March 18th-20th marked the 2016 return of HorrorHound weekend to the Sharonville Convention Center. HH has become a proven horror phenomenon drawing fans from basically everywhere for almost a decade. Lines were long as always as fans nationwide came with merchandise, money and their best white-rotting smiles for a few moments with their favorite screen stars. Whether it was a shirt, poster, figure or tattooed autograph, HH fans bring the most rare and bizarre memorabilia for their chosen celebrities to sign. Getting to dress up in March is an early annual Halloween present for many, twice if they go to the Indianapolis show.
Though several celebrities cancelled at the last minute due to filming, travel and personal issues, the majority of the advertised horde of fame showed up. Ralph Macchio came in to help make up for lost star power.
Besides the Mistress of the Dark, cast from the Walking Dead returned, along with Halloween, the original cenobite Doug Bradley, cast from The Strain, The Shining, Friday the 13th The Final Chapter, Sons of Anarchy, Rob Zombie’s Halloween, X-Files, Sleepwalkers, I Spit on your Grave (remake) and Devils Rejects among others. Kane Hodder, Ari Lehman (original Jason), Chyna and Demolition were also in attendance.
When not shopping around the crowded aisles of the vendor chopping mall you could stagger or wander into the auditorium for a number of guest panels to hear celebrities talk shop and answer fan questions. The weekend held panels for Halloween, Sleepwalkers, Walking Dead, Indie Filmmakers, Friday the 13th, The Strain, X-Files and Sons of Anarchy.
Marc Draven’s World Ink Fusion Tattoo Festival returned with more buzzing and bloody colors than the Saw series on acid. Even horror fans know that all art can’t be created with a swipe or swing of a sharp object, chainsaw or other dismembering tool. Some fans wanted a permanent memory of the weekend experience. Creature and design creators included Brandi Smart, Brandy Bryant, Cale Turpen, Eric Vie, Gilbert Muchado, Jerzy Milner, Jessie Villars, Josh Wiley, Kelly Rogers, Marc Draven, Mike Guidone, Scott Versago, Scott Oswald and Tori Robinson among others. (Art work credit to Mike Guidone).
Vendors once again filled the main rooms with a horror hoarders dream amount of stuff, fitted for attic, basement or dungeon storage. Samhain Horror, Thirteenth Floor, 12 Gauge Gore, Asylum Artwork, Dead Ink Apparel, Don’t Eat the Gum, Incision Posters, Living Dead Dolls, Lost Alien Collectibles, Mike West, Super Pumpkins, Skull 13, Synapse Films, Full Moon, Nightmares Unlimited and Troma among many others.
The Crown Hotel across the street held screenings all weekend for those that preferred the big screen. A variety of feature films and shorts worldwide were shown including the world premiere of Plan Z, Kild TV and Harvest Lake. Frankenstein Created Bikers, Pandemic, Pig Pen, The Hanover House and Sleepwalkers with Fritz the Night Owl. Shorts included Agravoy, NSFW (UK), Do Not Disturb (UK), Pillow Fright, Don’t go into the Lake, Greg the Grouchy Gremlin, In the Ruins (Russia), Howell (UK), Hunting (Iran), Awakening (India), Lapse, Kandy Face’s “Stikme,”(Canada), Bitch, Popcorn & Blood (France), 29 Days Crossed (UK), Ginger & Snap, Green is the Colour and Time to Eat.
HH Cincinnati was the biggest horror convention around, with HH magazine starting in 2005 and the conventions in 2007. The Horror Host Hall of Fame was MC’d by Jason Hignite and Count Gore De Vol paying respect and tribute to the curators of horror, and those appearing on our screens introducing the movies we love for better or worse. Dr. Creep was honorably mentioned along with Sammy Terry. A touching Creep story was shared, in his last days a lifelong dream was realized when he met Elvira and Malcolm McDowell. Ohio had more horror hosts than any other state with lots of ghouls to go around. The Mistress of the Dark was honored with a lifetime achievement award in full costume. Dayton’s own A. Ghastlee Ghoul was inducted by Halloween Jack, Captain Crypt and Baron Von Wolfstein. Splattertude bandmates Crazy Louu ‘The Christmas Devil’ Stahl and Susperia were on stage along with The Bone Jangler, Jeff McClellan and Matt Brassfield.
