Chiller Theater Expo

I won’t deny that I’m a geek. I’m a cranky sysadmin. Have been for over a decade. The Weezer song “In the Garage” could be my high school anthem. I believe I’m past that to a degree. Other than blogging and an occasional die-rolling escapade. I don’t even play computer games anymore. So why the fuck was I at the Chiller Expo? It’s a horror con held twice a year, the big one being in October, since Halloween is the holiday for all things horror. Well, I wanted to meet Ace Frehley. And my friends Darth Milk and The World’s Tallest Man (Dross) were engaging in what they call Costumed Aggression.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 9: Hrrrm

Milky put together a great Rorschach costume, and Dross had become a perfect representation of Darth Revan. They both looked great. The first step in any nerd costume is not being fat (one reason why I don’t do it). Because then they wouldn’t be Rorschach and Darth Revan, they’d be Fat Rorschach and Lardbutt Revan. You’ve seen such things on the interwebs, I’m sure. Fat Tron Guy. Fattie Darth Maul kid. To my everlasting horror I’ve seen fat guys dressed as Sailor Moon, female coyotes, Fat Mad Max, Indiana Fats and the Beer Gut of Doom, and so on. Just don’t do it. If you can spend $800 on a fucking Stormtrooper costume, you can spend $300 on Nutrisystem for 6 months before the science fiction convention your life revolves around. But on the other hand, without you fanboys devoid of that human trait we like to call dignity, the internet would be a far less funny place. So don’t let me tinkle in your Count Chocula; have a ball. And please, keep LARPing (more on that in a future post).

Hail to the King baby

Chiller Expo is run by a bunch of idiots who keep getting kicked out of hotels. This was my first one, and having to wait 2 hours in the rain to get in, I would not have done it if Milky wasn’t depending on me for a ride home in the Blue Meeny, and he hadn’t promised a hotel room party afterward. That party was not to be, due to a Nerd Wedding happening somewhere at the hotel; we met some cool folks but Old Man Tommy was not about to endure a fucking wedding at a horror convention. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, and one of them was a “hand fasting” of people dressed up like Inigo Montoya in Seinfeld’s Frilly Shirt. My retinas have enough scars without seeing a vampire wedding, or a zombie wedding, or whatever horrors lay in store for us that night.

Snake Plissken? I thought you were dead.

The wait was worth it, however, because like Dross said- nothing makes you feel better about yourself than going to a convention like this. If you ever sit on your couch and wonder if you’re living a good life, do yourself a favor and do to a Comicon, or a Chiller Expo. If you are contemplating suicide because you feel like a complete waste of flesh, go to a Furry Convention. Then again, that might drive you to suicide, like a Lovecraftian beastie too terrible to behold, because those people fuck plush animals and dress up like fuzzy bunnies. Chiller is several magnitudes better in the Geek Hierarchy, and these people look like they have lives. Of a sort. There’s large biker contingent, a subset of guys with 6 inch or longer goatees, and a smaller Gwar! fan faction.

Zombie Attack!

The first thing you hit is the dealer room. Here if there’s any sort of horror movie DVD, movie poster, or expensive, delicate figurine you can imagine, you will find it. Obscure horror movie you and 3 friends on myspace have seen? They have a t-shirt. I myself wore my Evil Dead: The Musical! t-shirt, so I could rise above the unwashed masses (and how true that phrase was) with a Broadway show t-shirt. I could have bought a huge diorama of Bruce Campbell as Ash the chainsaw-wielding slayer of the undead, but I’d have to sell some of my collection of scary pointy weapons to make room for it. And no, I don’t have any of those cheap Made-in-China Renn Fest weapons littering my man-cave. My tastes run toward the custom-made Bowie knives by American Bladesmith Society Master Smiths. If a burglar trips in my home, I won’t need to call the police. He’ll be a pincushion.

