The Horror Con! The Horror Con! Our Top 10 Retro Reasons to Brave the Days of the Dead

Posted on: Mar 7th, 2012 By:

For some time, Atlanta has boasted a fearsome fright scene—we’d even argue that it’s one of the best in the nation—thanks to the mad maniacs behind the Silver Scream Spookshow, Splatter Cinema, Gorehound Productions, Netherworld, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Chambers of Horror, Buried Alive Film Festival, Rock N Roll Monster Bash, DEAR GOD! NO!… But the city weirdly never has hosted a full-out horror con.

DAYS OF THE DEAD aims to right that wrong this weekend with a thieves’ gallery of men behind masks, scream queens and cult movie idols, both classic and contemporary. The action takes place a bit south at the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center, south of the airport in Peachtree City, Friday 5 p.m.- 11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. and Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Here are our top 10 Retro reasons why you need to go…

Riff Randell and Kate Rambo!
We’re still fantasizing of hanging with the Ramones and blowing up our high school, even after all these years, so we can’t think of anything more awesome than to meet and get the autographs of P.J. Soles and Dey Young, the actresses behind Joey’s biggest fan and the sexiest budding nuclear physicist ever to attend ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979). In case you’re too young to know this cult classic, get yourself educated by reading Mark Arson’s Retro Review here.

Sid Haig!
Sid is one of those rare B-movie icons and character actors whose career spans the decades from Jack Hill’s blaxploitation films of the 1970s to the chaotic Captain Spaulding of Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. In our book, the latter is a modern exploitation classic and arguably the best of Zombie’s movies. Quite frankly you scared the sh-t out of us and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you, Sid, as a true master of horror. And OK, it’s pretty darned cool that your co-star Bill Moseley is going to be there, too, and both of you share a panel at noon Sunday.

Sexy Scream Queens!
A horror con wouldn’t be a horror con without a bevy of beautiful scream queens. I know it’s fun, guys, to get an autograph and pose for a pic, but we’re jazzed to hear what these gals have to say about their stints as the victim, too. Looking forward to that opportunity at the Scream Queens Panel Sat. at 2 p.m. featuring Linnea Quigley (NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 1 & 2, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), Barbara Crampton (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, TRANCERS 1 & 2), PJ Soles (who also of course was in John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN and CARRIE), and “honorary scream queen” Mark Patton (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2)

Vintage Zombies!
Being that THE WALKING DEAD is filmed inAtlanta, it seems perfectly unnatural to have a few of its zombies as con guests. But we have to admit we’re more excited about meeting George Koshana (Sheriff McClelland) and John Russo (screenwriter) from the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). In fact, we’re just tickled blood-red that they’re still on the con circuit, especially after the sad recent loss of Bill Hinzman. Glad we met him down at Spooky Empire in Orlando a few years ago.

Home-Grown Horror!
While the Hollywood stars may be the headliners, another cool thing about Days of the Dead is it also embraces our local Atlanta scary subculture. At midnight Friday, the gory gang at Atlanta’s adult haunted attraction Chambers of Horror is hosting an adults-only Rock N Roll Torture Lounge. Watch lovely ladies spin the Wheel of Torture and win prizes as the Right Reverend Andy, of Psychobilly Freakout on Garage 71, spins horror rock and punk hits. Then at 8 p.m. Professor Morte, Persephone and the Silver Scream Spookshow will be throwing a special bonus show exclusive to Days of the Dead. Be there and be scared!

Macabre Movies!
Don’t just meet the stars, take a little time out to catch a few movies. Our favorite picks, of course, are cult classics, both old and new. Linnea Quigley hosts a special workprint screening of ‘80s cult classic RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, featuring alternate scenses, takes and 15 minutes of footage never screened to the public, Friday night at 9 p.m.  Then on Saturday, DEAR GOD! NO! has been generating quite a buzz on the festival circuit for its over-the-top authenticity as a homage to ‘70s exploitation films, and you have another chance to see it at 3 p.m. Catch up on our crazy interview with director Jimmy Bickert here.

