I don't want to take up too much of your time with this introduction as founders of the Colorado Horror Con have explained themselves more than enough below, but this interview takes you into the minds and hearts of these three passionate gentlemen. You'll find out all you need to know about the con and more; if ever there was a time when you should go to a Horror Con, that would be now. There are pulling no punches, are going at it headstrong, and you can read all about it below:
Obviously, you three are avid horror fanatics, but let's start off with some basics. Can you recall the first horror film you ever saw? And why did you get hooked into them?
Scott - "My first experience with horror was watching 'Kolchack: The Night Stalker' on TV at the age of about 7 or 8. I was mortified, but couldn’t peel my eyes away though I desperately wanted to. I was always attracted to Halloween, and found it preferable to Christmas and the like. I was a morbid kid. The first horror film that sticks in my memory is 'PHANTASM', and shortly after that, 'HALLOWEEN', and 'THE BROOD'. A terrific start!"
John - "The first horror film I ever saw was 'Trilogy of Terror', written by the late and great Richard Matheson (whose work would have a huge influence on my own later in life). I got hooked on horror flicks because the adrenaline is like no other. Scaling Everest, paragliding, snowboarding…yeah, yeah, those sound cute (and I have to razz my outdoorsy friends at least once during this interview). Those things are interesting, but they ain’t horror flicks. Horror explores the hallways of the imagination through catharsis and confronting one’s own fears. There’s nothing like it."
Gerard - "Something from Universal I’m sure. It was probably a Saturday afternoon matinee on local tv, (Denver Channel 2). Let’s guess Frankenstein or The Mummy. Hooked? Well, we all make choices."
When do you think you really started to explore the horror genre? Is there any one sub genre in horror that sticks out to you more than the next?
Scott - "Very young as a viewer and even as a sometime filmmaker. 'PHANTASM' meant more to me than 'STAR WARS' did, I kid you not. I was blown away by David Cronenberg and John Carpenter. I know I’m dating myself, but I truly feel I got to experience the best era of horror filmmaking firsthand. As for particular genres, I like slasher films. True slasher films, from 1978 - 1985 or thereabout. But, those were coming out when I was at my most impressionable age range, so that stands to figure. Still, give me 'HALLOWEEN', 'SILENT SCRAM', 'MY BLOODY VALENTINE', or 'THE PROWLER' over any of the supernatural junk coming out these days."
John - "I started to explore the horror genre in my last couple of years in high school. Stephen King and Peter Straub’s work landed on me like a ton of bricks, and I began to notice dark artists for the first time. At the time the Satanic Panic of the late 80’s and early 90’s was in full swing, so horror fanatics got lumped into the imaginary horseshit of culture at that time, which was 'there’s a baby-sacrificing lunatic on every corner and you better look out!' Needless to say, in my cultural circle(s) I had to be very careful with whom I shared the fact that I was a horror buff. If one horror subgenre sticks out more so than the others, it would probably be psychological. Nothing is more horrifying than protracted organ failure, and when that organ happens to be the brain, it’s a fear that can be communicated palpably like no other."
Gerard - "High School and after. Scott and I made a great short film when we meet during college. Illustrated mags and comics from the 70’s: Creepy, Eerie, Vamperilla, etc, etc…"
If you three could list off your five favorite horror films, what would they be and why do they stick out to you more than others?
Scott - "I don’t want to corner myself to slasher films, and picking five is tough, so the films that come readily to mind are 'PHANTASM', 'HALLOWEEN', 'THE BROOD', 'DAWN OF THE DEAD', and 'PSYCHO'. I’d probably give you a different answer tomorrow, but probably not by much. I’d certainly give holla to 'THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE', 'NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD', and 'THE EVIL DEAD'. Honestly, they stick out because, look at that list and consider the filmmakers behind them - cinematic geniuses, one and all. Oh, I’d also have to make mention of 'THE CHANGELING' with George C. Scott. That film might be the only supernatural horror film that truly frightened me!"
John - "It’s incredibly hard to pick five, but here goes:'The Exorcist', because it started a whole subgenre in and of itself. The tale of regaining a lost faith just never gets old if it’s done well, and 'Exorcist' does it in spades, like no other. 'Nightwatch' (both the Danish and American versions, and both directed by Ole Bornedal), because it takes psychological horror into utterly uncomfortable realms—all branching out from the horror of necrophilia—without milquetoasting it one iota. Good vs. evil, in regard to the important things, is so clear cut in this film that it’s miraculous it was made in our hardboiled postmodern vacuum. 'Jaws', because it explores how natural horror—in this case, a great white shark—can turn lives upside down and dredge up the personal ick we all have to deal with so we can get along in solving bigger problems. 'The Silence of the Lambs', because for better or worse, it created a whole mythology that surrounds the realm of forensic psychology. It continues to force FP to clean up its own back yard, and spit out the bones to retain the beef of hard science in regard to the brain. Plus, Hannibal Lecter is one of the most frightening characters ever created. 'Dead Ringers', because it sums up the whole subgenre of horror that’s eponymous and utterly owned by David Cronenberg. It bears his hallmarks, has a helluva dual performance by Jeremy Irons, and the insanity of it all is displayed incredibly via the foil of the understated performance of Genevieve Bujold. Cronenberg is the man, and Dead Ringers is like taking his greatest hits and throwing them into a blender…and I mean that in a good way."
