Rue Morgue's Dark Carnival: The Story of a Not-Quite Horror Guy at a Very-Much-So Horror Expo
CHAPTER ONE : I WENT TO HAMILTON TO SEE ABOUT A GIRL
I will be the first to admit that I went to Hamilton this past weekend for Rue Morgue’s Dark Carnival Horror and Culture Expo for purely selfish reasons. I cannot recall in the twelve years that we have existed that we have covered an event that ends in -Con (save a couple years when someone gave us interview footage from San Diego near our beginnings) or -Expo but I was willing to make the sacrifice and take one for the team this time around. Luchagore’s Gigi Saul Guerrero was coming to town to represent her brand of Mexi’Can(ada)’ horror filmmaking and she wanted a visit. I had not seen her since my trip to Vancouver over the Christmas holidays so I hopped on the nearest bus.
“To Hamilton, my good man”
“Sir. This is the Willowdale Elementary school bus”
“Why these children are waaay too young for this type thing. For shame, driver. For shame”
I will also admit that on the spectrum of horror fandom I do my Dance of the Dead somewhere on its peripheral. Never one to shy away from watching a good horror film I’ve always have this apprehension that I am never wearing enough black or have enough tattoos. Immensely talented Mondo artist Gary Pullin chuckled with me when we chatted about this at his table on Sunday, ‘...we have a uniform’.
First impressions on Saturday? I Ducked in ahead of the crowd on Saturday morning (one does not simply yell out ‘Media Pass, bitches!’) one of the first people I came across was Dead Glamour Girls model Brittany Bell. As you can see she had dark red horns curling out from her black hair. She had a dark red corset to match to match the horns, black pants and high leather boots. Basically an alt-model dreamgirl. I had to stop her and we took the picture below. “You’re gorgeous!” I told her. I wanted to take her home to Mom. If nothing but for the shock factor.
But never was my uncertainty about my appearance more evident than when our little crew (ScreenAnarchy, Blood in the Snow, Luchagore and Bloodbath & Beyond represent!) decided to show up fashionably late to the Shocktails party Saturday night with me in khaki shorts and mostly white, striped dress shirt in a sea of a whole lot of blacks and greys, reds and purples, studs and buckles.
Then Brittany Bell (see above) walked by. She was still wearing the horns, but now I (everyone) could see that most of her upper body is adorned with a colorful array of tattoos that would make even a Yakuza boss envious. The corset was gone. Her costume was gore makeup over her breasts. Eep! I looked over at my drinking partner, Pablo Absento, the director of a short film titled Shi. Absento is as elegant and classy as Bell is hardcore and edgy.
“What? I’m not staring! Honest”
CHAPTER TWO : WHEN YOU ARE IN THE PRESENCE OF PEOPLE
WHO EMINENTLY MORE TALENTED THAN YOU ARE!
As stated earlier, I had not been to an Expo of any sort in my time here at ScreenAnarchy. I have to recall one comic book convention in Vancouver when I was a lad. I went to see Jim Lee and get him to sign my Wolverine vs. Punisher issues. But usually if there is a throng of humanity clustered together in a room not built to spec to hold such a throng I will shy away from it.
Those of you who have been to Expos and Cons will know there is no shortage of means by which to part with your money. Distributors like Troma and Raven Banner were selling their wares. Those plucky lads from Black Fawn Films had their own table and we were able to catch up on their latest projects. There was an endless sea of shirts, jewelery, Voorhees masks for every chapter in the series. Mugs, magnets and coasters. And brains.
While all those things are awesome I immediately gravitated to any table that had art on it. Not everything there was of my taste. I do not think I need comic books depicting graphic violence and nudity, at the same time. Personally, I just cannot fathom going up to a table and asking, ‘Do you have something with tits AND sliced throats, please?’. I kept a straight face when a middle aged fellow described one of his novels as Supernatural Erotica. There is something for everyone, I guess.
No, what I experienced was the gravitational pull of anyone displaying poster art, prints, or illustrations. That tickles my fancy. I also sat in on two panels featuring very, very good artists from Canada and the U.S.
On Saturday Why Horror? Director Tal Zimmerman led a panel of male artists, some of the best in the business, chitting the chat, shooting the - HEY!
On the panel was Gary Pullin, Jason Edmiston, Justin Erickson, Vincent Marcone and Matt Ryan Tobin. Four out of the five of these guys - Pullin, Edmiston, Erickson and Tobin - have Mondo posters. Here are four Canadian dudes killing it for many of the most popular poster and vinyl companies in the World right now!
Marcone is not no slouch either. Golly, I like his stuff. Really dark stuff that reminded me of work from Dave McKean and he directed a favorite short of ours back in 2011, The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow. I already had Justin’s version of a poster for The Void from their Indigogo campaign framed and hanging in my home office. Side note, Justin designed the ScreenAnarchy logo. I missed Edmiston's table somehow.
It was an entertaining panel and Tal was deftly throwing in the jokes to keep it light but there was little time for Q&A at the end. I appreciated that everyone did offer up an idea of what it is like to do commissioned work though. I do not believe that any of them are starving.
On Sunday Rue Morgue’s April Snelling led a ladies and art panel with Sara Deck, Abigail Carson, Suspiria and Paige Reynolds. This panel was a lot more interactive and we were able to ask the ladies questions throughout.
