I'm not a virgin anymore! Before this weekend, I'd never attended a horror convention, but Irving, Texas whispered sweet nothings in my ear and deflowered me at their annual event that draws thousands of rabid horror fans into a cramped hotel space. Texas Frightmare Weekend lasted more than a weekend -- the film fest started on Wednesday night and the convention ran through that Sunday -- but I managed to squeeze a couple of hours in on Saturday, and I'm back to report that there were a lot of cool sights crammed into the time I was there.
5. The Celebrities!
The Guest of Honor at this year's Frightmare was John Carpenter, and while I did spot him signing autographs, I didn't actually get the chance to meet him. His line was the longest by far, followed by guests Elvira (still beautiful), Sid Haig (still not-so-beautiful), Lance Henriksen, and George A. Romero. I saw two Jasons -- Kane Hodder and the ridiculously friendly Derek Mears -- and spotted cast members from Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead.
What's cool is how accessible many of these familiar faces were at the event. I made small talk with Jarlath Conroy (the chopper pilot Brit from Day of the Dead) right when I entered the main hall, talked to Lucky McKee for a bit at a table hawking Full Moon merchandise, and shook hands with Julian Sands (whose horror work I've actually never seen -- we ended up talking about a movie he's in that I love, Leaving Las Vegas).
The celebs were definitely the central focus of Texas Frightmare Weekend, but the autograph hunting can be costly and you spend a lot of time standing in line. It's not my favorite part of the convention scene, but, it is really wild to look around and spot Charles Cyphers or Meg Foster chatting with fans, in-person.
4. The Indies
The toughest part of Texas Frightmare Weekend is trying to figure out which indie film label delivers the goods. Almost all of the little production houses are manned by excellent salespeople, and they're all overwhelmingly passionate about their homegrown films. Our own Peter S. Hall enjoyed The Landlord (from Massive Ego Productions) and I'd heard of The Wild Man of the Navidad from last year's Fantastic Fest, but what about Texas original Kodie (about a cursed killer who dresses like a teddy bear) or the vampire comedy Blood on the Highway?
Little Oak Film Group was probably the most enthusiastic concerning their own DIY product. Started by two Houston-area high school teachers (inspired by indie-horror filmmaker Parrish Randall), they've made six features since the company's birth in 2007, with an emphasis on strong women, both on-screen and behind-the-scenes.
The event scheduled a Christine reunion of the cast and crew, so, of course, the most memorable member of the cast was on-hand -- Christine, herself. The cherry red '57 Plymouth Fury sat in a corner of the main hall, surrounded by every published iteration of Stephen King's original source novel. She's freaking gorgeous. I'm not the only one who feels this way either. The car has inspired her devotees to start the Christine Car Club, where owners of '57 and '58 Plymouths are encouraged to get their car Christine-ified. Shouldn't be too hard to do for two of the members -- they each own an actual car used in the 1983 John Carpenter film.
2. Texas Triffid Ranch
There are few things in the world cooler than carnivorous plants. Paul Riddell, owner of the Texas Triffid Ranch, brought some interesting, lovely specimens to the event, and this guy really knows his stuff. I got a rapid-fire lesson about an Australian flower that snaps up its victims so quickly, they literally look like they vanish into thin air. Riddell seems like the kind of guy who loves his job, and why not? He gets to exercise his green thumb in a way that suits his own off-beat interests.
1. The Artists
There were a lot of talented artists on display, ranging from the mounted critters of The Insect Kingdom to etched glass tumblers featuring classic horror icons. I ended up buying two pieces from artist Chris Kuchta -- a Frankenstein keychain and a Bride of Frankenstein print. Kuchta's work struck a chord with me -- vibrant, colorful pieces, reminiscent of Basil Gogos, but with slightly more impressionistic brush work. What also grabbed my attention was Kuchta's obvious love of classic horror. There were several Universal Monsters paintings, as well as pieces inspired by Hammer Films. However, one of my favorites was an image from modern horror -- Jason Voorhies looming over the altar to his decapitated mother.