What would a fan convention be without a bit of cosplay? In the world of expos, these daring men and women guarantee we all go home with fun photos to commemorate the occasion as well as spice up our social media pages. For years I’ve stopped them for photographs while having no real appreciation for the amount of work that went into it. Thanks to my friend, Chris Carr, this would all change during last month’s Indianapolis Horrorhound Weekend. That Saturday, Chris would don his Jason Voorhees costume while I’d act as escort. In the end it would prove a fun experience while providing numerous positive interactions with fellow fans I’d of never had otherwise. It also offered some much-needed illumination regarding the creative world of cosplay.
I should mention that Chris is not my only friend who cosplays. My buddy, Chuck Ryan, has been doing it for years and I’ve mentioned him before back during the Dark Night of the Scarecrow reunion at Louisville’s Fright Night Film Fest 2011. Chuck fashioned himself the most accurate “Bubba” scarecrow outfit I’d ever seen and has since created an amazing “Harry Warden” suit from My Bloody Valentine as well as the masked killer from Nightbreed among others.
Both Chuck and Chris are a couple of conservative looking, all-American guys you’d never peg for wanting to deck themselves out as masked, screen killers. That’s not to say these guys are harboring some sort of dark side but rather that they’ve discovered a creative outlet for expressing their fandom. Earlier this week, I asked Chuck what the appeal was for him. “What I enjoy is the escape,” he said. “I can choose to be whomever or whatever I want.”
I was particularly impressed with how much work both these guys put into making their costumes look authentic. “When cosplaying a known character,” explained Chuck, “the main challenge is getting my costume as accurate as possible. This can be a difficult task and I get obsessed trying to achieve the result. I spend a lot of time on the computer researching the character, sometimes studying screen shots, and then implementing what I’ve learned.”
In this regard, his work has clearly paid off. Not only are his costumes some of the best I’ve seen but he’s now an official Horrorhound crew member who helps fashion costumes for the celebrities wearing them during fan photo ops. For this event that would include a Friday the 13th Part II Jason costume worn by Steven Dash.
Prior to meeting Chris, I’d assumed if you saw one Jason Voorhees you’d seen em’ all, but with twelve movies, a TV series, video games, and comics there are actually many different looks for this iconic killer. Chris chose to focus on the one featured in Freddy vs Jason (2003) which he claims is the film that inspired him to do this in the first place.
We woke up fairly early that Saturday and went out for breakfast. After we got back to the hotel, Chris set about getting into costume. The process took him just under an hour. With him now officially “Jason,’ we drove to the nearest Starbucks to get some coffee. Now if it were up to me, we’d have just gone through the drive-thru but Chris was determined to order his cup of joe in full costume and shock the occupants while I videotaped. Although this placed me firmly outside my comfort zone, I acquiesced. As he headed into the store I walked behind him with my SLR camera (which, thankfully, was big enough to conceal most of my face) while trying to disassociate from the entire situation. I kept thinking to myself over and over, “nobody here will ever see you again…nobody here knows who you are…”
Understandably, the whole store was staring the moment we walked in. I felt myself get anxious and the “fight or flight” response come up. It was weird because I have no fear of public speaking and am not usually so squeamish. Finally, I just thought, “Aw, the hell with it,” and stopped obsessing. Unfortunately, the whole gag ended pretty quickly when one of the workers told Chris it was against policy for him to wear a mask in the store. With the camera no longer blocking my face, I grabbed my pumpkin spice frappe’ and made a bee-line for the door!
We parked back at our hotel before walking to the Marriott which involved crossing the busy-as-hell Shadeland Avenue. Let me tell you, waiting for that “pedestrian crossing” signal to finally appear was like waiting for the second coming. Everyone driving by reacted to the sight of “Jason” and, to be honest, they were all favorable. At one point a group of college age kids in an SUV openly started cheering for him. Unfortunately, Chris couldn’t see any of this as his hockey mask limited his visibility considerably.
Once we got to Horrorhound, he was stopped by a LOT of people for pictures! He loved every minute of it and wanted me to take pictures of him with as many people as I could.
The coolest was when we walked by the Distortions Unlimited booth and owner, Ed Edmunds, wanted a picture with him. I don’t think Chris knew who he was, but I sure did and was all geeked about it.
The detail he put into his costume paid off because numerous fans immediately knew which film he was cosplaying. It was a good choice because while we encountered several “Jasons,” Chris was the only one sporting the Freddy vs Jason look.
Of course this begged the question…where was Freddy? It wasn’t until we were jammed in the vendor’s room that good old William Adams a.k.a. Nightmareman Bill walked by us. He’s about the most accurate Freddy Krueger I’ve seen (and I’ve had the privilege of being around the real one wearing the make-up) and has been doing Midwest horror cons longer than I have.
It was pretty funny, as soon as Chris saw him, he yells, “So THERE the hell you are!” and the two screen adversaries quickly posed for a photo.
When we left the crowded vendor’s room we decided to stay in one spot and see if anyone would come to us. It was a lot easier than trying to take pictures in a convention hall filled to capacity. Mask-Fest provided a backdrop that would be ideal for doing so just outside the halls, in the main foyer. When we arrived there was a guy dressed as “The Walking Dead’s” Darryl Dixon hanging out but it wasn’t long before more slashers made their way over. This provided the perfect opportunity to take group photos.
We met a couple of guys dressed as Leatherface, Jackson Chapman and Iaian Allen. There’s definitely honor among slashers (or at least cosplayers) and seemed to be an instant bond. According to Chuck Ryan, that’s not surprising. “I feel like there is a special connection in the cosplay community,” he said. “We all want to succeed and have fun so there’s definitely a mutual respect among us. It’s a hobby that takes work, time, some talent and usually money, but’s worth the sacrifice.”
When I saw how happy Chris was going over the pictures from this day, I knew Chuck was right.