In Haunt

By Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn (Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, author of titles including Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture, previously interviewed by Haunt Manchester here). 

For The Love of Horror

Read below for an action-packed overview of the For The Love of Horror scare attraction and fan convention, presented by Andy Kleek and Monopoly Events, which came to Manchester's Bowlers Exhibition Centre on 19-20 October. 

Highlights from the weekend

October 19-20 was a superb weekend for horror fans in Manchester as the much anticipated For the Love of Horror fan convention, held at Bowler’s Exhibition Centre in Stretford, finally got underway after much anticipation and excitement. Now in its second year, Andy Kleek and Monopoly Events’ For the Love of Horror line-up was a veritable treat for all fans of 1980s vampire cinema in particular, with its celebration of Joel Schumacher’s classic 1987 vampire film, The Lost Boys, taking centre stage. Alongside the solid spectacles from vampire and horror fandom that descended upon Stretford to celebrate this iconic and unique reunion, horror icons from the Saw series (the most successful horror franchise of the 2000s) and the Loser’s Club from the 1990 mini-series IT were also in attendance. 

The weekend was a feast for horror fans of all ages, catering to those who collect photos/autographs and memorabilia, and hosted many insightful onstage special talks with iconic guests, and rocking musical performances. Convention experiences can be costly and stressful for fans, but this convention was one of the most tightly organised and stress-free occasions I have attended! In between the free and very insightful on stage Q&As (which is an especially nice touch, as these talks are so often costly extras), I managed to peruse the vast trader’s hall (and barely restrain myself), filled with talented craftspeople from across the country displaying their beautiful sculptures, rare posters, custom paintings and special collectors’ items; this vampire scholar was particularly pleased to secure superb Lost Boys cushions from Sue at Curious Creations (Bristol), sought after collector’s edition pop vinyls, and rare film artworks to decorate my study.

The venue also included a Cantina, a loving homage to the infamous Star Wars bar, and featured a bespoke carousel on which you could ride along with a cos-playing David (mimicking the infamous opening scene of The Lost Boys) all while listening to its iconic synthy-gothic soundtrack. What was particularly delightful was the family atmosphere around many of the cos-players, with parents and kids alike celebrating their love of the genre with spectacular and artistic tributes to their favourite horror icons. This delightful assemblage included zombies — I was stalked by a particularly committed zombie whose dedication was nothing short of admirable — and numerous 1980s-styled vampires, but also encountered the beautiful peeled skin and S&M leather style of Clive Barker’s Cenobite demons from the Hellraiser franchise. Then there was the T-800 of The Terminator (1984 -), a wonderfully dishevelled Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th tempting revellers with his offer of free hugs, a beautifully crafted and terrifying 7ft Scarecrow, and numerous pint-sized Billy the Puppets on trikes (from Saw) to add to the delightfully creepy made-up children, to name but a few of the dark delights on display. 

For The Love Of Horror

The Scare Maze, an interactive maze made up of specific set piece scenes and horrors from celebrated films, elicited screams of terror and laughter with its interactive nightmares.  Featuring a subtle yet menacing Michael Myers (from Halloween), a possessed Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist and creepy doll du jour Annabelle from The Conjuring series,  the maze provided pleasurable jump scares to a delighted public who were all too willing to come face-to-face with such terrors.

The Lost Boys reunited

In June this year, The Gothic 1980s conference (read an earlier article about it here) held at Manchester Metropolitan University, organised by this author, also featured a screening of the classic vampire film, The Lost Boys. The film, now celebrating 32 years of a solid fandom, drew a huge crowd of fans worldwide at the convention, with tales of fans travelling to Manchester from across Europe and the USA to attend the cast reunion. The Lost Boys’ rock chic vampires took centre stage at the bedecked Exhibition centre complete with a replica billboard welcoming us all to Santa Carla, the murder capital of the world, and re-staging the film’s carnival atmosphere. Throughout the weekend there was a host of special talks dedicated to the film’s heritage, led by its stars who openly reminisced about the film shoot in Santa Cruz, the co-stars who were the most trouble (the two Coreys [Feldman and Haim] were particularly wild, according to Alex Winter, who attempted to be their ‘den dad’ to rein in their teenage madness), and how important the film has been overall in horror (and 1980s vampire fashion) history. Winter has ventured off into directing superb documentaries (including an upcoming one on ‘The Panama Papers’ scandal) and about to return to co-star alongside Keanu Reeves in the much anticipated  Bill and Ted Face the Music (summer 2020), an exciting prospect that raised some interesting fan questions during the onstage Q&A sessions.

