[POST-MORTEM] In praise of Horror Hound: What keeps us coming back for more blood, guts, and Jason Voorhees sugar cookies

Dear HorrorHound Weekend:

Thanks for another amazing horror convention. I only get to see you twice a year, but you always make it worth my while.  You are truly one of the best horror cons on any planet, Earth or otherwise (I know a few saucer men who claim that Mars has a great convention scene, but everyone I know who has been there has been vaporized).

This was my fourth HHW, and I'd just like to take a few minutes and thank you for all you have given me.

1. Thank you for the once-in-a lifetime celebrity encounters.

At past HHWs I have talked with Brett Wagner (a deranged killer from The Crazies), hung out with Chris Carnel (Harry Warden, the killer miner from My Bloody Valentine), and met tons of other cool genre vets too.  This year I got to chat with David Kagen from Friday the 13th Part 6, Andrew Hubatsek and Brad Greenquist from Pet Semetary, and Robin Shelby, who played Slimer in Ghostbusters!  Good times all around.

And the fun didn't stop there. On Friday night I was in the hotel elevator, crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with other horror fans, each one of us wearing some sort of cool, nerdy T-shirt from flicks such as The Video Dead and Hobo with a Shotgun (my T-shirt was from The Thing). I noticed someone wearing a truly radical t-shirt for Wyld Stallyns, Bill and Ted's band from their Great Adventure and Bogus Journey.

"Cool shirt," I said. The Wyld Stallyns T-shirt guy smiled.  From my left, I heard someone say "Yeah, they're OK."  I turn to my left...hmmm, this dude looks familiar.

Holy crap, it's Bill S Preston, Esquire -- AKA Alex Winter, as he's known when he's not playing air guitar with Ted (Keanu Reeves).

I give him a sly smile, playing it cool: "I like their early stuff the best."  He gave me a wink.

2. So long and thanks for all the fish ... cookies

Conventions make me hungry.  All that standing around, autograph-hunting, and buying amazing artwork like Lydia Burris's ridiculously cool paintings is hard work, and, unfortunately, the food at these cons usually falls somewhere between decent and vomit-inducing (the latter is appropriate given the circumstances, I suppose).  Fortunately, two vendors at HHW helped me curb my rumbling stomach: Sinister Sweets and Slash & Dine.

Sinister Sweets specializes in such horror-themed delicacies as Cinn-o-bites (like Hellraiser's Pinhead, only tastier) and Clockwork Orange Pops (mmm, ultra-violent).  Meanwhile, food blog Slash & Dine reviews cult films, and pairs them with a meal -- say, like Escape from New York Strip Steak served with (what else) a Manhattan. They brought some of their fiendish gastronomy with them to HHW -- how can you turn down cookies from the creators of red velvet zombie cake and Birdemic beer-can chicken

3. Thank you for bringing together so many passionate horror fans

The swag, autographs, Halloween 3 bottle openers, and other cool stuff are all great reasons to go to a horror con.  But one of the best things is the other film nuts and the wonderful nerdy conversations that ensue.  At a sports bar, you might argue about which quarterback is more frustrating: Jay Cutler or Tony Romo?  At a horror con, the discussion goes more like this:

"Which is better?  This kill from Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan?"

"... Or this one from Jason X, where Jason goes to outer space?"

"And does this mean that Part 8 is a better movie because of that one kill scene, despite the fact that there is no nudity, most of the movie takes place on a boat, and they obviously filmed in Birtish Columbia and not the Big Apple?  Or is Jason in space better because it has the requisite kills, a coherent plot, and tons of T&A -- even though the idea is ludicrous and screams of Jumping the Shark?  Or do they both pale in comparison to this kill from Part 6: Jason Lives?"  (Skip to 1:40 and judge for yourself.)

This is the important stuff, people. 

4. Thank you for supporting non-blockbuster horror films

Sure, the casual moviegoer knows horror flicks like Saw, Paranormal Activity, and Transformers 2 (now there's truly terrifying movie you can never unsee) ... but what about Dark Night of the ScarecrowD4, or The Puppet Monster Massacre?  These low-budget films - and thousands of other ones -- don't have the advertising assault of a big-time Hollywood horror flick, so their respective filmmakers bought vendor booths at HHW to talk directly to their fans and make sales.  If fans like a movie, they'll spread the word, until hopefully the film takes on a life of its own. Judging from the positive feedback I heard about Dark Night of the Scarecrow, D4, and The Puppet Monster Massacre, this tactic is working.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is one of the best examples of using grassroots marketing and horror cons for promotion. It was made for TV in 1981, and was very well-received by fans and such genre celebrities as Ray Bradbury, Stuart Gordon (director of Re-Animator), and Vincent Price.  The film has a fairy-tale tone to it, half Frankenstein and half Tales From the Crypt. It's a creepy, atmospheric movie that was probably helped by the limitations of television: since it couldn't show blood and gore, it relies on tension and well-conceived stalking scenes (there is a particularly effective one involving a hay baler). Larry Drake (Benny from L.A. Law, the titular role in Dr. Giggles, and the villain in Darkman) gives a wonderful performance as a mentally handicapped man who is wrongly executed for a crime he didn't commit.  DNotS writer J.D. Feigelson fought tirelessly to get the OK from CBS for a new transfer and DVD release - a difficult and tedious process - and since it hit DVD and Blu-Ray in 2010 the fan base continues to grow. I've seen Feigelson's booth at numerous conventions, where he talks  with fans about his passion project and sells Dark Night merch.  Feigelson is a passionate filmmaker, and I get the sense that he's going to keep spreading the word about his film until every last horror fan on the planet has seen it.

OK, so now that I've gotten all serious and meaningful on you guys, I think I need to end things on a lighter note.  So here's a quick question: What happens when you add Jason, Alice Cooper, and heaping helpings of b-movie cheese?  You get this:

Michael Neel is the co-creator of anthology-horror-film Drive-In Horrorshow and animated web series Infinite Santa 8000. He can be reached at:

READ MORE: "Summer Camp for Horror Nerds: HorrorHound Weekend," by Michael Neel

READ MORE: "Fear and Loathing in HorrorHound Cincinnati (but mostly fear)," by Michael Neel

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