A few months ago I saw an advertisement that got me very excited. It was for the upcoming Culture Shock convention: ‘Shock Horror’; Freddy Krueger was coming to Australia! Robert Englund has since been joined on the bill by fellow Nightmare on Elm Street star, Heather Langenkamp; Candyman himself, Tony Todd and documentary maker extraordinaire, Thommy Hutson.
I decided a week or so ago to investigate this event a little further and submitted 10 questions to Culture Shock Events. Many thanks to Darren Roweth over there for all his help in achieving this, as well as answering question 8 with some great local news. As a bit of background, Shock Horror: The Nightmare Begins is a joint venture between Culture Shock Events in Sydney run by Rob Brown and First Contact Conventions in Melbourne run by Scott Liston. It is the comments of these two gentleman I have sought for this interview. Enjoy.
1. You guys are primarily known for events that focus mainly on the sci-fi and fantasy genres, what made you decide to organise a horror specific event?
Rob – Horror is another genre that often bleeds into the sci fi and fantasy realms. In some ways it is hard to distinguish between the boundaries of these realms. I think it is a natural progression to look at horror themed events. Having said that I have always been a fan of some horror films. I loved the old b&w movies and a lot of what we would consider classic horror films from the 70’s and 80’s.
Scott – There is a lot of cross over between sci-fi and horror, and not just with the actors from the shows/movies. As you can see the guys we have lined up for November also have some serious sci-fi cred and we would have happily hosted them for that style of show. Who would ever forget Robert as Willie in the original V. But also some of the best sci-fi has enormous element of horror in it, look at Event Horizon. That was hard core sci-fi and but one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.
2. Are you planning to have ‘Shock Horror’ run as an annual event on the convention calendar? And if so, how do you see the event evolving?
Rob – Shock Horror will hopefully become one of our branded events, a lot like OzTrek. It may not be a yearly event however more likely a number of events throughout the year and perhaps in different cities as opportunities arise to run them. Shock Horror 2 is already planned for early 2012 with a definite theme.
Scott – We never really plan for anything, these shows just sort of happen. Regarding event evolution, I guess we just like to do the best that we can and make sure then everyone has a good time…including us. So as long as that happens and we can make ends meet, then I’m sure Shock Horror will be around for a while.
3. You’ve started your first ‘Shock Horror’ event with some huge horror icons, none more so than Robert Englund, how difficult is it to acquire stars of that status?
Rob – Robert is an icon of some standing. It is often hard to acquire guests such as Robert. Sometimes it is the cost of acquiring them and also it is often a question of availability at the time you are looking at hosting them. Robert was always someone I have wanted to do an event with. Not just because he is Freddy Kruger but I also loved V and his character was a favourite. Tony Todd likewise. I actually admire Tony more in his roles on Star Trek and most recently ‘The Man from Earth’ than his role as Candyman. With Robert on board both Heather and Thommy fell nicely into place.
Scott – The thing you find is that actors want to be found. That’s the nature of their business, a casting director might see them in a show and have a role that would be perfect for them, so they need to be able to get in contact with them to make that happen. When you look at it, we are just casting agents and we do the same thing, we need to be able to track them down to offer them a job.
4. Debuting with horror icons Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and Tony Todd is a massively impressive start, how do you follow up a event like this?
Rob – We actually don’t concern ourselves with topping ourselves each event. It would be unrealistic. Basically we will run an event we would like to go to ourselves. Sometimes the guests will be more high profile than others, sometimes they won’t. As long as we and our attendees have fun and the guests are happy.
Scott – Lol, I have thought about that myself and wondered if we had peaked too early, but I guess if someone wants to suggest the next headliner I’m all ears. Although I do like the idea of Doug Bradley.
5. There will be an obvious interest in your event from fans of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, was it a conscious decision on your behalf to pair ‘Freddy’ and ‘Nancy’ as well as Thommy Hutson together for your event?
Rob – As I mentioned before with Robert on board it was natural to look for A Nightmare on Elm Street stars. There are a lot out there from the movie series and I am sure we may see more of these actors as guests at future events. It certainly was a conscious decision and I am hoping we get a lot of fans to attend the event.
Scott – Well we had Robert booked first and then we were contacted by a few actors from the Nightmare series, but I was trying to not make it a Nightmare show, but when I was contacted by Thommy and Heather, I couldn’t really say no. I mean who wouldn’t want to see Robert and Heather together, that’s a photo I want to have taken.
6. Heather Langenkamp has recently produced a documentary ‘I am Nancy’ will this be screened and/or available at the event?
