Goth Chick News: Saying Farewell to Another ‘Season’ at Days of the Dead

Goth Chick News: Saying Farewell to Another ‘Season’ at Days of the Dead

That time of year has once again rolled around and another official spooky season is in the rearview mirror. Black Gate photog Chris Z has thrown a tarp over the Hummer and sent his kilt to the dry cleaners. We’ve emptied the final airplane-sized bottles of Fireball and filed our last expense report with BG’s financial fun police. As it has been for the past 11 years, the weekend before Thanksgiving means we attend the final convention of our annual show circuit, Days of the Dead.

It certainly doesn’t feel like that long since we attended our first DotD convention at its sophomore outing in the Chicago suburbs. I readily admit that Chicago isn’t Los Angeles or even New Orleans when it comes to subcultures, though the elements that do exist are certainly worth wading into if you know where to look. But when DotD came to Chicago for the first time in 2011, its home was the Schaumburg Marriott of all places.

[Click the images for deader versions.]

Schaumburg, whose primary claim to fame is being the home to the second largest quantity of retail square footage under one roof, isn’t a place you’d expect to see an event like DotD. True, the walking dead can often be observed there dragging their ragged-flannel-wearing selves between Aeropostale and Abercrombie, but that hardly seemed reason enough to situate a horror convention a couple of blocks away. However, what started off as a fairly small show gained steam every year, finally outgrowing its original location and moving to a convention space near O’Hare airport.

Like almost all the events and conventions we cover each year, it’s the cosplayers who never cease to amaze us. The level of detail in the costumes and the commitment to a particular character not only make for great pictures, but the cosplayers themselves garner as much attention as the celebrities. Certainly, they are Chris Z’s favorite photo ops.

The celebrity line up was robust considering the list of west-coasters who entertain the prospect of coming to Chicago in mid-November is short. Among the guests were Ace Frehley, guitarist from KISS, Dean Kane, Superman in Lois and Clark/Smallville, and Harry Hamlin, best known in my book as Perseus from the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans, who is still a major piece of… eye candy.

Eileen Dietz

I was most excited to meet Eileen Deetz whose career goes back to 1952 when she started out in daytime soaps, and whose movie and television career is still going today as she approaches her 80th birthday. Though you may recognize her from General Hospital, Halloween 2 or one of her other 130+ roles, Ms. Dietz may be best known for the uncredited parts she played in The Exorcist.

Eileen Dietz in “Pazuzu” makeup

Tapped to play the possessing demon Pazuzu as well as and the ‘possessed Regan’ (the Linda Blair character), she performed in scenes that were too violent or disturbing for the young Blair to perform, including the crucifix scene and the fistfight with Father Karras. I had the pleasure of chatting with Ms. Dietz about the recently released outtakes from The Exorcist which I wrote about a few weeks back. Her makeup tests for the Pazuzu character are part of the 37 minutes of footage and she remarked how interesting it was to her to see the footage for the first time. Dietz also commented that until the screening of the film, she didn’t know which version of Pazuzu makeup had been chosen.

Beyond the many other celebrities, panel discussions and events which encompassed the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of DotD, a large part of the show is the vendors. It is always fun to peruse the many ways a horror fan and their money can be parted, not to mention meeting new indie filmmakers and authors. Here are a few of our favorites…

Rick Styczynski, owner of 13X Studios and star of Terrifier 2

Rick Styczynski, owner of 13X Studios and star of Terrifier 2 was one of our favorite people we met at DotD. He was manning his booth of custom Jason hockey masks, which if — like me — you have a few Friday the 13th fans on your gift list was reason enough to stop for a chat. Styczynski’s creativity is impressive, and it wasn’t too far into opening night of DotD before his booth was several people deep and he was doing a brisk business. However, we were lucky enough to meet him before the doors opened and learn that he had a part in the indie franchise Terrifier, specifically in the second installment which was released last year.

In fact, the star David Howard Thornton who plays “Art the Clown,” was in a booth across the aisle with a couple of handlers and a line of paying autograph seekers reaching down the hall. And it was this fact that made Styczynski so charming. He was more than happy to chat about his art and his acting, and super grateful and welcoming to all the fans we heard him talking to later in the day. He signed Terrifier merch whenever asked and never charged a penny, which may be why we saw so many people carrying his masks by the time we left the event. Stay tuned, Styczynski agreed to an in-depth interview because I have so many questions.

Jorge Delarosa, writer/director of Hell Van

You know how much we love the indie film scene, where filmmakers are pursuing their passion on shoestring budgets. Indie film writer/director Jorge Delarosa and his film Hell Van certainly checks all the boxes. Delarosa explained how none of his actors were professionals and all of his effects were practical including setting a guy on fire. He’s been doing the indie film circuit trying to get the word out about his film, which I know from talking to other indie folks is a grueling exercise. Though I haven’t had the pleasure of watching Hell Van as of yet, a site I frequent called Severed Cinema gave it a review that actually looked pretty promising.

Hell Van is a low budget indie production, so Delarosa had done it all himself out of pocket. The make-up effects look good and are well done but I would have liked to see more. The performances from the cast are good especially considering most of them aren’t professional actors. I see a lot of passion and creative ideas overall. Hell Van is an ambitious ride through an inferno of satanic peril and devilish fun.

You can watch the trailer below, which we’re all too happy to promote.

If your last name is “Forest” then you’re either going to become an arborist or a woodworker, and Alex Forest went with the latter. Being that I’m a sucker for a good-looking charcuterie board, one in a coffin shape was certain to land a spot on my show coverage. Enter Forest Fresh Woodwork. Forest is an expert at his craft and spooky themes aren’t his only offering. The boards are beautifully constructed with intricate designs of different colors and wood. You can contact him here for the perfect holiday gift.

Talented woodworker Alex Forest

And finally, what would a horror-themed show be without professional ghost-hunters and their resident medium? We were lucky enough to meet both at DotD in the form of Shadow Hunters Paranormal Investigations and medium DeEtte Stewart. Shadow Hunters had some really incredible stories about our local Six Flags amusement park where they did an investigation a few years back, so stay tuned for a follow-up with them.

Shadow Hunters’ paranormal investigator team

Also, in over two decades of writing for Black Gate, I have never interviewed a medium, which seems like a gross oversight on my part. That said, I’m going to fix that asap when I sit down with Ms. Stewart later this month.

DotD is a national show with upcoming dates in Atlanta, LA, Phoenix, Indy and Houston. Check out their website for details.

Honestly, for an industry that is so huge it pulls in a staggering amount of money each year, the horror scene is still a fairly intimate, sub-culture family where so many people know one another, and where we are happy to greet many of the same people at these events. Maybe not the kind of folks Santa would want sitting on his lap, but a very cool family just the same.

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