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Horror Hound Weekend (The Final Chapter): No Dark Moments

 The Dawn of the Dead Mall Screening Has Been Cancelled!!!!!!

The Dawn of the Dead Mall Screening Has Not Been Cancelled, But Horror Hound Is No Longer Sponsoring It.

There May Be No Dawn of the Dead Screening in the Mall Itself.

And so it went. As soon as I discovered that my schedule would allow me to drive back to Indianapolis on Sunday rather than Saturday night, thus enabling me to attend a screening of George A. Romero’s horror classic in the shopping center where it was filmed, the message boards became abuzz with rumor and conjecture. Reports surfaced that there were rights problems, that there was in fighting between sponsors, that the Mall was evil and no longer wanted to be associated with flesh-eating zombies.

Then, two days before the Horror Hound Weekend convention, came the final word:

The Dawn of the Dead Mall Screening is Back On!!!!!!

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On Friday, June 20th, after reading all the details I could find, my two sons and I had raced across two states to purchase our tickets. Toy Galaxy (Below), the brick and mortar store for Time & Space Toys, was now in charge of the screening. And for ten dollars each, all for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we were guaranteed seats to history—not to mention refreshments.

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Now it was Saturday, June 21st, and after a full day of activities at the Expomart across the street, we’re back inside Monroeville Mall, where Romero unleashed the undead 30 years before. I don’t think anyone on the planet could be as enthusiastic about the upcoming screening as my youngest son. You see, tomorrow is his birthday, and he’s told everyone he meets—from “nurse zombie” Sharon Clayton to effects master Tom Savini—that he will be 9-years-old when the movie starts at 11pm, and 10-years-old when it ends. He is convinced this is some sort of record and quite proud of the achievement.

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When we arrive on the scene, volunteers are bringing out huge rolling pallets loaded with folding chairs.

I elbow my oldest son. “Look familiar?”

Every year, for the 500 Festival Parade in Indianapolis, his scout troop spends the morning setting up these same chairs. I see someone who appears to have authority and we approach.

“Need any help?” I ask.

“Sure,” he says. We need to fill in the space between these columns.”

My sons and I dive in, helping the other volunteers set up row after row (Above).

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“We need a some strong pairs o’ hands over here!”

I turn to see what looks like a giant black innertube on the marbled tile (Above). Another man has a large sheet of white fabric spilling across his arms, clearly looking for help with it. I run over to him, help him lift the mesh-like fabric off the floor.

“This is the screen,” the man tells me. “We need to clip it into place.”

We spread the fabric out and lay it in place, filling in the hole in the center of the black innertube. There are metal clips on every side. We start on opposite ends and work our way around to the middle where we find…

We’re off one.

Frustrated cursing follows and we look around to see where one was missed. Of course, it was on my side. Part of the innertube was folded over, hiding the clip. I undue a large portion and begin again until everything is lined up.

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Now, we’re ready to inflate the screen. We attach the innertube to large fans (Above) and turn them on. Air rushes in, and it is obvious fairly quickly that there is another problem. The innertube is essentially a huge A-Frame, and the black tubes that form the supports are twisted like a giant black pretzel.

We try several times to untangle it, and between each attempt we must unhook the screen from the fans and let the air back out. I check my watch and it is after 9 pm. Soon, they will start letting people in to take their seats, and I wonder what the response will be if we can’t figure out how to erect a screen.

Finally, we manage to untwist it and the screen fully inflates (Below).

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Soon, the floodgates open and the ticket-holders file down the escalator into the make-shift cinema. Some are even dressed as zombies, with tattered clothes and full prosthetics. As they take their seats, the carnival-style music from Dawn of the Dead’s end credits pours from speakers, filling the mall. It is all quite surreal.

And then it is time to start the festivities.

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After a brief welcome, Mike Christopher (Above), the “Hari Chrishna” zombie, takes the microphone. He thanks everyone for coming, the regales us with a tale of how he researched his character. He actually dressed up as a Hari Chrishna and tried to get the mall security guards to buy incense.

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Castmate David Early (Above) then takes center stage. Just as he did earlier in the day, he expresses his affection for George Romero and the work they created. He is clearly impressed by the turn-out, and the enthusiasm fans have for the film after all these years.

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A third man then rises from his chair and begins to speak.

“You might remember me,” he tells us. “I used to be a little taller. My name is Jim Krut, and I was the ‘helicopter zombie.’”