Creepy Costumes!
Be sure and pack your most frightening recreation of a horror icon, or at least your camera, as Days of the Dead serves up several costume events. On Friday night, dance until you drop dead at the Monsters Among Us Costume Ball, a Phantom Ball-themed costume party with DJs spinning. Then the best of the best compete at 4:30 p.m. Sat. in Wickedbeard’s Costume Contest. Finally Sunday, don your best zombie make-up with a Zombie Best in Show Contest, co-horror-hosted by Argos T. Fleam and Atlanta’s own Professor Morte. We’re informed that experts will judge on zombie poise, form, dexterity and talent. Dripping, dribbling, drooling and loss of appendage will reflect negatively on your final scores.

Custom Hearses!
Even if you’re not ready for that final ride to the graveyard, it’s always pretty amazing to see custom hearses done up with all the creativity of vintage hotrods. All day Saturday members of Atlanta’s Dead Ends Hearse Club will be showing off their wheels the Hell on Wheels Hearse Show, with raffles and giveaways and a contest for best of hearse at 2 p.m.

The Man Behind THE CROW!
THE CROW began as a comic book with a cult/goth following about a mild-mannered guy returned from the dead to wreak revenge on the human monsters who raped and murdered his true love. Beautifully drawn and written, the haunting and violent tale by James O’Barr inevitably caught Hollywood attention but seemed destined for another fatal turn with the tragic death of star Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, on the set. James has made Atlanta comics con and DragonCon appearances before, but it always make us smile to see him back because not only is he an amazing artist but also one of the sweetest guys on the planet. Be sure and ask him to show you the portfolio of what he’s been up to lately, and yeah, you can tell him we told you to.

Spooktacular Shopping!
Horror cons are a great place to stock up on , and from the list of vendors booked for this weekend, we’re definitely bringing some extra cash and credit card. Hollywood Book & Poster always packs a super selection of vintage horror posters, stills, books, scripts and more at reasonable prices. And stop and say hi at the Diamond Star Halo table to ATLRetro Contributing Editor and Libertine proprietress extraordinaire Jennifer Belgard, who has really revved up our own Shop Around section. For a full vendor and artist line-up, click here.

Those are just our top 10 reasons to come, of course. Yours may be Gary and Jake Busey, Roddy Piper, Jeff Burr, Tyler Mane or any of the other many guests. We don’t judge. We just say if you don’t support your local horror con, the first could be the last so get yourself down to Peachtree City and let’s have a fiendishly fun time together.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Madeline Brumby Battles the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Scares at the Spookshow and Braves Bikers ‘n’ Bigfoot in DEAR GOD NO!

Posted on: Oct 12th, 2011 By:

As Halloween creeps close and THE WALKING DEAD returns to TV next Sunday, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (AZA) arises for its own second season with new sets and a new storyline at Safety Wolf, the vast paintball combat complex off Moreland Avenue, just south of I-285 (open Thurs.-Sun. nights through Oct. 31). Set in and around a two-story abandoned motel, this approximately 100,000-square-foot attraction was nightmared up by the maniacal minds of local horror Renaissance man/make-up artist Shane Morton (Silver Scream Spookshow, Gargantua, etc.) and Jonny Rej (Plaza Theatre). Not just your traditional walk-through haunts with jump-out monsters, AZA delivers a total immersion “experience” with a distinct plotline that lands visitors right in the middle of the zombie plague, interacting along the way with a variety of human characters from scientists and bureaucrats at the Center for Disease Development (CDD) (but can you trust them?) to commandos fighting the zombies with automatic weaponry (reminiscent of last year’s Mack and Johnson) to a twisted carnival of human scum who thrive in the chaos, reminiscent of John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.  It’s sometimes hard to know who to trust but if someone says “run,” let’s just say you can be sure zombies are around and if you don’t, you may get bitten and infected with the plague yourself or worse eaten for your brains!

