This past weekend myself and and some other members of the Horror Syndicate family were able to make it to Cherry Hill, NJ for Monster-Mania Convention 42. My first Monster-Mania convention was back in 2004, and I have been attending regularly ever since. I attend both March and August shows, each usually being a highlight of my year. It’s always great to meet favorite celebrities, chat with familiar vendors and friends, and purchase tons of merchandise. It’s always a blast, and this show was no exception.
(If you’re not particularly interested in the details of what we did, feel free to skip the recap part and go right to the review. I won’t be offended.)
This go round I only attended on Saturday. My buddy Bill and I booked a hotel room for Saturday night just down the road from the convention venue. Saturday morning started off with a delicious cup of Wawa coffee, which has become even more of a delicacy to me since I moved to PA where there isn’t a Wawa on every corner. We strolled into the parking lot and took a shuttle to the venue (more on that later). When we arrived at the venue about ten minutes prior to opening, I decided my first order of business would be to head to the autograph room to meet the Soska sisters. Meeting them was the highlight of the show. They could not have been any more friendly and welcoming. We had a great chat, and took some awesome pics. I was excited to have them sign my Dead Hooker in a Trunk blu-ray. We also took this amazing picture (the other gal in the photo is one of my best friends Melinda):
After that meeting, I honestly felt like I could just go home. Thankfully, we didn’t have to. After taking a peek at the other celebs in the room, Bill, Melinda, and I started our first trek through the vendor rooms. Anyone who has read my Horror Con Survival Guide knows that I typically don’t make any purchases on my first journey through the vendor rooms. It was awesome taking everything in, and being able to chat with the vendors that I buy all my swag from. It’s like seeing an old friend. Going through all the vendors took about two hours and led right into lunchtime. For lunch the three of us took advantage of the all you can eat fajita bar at the restaurant in the hotel, which provided a great meal and some much need rest and relaxation.
After lunch it was time to hit the vendor rooms again and make some purchases. Unfortunately I had a rather large heating oil bill to pay before the con which reduced my budget, but I still grabbed a few things and left satisfied. I picked up copies of Adywan’s Revisited fan edits for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. I won’t get into detail about what these are, curious parties can give it a Google. Suffice it to say I was really looking forward to this purchase. I also picked up copies of Blood Cult (1985) and The Ogre (1988). The highlight for me though was getting a chance to meet director Justin Seaman (The Barn), and the rest of the crew at the Scream Team Releasing table. I got to chat with the lovely Mike Lombardo (of THS and I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday fame) and a longtime friend and THS contributor Bryan Enright (Cuddlez, and the host of THS Lives!). I also grabbed a copy of Bong of the Living Dead which I am stoked to watch.
Bill and I went back to our hotel room about 3:30 to try and relax and recharge, for we knew we had a long night ahead of us. After dinner at a local pizza joint we hit the vendor room for one last time to make sure we had what we needed. Then we started a pair of informative Q&A sessions, the first being with action star Dolph Lundgren, and the latter being a Halloween reunion with Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney, Will Sandlin, Sandy Johnson, and Jibrail Nantambu. Following the panels was the always entertaining costume contest, and then finally to cap off the evening we participated in the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show with the phenomenal shadow cast from Transylvania Nipple Productions. After catching a few hours of sleep that night at the hotel, we were Pennsylvania bound and the post convention were starting to settle in.
As I said before, this may have been my favorite overall convention experience since I started attending regularly in 2004. Surely by now everyone has heard about the difficulties experienced at the show last March with the overcrowding issues that led to people not being able to attend the show. As I said publicly in my assessment of that show (found here), I knew that the Hagan family and all who were involved in putting the show together would make the changes needed to prevent that from happening again. And they sure did.
For the first time ever, tickets for the Saturday portion of the show sold out in the week leading up to the event. Now I know folks who weren’t able to get in were upset, but it went a long way to helping with the crowding issues. Along with capping ticket sales, they have also used a new wristband system at the last two conventions. During that March show, what most folks are probably unaware of, is that there was a system of counterfeiting going on. People were duplicating the wristbands. This obviously led to a lot more people at the show than anticipated. These new wristbands must be scanned, and are therefore not as easy to counterfeit. While there were a ton of people there this weekend, the crowds were not an issue for me at all. I was comfortable and able to move freely, for the most part.
Another factor that aided in providing an amazing overall experience was the generosity in the hotel itself with helping with the parking issue. One thing Monster-Mania is known for is the incredible shortage of parking for attendees, usually resulting in a crazy far walk. This time the hotel rented space offsite which provided ample parking as well as providing a shuttle every 15 minutes to take attendees to and from the show. This was an amazing feature that I hope will be a staple going forward.
The last factor I’ll discuss here that helped make this Monster-Mania my favorite was being able to take in all that they had to offer with some of my closest friends. This sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Since I’ve moved to PA I’ve really only done Monster-Mania as a day trip. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do the later Q&A sessions and things like the costume contest and Rocky Horror. Because we were staying nearby, we were able to take in all that goodness. It helped round out the weekend and really presented a full-orbed convention experience.
So there it is. I’ve seen Monster-Mania receive a lot of flak from people over the last couple years. I always sort of take that personally. I guess I’m biased because it was my introduction to the world of conventions, and growing up right around the corner it feels like home. That being said, this show continues to deliver every year. I’m sure not everyone had as great an experience I did, and I’m sorry that’s the case. What I do know is that the folks at Monster-Mania are as committed as ever to putting on the shows that fans want to see, and they show no signs of slowing down. Can’t wait until August to do it all again.