My sons and I look at each other at that moment, our eyes wide. On the message boards, someone posted that Mr. Krut (Above) would not be there until Sunday, but when we got to the convention, the staff I spoke to had said he wouldn’t be there at all.

Jim goes on to say how he would not let his daughter watch the film until she was 16.

The crowd booed him at that, and my youngest son looked up at me with a smile, again proud of the fact that he was probably the youngest person to ever see the film.

Krut said that they watched the movie together, and after the early scene where zombies are shot one after the other, his daughter asked, “You don’t get shot, do you Dad?”

He shook his head and said, “No honey. Just watch.”

The audience erupted with laughter. (In his famous scene, Jim Krut has the top of his head taken off by a whirling chopper blade.)

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After the cast members speak, representatives from Horror Hound stage an auction to further benefit Make-A-Wish. Items go to the highest bidder, including stills signed by Greg Nicotero and Tom Savini, “THE DEAD WALK!” newspaper signed by all the zombie guests, and a replica of the airport zombie signed by Nicotero (Above).

I’m surprised and delighted be the fierceness of the bidding. The items all find good homes, and a worthy charity will reap the rewards.

As the pre-show festivities wind to a close, I expected to see the lights to dim, allowing the program to continue on in the dark. They don’t. We’re told that the lighting is all computer controlled; that the Mall could not (would not?) change the programming, but it is hoped that the lights will dim at 11pm.

They don’t.

The show goes on, however. When the title hits the screen, mad cheers explode from the crowd. Then Romero appears as the television director, and there are more wild applause. And when David Crawford says “It gets up and KILLS,” we all say it right along with him. But when the movie switches to the early, dark scenes in the projects, the glare of the overhead lights makes the action muddy and incomprehensible. Excited conversations turn suddenly to dissatisfied and angry grumbling, and when it becomes obvious to everyone that the lights will never go out…many just get up and leave.

Later, I would learn that some even had the audacity to ask for a refund of their money—money earmarked for a children’s charity.

I shouldn’t be surprised, however. I used to manage movie theaters, and I once organized a showing of the ALIEN trilogy to benefit an AIDS charity in Indianapolis (this was before Resurrection and AVP). The night of the event, several people asked for their money back, complaining that other audience members were saying lines of dialogue aloud and cheering when important or memorable moments occurred on-screen. Because of this, they claimed they could not enjoy the movie. What I told this ALIEN crowd, and what I wish I could have said to those who abandoned the mall like rats from the Titanic: this isn’t a movie…it’s an experience. You don’t attend a screening like this to merely watch images displayed on a screen, you come to meet other fans, to clap and cheer for your favorite scenes…you come for a party.

And those of us who do stay are treated to a wonderful party indeed. The picture and sound quality improve as the night wears on, and the group who sit behind me actually work in the mall. They are quick to point out how things have changed and what modern stores have replaced the defunct shops depicted on screen.

“That’s where I smoke,” one of them admits with a laugh, pointing to the stairwell where our heroes hide out.

Near the end, Toy Galaxy comes around with coolers on carts, tossing free drinks to everyone who remains on the floor. I feel bad for them. I really do. After all the trouble they had to go through to put on this party, after all the effort that went into getting the area ready in time for the show, it is a shame that the mall lighting has to mar such a wonderful evening.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008.

After the late-night screening, we are slow to rise. Eventually, however, we do find our way over to the Expomart and Mr. Jim Krut. What a wonderful guy! He adds his name to my Dawn of the Dead poster and we talk about our children, about the screening the night before, and finally, about our respective drives home. He is four hours away. Me…six hours, and unfortunately, it is time to get started.

As we leave Pittsburgh, I ask my sons if they’ve had a good time.

And from the back seat, my youngest—now ten-years-old—calls out, “It was the best weekend of my life!”

I couldn’t agree more. Like the screening the night before, there was never a dark moment. We make our return to Indianapolis, knowing that Horror Hound Weekend will soon follow. Each event has been better than the last, and I for one cannot wait to see how they top themselves this August.

The End
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Horror Hound Weekend (Part 3): Halloween Chainsaws, Fluffy Heads, and Other Weirdness

“Michael? Michael West?”

I’m in Pittsburgh, enjoying my time at the Horror Hound Weekend convention with my two sons, when someone taps me on the shoulder. I assume it must be someone from the registration desk, or perhaps even the security staff, and for an instant, I wonder what it is that I could possibly have done (or not done) to warrant their attention. Then, I turn around.

