Despite the searing 107 degree weather, many maniacs clad in black with black hair and touches of gray crept into the Sheraton Hotel for this year’s Mad Monster Party Convention. Once the fanatics were able to bludgeon their way through wide eyed and sometimes helpless volunteers and security personal, they were greeted with an exhibitor hall. Along the walls were tables and booths with actors from Nightmare on Elm St, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Child’s Play as well as The Runaways and Elvira. Each and every guest would smile and greet each fan who walked by and love to quickly engage their fans in conversation. Unlike other conventions who host actors and celebrities, at no point did the attendees have to cattle prod the guests to get them to dance and speak. Instead, the actors often geek out about their works just as much as their fans. Afterall, these are guest like Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen who wrote a book chronicling his experience working on TCM.
After prying ourselves away from the buzzing tattoo stations with horror themed flash art, we make our way down towards the cozy Panelist room. If there’s anybody missing from the booths or tables in the Exhibitor hall, it’s usually because the guests are taking part in a panel which focuses on the horror work they are known for. The moderator will do the obligatory “How is everyone?” followed by forced cheering and clapping. Then the moderator sets up a Q&A with the same set of eight questions from panel to panel. However, each guest has their own unscripted responses which can be short and sweet to long winded. We quickly learn these guests are far from being sadomasochistic tortured souls they’re known for portraying. Because most of them talk about the business from an outsiders perspective, it’s easy for them to joke about the absurd or odd behavior they’ve witness in Hollywood, or the reverence they have for the creation and conceptualization.
During the Nightmare on Elm Street panel, Heather “Nancy” Langenkamp explains how she use to have nightmares about Freddy’s tongue suffocating her. This is a scene pulled from Nightmare 7. This was her example of how sexual images can subliminally affect the mind. This imagery took time and therapy to ease her out of these night terrors. From Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp’s perspective, Nightmare on Elm Street was less about Freddy and the nightmares and more about Nancy being able to separate reality from dream. To solidify this aspect was how Wes Craven wanted to make New Nightmare focus more on Heather Nancy’s sanity rather than Freddy breaking out into reality.
Yet, there are other times the discussion slips into the darkness. For example, Brad Dourif was asked what he does in order to get into character when portraying Chucky. He begins by asking us if we ever fantasized about killing somebody who annoyed us. He then goes on to explain how we are all predators and it’s perfectly natural to feel that impulse. Dourif explains he takes that frame of mind and applies it to his role when he is in character. After all, acting is just another form of fantasizing. The room falls silent for a few moments before Dourif explains none of that frightens him. On the other hand, he is terrified of guns. Because he can’t look at one without knowing it was created for the sole purpose of turning people into meat.
Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen’s grim anecdote comes when he discusses the infamous twenty six hour shoot for Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He explains that the exhaustion from the shoot had made him delirious. When somebody yelled, “kill that bitch”, Hansen turned towards Sally with that very intent until he quickly snapped out of it.
In closing, one of the guest gave an ego stroking compliment to fans of horror. When it comes to horror movies, fans evaluate the movie based not only on the story, but also the creature effects, cinematography, acting style, originality and so on. It’s a genre of film that can’t be evaluated from a single aspect. For example, it’s why all the remakes don’t resonate as much as the originals did, Psycho being the greatest offender. Therefore, because of the complexity of the genre, it attracts not just the outsiders but the intellectuals.