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The Night Candyman Came for Me

“They will say that I have shed innocent blood. What’s blood for if not for shedding? With my hook for a hand, I’ll split you from your groin to your gullet. I came for you.”

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my parents decided to rent Candyman from Blockbuster for family movie night at my grandmother’s house. Like every Clive Barker film I watched in my childhood, it scared my young mind to its core.

By the time the credits rolled, my mother was asleep on the couch and my dad decided to be silly. “Watch this,” he said wild-eyed, as he crept into the bathroom behind us. He said my mom’s name into the mirror five times and she abruptly awoke. I was certain the hook was coming for us all as punishment for playing around like that. This began a lifetime of avoiding mirrors at night.

Candyman

Fast forward to 2016. My love and I were beyond excited to party with our horror fiend friends at Texas Frightmare Weekend. We walked into the center doors of the main vendor floor and I froze. At the very first table, in the center aisle, was Tony Todd. I was 10 feet away from the towering terror that fueled my Candyman nightmares.

He was smiling, laughing, and hugging fans in photos, but it made no difference to me. All I saw was the hook, the bees, the blood. For the rest of the convention I tried to remember to walk into that room through other doors, but in the excitement of the event, would forget and have to face him again and again.

This summer I was asked to run the pub trivia for the Greater Austin Comic Con. Just days after confirming my spot with the convention I saw a promo post for Tony Todd pop up on the GACC page and my eyes grew wide. I just couldn’t escape him. Candyman was coming for me… Again.

Candyman, Tony Todd, Greater Austin Comic Con

At the first night’s afterparty, an artist introduced me to Tony Todd…

I had just enough vodka to be convinced this was a good idea. My heart pounded louder and faster with each step as we walked to the deck where he and his friends were seated. A lot of things were hazy, but he said something along the lines of “Nice to meet you, Gemmi” as he shook my hand and smiled. Our artist friend told him that I had been scared of him most of my life and he laughed and wanted to know why. After recounting the family movie night incident he looked me right in the eye and said, “Tell your parents I said they never should have let you watch that movie so young.”

Moments later he decided he wanted to take advantage of being in Austin by seeing some live music. He mentioned C-Boys Heart and Soul and causally turned to us to ask if we were going to join them. Obviously, I went.

Tony Todd was the absolute nicest, most laid back and down to earth guy ever. At the end of the night I worked up the nerve to ask him for a photo, and he kindly obliged. I’m sure I’ll still never recite any names into mirrors, but I will always think back to this fun night as the night I faced my fear and hung out with Candyman.

Tony Todd, Gemmi Galactic, Candyman, Poison Ivy, Austin Texas, Greater Austin Comic Con

 

 

Its the Most Other-Worldly Time of the Year!

It’s my favorite time of year! No, I’m not a winter person. And, though I am no Scrooge, I just don’t get that excited about the holidays. No, something amazing is happening in my corner of the world December 7th-10th- Other Worlds Austin Science Fiction Film Festival (OWA)! Let me explain why this event so awesome I had to get a babysitter for my dog.

OWA is now in it’s 4th year as Austin, Texas’s only dedicated science fiction film festival. And yes, I’ve been every year. It has grown into a 4-day fest that screens and celebrates the diverse spectrum of scifi, as well as adding horror in 2016 with its Under Worlds sidebar. There are independent, international feature films and short films all making their Austin debuts at least, some as much as making their world premiere.

Films are voted on by festival attendees for Audience Choice awards, as well as given awards from the programming staff (Cthulies). In 2015 OWA added the Mary Shelley Award, awarded to “the artist (writer, director, or actress) whose film best furthers the involvement and representation of women in genre filmmaking.”

 

 

This year’s Launch Film is the 20th Anniversary screening of Event Horizon with writer Philip Eisner in attendance. I just had to painfully hold myself back from writing that entire sentence in all caps to show my excitement. Eisner is also leading a screenwriting workshop Saturday morning at the Austin School of Film Motion Media Arts Center. I will be there taking all the notes.

Did I mention the parties? One very important thing that sets OWA apart from other great festivals is the community it builds. Brunch, happy hour, preshow parties, and after-parties are scheduled with the attendees in mind. Though some are reserved for top-tier badgeholders, there are parties available to everyone. They have specialty drink menus appropriately themed for the occasion, and this year they’ve added a trivia night.  Every year I get the chance to meet other fans and some of the film casts and crews over cocktails to talk about the films and scifi in general. I’ve made many great friends and valued acquaintances during these fun mingling times.

The staff really are the reason why OWA is able to build such a great event. I would know, I used to work with them. They are kind, funny, true fans who want to do the best they can to bring OWA to the scifi fans of Austin and beyond. They work year-round to find the best new scifi films to screen in Austin and make each fest better than the last. They can always be found around the fest, are helpful and ready to engage in any conversation about their favorite films. They’re good people doing stellar work. I am over the moon for all of them.

Last year OWA moved it’s base from central-ish Austin to the far north end of the city. I must admit, traveling to a galaxy far, far away (driving from South Austin to Round Rock) is not ideal. However, having Flix Brewhouse host the fest was the right move. Flix has a wonderful kitchen, a superb microbrewery, a huge free parking lot, great screens, and convenient food and drink service during the films. Their tables even slide out to meet you at your seat so eating in the dark isn’t quite as messy. I definitely need that. The venue upgrade vastly makes up for the drive.

The only real complaint I can come up with is that each film is only offered once in the program and with two theaters running, I will have to miss some of the film selections. I know how much work and care the staff puts into curating such an incredible program and I want to see all of it. I think this is just a symptom of the fest still being on the newer and smaller side, and something they could possibly remedy as the festival continues to grow. But getting the twelve guaranteed screenings, the film guest Q&As, the pre and after parties, brunch, and the screenwriting workshop that all come with my top-tier badge, at under $100, I actually feel selfish and guilty for complaining that I can’t get more.

So, this week I am faced with decisions. I haven’t figured out all my film picks yet. But these are what I know for sure. The shorts programs are always my favorite. This year there are three collections of short films- one horror, and two scifi. These take priority for me. Beyond Skyline is the only film that plays both theaters at the same time, so that is a sure bet. I think it should go without saying that I’ll be there for Event Horizon. The other films I’m leaning toward (probably?) are Flora, Tuftland, Restoration, and The Black Hole. This really is a tough one to call. I might just do blind picks and know I’ll be happy either way.

If you’re a science fiction fan in the Austin area, you’d be doing a huge disservice to yourself to miss this film festival. Badges are still on sale, and tickets for individual screenings are also available while they last. I hope I see you there. I’ll be the overly excited girl in some sort of spacey dress. Please say hello if you see me, so I can reiterate to you in person why Other Worlds Austin consistently makes me so happy.

Cheers!
Gemmi

P.S. Don’t forget to follow my new Facebook and Instagram accounts so we can discuss all your favorite festivals and films!