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Days of the Dead Diary

by on July 4, 2011
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Mere seconds upon entering the Wyndham West hotel, my brother and I were greeted by Tom Sizemore (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Heat”). “Hey, guys,” the grizzled actor said under his breath.

Moments later, we were getting press badges for the Days of the Dead horror convention. Mine was legitimate while my brother’s was … less so. Paul Avery, San Francisco Chronicle, it read (a nod to the character played by Robert Downey, Jr. in “Zodiac.” My brother’s idea, not mine).

As we walked toward the main hall, we saw Sizemore again, this time ordering nachos. We were in the same room where Tom Sizemore was ordering nachos. How surreal.

It was the last day of the convention, so people were packing up. Amid the dust floating in the air were memories of good times past.

Despite the hundreds of horror-hungry fans they met over the weekend, the celebrity guests still seemed eager to engage in conversation. So why were we so nervous about meeting them? After all, above all else, they attend these conventions to meet fans.

After pacing back and forth and looking at blood-splattered merchandise I didn’t intend on buying, I summoned the courage to meet Heather Langenkamp — one of the all-time great scream queens, the girl of Freddy Krueger’s nightmares.

She was very pleasant and charming, but I’d be lying if I said the encounter wasn’t a bit awkward (because of me, not her). On the rare occasion that I meet celebrities, I feel pressure (mostly self-imposed) to gain a rapport with them, to entertain them as they’ve entertained me. And Langenkamp was, after all, in one of my favorite horror films, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” So, I’d feel bad if I came across as a nervous dullard rather than an articulate, grateful and intellectually curious fan. I’m worried that I seemed like the former, but (I hope) I’m probably just being too hard on myself.

On the bright side, she gave me a free copy of her documentary “I Am Nancy” and signed the NUVO Newsweekly article I recently wrote about her (which I took gratefully, with hands shaking).

It’s strange to be in a small, intimate setting with larger-than-life characters like Heather Langenkamp and Tom Sizemore. And it’s jarring to see these stars step out of a world as surreal as the realm of horror cinema — a sight which is one of the distinct joys of attending any horror convention.

In regard to Days of the Dead, it was refreshing to see a horror convention that propelled the genre forward as much as it dug up the past. In other words, this wasn’t a mere nostalgia fest like most conventions. The future of the genre was well represented with the likes of promising filmmakers such as Joshua Hull (“Beverly Lane”) and Terence Muncy (“Bikini Monsters”).

If Indy keeps delivering top-notch horror conventions like this one, it could very well become the epicenter for them.

Stay tuned for my reviews of “Beverly Lane” and “I Am Nancy” in the weeks to come.