October 5, 2014

Con Review: FANtom Fest 2014

Every day it seems like there is another convention being announced. If you wanted to, you could probably go to a different convention very weekend of the year. Believe me, if I could do that, I would, no doubt about it. There is something about going to a convention and letting the outside world slip away while you meet celebrities. It gets even better when you realize that the Celebrity guests are people and fans too, it lets you relax and have some great conversations. The show in question now is FANtom Fest, a first time event held in Scranton, PA.

It was a show I was not sure I was going to go to, but at the last minute it seemed to good to pass up, so I made the drive out (just about two hours) to spend a day among my people. The line up was really quite good, including a rare reunion of the cast of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master. It just so happens that is one of the posters I had started a few years back and in one fell swoop, it is essentially done!

Anyway, never having been to the Hilton in Scranton, or even just Scranton before, I was not quite sure I was in the right place as there really was not a lot of signage around to direct traffic. Anyway, as I was walking to the hotel's front desk, I walked past Michale Graves and knew I was in the right place. What? You don't know who that is? Well, he sang for the Misfits in the 90's and has reinvented himself as a solo artist who has done some incredible solo acoustic work and has a voice I just love. Look him up.

I went up to the second floor where the con was being held and picked up my wristband. I took a wander through the various rooms, getting a lay of the land. Along the way bumping into the show's organizer, saying hi and continuing along my path, I saw Rochelle Davis, Tiffany Shepis, Jeffrey Combs, and William Forsythe sitting at their tables greeting folks amidst a variety of vendors (including a show sponsor with free Fireball shots). I ended up in another room towards the back, where I made my first celebrity encounter.

In a room featuring Jeremy London, Zack Ward, and Kyle Labine, I went to the furthest table and met Kristi Angus. This was her first convention appearance and she seemed to be having a good time. Now, if ou are trying to place her, she had one of the most memorable Friday the 13th kills. She was in Jason X and had her face dunked in liquid nitrogen and then smashed on a countertop. She was an absolute delight to meet.

While I was back there I also chatted with Kyle Labine (from Freddy vs. Jason), mentioning he was the fist to sign my Friday poster, which know has 31 other names on it. We also talked about his brother, Tyler (from Reaper and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil).

I moved out into the main hallway and plotted my next move, which seemed logical enough. The next room over, filling up the entire room, was the largest collection of A Nightmare on Elm Street alum I have ever seen in one place. I pulled my Dream Master poster out of the tube, took a deep breath, and dove in. I looked around the room, picked my first target and walked over.

Danny Hassel played Dan in the movie and was happy to be there, saying they are not often together like this.

Right next to him was Andras Jones, the karate kicking, nunchuk having Rick from Dream Master. He was pretty funny, saying they just let him because he said his name as Andras.

Across the way from Andras was Brooke Theiss, the unfortunate cockroach kill. She was a delight. We talked about her having to wear a wig, with three blondes in the case some hair color changes had to be made. She was unsure about dying, so she took the wig while Lisa Wilcox (playing Alice) dyed her hair and Tuesday Knight kept her blonde hair, being she was replacing Patricia Arquette.

Next on the list was Ken Sagoes, who played Roland Kincaid. This dude is hilarious and always happy to meet fans. Funny thing, I expected him to be taller…

Rodney Eastman, who played Joey was at the end of the row next to Ken. He told me about the French mini poster I had for Dream Warriors, talking about how it was originally in poster book released in France. We also talked about his role in the remake of I Spit on Your Grave and how he prefers it to the original.

Next up was Toy Newkirk, who portrayed asthmatic Sheila. She was delightful, happy to meet fans and reunite with the cast, saying she does not appear at all that many of these conventions.

Last on my list was Brooke Bundy, who appeared in both Dream Warriors and Dream Master playing Kristen’s mother (Patricia Arquette/Tuesday Knight). She was nice and seemed to be having a good time.

On my way out I passed by Tuesday Knight’s table and surprisingly she said hi to me by name! I had met her some three years ago, as it turns out, she had been the first to sign my Dream Master poster. We reminisced on that meeting and her doing more conventions. It was really pretty cool being remembered like that.

I wandered back into the main room and struck up a conversation with Tiffany Shepis. This was easily a highlight of the day. We talked about her movies, how I have not watched Sharknado 2 yet, we talked about current movies, how we can’t have nice things, originality in movies, all sorts of things. It was a lot of fun. She is very fan friendly and really is one of us. If you ever get the chance to meet her, do it.

