Set to visit 16 cities in 2014, Wizard World’s plethora of comic book booths, clothing vendors, and impressive line-up of celebrities are always enough to sate the appetite of any pop culture enthusiast, but prior to their visit to Minneapolis May 2nd–4th, I was wondering how much horror would be had in the aisles within the Convention Center's cavernous confines.
As it turns out, Wizard World had more than enough entertainment for horror fans to dig into, and they picked the perfect horror headliner for Wizard World Minneapolis: Robert Englund, best known as Freddy Krueger, the living legend of our nightmares and realities.
One of my first destinations upon entering Wizard World Minneapolis was Robert Englund's booth. I weaved my way through a crowd of eye-grabbing cosplayers—Hellboy, Darth Maul, and a perfectly matched Spider-Man and Black Cat couple were of particular notice—before stepping in line to see the Elm Street haunter in the flesh. As the line began to move, I noticed Robert was generous with his time, chatting with each person as he autographed Freddy claws, DVD box sets, and even a recently unwrapped Back for the Attack Dokken album. He posed for photographs in addition to autographing, and I could easily tell he was enjoying the interactions with his dedicated fans.
After seeing a horror legend in-person, I left the main hall to see some horror on the silver screen. I found a good seat in time to catch the Horror Block of Wizard World’s Film Festival and I was not disappointed. I saw horror in the short runtime form at its very best with shorts like Jack Attack! (a cross between Alien and Trick ’r Treat) and There Will Be Blocks (think Office Space meets a 1980's slasher flick with a dose of surrealism thrown in for good measure).
The following shorts—Girl at the Door, Transmissions, The Garage, and You Only Die Once—did an impressive job exploring their own genre niches, ranging from the supernatural to zombies. In particular, You Only Die Once was a total blast from start to finish, a zombified comedy that’s capped off with a killer ending. Q&A’s with cast and crew followed some of the locally made shorts. Hosted by Wizard World’s Jeff Wexler, these Q&A’s offered valuable insights into the guerilla-style filmmaking of each low-budget short.
Other highlights of my adventures at the Minneapolis Comic Con included getting my treasured copy of the 2007 horror film Borderland signed by Sean Astin, attending a James Hong (widely known as David Lo Pan from John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China, among many other projects) Q&A panel, and also attending a Q&A panel with Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco from The Boondock Saints (which included several hilarious Norman Reedus anecdotes).
Wizard World brought it on all fronts, and with their impressive collection of horror events—including a screening of the 1930 crime-horror film The Bat Whispers accompanied by live music from Chris Strouth and Paris 1919, as well as a discussion on vampire lore by Dr. Rebecca Housel—they had more than enough macabre meat on the bone to keep horror hounds from being hungry for more. I can’t wait to see what genre gems they bring to Minneapolis next year.
Out of all the great Q&A conversations I sat in on, the most fascinating one was also the most horror-centric: Robert Englund’s panel. Here are some highlights from Robert’s panel that might interest Daily Dead readers and check back soon for my exclusive interview with the horror icon later this week:
Robert on his recent projects:
“I just worked in England and starred in a film called The Last Showing, with Finn Jones from Game of Thrones, and I’m the old projectionist who’s made redundant and laid off from his job and he’s forced to work in the concession stand shoveling popcorn…and he has his revenge at the midnight movie. It may be called Midnight Movie over here, but it’s terrific. The director, Phil Hawkins, is a protégé of Steven Spielberg’s, and it’s just amazing. I’ve never seen more cameras in my life. Everywhere they hid a camera: in my armpit…other orifices that shall not be mentioned. [Audience laughs]. I’m real proud of this one.
I’m hoping to be invited back on Face Off. I did a little thing on Face Off and I hope to go back as a judge, because I have a lot of friends and I just worked beside those kids." [Applause].
Robert discusses his love for horror as a boy:
“I was a huge fanboy, and I graduated eventually into a great love of the Hammer films, which is what I was trying to honor when I did Phantom of the Opera. I loved those matinees back then. I never liked the popcorn, though. With popcorn I always smelled something funny in the butter. [Audience laughs].
