Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Unleashed In The West: CRYPTICON SEATTLE 2013!

Crypticon Seattle 2013
May 24, 25, and 26th
Sea Tac Hilton Hotel


Eclectic Arts returned to cover the northwest's biggest horror convention:  Crypticon 2013!  We here at EA had a great time last year covering the convention so we were stoked to be back amongst the undead, monsters, and overall freaks this Memorial Day weekend.

The convention was held at the Hilton at Sea Tac - same as the previous year.  I arrived to the familiar scene of several hearses parked outside the parking garage, along with a few military style vehicles.   

Upon entering the convention on the conference room level (3rd floor), my assistant and I picked up our credentials (thanks Kyle!), grabbed a schedule, and ventured inside.

I distinctly remember Friday being slow last year (Ms. Dee Wallace said the same thing to me last year).  This year appeared to have higher attendance both Friday and Saturday (Sunday seemed about the same to me as last year).  Perhaps the Crypticon folks can chime in here?

As we did a once through around the dealer room, the wide variety of jewelry, weapons, horror memorabilia, and other assorted genre items was on par with previous conventions.  Most of the guests were at their tables with a few exceptions (typical especially for a Friday). 

I was talking to my assistant about my game plan for Friday when a large figure walked by us.  I turned to see Tyler Mane walking past us.  With his giant 6' 8" stature, you couldn't help but notice him.  The only other time I've seen men of such height was at wrestling events.  No surprise, Tyler spent over 11 years as a professional wrestler (primarily with WCW back in the day) before turning to acting in such films as "Xmen", "Troy", and the 2007 "Rob Zombie's Halloween".

Tyler's wife, Renae, was also on hand at his table.  Tyler has a new production company, Mane Entertainment, with their first offering being "Compound Fracture".

Next to Tyler's table was Derek Mears - best known as Jason in the 2009 "Friday the 13th".  Tyler and Derek live mere blocks from each other in California.  Derek is also featured in "Compound Fracture" so it was a one-two punch of two actors that have portrayed horror icons.

Lew Temple and Vincent M. Ward were on hand - "Axel" and "Oscar" respectively from "The Walking Dead" television show.

Fred "the Hammer" Williamson was also in attendance.  He looked as cool and slick as he did back in the day.

James Edward Duval ("Donnie Darko", "Independence Day", "Sushi Girl"), Dana Ashbrook ("Twin Peaks"), Diane Franklin ("Better Off Dead", "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure", "The Last American Virgin"), Nicholas Brenden ("Buffy TVS"), Joe Bob Briggs (long time genre writer and actor) and Eileen Dietz ("The Exorcist") were some of the wide variety of celebrity guests in attendance this year.

But, the main guest this year (guest of honor one could say) was most definitely the Mistress of the Dark herself - Elvira (Cassandra Peterson).  She had a steady line of fans at her table each day over the weekend - purchasing merchandise to be signed and getting photos with the horror icon.

As I did last year, I went into Friday getting a lay of the land, checking out a panel or two, knowing that I would be back for two more days to get into the nitty gritty of the convention.

The panel I wanted to check out the most on Friday was with Tyler Mane and Derek Mears - primarily a vehicle to promote their film "Compound Fracture".  There was no moderator but Tyler, Derek, and Renae (Tyler's wife) had plenty to say about the film, each other, and anything else that popped into their heads.  Movie rainbow anyone?  Blue, purple, and red for Derek, Renae, and Tyler respectively.

For those that haven't met Derek Mears or seen him interviewed, the man stands nearly 6' 6" and has plenty to say.  With a background in improvisation and comedy, Derek has one liners and observational humor to add to anything he does.  Not quite what many would expect from a guy known for wielding a machete in the silence of Camp Crystal lake.  Both he and Tyler fit what Richard Kiel (who in his prime stood over both men at over 7' tall) mentioned last year at Crypticon - the big man syndrome.  People either assume they're a horrible monster ala Frankenstein or dumb as a brick in real life.  It goes back to that saying of not judging a book by its cover. 

They started the proceedings off by dimming the lights and showing some rough cut footage of their film.  Shot in 18 days according to Tyler with over 180 hours of footage, the film is not a slasher flick.  It owes more to Rosemary's Baby and psychological thriller/horror than anything the two men are known for.

The panel jumped all over the place as the three of them are such friends it was more a panel of them chopping it up than getting too serious and that was perfectly fine for the audience.  Renae talked about her background in comics (she co wrote and co stars in the film) and Tyler chimed in with more background about Mane Entertainment - that they have 7 projects in the works, the pros and cons of working on an indie film VS a big Hollywood production, etc.

