Contributed by Mary Reay Arnatt
In its sixth year, the Calgary Horror Convention has already established itself within the Horror community, bringing in celebrity guests such as Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond), and Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!), among other special guests (if I had to list them all, it would take up the entire article!). I had the chance to chat to the convention’s Founder and CEO, Dan Doherty, about the inspiration, process, and rewards of running the largest Horror Convention in Western Canada.
What was the horror film that got you interested in the genre?
It was a really long time ago, so I’m not really sure which was my first, but I do remember C.H.U.D. as a child. C.H.U.D. was probably my first one, and I was just fascinated by it, there were monsters and all this other craziness.
What prompted you to start your own horror-centered convention?
I’ve been a horror fan since I was a child. For years, I’ve worked in, and ran my own comic book shop, but I’ve always had a heavy slant towards horror. I’ve been to other conventions and there seemed to be a need and it wasn’t being filled by other shows. Once I started this show I liked that it was a lot more intimate and that I wanted to stay strictly horror because I could gear all my programming towards horror fans. Everybody’s into different things, but I didn’t want Brony panels or Anime voice-over actors. It was just so surreal to see Doug Bradley beside some anime voice-over actor and it just didn’t seem to really fit. By creating the Calgary Horror Con, by going there you’re with everybody else who is a fan of horror. I try to always have as much representation from different sub-genres of horror. I’ve had actors from THE SHINING to Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Films, to actors and directors of horror-comedies to people who make disturbing cinema. I guess there’s a lot of variance, but it’s all horror. The biggest motivation for me isn’t money, I’m still waiting to make a paycheck from the convention, but it’s to create a community for Horror fans. Community-building is really the convention’s goal. Running the convention isn’t easy, if it was easy, there would be conventions every weekend, but it’s a lot of fun.
Are there any particular Guests or moments over the years that have stuck in your memory?
Being scolded by Jeffery Combs, and not even being upset at it – I deserved whatever Jeffery was giving me. He was thinking he was giving me a lecture, and I was thinking: “I’ve been scolded by Jeffery Combs, how awesome!” Last year, Joe Turkel, the bartender from THE SHINING was there. We had a good weekend, and it was close to the end, Joe was in the lobby, and I said “Joe, would you do me a favor? Step behind the bar and serve me a drink, and we’ll take a photo of that.” He was such a cool guy, and said “no problems Mr. Doherty.” I was so humbled, I think that there were even tears in my eyes afterward. The biggest thing is going to the [Rocky] mountains and getting to know some of these guys. It’s really nice to meet some of the guys you’ve seen on the big screen but it’s even better to find out that they’re really awesome people. It’s been a really cool experience.
What horror films are you screening this year? You mentioned that you had to review a lot!
Since starting this show, every year I’ve thought: “I’m happy with my line-up and my celebrities, what else can I improve?” Last year, the movies were good, but I wanted awesome. So this year, instead of bringing in 300 films to review, we had 816 films to review. From there, that was a week and a half’s hours alone to review these films. Everybody says you’re insane for doing it, but, how awesome a line-up? It just keeps getting better. As soon as the show is done, I’m already soliciting movies for next year. Some of my favorite picks this year have been the three features. One that’s got really good reviews is SHE KILLS by Ron Bonk. It’s a nod to 70’s exploitation grindhouse, and it’s about a ladies vagina that gets possessed by Satan and she takes revenge on a gang called ‘The Touchers’ who attacked her and killed her husband on her wedding night. It’s pretty over the top. Then I have a serious horror film out of Slovenia called IDYLL, and it is action packed, gory, and violent. One of my favorites is a horror comedy out of Sweden called AMERICAN BURGER where there is a group of tourists going through the European woods who stop for an American burger only to find out that the reason it’s called American Burger, is that they’re in the burgers. Fun ensues and they struggle to survive.
Which celebrity guests can attendees look forward to meeting?
Ari Lehman, who was the first Jason in FRIDAY THE 13TH – he’s also going to perform at the VIP party with his band. Ken Kirzinger who appeared in FREDDY VS. JASON and was the only ‘Canadian Jason’. He’s been in a lot of other films as well: WRONG TURN 2, JOY RIDE 3. Emily Perkins from the GINGER SNAPS trilogy. I have a couple of ‘final girls’ from FRIDAY THE 13TH: Amy Steel and Adrienne King. It’s a really heavy FRIDAY THE 13TH show this year, I’m not too sure how that happened… but I am a fan. Derek Mears who was Stavarin in DEAD SNOW 2, he wore the classic Predator costume in PREDATORS, and played Jason in the relaunch of FRIDAY THE 13TH. Tyler Mane, who was in a ton of stuff: TROY, X-MEN, and who played Michael in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN II. The guest I’m most excited for is Dick Warlock. He was Kurt Russell’s stunt double for everything he did, but is best known for playing Michael Meyers in HALLOWEEN II , and he was one of the assassins in HALLOWEEN III. It’s a good strong line-up of films and a good strong line-up of guests. I’ve opened up more space for panels this year, so I’ll be running celebrity panels as well as effects and art panels.
You mentioned the VIP Party, aside from hearing Ari Lehman play, what else is happening there?
Friday night, celebrities arrive via hearses provided by the Western Canadian Hearse Club and Bonewagon Association. They drop the celebrities off at 9, then there’s the celebrity meet and greet. It’s always been a Calgary tradition that when celebrities come to town that they have a White Hat Ceremony as opposed to the Keys to the City. In my warped, twisted mind I think it’s awesome that horror celebrities are putting cowboy hats on knowing that I, in a million years, would never put a cowboy hat on, even though I grew up on a farm. It’s for my own amusement that I continue to do it. But Dick Warlock is a cowboy, so he’ll be okay with that. If anyone deserves to wear a cowboy hat, it’s Dick Warlock, because he’s pretty bad-ass. Kicking off the night, there’s going to be a set from first Jason, then I get a bunch of local performers – I have Sideshow Punks doing sideshow performing; Visha Loo, whose been with me since year one, she’s a fetish model and contortionist, will perform. Hosting the night is Bitch Sassidy, who is originally from Calgary. Then I have Nefarious Gorehound, whose performance last year was great. He came out of an egg-shaped thing on stage and it was creepy and weird. Hopefully, he’ll be here for years to come. The performances had mixed reviews, but I like that. I like that they created controversy and that some people were shocked, some people were grossed out. I had the best endorsement the other day, somebody said that it was like watching a disturbing snuff film, and I was like “you’re too kind!” If we offend someone, so be it, you’re coming to a horror convention. We’re not really killing anybody, so it’s all in good fun, and we might spray a little bit of fake blood.
The Calgary Horror Convention runs from June 11-12. For more information, check out their website.