Monday, February 13, 2017

Flashback Weekend Chicago 2016 Review: Screw You Neve Cambell!


I went into Flashback Weekend giddy as a zombie cheerleader at homecoming. My giddiness rotted quickly by a serious of events that I should have seen coming. 15 dollars for parking at an event I paid 100+ to attend. Overcrowded and under-entertained I left the convention early. Bored, disgusted and with the feeling that my time would have been spent better on my couch watching movies. Between ruthless consumerism and overpriced merchandise, a couple moments stood out to me.

Below are my experiences with Flashback Weekend 2016.

2 pm – 3 pm

Since moving to Chicago I have been hesitant to attend Flashback Weekend. Flashback Weekend is a long running Horror Movie convention. This is my first convention so I do not know what to expect. On the one hand, I am a horror fan and excited at the idea of surrounding myself with all things creepy. On the other hand, I am also a veteran with PTSD and cringe at the thought of entering crowded spaces full of strangers. This twinge giddiness mixed with fear and hatred of others. The running thoughts castrating the existence of what I perceive to be posers and incumbent parents with toddlers in tow.

Registration opened at 1 pm and I arrived in my first line. Slowly grinding my way forward, I checked in a received my wristband. At the moment I am waiting for 3 pm and the doors the vendor room to open. Peeking through the doors I caught glimpses of the film company and tickets lining tables and people unboxing merchandise.


To the left of me a native New York drops words like “meta” and “post-modern” and to the left of me, two fellows are dressed in trench coats, masks, combat books and hold plastic weapons. Between dedication and pseudo-intellectualism, I am sitting with my laptop plugged into an outlet. As the lines grow I realize left my phone charger in my car. 

3PM

The Doors Opened and I Dodging the bottleneck by rushing to the back of the ballroom and zig-zagged back and forth to the front. Disgusted by prices and excited by the coolness of stuff on display I eyed each table from a distance. After prowling the tables, I gathered my organizer skills and targeted tables of interest. 

Original Art – Pen Drawings  

JL's booth, like many of the booths, sold poster sized horror art. Flipping through the posters I noticed all the familiar horror icons, as well as original art and non-genre work. The art reminded me of drawings I made while bored in high school. Armed with a ball point pen I would furiously scribble using long and heavy ink strokes. While what I drew back in the day was similar manic scrawl my drawings were not as detailed or elaborate as JL I purchased two pieces. 


Donald England

The second table I rummaged was a collection of prints of movie and TV posters. Not wanting to support creative impotence I moved on. The next table was more original work by Donald England. The pieces were penciled. Ask I flipped through the artist's portfolio another guest connected with England over a sketch book. What I gather is the guy had reached out to England via email to commission a personal piece. Interesting way to interact with fans. I purchased two pieces: A drawing of Sam From Trick or Treat and a Sketch of Leatherface. 

Original Art – toddler Jason

I must have passed this’s table four times. The lady at the table was the artist's wife. She was full of energy and the first person who seemed to authentically enjoy interacting with customers. The art of display was a collection of color drawings sketching horror icons as toddlers. Even Pinhead was adorable. I purchased 1 piece. 


Windy City Horror Association

The Windy City Horror Association is a small cult of horror writers located in Chicago land. When I arrived at the table I was greeted by a wise-ass profanity spewing author who guaranteed my stomach would be turned or else. I was captivated by the cover art of a text entitled Cannibal Fat Camp where a chubby toddler gleefully chewed on a severed leg. I purchased two of Dave C Hayes's books. David also graciously autographed both books. Update: I finished reading Cannibal Fat Camp and it was awesome. 



Horror Barbie Dolls

Disfigured Barbie dolls. Bleeding from the face. Dolled up in hand sewn clothing. Adorned one table. My first thought was to compare the horror show on the table to ad-jamming. The practice of editing and disfiguring adds to reveal the rotten corpse hidden beneath. I am reminded of a Mcdonald's billboard where Ronald Mcdonald has been painted over with a more obese version slobbering on a cheeseburger. I thought it was odd that the artists refused to be in the picture. I lost significant respect for someone who is unable to stand behind their work. 

Day one is at an end. I am left with a rotting sense of disgust for the vampiric consumerism. Over priced autographs lacking a sense of competition. Even a mediocre horror figure would make a killing charging 10$ per autograph to undercut those charging 25$ to 80$. Fuck you, Neve Cambell.
To be fair my day started with realizing I would be spending 15 dollars for parking per day on top of near 100$ for the weekend pass and an additional 20$ for a showing of scream. 

