Rock & Shock 2009 Post-Mortem: The Convention

Mark Masztal draws zombies


As an angry eldritch god pelts Worcester with foul globs of sleet, we thread our way through the DCU Center -- and what we find ain't pretty. The arcane items littering the tables in the dealers' row are slicked in blood and ichor (mostly the injection-molded plastic kind) or are emblazoned with phrases like "Tongue-Fucking A Torch-Melted Snatch" and "Killer Klown Lazer Katastrophe." In our final hour on the convention floor, we witness a transformation most hideous: we watch as the skin of a fellow congoer turns grey and rots away from his skull, exposing a gangrenous, oozing scalp. His eyes deaden, and the stink of rapidly necrotizing flesh attracts a swarm of corpse flies.

And for a mere sawbuck, illustrator Mark Masztal will make the same thing happen to you.

Masztal's excellent zombie portraits -- for $10, he'll draw a caricature of you as one of the living dead -- were just one of the many gruesome delights on tap at this year's Rock & Shock convention, last week's three-day pile-up of horror-film fandom, gothick hijinks, and rock fury. (And juggalos. But more on that later.)


PHOTOS: Click here for our Rock & Shock 2009 Slideshow


A big draw of R&S is the celeb factor, and this weekend's line-up boasted a weird mix of obscure talent (e.g., Zombie Bukkake author Joe Knetter), cult favorites (Repo's Bill Moseley, Gunnar "Leatherface" Hansen, The Devil's Rejects' Sid Haig), and straight-up legends. On Saturday, we arrived just in time to jump in on a Q&A with prolific director John Landis, who managed to spin some feeble, starstruck audience queries into storytelling gold. (Stay tuned for the full MP3 recording.) By the time he'd finished dishing on a few hairy behind-the-scenes moments from Beverly Hills Cop III and Blues Brothers 2000 and declared his undying love for Roland Emmerich's Independence Day ("I haven't laughed that hard since Richard Pryor"), one thing became clear: John Landis is a guy you want to hang with.

Mid-day, we run into the Drive-In HorrorShow booth, just as they're about to lead their mascot, Zombie Frank, around the con floor. We trail them through a gauntlet of booths hawking everything from skeletal Barbies to autographed Blade Runner posters to bootlegged DVDs of classics like The Town That Dreaded Sundown (currently the title holder for the greatest trombone murder scene in film history). Then we lurch over to the celebrity petting zoo for more photo ops. Minutes after Zombie Frank poses with a pickaxe-wielding Chris Carnel (My Bloody Valentine 3-D), the voice of the Crypt Keeper comes on over the PA to give a birthday shoutout to fellow con guest (and Amityville Horror star) Margot Kidder. "Stay alive," he mewls. "I love you to death!"

Next up is the panel with Malcolm McDowell, who's played everything from the ultraviolent nadsat ruffian Alex in A Clockwork Orange, to the bastard who killed Kirk in Star Trek: Generations, to the ginger-wigged cannibalistic pedophile serial killer in Evilenko. Of the tales he regales us with that night, my favorite is one that John Landis (seated in the audience) eggs him on to tell, about McDowell's disastrous sword-fighting scene with Oliver Reed. If that piques your curiosity, scroll to the bottom and check out our video. (Or just wait until we post the full talk next week.)

When we return on Sunday, the final night, the DCU Center is slowly hemorrhaging vendors, along with a disturbingly large amount of face-painted teens and large dudes with Hatchet Man neck tattoos -- a snapshot of the crowd awaiting us at that night's Insane Clown Posse concert at the Palladium. But we have just enough time to see art man Masztal whip out his Micron pen and work that zombie magic on a heavily pierced guy named Rusty. When Masztal hands over the finished piece, Rusty grins like a maniac: "I'm gonna frame this!" he cackles. It's like watching a kid on Christmas -- maybe that morning's snow wasn't so unseasonable after all.

Malcolm McDowell's Oliver Reed story -- apologies for the shaky cam

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