Derek brought up a topic that he found interesting - that next door in another ballroom- there was a panel discussing the many remakes/reboots of horror films and how Michael Bay (responsible for producing many of these reboots) should die.  Not literally of course but that the hardcore horror fans are tired of the remakes, the lack of imagination from the film studios, etc.  Derek really wanted to be over there on that panel to give the other side of the coin, the other perspective of those films, particularly since he and Tyler were both in reboots that had varying degrees of box office success.

I think that would have been awesome if that had come to be.  I talked with Derek at his table on Saturday about that comment he made at the Friday night panel.  He was like, yeah, I love horror films, lifelong horror fan, but he wished more people would give the new films a chance instead of instantly dismissing them.  I wholeheartedly agreed (yeah, boo me if you want, I don’t give a shit) as that would of made for a much better panel in the next room don't you agree?  Horror fans ripping apart a topic in the genre - why not have someone FROM one of those films there to counter with a differing opinion, ya know?  It would of made for a lively discussion that's for sure!  I obviously wasn't in the other room to hear the reboot panel discussion so maybe it wasn't as bad as all that.  Hey Crypticon folks - perhaps a good idea for a panel in 2014?  Discuss the reboots but put a guest or two from those reboots on the panel to counter the horror geek speak?  It's just an idea.  But I digress.

Derek and Tyler's panel ended with the official trailer for the film.  It looked really intriguing to me.  They let it be known that they would be screening it here in Seattle on Wednesday the 29th at the Varsity in the U District.  I'll be there to cover the screening and to write a full review of the film.  Tyler and Renae will be in attendance.  Go to for more details, tickets, etc.

After the panel, the dealer room was closing down for the night so we made the decision to take another look around real quick and then head out. 

Saturday as any convention attendee knows is always the busiest day of a convention and Crypticon was no exception.  I arrived with my assistant when the doors opened at 11am.  Instead of waiting for the elevator this time I found the damn stairs in the Hilton parking garage and took those - so much quicker since it's only one floor of stairs to cover.  Why I didn't spot these last year I have no idea but now I know.

I knew that Fred "The Hammer" Williamson was due to have a panel right at the start so we  headed over to Ballroom C to check out what "The Hammer" had to say.  And he had a lot to say!

I honestly don't know much about "The Hammer's" background - other than I knew he had played professional football and had a very long film and TV career.  So this was one of those panels I was hoping to learn something from (kudos to Justin Giallo for doing a fine job moderating the panel). 

With only a handful of us in the room, the panel began.  Let me say this right off the top - "The Hammer" is an imposing figure.  He has that swagger that obviously worked for him in football and his acting career.  When he mentioned that he was 75 years old I was blown away - this guy look like he's 50 at most and could still kick everyone's ass in the room with one arm tied behind his back.  Damn!

So, when "The Hammer" talked about throwing Gary Busey against a wall to make sure Gary understood "The Hammer" wouldn't put up with any of his shenanigans on set, you absolutely believe it happened!  "The Hammer" also mentioned that Gary has a good heart and is a good guy - so don't take things out of context.  But he also said that Gary is fucked up but he said it good naturedly. 

"The Hammer" talked about his professional football career.  How he was going through practice and was tired of guys trying to get past him (he played defensive back) so one day at practice he put a forearm on a guy and just knocked him down.  The coach came over and yelled at him, "Williamson God damn it I can't have you hammering guys that are on your own team …." And that's where the nickname came from.  He was a tough SOB and everyone who played with or against him knew it.

He talked about his many films he made in Italy while living overseas.  He talked about not understanding the term blaxploitation.  He said black actors were working, black audiences had heroes, and he didn't see anyone being exploited.  Please keep in mind, when "The Hammer" was answering questions, he would give very matter of fact answers.  He was likeable but you also got the sense that if you asked a question that he really didn't like, he would reach across, grab you by the neck, and let you know.  I think the word is respect - he commanded respect.

After "The Hammer's" panel, the next panel in Ballroom C was with 80's crush Diane Franklin.  Once again, while I remembered her from Better Off Dead and Bill and Ted's, I hadn't seen either film in years, so I decided this would be another good panel to sit in to learn and be entertained.

Moderated by the one and only Mr. Tony Kay (hi Tony!) whom I had met at last year's Crypticon.  It was very nice running into Tony on Friday before the Derek Mears/Tyler Mane panel on Friday.  Catching up at Crypticon is one of the best things about the convention for returnees.

