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Celebrating Horror Culture in Australia

zombie weddingI was married late last year.

It was on a very lucky day, both for me and for the whole world. We held the ceremony and reception on 22 December, the day after the predicted end of the world, as foretold by the Mayan culture, or at least as interpreted by millions around the world.

As such, we held a post-apocalyptic themed wedding.

It was a small celebration of our love and that the world didn’t end.

Our guests sated our desire for fancy dress by wearing a plethora of costumes, from the standard zombie to dark angels, vampires and Death personified.

We also had one special surprise: a hired zombie. There is a local company that specialises in zombie hire. Hollywood quality make-up and the ability to stay in character for hours on end lent this zombie some real believability.

The staff at the function centre were awestruck. Our zombie, shambling around on a chain held by different guests throughout the function, was photographed and filmed for the entire time he was in attendance.

This, to me, personifies the growing cultural obsession with horror in Australia and the world. From The Walking Dead to American Horror Story, horror is embedding itself in television as much as it has always been in film and literature. More and more companies and events in Australia are based around horror. Our wedding is potentially a sign of the times.

Companies such as Zombiehire.com, the source of our zombie, are becoming more common in this new decade. Their professionalism and expertise in make-up will see them in good stead. They hire out zombies for all occasions. Zombies for conventions, zombies for private functions such as weddings or (ironically) funerals; zombies for everything you could ever want one for. You can hire zombie masters-of-ceremony, zombie bands, zombie policemen, zombie nurses or doctors, and even an official zombie celebrant for weddings, with all the powers vested in normal, living, celebrants.

The CEO of Zombiehire.com, Jason Beks, takes his love of all things undead one step further by arranging the upcoming Melbourne Zombie Convention (MelZomCon), a celebration of rotting afterlife that centres on George Romero’s vision of the walking dead – mindless and hungry.

As one of the guests, Jason arranged to fly in Kim Paffenroth, acclaimed US scholar and zombiephile, author of the Dying to Live series, Valley of the Dead (which looks at Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s missing years, and how he discovered a valley teeming with the living dead which later informed his classic Inferno), and the Bram Stoker Award winning non-fiction volume Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth.

MelZomCon will bring together artists, writers, filmmakers and special effects artists, and unleash them on the unsuspecting general public in October of this year.

This flows on the heels of the inaugural Oz Horror Con which ran in January with great attendance. Hundreds of horror lovers gathered together in the very suitable ‘cellars’ of a historic, gothic building to celebrate all things horror.

More and more horror events and businesses seem to be popping up here in Oz, and as president of the Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA), I feel it is the AHWA’s responsibility to promote and encourage these to the best of our ability.

The upcoming Aradale Asylum Creative Retreat, organised and run by the AHWA, is something special to look forward to for everyone that has signed up to attend. At under $400, it is reasonably priced, and the cost includes full catering, a ghost tour on the Friday night and an ongoing paranormal investigation over the entire weekend.

Running from Friday 22 February until Sunday 24 February, the creative retreat allows interested people to stay two nights in the largest abandoned mental asylum in Australia.

The history of Aradale Mental Hospital was covered in more depth in my last column, but suffice it to say that it is a very foreboding and intimidating facility.

During the day, we’ll be writing in our own time, and at night we have the more structured set-up of tour and investigation.

On the Facebook event group, people have stated many aims for the weekend, but getting some serious writing achieved seems to be a constant.

Supernova is another big genre gathering, touring capital cities through the months of April through November. From the website:

Supanova Pop Culture Expo is where the adoring public comes face to face with Supa-Star [sic] celebrities and the creative talent that inspire their imaginary worlds under one big roof.

Gathered from and surrounded by the wonderful worlds of science-fiction, pulp TV/movies, toys, console gaming, trading cards, animation/cartoons, fantasy, comic books, entertainment technology, books, internet sites and fan-clubs, the result is an amazing atmosphere tailor made for expressing your inner geek and where getting into cosplay (costume role-play) is the obvious thing to do!

One of the main Supernova guests this year is Eliza Dushku, from Dollhouse and the Buffy/Angel TV series, as well as Wrong Turn and its sequels.

The business of horror is alive and well in Australia, and gaining momentum. Where it goes, we’ll have to see, but for me, I hope it goes well.

GEOFF BROWN

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