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SCREAMFEST 2003 HAUNTS FLORIDA

by Luis Calvo, guest contributor.  [November 15, 2003]

 


[HollywoodInvestigator.com]  I was never a major horror movie buff. A film freak, yes. But slasher films, movies designed to make you shiver, hadn't been my cup of tea.

However, on November 8-9, I discovered another world of B-movies and low-budget terrors. For $20 (for two days) I visited Screamfest 2003, at the Holiday Inn in Plantation, Florida, the first of an annual event planned by KMG Productions.

It drew many guests, plus the red Plymouth from Stephen King's Christine, parked outside the hotel.

Celebrity guests included Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Phantasm star Reggie Bannister and his wife, Nightmarez Café hostess Gigi Bannister; scream queen Linnea Quigley; former soap-star-turned-scream queen Robyn Griggs; character actors Glenn Shadix, Ken Foree, and Vernon G. Wells; cult filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis; and former Misfits drummer Joey Image.

I began the weekend in the Celebrity Room, where celebs signed and sold photos -- or signed any videos or posters brought to them!

Makeup man Barry Anderson brought some heads with him. (Fake ones!) Joey Image signed drum cymbals. Gidget Gein, original bass player for Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, displayed some wicked art.

Bill Hinzman (the graveyard zombie in Night of the Living Dead) wore zombie makeup and shredded clothes. (Maybe he just had a rough flight from Pennsylvania?)

I asked Edwin Neal (Chainsaw's original hitchhiker), about being cast in a bit part in Oliver Stone's JFK.

"All (Stone) wanted to do was talk about Chainsaw," Neal said. "He saw it on my resumé, called me over and asked me about this one shot in the movie. He thought it was some heavy machinery. It was just two big guys carrying the camera."

Neal also revealed what they used for the warts on his face in Chainsaw: raisins.

Husband-and-wife Clayton and Sharon Cecatti Hill, zombies in Dawn of the Dead, were also present. Sharon played the nurse from purgatory.

 

 

The Dealers Room was a movie buff's paradise of DVDs and videos. At registration, we got goody bags containing the Freakshow DVD (starring Hansen) and I told myself I wouldn't buy too many things. That is until, buried in a garden of Asian action movies, I found a five-hour workprint of Apocalypse Now.

I'd felt dissatisfied with the redux version two years ago, and the DVD case promised to reveal what happened to Dennis Hopper's stoned journalist. I'd always wondered about him.
 

Indie filmmakers' display booths included a young man who was soundman on Filthy. I promised to see Filthy at next day's screening, but it began earlier than expected. I only caught the last few minutes -- enough for me to buy a copy.

Pretty, redheaded actress Sheyenne Rivers was promoting three new films by Florida filmmaker Robert J. Massetti.  Rivers appears in Massetti's Realms of Blood, due on DVD next year. She's also ScreamQueen.com's November Scream Queen of the Month.

Seeing Rivers confirmed this being a film freak's heaven.

 


I'd slipped out of the Celebrity Room just before heavy rain trapped the others. The rain also canceled plans for poolside movie screenings, so everyone headed to the bar to hear some bands: Death Becomes You and Fantasie

Linnea Quigley also performed with a pal -- they call themselves The Skirts -- and Joey Image joined them on drums.

Between drinks, I went to the men's room, and returning to the bar, I noticed Texas Chainsaw Massacre playing in the event's room.

Gunnar Hansen sat two seats into the first row, and I slid beside him. As the film's bizarre climax (Neal slits the poor heroine's finger and his grandpa drinks blood from it) unfolded to giggles from the audience, Hansen walked out, a smile on his face.

I looked around, and a girl gave me thumbs-up.

"I can die now," I said. The audience burst into laughter. 


 

Feeling proud, glad I came, I returned to the bar.

Michael Broom, a comic artist who drove from Orlando and bunked with new-found friends, was doodling and sketching patrons.

Bannister was a nice guy who chatted with fans late into the night. I'd never seen any of his films. First time in my life I'd felt guilty about something like that.

In the lobby, a band member dropped his shorts and mooned the folks mingling outside the bar. He bent low enough to show horror fans more than they wanted to see.

An equally jaw-dropping Griggs gasped, "It is always the guys who don't have anything [to show] that do stuff like that."

Young Indiana filmmaker Soloman Mortamur didn't sleep much from excitement that first night. He'd cast Hansen, Neal, and Image in his low budget film It Came From Trafalgar -- which already features Quigley, Brinke Stevens, Conrad Brooks, and Hank Williams III. Mortamur shot scenes in the hotel.

 

 

There was talk of a Screamfest 2004. The promoter, a long-haired fellow named Pete, was in good spirits. A bartender, Dan, enjoying his last day there before embarking on a job as editor at a local TV station, said he'd never had such a busy day.

Copyright 2003 by Luis Calvo.

 

Luis Calvo works on the calendar desk of the Miami Herald.  He's written features for Hispanic.  His e-mail: LCalvo@herald.com.

Are YOU a horror filmmaker seeking publicity?  Be sure to enter the Hollywood Investigator's Tabloid Witch Awards!
The Florida Screamfest horror convention is not to be confused with Los Angeles's Screamfest L.A. film festival, nor with Shriekfest.

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