Emperor Popetine

Rorschach was a huge hit at the convention. The Watchmen movie is coming out next spring, and there’s a lot of hype for it. Perhaps you saw the trailer before Dark Knight. Every Nerd, Dick and Harry wanted a photo with ‘Shack, so I was a busy man with the camera. Another thing about conventions is that every has-been of movies, music and televisions goes there to sell photos and autographs for beer money. $20 or $30 worth of beer money. I had a few names on my list- Ace Frehley, formerly of KISS; Linda Hamilton of Terminator fame, but known to nerds for that ’80s TV show “Beauty and the Beast”; George Kennedy, from Cool Hand Luke, but more importantly the Naked Gun Trilogy; and Ernest Borgnine, who’s…. Ernest fucking Borgnine, dammit!

Nerds like the obscure ones

We worked our way through the maze of hotel hallways leading to the Space Ace, and it felt like the Copacabana scene in Goodfellas, except with the dregs of nerd-dom surrounding us instead of New York glitterati. At the end of our long journey, we were greeted by an empty room full of police tape making a makeshift set of velvet ropes leading to the rock ‘n roll star. An unhelpful goon proffered post-KISS Ace wares, since the make-up is now owned and trademarked by KISS entrepreneurs Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who will sell you a KISS coffin if you like; and they’ll let someone else play the Space Ace on stage now, too. They’ve become The Phantom of the Park, while Ace has stuck to principles.

I look high because the goon didn’t say ‘smile’

Ace looks like Keith Richards’ younger brother; years of rocking hard have taken their toll, but he is a friendly and happy guy. Some stars get surly, but he was all smiles. Of course, we just paid $30 to get a picture taken with him, by a fat bodyguard who takes a shitty photo. I’d be smiling too. I wish he had copies of his solo album there; I had dreams of finding a 180 gram vinyl limited-edition and getting it signed in a flourish of silver paint marker. But the reality is that KISS is long behind him. He had the best of the solo albums, and his cover of “Back in the New York Groove” made the song a U.S. hit. I never liked KISS much once he left, but that’s another story. It was great getting a photo with him.

Boba Fett and Darth Kabuki

After seeing has-been star power drain my wallet, I decided to forgo dropping any more money to pose next to the likes of Angie Dickinson, or even my teenage crush Linda Hamilton. I’d rather remember her as Sarah Connor. In the lobby we met more followers of Costumed Aggression, including a kick-ass Boba Fett costume and another Sith Lord named Darth Childmower or something. Others included a nurse from the games/movie Silent Hill; a guy dressed as the Burger King with the creepy mask, who engorged the loins of every nerd in the house by bringing his girlfriend dressed as Princess Leia in slave gear from Return of the Jedi. There were plenty of Jabbas to slobber over her.

Fredwina Krueger and waif

Some of my faves were more obscure, being the snooty sort of ex-nerd that I am. A couple dressed as Frank (Dennis Hopper) and Dorothy (Isabella Rosellini) from Blue Velvet; a great Snake Plissken costume from the Escape from New York/L.A. movies, who actually looked like young Kurt Russell; the gorilla with a space helmet from Robot Monster; and a kid wearing a giant milk carton with her face sticking out under the “missing child” logo.

Silent Hill

The costume contest had plenty of more typical, but excellent ideas- a guy dressed as a zombie cop attacking a woman, complete with his guts falling out and throwing a severed head at her. That won “scariest costume” and looked professional. There were a trio of Ghostbusters, with proton packs; a decent Godzilla costume, missing the tail. Maybe he’ll have a tail next year, but he could stomp Tokyo and get away with it. The funniest one, which won “most creative,” was Emperor Popetine. Pope Joe Ratzenberger just kinda looks like the evil Emperor from Star Wars.

Who you gonna call? Three nerds!

Unfortunately for Milky, there was also another Rorschach. Milky’s costume was better, and he better resembled the scrappy vigilante in size too. They got a photo together for another fan. We spent the rest of the night photographing the nerdiest people we could find; I’ll end with them here, so you can feel better about yourself. Now, I’ve got to review 9 more horror movies before Halloween, so I’m going to watch stuff like The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?, which isn’t nerdy at all. Nope nope.

