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Sci-fi, gaming and campy movies collide at GnomeCon

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POSTED: April 11, 2014 8:31 a.m.
Jessica Leigh Lebos/Connect Savannah

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ALL THE FANBOYS and gamer girls will come out to play this weekend, when GnomeCon descends upon Savannah like a beneficent dragon.

Now in its third year, the locally-organized sci-fi, fantasy and gaming convention has grown formidable wings, hosting three days of role-playing and more the Coastal Georgia Center April 11-13. There will be more authors, artists, filmmakers and gaming industry poo-bahs than ever at this magical gathering of self-proclaimed geeks, who are encouraged to bring their costumes and card collections.

While Nikki Wulf’s cosplay masquerade contest will surely be a highlight, many come to GnomeCon to meet fellow fantasy fans and play European and miniature-based board games. Highly anticipated this year is “I Drank What?” which may sound like a frat house hobby but is really Empire Games’ darkly hilarious contest of wills inspired by everyone’s favorite scene from The Princess Bride.

In between rounds, gnomers can catch performances by comedian Phil Keeling and the Odd Lot Improv Troupe, hear what inspires bestselling fantasy writers Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett and shop the sci-fi book sale to benefit Live Oak Public Libraries. Angela Beasley’s Puppet People and craft projects will keep little gnome hands entertained.

Also on the docket is a panel and screening with writer/director Larry Blamire, the twisted mind behind the Lost Skeleton of CadavraTrail of the Screaming Forehead and other B-rate cult favorites. Blamire will screen his films Friday evening and host a Sunday panel with GnomeCon veteran Todd “Professor Fear” Hanson. Blamire spoke with Connect last week about Monsterpalooza, spoofing Ed Wood and turning his steampunk project into a tabletop game.

Connect Savannah: Growing up, were you a huge fan of 1950's sci-fi horror movies?

Larry Blamire: Oh yes, I've been into monsters since I was a kid! The Superman TV shows, all the Godzillas, King Kong and of course, all of the Ray Harryhausen movies [Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, the original Clash of the Titans].

Ray was the stop-motion king. Years later he gave his name as a presenter on Trail of the Screaming Forehead, which was a huge honor.

When it came time for me to make a movie, it was a spoof of those really low-budget ‘50s movies.

CS: Are we talking It Came from Outer Space and those 3-D drive-in favorites?

LB: Actually, It Came from Outer Space was on the higher end! That was a studio release. Put an independent like Plan 9 from Outer Space next to that and you can see what low-budget really means.

CS: So you're more of an indy guy?

LB: Definitely. The ones we spoof in our movies are the lowest of 'em all. Cat-Women of the Moon and the like. And of course, any Ed Wood movie.

CS: How do you capture the authentic cheesiness of it all?

LB: First of all, we have a great ensemble. I use the same actors in all my movies, so we're kind of like a family. And we have great designers who are into that classic look.

The last film we did was A Dark and Stormy Night, which was based on those 1930’s murder mysteries. We shot entirely on a soundstage, and production designer Anthony Tremblay came up with this incredible 1930s mansion set. Of course for the exterior shots, we use a small model, just like in the originals.

CS: Your ensemble includes your lovely wife, the actress Jennifer Blaire. What's it like to work together?

LB: It's terrific to work with Jen! And she's got such a great look, straight out of Cat-Women from the Moon.

The role she’s most famous for is Animala, who appears in The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. We’ll be shooting a third one later this year hopefully call The Lost Skeleton Walks Among Us. The great Animala will return!

CS: You also have a steampunk project in the works.

LB: Steam Wars completely different from the movie spoofs. It's a steampunk/sci-fi action adventure set in the year 1897 where warfare is fought with these machine warriors. You know how in WWII movies you follow a battalion or a tank and really get to know the crew? Well, it's like that except with these giant machines.

It’s a very visual concept. I’ve done a bunch of paintings around the concept, and last year Geek magazine published some of them with an article about Steam Wars. I’ve now partnered with some people on it, and the first thing we want to do is a series of three graphic novels, which are just about complete. Those will hopefully lead to a giant, huge, epic motion picture project [laughs].

I’d also like to do a tabletop game like the kind they play at GnomeCon.

CS: Do you guys go to a lot of sci-fi conventions?

LB: We do go to a fair amount. We go to Monsterpalooza in L.A., which started up a few years ago and is getting bigger, and we've been to Wonderfest in Kentucky a few times.

We have a 3-year-old, which makes it a little harder to go convention-hopping. We’re also just so busy! There’s the third Lost Skeleton movie, and we’re also close to launching The Adventures of Big Dan Frater, an audiobook that’s like an old time radio show using the characters from Trail of the Screaming Forehead.

CS: Do you entertain your son with some of those classic monster movies?

LB: Well, he's not quite ready for those. But he does love Ultraman, which is this Japanese TV show from the '60s with monsters. And he likes Scooby-Doo.

CS: Is there any truth to the rumor on the GnomeCon website that you and Professor Fear are going to attempt a séance to contact the spirit of 1950s movie scream queen Evelyn Ankers?

LB: I've heard that, too. I have no idea how to go about such a thing, but I'm totally up for it.

GnomeCon

When: Fri-Sun, April 11-13; full schedule online

Where: Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Fahm St.

Cost: $45 3-day pass; individual day passes available; kids free (one per adult)

Info: gnomecon.org

 

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