To get the scary scoop, ATLRetro caught up with Madeline Brumby, a brunette with a machine gun who is no mere scream queen but a key cast-member and also this year’s pinup girl for the “hero” side of the AZA. But that’s not the only place you can see this monster-loving maiden this October. She’ll also be acting in the 5th Anniversary Silver Scream Spookshow this Saturday Oct. 15 at the Plaza Theatre – and you know Prof. Morte and Co. will be pulling out all the tricks and treats given that it’s their Halloween show and the movie is a rare 35mm print of the Vincent Price/Lon Chaney Jr. (not to mention H.P. Lovecraft) 1963 classic HAUNTED PALACE (Read our Retro Review here). Then she’ll be taking to the streets for this Sunday’s Zombie Walk Atlanta, organized by Luke Godfrey (Splatter Cinema, Chamber of Horrors) and cosponsored by AZA, and again with the AZA group at the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade on Sat. Oct. 22. Finally Madeline also will be up on the Plaza’s big screen later this month (Oct. 22-27) as one of the stars of DEAR GOD NO!, a hard-edged/no-holds-barred homage to ‘70s grindhouse features about a hellraising motorcycle gang, a mad scientist and a sasquatch on the rampage. Yeah, the name makes total sense when you see the movie!

All of this sounds like horror heaven to us, so we had to make Madeline Kool Kat of the Week

AZA 2011 T-short design by Dave Cook.

ATLRetro: This year’s AZA has the same basic concept but a totally new pathway and set of characters—loved the R.I.P. Mack and Johnson graffiti on the back wall. Without giving too much away, what’s new and different?

Madeline Brumby: We are all extremely excited about the new format. Of course, I’m sad to see Mack and Johnson go, but this year’s show is the sequel to the Mack and Johnson story. The versatility of the AZA to create and continue an apocalyptic scenario is really what gives the unique feel to the experience this year. And for years to come!

One of the cool things about AZA is every character seems to have a back story. Who do you play, and what’s yours?

Definitely! We had a patron come through the other night who was totally impressed that we had “real” actors with “real” stories. I’m a resistance paramilitary character. My troopers and I are rebels fighting for the survival of the uninfected and the destruction of the Center for Disease Development.

Some of the zombies have pretty intense make-up—i.e. they’re not freshly dead. How long does it take the zombies to get into make-up and how many make-up artists are on the team?

As much as we try to make the apocalypse real, the AZA is still a show. With not much light, our zombies have to be highly detailed for a spine-chilling scare. The process is down to a fine science—taking about 7 minutes per zombie. We have a team of about eight artists, myself included, headed by Shane Morton. First they are outfitted and receive a prosthetic. Once the prosthetic is dry, they are base-coated, detailed with additional colors, blood-splattered and hungry for BRAINS!

What zombie movies and books were most influential in planning AZA, and did a certain TV show set in Atlanta and featuring the CDC influence AZA at all in this year’s planning?

Haha! That’s funny. Last night Shane and I watched THE WALKING DEAD for the first time, and I thought it was pretty weak. CGI blood is a NO-NO! Our blood gags are far more realistic and they’re LIVE! And I’m pretty sure we were using the CDC gimmick first(?) as our show opened before the first episode aired. As far as most influential, WORLD WAR Z, I AM LEGEND [Ed. note: original Richard Matheson novel, not Will Smith move], LAST MAN STANDING and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK provide the main inspirations.

Were you involved in any of the planning and construction? What can you tell us about that – how does AZA come together and who are some of the key behind-the-scenes masterminds, whom readers might not know about?

I’ve been out on builds from January to October and helped with some big scares in the courtyard. The primary innovators are Jonny Rej (co-owner of the Plaza Theatre) and Shane, with the major help of Dusty Booze in the construction department.

What’s a cool piece of trivia about AZA that isn’t widely known?

It is HAUNTED!

Professor Morte (Shane Morton) and Madeline Brumby in Silver Scream Spookshow.

Can you share any history about the AZA site? It was an abandoned motel, wasn’t it?

