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60th Anniversary Special!

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Creature From the Black Lagoon: Complete Legacy Collection:

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The Northeast Times
November 25, 2003

That's One Scary Closet
By Elizabeth Stieber
Northeast Times Staff Writer


Dracula. The Werewolf. Freddy Krueger.

These ravenous, evil beings have spooked us into squeals of fright, covered eyes and occasional outbursts of “Look out!” at movie theaters and sleepovers for decades. But for the many fans who adore horror films, it’s the nostalgic childhood memories or just the thrill of chills that have them scouring flea markets, shops and eBay for a copy of a movie, a doll or a poster from the typically cult classics.

David Hagan, who lives in Clayton, N.J., is a horror film buff who has made a living of selling such memorabilia on the Internet. Now he has found a way to bring the best and the bloodiest together for fright-flick fans, all under one roof.

It’s called Monster-Mania Con, and it’s touted as the first horror film and collectibles convention of its kind in the Philadelphia area. The hell-raising freaks from both old and new scary movies will be there . . . well, in the form of films, collectibles and the actors who portrayed them, of course.

“If you like horror movies,” Hagan said, “this is for you.”

The three-day fright fest takes place this weekend, Sept. 26-28, at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, Route 70 and Interstate 295, in Cherry Hill, N.J. Convention highlights will include more than two-dozen celebrity guests, including Doug Bradley of Hellraiser fame, Ben Chapman and Julie Adams from the Creature From the Black Lagoon, Kane Hodder and Betsy Palmer, who played Jason Voorhees and his mother in Friday the 13th, brothers Stephen and Charles Chiodo, who made Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and various stars of the Hammer Studios horror films. The guests will sign autographs and answer fans’ questions all weekend.
Movies will play throughout the expo, including a special full-costume presentation of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a 3-D showing of the Creature From the Black Lagoon and the world premiere of the newest horror flick, Flesh for the Beast, due out in theaters soon. There will even be a tribute to Philadelphia-area television horror host Joseph “Doctor Shock” Zawislak, who died in 1979.

Hagan chose to start the event on Sept. 26 as a tribute to his late father, also named David, whose birthday coincides with the convention’s opening night on Friday. Hagan, a Kensington native and 1977 Northeast Catholic High School graduate, shares fond childhood memories at the movies with his father.

“I was always a fan of horror movies,” Hagan, 44, recalled. “As a kid, my father was a fan and he would take me to the theater and we’d buy the Monster magazines.”

Their favorites were the Hammer Studios horror films, which brought numerous Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy films to the big screen from the 1950s through the ’70s.
Over the years, Hagan collected and traded rare 1960s horror movies and posters with friends. When he discovered the Internet auction site eBay, Hagan began selling and collecting the paraphernalia and noticed a surprising demand for the items. Five years ago, Hagan created a Web site, www.monstermania.net He bought up monster action figures and other items through wholesale purchases from toy distributors, and before he knew it, he had a regular stock of clocks, snow globes, movies and posters to sell on his site. Even Hagan’s two sons have joined the business. Like their father, they love the terror and gore of horror films.

About three years ago, Hagan began traveling to conventions and befriended a number of horror film stars. On a road trip home from a Pittsburgh convention last year, Hagan and his oldest son, David, came up with the idea of presenting Monster-Mania Con. At the time, the closest horror film expo to Philadelphia was Chiller, in East Rutherford, N.J. He called friends Ben Chapman and Caroline Munro, who readily agreed to join in. Word of Monster-Mania Con spread among the horror film convention circuit rather quickly. Before they knew it, Hagan and his sons had booked 30 guests.

“Like an insect that became radiated into a giant monster . . . that’s how the convention spread,” Hagan explained, putting it in terms that a true horror fan can understand.

According to some of the horror film veterans who will be at Monster-Mania Con, folks love to get a scare from the big screen as much as ever. Prior to her role in Friday the 13th, Betsy Palmer never would have figured she’d be an in-demand guest at a horror film convention. The 77-year-old actress has done a lot over her 55-year career, including working with Jackie Gleason, acting on the Broadway stage and serving as a panelist on the 1960s TV game show I’ve Got a Secret. Palmer only took the part as Jason Voorhees’ mother in Friday the 13th to buy a car. She admitted she didn’t think anyone would see the movie that made the hockey mask synonymous with sheer terror. Friday the 13th has spawned nine sequels, and it’s a factor in the current film that gives us a clash of the killers, Freddy Vs. Jason.

Palmer starred only in the first film; her cameos in the sequels were archival footage.
After the 1980 horror flick, Palmer landed a number of roles, including a regular spot on the TV series Knot’s Landing. But she still gets Friday the 13th fan mail from around the world.
“It’s the most amazing thing,” Palmer said in a phone interview last week. “A couple of generations of kids wouldn’t even know me if it weren’t for that (movie).” Stephen and Charles Chiodo, two-thirds of the Killer Klown creators, the Chiodo Brothers, will display clown masks at the horror expo and the film’s demo reel.

The Chiodos know their film is still a cult hit — last year, Killer Klowns from Outer Space was released on DVD and has been selling rather well. Stephen Chiodo, who directed the 1988 film, said he got the idea while driving one night. He tried to imagine the scariest image he could think of — and a creepy clown peering at him from a passing car came to mind.
He described the concept to his brother Charles, who elaborated on the image, and the idea just took off.

“The film taps into a primal fear,” Stephen Chiodo said in a phone interview last week.
Stephen, Charles and youngest brother Edward run a production firm and a visual-effects company. In fact, it all started with making monster movies using action figures and a Super 8 camera in Long Island, N.Y., Chiodo recalled.

Like Hagan, Stephen Chiodo and his brothers were influenced by the horror films they grew up with. Stephen was a big fan of the pioneering special effects crafted by artist Willis O’Brien, the chief technician for the 1933 film King Kong. Chiodo believes generations of folks continue to see scary movies because, deep down, they want that “roller coaster” feeling.

“It’s living vicariously, getting the thrill and excitement without getting hurt,” he said.

Monster-Mania Con will be presented at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Cherry Hill, N.J., on Friday, Sept. 26, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 per day or $30 for a weekend pass. For more information, visit David Hagan’s Web site, www.monstermania.net
Reporter Elizabeth Stieber can be reached at 215-354-3036 or estieber@phillynews.com. http://www.northeasttimes.com/

 



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