This past weekend, the Garden State became a true state of horror as the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin, NJ hosted the New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival. Fans were lining up an hour before the doors opened as Father Evil greeted them. The convention floor stretched for several rooms of the beautiful hotel with vendors lining the halls throughout. Featured guests were stationed throughout, offering autographs and photos to eager fans. Like many conventions, photo-ops with the guests were available. Upstairs, there were two screening rooms; the larger dedicated to special film screenings and Q&A sessions, while the smaller hosted festival entrants, both full-length and short films.
Some of the highlights I had on day one included meeting four stars from my favorite Wes Craven film, The People Under the Stairs (1991). Sean Whalen (Roach), Yan Birch (Stairmaster), Brandon Adams (Fool), and Kelly Jo Minter (Ruby) were awesome, and I totally had a fanboy moment getting a group photo with them. All of the stars reflected back on the film, now just past its silver anniversary, calling it unique. Whalen said Wes Craven really loved it himself and enjoyed the quirky humor in it. I spoke with Brandon Adams, who was only 11 at the time of its release about the underlying messages in the film and the socio-economic themes. “I didn’t realize it then, but watching it back they’re definitely there. Mr. Craven was definitely onto something with that movie.”
Another highlight for me was getting a shooting script for A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors signed by “Kincaid” himself Ken Sagoes; who was pictured on the shirt I was wearing! I also spoke with Super Troopers and Club Dread star Eric Stolhanske. I confessed to be a huge Club Dread fan, and he said that most people approach him about Super Troopers so he always enjoys when fans talk Club Dread with him. He had a mini-reunion of sorts with Club Dread co-star Jordan Ladd, who was there for another reunion with the cast of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. Together they reminisced about how fun Club Dread was to shoot, and shared stories about sadly departed Bill Paxton, who portrayed Coconut Pete in the film. In a funny anecdote, they described how everything on set was held to the standard of, “Brittany’s ass good” referring to their co-star Brittany Daniel. An example, “The shot was good, but it wasn’t “˜Brittany’s ass good.'”
Overall, I have to say I was very impressed with New Jersey Horror Con. I’ve been to many of the smaller “comic con-lite” conventions and this was one of the better ones for a few reasons. First, from a strict money standpoint, this was very affordable and fan-friendly – $30 at the door, $75 for the 3-day pass, and children 11 and under were free. I saw plenty of brave youngsters walking through the aisles of merchandise clutching their parents hands, as cosplaying Michael Myers and scary clowns roamed the rooms. The celebrity guests were about $25 each for autographs and pictures, some a bit more, but nothing outrageous. There is just something strangely wonderful and familial about horror movie stars and horror fans. More than any genre, horror creates bonds. Many of the celebrities here were not mainstream mega-stars, but here they were amongst hordes of devoted fans who worship not just the films, but the eras and memories.
The convention continued through the weekend featuring special performances by Crispin Hellion Glover as well as Q&As, panels, screenings, cosplay contests and festival awards. Go to New Jersey Horror Con for more. Don’t worry if you didn’t make it this weekend, they return in early March, 2018.
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