It used to be one of the busiest trucks stops ofAtlanta. At some point the owners ran into financial trouble and it shut down. Pirates ransacked the place and absconded with all the copper! When the property was purchased by Safety Wolf, I think they found EIGHT dead bodies during clean-up in the motel.  Shane and Jonny sure found some scary stuff when they were cleaning…

In addition to the main AZA experience, there’s a photo op, the opportunity to shoot zombies with paintball weaponry and some tasty food vendors, aren’t there? What might readers want to know in advance about what else is going on?

What better way to remember your apocalyptic experience than a photo with a zombie and a weapon of choice! The Zombie Shoot is even better this year and don’t let your taste buds miss out on Jim Stacy‘s famous Palookaville eats! His pickle is amazing! (insert joke here)

You’ve also become a regular in the Silver Scream Spookshow. Can you give us a little sneak peek into this week’s stage show and what makes HAUNTED PALACE such a special treat?

We definitely have some comedy gold in store for this week’s show! It’s the 5th year anniversary, so we’ve got some of the older characters like Persephone (Plaza co-owner Gayle Rej) and some of the new ones like Quozzy mixing it up for a spooktacular monster mash with more onstage illusions than ever. The score of HAUNTED PALACE is what makes the movie special to me, so I’m excited to see and HEAR it in the wonderful Plaza Theatre.

Will AZA be in the L5P Halloween Parade this year? Just zombies or how does one decorate an undead float?

We’ll be there! Undead and Alive! I think the only “float” we’ll have is a blood-splattered car.

You’re also starring in DEAR GOD NO!, an over-the-top neo-‘70s exploitation film featuring tons of local talent and playing at the Plaza Oct. 22-27. Can you tell us a little bit about that movie and the part you play?

Jimmy Bickert‘s DEAR GOD NO! is the ultimate grindhouse film. It is disturbing, offensive, hilarious, horrifying and amazing. You can’t even call it a tribute. It was shot on super 16mm film and all the effects are practical. I play Edna Marco who is the daughter of the mad scientist that has created something terrible. She transforms from submissive to empowered. Developing her went beyond all expectations. I channeled some deep dark emotions into my character and it has definitely been one of my proudest roles.

DEAR GOD NO! pushed a lot of boundaries and isn’t for everyone. What advice do you have for who should see it, especially the gals?

Take it for the art that it is and expect to be offended.

You also are acting as one of Dracula’s wives in Rob Thompson’s highly anticipated DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, which premieres next April at 7 Stages. Do you have anything you’d like to share about that role and experience?

Well, it’s definitely a musical that isn’t lame. My poor brother didn’t realize that Dracula’s wives were semi-nude and felt a little weird seeing that much of his sister. Haha! But, I don’t think it bothered anybody else too much. From musicians, score, and performers, the show is oozing talent and potential. I hope we do play in Prague this summer.

Any other acting roles or creative endeavors that you’d like to share with ATLRetro readers?

I hear there’s going to be a sequel to DEAR GOD NO! Hopefully we start shooting in the Spring.

Finally, you lived in England and have a science degree from Georgia Tech. Not that it wouldn’t be our dream/nightmare job, but how did you end up being a B-monster attraction/spookshow/movie actress?

Life’s a journey, right?

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Really Retro: Lisa Stock Explores an Older, Darker Side of Fairy Tales in Her Play of Neil Gaiman’s SNOW, GLASS, APPLES

Posted on: Aug 22nd, 2011 By:

Carrie Anne Hunt as the Snow White Princess in Lisa Stock's play of Neil Gaiman's SNOW, GLASS, APPLES, which opens Aug. 24.

SNOW WHITE has a reputation for being a cheery story about a cute princess and seven mostly affable dwarves, but the only time I ever hid my eyes in a movie as a child was when the evil stepmother queen transforms herself into a hideous wicked witch in the Walt Disney version. Trust author Neil Gaiman (SANDMAN, AMERICAN GODS) to cleverly latch onto the darker side of that familiar tale and consider that mere jealousy might not be sufficient motive to drive the queen to murder by poisoned apple. And maybe the prince wasn’t exactly your normal kind of hero either. “I was reading Neil Philip‘s [PENGUIN BOOK OF] ENGLISH FOLKTALES, and a rereading of a version of SNOW WHITE made me stop and wonder what kind of person she was, and what kind of person sees a dead girl in a glass coffin and wants to keep her…,” Neil said in an email last week when asked what led him to write the short story, SNOW, GLASS, APPLES. Now Snow White’s white skin, blood-red lips and coffin-sleeping take on a new meaning with disturbing erotic implications, and the queen becomes a protagonist with a difficult moral choice.