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Behind me is a woman in a white top and jeans. It takes me a moment, but I soon recognize her as ~Ladyblue~ (http://www.myspace.com/Ladyblue6371, Above left.), from MySpace and various Horror message boards.

“I thought it was you,” she says with a smile. “My husband has your story. Would you sign it for him?”

I chuckle at that. Here I am, amid all of these horror icons and celebrities, and someone wants my signature. “Sure. I’d be happy to.”

At that moment, Noigeloverlord (http://www.myspace.com/noigeloverlord, Above right) walks over with a copy of APEX: Science Fiction and Horror Digest in hand. “I originally bought it for Brian Keene’s story, but then I read yours and loved it!”

“Glad you enjoyed it.” I sign my tale, “To Know How to See,” then we pose for pictures. “It’s nice to finally meet you both.”

This entire time, the couple’s son is chatting with my youngest. Faithful readers will know that my boy is by no means shy, and soon the children are best friends—asking to have their pictures taken together as well. It always amazes me how you can meet total strangers at these Horror Hound conventions, strike up a conversation, and leave feeling as if you have known the people forever.

Soon, we have to say our goodbyes, and my sons and I head for the steps.

All day long, the staircase has been like an oven. Sun streams through a wall of glass, and doors seal the area off at both ends. Now, however, the stairs are hot for an entirely different reason.

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Half-naked women lay sprawled across the railings, striking very seductive poses. There is a man with a camera, sitting on one of the steps, acting frustrated as people walk past and interfere with his shots. I have been to a lot of conventions in my life, and I thought I had seen just about everything there was to see, but this is a completely new experience.

My sons tug insistently on my arms. “Come on, Dad!”

They are still at the age when food is more important than girls, and they’re hungry for lunch.

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When we return from Toy Galaxy’s convention lounge, the women are gone, but Daeg Faerch (Above), the young Michael Myers from Rob Zombie’s Halloween has just arrived. His appearance has changed a bit since I saw him last. He’s taller, thinner, but despite his young age, you can tell he is serious about the craft of acting. You can actually see him get into character before each camera flash—the smiling, laughing child giving way to a more brooding, mysterious persona.

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Halloween star Danielle Harris (Above) is also in attendance for the weekend. She is such a sweetie, and lucky for me, she has copies of the Halloween 5 poster on her table for signing. This is one of my favorite posters from the entire series, with Michael’s knife blade morphing into the clown costume worn by Harris’ Jamie.

After posing for pictures, Danielle gets into a huge debate with my youngest son about Michael Myers, and I finally have to pull him away from her table before she thinks I’m raising a little serial killer of my own.

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Bill Moseley (Above) is the next guest we visit. The man cracks me up! I have the poster for Texas Chainsaw 2 with me and he breaks into his Chop Top character as he signs it. He then picks up one of the “plates” he has for sale and explains to my sons how it was molded from a cast of his head.

I also have Bill sign a picture from the Night of the Living Dead remake he did for director Tom Savini. The film was in color, but the still is black and white, just as the original motion picture was shot. “They’re coming to get you, Mike,” he writes.

We then take the still over to Tom for his signature.

“Can you write ‘Cut!’ above your name?” I ask.

Savini smiles. “Cool idea.”

A few tables down from Tom sits his one-time make-up assistant, Darryl Ferrucci (Below).

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Darryl had the honor of donning the “Fluffy” costume for one of my favorite Creepshow segments, “The Crate.” I show him a still that Savini signed for me back in Indianapolis—the artist being mauled by his own creation. Darryl signs the photo, but admits that he’s not the one pictured.

“That’s the hand puppet,” he tells me. “There was a suit, and a hand puppet for when we actually had to bite someone.”

Our discussion then turns to the film C.H.U.D..

“Yeah…wow.” Ferrucci laughs. “There was noooo money for that one.”

He describes the process of making the Geiger counters and other props from scrap bits and pieces, then admits that he actually appeared on screen.

“You know the hand at the beginning? The one that reaches out of the manhole and grabs the girl’s leg?”

“Yeah.”

“That was me,” he tells me. “I even have a picture somewhere of me with the hand on and all the fog machines under the manhole.” He pauses, then looks at me and says, “You know, if I’m gonna do more of these conventions, I should print some of those up. People might be interested. I mean, you know C.H.U.D., right?”

“Oh yeah. I love C.H.U.D. I’d buy that one from you in a heartbeat.”

And I hope Ferrucci appears at another Horror Hound soon, so I can be true to my word.

