Rhode Island hosts its first horror convention
I barely escaped with my life! Well, not really. But man was Terror Con a horror gore fest like I’ve never seen before. I’ve been to a few Halloween-themed events like Spooky World, haunted hayrides, and even a crazy Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Florida, but they were all pretty slim on the macabre and scariness. And there’s also something to be said for a two-day convention that is all about horror where the visitors are totally into gruesome cosplay and frightening experiences. Well, Terror Con in Providence’s Convention Center on the weekend of June 7 and 8 certainly fit that bill.
It started with the exhibit hall that was filled with all kinds of genuinely creepy things from a giant Kraken owned by the local chapter of The Brethren of Pirates; the snakes, tarantulas, and more from Grimm Reaper Reptiles; the head of Jaws devouring eager photographers; the sideshow freaks and amazing feats from the Coney Island Sideshow Circus; to Miss Terror Con herself Sarah Michelle clad in a leather bikini embossed with skulls. And bone-chillingly, more! This was the place to be if you wanted pure unadulterated soul-freezing chills and blood-curdling thrills.
Sadly, however, the convention was not as packed as I expected it to be. There were a lot of people who found out about it just days before. Just like the 2012 inaugural year for Rhode Island Comic Con (organized by the same person, Steven Perry), Terror Con clearly is going through some growing pains. However, if the overall sentiment about the event is any indication, then just like Rhode Island Comic Con, Terror Con’s sophomore year will be huge and a massive hit. Steven knows what he’s doing, so stay tuned.
Now after a few passes through the exhibit hall, I went up to the ballrooms to attend a couple of panels. I sat in on the Michael Jai White (Spawn, The Dark Knight) panel and also Dee Snider’s Killers Corner. That’s right! Mr. Twisted Sister himself moderated a panel that included Kane Hodder (Jason from Friday The 13th), Fred Williamson (From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Black Cobra), Tony Moran (Michael Meyers from Halloween), and Roger L. Jackson (the voice of Ghostface from Scream) all talking about their favorite kills (from the movies that is!) and other crazy horror stuff. It was a riot! Especially when Sheena Ford offered up her own “scary voice” for the entire room. “I love horror!” she tells me after the panel. “I’ve visited Mercy Brown’s grave [RI’s first vampire], spent the night in Lizzie Borden’s house, and I don’t get scared at all!”
After the panels, I sampled some strange brew (coffee that is) at the Deadly Grounds [coffee roasters] table. Their motto is, “Coffee to die for!” Tom Lialios, the owner and chief coffee addict, said to me, “You don’t have to look very far when your coffee has a toe-tag cadaver on the package!” He also said it’s the only coffee delivered in a hearse!
Often, the lines between horror and science fiction get blurred, like in the films Alien or John Carpenter’s The Thing. This was evident even at Terror Con. While a good deal of the crowd was all decked out with fake blood, prosthetic gore, spikes, fangs and just about everything creepy-crawling scary you can think of, there were a few sci-fi cosplayers kicking around. One guy, Brad Alsobrook, who wore a Darth Vader costume, came up to me after noticing my S.H.I.E.L.D. t-shirt and whispered, “Hail Hydra!” This was a direct reference to the events that occurred in the recently released film Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the last few episodes of season one of the TV show “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
By far the best part of the convention was the costume contest. Pop-culture cons costume contests are always a blast and most of the costumes are really mind-blowing. The effort, expense and time put into any serious cosplayer’s garb can be quite exquisite. And for a horror con, it had an extra dimension of insidiousness, macabre and the playfully freakish. I saw some disturbingly bloody psycho knife-carrying nurses, a Nosferatu-type vampire, chain-saw wielding killers, zombies, of course, demons, a hilarious brain-eating ghoul, and much more! But the best of them all was the winner of the contest—who I’ll get to in a minute.
I want to make a special mention of the winners of the best group costume. It was a father dressed as a bloodied up priest performing an exorcist on his 5-year-old demon daughter! The little girl was both adorable and frightening as hell! I think some parents can actually relate to that!
Anyway, the best overall costume winner was Mark Poutenis for his amazing rendition of Herman Munster from the old TV show “The Munsters.” Not only was the costume crazy spot-on in its accuracy, but also he had the whole Herman Munster demeanor down to a T! Fred Gwynne (the original Herman Munster) would have been proud.
“It’s fun. Just goofing off, but it’s great!” Mark says when I asked how it felt to be the big winner at the first Terror Con in Rhode Island.
Another honorable mention should go to Kristina Bianco for her freakishly unsettling Zombie Tinker Bell. I told her that I thought that this would scare the hell out of most little girls, but she said to me, “The kids kind of like it!”
Finally, I decided to head back down to the exhibit hall so I could talk to a few celebrities. I ran into both Fred Williamson and Michael Jai White hanging out and chatting. I went up to both of them and asked what they thought of Terror Con and after a quick conversation, I figured they must have had a long day. So I moved on to Dee Wallace of E.T. and Cujo fame. What a delight it was talking to her!
When I asked her what she thought of the inaugural year of Terror Con she said, “I think it’s awesome!” She also told me how much she loves Rhode Island. I asked her if she ever gets to comic cons like San Diego and her reply was, “I do strictly horror [cons]. They are always new and refreshing experiences!”
Then I told her a funny E.T. story about when my girlfriend, now wife, and I saw the re-release of the film. And about halfway through the movie, my girlfriend said to me, “Didn’t E.T. go home?How come he’s back?” I told Dee that my girlfriend thought we were watching a sequel to E.T. and I had to break it to her that this was the original and there never was a sequel made.
Dee said to me, “And you still married her?”
“Oh yes, I did,” was my reply.
There was certainly much more that I didn’t get to like the Terror Con Film Festival. Also, there was a whole room dedicated to psychic readings; lots of graphic artists showing off their great work; great performance art by a traveling ghoulish troupe; and even a trip back into my childhood meeting the guy behind Gary Gnu of the old 1980s kids TV show “The Great Space Coaster” (GSC for short). Jim Martin (A.K.A. Gary Gnu) is now the president of a non-profit trying to digitally preserve the old show and revive it for a new generation. And what a great show it was!
“There is nothing like ‘GSC’ on TV today. Everything is all CGI, no more puppets—except on PBS.” And even PBS shows have gone decidedly digital as well. “We were on the cusp of ’80s cable television already making music videos even as MTV was trying to get off the ground!”
Martin and his wife now own all the rights to “GSC” and have a Facebook page where you can learn all about the effort to preserve and revive the show and the Kickstarter campaign they have going on to help finance that. This was another great horror/sci-fi tie-in at Terror Con that I really appreciated. I used to watch that show as a kid everyday before I took off for school; I’m so glad that the Martins are trying to bring it back!
“This is Gary Gnu. And remember: no G-news is good G-news!”
Terror Con’s maiden voyage was really great, and I have no doubt that next year’s will be even more killer! Pun intended.
And don’t forget that Rhode Island Comic Con is coming up on November 1 and 2. You know I’ll be there. And so will Shatner!