Fat Star Wars guy
Robot Monster

Heineken? Fuck that shit!

Where losers win!

Dueling Rorschachs

Not sure if he just likes kilts or if he’s in a costume.

Godzilla and his terrible grimace

And finally, a guy dressed as Batman with underoos.
Wow, I feel GREAT about myself now.

Chiller Theatre (The TV show, not the convention)

Watching Night of the Lepus reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows as a child, the horror anthology on WPIX called Chiller Theatre. Nowadays it’s easy to laugh at old horror movies, but when you’re seven years old, the Wolfman is a terrifying creature, Dracula is a creepy old pedo and Frankenstein reminds you of your uncle Fiore stomping around in the cellar as he has his morning stogie. It is the stuff of nightmares.

Speaking of nightmares, I had one recently where me and some friends were hiking in a swamp, when a Giant Fucking Hand came out of the bog and grabbed somebody. Now where would imagery like that come from? Chiller Theatre, that’s where. The show opened with a creepy claymation hand coming out of a well near a house, and as a kid it obviously burned its way into my brain:

Admit it, that is one creepy friggin’ hand.
They mostly played movies with effects by Ray Harryhausen, the king of stop-motion animation. Classics such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, which is about a dinosaur attacking New York City. It gleefully tromps down Broadway stomping people flat and eating them. We reenacted this numerous times with a plastic dinosaur and Star Wars figures. Lando never got a break. Everyone knows in the movies the Brother Always Dies First. One of my recurring nightmares as a child was of a T. Rex chasing me down East Centre Street, into a neighbor’s yard where I cleverly jumped over a picket fence and hid.
Based on a Ray Bradbury story, the beast was released by an atomic bomb test, and predates Godzilla (even the awesome original Japanese version without Raymond Burr). Thus began a love for Harryhausen’s work, especially Mighty Joe Young, which was usually shown on Sunday mornings because a helpful giant ape doesn’t belong on Chiller Theatre.

They Hoover out your humerus in Island of Terror.

My all-time favorite stupid movie is 1966’s Island of Terror, starring Peter Cushing. This one had a scientist on a remote Irish island trying to cure cancer. He inadvertently creates monsters called “silicates” that look like armored blobs full of spaghetti, with a vacuum hose trunk that sucks your skeleton out. It’s actually better in many ways than your typical drive-in horror, as not all the characters are stupid. Except this guy, who tries to off one with an axe and gets too close.

I love how his friends don’t even try to help.

The monsters make a delightful noise as they suck out your bones, with accompanying screams. We had loads of childhood fun chasing each other with the vacuum attachments with a sock on the end. Which in another kind of blog, might be a teenage masturbation aid. There’s a full review of the movie over at Stomp Tokyo. It’s not on DVD, so I’ll spare you my musings on it. For now!

Another great favorite was Curse of the Mushroom People. The movie is actually quite good and has deeper meanings about survival, but as kids, who cares about that? We were scared shitless that our face was going to mutate like the poor bastards in this film. A group of Japanese tourists are shipwrecked on an island, on which there is very little to eat. Except mushrooms, which are everywhere. Soon those who eat them begin to show startling changes…

Aggh! Mushroom man!!

The story is told by a man in a mental institution, one of the survivors of the wreck, and of course when he’s done with his tale that no one believes, he turns around and has a portobello-like growth coming out of his face. I wish I had a screenshot of that. His nose was all distorted up like a pig snout and me and my sister made that face at each other a lot. Thankfully our grandmother was lying when she said our face would get stuck that way. This seems to be on DVD, so you’ll suffer through a full review sometime soon.

There’s also a Chiller Theatre horror convention every year in NJ, and I think I’ll join Darth Milk this year when he goes. Lou Ferrigno and Ernest Borgnine are going to be there. I need to get my photo taken with the Hulk, and well, Ernest Borgnine. Maybe I’ll dress up like Marty.

Look out, ladies.