Lisa Stock. Photo credit: Jaclyn Cook.

Originally published as a benefit book for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in 1994, SNOW, GLASS, APPLES captured the imagination of so many readers that it was reprinted in two anthologies—TWICE BITTEN: LOVE IN VEIN II (1997), edited by Poppy Z. Brite, and Neil’s own collection SMOKE AND MIRRORS (1998). One of those readers was Lisa Stock, who like the storytellers of old, had her own thoughts about taking the tale in a new direction from page to stage. Through a few mutual friends, the then-New York-based writer/director for theater and film politely asked Neil nicely for a chance to have some fun with his story of bloodlust and mistrust. Charmed by her vision, the idea of seeing his creation come to life and the fact that all proceeds would benefit charity (East Atlanta Community Association), he granted her wish. “I love live theatre,” Neil said. “There’s a magic you cannot get from anything else when it’s good.”

While this real-life fairy tale so far may seem more CINDERELLA, it’s Atlanta audiences that really are the lucky ones. SNOW, GLASS, APPLES has its world premiere here Wed. Aug. 24 through Sun. Aug. 28 in the unusual venue of the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, re-envisioned by Lisa as a dreamlike Spring Fair. Artists and photographers also will have a chance to draw and photograph cast members in costume and preview the phantasmagoric sets during a Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Atlanta field trip on Mon. Aug. 22. Performances are rated “R” for simulated violence and adult themes, but a special family-friendly show will be held Aug. 28 at 6 p.m.

ATLRetro recently caught up with Lisa to find out more about what drew her to the dark story, crafting a truly unique audience experience, why it’s the perfect fit for a Dr. Sketchy and a little about her other mythic projects, including the upcoming independent feature film TITANIA.

For those unfamiliar with Neil Gaiman’s SNOW, GLASS, APPLES, without giving away too much, how is it different from the Disney version of SNOW WHITE we grew up with? And more like the original darker versions that date back to Medieval times?
For me, Neil Gaiman’s version reflects the earliest forms of the tale, some [of which] trace back to the myth of Persephone (eating pomegranate seeds and falling into a half-life in the Underworld). The tales were originally much darker in nature and true morality tales. SNOW, GLASS, APPLES for me is just that—a cautionary tale about trusting or mistrusting your instincts. It’s also about self-preservation in a brutal world, and how you deal with the choices that have been handed to you. Our protagonist doesn’t get saved and have all that’s hers by birthright returned to her. She makes her own decisions—for better or worse—and goes out to protect, on her own, what she holds dear.

How did you discover SNOW, GLASS, APPLES and what drew you personally to the story?
I discovered SNOW, GLASS, APPLES through a haunting illustration by Sarah Coleman of the princess that led me back to Neil’s story. I love new perspectives on old tales and those that speak to human instincts. Instincts are such a basic, fundamental part of being human, and yet we often ignore them. The Queen does that in this tale; I’ve done that more times than I can count. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve been defeated. We all have. And I think this short story brings out a side of us we may not want to own up to—it talks about fear and failure, but also responsibility and integrity. Though Neil has made the Queen the protagonist, she hasn’t lost any of her edge or her darkness. Instead, with the perspective in her corner, we recognize that in ourselves.

I also love all the visual reminders of her fear in the story: the vampiric princess who keeps coming back to life, the princess’ heart strung above her bed, the forest folk disappearing, nothing is as it seems, reminders to look deeper. Think about it. What are you afraid of? It takes up a lot of your time and space. That’s our nature. And in Neil’s story, the Queen goes out to do something about her fear; whether she’s successful or not, she tries to survive it. Was it the right thing to do or not—that’s for each of us to decide.

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