Gerard - " King Kong (1933) - I try to imagine the impact on the audience when it was released.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - No comedic element, dirty and dry. I was 13 at the drive in.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - Always seemed like a current event documentary to me.
The Thing (1980) - John W. Campbell, Jr +.Rob Bottin + John Carpenter
Scanners (1981) - I can appreciate the whole 'My art keeps me sane' angle."
John, I understand that you write horror fiction and also work in a mask/makeup department in a costume shop. Can you point us to some of your best works for further reading? And what costume shop do you work for? And what exactly do you do there?
John - "The publishing scene is newer for me, but it started in 2005 when Hellbound Publishers grabbed up my short story, 'When the Spirit Leaveth the Flesh', for their Cold Flesh anthology. 'WtSLtF' was written when the furious resurgence of the zombie genre landed in the early 2000’s. It’s an unabashed tribute to works like Matheson’s 'I Am Legend', Romero’s 'Living Dead' series, and Rod Serling. 'WtSLtF' will be re-released this winter in an expanded novella form, an updated edition side by side with the smaller original, and will include a nonfiction appendix with my digression about the horror writing process and its ties to real life. My graphic novel, 'Hypocrite Junction' —written and illustrated by me—is in the nexus of crowdfunding, creating goodies for the crowd-funders, and finding time to complete it in the middle of life’s storms (gotta suck it up and get it done, folks; you can find out about HJ on Facebook: facebook.com/hypocritejunction). A novel of re-visiting and battling childhood evils and haunts, 'The Source of Dread', is in its final editing birth pangs (probably a mid-2016 release), and I just started the novel 'Lake of Fire', about a pet-lover/animal rights activist who goes on a bent pursuing, punishing, and murdering those who’ve used/abused animals (including those claiming to be activists but have insincere, questionable, or even sinister motives), and all of the moral and ethical cans of worms that premise and world entails."
Scott, I know that you're involved in the indie horror film scene, and currently have an independent feature in the fundraising stage. Can you tell us a little about this feature? What is it about and the like?
- "I’ll tell you, this fundraising process has been a long, arduous ordeal. It’s a film titled 'THE HOUSE THAT WEPT BLOOD'. It was originally going to star David Hess until he passed away. It was a tremendous loss, personally and professionally. That’s the closest I’ve gotten to getting it made; David was instrumental in getting the key players in place. That obviously disappeared when David passed away. It’s basically the story of an American soldier returning home from Afghanistan who becomes a suspect in a murder investigation when people around him start to die. It’s a nut-puncher film; very dramatic in tone and pacing while simultaneously being bloody and also disturbing. At the same time, it’s a comment on the struggles our returning veterans face when they have trouble readapting to civilian life."
Now, there are other Horror-cons elsewhere in the USA, but what made you want to start your own? Are there certain aspects of the Horror-con that you're looking to improve?
Scott - "There are other horror cons, but nothing like this in Colorado, which is on an island a thousand miles or more away from the next major metropolitan area. There was a niche there and we aim to fill it."
John - "There’s a lot of great horror-themed shows and events nationwide, and others not-so-great, but we tackled this from the perspective of what we as horror fans would like to see at a show…which is pretty much everything, including the kitchen sink. A daunting task, but I think if there’s something for everybody, the package as a whole is what gets appreciated. Also, horror is intellectual and rock and roll and ladies and gentlemen and fashion and boys and girls and chicks and dudes and both and ALL of us. It really is okay to have family-friendly trick-or-treating during the day and burlesque after hours for the grownups. And that’s one small example. We don’t want to get pigeonholed via inflated committees and non-profit politics which frankly have train-wrecked many events and the organizations behind them. Some non-profs are great and have their act together, but invariably over time it turns into an exercise in relentless political navigation and incessant money-grabs, and we wanted to minimize as much of that as possible. Some cons are good at what they do. No offense, but we don’t want to be them. We don’t want to be a platform for current hot TV show & cinema flavors—cough—The Walking Dead—cough (we love WD, but don’t think it should dominate an event, and it dominates most horror- and comic book-based events, from my perspective). We want to be us, and whereas Colorado Horror Con & Halloween Film Festival may not be for every soul, it’s certainly going to have a huge appeal to many."
Gerard - "If we can introduce people under 30 to amazing films, artists, craftspeople and authors they might not be familiar with, I would say we did our job. There was fantastic horror to be had before The Walking Dead ya know."
Pulling together all the talent and people coming to the Colorado Horror Con must have been a not so easy task. How did you go about setting everything up from the beginning?
Scott - "We quite literally dove in with the mentality that people would come if we built it, not to sound too cliche. We started with what we would want to see from an attendee’s perspective, and built from there."
