Sunday, April 10, 2011
Like You Were There: Full Moon Roadshow Comes to Chicago
And, judging by the crowd at the Portage Theater in Chicago on April 9, he's got his fans right where he wants them. The lobby of the theater was packed with Full Moon DVDs, posters and merchandise, and I'll be damned if I didn't see just about everyone in attendance either buying something or carrying around handfuls of stuff they just bought, from Evil Bong posters they were getting signed to life-size replicas of the Gingerdead man (which ran for a couple hundred bucks). As a kid who rented the original Puppet Master a number of times in the late '80s, I've been aware of Full Moon for years without ever really becoming a fan of any of their franchises, so I was somewhat surprised to see just what a following Band has gathered over his long career.
(Note: I was joined for the day by F This Movie! regulars JB and Mike, who stayed only for the first movie before going home to watch iCarly or some shit)
The afternoon kicked off with host Steve Prokopy (who writes under the name Capone at Ain't It Cool News) bringing the great Stuart Gordon and an incredibly well-preserved Barbara Crampton on stage to introduce 1986's From Beyond, the follow-up to Re-Animator. It's a crazy, hugely entertaining movie and it was great to see it on 35mm, but if I was programming the day I'm not sure I would have started with this movie. From Beyond is the kind of movie that needs to be built up to, and which, in many ways, is more enjoyable as a companion piece to Re-Animator than as a standalone movie. Watching Crampton and Jeffrey Combs switch roles (as Gordon pointed out before hand) and the way that Gordon and writer Dennis Paoli push the Lovecraftian horror to its breaking point is a large part of what makes the movie such a blast, so it's too bad that we were thrown right into the deep end. The audience didn't seem to mind, though, because the movie played.
Up next was the "Full Moon Roadshow," preceded by an extended trailer for a whole bunch of Full Moon titles (which, I'll admit, made me want to track a bunch of the movies down). Charles Band took the stage and proved to be an amusingly laid-back, affable guy (lots of L.A. surfer/stoner vocab getting tossed around), telling a long story about Ghoulies and how a single marketing hook can make for a huge hit (which is no longer the case; otherwise, the image of Rose McGowan's machine gun leg would have made Grindhouse into a blockbuster). He then brought some audience volunteers on stage for what turned out to be a really circuitous process for getting some girls to take their tops off (only one of three girls actually did it) before introducing his latest effort, Evil Bong 3-D.
Oh -- I forgot to mention that he also brought one of the movie's "stars," Robin Sydney, on stage to say a few words about the film. Sydney was a trooper and hung out all day signing autographs and was canny enough to dress in such a way that even horror fans who weren't aware of her would want buy a poster just to get a few seconds of face time (I knew her from the Masters of Horror episode "Right to Die," which is actually really good and worthing checking out). Also, the young man credited with writing the story for Evil Bong 3-D (Band accepted submissions from fans online) came up on stage and proposed to his girlfriend in a moment that probably should have been more exciting or romantic than it ended up being, but I guess that's difficult given the environment. Having seen Evil Bong 3-D, I have a hard time imagining what that "story" treatment looked like.
And then there was the "world premiere" of Evil Bong 3-D. I haven't seen the first two Evil Bong movies and am not a fan of pot humor, so maybe I'm not the audience for this movie. Having said that, I was more than ready to get into the spirit of the thing and have a good time with a knowingly dumb, goofy movie buyoed by gimmicks like old-school, red and blue anaglyph 3-D and "sniff-o-rama," which were numbered scratch-and-sniff cards meant to be used at specific moments in the movie (the fake pot smell, by the way, was making me sick most of the day). Unfortunately, Evil Bong 3-D was a miserable drag, apparently shot on two sets (the inside of a head shop and what looked like Charles Band's garage with a bunch of dry ice and the lights turned off). The acting was broad and obnoxious, the humor was nonexistent and the 3-D and scratch and sniff gimmicks both bombed. You could feel the air getting sucked out of the theater as the movie went on, and all of the excitement built up throughout the day disappeared with every insipid line of dialogue and unnecessary reference to earlier Evil Bong movies. Even star Robin Sydney, who was in attendance as the ambassador to Evil Bong 3-D, only showed up in two scenes. Why she spent a whole day backing this movie I will never understand.
Thanks to the Portage Theater, Full Moon Entertainment and Flashback Weekend (Chicago's annual horror festival) for sponsoring the day, and to Charles Band, Robin Sydney, Barbara Crampton and Stuart Gordon for sticking it out for the long haul. Maybe the Roadshow will come back next year and bring Tim Thomerson with it.