Days of the Dead returned to Chicago for one of the greatest shows in the convention's history.
Written by James Orrell
Days of the Dead always comes strong in Chicago, but this year they truly outdid themselves. All of the events, films, vendors and celebrity guests just came out swinging for the fences and the fans all responded in kind. There was such a strong air of enthusiasm and positivity at this year's Chicago show that infected every aspect of the show. It was one for the ages.
Where better to start than with the headliner of the show. Ladies and gentlemen, we were graced by the presence of what can only be described as a god. The original shock rocker and the man that brought both horror and theatrical elements to the world of hard rock/heavy metal for the first time.
Alice. Fucking. Cooper.
The man's legacy speaks for itself. There's nothing I can say about his career that hasn't been said a million times before. What I can tell you is that as somebody that's attended more Days of the Dead events than most ever since the inaugural event, I have never, ever, seen a crowd quite like this. Alice Cooper brought the fans in by the truckload to a whole new level. His line for autographs and photo ops was incredibly long. But the fans stuck with it and he made sure everyone left happy. The man was simply one of the kindest, most friendly people I have ever met. He took the time to chat with everyone and came across as truly thrilled to be able to talk to his fans.
The man raised the bar for future headliners. No question.
All of the other guests were incredible as well. Marty Jannetty's antics may have been a bit much of some of the staff, but he was incredibly cool to each fan that met him. Shannon Elizabeth was as lovely as you'd imagine. Ric Flair was Ric Flair. Another god amongst men. Charlie Benante and Dave Ellefson both raised the bar for metal guests and were truly a treat to meet. Of course the regulars that are as much a part of the family as the guests and staff are were their usual awesome selves. Felissa Rose, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder all had great lines and always know how to treat their fans. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the entire lineup.
The events are part of what makes Days of the Dead such an exceptional convention and this one was no exception. The Chaostume Contest was as epic as always, with some really awesome contestants. Chris Blair owned the SFX challenge with his big box of fuckery and his incredible Pac-Man three piece suit. It never ceases to amaze me just how creative and talented the contestants are in this challenge. Scott Medjesky and Harry Bean have the tattoo contest locked down by this point, but there was an added wrinkle. Up until the tattoo contest, there had been a silent auction of incredible artwork at Scott's table to raise money for the family of a tattoo artist who sadly had passed away. The winners of the auction were announced at the event. I'm happy to say that the charitable nature of Days of the Dead attendees showed up once again and they made a decent chunk of change for them.
Michael Exler knows how to run a panel and made every one he hosted a learning experience. Speaking of learning experiences, for the second time this year your's truly had the priviledge to moderate the independant film maker's panel. I'm not a shy person by any means, but this crowd was considerably larger than what I was expecting. Nerves quickly turned to enthusiastic energy and pure fun as I chatted with a panel consisting of Jason Hoover, Brooklyn Ewing, Bobby Easley and Mike McGranger. With just a few minutes we really got into it and had one fantastic conversation about their films, future projects and independant filmmaking as a whole. It was one of the greatest times and conversations that I've ever had in my life.
The 48 Hour Film Fest featured one of the most solid lineups yet. Every time I went to go see a screening, it was full of enthusiastic horror fans. Like every Days of the Dead, there is always something that stands out more than the rest. While I enjoyed every film on the lineup, I'd be kicking myself if I didn't take a moment to discuss the Etheria Film Fest portion of the show.
I have to give a little backstory to this for you to understand why I was so taken aback by this year's Etheria Film Fest. Etheria Film Fest is a celebration of women directors in independant film from all corners of the globe. Back at Days of the Dead Louisville, Stacy Pippi(who puts the package together) asked me what I thought of that show's lineup. I told her I dug it, which I did, but nothing really wowed me. Unbeknownst to me, she took this as a personal challenge.
"Wow" is too much of an understatement for what she had in store for us.
The Light Thief was an interesting and surreal take on vampirism. The stunning thing about it was that it was made in Spain with an entirely Syrian cast, showing that you can't focus on preconceived notions of who races of people truly are. Innsmouth was a totally different take on vampires. It was both subtle and incredibly visceral and starred the always incredible Tristan Risk. It was as spooky and fun slice of cinema.
The next two, however, proved that those were just getting me ready for the true gut punches.
Twenty Fourty Three was one of the most unique zombie films I have ever seen. Where as most either are mindless gorefests or are making a statement on social issues, this one had a far different take on the matter. I'll save most of my thoughts on this and the next film for reviews of them both, but I will tell you this. I never thought a zombie movie could make me think like this one did.
Fragile Storm stands as the truest, most raw gut punch of a short that I have ever seen in my life. I never thought a six minute film would leave the entire screening room full of hardcore horror fans crying, but it damn sure did. All I will say right now is that I had to leave the room to collect myself for a bit after seeing it. And I wasn't the only one.
The after parties are what Days of the Dead are known for and while they never reached the pure insanity of Indianapolis, they had such a great energy that I'd put it up there with some of the best yet. Plus, Stacy Pippi got to auction off Harry Bean for charity while two chicks were sealed in a coffin. There was that.
Days of the Dead outdid themselves in every possible way this past weekend. Every aspect of the show was damn near perfect. Thank you to all of those who work so hard at the show to give us this venue to get together and have a great time. I'm already wondering how Atlanta can outdo this one!