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January 3-9, 2007

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Cult Leader

Blood Brothers: Look for new Bay Area talent and cult icons at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors

By Steve Palopoli

FIVE YEARS AGO, I went to my first Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, in Pasadena. Horror movies were in one of their frequent down cycles at the time, so for a diehard fan such as myself it was like finding a flamethrower in a zombie outbreak. Covering the event for a magazine I worked for at the time, I got to interview Clive Barker and Robert Englund about the sex appeal of monsters (discussing how his creatures from Hellraiser had caught on with the fetish crowd, Barker told me "Pinhead and the Cenobites generally have become something you do on a Saturday night. And I'm very proud of that. I'm very pleased with the fact that my monster has found its way into the bedrooms of America").

But what impressed me was that they didn't save all the good stuff for backstage. If there was an insider feel, it covered everyone in the convention hall, all of us fans hungry for the return of horror. Out on the floor, I met some other horror faves, saw clips from several upcoming films and was introduced to the cast of Jeepers Creepers, which was on its way to being the surprise horror hit of the year.

Well, OK, it was a slow year. But now, on the heels of all the J-horror remakes and, of course, Hostel, horror is hot again. And not coincidentally, Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors is making its San Jose debut this weekend, Jan. 5-7.

"With horror becoming so popular, we're touring a little bit more," says Gary Berman, co-CEO of Creation Entertainment, which produces the horror weekends with Fangoria. Berman remembers when Hostel producer Quentin Tarantino was just a wee fanboy running around at the Fango conventions. It's his job to take note of that kind of thing, of course, because these events bank partly on staying ahead of the curve. "Horror is attracting a younger audience," notes Berman. "We try to make the Fango show a place to get attention to some of the young people coming up."

In keeping with that theme, there's some up-and-coming Bay Area talent I recommend seeking out at the San Jose show. Coincidentally, they're two sets of brothers. First, the Quiroz Brothers, Ed and Jose. They've been turning out straight-to-video films at an insane pace for several years. Some of their early stuff was terrible, but in 2006 they showed some real promise with two films, the punk-rock vampire flick The Damned and the crime thriller Illegal Business. All horror fans should keep their eyes on these guys, and they'll be previewing their latest, Death Row, at this weekend's event.

The other local pair of filmmakers is the Butcher Brothers, San Francisco writer/directors who are actual butchers as well as brothers. I really liked their debut film from last year, The Hamiltons, which played at Cinequest. The Fangoria show will host a Hamiltons panel featuring the directors as well as co-writer Adam Weis and the cast.

It's not the new names that bring in the crowds, though. This weekend's event has got a horror name-brand in the form of George Romero, who'll be previewing his new zombie film, Diary of the Dead. Whatever you thought about Land of the Dead (and I personally liked its typically timely Romero social satire), you gotta love that he's not only making films again, but making zombie films again. Romero is a unique director with no end of integrity who's been knocked around a lot in the film business—in 2001, he told me, "If you look at The Player, that movie is not an exaggeration at all."

Also on hand this weekend will be cult-horror actor Jeffrey Combs, best known as Herbert West in the Re-Animator films; Sid Haig, star of some of the coolest psychotronic films of all time, from 1968's Spider Baby to House of 1000 Corpses 35 years later. Haig is also enjoying a real career revival right now, starring in Rob Zombie's films and showing up in some of Tarantino's recent movies, as well. Previews are always a big thing at these events, and besides those previously mentioned will be sneak peeks of 28 Weeks Later, Grindhouse, Ghost Rider and, of course, Hostel: Part II.

Cult Leader is a weekly column about the state of cult movies and offbeat corners of pop culture. Email feedback or your favorite horror-geek moment here. To check out a previous edition of Cult Leader, click to the Cult Leader archive page.

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