The Lost Boys

Jason Patric reminisced about shooting the film with his co-stars, and recalled being a young child on the set of The Exorcist (1973) with his father Jason Miller (playing Father Damien Karras), and experiencing a memorable scare seeing Linda Blair in full demonic-possession make-up. While Kiefer Sutherland could not attend the entire weekend celebration due to touring commitments (playing his own particular brand of country rock’n’n roll with sell out shows across the UK and Ireland), his arrival on the Sunday was nonetheless electric to the mood among fans and ensured some could catch a brief glimpse of the Hollywood star signing autographs and posing in much coveted cast reunion photos. Rumours abound about Sutherland’s return to next year’s convention, which would certainly be a highlight if possible.  To complete The Lost Boys experience, fans were treated to multiple performances by G Tom Mac and Tim Capello of their celebrated songs from the film’s synth and 1980s anthem soundtrack. G Tom Mac has also been busy writing a musical based on the film entitled A Lost Boys Story, which is due for a Broadway debut in 2021, and performed the film’s title track ‘Cry Little Sister’ with suitable gothic aplomb. Tim Capello, Tina Turner’s saxophonist, whose notable appearance in the film earned him a legacy in his own right in the follow-on graphic novels as a musical muscled vampire-hunter known as ‘The Believer’, gave a rousing performance of ‘I Still Believe’ and seemed very moved by the crowd’s wild cheers at each and every performance he gave. To anyone who grew up watching the film, Capello’s brief but hugely memorable onscreen appearance contributed to the teenage rebellion and magic of Schumacher’s world of Santa Carla, and it’s a legacy that Capello was finally able to celebrate in full over the weekend.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Discussing the importance of Horror with two icons: Tobin Bell and Kane Hodder

As part of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and Haunt’s team of Gothic scholars, I had the pleasure of meeting two icons of the horror genre at the For the Love of Horror weekend. In discussion with Tobin Bell, he divulged that that horror as a genre means more to him now than it did before as an actor because, for so long, ‘horror has been the weak sister of film because not enough attention was paid [in the past] to good writing – it was all about scares and twists… what set the Saw films apart was that I was working with filmmakers who allowed me to develop the human side of John Kramer’. Perhaps this is what makes this series so appealing is consistent theme of transgression and sacrificial philosophy, and the spectacular ludic traps that terrify and mesmerize the viewer. Bell reveals he has many conversations with fans on these films because they ‘make them think’, and provoke the inevitable questioning of the limits of survival in the viewer — ‘would I be able to do that to survive this game?’.

Tobin Bell

Bell, whose screen legacy is remarkable in its own right, was deeply affectionate about the series and the longevity of Kramer’s place in horror history as a full and complex character onscreen, a development enabled by the support it received from the film’s writers and producers, and its devoted legion of fans.

Stunt Coordinator and horror fan-favourite Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) also chatted with us at Haunt about his long career as an iconic slasher actor, foregrounding his own characterisation of Jason’s physical subtlety (the infamous breathing posture of Jason in the latter parts of the Friday the 13th franchise) and the intricate and demanding stunts needed to terrify the audience. Hodder was very frank about his own personal struggles in becoming such a successful stunt man (he suffered a terrible, near-fatal burn accident in 1977) and successful stunt-coordinator (including the House films, Se7en) and continues to forge a dynamic screen career in a range of beloved horror films. Hodder revealed that he loves the problem-solving nature of planning and capturing spectacular stunts, working both as a director of the stunt team and implementing the spectacular means to capture these wow moments onscreen, while also using putting his years of experience to good use in planning and problem solving the practical side of filmmaking. It is really evident that he enjoys the fan circuit of the convention world, a long time attendee since 1988 (after Friday the 13th Part VII), and delights in seeing his own fan base grow from generation to generation.  He believes horror is extremely inventive, and absolutely worthy of study, he tells me; as someone who works both in front of and behind the camera, he knows the importance of entertainment and invention, and is fascinated by the psychology of such characters in the genre.    

After such a brilliant weekend celebrating the joy that horror brings to legions of fans across the world, it is superb to see Manchester host this special celebration of horror culture. With tickets for next year’s convention already on sale, you can be sure it will be very popular following this year’s extravaganza. How will they top this one? We can’t wait to find out!

Get ready for the 3rd year of For the Love of Horror on 17-18 October 2020. You can buy tickets here: https://www.fortheloveofhorroruk.com/tickets

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