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Six things I learned at Rock and Shock


George Romero talks zombies, Creepshow, and cockroach wrangling at Rock & Shock

Last weekend, Rock and Shock invaded Worcester's DCU center and Palladium. For the uninitiated, Rock and Shock is a unique experience: half horror convention, half kick-ass metal concert. I was there promoting Infinite Santa 8000, my new animated web series about Santa Claus killing mutants in the year 8000 (no, really).  I learned a great deal as I wandered through the horrifically metal madness.

1. The Human Centipede has gone mainstream

Now there are six words I never thought I'd say (or type). If you haven't heard, The Human Centipede is the latest in torture porn horror: three people sewed together ass-to-mouth by a crazy doctor.  Ewww.  Needless to say, this is not a "fun" horror film in the vein of Friday the 13th or Scream.  However, several horror fans I spoke with confirmed that The Human Centipede is now available at Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Red Box.  Imagine that: you can now buy Furry Vengeance, Season 1 of Dora The Explorer, and the best of ass-to-mouth cinema all in one shopping trip.

But here's one thing you can't buy at Wal-Mart: a Human Centipede Barbie

PHOTOS: Scenes from the Rock & Shock convention floor.

2. Dogs can be metal, too

If you're the kind of person who likes to dress your dog in sweaters but you don't want the embarrassment of a hot pink pullover with hearts and smiley faces, you're in luck. MetalDogz makes all sorts of bad-ass canine clothing - if your dog is goth, metalhead, or just plain morbid.

3. There are a lot of amazing horror artists out there

I've been to a lot of horror cons in the last year, and I'm always amazed at how many talented artists there are. Painters, sculptors, illustrators, photographers, leather crafters -- walk around and you'll find just about anything. (Oh, yeah, there's even a guy who will turn you into a zombie for a mere $10.) What's more, a lot of these artists make their living doing what they love. The horror community's passion for all things scary - from horror icons like Freddy Krueger and Frankenstein's Monster to skeletons of two-headed conjoined twins - allow these people to live their dreams.

4. Adrienne Barbeau almost didn't do Creepshow

Spoiler Alert!

If you haven't seen Creepshow, then, well, what's wrong with you? As soon as you finish reading this, drop whatever you're doing and watch it (unless you're reading this on a laptop, and if you drop that I'm not responsible for any damage). Night of the Living Dead director George A Romero and kick-ass horror maestro Stephen King joined forces on Creepshow and created one of the best horror films of the last thirty years. Creepshow is an anthology horror film in the vein of Tales From the Crypt that serves up five fun and terrifying tales of terror. Each story is a classic, but the scariest by far is "The Crate," in which a college professor discovers a hundred-year-old crate under the stairs in the science wing. Something is still alive in the old dusty box, and let's just say that it's pissed off and hungry. As the body count rises, the professor's best friend tries to remedy the bloody situation. Enter Adrienne Barbeau as the best friend's wife: a drunk, selfish, boorish, and generally awful human being.  You're just waiting for her to meet the Crate Monster and get what's coming to her (or what's being ripped out of her).

Barbeau plays this character beautifully, pushing her performance to the edge of caricature but not so far that it takes you out of the story. In fact, her extreme performance helps the story, because you grow to loathe her in a short amount of time (roughly twenty minutes) which makes the inevitable payoff much more satisfying.

Oh man, I need to see Creepshow again.  I can see the DVD from my computer...hold on, I'll be right back.

[Two hours later]

OK, I'm back.  Creepshow was as awesome as ever.  To continue:

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Barbeau, and she was as nice and awesome as I had hoped she'd be. However, my heart stopped when she told me that she was so put off by the excessive gore that she almost didn't do the film! The horror! Fortunately she called horror genre icon Tom Atkins (he's been in about a million horror movies and is amazing in Night of the Creeps), and he convinced her that Romero and King knew what they were doing. My heart started again - whew.  Thank you, Tom Atkins!

5. Adam Green kicks ass

Adam Green (director of Hatchet, Hatchet 2, and Frozen) was one of the top guests at Rock and Shock, which was fortuitous for the convention because his name has been in the horror news media a lot lately. AMC agreed to release Hatchet 2 unrated -- an unprecedented move considering that Hollywood won't release films unrated or NC-17, which basically means that any film more graphic than an R won't be seen in a theater. AMC's move seemed to be a slap in the face of the MPAA, but unfortunately AMC pulled the film after only 72 hours in the theater - well before the projected theater run of at least a week. No specific reasons were given, but it seems that AMC was feeling pressure from the industry to conform to the status quo. Stupid status quo!

Green has become a hero of sorts to horror fans. In general, we hate the de facto censorship of the MPAA. Who are they trying to protect? We want blood, gore, nudity, and scares -- why cut them out? They're just going to be on the unrated DVD anyway. The Hatchet 2 fiasco illustrates the kind of hypocrisy that the ratings board promotes, and Adam Green speaks for all of us.  But there is one more reason that Green kicks ass:

He signs memorabilia for free. Yes, free. The typical price for an autograph at a horror convention is $20 and up. I've paid this for autographs that I really wanted, but I'm not psyched about throwing my money around like that. Most horror fans aren't, but we do anyway because they adore the genre so much. Green had a sign at his booth that said "My autograph is free because I love you." The feeling's mutual.

6. The Horror Community is alive and well

Go to any horror convention and strike up a random conversation. Chances are, you'll find someone who is passionate, opinionated, and dedicated to the terrifying genre they love. I've adored all things macabre since I was a kid, and up until a year and a half ago, I had met a only small number of people who shared the depths and dedication of my obsession. Then last spring I went to Chiller Theater in New Jersey, and my eyes were opened. Sure, I had read horror magazines and websites and I knew that the horror community exited. But to become a part of it -- now that was something completely different. It's a wonderful world of diverse people with love for the genre that I hold so dear. Whether talking about the best cannibal films or our favorite disemboweling, I feel right at home. And that's what a good convention is all about.

Well, that and buying a bar of brain soap.  My bathroom just wouldn't be the same without one.

 

Michael Neel is the co-creator of Infinite Santa 8000, a weekly web series about Santa Claus killing mutants in the post-apocalypse.  He is also the director of Drive-In Horrorshow, an anthology horror film comprised of five terrifying tales. To watch Infinite Santa 8000 or to purchase ho-ho-horrifying IS8000 Christmas merch, visit www.infinitesanta.com. For more info on DIHS, visit www.driveinhorrorshow.com.

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