“Days of the Dead” Celebrates its 20th Weekend!

I know it’s not exactly great form here, but I’ve decided to take a break from my Bridgewater Triangle series and dive straight into a new one. I really wanted to wrap that one up before the Indianapolis Days of the Dead convention this past weekend but a broken laptop would dictate otherwise. I’ll definitely continue on with the New England stuff at some point but, to be honest, am eager to put that all behind me and move on to something new. There will, however, be one common thread from that series, my friend Jason Schoolcraft!

Jason, as you may recall, was one of the people who kept me occupied during my secret stay in Rhode Island and has written reviews for this site before (most recently, The Dark Tapes, which you can check out HERE). Jason’s been very generous to both of us Daves; sharing movies as well as his infectious enthusiasm for them. In fact, I don’t know anyone who loves and lives film like this guy. He even works part-time at a local theater; not because he needs the money, mind you, but because he loves the atmosphere. Jason would prove to be an amazing asset to this whole experience on several levels which I’ll discuss in more detail as we go along.

Jason unabashedly praises Ken Foree for his work

Jason’s first foray into Days of the Dead would mark their twentieth show (in five different cities) with Indianapolis the place where it all began. Their cause for celebration was not lost on me as I had been fortunate to attend that first event back in 2011. Back then, our fledgling site was scarcely a year old and it was the first convention I’d ever tackle without the other Dave – a true learning experience for me. I remember forgetting my voice recorder and having to use whatever I could find to take notes on. I really had to get creative during their “Scream Queens” panel featuring PJ Soles, Linnea Quigley, Heather Langenkamp, and Mark Patton that took place in the hotel’s lounge. I remember furiously writing down every question/response that I could and later that night sitting in my room with a pile of napkins, trying to decipher everything (and YOU can relive the fruits of my labor by clicking HERE).

2011 Days of the Dead “Scream Queens” panel

It was something of a humbling experience too. I remember carpooling with the local Count and Countess Gregula (Illinois Public Access hosts who had a show years back) who received VIP treatment while I busted my ass all weekend trying to report as much of the event as I could. The following Spring Terror from Beyond the Daves would take home the Rondo Hatton Award for “Best Horror Blog” and the Gregulas would never ask me to join them anywhere else, ever again.

Just as the Terror Daves grew after that weekend, so would Days of the Dead only much more prolifically and in ways none of us could have imagined at the time. For the next six years it would spread to four more cities: Atlanta, Louisville, my sweet home Chicago, and Los Angeles. Their turnout would grow larger and larger, packing in the fans regardless of the elements (like the infamous snow storm during Days of the Dead Chicago 2015). Despite its immensity, it’s still helmed by the same people while retaining its “fans first” way of doing business that’s never more evident than with some of the unique features they offer them.

One of the best Days of the Dead events was in Indianapolis 2013 when they had a reunion for one of my all-time favorite movies, John Carpenter’s THE THING. I covered that event with my buddy, Russ Wrangler, and it was one of the most amazing Terror Dave experiences I’ve ever had!

With Thomas G. Waites a.k.a. “Windows!”

This year would see another reunion of sorts, this time for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead a.k.a one of Jason’s all-time favorite movies. As a special thanks to our friend, David paid for him to have a photo op with his idol, George Romero, while I bought him the Dawn of the Dead group picture which was slated to include Ken Foree, Gaylen Ross, Scott Reiniger, and David Emge. Unfortunately, Romero’s poor health would prevent his appearance so David agreed to apply his contribution to the pricier group shot. You’d think getting someone to accept a gift like this wouldn’t be an issue but it was for Jason who hates receiving attention of any kind or having people show appreciation to him. That man fought us tooth and nail until I finally won the battle in a text exchange where I was forced to use reverse psychology…

Jason: This is totally unnecessary. No. I share movies because I love doing that, no thanks is needed.

Dave FDo you think you’re the only one who gets to do nice things for people? What are you trying to do, hurt mine and David’s feelings? 