When we pose for pictures with a “Fluffy” head that sits on his table, I ask if we can hold the sculpture up for the cameras.

“Uh…I would, but it’s not mine,” Darryl cautions. “It’s Greg Nicotero’s. He’s just letting me borrow it for the weekend.”

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Greg Nicotero (Above). Effects-guru extraordinaire. The man has been responsible for the effects in some of the latest and greatest fright films, including last year’s Grindhouse and The Mist. Across his desk sits a row of zombie heads, reproductions of undead faces from Dawn through Diary of the Dead.

Greg is as nice as he is talented, taking time to explain how some of the effects were accomplished, then posing for a picture where our heads and the zombie heads formed a line of busts. He even signed a still from one of my favorite films of all time, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2. “I’ll swallow your soul!” he writes.

As we shake hands, I ask him if he will be attending the Dawn of the Dead screening in the mall that evening.

“I’ll be there,” he tells us.

It is getting late. The convention floor is closing down for the day, and we head over to Monroeville Mall for a bite to eat. Soon, they will erect a huge screen where the famous clock tower fountain once stood. Soon, for the first time ever, they will show Dawn of the Dead in the shopping center where it was filmed.

And I can’t wait to see what happens.

TO BE CONTINUED…
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Horror Hound Weekend (Part 2): Con of the Dead

Saturday, June 21, 2008. A cool breeze blows through the man-made canyons of The District—an open-air addition to the Monroeville Mall, the shopping center where George A. Romero filmed his classic horror film Dawn of the Dead. Rain drenched this Pittsburgh suburb last evening, but today…there is not a cloud in the sky.

My youngest son turns 10-years-old tomorrow, and he is going through what I call his “zombie phase”: he loves all things undead. So, as we cross the street to the Expomart, site of Horror Hound magazine’s weekend-long convention, he is quite excited about who he will be able to meet.

We walk through the doors, and it does not take us long to find our first zombies: Dawn of the Dead’s Clayton and Sharon Hill (Below).

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The husband and wife duo are so nice and down-to-earth. I have on my Dawn of the Dead hoodie, with Sharon’s “nurse zombie” featured prominently on the back, and they get a huge kick out of it.

“Where did you get that?” Clayton asks.

“Hot Topic,” I tell him.

“Do they still have them?”

“Not anymore.”

I had a similar conversation with Danny Trejo at the March Horror Hound Weekend, and it always amazes me that actors don’t get at least one copy of all the items that feature their likenesses.

Behind the Claytons sit Leonard A. Lies and Frank Serrao, the “machete” and “gray suit” zombies.

Leonard signs my Dawn of the Dead poster and draws a little bloody machete on the bald-headed zombie. Then, when he finds out that it is my son’s birthday, he gives him a chocolate picture of himself as a gift.

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Frank also has a gift, a painting of himself with Sharon Clayton. He signs it, gives it to my son, and the boy’s eyes light up as if it is Christmas morning.

“Show him your sweatshirt,” Clayton calls out, then tells Frank, “Sharon’s on the back.”

I spin around so they can see, but a line is beginning to form, so I must soon shake hands and move on.

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Mike Christopher (Above), the “Hari Chrishna” zombie, is the next guest we meet. He is a funny, funny guy, and it is obvious that he relishes his cult icon status. He adds his signature to my poster, poses for pictures, then gives my son lessons on how to walk like a proper zombie.

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Next, we catch David Crawford (Above) as sets up his table for the day. David was one of the few non-zombie Dawn of the Dead guests. His character, Dr. Foster, has one of the film’s most memorable lines, “It gets up and kills!” He writes this line on my poster, then poses for a picture with my son in character, explaining how best to survive the zombie apocalypse.

*Author’s note: Pictures featuring my children have been cropped when possible. When not possible, I have chosen not to post them. I hope you understand.

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Another David sits nearby, David Early (Above). Mr. Early shared the screen with Crawford’s Dr. Foster, playing television interviewer Mr. Berman. He was also Mr. White in the final Creepshow segment, “They’re Creeping Up on You,” and it’s that role we really talk about.

“So what did you say when George Romero called you up and said, ‘Look, I want you to do this part, but all we’re really going to see of you is your eye and your mouth through a magnifying glass?”

In the film, White is seen almost entirely through a huge peephole.

He gave a wide smile, his affection for the director quite obvious. “I said, ‘I can’t wait. Let’s go. Let’s do this.’”

