Saturday, July 20, 2013

#1,069. UnConventional (2004)

Directed By: Daniel F. Doyle, Michael Furno

Starring: Gunnar Hansen, 42nd Street Pete, Tiffany Shepis

Tag line: "Laugh ... Until you scream"

Trivia: This entire movie takes place at the 13th Chiller Con Horror Convention in East Rutherford, New Jersey

UnConventional is a 2004 documentary that takes us inside the world of horror conventions, specifically the 13th Chiller Con that took place in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2003. Along with the celebrities in attendance, such as Gunner Hanson (Leatherface in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and Troma regular Tiffany Shepis (Tromeo & Juliet), we meet many of the genre's die-hard fans, who've come to chat with some of their heroes, and spend a little time among people who share their obsession.

The 3-day convention opened on Halloween Night, and the first celebrity we meet is Tiffany Shepis, who’s greeted at the door by none other than legendary make-up artist Tom Savini (who brought with him a small dose of FX magic to start things off with a bang). Ms. Shepis features prominently throughout UnConventional, and her bubbly personality is addictive (the fact that she’s gorgeous doesn’t hurt, either). Another regular at Chiller Con is Zacherley, one of the country’s first TV horror hosts, who worked in Philadelphia and New York in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We get a few quick glimpses of other famous attendees, including David Carradine, Tanya Roberts, Kevin McCarthy and Sid Haig, and we meet the various vendors as well, like Gonzo, an energetic stand-up comedian and, as narrator and host 42nd Street Pete puts it, “the genius behind such prestigious films as The Last Call to Die and Slave Girls From Auction Block 1313” (according to Gonzo, the budget for his movies is usually about $800). Gonzo’s table is lined with DVDs, and he’s brought with him a few of the beauties who appear in his films, none of whom are shy about showing off their “assets”.

But what makes UnConventional such a blast are the legions of fans that turn up year in and year out, looking for a picture, an autograph, an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. From the guy who wants Tiffany Shepis to strangle him to the autograph-seekers asking Gunner Hanson what he thought of the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s the fans who bring the convention to life (even the incredibly strange ones, like Jay, the self-proclaimed “Ho-Getter, Show-Stopper, Virgin Popper, Acid Dropper” who bugs the shit out of poor Ms Shepis for a few minutes). Exploring all aspects of the convention experience, and wonderfully narrated by 42nd Street Pete, UnConventional is an often hilarious, yet always respectful look at the personalities and fans who regularly attend horror conventions, and have the time of their lives doing so.

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