In many ways, attending the latest Horrorhound Weekend/MASK-FEST in Indianapolis was like a visit to an alternative Universe. For one thing, the huge gathering of horror buffs was taking place at an all-new venue; one that promised better parking and a larger layout to accommodate vendors and fans. For another, I was attending with a friend from Rhode Island who’d never done a Horrorhound Weekend before. Jason Schoolcraft joined me last year in Indy for Days of the Dead and assists me every so often with his “Killer Reviews.” We had a great time at “Days” and Jason loved having an opportunity to meet independent filmmakers which he hoped to continue to do at Horrorhound. For me, it was all about the masks.
After a quick visit to a superhero museum in Elkhart, we stopped at a gas station for snacks (the last affordable food we’d see till Sunday), arriving at the hotel that evening. Although neither of us had ever been to the JW Marriott Indianapolis, we couldn’t have missed it if we tried. It stood like a skyscraper, overlooking a good portion of the city including two stadiums and a zoo. Parking was abundant as promised but certainly not free. If you parked in the hotel’s lot it was $40.00 a day (with a slight discount for guests) or $50, valet. By the time we showed up, we were told all the $40 spots were taken and valet was our only option. Thankfully, we were also informed of a large government parking garage across the street that was $20 a day which we took advantage of. It ended up costing $50 total from Friday evening to Sunday morning. It still sucked but, at that point, I wasn’t complaining. I will say the hotel was beautiful and the staff courteous. Our spacious room boasted windows that took up the entire walls; offering us a breathtaking view of the city. Of course, we were here for horror, not a Honeymoon and I’m guessing a lot of conventioneers on a budget would have happily forgone elegance for a bargain. Between the parking, hotel, and convention fees one could easily go broke before walking in the door.
Deft planning was key and one gal who clearly was up on her game was Kelly Hamilton. She’s been assisting the mighty Eric Austin with MASK-Fest for a couple years now and we were instructed to visit her room for passes. As soon as walked in we could smell the tasty aroma of homemade sloppy Joes cooking in a crockpot amid a pile of store-bought food/snacks nearby. This was a wise move that I wished I’d done as well. This hotel’s breakfast buffet alone was $20 a person – though I might add, an amazing spread. Hefty fees aside, I can’t say I was as unsatisfied with this new locale as some of my friends were. Anything beat having to walk a mile up, down, and across busy streets like I did last year!
We went straight from Kelly’s to the main hall; following our fellow horror hounds to get there. Unlike previous events which had the Horrorhound vendors and MASK-Fest people divided into two separate rooms, this space was big enough for both. We started on the Horrorhound side before weaving our way to the masks. I told myself I’d wait to buy anything until after I’d made a full rotation but that resolution lasted me about 5 minutes.
First, there was a table of DVD’s from my favorite independent filmmakers, Small Town Monsters. These folks create the best cryptozoology documentaries and have covered quite a few good ones including The Mothman of Point Pleasant, The Flatwoods Monster, and Boggy Creek Monster: The Truth Behind the Legend. At this event, they were also selling their new feature, On the Trail of…Champ (which I bought) and offering a sneak peak of their latest work, The Bray Road Beast, that Saturday in the screening room (more on that story later). In the meantime, Champ was coming with me.
I was just putting my new DVD into my field bag when I saw a familiar face hanging in a booth nearby. The artist is a regular at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) and I’ve always loved his work; monster wall hangings from various franchises. This time, amid the Universal monsters, was one I’d never seen before….Svengoolie. I knew I had to have it and immediately started visualizing where I’d hang it in my new apartment. Unfortunately, this created a personal conflict.
You see, I really wanted that wall hanging but knew it wasn’t licensed. Since Sven’s gone national, there’s been a lot more unofficial stuff out there which I know is a sore spot for him and his team doing all the hard work (and horror hosting on commercial TV is a lot harder than you think). Sven’s been a good friend to me and the last thing I wanted to do was betray him by supporting this kind of thing. At the same time, that wall hanging needed to be on my wall and, if I’m being honest, I could probably fill a 12 x 12 storage unit with all the unlicensed horror items I’ve been routinely buying (as you’ll see even more evidence of as that as this blog goes on) over the years. Despite the old adage, “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission,” I decided to go directly to the man himself and do just that. I snapped a photo of the vendor’s display and then shot Sven a message asking for his blessing in buying it. Thankfully, he responded with his usual sense of humor, “Sure! Let Universal sue them!” I later heard this was the first piece the guy sold and all his Svens sold out (mine being the last one). Now I just have to hope Universal doesn’t go after him until I’ve had a shot at a Creature from the Black Lagoon one he did, too.
The next items I bought were from a talented young mask-maker named Noah Rivers. This is one of those things I saw at last year’s Indy Horrorhound and didn’t buy; spending the rest of the year wishing I had. They were these really cool handmade magnets of the masks from Halloween III: Season of the Witch and I quickly bought them. Noah wasn’t at his booth and the transaction was handled by his proud father. I did make a point to go back and tell him how much I loved his work. As for the magnets, they will be featured on my refrigerator all year round with some magnets I purchased at previous conventions.
One thing for sure…they weren’t exaggerating about having more vendors than ever. We tried staying within 20 feet of each other but by the time I got to the third row, I lost him till the end of the evening.
At the end of the night, we were beat and watched some mindless TV before crashing out. We needed all the rest we could get for Saturday. A day of masks, celebrity panels, and some old horror host friends.