CONVENTION REPORT: Chiller Theatre April 2010

Chiller Theatre, April 16-18

Great Expectations (Yes, I Know It’s a Horror Site, Not an English Class)

While perusing the user comments on Icons of Fright yesterday, I saw that my Monster-Mania report from this past March had a new comment on it.  I like getting feedback, even when it’s negative, as long as it’s valid and makes me think.  This particular fan was actually making his second comment about how I had no right to review that con, because I have set expectations on the show.  What he neglected to understand was that those expectations are set on prior experience.  I continue to go to New Wave Seafood, for example, because the food’s been excellent there for 3 years.  I don’t like Monster-Mania because it’s a mediocre show with niche guest lists, since Monster-Mania 2, the first I attended.  For Chiller, however, I’ve always had the highest expectations.  Even when it turned a few shows back to more mainstream celebs, I found plenty of horror stars in the nooks.

And then October came.  If you’re a devotee of this site, you’ll have noticed I didn’t write a review of the last Chiller.  That’s because I was thoroughly unimpressed with it, so much so that X and I were only there for about 2 hours.  On Halloween.  If you’d have described it to me that way a few years ago, I never would have believed you.  Sure, I was splitting the weekend between the Living Dead Festival and this show, but that would only have gotten me more jazzed in the past, not less so.  Evidence of my level of excitement:  I got a sum total of 2 guests’ autographs last October.  From a show where I usually average around 10.

Looking at April’s guest list, I would certainly say I had adjusted my expectations.  Hollywood had invaded again, as Rita Moreno and Richard Chamberlain signed for the weekend (On a personal note, I have to admit that if my mom were still alive, I would have gotten Chamberlain to sign an 8×10 from SHOGUN for her;  she loved that mini-series and watched every time ABC showed it).  A few regulars of the circuit were on hand to represent horror, such as Alice Cooper and Jeffrey Combs.  And there were some new faces to the show, many of them from the works of George Romero.  None of this really got my blood pumping.  The biggest problem for me was that there were no big names from my favorite horror flicks.  Cooper was the headliner for horror fans, but he’s made his living off 40 years of music.  Where were the big time directors and actors?  Look around, and apparently they were at other conventions:  Monster-Mania was sporting Dario Argento all the way from Italy;  Saturday Nightmares had Romero at its very first show;  Texas Frightmare this month sported John Carpenter.  Chiller?  Nope.      With no big names, there was very little to get fired up about.  Every time I looked at the guest list, it left me empty.

“Empty” is also a good way to describe the show on Sunday.  X and I only went for one day, because we both had decided the show only merited that much.  Apparently, plenty of other fans also had decided that, because though there was some traffic, it wasn’t anywhere near the level I’ve seen it at past shows.  Recently, I’ve blamed the recession for low turnout at horror conventions;  with this Chiller, I think it was just because the show wasn’t that good.

In my brief time at the show, I did have some fun.  So many Romero guests had attended Saturday Nightmares, and it was nice to see Chiller complementing them.  Terry Alexander from DAY OF THE DEAD was one cool dude, and he was impressed to the point of laughter when I had him write, “You’re being punished by the creator” on the 8×10 I bought. 

David Early and David Crawford both signed a shot of them from DAWN OF THE DEAD, with some guy giving Crawford’s character the bunny ears (and Crawford, God bless him, only charged $15 for that item off his table). 

And Michael Gornick, Romero’s cinematographer for a number of films, signed a pic of the CREEPSHOW comic, and wrote “Stay Creepy,” his loving response to Romero’s standard, “Stay Scared.”  And there you have it.  Most of my business was done in 10 minutes, in one room.  One quick shot around the cavernous vendors room that always has the same sellers, and a short visit to my friend Mike Baronas, and my day was done (The Italian Invasion II focused mainly on CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST this time around.  Not my cup of tea, but clearly Baronas gives American fans the very best the Italians have to offer in 1980s horror).    Add in a BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR shot that I had Combs sign, and there’s my entire show.  Notably, as a long time Raiders fan, I passed on Ben Davidson, because I forgot he was there.  As I also forgot to get a picture with Gornick.  Clearly my head was not into the show.


I’ve been going to conventions for 6 years, since my very first Chiller Theatre in April ’04, the show that got me so jazzed about cons in the first place.  So to have to report that this Chiller didn’t come close to meeting the expectations that those earlier shows had set saddens me more than a little.  I take this as a sign that it’s time to take some time away from the circuit.  Shows have stopped dazzling me lately, and I’m more than a little burnt out.  I didn’t even attempt to get any interviews this time around.  As for Chiller, it’s now become a show-to-show on whether I go or not.  The guest list will determine whether I’m there in October.  I hope for my sake and the sake of a multitude of horror fans that it surpasses my expectations.


–Phil Fasso

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