Saturday June 9th:
At last the Witching hour had descended. Only remnants and residue remained from the day’s crowd. I overheard someone allegedly report that over five thousand people had browsed the confines of the Scotiabank Convention Centre. The turn out was impressive to witness all that was macabre as I was yet to embrace the most paralyzing nightmare yet, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre VIP event about to commence in mere minutes from now.
Filing back into the hall I strolled solemnly fixated on my own dazed recollection. The past twenty four hours were an overwhelming blur. Getting the chance to interact, converse and share with cinematic icons of my youth is like a full circle of sorts. I had not the bravery to divulge just how much of an impact people like John Russo, Russ Streiner, Marilyn Burns and Teri McMinn had on a troubled adolescence. Wanting not to appear like a stark raving lunatic I wonder what each of the legends would think if I’d thanked them for creating an artistic, imaginative escape away from a life filled with dread, turmoil and alienation. Certainly many of us suffer from isolation or being deemed a misfit or not fitting in with our peers growing up. A lot of times my torment was taken to the extreme and it’s sometimes a miracle I hadn’t ended up institutionalized or incarcerated for wanting to retaliate. No one wants to face the very real yet very horrifying truth that they possess the profile of a serial killer. Yet it seemed somehow inappropriate to thank the iconic figures of the macabre for somehow preventing a murderous spree from a misunderstood youth. For me, horror was not exactly cathartic in its purest form; it was much more than that. Horror to me was an escape from all that ailed a troublesome life. If you could step outside the issues that plague your reality and forget all about them to embrace a fictional or fantasy world that without question was far more intense and dramatic then that is an escape worth having. Yet rather than voicing these expressions of gratitude and being perceived as a certifiable nut I ventured forth, in silence, nodding and smiling at all the right moments.
The judgment hour was upon us as I slowly one by one ascended the steps to the conference room of 207 on the second floor. Each of the freshly shampooed steps seemed to morph into quick sand, confining each of my movements to ridiculously restrained proportion. My pulse tripled while I fought for purchase in steadying my balance. A thin sheet of cold sweat slicked my brow as ragged breaths lurched my chest up and down, up and down, up and down.
I grappled with my tell tale super-ego voice within my head. Up until now the voice had been stifled and silenced altogether. Yet persistent nagging that I was in too deep, out of my league and grossly out of place forced me to turn around and embark upon my inevitable retreat. Who was I to think I belonged in a VIP group of Texas Chainsaw fans? Who was I to think I deserved to be in the presence of greatness. Then my conscience retaliated once again, seemingly contradicting the very fiber of my neurosis. I couldn’t insult Annessa and David for all the trouble, effort and expense they’d gone to. I was committed to this event and I had to follow through. Win, lose or draw this freak would attend the event come hell or high water.
As I seemingly glided down the long, carpeted corridor the contrast of the fluorescents and shadow reminded me of the scenes from the hotel lobby in the Shining. Hair rose upon the back of my neck and I shivered the jeepers creepers off of me. Thankfully I often possess the power of inter-social invisibility and therefore no one had noticed. A smile rose to my lips as I realized there was a considerable line up outside the conference room’s doors. It didn’t take an extensive amount of eavesdropping to realize the line up was for photograph opportunities with Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns and Teri McMinn.
A frazzled and frenzied Ms. Allen greeted me with amicable smiles and salutations in the line up. I realized not and had taken for granted how much was on the plate and shoulders of the producer for such an extravagant event. I silently admired her tenacity and persistence in pulling off such an event with such finesse it appeared virtually effortless. She thanked me for attending and showing my support and insisted that I joined the fray for my very own photographic keepsake.
David popped out of the make-shift studio and reinforced the integral significance of getting a photo done. I hadn’t argued and gratefully obliged. He too was run ragged and seemingly bombarded with questions, comments and concerns from every virtual angle. If given the position of either Ms. Allen or Ms. Danlioff at that moment I think I would’ve succumbed to the previously mentioned murderous onslaught. Yet the two co-coordinated well and most importantly made everyone embody the VIP experience which meant more to me than I was capable of expressing.
My name was called, shaking me from a mesmerized stupor. I walked on legs too sure of themselves for their own good. I stifled a wavering sneer upon lips that surely must’ve looked like my best Edwin Neal (or hitchhiker) impression, personifying all that was unstable. My mind fixated on what catastrophic events would ensue as a result of tripping on one of the cords and falling flat on my face or bursting into hysterical laughter for no apparent reason aside from raw, severed nerves.
Instead I seemed to slide perfectly well into the role of a functioning member of society, smiling briefly at the captivating cast. Ms. McMinn even bid me a hello once again which I felt was immensely endearing to recognize and remember a solitary member from the crowd. I waved enthusiastically and bid a friendly nod and extended my hand to a most imposing specimen of one Gunnar Hansen. Easily a complete head and shoulders taller than my six foot frame, the gentle giant returned my greeting with a hand shake of his own and a most hospitable hello. Without cue I put my arm around the ever charismatic Marilyn Burns to my left and moved in closer to the one best known as Leather face who in cinematic splendor, sliced, diced and pureed people just like me. Yet since the whole Macabrecon event had began it wasn’t until that precise moment that I began to relax, slightly, ever so slightly and began to detect that perhaps I’d found my niche.