John - "It was a baptism by fire, utterly, and it was the context in which I met and became friends with Scott (I’ve known Gerard for umpteen years). Fiery trials in getting the con going and moving and happening created an environment for sealing the deal on making Gerard and Scott my brothers, truly. Some things we knew very well, and others we had to learn on the fly. I think between our grounded knowledge and hard knocks, wisdom has started to grow, and we’ve responded pretty well and are coming down the hill with a fiery battering–ram, ready to smash mediocrity head on and have fun, more than anything else. There’s no big secret other than being willing to talk to people, stand your ground on certain aesthetic convictions, and compromising as necessary in other realms. You cannot be afraid to talk on the phone, and you cannot be afraid to text as necessary, take care of tedious tasks, and shut those persons or groups down who will weaken your event or try to stick their groceries in your basket (and believe me, there are plenty ready to do that). If you navigate carefully, you’ll find those mutually beneficial business and personal relationships that just seem to grow and grow within the event context. And that makes the whole thing entirely worth it."
Gerard - "We approached people directly and told them the same stuff we’re telling you."
I've heard of a ton of different people that will be there, including vendors and the like such as Pretty Scary Girls and My Gal the Zombie. However, out of all the acts, celebrities, and all else, what are you three most excited to see at the convention?
Scott - "I want to see if I can actually put together a cool film festival, something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s unique to the convention world; not many offer that kind of addition. I’m anxious to see how it plays out."
John - "Basil Gogos has been a hero of mine since about age seven. His art is epic in the truest sense of the word and not its current watered-down vernacular status. He’s truly epic, and when I meet him, I will truly have felt I got to meet one of history’s great art Masters. I am so excited to see everyone at this show, but Basil is at the top of my list."
Gerard - "Basil Gogos and Frank Frazetta’s art and family. This is an artist’s version of a musician 'hanging out' with Led Zepplin. Mind blowing."
You're going to have a film festival within the horror convention. I'm guessing you know a bunch of titles that will be present there. Are there any new independent horror films that will be premiering at the horror con? And, which film are you most excited to see?
Scott - "We decided to find as much local talent as we could and, oh boy, did we ever succeed! There’s a film out of Colorado Springs called 'TSUNAMBEE'. The filmmaker, Milko Davis, described it to me as a SHARKNADO-like film. It sounded interesting. It ended up blowing my expectations away. It was put together by a really talented bunch. We have another local film titled 'THE GHOST OF JOHNSON WOODS' that has Joe Bob Briggs in it, and another film called 'ATOM THE AMAZING ZOMBIE KILLER' that was also filmed locally. Great films, all of them. I wish the filmmakers the best in getting their movies seen, which is why we’re helping to that end."
John - "Scott has a better read on what’s premiering at the con, but the one I am most excited to see is 'Shi', as I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, and the director—Pablo Absento—is pure gold as a person and has been receiving one accolade right after another at other events (making us grateful at CHC that we snagged her film even before much of this happened). All of the films look great, I’ve seen many, but 'Shi' is what I really don’t want to miss at the show."
Gerard - "I did not have as much time to really enjoy them the way you should. We have a six minute gem called 'Invaders'; funniest film ever. I can’t wait for 'Motel Hell'."
And what do you think the biggest or most popular person, act, or event do you think will be at the horror-con?
Scott - "Ah! Well, it’s a bit of an unfair question, so my only reply is all of it! Seriously, there are a ton of people coming to this event with host of incredible talents. It’d be almost disparaging of the rest if only a name or two were dropped. (Laughs)"
John - "Very hard to say, but I hear Robert Mukes is a show-stealer without even trying, and based on my great conversations and interaction with Robert, I won’t be surprised if 'The Mukes' has a crowd around him."
- "Saturday Night VIP Party. Should be epic!"
Aside from everything already mentioned, what else does the Horror-con have in store for fans of horror?
Scott - "A unique assemblage of talents from a variety of artistic disciplines, horror films galore - a rarity at conventions - and a fantastic pair of VIP parties. Other cons like to close the doors by 8 or 9pm, we’ll just be getting started - live music, horror burlesque, special film screenings, mixing and mingling, etc."
John - "CHC/HFF 2015 has a very unique VIP lineup after hours, designed for 21+ and offering Evil Dolls (a horror-themed burlesque event), Rockissity (KISS tribute band), a Dark Fantasy Fashion Show by Bloodlust Productions LLC and Pretty Scary Girls, the band Lowdead, D.J. D3R$H@, and some celebs hosting the films they’ve been in. We have something for everybody, and everybody should be here."
Gerard - "Clairvoyants, tattooing, live snakes, trick or treating, zombicatures, horror burlesque, hearses and live music."
Is there anything else that I may not have covered that you wish to mention?
Scott - "I think people will be pleasantly surprised by how much we’re going to offer for a first-year convention. It’s going to be a fun three days with a host of things for people to see and do."
Gerard - "Wherever you live, support your local con scene, be it comic books, anime, steampunk, whatever. The organizers should want your feedback and input."
Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time, and wish both yourselves and the Colorado Horror Convention a fruitful year!
Scott - "Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure. Come see us if you can!"
John - "Thank you for the opportunity to plug the show and help give us a face. As a first year event, we are grateful for any support or word-spreading. ColoradoHorrorCon.com …it’s all there!"
Gerard - "Thank you."