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Joe Shelby (Above left) and Tommy LaFitte (Above right) are the final Dawn of the Dead guests we see that morning.

My son looks at LaFitte and asks, “What zombie were you?”

He smiles and says, “You seen the movie?”

My son nods.

“You know the zombie that bites the girl on the neck?”

He frowns at that and I have to laugh. The first time we tried to watch the film, that’s the moment that sent him running up the stairs.

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We next find Griffin Dunne (Above), the undead Jack from American Werewolf in London. This is Griffin’s first convention ever and he appears to be enjoying himself. He signs my Werewolf poster, a still from the film, and writes, “Be serious, would you!”

Next to Griffin is the lovely Romy Alford, producer for Paul Davis’ documentary Beware the Moon. I tell her how wonderful I thought the film was.

She smiles. “You saw it?”

“Yes, I sat behind you.”

“Oh yeah. You laughed a lot.”

“Sorry.”

“No, it was good. You have a very distinctive laugh.”

I think I blushed at that.

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Allan Trautman (Above) is seated across the hall. Allan played the iconic “Tar Man” in Return of the Living Dead. He was one of the highlights of the weekend, such a nice, friendly man. We talked for quite a while and he signed my poster as well as a still of the Tar Man in all his glory. “To Mike,” he wrote, “a writer with BRAINS!!!”

Finally, we see that there is no line at Ottaviano Delluacqua’s table. Ottaviano (Below) played probably the most iconic undead creature in history, the worm-eyed corpse from the Italian film Zombie . Like Griffin Dunne, this is his first con. He speaks very little English, and I speak very little Italian, but he knows “Mike” and I know “Grazie.”

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Having now met all the zombie guests at the con, we start to leave for lunch. Toy Galaxy has set up a lounge, serving hot dogs to all convention guests, and we want to get over there before they are all gone.

Suddenly, there is a hand on my shoulder, and a voice I don’t recognize is calling my name.

TO BE CONTINUED…
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Horror Hound Weekend (Part 1): Tall Paul and the Mall

Sunday, June 22, 2008. My two sons and I are dining at a Taco Bell in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, I hear:

“Praise the Lord!”

I turn just as the woman in the next booth lowers her cell phone.

“Lisa just got saved!” she tells her friends.

The others, in unison, respond, “Hallelujah!”

As I sit witness to this conversation, two thoughts spring to my mind in rapid succession. The first is that my sons and I are dressed in Hellraiser shirts, and I wonder if this group will interrupt our dinner to try and “save” us as well. The second is that, oddly enough, our entire weekend could be likened to some sort of religious pilgrimage. You see, we’ve just been to the Mecca of modern horror: Monroeville Mall, the setting for George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

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It’s now Friday, June 20th.

After a six-hour drive from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, my sons and I head straight for the shopping center. Hard to believe, but 30 years have passed since zombies last shambled through these marbled halls. Much has changed in that time. Gone are the gun stores where our heroes armed themselves against the undead hordes. A food court now sits in place of the ice skating rink. Smooth glass panels have replaced the ornate wrought iron railings. And the famous clock tower fountain is now a trampoline ride.

Looking around, however, I find a few things that still remain.

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The JC Penney where our heroes began to take the mall back from the zombies, where Ken Foree first uttered the line, “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”

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The pond and bridge where many zombies stumbled and took a bath.

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The hallway where our heroes took refuge.

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And while the make and model may have changed, you can still find a car in the mall if you need one.

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We find Toy Galaxy, the brick and mortar store for Time & Space Toys, and go inside. This could very well be the greatest store Man has ever known. I find toys I had and loved as a child sitting side-by-side with new collectibles I desperately want to add to my collection.

We immediately walk up to the counter and ask, “Do you still have seats to the screening?”

For the first time ever, Dawn of the Dead will screen in the mall where it was filmed. All proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, one of my favorite charities. There are only 500 tickets, however, so I have broken every speed limit in three states to get here in time to buy ours.

“We do,” the clerk says with a smile. “Do you want the regular ones, or the gold pass?”

“What’s the difference?”

“With the gold pass, you’re guaranteed a seat and you get popcorn and drink all for $10.”

“Give me three of those.”

Tickets now safely in hand, we grab something to eat at the food court (ice rink) before heading to the Expomart across the street--site of the Horror Hound convention hall and screening room. Dawn of the Dead is not the only film I’ve been waiting for. No. Tonight is the World Premiere of Paul Davis’ Beware the Moon, a feature-length documentary celebrating John Landis’ 1981 Oscar-winning masterpiece, An American Werewolf in London.

