Zombies rule at Monster Mania Convention

Cadavera (left) and Stabigail join fellow horror film fans in the lobby at the Monster Mania Convention.
Cadavera (left) and Stabigail join fellow horror film fans in the lobby at the Monster Mania Convention. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 10, 2014

CHERRY HILL The Monster Mania Convention in Cherry Hill is a congenial nightmare, with merchandising.

For the 11th straight year, horror movie fans and the stars of scary movies came together for a campy weekend of blood and giggles in South Jersey, the least terrifying place on the planet - unless you fear the Container Store.

It's a good bet no one at the convention was torn between being there and heading to the Philadelphia Flower Show across the river. The folks at the monster mash in the Crowne Plaza Hotel are from a different part of the jungle. Any blossoms there are either dead and stinking or in the clutches of walking corpses.

"My zombie baby gets heavy," said Zoth - "just Zoth" - a tall, 40-year-old New York City man holding a creepy infant doll while pushing a stroller containing a creepier, bloodier toddler doll.

A keen observer of the horror scene, Zoth, who creates signs and graphics for Macy's in Manhattan, looked troubled when he saw a guy in a Dracula costume walk by.

Theme-wise, Zoth said, vampires are so 2011.

It's all about the living dead, he explained, which is why his wife, Marilyn Mansfield, designs the zombie dolls he was showing off, called UNborn Creations.

"They're in the culture now," Zoth decreed, and you dare not disbelieve him, staring as he was with dark eyes from a stony face, the air of menace wafting off him.

Zoth aside, most of the folks at the convention were in a light mood, buoyed by ubiquitous depictions of death, anguish, and dismemberment.

For example, Stabigail and Cadavera, two South Philadelphia women dressed like expired vamps, flirted and smiled as they explained that convention-goers love to explore what's taboo and frightening without having to experience danger.

"It's all farce," Stabigail said.

"Who doesn't want to pretend?" Cadavera asked, her green skin glowing with the vibrancy of radioactive waste on a moonless night.

With that, the women were off to browse the freakish knickknacks offered by busy vendors.

One suspects that what's happening inside the heads of the people who design these items could frighten Freud and keep a corps of therapists endlessly occupied.

There were Hello Kitty dolls with snakes wriggling out of their noggins; SpongeBobs soaked in blood, their mouths frozen in a rictus of eternal torment; and all manner of professional make-up kits that allow people to create weeping wounds on various parts of their bodies.

As compelling as this hopped-up Halloween party in March can be, however, the convention's big draws were the movie folk.

Robert Englund - Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street movie franchise - was on hand. So were Lisa and Louise Burns, all grown up now but forever infamous as the Grady twins from The Shining.

Nearly three dozen other actors were there as well, few as popular as 14-year-old Chandler Riggs from the AMC series The Walking Dead.

Almost as sought after was Drea De Matteo, now on the FX show Sons of Anarchy and formerly Adriana on T he Sopranos.

Many of the celebrities sat at tables, signing photographs of themselves for $30 each.

"This is just great," enthused Debbie Mankita, 33, a Long Island social worker dressed as a bleeding punk artist. "It's about adrenaline from being scared, and, then, it's about the relief you feel afterward. It's fun."

The convention, which started Friday, runs through Sunday afternoon.


alubrano@phillynews.com

215-854-4969

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