Sex, Saws, Stumps & Samara: Revisiting Fangoria 2005

This was originally published all the way back in 2005, at DVD in My Pants. The following version does not include all of the photos taken (by me!) for the piece. The formatting may be wonky, too. I’m posting it mostly to keep it alive online.

Two days of axes, gore and bloody stumps might sound terrifying, but for fans of the horror genre, it was just what the (mad) doctor ordered on September 24 and 25 in Secaucus, New Jersey. For two days genre fans gnawed at Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors, where hundreds horror fans and a full slate of special guests offered up 48 hours of the mysterious, macabre and meaty. Read on as  launches the first in a month-long celebration of all things horror.


”Did Somebody Say Zombies?”
Take a few hundred fans of horror, over a dozen special guests, and an array of vendors selling everything from severed heads to bootleg DVDs, and what do you get? Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors convention, held at Crowne Plaza in Secaucus, New Jersey.

It wasn’t the biggest horror convention in the world. Even some vendors admitted things were slower than expected. But while it didn’t feature the non-stop action of larger conventions, it did feature some excellent special guests and a closer look into some noteworthy names in the genre.

And people in outlandish outfits. You can’t have a convention without that, after all.

The main draw was getting close to the creators of the genre so many attendees adore. Whether for autographs and pictures, to hear the latest news right from the creators’ mouths, or just to chat it up person to person, Fangoria’s event provided plenty of opportunity to do just that, from special panels to signings to a semi-private after-convention gathering for those willing to drop the cash for a gold ticket.

Was there sex? In the form of buxom body-building vampire ladies of doom, yes. Saws? You just might have heard of a film by that name, and if you were at Fango, you just might have heard some big news (see below). Stumps? Hell, journey to the vendor tables and you could buy stumps (not to mention heads, skulls, leg bones, and other gore). Sure, fine, but what about Samara? Actually, yes. Kelly Stables surprised dozens of guests when they discovered that Samara of The Ring Two was not the unsightly, creepy little girl seen on screen, but a totally cute young lady with a warm personality and bright smile.

Which, when seen in the sea of dark eyeliner and goth clothing, must have seemed pretty horrible.

Despite being fairly small, the convention featured plenty of names and faces of note, from shock rocker Dee Snider to screen legend John Landis to Michael Rooker, star of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

There were even a few notable blasts from the past not on the main bill, but tucked away in the vendors room.

“Heeeerrrrrrrrrrre’s Johnny!”
When it comes to horror, there are few titles better known and more beloved than Night of the Living Dead, the landmark zombie film by George Romero that created the template almost every zombie film to come would follow. Fans at Fangoria were treated to an opportunity to talk to Russell Streiner, who played “Johnny” in the film (an uncredited role). And to Streiner, that’s as it should be, because without the fans … well, he wouldn’t have been sitting at Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors.

“Since we owe everything to the fans, it’s great when you get to talk to the people,” Streiner told. “We hoped to make a good movie, but it’s the fans that made it a classic. Thirty-seven years later people are still seeing the film, liking it, and talking about it.”

And he’s right. Even now, in 2005, people are discovering Night of the Living Dead for the first time, peering into the earliest days of what is now a wildly popular subgenre – zombie flicks – that many of us take for granted. That “first time” experience is something he said he sees frequently. Streiner sometimes does the college scene, talking to crowds about his experience and discussing what has become a landmark genre film. He said invariably some two-thirds of the young college crowds he speaks to have seen the film. It’s a constant flow of newer, younger viewers being exposed to Romero’s classic for the first time. That is a big factor in keeping the film’s legend alive.

Of course, that legend would have died a long time ago were it not for one very important thing. The film’s humanity.

Night of the Living Dead, as odd as it may seem, there’s a lot of human drama that went into it,” Streiner said. “One of the things that made it successful is that it focused on telling a story.”

”Bring Out Your Heads! Bring Out Your Heads!”
Streiner’s right. Story is great. It’s damn near vital. But with sparse few exceptions, horror simply couldn’t be without special effects. Some, like Dante Tomaselli, director of Desecration and the forthcoming Satan’s Playground (see below), stand firmly against modern CGI effects. But even his sparse films require effects of one sort or another in order to bring the horror home. When you’re talking about monsters, gore, killing and the supernatural, it’s inescapable. For people like Brian Spears, those special effects had a certain allure that never quite went away.

