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Horror Realm Celebrates the Genre

on Mon, 03/02/2015 - 00:00

Zombies. Alien vegetation. Killer cars. Like any city, Pittsburgh has had its fair share of the supernatural through the years. Although George Romero can be cited as the main culprit behind such occurrences, author Stephen King based his 1983 novel Christine in the Steel City, and “Chilly Billy” Cardille likewise played as large of a role as anyone in transforming the horror genre into a Saturday night tradition with his Chiller Theater television series on station WIIC. Pittsburgh is also fortunate to have not one but two annual gatherings of horror fans in the region—Monster Bash, which caters to the classic monster films of the 1940s and 1950s, and Horror Realm, which focusses on the more nightmarish productions that evolved in the ’70s and ’80s.

“We were involved early on with organizing zombie walks in the city and produced two conventions in conjunction with them in 2007 and 2008,” Horror Realm promotor Sandy Stuhlfire says of the convention’s roots. “We decided to move forward in 2009 with the convention arm to expand and encompass more of the horror genre while the other part of the group continued with the walks. We’ve heard from horror fans for years that they would like to have our own convention instead of having to travel to another city. Being fans ourselves who do travel, we saw the value of a hometown horror show and started our own. We feel we are a modern complement to the classic horror focus of the long running Monster Bash show in the area.”

Salt Lake City, Cosplay and Charity

on Tue, 02/17/2015 - 00:00

Pop Culture and comic book conventions are filled with an assortment of sights, sounds and activities to keep one busy for hours on end. Artists’ Alleys contain numerous illustrators and graphic artists—some legendary while others are just beginning to receive their due recognition—ready to create specially-commissioned sketches. A multitude of celebrity guests are available for autographs and photo opportunities, while vendors have a full-array of merchandise available for purchase. Fans dressed as Jedi Knights, hobbits and zombies, Ghostbusters and time-travelling Doctors are also an integral part of the experience. A series of panel discussions throughout the day round out the activities, as both celebrities and fans alike meet to converse on a multitude of Geek and Pop Culture issues and genres.

There’s even more to a modern day Pop Culture extravaganza, however, as many fan-based organizations have begun using the convention scene as a way to raise both awareness and donations for an assortment of non-profit charities. The Salt Lake FanXperience in January 2015 was no different as the vendor room contained an assortment of local fanclubs to go along with the merchandise on sale, including the Rebel Legion of Star Wars, the Ghostbusters of Salt Lake City, the Utah Browncoats, H.E.R.O.I.C. Inc., the Legacy Initiative and the Kids Heroes Foundation. In addition to cosplaying for fun, members of these organizations don their capes, masks, proton packs and lightsabers for charity events across the state of Utah, combining their love for their respective fandoms with the opportunity to do some good and give back to their communities in the process.

Star Wars: Hunt for the Holocron

on Mon, 02/16/2015 - 00:00

According to the mythology of Star Wars, a holocron is an organic crystal-lattice device that has been used for thousands of years by Jedi and Sith alike to store vast amounts of sensitive data, while the knowledge contained within these devices is often lucrative and deeply coveted by both sides of the Force. The long-lost holocron of Kanek Suhnra, meanwhile, is considered to be of extraordinary value and significance. When the item is inadvertently unearthed on the planet Elian, it is a race against time between Jedi Knight E’Din Kyle and the Dark Lord Dregr Jarrat—as well as each other—to recover the legendary artifact. Brothers Bando and Sahn Jinkuru of Elian eventually become entangled in the ensuing battle, and soon find themselves risking their own lives for the sake of the Jedi cause in the process.

Star Wars: Hunt for the Holocron did not originate within the fertile mind of George Lucas, however, but is instead a Pittsburgh-made fan film from first time director Martin Spitznagel that made its debut at the Hollywood Theater on April 20, 2013. A labor of love and homage to the original series of blockbuster films, Spitznagel spent over 10 years crafting the script, filming the scenes and editing the footage into a 30-minute finished product. A steady stream of rewrites and reshoots—as well as a computer hardware failure in 2007 that erased countless hours of effort—almost ended the project prematurely, but Spitznagel persevered nonetheless. “I think, despite its flaws, the film has an essential earnestness about it,” he says upon reflection. “You can see how much we cared and how much work we put into it. It’s a handmade B-movie love letter to that place of childlike wonder that Star Wars transports us to, and I’m very proud of my friends and I for finishing it.”