spent fixated on the ads for Don Post’s iconic creature masks in the back of Famous Monsters magazine, it’s like letting a chocoholic into the Hershey’s factory. The artists and craftsmen who make up the HMA never fail to disappoint me with their creativity and imagination, and this year was no exception.
The Mask room holds far more than just masks, however. Dark arts and crafts of all types are on display here, and one of the first tables we stopped at belonged to Evil Pumpkins [http://evilpumpkins.com/], owned by a Tennessee couple, Tanya and Jeano Roid. Dealing in handmade jewelry, sculptures, and other curios, they specialize in, fittingly enough, evil little pumpkins. Pumpkin necklaces, pumpkin pins, pumpkin magnets … and my favorite, pumpkins in graveyards. Their pumpkins have a unique look, a blend of the comical and the macabre, kind of like Scooby-Doo with rabies. However you describe them, they work for me.
Their most interesting product, however, is their ‘Evil Dead Dirt’, dirt taken from the former site of the cabin used for the filming of Sam Raimi’s 1982 classic The Evil Dead. Such tangible connections to history, whether of the cinema or real world, have always held great significance to me. I once owned a chunk of the Berlin Wall, and one of my most prized possessions is a working speaker from a Drive-In Theater. A vial of soil taken from the filming location of one of my favorite movies would be a prized addition to my collection, and to many of yours, as well. Check out their site, listed above, which will direct you to both their Etsy storefront, and their Facebook page.
Another young artist deserving of your attention is John Lanouette, owner and creative force behind Enchanted Sculptures [http://www.enchantedsculptures.com/]. What made his display stand out from the hordes of gore-covered zombies, slashers, and demons surrounding it was the fun, almost whimsical nature of his work. Rows of foam rubber anthropomorphic candy corn, friendly gargoyles, and smiling vegetables ready for harvest evoke memories of a simpler, more innocent Halloween, and while those memories may be very distant for the Unimonster, they’re still capable of summoning a smile or two.
Eventually, we made our way to the main exhibit hall, containing the dealers’ room. As always, this room was the center of most of the activity, and the location of most of the people attending the convention. For many of the attendees, this was the convention, the place where they could mingle with the stars, check out new merchandise, or track down that long-sought collectible.
One negative that must be mentioned is the poor level of customer service provided by the convention volunteers. While it’s understandably difficult dealing with the large crowds that attend horror conventions, those who represent those conventions need to remember that their attitudes and action will define how the experience is remembered by those that they are there to serve.
That issue aside, however, I, as always, left the convention feeling refreshed and renewed, and fired up for the Halloween season to come. Ready for another year of bringing you the best … and the worst … in the world of Horror, Science-Fiction, and Fantasy entertainment.
(The Unimonster’s Crypt wishes to thank Nathan Hanneman and the staff of HorrorHound for their kind assistance and hospitality.)