Saturday, November 6, 2010

It takes all kinds (unedited)

Take horror movie fans, mix in a dose of art enthusiasts, toy collectors and would-be filmmakers, then and add a dash of metalheads and porn stars. Collectively you have a day at Crypticon.

Crypticon is the convention for those who love the creepy, gory and scary movies churned out by Hollywood and independent filmmakers around the country, and probably the world. It's Minnesota's annual foray into the horror movie fandom and is marking its fifth year this weekend.

There are similar conventions around the country throughout the year, but Minnesota didn't have one quite like this until 2006, I learned today. We have Star Trek gatherings a few times a year, evidently, as well as a science fiction/fantasy gathering in the summer. But Crypticon appears to be the preeminent gathering for those who treat horror film stars like they're the Backstreet Boys circa 1999.

I've been to the big comic books shows here in the Twin Cities many times, and there are a few similarities, but Crypticon is something very different.

Crypticon offers a variety of entertainment throughout the day. There are starts and creators of horror films past and present who attend, and several of them speak during panel presentation. Most of the celebrities and creators in attendance aren't household names, but they've been in films many of us have heard of, even if we're not horror film aficionados. Today I met the guy who plays Dr. Satan in "House of 1000 Corpses," Walter Phelan, who oddly doesn't have his own wikipedia page. I also met Dee Wallace, best known to us as the mom in "E.T."

Wallace has been in a slew of horror films, before and after E.T., but hasn't been in anything nearly as successful, or done anything nearly as prominent. Nonetheless she has kept busy in film and television for more than three decades, and somehow finds it worth her time to appear at a few of these conventions each year.

I can't swear to it, but from the sounds of it, the celebrities and creators are flown to Minneapolis for the convention and provided accommodations during their stay. They make some sort of appearance during the convention and spend the rest of the time hawking merchandise, primarily photos, that they autograph. I was surprised that a standard color picture of Phelan, autographed, was $20. If you brought something of your own to have autographed, he still received $20. Pictures with the celebrities seemed to be free.

In addition to the celebrities and creators, there were several merchandise vendors hawking T-shirts, DVDs, toys and all sorts of random things. One woman I met was hawking custom-made handbags with spooky themes and designs. They were nice bags, but at $65 they seemed a bit expensive. She had a great shtick, however, she was dressed as a zombie and would often play the part. She was there with her fiance who was selling "zombie" caricatures. It was a cool idea, one I hadn't seen done before.

Besides merchandise vendors there were booths hawking independent horror films, some that you could buy on DVD, some you couldn't. One table was handing out DVDs of the movie trailer, although it wasn't clear to me when or how the movie was going to be available. Perhaps my DVD will tell me more.

Another table was for a group of Minnesota filmmakers who are shopping their finished movie, filmed here in the Twin Cities. They have screened it a few times thus far and are hoping to sell it to a studio for either distribution or as the premise for a major motion picture production.

One of their screenings was during Crypticon, which shows horror films throughout the weekend.

That's not enough for you? On Friday and Saturday night of the three-day convention they have live music. I'm guessing they're all metal bands, but I couldn't say for sure. One of the bands, Mushroomhead, signed posters and all that for about 30 minutes Saturday afternoon. They're one of these bands that wears masks on stage. I'm guessing their stage show has a theatrical horror element to it. Just a hunch. They're been around a long time, but are still considered an underground band, I guess. They were the headliner for Saturday night's music lineup, I suspect.

It's the weekend after Halloween, so there are plenty of people walking around in some sort of costume at Crypticon. Several people hawking merchandise weren't dressed for a Monday at the office, and that's to help draw attention and sell their wares, no doubt.

I saw a few women waking around that could just as easily have been attending a porn convention. One of my favorites was the amazon woman dressed as a DD Freddy Krueger. Some of the women I'd see walking around were there selling something, I'd eventually learn, when I'd see them behind a table and notice their "vendor" wristband. But some women were there purely to put on a show for the masses.

There were dudes who dressed the part, too, and on Saturday night there was a costume contest. I didn't stick around to see that, but I'm sure there was quite a show.

It was quite a spectacle, and there were dozens of people in attendance. I don't know how many people will attend during the weekend, but it's not a cheap proposition. A one-day pass for Saturday was $30, and that didn't include Saturday night's music. If you wanted to attend the live music, that would cost you more. There were individual tickets for each day, as well as for the live music, and a weekend pass that made the most sense if you want to make a weekend of it. And apparently some people do. I didn't see proof of it, but I know people decorate their hotel rooms at the convention in a theme, and I think there's a contest for that, too.

Like I said, it didn't come cheap to be there, and most of the goods and services in the convention weren't cheap either, although three of us pooled our money together and bought a two DVD set for $15. I figure seeing two low-budget horror movies for $5 was no different than renting a couple of old horror flicks at Blockbuster.

The horror crowd is not my scene, and if I wasn't being comped to visit today, I wouldn't have spent $30 to be there, I'm pretty sure. But it was fun, and if I happen to find my way back again some day, I'll definitely enjoy it, without a doubt.

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