The Advisor (Robert Hersh) of “The Advisors Mystery Theater” joined the horror ranks as Count Cool Rider (Danny Koker via screen) of “Saturday Fright at the Movies” Vegas was inducted. A younger generation of the Dayton dead, Baron Von Porkchop inducted Dr. Morbius (Bruk Gant) of Iowa’s Saturday Nightmares. Dr. Sigmund Zoid inducted Feep of Fantasmic Features; Count De Vol inducted The Great Zucchini (Bill Miller) of Super Natural Theatre. Woody of Atomic Age Cinema inducted Ivonna Cadaver (Natalie Popovich) of Macabre Theater, Sgt. Drizzlepuss and Freakshow inducted Ned the Dead (Steve Brenzil) of Chiller Theater via speech, Janet Decay and Grimm Gori inducted the Ghost Host (George Lewis) of Ghost Host Theatre, Bone Jangler and Harmony inducted Scarticia, Dale Kay of Spookshow inducted Jim ‘The Colonel’ Klink for the behind the screams category. Raven and Pumpkin Man inducted Jonny Coffin and his Coffin Case Company.
The Costume contest hosted by Dr. Lady and Wolfie brought out the best of the conventions well dressed, whether to attack, maim or haunt. First up were the little youthful terrors as zombies, evil jesters, the corpse bride, Chucky, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and some road burned road warriors took the stage. Judging was rough but with a gift bag of goodies including a VIP pass for the Indianapolis convention Poison Ivy won with a kiss.
Next up the adult monsters came up as evil clowns, a family of gorified, pissed off zombie zero’s attacked the judges at will. A large dragon tipping the scales and the ceiling, the multi-tasking purple one (Kali), the mighty red Balrog, X-Files and the American horror of Hypodermic Sally injected some variety. A seriously in a bad mood, unamused Carrie, a zombie swat team and zombie bride all hit their stride. HH’s voter registration friendly, blood splattered Jason Voorhees who some would vote for over Hillary and most over Trump showed up. Lily Munster, a female zombie heart in hand, some Rocky Horror, The Shining Twins, Elvira, Mad Max, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice and Shaggy, Fred and Velma rounded off the gang.
Judging was tight but in the end Carrie, still red about prom night won best TV/movie recreation and finally found the acceptance she wanted since the ‘70s. Balrog won sizably and most original went to Zombie Z.E.R.O.’s who celebrated with some freshly extracted meat.
Saturday nights after hours show brought out the variety, adult humor and five great bands as only HH records and the creatures of the night could deliver. Loud and proud, rude and crude, hot, sparky and chiseled were the fast paced and visually encapsulating talent that graced the stage. Two bands from the California underground, dusted off their coffins for the Ohio trip along with some veteran after hours friends from the dark back woods of West Virginia and some Oklahoma natives.
After some odd entertainment the show started with the good flavors of dark Oklahoma punk from For the Wolf. First bit in 2010, first EP in 2011, first CD in 2012 and signed to HH Records in 2014 releasing a second LP. They’ve recorded anthems for haunted houses, sharing stages with Harley Poe, Koffin Kats and Powerman 5000.
“Sleazin’ Our Way to the Top” had an old-school heavy beat about the loving bonds and relationships of hotel activities. Singer Kristy Emery took center stage, with flowing aqua blue waves, playing part stop-motion baby doll and part punk queen. She worked the stage, with a tattooed cathartic move set, channeling Wendy O Williams and the old school ladies of punk. They were all decked out and dressed for the occasion sporting horror T’s.
They pulled out the covers starting with the Misfits then went to sweet uncle Alice and the “Man Behind the Mask.” She let the pipes out on the funky, grungy “Stoner” song and The Big Bad along with Joe Woody Oaken came up to sing a tune. It was time to “Save this City” before the apocalypse came, or the zombies, the second coming or the official presidential nomination race.
From the haunted hills of West Virginia where some things are best left seen and unsaid, The Big Bad rose from the darkness with sharp licks of punk, jazz, rock and the spirit of the ‘50s when Mary Lou was still young, sweet, innocent and not possessed by the moon.
They got gross and slimy from the get go with “Ecto.” They got on stage early “Out of the Morgue” freshly opened and bleeding. This was one gnarly group of brooding ghouls that you didn’t want to “See you in the Shadows.” Pantera took it over but baby, “We own this Town.” Let the purge begin.
Members of Psycho Charger came up early to help celebrate an early HH Halloween. “Halloween” came once a year but for horror fans it’s a daily celebration and HH adds some bi-annual bloody icing to the prom cake.
The Heathens brought the California sun, surf and turf members only ‘60s rock and swing in piranha infested waters. Vocalist, guitarist Gabe Griffin spiffed up the evening in dinner attire fit for an American Psycho. It was t-shirts for the other two guitar slingers ranging from happy days to hell daze. They played like they rode, choppers on the road with chompers on the bones. The nicest bunch of Orange County bikers that momma would love and dad would clean out the shotguns for. Mixing the Ramones, and The Misfits with good ole fashioned motor oil, dirt, grime and broken nail asphalt they moved and grooved like dancing barefoot on fresh, sizzling blacktop.