I left the first day annoyed. Maybe I should have known. I think part of me was expecting something more like a film festival than inflated flea market with celebrities. What saved the day for me was meeting the indie artists, especially the witty knuckleheads at the Windy City Horror Society and being able to support their work.

Day 2

I returned mentally, physically and financially exhausted and praying that the guest speakers will make this whole event worth wild. But first I stopped for coffee. I found a place to sit and began reflecting on the industry. The Horror Business has always been about making money. Laying very little on the online and betting on an epic return on investment. Isolated, I am the only one I know that is a horror fan, I didn't realize how bloodthirsty and desperate the horror business can be. Sure, money is always at stake. But my idealism for the art of bloodshed kept me sheltered. 

I was pulled into horror because of movies and novels with gut wrenching heart and balls to the wall authenticity. Stories geared toward staple-gunning a message viewers heart. Leaving them with overwhelming feelings of devastation, disgust, revulsion, and terror. Cathartic moments unleashing emotions too extreme or abnormal to feel in our day to day lives.

How fiendish the profit principle betrays the creative drive to express what rotts below the surface. 

***

Moments ago the opening remarks started. Two men and a woman took the stage to a room with 400 plus chairs and an audience of less than 30. Most guests are still rummaging through the flea market room.

World of Death

Hosted by the dudes at bloody-disgusting.com, World of Death is their new endeavor to promote short films. The played two shorts Mannequin and Mischief. I was impressed by the quality and creativity of both films.


John Russo

John Russon the Co-writer of the Night of the Living Dead spoke in factoids about the writing and filmmaking process. What I thought was interesting was his story about writing the sequel to the Night of the Living Dead and how the film morphed into Return of the Living dead. Apparently, Frank Sinatra was supposed to finance the film but funding fell, though. Russon ended by talking about his writing process, books, and writing workshops. 

Eugene Clark

What I learned is that Eugene Clark, Aka the Big Daddy from Land of the Dead also played Mufasa in a Canadian stage production of Lion King. I learned this when Eugene pulled a little girl from the first row and began to sing to her. Eugene was a riot, slinging jokes and antidotes about his role in Land of the Dead.

Cast of 31

This was the last straw for me. The cast interview began and a couple minutes later Malcolm Mcdowell sauntered in slinging jokes. The cast had a great rapport and slung jokes back and forth between each other. But none of them could compete with the size if Mcdowell's personality.

The problem started when announcer opened the floor to audience questions. The the first question came from a middle aged man/
Guy 1: "I'd like to ask you about the rape scene in Clockwork Orange. How did you prepare for the role?
Mcdowell: To tell you the truth, I practiced some raping the night before. But that is besides the point (McDowell turned to face the audience) aren't you more interested in our new movie 31?
Guy 1: But seriously, the scene was so viceral how did you prepare for the role?
McDowell: (McDowell notices the guys daughter watching her father ask questions about rape.) Hello little girl. Are you this guys daughter?
Girl: Yes
McDowell: Come up here on stage. Who is your favorite actor?
Girl: I don't know
McDowell: You don't know? Well I'll tell you. Your favorite actor is me.
Announcer: Do we have any other questions?
Guy 2: Hello my name is...
McDowell: Better not ask me about Clockwork Orange
Guy 2: (Guy rants for a bit and then ask a question about the rape scene in Clockwork Orange)
McDowell: (Tries to change the subject)
Guy 2: (Walks toward the stage to confront McDowell) I am a non-commissioned officer in the United States Navy and I do not appreciate your tone, I'd like to hear the answer to my question.
Me: Motherfucker (I shouted)
(Paraphrased. Probably wildly inaccurate. Don't quote me)

The Q&A ordeal lasted about 45 minutes in total. While the back and forth between McDowell and the idiots asking questions cracked me up, I didn't pay to have my time wasted by incompetent event facilitation skills. I was done. I couldn't take it anymore.

I still had the outdoor showing of Scream and a second day left. I decide to go home and watch Scream from the comfort of my own house.

Maybe I should have known Flashback Weekend was going be a waste of time. The conventions of the genre ever since 80's have been fine tuned to sell merchandise. Tee-shirts, posters, soundtracks and action figures. The horror film for public consumption is just a vehicle for capitalism.

I think what I was expecting from Flashback Weekend was something more along the lines of a film festival. I didn't realize that vendors selling wildly overpriced movies and trinkets were going to be the main attractions.

I hope this is not a typical Horror Convention, but I think that is exactly what Flashback Weekend is trying to do. A small-scale convention, gear towards sucking every last dime out of your soul. Had I know (and I probably should have) what I was signing up for I would have stayed home and watched some movies. Lastly, I wanted to give one more special FUCK YOU to Neve Cambell for thinking her signature is worth


My Loot: 

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