Horror icons thrill Fan Expo enthusiasts by making dreams a reality

Posted: August 29, 2011 in Festivals, News & Notes
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Fan Expo logoFour days of cosplay, gaming, autograph signings, Q&As, workshops and shopping have come to a close. Fan Expo 2011 occupied two levels of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre with an added day and much improved logistics from the fiasco that was last year’s event.

First, a couple of notes about the expo before any of the geeky details. It was moved back to the MTCC’s south building, which offers a significantly larger show floor as well as easily accessible conference rooms. Occupancy was based on entry to the building, not the individual levels, which means goers did not have to worry about not gaining re-entry to the show if they wanted to learn how to break into the comic biz by attending a panel discussion. Moreover, the autograph system was made more efficient. Instead of standing in line for hours, unable to leave for fear of losing one’s place — even when the celebrity goes to lunch — fans were given a numbered ticket and able to walk around until their time arrived to line-up.

To follow-up last year’s special guest, legendary comic artist and creator Stan Lee, organizers had to book an icon. Robert Englund, a.k.a. Freddy Krueger, was more than up to the task. In addition to signing autographs and posing for photos all weekend, Englund participated in a lively Q&A on Sunday as well as answered questions after an off-site screening of Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors at Toronto Underground Cinema. He described his preparation for his audition with Nightmare creator Wes Craven, which included smudging cigarette ash under his eyes and slicking his hair back with motor oil. He talked about how he stumbled into an audition for Star Wars‘ Han Solo and then suggested Mark Hamill, who was couch surfing at the time, tryout for Luke Skywalker. Englund also voiced his support for the new generation of Nightmare on Elm Street films and Krueger, explaining Hollywood only has so many stories to tell so remakes are inevitable. Englund is an entertaining storyteller who enjoys speaking to an audience or one-on-one with a fan (as well as the some more than sporadic name dropping).

Lance Henriksen participated in a Q&A after an Underground screening of the cult classic Near Dark, directed by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow. Hosted by film critic Richard Crouse, Henriksen described his humble beginnings as a drifter before he became an actor. He also told the story of how he was nearly murdered by a young girl’s angry father and his collaboration with co-star Bill Paxton on a script for the Near Dark prequel, which never came to light.

Underground Cinema also hosted an evening with shock director John Waters, during which he performed his one-man vaudeville act celebrating his peculiar career and tastes. He added some horror commentary to the show for the special Toronto event, as each of the special ticket nights were presented by Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear.

Other celebrity guests included special effects and make-up artist Tom Savini; late night host of Movie Macabre, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; acclaimed film actor Malcolm McDowell; and generally badass hottie, Eliza Dushku. Moreover, William Shatner returned for a second consecutive year, much to Star Trek fans’ delight. Each participated in a Q&A session, during which fans were provided the opportunity to ask their burning questions.

Some highlights from each discussion:

  • Savini gained his training in realistic wounds as a photographer during the Vietnam War. Though he no longer does many movie effects, his acting career is thriving and includes a return in the Machete sequel. Instead, he shares his years of experience and knowledge with students at his effects school in Pittsburgh. In addition, he’s not a fan of torture porn, preferring fantastical monsters over the sadistic serial killer down the street.
  • Elvira is making a comeback with the return of her television show, Movie Macabre. She still looks devilishly fabulous and is as charmingly sassy as ever. Amusingly, the name Elvira was selected from a hat and her original costume design was brighter and less revealing, but the network wanted something darker and sexier; thus, the Mistress of the Dark was born. Though the B-movie genre was thrust upon her, she enjoys the substandard horror and sci-fi, and the opportunities for humorous commentary. Additionally, a fan of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, she does not approve of the latest glittering variety.
  • McDowell refuses to answer any more questions about A Clockwork Orange, playfully telling the boring questioner to “f—k off.” However, between random exclamations of praise for the winning Liverpool Football Club, he spoke about working with directors Lindsay Anderson and Rob Zombie, and his voice work for various television series and video games. A dedicated father of three children under seven, he’s had to give up life on the stage, so there’s no chance he’ll be performing at Stratford anytime soon. But he remains very quick-witted with a sharp English humour that had the audience wishing for just one more story (then another).
  • Dushku is best known for her roles on Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse, but she got her big break as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis’ daughter in 1994’s True Lies. She’s also one of the few actresses who have played characters her own age, often going through the same growing pains as her characters – particularly those created by Whedon.

Divided into five categories — anime, comics, gaming, horror and sci-fi — the Toronto convention offers something to satisfy the geek in everyone.


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