Horror genre gaining steam, even among family audiences

Corpses, skulls, zombies and many things taboo are considered the norm at Halloween. This was also the case at the recent 2nd Annual Calgary Horror-Con, where it was not unusual to be spotted in your most grotesque costume while signing up for classes on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.

 Johnny Venokur, an actor who came all the way from Hollywood to promote the film Savage Streets, boasts about how great it was to meet so many people from the horror community.

“I think the horror genre is growing and it’s a wonderful thing,” says Venokur. “Everyone can have their own little niche in today’s society.”

For fans of all ages

Venokur noted how it’s becoming more of a family outing to go see a horror film.Visha Loo, a local Calgarian contortionist, sits on top of a tiny cage as a horror fan tries to fit inside.

Photo by Lisa Taylor

Horror-Con co-organizer Jeff McNair agrees and says that now-a-days even parents are willing to let their children watch some horror films because they themselves grew up experiencing the horror culture and are a lot less conservative. With Halloween coming up, he said as long as parents teach their kids it’s not real, they want their children to experience the same fun and excitement that they did.

“In fact, one of the best audiences for horror films are kids because they have more of an imagination,” McNair says. “Kids can get around the fact that horror films use a lot of special effects and makeup where as adults are more likely going to recognize when they see something that’s not real.”

McNair referred to a passage in the 1957 article, My Life as a Monster, by Boris Karloff, the actor who is best known for playing Frankenstein in the 1931 classic, Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein in 1935.

“Perhaps the best possible audience for a “horror” film is a child audience. The vivid imagination with which a child is gifted is far more receptive to the ingredients in these pictures than the adult imagination, which merely finds them artificial.”

Celebrity appearances

Venokur suggests that the horror community is only going to expand. “We know that this Horror-Con is building and getting bigger and bigger each year, so we’re happy to get here early on in the movement.”

According to McNair, this year’s event doubled the number of booths and the number of guests compared to last year and attracted many famous celebrities including Linnea Quigley, who played the Trash in The Return of the Living Dead; Kane Hodder, who played the man behind the iconic hockey mask in the film Friday the 13th; and Oliver Robins, who played the little kid, Robbie, in the film Poltergeist.

McNair adds that eight celebrities and four local guests and performers came to the event. “And we had to turn down about 30 other celebrities because we just simply didn’t have the space for them.”

Although this event has grown significantly in the two short years that it has been running, McNair says he doesn’t want it to be a huge convention.

“We don’t want to expand per-se. We still want to keep it an intimate horror convention and keep it about the fans,” says McNair.

Johanna Lane, who proudly stands behind her booth promoting her business, Calgary Ghost Tours, says how great it is that the Calgary Horror-Con hasn’t gotten too big yet. “I like how small it is right now because everyone – even all the famous people – are so friendly and down to earth,” she says.

Proud to be Canadian

Makeup artist Reama Kamalebdine just finished putting the final touches on Taylor Lancee after she demonstrated to the public how she transformed Lancee into a werewolf.

Photo by Lisa TaylorNear the front of Wyckham House, Kane Hodder was seldom seen sitting at his booth because he was busy interacting with the public by signing autographs and getting his picture taken of him pretending to choke his fans. Hodder said that he’s enjoyed his experience at the Horror-Con and that he will definitely come back again. “It’s always the Canadian way: very welcoming and friendly.”

McNair said that all of the celebrities were impressed with the hospitality in Calgary. “Everyone said we had a beautiful city and they were amazed with how polite and how friendly everyone was,” McNair says. “Everyone was blown away by our hospitality.”

Scott Mayer, an actor from Hollywood promoting the film Savage Streets with Venokur says, “The people in Calgary are awesome people that have really been warm, charming and very gracious.”

A community event

McNair says the Horror-Con – which ran from Sept. 22 to Sept. 23rd at Mount Royal University – was such a success because so many people absolutely love the thrill of the horror genre.

“Horror is a really emotional experience,” McNair says. “I don’t think any other movie can give you that emotional response that really drags you in and helps you connect with the actors.”

Venokur says it’s great to see everyone getting involved in the Horror-Con, adding, “It’s always a show and it’s great to see the families and the kids coming out.”

Not only is Horror-Con fun for fanatics and families, but it’s also a great way for local businesses to get connected and help support one another.

Lane says that Horror-Con is a great way to develop a sense of community because all the people with the same interests are in the same place at the same time.

“The people who are interested in Calgary Ghost Tours might also be interested in a lot of the other things here, so it’s a great way for me to recommend that they go check out another business after they’ve finished their tour and vice-versa,” she says.

Shawnee Hoffman is a makeup artist from Airdrie that’s looking to find her place in the Calgary Horror-Con community. “I do special effects and makeup, so I thought I’d come and maybe I’ll get a booth here next year,” she says.

ltaylor@cjournal.ca 

Correction: Due to a misunderstanding, Linda Blair was reported to be in attendance which she was not, it was Linnea Quigley. Calgary Journal regrets the error.