The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Giant Ants! Flying, Fire-Breathing Turtles! Look Out, Here Comes G-Fest!

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 8, 2015 6:00PM

Gamera is 50 years old!

It may be immeasurably slicker, but at heart Jurassic World is modern Hollywood's prehistoric spin on Destroy All Monsters—an all-star assemblage of giant beasties wreaking havoc. So with the multiplexes still packing 'em in to see death by dinosaur, what better time for a convention devoted to Godzilla and other kaiju (Japanese monsters)?

Yes, G-Fest is back for its 22nd edition, and though festival organizers insist on listing July 10 as its opening day, don't you believe it! As with recent editions, the highlight for retro monster movie fans is actually the day before the convention floors welcome guests, when the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge hosts two double features of kaiju craziness.

The first twin bill on Thursday, July 9 has been dubbed "Big Bug Afternoon," and departs from the Japanese-centric offerings for two American features. Them! (1954) is a legitimate sci-fi classic. Even those who turn up their noses at Godzilla and his rubber-suited kind may be impressed by this smart, exciting tale of giant mutant ants. Heavier on the cheese, but still a fair amount of fun, is The Deadly Mantis (1957), with a different breed of oversized insects out for a kill. Them! screens at 1 p.m. and The Deadly Mantis at 3 p.m.

The evening two-fer celebrates the 50th anniversary of Gamera, the giant flying turtle. At 7 p.m., he battles a bizarre, reptilian rival in Gamera vs. Jiger (1970), the sixth film in the original series. At 9 p.m., you can see the shelled one's 1995 comeback film, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.

There's more movie madness after the convention proper opens on Friday, with the Lizard King himself taking center stage (no, not Jim Morrison, though it would have been fun to see him trample Tokyo). Friday night at 10:45 p.m., you can catch Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), which had been scheduled last year but had to be replaced at the last minute. Saturday at 10:30 p.m., enjoy more of Blue Oyster Cult's favorite creature in Godzilla X Megaguirus (2000).

There's much more going on than movies at G-Fest, of course. Other events for the weekend include appearances by filmmakers, actors and other artists associated with kaiju films; dealer tables loaded with monster merch; artwork displays and classes; games and contests; panel discussions; soundtrack-related music performances; and a whole lot more. The Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare in Rosemont is the main base for the convention and the bulk of the events. For the full schedule, ticket information and more details, click here.