Tony gave a very well done introduction to Ms. Franklin (which he does for every guest he moderates for and, dare I say, is getting well known for) who admitted this was her first panel.  Engaging, with much to say, Ms. Franklin had great stories to tell about getting into acting, the films she's best known for, and working in film again (her daughter is a director now as well).  She also switched into accents based on the film she was talking about.  From French to German to Long Island girl, it was effortless for her to go between her normal speech and those of the characters she played over the years.  She was clearly having fun and Mr. Kay did a splendid job of getting the most out of the hour for the panel.

My assistant and I decided to roam through the dealer room before heading out to grab something to eat.

We returned later in the afternoon to hear the panel with James Edward Duval and Dana Ashbrook moderated by Steve Lange. 

James is known for "Donnie Darko", "Independence Day", "Sushi Girl", and a slew of other films.  Dana is best known for his work in "Twin Peaks".  Both actors had many stories to tell one of which revolved around turning down roles in their earlier years (particularly James) but not doing that so much nowadays.  This was a recurring theme with many of the actors - of doing the best they can with a role regardless of the project.  The only exception being if the project was just so low budget and ridiculous but outside of that, work is work or better yet, an opportunity to show what they could do with a character.

Both men were funny and very genuine.  James had a habit of messing with his hair during the panel - a lot - sorry James but it was hard not to notice how often you fidgeted with your hair.  Just an odd observance.

Cassandra Peterson was next and it was standing room only.  Clearly the most popular guest this weekend.  Cassandra was funny, engaging, witty, sincere, everything you would expect her to be from her Elvira character and her as a person.  She recounted tales of encounters with Elvis Presley, fronting an Italian rock band, performing in countless shows as a showgirl, and then her foray into acting in LA, where the Elvira character was born. 

She received the Crypticon Horror Icon award during the panel which she seemed genuinely proud to receive. 

She mentioned her appearance on "Counting Cars" (History Channel) as a fan had asked if she still owned the car from the Mistress of The Dark film.  She initially didn't but had the opportunity to purchase it from the original owner, had it souped up, and then recently had it redone again for "Counting Cars".  I interviewed Danny "The Count" Koker from "Counting Cars" so look for that interview in the next issue of Eclectic Arts (print version) this summer.  Shameless plug.

She has new projects in the works but couldn't speak to them (disclosure forms had been signed off on)…but one is reality based.  There was a little bit of time to field questions from the audience (hi Jade!).  Cassandra left to a loud round of applause from the audience.

At this point, we decided to head back into the dealers room.  I spoke with Derek Mears for a bit about his panel which he jokingly apologized for.  We talked about the Seattle screening of "Compound Fracture".  He mentioned he wouldn't be there as he had to fly to Boston for a charity function (Adam Green's 3 day charity event).

I brought up his interest in MMA which he has had to put on hold due to his acting schedule taking off.  He semi joked that he couldn't bang in the cage, have a messed up face, and then go to an audition. 

We touched on the panel about reboot horror movies (from Friday night mentioned elsewhere in this report) and he was still fired up to talk about it.  He used the analogy of people scoffing at the new James Bond (Daniel Craig) and then when they saw it they were like wow this is a cool new take on the classic character.  Everyone has their opinion of these reboots and again I would of loved to have heard his input on that panel. 

After getting more specifics about the "Compound Fracture" screening on Wednesday, we decided to call it a night.  

Sunday had arrived and there were two guest panels I wanted to check out.  One was with Joe Bob Briggs who I openly admit I knew next to nothing about (seems to be a pattern here - shame on me).  The other was with Vincent M. Ward and Lew Temple - both from "The Walking Dead" (Season 3). 

Before heading to the first panel,  I stopped by Derek Mear's table to have him sign the picture I had taken with him on Saturday.  I asked him more about the charity event he was going to.  It was organized by Adam Green ("Hatchet" fame) to help the victims of the Boston bombing attack.  Many in the horror community were donating their time and memorabilia to raise money - a very cool and somewhat unknown fact.  Derek donated his original "Friday the 13th" script as well as traveling to the event.

I got a photo with Tyler Mane and asked him a bit about his wrestling background.  He has aches and pains all over his body - which he feels every day.  He has no plans to incorporate his wrestling background into a film concept.  "Penance Lane" is the next project from Mane Entertainment, currently in development.

Derek, Tyler, and Renae were only in the dealer room for about an hour on Sunday as they had to get down to Portland for the screening of "Compound Fracture".

I then stopped to talk with Vincent M. Ward about most things non Walking Dead.  We talked about his jobs, his work ethic, his dance troupe, basketball, and eventually a few things about the Walking Dead.  Straight forward, very down to earth, and very appreciative of what has come his way, it was fascinating to hear about how his firing from his previous job provided him an opportunity about a week later to join a small theater company (after seeing one of their productions) with zero acting background.  I mentioned how things happen for a reason and he couldn't agree more. 