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Paul Davis walks into a packed screening room. I can see why his screen name is “Tallpaul.” He appears to be all of seven feet. (In the above photo, he's sitting...I'm standing.)

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Behind him strolls David Kessler himself, actor David Naughton (Above).

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And last, but certainly not least, Werewolf director John Landis (Above).

The three men take their seats right in front of me, and John lets it slip that Beware the Moon will appear on the Blueray edition of American Werewolf, due out sometime next year. This announcement is met with thunderous applause.

When the lights finally dim, we are treated to 90 minutes of pure joy. BtM is funny (very funny), but it’s also informative and nostalgic—everything you want from a retrospective on one of the greatest horror films ever made. I could not believe the people Paul was able to find and interview, and it was wonderful to see so many of the cast members after all these years. I love movies and the craft of filmmaking, and I cannot remember a finer tribute to the classic horror of my youth than this.

Almost midnight when the screening ends, and we three weary pilgrims head to our hotel for some much needed rest. It has been a long, eventful day in the Mecca of Horror, but as I drift off to sleep, I cannot help but think the best is yet to come.

TO BE CONTINUED…
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Mo*Con III

As faithful readers have probably already guessed, I go to a lot of conventions during the course of the year. Some are professional in nature--dealing with the craft and business of writing, others are more for fans of the horror genre, but the one thing they all have in common is that wonderful time after the con closes where everyone finds a place to hang out, talk, and just get to know one another. Sometimes its the official "Con Suite," other times the hotel bar, or even a small corner of the lobby. I love those times, getting to catch up with old acquaintances and start new friendships. It's a great feeling that usually lasts until the wee hours of the morning, but at Mo*Con...it lasts all weekend long. ;D

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Mo*Con III was held at The Dwelling Place (7440 N. Michigan Road/Indianapolis, IN 46268). It used to be a hard place to find, but author (and previous guest of honor) Brian Keene donated the above sign. ;)

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The event was sponsored by my extended family, the Indiana Horror Writers ( ABOVE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: [Standing] President Bob Freeman, Founder Tracy Jones, and Jerry Gordon. [Sitting] Natalie Christl, Me, Mo*Con Princess Alethea Kontis, Con Ringmaster and Namesake Maurice Broaddus, Sara Larson, and Michelle Pendergrass. [Floor] Tiffany Proctor.). We meet every month (and fill our mailboxes with emails in between), but we never have as much fun as we do on these weekend retreats. :)

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On the first night, Featured Guest Mark Rainey (above) took fellow authors Kelli Dunlap, Alethea Kontis, and Lauren David on a treasure hunt ( http://www.geocaching.com ) in a local graveyard, where they were promptly stopped and questioned by police. It was here that Lauren uttered what may have been the catch-phrase of the con: "We're with the church."

:P

Luckily, we did not have to post bail money and the group made it back in time for a concert.

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The band was a Celtic Rock group named Mother Grove (http://www.mothergrove.com), and they were incredible. At one point, lead singer Brad Sprauer started using his guitar like a DJ uses a turntable to scratch. (Sounds strange, I know, but it worked...and it was awesome.) 8-)

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Late in the set, author and friend Gary A. Braunbeck grabbed me by the arm and we spun around in a wild Scottish jig. Thankfully, all camera's were on the band and we won't see that on YouTube any time soon. ;)


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Author Alethea Kontis holds a special place in all of our hearts. At one point during the weekend, I stated that she was "so sweet, she sweats Sacrin" and it's the truth.

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To honor the fun, joy, and inspiration she provides us throughout the year, we made her an honorary member of the IHW and dubbed her the "Mo*Con Princess." I the time that I've known her, I have never seen Alethea cry, but that brought her to tears of joy.

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Bram Stoker Award-winner Brian Keene was also named an honorary member of the IHW for his support of Mo*Con and our group over the years.

This brief award ceremony was then followed by various panels, discussing faith, spirituality, and gender and how they impact our writing.

