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Running Amok at Crypticon '08


Though once confined to a few die-hard venues with large sponsors, horror conventions are now starting to crop up with increasing frequency. They vary quite significantly in size and scope and focus, but all share the same general love of that which does, or should, disturbs us. As such, we sent what is easily our most disturbing Monkey, EEGAH!, to the first annual Crypticon here in Seattle.

Below is what was recovered of his report.


The Setup

If you're anything like me you found out about this shindig about three weeks before it happened and that kind of rushed feel ended up permeating the entire convention. This was made plain when I arrived nearly an hour late on Friday and there were hardly more than six people in line to register.

I took that as a sign as to how crowded the rest of the con might be and so sprung for the VIP package on the strength of Barbara Crampton and the Crazy Babysitter Twins (you'll find I'm a total fanboy geek for all things Grindhouse). Unfortunately, I then found out that all three of them dropped off the bill (as con guests are wont to do), but that's just my luck in a nutshell. I decided to crawl on undeterred.


Day 1

I began Day 1 (which was actually Friday evening) by forgoing any other con attractions in favor of hitting the dealers room for some quick scanning of the tables and a chance to cavort with the stars while the lines were still short. Now, the bad news is that this led to my second somewhat disappointing surprise when I discovered that Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Kane Hodder, Lou Perryman, Tony Todd, Ashley Laurence, and Rowdy Roddy Piper still hadn't arrived...which might not have seemed like such a big deal if Jason Mewes hadn't been there! As far as I'm concerned if Jason Mewes is on time then you don't have much of an excuse.

Now I'm not a particularly star-struck person and so decided early that I wasn't going to spend money (or time) on autographs--I'd much rather free up all that money for the vendors. Well I think my resolve only lasted about forty minutes--the time it took me to do one full circuit--before I wound up at the amazingly-personable Leslie Easterbrook's (The Devil's Rejects, Rob Zombie's Halloween, Police Academy, Laverne & Shirley) table. There we had a pretty lengthy conversation about everything from the nature of Heaven and Hell, to Matthew 'Tiny' McGrory (gone but not forgotten), to whether or not films like The Devil's Rejects make their viewers unwittingly complicit in the crimes of their antiheroes. And so, after talking to her for the better part of an hour, I felt obliged to at least buy something, and thus my fate was sealed. From there it was a steady decline into financial ruin. I marveled at how quickly I reversed myself even as my hands inexplicably forked over hundreds of dollars for autograph after autograph, even though I know I don't collect the damn things and still maintain they're of little importance to me.

At about 6:30 or so I headed up to the hotel restaurant for the VIP reception, where the VIP attendees and guests could mingle freely and where free food would be served. I was extra excited because I'd heard that there'd be free food served along with the free food, and I was looking forward to getting a little extra free food on the side of my free food. Sadly, though, the free food turned out to just be finger foods, and most of it was gone by the time I arrived. I sat in the corner and sulked, trying to muster the courage not to let it ruin the rest of my weekend.

At around 8 p.m. I managed prop myself up on legs shaky from malnourishment and made my way down to the independent film showcase--and there ran into the first of several scheduling flaws I'd find over the weekend. Retrospectively, upon re-reading the program with a magnifying glass and three lawyers present, I guess I should have realized it, but it turns out they had not one, but three screening rooms. Had I have realized it in advance I could have searched the hotel for the two Rodrigo Gudino films I was most looking forward to seeing: The Demonology of Desire and The Eyes of Edward James. Instead I sat torturously through two of the most miserable failures in filmmaking I'd ever had the misfortune of seeing and went home bitter and angry.

          Day 1 Recap:

The Highlights: Autographs galore, seeing both Tofu the Vegan Zombie and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Teddy Scares Movie, and Meeting Mother Firefly # 2 (but no. 1 in our hearts).

The Lowlights: Poorly marked (read unmarked) screenings coupled with a somewhat confusing schedule and no map of the facilities in the program. The weak--and weakly attended--VIP dinner. The conspicuous absence of a good portion of the guests. And digging into my Crypticon goodie bag and finding two tickets to Charles Band's Full Moon %#@! St. Louis!