Vincent talked about never treating people disrespectfully.  That he always shows up on time on the set, for a convention appearance, etc.  He never wants to become one of those people that think they're more important than everyone else.  I mentioned I would be going to his panel and I'm sure I would have more questions after the panel.

I was going to talk to Lew Temple but the noon panel was going to start so my assistant and I headed to Ballroom C.

Let me tell you - I was glad I went to Joe Bob's panel (moderated by a somewhat casually dressed Tony Kay) as he had awesome stories of his formative years as a writer, his stint as an actor on such films as Casino (this was a great story of how he went to NY to audition for the role), and his love of exploitation and other assorted B movies.  Reading with "Marty" and "Bobby" for the role in Casino was probably the best story of the panel. 

The next panel was Vincent M. Ward and Lew Temple.  Vincent was interviewed (by Tony Kay) solo and then Lew solo and then both gentlemen together.

It was interesting when Mr. Temple came in, Vincent decided to stay and listen (sitting just a few chairs away to my right).  Vincent had told me at his table that Andrew Lincoln leads "The Walking Dead" cast and crew and is such a dedicated leader, someone he respects 100%.  Lew said something similar on the panel - which prompted Vincent to turn and look in my direction from his seat, we both acknowledged each other, like Vincent was going to say - "yeah, see what I was telling you earlier, it's not just me but anyone who works on the show feels the same way".  A cool, nerdy moment for this writer.

I went to talk with both gentlemen for a bit after the panel at their respective booths.  Lew has family here in Kirkland, WA where I grew up.  I immediately told him such and we started talking about schools and such (who went where) - what a cool moment to find out that someone I was watching on the show spent time in my hometown in his younger years.

I knew Lew was involved in baseball.  What I didn't know was that he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners!  So he always has a soft spot for the M's he said.  We talked about the Kingdome days, the beautiful new park they have (Safeco Field), Felix Hernandez, and other assorted baseball stuff.  As he put it - he has had two careers, one in professional baseball for fifteen years and one in acting.

Both men were so accommodating - I got a photo with both and left a very happy camper.

After my assistant got a photo with "The Hammer", we decided that was the final nail in the coffin of Crypticon Seattle 2013 for us. 

Many, many thanks and kudos to all of the Crypticon staff for putting on another well organized event.  From talking with the workers/volunteers at the front table to the dealers room, the authors area to the panel ballrooms, my assistants and I had a great time!

Other mentionables:  there was a paranormal convention going on within Crypticon.  I didn't check out any of their scheduled events but it was another addition this year.  I did look through the auction on Sunday to see what items were there to bid on.

A karaoke party was a separate event one evening (separate ticket entry as well) and other night time activities such as the BioHazard Parties and other film screenings for those that live after midnight.

Various music was played in the dealer room during the course of the weekend - much of it electric string music (violin, cello, viola, etc) which was a nice touch.  The makeup contest was also going on on Saturday.

And of course the author's alley was ever present as it was last year.  I went through a couple times looking at the various books and memorabilia - all horror related, of course.

My suggestions for improvements next year?  Maybe offer a 3 day parking pass in the Hilton garage at a discount?  While this years prices seemed a little lower than last year (and those were discounted I believe last year), it would be cool to just buy a pass and pay a flat rate of like $20 or something for all 3 days.  If I had more money in my pocket, I would of spent it in the dealer's room but I had to plan accordingly to cover parking all three days.  Just a random thought as I'm sure most of the 3 day attendees don't have expendable money - I know I don't.

Also, is there a way to get some better light in the rooms?  There are corners of the dealers room that were dark - like where Vincent M. Ward's table was.  The guest panel ballrooms are usually dark as well.  Not a major problem at all but more of an annoyance than anything.  I've been to enough hotel events to know this is usually a common issue but, hey, thought I'd mention it here anyway.

Another small gripe - ask the guests to please use their mics when speaking on a panel.  Could I hear them?  Yeah.  Would it have been a lot easier to hear them if they used their mics?  Of course.  Again, very minor gripe.  If it bugged me enough, I would of said something during the panels in which the mics weren't used.  So, not a big deal, just a picky observance.

Again, the Crypticon staff did a bang up job and made for a very enjoyable experience - kudos to all involved!

I'm now on a horror high, just like last year, and I'm ready for Crypticon Seattle 2014.  Damn, that sounds awful to say - it feels like it'll take forever to get here.  Here's hoping the next twelve months go by in a bloody blur.


Want to read more?  Here's our report from last year's Crypticon Seattle:  

*Further edits to come soon - new information and such.

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