You see, Spears has a thing for body parts. Heads. Stumps. Bones. You name it, and he has worked closely with it. Yes, they’re all fake. And yes, for Spears, it’s a career he was meant to pursue. After all, he’s been creating heads, stumps and bones for years.

“I’ve been doing this since I was in high school, since I was 13,” he told . The shelves at Fangoria around which Spears sat (some of his wares are pictured above with Light & Dark productions president Glen Baisley) were littered with, you guessed it, heads, stumps and bones, all on sale for the public to buy, and all helping him earn a paycheck.

But like most ardent fans of horror, a paycheck is not why he’s in the business of the bloody.

“If I wasn’t selling them, I’d still be in my basement making them.,” he said. The craft, Spears insisted, is more than a matter of earning a check. It’s an art form. A means of expression. And that’s why, job or no job, he’d continue doing what he was doing.

His wares were on display at Fangoria – did we mention the heads, stumps and bones? – and they were also on display on screen, too, where his own brand of grotesque imagery has been featured in Flesh For The Beast and Shadow: Dead Riot, among others. It’s a turn in his career that has for the last few years treated him very well financially, but which, as a fan, has damaged his ability to enjoy the movies he loves.

“When I watch a movie, I can say, ‘I was just to the left of that shot.’ It totally ruins it to watch any movie,” Spears said.

Maybe what Spears needs is some ass-kicking, big-boobed, muscled-out female vampires, hmmm?

”Your Tits Are Crushing My Skull”
If big-boobed, muscled-out female vampires is what you were looking for, shockingly enough, the Weekend of Horrors provided exactly that, thanks to Gregg R. Simpson. Simpson has big things to say about his upcoming film, Blood And Kisses. Very big things. We mean, really big things.

When  asked Simpson, writer, producer and director of the film, about his upcoming tale of female vampires kicking ass, he didn’t miss a beat in responding.

“It’s the most provocative horror movie ever.”

Really, that’s what he said. The most provocative horror movie ever.

Big claim. Totally outlandish. But then again, when your movie features gigantically muscled, buxom women who kick ass and drink blood, “provocative” really isn’t so far-fetched a claim.

“One of the things this movie has is, you’ve never seen vampires that look like this before,” Simpson enthused. “These girls kick some real ass. It’s a lot of fun.”

It’s probably true. You haven’t seen vampires like this before. These gals are big. And we mean big. They could kick your ass from one side of a football field to another, all while their ample cleavage bursts from the top of their barely-there outfits. Blood And Kisses stars three-time Ms. Olympia bodybuilder Cassandra Floyd and the equally-stacked-with-muscles Denise Masino.

It is loaded with action? Yes, according to Masino. But that’s not all. “It’s sensual at the same time,” she said. Sensual, seriously hard-bodied vampires? Hmmmm. “You’re going to watch it, then you’re going to want to watch it again.”

We’ll take her word for it.

Winner of Best Picture at the Las Vegas Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy Horror and the Supernatural, Simpson said the film is a tight, brisk 80-plus minutes, trimmed down from dozens of hours of footage to offer a fast-paced ride of, well, blood and kisses to the viewer.

“I think they (the fans) are going to love it. It’s a totally different concept of female vampires,” Floyd told .

We might be able to argue with a great many things in this world, but that this is a totally different concept of female vampires is not one of those things. Body builder vampires with vaginas? Sounds like totally tongue-in-cheek fun. Sign us up.

Run, don’t walk, to Page 2 of our special look into Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors, as we take a look at the 25th Anniversary release of Cannibal Holocaust, glimpse Saw II, peer into the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and hear a few words from the legendary Clive Barker.

25 Years Of Devouring Corpses With Cannibal Holocaust
There may be no more notorious genre film than Cannibal Holocaust, a dizzying display of violence beyond reproach, filmed in a faux documentary style that got director Ruggero Deodato – a total madman and genius, according to his stars – dragged into an Italian court.