After that conversation, I moved over to the table next to hers and met John Dugan, who played Grandpa in the original classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I had him sign my chainsaw bar, which at first was a little difficult for him when he saw Marilyn Burns’ signature. The two were good friends and her loss has hit him really hard. We also talked about the 4K restoration of TCM, and he said it was too clean, this is a movie that needs to be grimy. We also talked about the recent Texas Chainsaw 3D (which he reprised his role of Grandpa in). They guy was really cool and a pleasure to meet.

At this time I ran into Mr. TonyoftheDead, a fellow film critic and vodcaster (part of The Dorkening). It was a surprise as I did not know he was coming to this con, but it is always fun to run into friends.

I moved on down the line and stopped to say hi to Rochelle Davis (Sara from The Crow). I had met her a couple of times in the past and thought I would saw hi. She was having a good time, she even brought her puppy with her. We talked about the lasting effect of film, the nature of celebrity, and just other random stuff. At one point Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead) came over and we talked about piercings and tattoos.

I then stepped out into the hallway and had a conversation with the promoter, about how things were going and what it was like being a first time promoter. Frankly, I cannot imagine the stress involved and could not imagine doing it myself. As we were talking, Rochelle came out and walked over to us saying she had something to show me, she had a picture of one of her tattoos, it was a tribute piece to Brandon Lee, her grandfather and others she has lost It was a nice piece and pretty cool that she went out of her way to show me.

Then, as luck would have it, my friend Jordan from the B-Movie Film Vault arrived. We caught up on what was happening at the show and made our way back in. We were going over to Jeffrey Combs table and on the way got sidetracked by Kristen Renton (Sons of Anarchy). Her and her handler talked Jordan into buying some raffle tickets by tossing in a picture with her. How can you say no that?

We then turned around and talked to Jeffrey Combs. Always fun to see him. I mentioned his work on The 4400, a rather underrated show in my opinion, as well as the composite cut of Re-Animator. Jordan asked him about being in Cellar Dweller, to which Jeffrey said he had never watched the movie and how it was shot on the same trip as Robot Jox, essentially to days of work and a two week Italian vacation with his then girlfriend.

We walked around some more and ended back in the far room talking to Kristi Angus. We talked about our favorite Friday films and how she was enjoying her first convention, which she was.

Moving along, we stopped to talk with Linnea Quigley, where we asked how her home repairs were coming along, and she was happy to report that things were going well, but there was still work to be done. We also talked about The Survivors, the film that is bringing together a number of survivor girls of other horror films and making a movie around them, something like a horror version of the Expendables.

In the back of the room we saw William Forsythe. We stopped to talk to him, we talked about how he was doing at the show, his versatility and range of roles. There was talk about his involvement in the new release of Once Upon a Time in America. There was also discussion about ad libbing on the set, to which he complained about people being lazy and unprofessional and how not everyone can do that, you need to know the lines and work at your craft. It was an interesting talk to say the least.

The last stop we made was Debbie Rochon, veteran of countless films and an absolute delight to meet. We talked about some of her films and how she has been doing. I brought up the fact that she was in my friend Glen Baisley’s film, Fairview Falls, and had scenes with another friend, Fangoria’s Michael Gingold. She was fantastic and I encourage everyone to meet her.

At some point the conversation expanded to involve A. Michael Baldwin at the next table over. He was positioned perfectly between Debbie Rochon and Tiffany Shepis, not to mention right near the Fireball shots table. This had to have been the most fun area of the convention floor. We talked about the upcoming release of Ravager, our favorite Phantasm film (Really, Jordan? Part 2?), the merits of OblIVion, and how I would love to meet Angus Scrimm.

Later in the evening we went to the Dream Master panel. It was great seeing all of these guys together, reminiscing on the making of the film, working with the special effects and all sorts of stuff. It was clear they were all having a great time.

Overall, I had a blast at FANtom fest. There was a great lineup of stars, and I had a great time getting to have conversations with so many of the stars. I loved when Tiffany Shepis came over to me while I was sitting in the lobby singing NERD’s “Lapdance.” Quite the moment. I really hope they are able to come back next year so I can repeat the fun.

Parting shot: Me and Jordan. I think I won the picture.

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