It was back to the mid-80s in 2016 with greasers and outsiders on “Rumble Riot.” Judas Priest did the hot rocking but they did the “Haute Rock.” There was only four of them so ‘Prospects” were slim and membership exclusive. They slowed down a little to tell the tale of the little “Heartbreaker.” Kick the pedal back and rev the engine “The Speedmaster” was on the road.
Griffin yelled “Throw me a Rope,” the gallows were calling as they payed tribute to the immortal rock n’ roll Godfather on “Hellraiser.” Lemmy was the only guy that could play the game with Pinhead and keep his soul. They took that special someone for a ride in January, they’re year round hog riders. A foot on the throttle and fist on the grip kept the eternal “Teenager” burning inside.
Psycho Charger turned it up ten-fold with a rapid eye moving hellfire mix of rock, burlesque, vaudeville and flame belted pieces. Dark hooded figures came on stage, eventually pulling the masks off to reveal their monster exteriors. Vocalist Josi Kat, possessed by the spirits of the night and weekend, in good company, conjured all eyes toward her with a wicked mesmerizing, animalistic performance. Misty Myers came up to celebrate during the show along with a few delightful dancers. PC was anything but, delivering horror and shock rawkabilly from the most unspoken, seedy corners of LA, the town that makes beasts out of mortals when the sun goes down. They played and sang about what happens under the bed after a horror movie when the lights go out.
Their horrible truth began in NY, trans-mutating to LA, bringing everything evil, toxic, dug up and something wicked along. Attacking fellow road travelers Leatherface style along the way, but never proven. They have been denied access to North America and traveled with livestock, which had nothing to do with dinner. They’ve also done massive compilation/soundtrack work, sharing stages with Voltaire, The Cruxshadows and The Misfits.
They started off hooded and heavy like bad ass bikers playing for the town that dreaded sundown. “Flattracker” got the crowd and chords revved up for the “Psycho Charger” getting swinging and sexy early, laying down the corpse hammer for lyrical sex and bloodshed. “Blood Shock Kill Rock” was a ghastly shout out to horror hosts everywhere and the beloved movies they corrupt us with, with a bare skin nod to Nordic black metal forest videos. “Road Kill” banged those guitar strings ragged like a necrofile on a date with a corpse. “Go Die” got clanky and jangly like a bass rich, Rob inspired zombie dance in a glowing five point circle. “Devilsnake” slithered and sank lower in the moon light running on ‘shine with that dazed, bewitching swagger, whether by serpent or seductress.
They payed graveyard gratitude to the Ramones on “Pet Semetary,” ending with the eternal flame of “Burning Love.” Just make sure it comes from the heart and not into it. The show climaxed when a few extra femme fatales joined the stage action and burlesque performance artist Michael Salem Gonzalez came out to grind (literary), making the flames dance.
The nights witching hour headliner straight from the finest resting places in Transylvania, ran nonstop on bats blood proving, that night, he was the prince of darkness. Argyle Goolsby and the Roving Midnight were the wandering players of horror death rock, riding through any given graveyard on a corpse with no name. They projected a real life necro-mance with the audience through the mesmerizing, cat like eyes of Goolsby who floated like a beyond this earth creature and stung with sharp teeth. He looked more than half-possessed climbing on stage speakers, room furniture and scaring people in the lobby.
The show started through the inflamed eyes of the “Pyromantic.” Beware of making a fire starter, a lover. Goolsby calmed, soothed and seduced with a Danzig meets Iggy vocal delivery, body possessed by the living spirit of Pop. The hungry hounds of “Baskerville” were unleashed for a midnight snack. Unlike zombies, they rip and tear with vengeance and purpose. It doesn’t matter if the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I’m “Your Enemy’s Best Friend.” You’ve been marked by the witch, your destiny is drowned. They told the eerie tale of the night “The Being” came from the sky.
If these walls could talk, they would have hell to say. Best kept hidden are the secrets and ceremonies that happened here, locked away in the “The East Wing.” The “Blood on her Gown” won’t come off, like a Shakespearian curse. “The Thickets” brought the cold cage match of winter reaching out to end the fall, good thing we’re going into spring. “The Brides” came to collect their male counterparts, in whatever condition. The “Last House on the Left” was in sight, we all know what happens here. It was Fright Night in Sharonville, “Save me Tonight!”
They went back to the Blitzkid days dangling “As the Rope Bridge Sways,” finishing with a jar of “Spiders and Flies,” waiting to be taken away, ha ha.
Images by Mike Ritchie
HorrorHound weekend Indianapolis comes in September.
Tattoo image by Mike Guidone.