I love horror movies and I loved them as a kid. There was a coffee table book that I loved called Life Goes to the Movies, it had a red cover on it. It was all of the stills ever taken by the best photojournalists in the history of America for Life magazine. And I would go straight to the horror section. There was a picture of Frankenstein, a set still, Boris Karloff, by the lake with a little girl that he throws in the lake after he breaks her neck like his little dolly. That was cut. And I never got to see that scene. They cut that out because they didn’t want any of us turning it on the late late show when we were kids doing a sleepover with that bad popcorn in the big red can and our Sears sleeping bags with the hunter shooting the pigeons out of the sky in their flannel. No, no, they cut all that stuff out. But I could see it in there.
I loved horror. I was the fanboy champ. But that stuff diminished as I discovered theater and girls and surfing. I’m wondering if when I said ‘yes’ to Wes Craven all those years ago in early 1984, if some little Robbie Englund age 8 in the back looking at that Life magazine coffee table book and those pictures of Lon Chaney, if that was the little boy in me saying, ‘I want to mess around and experiment with the makeup, that looks like fun.’”
Robert talks about his favorite Freddy Krueger memorabilia:
“My agent Joe Rice has the best thing. We had to do re-shoots on Part 2, and Wes Craven just casually gave them the glove from Part 1. And I had heard, jungle drums, that there was some espionage going on. Some people at Fango magazine had hinted at this, and what it was, there were guys pretending to be crew members on the pick-up shot day on Nightmare on Elm Street 2. We were somewhere on Santa Monica Boulevard, in a little MTV stage, it wasn’t a real sound stage, just a small stage where they shoot commercials. And I’d heard that these guys were here to steal it, so I took the glove at the end of the day. There were some other gloves there, but I knew which one was the ‘hero’ glove, and they returned another glove to Wes Craven. So I had that glove.
Now, this is Nightmare 2. I’m just recently a TV star, I’ve been nominated for an Emmy, I won some awards in Europe for V, and I’m thinking, ‘This is it, we’ll never do another Nightmare movie.’ So I stuffed it [the glove], and I floated it in Plexiglas, and I outlined it in red and green neon and I gave it to my agent. Now he’s got it. That’s the original. It’s like Smithsonian quality, right there with Fonzie’s jacket, right: Freddy’s glove.” [Crowd laughs].
Robert on his favorite performance as Freddy:
“My favorite Freddy performance is Part 4. My favorite Freddy movie is Part 7, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. I think the fan favorite is probably Part 3. 3 and 4 are a great double bill. Sometimes it’s process, it’s not the end result of a film. I just finished a film called The Last Showing, it may be retitled and called Midnight Movie here. At this stage in my career, with the accumulation of whatever wisdom I’ve accrued as an actor at my age, and it’s my 78th movie, and you never master film acting, it’s a tricky, tricky beast. Stage acting, every once in a while you get it perfect one night, in the long run. Or you get the joke just the way you want it. Or you get the monologue just the way you want it. Or you’re really cooking with a fellow actor, and you keep the ball up just the way you want it, like a good volleyball game. But in film, I can’t even watch myself, because you always want to fix it, change it, ‘oh, I wish I’d have done this.’ I’m thinking that’s maybe my wisest, recent starring role [in The Last Showing]."
When asked if there would be any more Fear Clinic webisodes with the feature film's release around the corner, here’s what Robert had to say:
“There may be another Fear Clinic, but there won’t be any more webisodes.”
Robert discusses a Nightmare prequel that was never made:
“There is a prequel script, and at one time the wonderful John McNaughton was attached to a great prequel script that was very similar to the Tobe Hooper pilot for the television series Freddy’s Nightmares, really an interesting script. And it was gonna be done very docudrama, and apparently the best roles in it were—they were great parts—lawyers, they’re heckle and jeckle lawyers that get Freddy out of jail for the first kills. And I think it was called A Nightmare on Elm Street: The First Kills, I think that was the working title."