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After the panels, we had the official release of Indiana Horror Writers first anthology: Dark Harvest. Gary A. Braunbeck wrote a forward to the collection, and it was good to have him on hand for the grand unveiling. It was also fun to see guests who bought copies go from table to table to get signatures from each and every contributor. ;D

Saturday night, it was back to Maurice's home for spirits and spirited conversation. Topics ranged from publication deals, to Dr. Who, to Ti Chi, and everyone had a blast. :)

Sunday morning, everyone gathered for the morning church service at The Dwelling Place, and the topic of the sermon turned to one of my favorite films: It's a Wonderful Life. "Try to write your life story without including anyone else," the pastor dared. Impossible. We need our friends, our extended families. They lift us up when we fail, inspire us to keep going, and join us in the celebration of our success--because no success is possible without them. If you take nothing else away from Mo*Con, you take away the knowledge that friends are the most important thing in this world.

I just hope I don't have to wait until Mo*Con IV to see all of mine again.

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With writer/editor Douglas F. Warrick (Left) and his friend Kyle, who stole a bunch of shirts out of my closet for the weekend! >:(

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With writer/editor Chesya Burke. 8-)

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With friends Kelli Dunlap and Alethea Kontis. They're like the little angel and devil on my shoulders. (You guess which is which.) ;)

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Practically crushing Kelli Dunlap. :P

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Writer/editor Nick Mamatas gives me a lift. :D

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Cons, Writing, and Reviews...Oh My!

What a week.   After the wonderful time had by all at Mo*Con III (full report coming soon), I'm now busy getting ready for Horror Hound Weekend in PA this coming weekend.

On the writing front, trying to finish my stories "Sanctuary" and "Bring It On" for upcoming anthologies.   "Sanctuary" is due first, so it has been getting much of my attention.  Also watching a lot of movies for my new role as film reviewer for Doorways magazine.  You can look for the first wave in the upcoming issue.

And finally, the first review of Dark Harvest is in and it's a good one that even mentions my stories "Goodnight" and "Trolling" by name.   ;D

http://mikesell.blogspot.com/2008/06/ooooo-spooky-hoosiers.html  

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Not the Way I Wanted to Spend My Weekend

Friday night, Indianapolis was hit by one of the worst storms I can remember, and my neighborhood appears to have received much of its fury. Wind buffeted West Manor, bringing with it torrential rains and hail. I had water pour in around some windows, running down the wall into my basement and ruining some ceiling tiles there, but other than that, and some ruined landscaping, my home was remarkably unscathed.

We did lose power, however, and to stop my basement from flooding, I began to bring buckets of water up from the sump pit and dump them into the kitchen sink. I'd been doing this for hours when the neighbors behind us had their electricity restored at 1:00 am. "Won't be long now," I said, and I continued to bring up buckets. I was still bringing up buckets at 8:00 am when my wife returned home from a night of work at the hospital. By this time, I had been up for over 24 hours and was exhausted. :(

Finally, I spoke to a neighbor who had power and asked if I could run extension cords from my sump pump to her outside outlet. Thankfully, she said yes and I was able to get some much needed rest. :)

Much of the neighborhood looked like a war zone. Branches, shutters, aluminum siding, and other debris were strewn everywhere. Huge, decades-old trees were uprooted, split down the center, or stripped of their branches all together. As I laid down, the sound of chainsaws cutting up downed limbs filled the air.

It was strangely soothing. ;)

When I woke up, the lights and air conditioning were back on, and it was time to get started on the cleanup.

As far as writing goes, did not get much of anything completed.

Working on two short stories for upcoming anthologies, a re-write of my novel, Poseidon's Children, and doing a bunch of reviews for my new gig as movie reviewer for Doorways magazine. Will keep you posted.
;D
 
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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Staring: Harrison Ford, Ray Winstone, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, and Karen Allen
Written by: David Koepp (screenplay)
George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson (story)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg

I remember the summer of 1989 very well. A lot of good movies that year: Tim Burton’s first Batman, James Cameron’s The Abyss, Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon 2, and of course, Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That’s right my friends, hard as it is to believe, it has been nineteen years since Harrison Ford’s whip-cracking adventurer literally rode off into the sunset. At the time, I was a teen-aged college student. Now I have a teenager of my own.

Indy and his creators (Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas) are all in the same boat. Nineteen years older, and with children who were not even born when that bullwhip last snapped across the movie screen. Together, they have dusted off the fedora and created a new chapter in the saga, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, ready to spark the imaginations of a whole new generation, and at the same time, rekindle those joyous memories of summers past in their parents and grandparents.

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In the 1981 original, Raiders of the Lost, archeologist adventurer Henry “Indiana” Jones (Ford) said to his true love, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), “It’s not the years, honey…it’s the mileage.” Now 65, the years appear to have caught up with poor Indy, and the mileage is plainly visible on his face. His hair and trademark beard stubble have grayed; the desert sun has turned his skin to leather. But becoming a senior citizen hasn't stopped him from getting into trouble.

