Listen to the Band: The Charles Band Full Moon Horror Roadshow

On Thursday, Trash City hosted the Charles Band Full Moon Horror Roadshow at the MADCAP Theaters in downtown Tempe, and a crowd of about 150 enthusiastic fans enjoyed an evening of anecdotes, clips, props, audience participation and rampant consumerism. It’s the third time we’ve been involved with the event: after hosting it the first time Band came to Phoenix in September 2006, Chris was brought on board to find other venues, nationwide, for the tour in both 2008 and 2009.

I can’t come up with anything that’s quite like it. It seems to hark back to the early days of carnival cinema, when a showman would travel town-to-town, setting up his tent and showing some luridly-exploitational title such as Sex Madness, with separate showings for men and women, naturally! He’d sell some merchandise to make additional cash, then leave town before the authorities could react to the potential moral corruption in their midst. While other directors have done one-man shows – Kevin Smith and John Waters come to mind immediately – they don’t bring quite the same sense of showmanship. Think of it as a one-night FullMoonapalooza [next year, we would perhaps like to tie it in with some movie screenings in the afternoon]

Band is among the most prolific film-makers of his time, and the son of Albert Band, who made films in his own right, including the marvellously-titled I Bury the Living. Charles has 241 production credits on his IMDb page at time of writing, going back to his debut in 1973 with Last Foxtrot in Burbank. He gave Demi Moore her first starring role in in 1982’s Parasite, and has been involved with the likes of Klaus Kinski, Lance Henriksen, Bill Maher and Oscar-winner Gary Busey. Sci-fi, horror and soft-porn have been his bread and butter for over 30 years, and he survived the implosion of his theatrical venture, Empire Pictures, in the late 1980’s.

Long-running franchises like the Puppet Master series have been the staple of video-store shelves forever. The upcoming Puppet Master: Axis of Evil will be the tenth film to bear the name since the original came out, two decades ago, and if there’s a horror movie with dolls, puppets or other tiny terrors in it, there’s a good chance Band is involved. We’re not talking great art, let’s be honest. However, they can be great fun, and are a refreshing blast of nostalgia from a kinder, gentler genre era, before the advent of torture-porn. Much like Troma head Lloyd Kaufman, Band has stuck to doing what he wants, has survived and is still in the business. Such tenacity can only be respected.

Like any showman, Band makes full use of a good title. Here are my favorites from among the 200+ in his career:

  1. Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust
  2. Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
  3. Teenage Space Vampires
  4. Virgins of Sherwood Forest
  5. Mutant Hunt
  6. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama
  7. Evil Bong II: King Bong
  8. Robot Holocaust
  9. Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000
  10. Kraa! The Sea Monster

As you can imagine, there’s no shortage of anecdotes available to him for the Roadshow, and that forms the focus of the show. He’ll sometimes bring special guests with him, such as Tim Thomerson, star of the Trancers series: at the first Phoenix event, we met Phil Fondacaro, a 3’6″ tall actor, perhaps best known for playing the only Ewok to die on screen in Return of the Jedi [“It’s a start…” mutter many Star Wars fans on reading that!]. The second show was also notable for the full-size guillotine on stage, used to carry out the live decapitation of an audience member, complete with severed head flying into the crowd. Cool. There was also the Boner-Meter, an eight-foot phallic-shaped piece of pseudo-scientific equipment; in 2009, it was an electric chair, complete with sound effects and flashing lights – I’ll get to its purpose in a moment.

Participation is a vital part of the show, not least when he gets attendees up on stage to act out a scene. This involves “auditions” for the various roles – straightforwardly described as Hero, Monster, Damsel in Distress, etc. – with the title [in 2008; I missed that section this year] generated by pulling random words from slips of paper supplied by the audience. It usually ends up as being Revenge of the Teenage Zombie Cheerleaders, or something of that ilk. The requirements are straightforward: the largest guy who can roar loudest, is the monster, while the female roles similarly go to those with the most convincing scream. Oh, and especially those prepared to take their tops off in exchange for merchandise. Ah, yes. The usual Mardi Gras cry of “Beads for boobies!” was supplanted by  “Box-sets for breasts!” here – and surprisingly effective it proved, too.

Of course, this was strictly nudity necessary to the plot: this time, it was because exposed bosoms were the only thing which could calm the savage killer after he escaped from his electric chair [See? I told you I’d get to its purpose!], because they reminded him of his childhood. Brilliant! Makes perfect sense to me, anyway. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the silver-tongued Band has been producing movies in Hollywood for more than thirty years. Mind you, this year’s show was a great deal more restrained than last, where there was at least one participant who had to be talked into keeping her clothes on until the appropriate moment. That’s likely because this time, it was  taking place in a cinema rather than a bar, with a selection of alcohol limited to Bud and Bud Light. To quote a work colleague, why is American beer like having sex in a canoe? Because they’re both fucking close to water. We will be correcting this shameful omission next year. Trust me.

Merchandise is also an important part of the event – I would say between the DVDs, CDs, prints, T-shirts and the models which are offered for sale, it probably generates more income for Full Moon than the ticket sales. I worked the stalls at the first two shows, and can attest to the feeding frenzy which erupts after the show is over. We had learned from this, and had recruited minions from Full Moon fans prior to the event to help out Scott, Brent and Harlan (the last being Charles’s son), the roadies for the tour.

Charles sat at one of the end tables and patiently signed anything put in front of him, chatting with a long line of fans, as shown in the picture atop this article. I’ve seen other celebrities show up at these kind of events, and it’s more like a production line, as they hurry you through, so the star can escape the unwashed masses as soon as possible. That wasn’t the case here at all, and kudos to Band for his unhurried patience: he didn’t leave until the last fan in the line had been met, greeted and dispatched on his or her happy way. Indeed, Band was one of the last to leave the venue – we know this, because we drove him back to his hotel on our way home.

Like most such events, the work involved behind the scenes is (or should be!) invisible to the participants. We dodged a bullet this time, as last year’s venue closed abruptly last month – fortunately, our Spidey senses had been tingling, and we had already moved the show to a new location in downtown Tempe. When it’s over, the reaction – as with all such events – is inevitably, “Thank God.” But it’s the kind of event we would love to attend as a fan, and when it’s a success, the sense of satisfaction which results is all the greater. We look forward to being a part of the Horror Roadshow again in 2010. Just as long as we can sort the whole beer thing out.