Day 2


Saturday started off brighter and earlier than my ass is usually accustomed to getting up on a weekend. I arrived at the hotel at a quarter after eleven and was pleased to see a few more people in attendance. Indeed, the show was absolutely bumping compared with the night before, but was still quite a bit emptier than I was expecting.

Armed with both the knowledge of the scheduling idiosyncrasies and a new set of expectations for the con, I checked the events, confirmed the schedule, and then decided to kill some time among the vendors on the floor. It would prove to be a financially fatal mistake.

How a simple stroll to kill time turned into a Paris Hilton-esque spending spree, I'll never memories of it are little more than a shaky, convoluted collection of moments in which I was handing over my hard earned cash in exchange for knick-knacks, memorabilia, and other goodies I really believed I needed at the time. The only up-side is that I did manage to pull myself away before I'd done the entire floor, so I'd still have something to do on Sunday.

Once I'd broken free of the siren song of movie replicas and obscure indie posters, I set my mind to working through the jam-packed day I'd scheduled for myself. Miraculously, I managed to get in everything on my list, and was pretty darned pleased with the events in general.

That included a chance to meet and chat with Bill Moseley (the only guy apart from Sid Haig I had to stand in line for). I was pleased to find that he was not only a totally down to earth guy, but also one of the few people who seems to really get "up in the guts" of the genre, and not someone for whom it's all just a gig. Just one look at his merchant's table proves that he really owns and relishes his status as one of the genre heavies. He was hocking everything from doll head key chains to official Chop Top steel plates for your very own dome.

The day also included visits to the Halloween remake Q&A, the Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th) Q&A, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Hellraiser panels. It's funny, before the Texas discussion, I'd never really been an ardent fan of TCM2 but seeing it here in this environment somehow made all the tumblers fall into place. The Q&A afterward only bolstered my appreciation for the film that much more.

The same was true for Hellraiser, though I was already a fan of that going in. I was, however, afraid that the panel might be a bit sparse since Ashley Laurence (Kirsty Cotton) was the only one from the movie there, but she carried it on her own admirably.

Speaking of Ashley, did I mention I'm in love? And not just in that creepy, stalker, I want to smell your socks kind of way. She, it turns out, doesn't disappoint in any conceivable way, and is as hot, friendly, and totally down to earth as you could hope for. What's more, in addition to being a stone cold fox she's also an accomplished artist and not in that "Aw, look at the actor's trying to be an precious..." kind of way either (*cough* Marilyn Manson *cough*). And you'd be shocked at the disturbing visuals that emanate from that pretty little skull of hers.


Oh and, speaking of disturbing skulls, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the Roddy Piper's discussion panel. I had both heard other interviews he'd given and talked to him briefly the night before, so I had some idea what to expect going in, but was surprised at how often the Q&A alternated between hilarious and poignant. It makes it no surprise that he's so often the pick for favorite guest at the conventions he goes to.

That evening's concert was the event I had been looking forward to all weekend and actually was what tipped me off about the convention in the first place (it was independently promoted by one of the bands performing). I hadn't seen The Deep Eynde since '99 or so and was psyched to see them again. They didn't disappoint. Openers Church For Sinners and God Module took the stage and bombarded the audience with their deathrock-infused horrorpunk and danceable brand of techno-goth (respectively). All in all, the concert was definitely a highlight of the weekend.

          Day 2 Recap:

The Highlights: The concert was probably the high point of the day, though there was an awful lot of celebrity interaction vying for that spot. Roddy's panel was excellent, chatting up Ashley Laurence was heavenly, and meeting the likes of Scott Kragelund, Paul Cranefield, and, Seattle's own Q13 traffic guy extraordinaire Adam Gehrke was all cool. Day 2 also gave me the chance to do some things I wish I could've done years ago: seeing flicks like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II in the environment in which it was meant to be seen, complete with a cheering, laughing, and applauding crowd. It's difficult to quantify what a difference that makes.

