NJ Horror Con & Film Festival

Amber being "eaten" by the statue of the NJ Horror Con logo which has a skull inside the state shape.

Saturday August 19, 2023 Edison, NJ — I’ve attended several NJ Horror Con events including their Sideshow Marketplace. This year, I felt up to attending about a half a day out of the whole weekend. By then, my back was hurting and I wasn’t even wearing cosplay shoes. I had on my durable, sensible footwear. Even with a short visit, I can recommend these shows. They are fun and casual.

The main focus seems to be the celebrity guests. What’s funny is that the names I recognized, I did because of non-horror TV shows, like Amanda Righetti from The Mentalist. I love that show even though I don’t think Red John should have been [redacted]. I would have peed myself if Simon Baker was there. Certain guests like Righetti had specific photo op times in a different room.

Most of the celebs had standard tables setup in a room. All of them had equal floor real estate. Their tables were covered in posters of their most epic appearances. Fees for autographs and photos (that I got) were reasonable and affordable. Twenty to forty bucks for some face time without being rushed and getting as many selfies/photos as necessary were well worth it. The “pro” photo ops guarantee that you won’t fuck it up and get a blurry shot. Sean Whalen, Chris Sarandon, Jenna Jameson, Clint Howard, and Heather Matarazzo were just a few of the celebrities there.

The celebrity highlights for me:

Eric Roberts

Way, way back in 2018, there was a comic show in Atlantic City. The Legion of Super Villains cosplay group was there. I attended hoping to introduce yoga and a scheduled break time for people working and attending the show, but that failed miserably. Anyway, the group had been wandering around in small duos or trios but converged in the middle of an aisle next to elevators.

I was trying to take photos with all the cell phones handed to me when Eric Roberts jumped out of nowhere on his way to the elevators and photobombed us! I was in a state of juggling and dropping everything. The picture was blurry and terrible. NJ Horror Con would be my comeback!

collage with Eric Roberts

We were standing in line to meet Michael and Jessica from The Grimm Life Collective channel. The line wasn’t moving. About ten long strides from us sat Eric Roberts on a barstool next to his table where his assistant took money and handled the posters. I watched this man work it. He was peaceful, joyful, and smiling the whole time. There was never a mob of people in line either.

I said we should go meet him and get a photo if it was reasonably priced (it was). When the time came, I stood near Mr. Roberts and told him the Atlantic City story. I’m sure he’s heard way too many stories to digest all the information people dump on him.

He was Maroni in The Dark Knight and Robert Roy in Babylon; but my family would know him from his early acting days. It was 1978 and the movie King of the Gypsies was filming in the cemetery where my relatives are resting (hopefully in peace); it’s well-known for the interment of Roma people, hence the movie filming there. My people happen to be buried right next to the elaborate Gypsy plots with a lot of marble. I was six-years-old and my grandparents were cutting out newspaper articles about this movie filming nearby. It was one of those stories my grandfather always told just like he would about Phil Rizzuto (Yankees Hall of Famer) and Hela Young (Miss NJ 1971 and lottery announcer) living in our town. A real Hollywood movie was big news! If my grandparents were alive today, they would be so excited to hear that met the star of the movie. My photo with him would get tucked into the scrapbook.

The Grimm Life Collective

I’m a relatively new fan of the YouTube channel, The Grimm Life Collective created by Michael Kolence and Jessica Graves. I came upon them and a lot of other indie makers and creators during the pandemic when studios had a difficult time making new shows and movies.

Jessica from The Grimm Life Collective examining Baphomet cosplayer's robes

What I love about their show is that they show a lot of behind-the-scenes locations all over the country for horror and pop culture classic movies from The Goonies and The Lost Boys to Scream and Saw. I love BTS stuff especially for movies I will never watch because they’re too scary. I’m probably the only person alive that think Halloween III has any merit because it actually had to do with the traditions of Halloween goddammit! I love the idea of Saw, but I will never watch it. I get my level of serial killers from Criminal Minds and true crime documentaries. They’ve also done a walk through of filming locations for Hocus Pocus proving a Halloween movie does not need to cause a heart attack.

Michael and Jessica from The Grimm Life Collective talking to Baphomet cosplayer

One day, I commented on their Instagram that I wished they would come to New Jersey. I had no idea this was already in the works. Up in the charming location of Blairstown, Friday the 13th was filmed at a Boy Scout Camp. I don’t think The Grimm Life has ever covered that location.

If you ever watched Shark Week, you may know that the Matawan River had a summer of bull shark attacks which were the inspiration for Jaws by Peter Benchley. That’s my kind of horror movie—yes, back in the day, it was considered horror.

They also film (in)famous locations of where celebrities died or are interred. Another strange bit from history that The Grimm Life covered is Grover’s Mill, New Jersey where there was panic about The War of the Worlds.

Michael and Jessica from The Grimm Life Collective with Joe and Amber

In my early days of cosplaying and comic reviews, I was considered a “celebrity.” It was flattering and weird. I was a celebrity guest on panels and contests. Since then the vlog-o-sphere has exploded and there are sponsorships, memberships, and Patreon. I was trying to make that kind of environment before YouTube, Patreon et al. had the built-in functionality or even existed. So, I never thought I’d stand in a long line to meet people from YouTube. I’m glad I did.

Michael and Jessica from The Grimm Life Collective with Joe and Amber

Michael and Jessica “Baby Ghoul” are friendly, engaging, and present with every single person. I felt like I was popping by to see old friends. It was fun! But hey, in today’s entertainment landscape people from YouTube are almost as famous as TV and movie personalities. It was an absolute grand experience. I gave them copies of Misty Murder (my homage to slashers) and Cardiac Arrest (the first book in the Farrah Wethers mysteries) because both are set around Halloween time. Plus, they are obviously huge Stephen King fans and Misty Murder is complete nod to an author with that kind of legacy.

One of the best parts—Jessica recognized the name Burton Guster on Gus’ business card and all of us started singing, “Suck iiiiiitttt.”

suck it

Other things:

I picked up a new autumnal flannel from Shelby the Squirrelly Stitcher. I got to chat with Dennis Robinson, one of the comic creators of Lycan, a comic about the first werewolf and fellow podcaster. As is tradition, I had to say hello to Father Evil (one of the nicest scary-looking people you can meet).

Shelby and helper at Squirrelly Stitcher booth

In a bizarre coincidence, I talked to a woman named Steph who was selling vegan oils in various blends inspired by New Jersey. She was almost my neighbor! She looked at a Gothic house about ten houses down the street, but ended up in one of the other small towns nearby. She runs the Oil Well Scent Company.

collage of Steph with products from the Oil Well Scent Company

Another episode of The Grimm Life Collective is a tour of Buffalo Bill’s House from The Silence of the Lambs. The owner of the house, Chris, always has a booth at these shows now and he’s a great guy to talk to. He freaking remembered us from his first convention! You can vacation at the real house from the movie. They will also be hosting a Meet & Greet with Brooke Smith (the girl in the well) and she will supposedly be in a well for photo ops.

Joe with the owner of Buffalo Bill's House at the booth

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