Jason: Wait? What??

Jason: What do feelings have to do with any of this???

Jason: Okay…fine

Jason: thank you…

And so my son, Luke, and I picked him up from Chicago’s Midway Airport last Friday morning! Inline image

After a pit stop at my Brookfield Zoo, we began our drive to Indianapolis which would prove to be something of an odyssey. Thanks to two big car accidents and intermittent storms, getting to Indy was like walking through mud! The worst of the rain happened during the last leg of our journey and reminded me of that scene in SKULL ISLAND where they had to pass through a tempest before reaching the island. I swear, as soon as we entered Indianapolis city limits, the skies immediately cleared up and traffic improved! The original plan was to check into our hotel at 3pm but it ended up being closer to 5! I remember en route getting pissier by the minute while Jason would give me an “every gray cloud has a silver lining” pep talk which, in this situation, could pretty much be taken literally. We quickly checked into the Marriott across the street from the event before rushing over to the Wynham where it was all taking place.

Luke and I had a photo op scheduled with Godzilla (Harou Nakajima) at 7:30pm and Jason wanted to catch a screening of an independent film called Night of the Virgin at 7:30. I figured we had some time to peruse the vendor’s room (or in this case, two rooms and a few hallways) before going back to our hotel so I could change into my Terror Daves shirt and grab a big Godzilla model I packed along for the photo. That wouldn’t go as planned either but I’ll save that for my Harou Nakajima post.

Before reaching our destination, we took advantage of some of the cool photo ops available free for fans.

Luke (who was strictly here for Godzilla) got a Days of the Dead welcome courtesy of “The Creep” who attempted to toss him in a wastebasket like a Creepshow comic book!

Finally we reached the vendors and here’s my haul for the weekend…

I make a point to purchase one of Jay Langley’s phenomenal Scare Bears at every Days of the Dead event and this year added a killer koala to my collection. We featured a story on Jay’s work before and here’s a shot of my new baby…

I also picked up a Deadpool stand-up for the other Dave and an Elvira one for myself courtesy of Kneehigh Horror who also have an Etsy page. I’m told that they love doing custom work so look them up!

Jason hadn’t been to many horror events before and was blown away by the number of vendors and their creative offerings found here. He was particularly enthralled by a set of custom Dawn of the Dead dolls that were selling for $150.00 a piece! Needless to say, he opted to get a photograph with a nearby vampire instead!

Here are some more random shots from the vendor’s room. Click on any image for a closer look but, a word of caution, not all may be suitable for younger folks…

 

 

Throughout the weekend, independent films could be screened with many of the filmmakers on hand to promote their work. Their tables were interspersed amongst the vendors and it was shortly after we encountered the first of these that Jason proved what an asset he truly was. He was not only familiar with Night of Something Strange (the first people we encountered) but went out of his way to tell them everything he appreciated about their work. He was personable, knowledgeable, and not afraid to go right up to them and start a conversation.  He even supported them further by purchasing a Blu-ray and asking them what their future plans were. I sat there in awe of him.

Something Strange Days of the Dead Booth

Something Strange Independent Film

Something Strange Signing

Independent film-making is one area that neither David nor I have given enough attention to. We’ve always been more concerned with the mainstream stuff while Jason has a true appreciation for the art itself and gives equal time to all, no matter what the budget. Events such as Days of the Dead provide the ideal venue for these talented folks to get their work out to the fans and Jason understood the importance of that. Seeing him in action, along with his child-like enthusiasm for an event his native New England rarely sees (the exception being Rock n’ Shock) was like getting a locker room pep talk from the coach right before the big game. Instead of just focusing on photo ops and merchandise (though still important for keeping things afloat at conventions) I was determined to reclaim some of that horror magic I’d lost since the first Days of the Dead. Their twentieth show would take me right back to their first.

Coming up…Days of the Dead and “Night of the Virgin!”

Dave Fuentes~

 

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