Kidnapped by Russian baddie Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), our old friend Indy must help recover a fabled crystal skull and return it to a hidden temple in the Amazon, for the person who returns the skull will be given unspeakable power…or so legend has it. Along the way, Jones must once again rescue his maid Marion—this time, with the help of her teenaged son, Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf); battle giant ants and ancient traps, and prove that after all these years he can still pack a mean punch.

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Seeing Ford and Allen together again is a real treat, and even after 27 years apart, the chemistry is still there. The script by David Koepp, however, gives their characters little to do but bicker back and forth. “But Mike,” you say, “they always bickered like that.” True, however, Raiders managed to allow them a few quiet scenes where they could explore their relationship rather than some musty old tomb. Here, Allen joins the action very late in the game, and the lack of a romantic moment makes the idea that these two could ever reconcile seem like a screenwriter’s contrivance more than fate.

Having the Soviets and KGB as villains is another great nostalgic touch, and Blanchett is clearly having a blast as the film’s #1 heavy. She is sensual, ruthless, as skilled with a sword as she is with a machine gun, and her plan for converting the free world to the ways of communism is truly insidious. Koepp’s script even suggests that she might have psychic abilities, but the film never bothers to explore them or put them to any real use.

And then there’s “Mutt,” a motorcycle rebel without a cause. Spielberg gave LaBeouf a copy of Marlon Brando's The Wild One to study before filming began, and the young man appears to have done his homework well. The writing is never better in this film than it is when Ford and LaBeouf share the screen. Indiana Jones has always been a professor, but he has never acted like one before Crystal Skull. Hearing Indy calmly describe to Mutt the difference between dry sand pits and quicksand, as he and Marion slowly sink deeper and deeper, is truly priceless.

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Steven Spielberg’s direction shows flashes of his brilliance. In the opening of the film, Indy is revealed in silhouette as he puts on his fedora. Later, a magnetic box is uncovered, and we suddenly see all the overhead lights pulled toward it. And during a campus chase scene, Indy is yanked into a speeding car by KGB agents, gets into a fistfight, then climbs out the opposite window onto the back of Mutt’s bike. But even a master like Spielberg needs a good story; otherwise a film becomes a bunch of loosely connected images with no substance.

As I watched the end credits, John Williams’ music slowly built toward the crescendo of the now famous Raiders march, and then...it just changed into something else altogether.

This is the problem with the entire film.

Koepp may have been credited with the final screenplay, but everyone from Frank Darabont (The Mist) to M. Night Shyamalan (Signs) has had a crack at the story over the years, and at times it feels as if George Lucas took the best parts of each draft, wrote them on index cards, and then threw them up in the air. Whatever order they landed in became their shooting script. FBI agents are brought in to investigate Indy as a communist, driving him from the university. One could say this was Spielberg’s allegory for abuses of power under the Patriot Act, but it is never explored. Then Mutt shows up to get Indy to leave the country, which he was going to do anyway. And still other characters seem to change motivation from one scene to the next, simply to push the plot along. It all leads to a climax that is not only anti-climactic, it feels as if it comes from a completely different movie—more X-Files than Indiana Jones.

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Despite its many, many flaws, I found that I really and truly enjoyed myself while watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford may not have been able to resurrect everything that made the original Raiders of the Lost Ark such a classic, but they have somehow managed to channel its spirit—something the middle two entries in the saga sorely lacked.

So don’t look too deep into the Crystal Skull. Just fasten your seatbelts, hold onto your popcorn, and enjoy the ride. If you’re not whistling the Raiders march on the way home, I guarantee you that your children will be.

4 out of 5 stars.
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No Monsters on Dish Network

Today, Dish Network made an unannounced and bone-headed move. The satellite provider has dropped Monsters HD, the first all horror channel, from their programming (along with every other VOOM HD network). What did they put in its place, you ask? The Weather Channel in HD!

:-[

Totally pissed, I emailed my concerns to Dish Network, and I ask all horror fans to do the same. Here's the link:

http://www.dishnetwork.com/content/customer_service/contact_us/email/index.asp

Also, if you are a Dish Network subscriber, you can call the customer service line to voice your concerns:

1-888-284-7116

Let your voice (and your chainsaws) be heard!

>:( BRING BACK MONSTERS HD!
>:(