The real live animal killings depicted on screen probably didn’t help.

Now, thanks to a little exploitation outfit called Grindhouse, this legendary film will be receiving a 25th anniversary release on October 25. Limited to just 11,000 copies, this gruesome cult classic will feature tons of extras – was privy to a private screening of some of those extras, and they are legion– and is likely to make even the most ardent horror fan squeamish.

If you think making such an infamous film had to have been an experience to remember, you’d be correct. The filmmaking experience, according to star Robert Kerman, was unusual from the moment he signed on board. He got the part not because of his great acting chops, but because he had the correct shoe size. The creators, you see, only had money enough for one outfit for their lead, so he had to be the right size. Kerman didn’t even know what he was signing up for. He never even saw a script! Instead, he was thrown on a plane and flown to South America, where he was promptly whisked into the rain forest, and then onto a boat, where he was taken to a remote jungle location.

Did we mention that on his river trip, he spotted a leg – a human leg – floating in the water? Nice way to start a new acting gig.

The leg turned out to be a prop that had floated away, totally fake, but the seeming insanity of Deodato certainly wasn’t fake. The moment Kerman got off the boat, Deodato saw him and cried, “What a face! What a beautiful face! This is my star!” This was, you see, the first time they had met.

What followed was a shooting schedule in a less than friendly habitat, without even scripts enough for the star of the film. He had to learn his lines each morning, borrowing scripts from whoever was nearby. It was, Kerman laughed, a most unusual experience for an actor.

If Kerman’s stories were filled with a twisted sort of whimsy, co-star Gabriel Yorke’s were not. The experience was one he’ll never forget. (When you’re making a film about a group of people devoured by cannibals, how could you forget?) He doesn’t regret being in a film still talked about to this day, a film credited with inspiring The Blair Witch Project. And he recognized a certain genius in Deodato’s manic style. But, he told , he also thought Deodato’s strong desire to have real animals slain on screen was sickening and disturbing. Even 25 years later, when asked about the infamous animal slaughter captured on screen for the film, Yorke shook his head and sighed with disgust. Not something he endorses. Something he scorns.

But animal killings or not, Cannibal Holocaust is a minor legend soon to come to DVD in the best edition ever (look for the review in the coming weeks). Thank Sage Stallone, co-owner of Grindhouse, for that. Grindhouse acquired the rights several years ago, but rather than just churning our a bare bones release, they have a monste of a two-disc edition planned just brimming with features.

And cannibal genre fans may be thanking him for much more than that. Rumors abound. Whispers. A hint that there might be a remake and/or sequel to Cannibal Holocaust. It’s a project Stallone just might tackle, if the fans demand. But not through Hollywood.

“If we redid Cannibal Holocaust, it wouldn’t be through Hollywood. We couldn’t do it through Hollywood. They’d ruin the film,” Stallone said.

”We Saw This Sequel Coming. Get It? Saw It Coming?”
Speaking of re-releases, fans of last year’s surprise hit Saw should keep their eyes open, because later this year that tiny film that done good will receive a special director’s cut DVD release featuring all new footage. The unrated DVD will be even more gruesome than the film that shocked viewers to great success last year.

Wait … more gruesome? Apparently yes. Because sawing off limbs isn’t gruesome enough, it seems.

“It’s me going in and finishing it off,” director James Wan told fans at the Weekend of Horrors. “It kind of shows the film we initially planned it to be.”

As a special treat, Wan and Saw co-writer Leigh Whannell debuted footage from Saw II, set for release on Halloween. Expect the same focus on tension, terror and choices none want to ever make.

Oh. And more stumps, too. Bloody frickin’ stumps.

“This one makes the first one look like a Disney film. I’m serious,” Whannell said. “On the first one we had to go back to the MPAA like twice to get an R rating. This one is so full blown … This one takes the idea of the first one and amplifies it ten times.”

Yeah, as if the poster featuring severed frickin’ fingers wasn’t clue enough, fans found out for sure that Saw II will knock their socks off (with feet still inside, we presume).

That’s not all for Saw fans … but you’ll have to wait to find out the rest. Keep your eyes peeled on , because in two weeks we debut an in-depth look into Saw II, the Saw re-release, and the future plans of co-creators Wan and Whannell.

