Flashback Weekend is a yearly horror convention held in Chicago. For the past couple years I’ve been meaning to go, but circumstances conspired against me. This year, my fiancee and I made it down there for the 2016 outing — Flashback’s fourteenth year of operation. Our plans were originally just to catch the screening of Phantasm Remastered. That changed when we inadvertently booked our hotel at the Rosemont, the same hotel where Flashback Weekend was taking place.
Flashback Weekend was my first horror convention and it was a great experience. Originally, I was disappointed that the star power was down from past years, but it didn’t stop me from having a blast with those who were there. This year’s celebs included: Amy Steele, Julian Sands, Neve Campbell, Matthew Lillard, Skeet Ulrich, Malcolm McDowell, Meg Foster, Judy Gleeson, David Ury, Pancho Moler (whom I confused as Peter Dinklage that evening in the hotel’s swimming pool), Andrew Divoff, Greg Kurtzman, Ted Raimi, Sharni Vinson, Adrieene King, Melanie Kinnamin, Tom Morga (blue Jason), Kathleen Kinmont, Bob Elmore, David DeCoteau, John Russo, Chicago’s own Svengoolie, and the one I was there to see: Don Coscarelli.
Since this was my first horror convention and first time in the Rosemont (which is a very nice hotel), it took me a while to get my bearings. There was so much going on in so many places that I had to make a game plan for everything I wanted to do. Most of my time at Flashback was spent on the vendor floor, which had all the before mentioned guests on the periphery of the room signing autographs and merchandise. The overwhelming amount of awesome merchandise and memorabilia made me wish I had more money to blow on this event, especially the Synapse Film table (which was boasting a steel book blu-ray of Tenebre). I did end up buying a Blade from Puppet Master bobblehead from the Full Moon Studios table, and had the box autographed by David DeCoteau (because he wasn’t charging for autographs — some may say rightfully so). DeCoteau, amusingly, thought I was only having him sign it because he was there. He told me he directed four of the Puppet Master Films, and I told him “Yes, I know, part 3 is the best!”. He seemed glad someone knew who he was, but was also confused why there was a Blade bobblehead.
But before any of that transpired, I made a bee-line to Don Coscarelli’s panel to get my blu-ray copy of Phantasm II autographed. In my mind, I was expecting just a quick meet and greet, and an autograph, and to be on my merry. What I got was a really awesome conversation with someone I’ve admired since childhood. I had a lot to tell him that I otherwise wouldn’t have had he not opened the lines of communication. One of the first things he asked me was “How did you originally get into Phantasm“, and I told him the stories I’ve recounted elsewhere on this blog. I also told Don about recording Phantasm III off of Showtime back in the day, and in return, he told me an amusing story about Angus Scrimm. Scrimm was fascinated by the VHS when it originally came out and recorded everything he could off of TV. From there, we talked about various other things Phantasm related, including the remaster we were going to watch that night. He was very excited about the new transfer and told me there was a visual effect in there that had been enhanced and told me to see if I could find it. I asked him if he felt he would continue the franchise after Phantasm: Ravager (which he didn’t direct) and he said “Well, ya know, how many Phantasm films can one guy direct?”. It was also obvious that the passing of Angus Scrimm was still on his mind and replacing him isn’t something he’s interested in at all. I got a picture taken with Don and a silver sphere, and went to walk around the vendors room some more.
As many of you know, Friday the 13th part 5: A New Beginning is my favorite of the franchise. So of course, I was excited to meet Melanie Kinnaman, who played final girl Pam (she’s still hot). I greeted her with a “Hello Pam!”, and she laughed and we talked about the film for a moment and I told her it was the best in the series. She replied, “Thank you! I hear the opposite way too often”. She had few glossy 8X10’s to choose for autographs, and I chose the shot of her her holding the chainsaw at the end of the film. She said “This one is my favorite!”. Although she wasn’t as talkative as Don, she was still very approachable, and very patient while my fiancee took my photo with her. There was an issue with the camera phone that took a bit longer than usual and Melanie didn’t get testy, and made sure the pics came out right before we left her table.
I didn’t approach any of the other celebrity tables as I didn’t have the cash to spend on autographs. I would have loved Malcolm McDowell’s autograph, but since he was charging $80, it just wasn’t going to happen (even if I did have the money for it that’s way too damn much). I did get a laugh at his pics he had available for autograph, which amusingly included the rape scenes and prostate exam from A Clockwork Orange. Fellow British actor Nicholas Burnham Vince, who played the Chatterer cenobite in Hellraiser, has an autographed copy of the prostate exam picture. If I had had the extra change, I would have purchased an autograph from Julian Sands. I felt bad for the former Warlock star because no one else was at his table and he was sitting around reading a book and snacking on a bag of chips.
After getting a bite to eat and having a beer, we headed out the Svengoolie signing area. For those who don’t know, Svengoolie is a horror film host based in the Chicago area. He currently hosts a weekly syndicated show on MeTV. The syndicated show primarily shows classic Universal Horror Movies, while his Chicago show is more eclectic. Svengoolie wasn’t as talkative as the other celebrities I met, but he was under a time constraint, as he had to host the upcoming costume contest and still had a line full of people to sign autographs and take pictures with.
After the costume contest, there was a Q and A panel with Don Coscarelli where he talked about his films and career experiences. He went into a bit about the cleaned up print of Phantasm Remastered. During the restoration process they discovered it was raining in the scene where Mike is watching The Tall Man pick up Tommy’s coffin. This has never showed up before on previous releases of the film and Don had forgotten this had even happened. It gives the scene a much different feel and the rain sound effects had to be added in. He then fielded questions, which led into the history with Roger Avery’s Phantasm 1999 script and the proposed reboot/remake of the series New Line approached him with in the mid 2000’s. The Phantasm 1999 script was proposed shortly after Avery won the Oscar for Pulp Fiction and would have been the ultimate Phantasm film. Bruce Campbell would have joined up with Reggie Bannister to form a strike force sent to take out the Tall Man once and for all after the Tall Man had taken over the majority of the United States. This, unfortunately, never happened. The New Line remake/reboot would have happened; however the studio wanted to replace the entire Phantasm cast, including Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man. Coscarelli turned down the project on those grounds as it would have crushed his friend. And that solidifies why Coscarelli is the man and why Phantasm is my favorite franchise of all time.
The screening of Phantasm Remastered took place at the amazing Muvico Theater late that night. Unfortunately before the movie started Bloody Disgusting had to interject themselves to shill their new web-series World of Death. After that nonsense, Coscarelli introduced the film, and they showed a sneak preview of Phantasm: Ravager, and my initial reaction was: I have a bad feeling about this. I don’t want to say anymore about my feelings on Ravager except I hope I am proven wrong.
One of the first changes you’ll notice in Phantasm Remastered is that the Avco-Embassy logo has been restored and put before the film starts, as a nostalgia bonus for those of us who grew up with Phantasm on VHS. This was the first time I’ve seen Phantasm on the big screen and it was incredible. It is worth seeing Phantasm Remastered just to hear the restored soundtrack play in a theater. It’s simply amazing. Phantasm is a rare horror film that has always looked great, even on VHS, and this restoration makes it even greater from a visual standpoint. If it wasn’t for some of the characters outfits, you could fool someone whose never seen Phantasm into thinking this was a new movie.
Phantasm Remastered will be playing around the nation on September 24th, and will be on blu-ray in a new Phantasm set (including the new Ravager) in time for the Holidays.