The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan

Fangoria Film Stars: Frightfully Entertaining

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Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Fangoria Film Festival Stars: Frightfully Entertaining

If vampires, zombies, and gore float your boat, the place to be on Halloween weekend (Oct.30-Nov.1) was the Palms Resort and Casino. Fangoria Magazine celebrated its 30th Anniversary at the 2009 film festival and annual convention (first time in Vegas!) that supplied thrills and chills for its legion of horror loving devotees.

Named Trinity of Terrors, an upper floor of the resort was dedicated to ghoulish memorabilia, scream queens, and fashions from the grave. Black was a popular color, both in clothing and decor. One aisle was full of actors selling autographs, even if they were only known for one obscure but perhaps notorious film in the distant past. Horror fans have long memories.

Vendors and exhibitors with names like Mutilation Mile, Infested Films, and Designer Gore lined the many aisles of horror ware. Coffin Couches supplied seating that looked like the interior of a plush…well, you know. An added bonus was that you didn’t even have to pretend to be dead to sit on them.

Films screened downstairs at the Brenden Cinema included the ultra-disturbing feature “The Fourth Kind”, along with “Bad Biology” (detachable penis, anyone?), “Black Devil Doll”, which kind of says it all, and George Romero’s sixth installment in his iconic “Dead” franchise. This one was called “Survival of the Dead,” oxymoronic though that may be. Romero was on hand for a Q&A session as were several other notables in the genre.

Adrienne Barbeau and Tom Atkins were featured in one such panel, discovering for the first time that although the two appeared in several films together (The Fog, Creepshow, Escape from New York) they never shared a scene. Barbeau also appeared in Swamp Thing and was married to mega-director John Carpenter (Halloween). Atkins appeared in Halloween III: Season of the Witch in 3-D, the only film in the franchise without Michael Myers.

Tom Adkins
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Judy Thorburn with Adrienne Barbeau
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

These two have impeccable horror credentials, but neither one says they would ever stop to watch a film they’ve been in. “I know how they turn out,” quipped Atkins to a burst of audience laughter. Barbeau, dressed all in black, appeared trim and youthful, looking literally half her age (she’s an astonishing 64).

Atkins recalled meeting Stephen King for the first time on the set of Creepshow, and the renowned master of horror fiction wanted to know only one thing: What is Jamie Lee Curtis REALLY like?

Speaking of Creepshow, Barbeau says she never saw the graphic novel that the filmed spawned, casting her image in cartoon form, but she had great fun playing the bitchy Wilma Northrup in “The Crate” segment. She also admitted that her character Maggie’s death scene in Escape From New York, was filmed in her own garage, and throughout filming she used a turkey bone for a barrette.

Atkins, whose career spans four decades (from 1967’s The Detective with Frank Sinatra to an episode of Rhoda, to Lethal Weapon, among others), was excited about the release on DVD of one of his favorite films, 1983’s Night of the Creeps. He quoted his favorite lines:

• Detective to pair of girls: The good news is your dates are here.
• Girls: What’s the bad news?
• Detective: They’re dead.

Barbeau recalled how she had to learn to “do less” for the camera. As the original Rizzo in Broadway’s Grease, she was used to making grand gestures, speaking too loudly and throwing herself into a role. Although she claims that “there’s not much difference acting in comedy and horror,” there is certainly a “big difference in medium size.”

Current projects for the two: Atkins works with Nicholas Cage in the feature Drive Angry, due out in March. Barbeau has a new sequel to her Vampires of Hollywood series of books. This next one’s called Friends for Dinner, proving Barbeau’s point that there’s really not much difference between comedy and horror.

And then there was Ken Foree, Indianapolis native and Dawn of the Dead icon.
He may have hobnobbed with the undead, but make no mistake, Ken Foree is very much alive. With an imposing six-foot-plus physique and booming bass vocal projection, the actor knew how to command attention and filled Brenden Theater’s voluminous Theater two with only his non-microphoned voice.

Judy Thorburn with Ken Foree
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Starring in such horror classics as Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Rob Zombie’s Halloween, and the original Dawn of the Dead as well as the 2004 remake, Foree has seen enough squibs and gore to open his own blood bank.

He is a people person, gathering his audience into the closest rows they could find so he could make eye contact easily. He’s also full of stories, the least of them about his tenure as a horror master. Many more highlight racism, twists of fate, and humorous circumstances.

Speaking more about who he is than what he does, the larger than life film star called himself old and fat (hardly) with a self-deprecating humor designed to put the audience at ease. It worked. Sort of. Dressed all in black, the man is imposing.

The affable actor/producer connected with the audience in an intense way, full of urgency and a passion that frequently finds its way to the screen. He likes to make you think; he likes to make you laugh. He loves to scare you.

Describing himself as a “mutt” because of his French, Indian, African and Irish heritage, Foree spoke about his early life in the Midwest in a stream of consciousness journey that recounted segregation, blue-eyed relatives, and the dialogue that will hopefully be started with a minority president in the White House (Foree was a Hillary supporter, and listened to Rush Limbaugh regularly until the Rodney King incident).

Wild parties, exclusive parties (at one, in Macon Georgia, he unknowingly broke into a circle of Secret Service officials, guarding then-presidential nominee Jimmy Carter) and having a great time in general got Foree who admits to being “kind of a dandy” from acting into trying his hand at producing.

He’s worked in television series (The X-Files, Hunter) and on the big screen in productions with such provocative titles as Splatter Disco (Associate Producer) and Brutal Massacre: A Comedy. You can see him in Live Evil, (Associate Producer) which screened at Fangoria and of which he also produced. The palindrome title is attached to a film with the message that even vampires get into some bad blood now and then. Leave it to a renegade priest in a stolen truck to clean things up even while leaving a bloody mess behind him.

With too many of his own favorite horror films to name, Foree settled on the classics: Frankenstein, Dracula, Night of the Living Dead, Alien, The Exorcist and The Omen. His own upcoming projects include Zone of the Dead, D.C. Sniper and Rob Zombie’s El Superbeasto. He enjoyed making Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, but admitted that some of his work he’d “like to see burned.”

No one’s starting a bonfire anytime soon.

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