The fans were pumped for Saw II, but it certainly wasn’t the only teaser to draw attention at the show.

”Satan’s Playground? Do You Think They’ll Have A Slide?”
If one trailer stole the show, for  staff it was the trailer for Satan’s Playground, the latest from New Jersey director Dante Tomaselli. Dark, gloomy, full of dread, it offered a glimpse into this tale of two families, one a twisted, evil group, the other a hapless bunch of normal folks fragmenting in the thick of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where lurks a terror. It had all the hallmarks of classic 70s horror, but with a psychological edge that looks as if it will inspire terror.

With a $500,000 budget and 25 days of shooting, Tomaselli’s brooding horror film certainly wasn’t a budget buster. But then, he’s never been a guy to lean heavily on special effects. Small budgets, small films, big scares. He spoke out strongly against CGI and spoke fondly of small films with something to say.

That something to say is often, he said, about family. With a twist. Satan’s Playground is no different.

“I think all of my films so far have been about family dysfunction, and I really took it to the extreme with Satan’s Playground,” Tomaselli said.

His third film, Satan’s Playground, doesn’t appear to be a mere road to mainstream films, either, a route many horror directors take. Just ask actress Ellen Sandweiss of Evil Dead fame, who has a major role in Satan’s Playground. “Dante is not one of those directors who is making a horror film just to make money to make his other films,” Sandweiss said. “He wants to make horror films.”

By the looks of his trailer, Satan’s Playground fits the bill. It looks simply terrifying. Keep your eyes on this spot, because next week  is going to go in-depth with Satan’s Playground, exploring its locations, its themes, its actors, and what drives Tomaselli, one of the East Coast’s rising young stars of horror. You won’t want to miss it.

If you haven’t heard of Tomaselli, maybe you soon will. But this next guy? We’re pretty sure you’ve heard of him.

”It’s Like Destroy All Monsters, But With Pinhead. And More Blood”
If there was a name – you know, A Name – at the Weekend of Horrors, it would hard to find a bigger name than Clive Barker, filmmaker, best-selling author, and all around bizarre, expressive, artistic guy. As Halloween draws near  will be offering readers a special in-depth look at all things new in the world of Clive Barker, including a peek into his latest book series, his new production company, and a glimpse at other upcoming Barker film projects, including Midnight Meat Train, based on his stories from his Books of Blood.

If you simply can’t wait for that feature, though, we can tell you a little of what we have in store – because if this doesn’t leave you waiting breathlessly, hell, nothing will.

First, there is his new production company. The focus, Barker said, is on smaller scale films that will push the envelope of horror. No more big budgets and extravagant effects. Just nitty gritty horror flicks that will be as far removed from PG-13 rating as the law will allow. Grue. Some.

Then there is Midnight Meat Train, set to be the first film from that company, based on an old short story from Barker’s Books of Blood. In preparing for the filming of this story from early in his career, Barker went back and reread his old writing. What he saw shocked him.

“(It was) very, very gory. I was surprised when I went back to read it. I said, ‘Fuck me, how did they let me do this?’ ”

This from a guy best known as the creator of one of horror’s most beloved and gory villains, Pinhead.

Did we say Pinhead? Yes we did. Here’s a brief hint at what Barker said about his most famous character: “I think it’s time he dies a dignified death.”

Oh my.

One last Barker tidbit on the guy with the pins: He talked about a Hellraiser boxed set, too. With a catch. The catch? Well, that would be telling. If you want to know if the news is good or bad, you’ll just have to check back here in a few weeks when we dive full-on into Clive Barker’s world.

So, like, prepare your soul and stuff.


Our coverage of all things horror is far from over! Be ready, because next week will not only bring an in-depth look at Satan’s Playground, but the first in a two-part series by  contributor Cru Jones as he offers us a personal glimpse into what it means to be a lifelong horror fan. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as  dedicates the entire month of October to the most gruesome bits of film this side of Showgirls. Stay tuned, because it’s sure to be filled with fun. (Not to mention bloody stumps. Can’t get enough bloody stumps, after all).