Abigail’s table was one of the very first tables that drew me in on Saturday morning. The bulk of her work leaned towards the gothic with some pieces devoted to Poe and Lovecraft. She also had a Penny Dreadful comic book first issue variant cover which I did not know existed. If I did not already have that issue and know that the contents were bunk I would have bought that but I parted with a bunch of stuff of hers.
I tried to buy something from everyone. I got a lovely Psycho print from Deck and a Carrie print from Reynolds. Suspiria had some great stuff at her table but I suppose there were not any pieces that I connected to at that film level.
The experience of going to anyone's tables can be a humbling experience. Every one of the artists at the expo produced amazing work. I bought something from nearly everyone who were on the panels, but not before bugging each of them about the tools they use for their awesome creations. I have always dabbled in scribbles and doodles but nothing at their level or quality. For now everything is conceptual and pre-production based. If my workload ever increases it is good to know that I have been doing it kind of wrong up to this point and I can correct my course with good measure.
There were a lot of really talented artists throughout the expo, yet, as a not-quite horror guy, or more specifically an anything-horror guy, I still found myself gravitating to work that was only film related and none of the stuff that was of an occult, violent, or horrific ilk. I have conservative roots so, yeah, boo Satan?
In fact, I was surprised just how much variety there was, how much creativity was in that convention center room was staggering. ‘We have a little something for everybody’. Yes. Yes they did. Some tables and booths were incredible. Then again, a couple were simply a dude with a couple posters and him on his cell phone, which does not elicit an empathy vote, nor is it engaging.
‘Sorry. ‘Scuse me. I don’t want to disturb this vital round of Plants vs Zombies. But, what is... this?’
Then you really feel bad for a guy like Aaron Soto who comes all the way from Tijuana, Mexico only to have those fascist bastards at Canada Customs seize his posters for his upcoming film Ratas Del Bordo. Still, we had fun hanging out talking about film in Latin America and the perils of Canadian tourists in Mexico.
CHAPTER THREE : JUST LET ME SADDLE UP NEXT TO THIS
HORROR ICON FOR A FEW MINUTES
It is well understood that when you are at an expo or con you can meet your heroes and idols. While most of this is organized, scheduled and comes with a cost to it, if you are a jerk like me you flash your media pass around and expect to be treated with the same level of respect and allowed access to whomever you want.
(Whispers - media pass, bitches!)
But with all seriousness, the guests in attendance were more than cordial and generous with their time for their fans. Yet, as a Not-Quite Horror Guy I did not feel up to snuff and learned enough to engage with most of them. These are those days where I wish I had fellow Anarchist and Very-Much-So Horror lady Izzy Lee with me and I could follow her lead.
I managed to get a few minutes in the George A. Romero on Sunday afternoon though. He was nothing but a gentleman and I will have a transcribed interview of the few minutes I was allowed to spend with him soon. Then this happened.
‘Well, I live in Toronto too. Give me your information after and we’ll get together back home’.
I have friends in Toronto who have met with this icon many times over the years. Another friend who was at the expo confirmed this; he had been over to his home once too. Great. Do I start saving up for a nice bottle of wine or scotch?
CHAPTER FOUR : REVENGE OF THE FAMILY
Finally, with all the warm fuzzies going around as fans met their icons and fellow professionals met on common ground you see how much this community means to its members.
I joked earlier about the school bus of kids going to a horror expo but some parents brought their children with them. There was a darling little girl lined up with her dad first thing Saturday morning. She had on what I can only recall was her rendition of Alice’s Mad Hatter. Adorably scary. Another youngster was having difficulty processing a collection of zombie babies on one vendor’s tables. I’m not here to judge but that’d have to have ramifications later that day. Heh.
The horror family is a tight-knit community. You could see that as folks bumped into each other that they have met somewhere before. Folks I knew from the festival circuit in Toronto were coming over to hang out with us on Saturday night and they were more familiar with the people in room than I was.
There is a common bond. There is a common purpose. The shared love of horror has brought these folks together more than once before and the opportunity to meet, even if it is just an evening out, is too good to pass up for some of us.
I’m able to flirt in and out of an event like this because of ScreenAnarchy’s relationship with Rue Morgue began many years ago and those folks have been very kind and generous to us. Rodrigo Gudino and I hung out at a Morbido festival in Mexico three years ago. Dave Alexander and I recently discovered a mutual appreciation for fine Scotch this past New Years. Both stopped to say hello and share a few words despite all the running around they had to do that weekend.
I may not be a full fledged, card carrying member of the horror community but being in Hamilton this past weekend opened me up to its creativity, passion and devotion to the horror genre. It also put a sizeable dent in my wallet too. If I keep this up I am going to run out of wall at home.
As I came to understand it the folks in Hamilton were very appreciative for the expo to be in their town for this first time. Some of the artists I spoke to have made the city their home now as well. Hamilton has had a tradition of horror related events over the years and I am not talking about the jokes the rest of the Golden Horseshoe has said at its expense over the years. Horror in Hamilton continues to be on the rise and Rue Morgue's Dark Carnival was evidence of that.
Addendum: ScreenAnarchy's Josh Hurtado has covered Texas Frightmare FIVE times apparently. And they are very much HIS people he said.