Rob – At this stage scheduling on the day is a little way off. I am sure it is possible we might ask Heather if we could do a screening of the film. Thanks for the idea.
Scott – We are working on something for the Melbourne end that might see “I am Nancy” screened at a full cinema, but I do hope that we will have it available at the show as well.
7. If the focus of this event is ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ are there plans to do similarly themed events for (examples) ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Halloween’ or the ‘Texas Chainsaw’ series?
Rob – The theme of an event is usually an offshoot of the guests we have available. The usual process tends to be we get a guest and then work something from there. Shock Horror 2: Dead Downunder has actually worked the opposite. I have fallen in love with the new TV zombie apocalypse series ‘The Walking Dead’ and just knew I wanted to do something with that.So Shock Horror 2 will be a Walking Dead themed event. It will be fun and I am sure not the last zombie themed event we will do.
Scott – We hadn’t really thought of that, but it is something that the shows might evolve into as you said earlier. Friday the 13th is a good idea, it would be great to have a few Jason’s all in one place.
8. Horror seems to be regaining ground locally with the success of indie film ‘The Tunnel’, and having Tom Savini work on local horror movie ‘Redd Inc’; do you have plans to incorporate Australian filmmakers in the future?
Rob – It would be great to incorporate Aussie film makers and guests into the equation for future events. It is strange though, in our usual genres of sci fi and fantasy, Australian audiences seem to be less interested even if the show is popular here. I hope that this isn’t the norm amongst local horror fans and that any aussie horror film maker or actor would be well received.
Scott – This is something we discussed in the early stages and we have always had the intention of supporting the local scene, but the problem is they don’t seem to want to support. We have contacted many local guests etc and it always seems to fall into their too hard basket. I guess most people are always trying to get something out of them, and they find it hard to understand what we do and why we do it. We’re fans first…that’s why we do it!
Darren – As a long time horror fan the local scene is something I have closely followed and supported. Films like ‘Razorback’, ‘Undead’, ‘I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer’ and more recently ‘The Needle’ have shown what the Australian industry can do. We hope Shock Horror will, like the US conventions, be a venue for both studio and independent film makers to show their product by screening trailers or shorts. We have invited several independent film makers to come along to Shock Horror so we shall see what happens. We have also approached Roger Ward (‘Turkey Shoot’ and ‘Mad Max’) to come along to the Sydney event and he is looking forward to it, which is something we hope to continue in the future.
9. You guys obviously have a love of film, do you have aspirations as filmmakers or any plans to branch out into production or distribution?
Rob – I love my film and TV, but no, I have no inclination to be a part of the industry. I enjoy being interviewed on TV and being asked to be a guest on a show to talk about what we do but that’s where my ambitions end. By day I am a high school history teacher. Shaping the minds of our kids. A scary thought. I am also an archaeologist and have a heap of fun making a trip overseas each year to work in the field. Both careers are a long way from the film or TV industry…unless you want me to film a documentary series about working in Pompeii.
Scott – Lol, we all have day jobs and do this as a hobby (albeit an expensive hobby). When we no longer enjoy it, we’ll stop doing it. But no, we don’t have any plans to become producers or anything like that, we’re happy doing our thing as we do it.
10. Your favorite classic horror film, when you first saw it, why it’s still a favorite. And any new releases that have impressed you?
Rob – Favourite horror film..mmm…that’s a hard question. Two really stick in my mind because they had lasting impact. Firstly the original Exorcist. As a kid it scared the crap out of me. The haunting music at the start and the howling of the desert dogs as archaeologists unearth a demonic artifact. Still makes hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The other was Evil Dead. Saw that as a teenager, strangely enough in a senior history class at school as it was end of year and our teacher wanted an easy couple of periods. Loved the film. Scary and some funny moments at the same time. Lately not a lot has really grabbed me. The remakes don’t have the same impact as the originals and others are more thrillers than horror. I guess the Saw franchise has done well.
Scotty – Creature From the Black Lagoon…it’s awesome, the effects are classic, the music really makes it and adds to the suspense. Took me ages to track down a copy and I can’t even remember the first time I saw it.
I thought the first SAW film was awesome. I wasn’t going to see it, but there was a girl at work who watched it and had nightmares because of it, so I thought this is great, I must see this. So I waited till I had the house to myself on night, waiting until midnight, turned off all the lights and put the film on. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be, but as a suspense/thriller I thought it was great.
Thanks to Rob and Scotty for their time, and again to Darren for organising the interview. Don’t forget to check out the event here.