The Lowlights: Truthfully, there were surprisingly few lowlights on the day. If I had to pick something, I would actually have to say that the poor advertising and small crowds has produced an overall experience less raucous than I was hoping for, especially at the concert. It also made the costume contest somewhat non-existent. Ah, well.


Day 3

I actually forced myself to get out of bed earlier than the day before, even though I'd gotten less sleep than Friday night. I arrived bleary-eyed and bedraggled promptly at 10:30 where I discovered indisputably that the VIP pass I was carrying was pretty much only good for getting you in early to register on Friday and then was really only for show. I felt like kind of a sucker standing in line with my laminate around my neck, designating me as a guy who'd paid $100 more than the average convention-goer, waiting to get in just the same as they were.

There was not much I wanted to see on this, the final and abbreviated day, but that was admittedly more my own deal than it was a dearth of activities to take part in. For the most part my whole day was focused on presidential candidate Sid Haig's town hall meeting and I made a pretty healthy buffer zone around it to make sure nothing interfered with me getting there on time. Creepycult really came through, setting the tone by printing up scores of rally posters the night before to have on hand for the address, and it was definitely a thought-provoking affair. It was just as advertised; a traditional--if decidedly un-PC-- keynote speech. And, though I'm not going to get into the intricacies of it, I will say it was a lot of fun...and if you want to know any more about it you can research it yourself at his site.

Afterward they screened The Devil's Rejects and had a Q&A with stars Haig and Bill Moseley, which I thought was maybe a bit of a scheduling snafu on the organizers' part. It seemed like the day was peculiarly Sid Haig & Bill Moseley-centric. In fact, now that I look back on it, the whole weekend was. Whereas the other guests got one Q&A session--two at most--Sid and Bill essentially had three.

Day 3 I also spoke at length with Tony Todd and, as had happened all weekend in this casual environment, the topic of conversation eventually drifted to non-genre subjects. This time I actually carried on a dialogue about whether or not Bush, Cheney, and their cronies should face repercussions after the term comes to an end. It was so interesting, amusing, and ultimately surreal that I finally paused mid-sentence to reflect on the irony of the fact that I was actually having that conversation with Candyman. Honestly, you just can't put a pricetag on moments like that!

          Day 3 Recap:

The Highlights: Without question that would have to be Sid Haig's town hall meeting, hands down. I'm not sure any experience I have for the rest of the year will compare to hearing Capt. Spaulding give a dissertation on the [sorry] state of the union. After that it would have to be jaw-jacking with Tony "Candyman" Todd over, yet again, our current administration and its vice-like deathgrip on our economy.

The Lowlights: Finally taking notice of the lack of variety in guest Q&A panels.


Now as Joe Bob Briggs would say,
let's get to those drive-in totals…

Convention VIP pass - $150.
The average autograph - $20.
Jason Mewes' autograph - $25.
The privilege of getting your picture taken with Rowdy Roddy Piper - $25.
Memories of a weekend that will last a lifetime - $610….uh, I mean priceless.

The Good: Being that it was the first time that Crypticon--or any horror convention, for that matter--was in town and that it suffered from somewhat lax advertising, the weekend really turned out to be a fan's convention...which meant that there was a lot more opportunity for guest interaction than is typical for these sorts of cons.

The Bad: Getting word out was the organizers' first and arguably biggest critical failure. A lot of friends of mine, along with most of you Monkeys, have only found out about it after the fact. Hell, I'm a huge horror buff and I almost missed it, too! There was also a pretty serious failing in clarity in scheduling, guest's arrivals, and absolutely no real discernable benefit to holding a VIP pass.

The Overall Ugly: For a first time it was a laudable effort. Certainly there were things that could have been done better. Maybe a lot of them. But when you think about how very much can go wrong in putting on a con, Crypticon Seattle's first-time effort fared a lot better than most. This was a real proving ground and I think the event's organizers pulled it off in all the ways that matter.



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