Next on the bill was the official screening of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Although I had seen the production well over a dozen times and as recently as a couple weeks ago in preparation of my interviews with the ladies I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I’d never seen the production in all its HD glory on the large screen and this would truly be a treat to behold.
Mr. Daniloff gave a brief introduction before kicking off the cinematic festivities by beginning with Puzzleface, a short film co-written by himself and Spooky Reubin. I was moved by the reception of the crowd as they’d laughed heartily at the comedic, gore-feast before us. For all trivia heads out there, you’ll find it most intriguing to realize the band Voivod had starred in the short as well as a memorable performance by the late great Ken Russell, aptly enough playing the role of God.
As the closing credits rolled up the screen I gripped the shoulder next to me. Ok, thankfully I held some restraint as the stranger would’ve likely decked me in justifiable response. Instead I gripped my fists morphing my knuckles pure white in restless anticipation.
The monotonous drone of the newscaster ignited his report on local cemetery robberies throughout the surrounding speakers. A chill washed over me as I regarded the hairs standing straight at attention on my arms. I knew I was onto something special.
It’s funny how we can watch a movie time and again yet a rare select number of productions can be so diverse and unique that we catch a little something different each time. Tobe Hooper’s cannibalistic cult classic had achieved exactly this as I was enthralled with a lot of the family’s interaction prior to making a meal out of the delicious Marilyn Burns. It’s creepy; it’s eerie and frightening enough to make your skin crawl. Was important to remember however is there really is very little actual blood, or gore witnessed in the film. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is quite often misunderstood and therefore mislabeled into the niche of a slasher flick with such films as Friday the 13th, Halloween or countless others. TCM is more of a psychological thriller that preys upon subconscious. It’s frightfully good and it’s evident why it’s stood the test of time and deemed a certifiable classic.
As the closing credits rolled and the overhead lights rejuvenated the room an overwhelming round of applause ensued. The cast members Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen and Teri McMinn were introduced and greeted to an enthusiastic standing ovation. A full blown question and answer session had kicked off. Each of the thespians shared their own personal memoirs of the runaway hit. Gunnar reflected on some fascinating stories about production. Most people don’t realize that the production was ran on such a shoestring of resources that Gunnar only had one outfit and after countless hours of running around in the sweltering Texas heat, he’d stated the outfit could virtually stand up on its own. Only one chicken was used as part of the infamous family gathering scene at the table. It began to turn so rancid the cast could barely breathe without gagging. It was Hansen that reminded the audience that yes indeed that was not at all a film fixated on blood and gore but really one of the only stand out moments of blood flowing profusely was at the end when he drops the chainsaw onto his leg. He went onto describe that this was achieved by strapping a sheet of metal around his leg followed by a blood bag and a steak. As the saw ripped through the steak the gushing was achieved.
Some sensitive topics were broached upon such as the forth coming Texas Chainsaw 3D production. Each Teri, Marilyn and Gunnar were sworn to secrecy about any of the plot development aside from the fact that it is a bona fide sequel and takes place directly after the original Texas Chainsaw concludes and Sally (Burns) gets away. It was rather disheartening to learn of one complete abandon of journalistic integrity from a certain unmentioned source had taken content during an interview with Gunnar completely out of context and attempted to publish that Hansen had “spilled the beans” on TCM 3D. This couldn’t have been further from the truth yet it posed some great turmoil in the Leather face camp.
As the party trickled on to the Love Boat Cove, a restaurant, bar with a rustic, inner décor resembling that of a ship one could at last sit back, relax and exhale, absorbing the weekend’s events. As we soaked up the journey that had brought us to this fateful conclusion over a tall cool one, Russ Streiner had graciously joined us at our table. We talked about the forthcoming Fan Expo in Toronto in August, the film industry in his native Pittsburgh and even joked about the antics of Kevin Smith and his Silent Bob façade. It was later that evening I over heard that Streiner was so down to earth he’d insisted upon calling one fan’s parents on his cell phone to bid them a hello and thank them for their on going support. A class act all the way, its people like this that reminds me what I adore so much about this industry.
While the evening quickly dissipated onto night I overheard a most gripping conversation about journalistic integrity and loss of morals in today’s news media. The individual had managed to captivate the attention of Gunnar Hansen and Robert Picardo (The Howling, Star Trek Voyager). As I listened and pondered about the very interesting conversation I realized the voice that embarked upon this topic with upmost confidence and conviction was none other than yours truly. As surrealism had managed to wash over my bludgeoned psyche I knew it was time to call it a night. A very special thank you to Annessa Allen and David Daniloff for really delivering the VIP experience and I look forward to the second annual Macabrecon.
By Dave Gammon