Jeffrey Combs hears the same set of questions every time he makes an appearance at a convention. But Combs, best known for his roles in the 1990s, televised incarnations of Star Trek and as Dr. Herbert West of the cult classic Re-Animator, isn’t tired of answering.
Combs is in town for HorrorHound Weekend, a huge annual horror movie convention put together by the folks at Cincinnati-based HorrorHound magazine. He’ll be joined by almost the entire central cast or Re-Animator for a 25-year reunion panel discussion at the event. They’ll also sign autographs and talk with fans.
Malcolm McDowell of A Clockwork Orange and The Exorcist’s Linda Blair are among the other familiar faces at the party.
"People want me to say that my favorite role is the one that happens to be their favorite role,” Combs says. “I just answer it honestly, ‘I don’t have a favorite role.’ I ask people, if they are old enough, ‘Do you have children? Which one is your favorite?’ All my roles are like offspring so picking one over the other is not something I want to venture into.”
Combs, who’s done quite a bit of stage work and has characterized Edgar Allen Poe in a one-man performance reminiscent of Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain, says conventions give screen actors an opportunity for much-desired feedback.
"When you work on and you do a movie, you’re in a bubble — you’re in a vacuum, really — not knowing if your work or the piece is having an impact,” Combs says. “You really are on an asteroid somewhere making this stuff. It’s really gratifying and somewhat surprising when years later you can go to a convention and actually have interplay with your audience and they can tell you, ‘That meant a lot to me,’ or ‘You really made an impact,’ or ‘You scared the hell out of me.’”
Jeffrey Combs, who starred in Re-Animator, will appear at Horrorhound Weekend in Sharonville.
Nathan Hanneman, editor-in-chief of HorrorHound, says his team tries to outdo itself every year with the convention. This weekend’s is the ninth they’ve done and the second one in Cincinnati.
"We’ve convinced celebrities who have never done shows before to do our events,” Hanneman says. “We’ve had celebrities who’ve denied doing this stuff for years because they thought it was going to be a nightmare and they have so much fun they can't stop doing them. I think they have the preconceived notion that the fans think they are the characters from the movie, but they find intelligent fans when they arrive.”
Two thousand people came out for last year’s event, and Hanneman says he expects double that number this year. It’s a big deal, with folks coming from as far as London, Italy and Iceland to attend.
"The funny thing is when you see footage of people who barely talk to celebrities it’s mostly because the fan is kind of scared,” Hanneman says. “That’s usually why the conversations don’t go beyond this. The celebrities always get a kick out of the fans who know their more oddball works.”
Hanneman says HorrorHound Weekend appeals to families more than other, similar events. That draw is one of the reasons the convention is being held at the CoCo Key Water Resort in Sharonville. Besides tables of vendors and screen personalities, there’s a film festival running throughout the weekend and a pool party on Saturday night.
Stunt man and actor Peter Kent, who has stunt-doubled for Arnold Schwarzenegger over the course of 14 films, is also a Re-Animator alumnus. This is only the second convention Kent has ever attended, and he says he’s very excited.
Kent describes himself as an adrenaline junkie and has nearly been killed too many times to count. The fall guy has launched himself into the sky on motorcycles, been set afire and crashed more cars than most people have driven. (But when he winds up in the hay, it’s just hay.)
Kent says, as he gets older, he prefers, “the acting because I find it more intellectual and less physical. But there’s a lot of fun in heroing out.”
Kent draws a sharp line between what he’s done for a living and the indie stunts that have risen to prominence with YouTube.
"One thing that bothers me about the Jackass genre is it encourages a lot of young guys who don’t know better to attempt dangerous stunts,” says Kent, who teaches stunt work to interested amateurs and heads up a team of stunt men on the TV show Stunt Dawgs.
Kent admits he was that kind of kid and took crazy risks in his youth. Finding a way to make this predilection into a unique and satisfying vocation has been the realization of a dream.
"Getting the chance to do something unique, there’s a certain satisfaction with that,” Kent says. “A lot of times I just barely get away with my life.”
HORRORHOUND WEEKEND is 4-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Afterparties start at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and the pool party is 10 p.m. Saturday. The Re-Animator Q&A session is 3:40 p.m. Saturday. Film screenings run throughout the event.
Admission is $20 per day or $45 for the entire weekend; Gold Pass is $100 and includes afterparties both nights; the pool party is $15 or included with Gold Pass admission. Crowne Plaza Hotel North and CoCo Key Water Resort, 11320 Chester Road, Sharonville, Exit 15 off I-75. For more info, check www.horrorhoundweekend.com.