Event Report: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2016Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
Despite having worked with the event itself for months leading up to April 29th, I was in no way, shape or form quite prepared for Texas Frightmare Weekend 2016. I’ve been to conventions before, and huge ones at that- Walker Stalker Convention 2015, Weekend of Horrors, Chiller, and four years of New York Comic Con among them- but even those shows didn’t quite have as much passion and horror know-how in the air as the Dallas/Fort Worth-based event. And as exciting as it was to be a relatively small part of putting it all together, it was even more exciting to experience it up close and personal.
Arriving early Friday afternoon, I made my way to the Hyatt Regency TFW, and immediately realized just how immense this event was: the line to check-in was already stretched to the entrance, and this was a full four-hours before the doors would open. Yet even beyond that, it was quite interesting to see how people were reacting to one another in that line: there was a natural, family-like rapport, with people discussion guests, movies they’d seen, costumes and much, much more. And even the presence of celebrities such as Lance Henriksen and Michael Beck on the line didn’t cause a mob scene; to this crowd, the excitement of Texas Frightmare was a completely different beast, overwhelming any sense of being intimidated or starstruck.
After checking into my room and stowing away the boatload of trivia prizes, I was summoned to the FANGORIA Booth by my cohorts at FANGORIA Musick. We set up the official FANGORIA booth with relatively little blood lost, offering vintage magazines unavailable elsewhere as well as other Texas Frightmare Exclusives, including a limited edition SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT poster from FANGORIA’s 2014 re-release, pre-signed magazines and much more. We also offered up posters from Vertical Entertainment, including THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (the final film produced by Wes Craven) and HOLIDAYS, all of which were signed by the filmmakers out of the Tribeca Film Festival.
Once I had some much-needed sustenance, I began to peruse the floor to see our boothmates, including former GWAR member Casey Orr, FANGORIA artist Brian Steward, Vinegar Syndrome, Rotten Cotten, Severin Films and many, more. After dropping some coin on irresistable collectibles, I helped pack up the booth for Day One and ran out to introduce MORTAL REMAINS with the film’s co-star JB Destiny, the second film of the fest following GETTING SCHOOLED. MORTAL REMAINS made FANGO’s Top 10 Films You Should See in 2016, and by the time the flick reached its bloody climax, it seemed many in the audience agreed.
Following MORTAL REMAINS, this writer met up with FANGORIA contributor Madeleine Koestner to attend the Frightmare General Hospital Party, decorated to look like the many set pieces of HALLOWEEN II. While a DJ blasted a variety of tunes, this party was perhaps most enjoyable from the many attendees vying for the top prize at the costume contest; costumes such as THIR13EN GHOSTS’ Jackal to John Wayne Gacy to THE WALKING DEAD’s Negan to THE BABADOOK’s Amelia were all out to play. However, no one could top the truly awesome costume that took the grand prize: TV-set Freddy Krueger, complete with a “Jennifer” Victim Doll, from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS.
While there was much fun to be had at Day One of Texas Frightmare Weekend, the roof practically blew off of the place on Day Two. Thousands amassed at the Hyatt Regency DFW on Saturday, April 30th, for easily the craziest day this writer spent at any convention. From having breakfast next to a Horace Pinker cosplayer to hastily setting up the booth for VIP passholders, a surreal morning would certainly lead to an equally surreal day.
When noon struck, this writer made his way to the Aviator’s Room for our first panel: a conversation with Dallas Sonnier, producer of such terror titles as BONE TOMAHAWK, SOME KIND OF HATE, DARK WAS THE NIGHT and much more. Over the course of the chat, Sonnier opened up the audience’s eyes to the independent distribution model, producing low-budget but high-quality horror and action fare, and even previewed his next titles, CHUCK HANK AND THE SAN DIEGO TWINS and BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, which will reunite him with BONE TOMAHAWK writer/director S. Craig Zahler. In CHUCK HANK’s case, Dallas gave some insight into the film’s big-bad, played by Texas Frightmare guest David Arquette, while the producer also talked about Vince Vaughn’s impending transformation for the brutal aforementioned prison thriller, including shaving his head and gaining muscle mass to play a hardened criminal forced into a bloody ultimatum.
However, the big news of the day was when Dallas welcomed Charles Band to the stage to announce PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, complete with a teaser poster unveiling. Alongside the full announcement, which you can read HERE, Sonnier and Band dropped some more exciting tidbits about the film: the new PUPPET MASTER films will not compromise the current Full Moon franchise, allowing Band to continue beyond the impending AXIS TERMINATION, while Sonnier hinted that the script was “more violent than BONE TOMAHAWK, and that’s insane.”
Next up, this writer made his way to perhaps the most anticipated event of the entire weekend: the Wes Craven Remembrance Panel, featuring Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Ronee Blakley, Mitch Pileggi, Amanda Wyss and Miko Hughes. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, and completely emotional, the packed audience was taken by the fond, intimate memories of the late, great horror director, with stories from throughout his entire storied career, including A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SCREAM, NEW NIGHTMARE, SHOCKER, CURSED and more. It was a one-of-a-kind experience, and from the room-shaking applause by the end of it all, it will be one fans won’t soon forget.
Following that panel, this writer rushed to his final panel of the day: the Televised Terror panel, which unfortunately lost some guests at the very last moment. However, the guests who did arrive did not disappoint: THE STRAIN’s Samantha Mathis and BATES MOTEL’s Kenny Johnson, both of which were exceptionally humble and phenomenally candid. Over the course of the hour-long panel, both performers spoke to the evolution of television roles in recent years, their roles on their respective series, handling action and working with fantastic ensembles, and even the toll piracy takes on horror television. Johnson and Mathis also took time to praise showrunner Carlton Cuse, who helps produce both of their respective series, and offered up a unique perspective on the changing landscape of television. The audience responded with enthusiasm, and the panel was much more enlightening than one might expect, although both performers hinted that there was more intensity to come on BATES MOTEL and THE STRAIN in their current and future seasons.
After a brief dinner break, this writer scurried to Twisted Trivia, which sadly did not go as smoothly as planned, although not for a lack of trying. Nevertheless, the attendees had a blast playing this ramshackle, inaugural edition of Twisted Trivia, with over 100 prizes given away and some serious brain-busters along the way. Hopefully, next year’s edition will run a bit smoothly and not nearly as long…
However, the day certainly picked up again when this writer ran to introduce the secret screening, which ended up being the Texas Premiere of Vertical Entertainment’s HOLIDAYS anthology! The screening ended up being an event worth celebrating, as the fans gasped, laughed and screamed over the course of the insane anthology offering. Afterwards, this writer took to the stage with special guest Adam Egypt Mortimer, who produced and contributed the “New Year’s Eve” segment, and the audience Q&A offered many questions as to what HOLIDAYS may be in this potential franchise’s future.
The next screening was another horror offering this writer had recommended on the aforementioned list, and that was Benjamin R. Moody’s LAST GIRL STANDING. A dramatic and intense deconstruction of the Final Girl archetype, the film won the crowd over in a big way, and the film’s cast and crew took to the stage for a memorable post-film Q&A before meeting and greeting inquisitive fans in the lobby afterwards. And after an overwhelming day, this writer rounded out the night with trips to the VIP party as well as the Scary-oke party, the former of which offered a live performance from Alan Howarth (who played tracks from HALLOWEEN III, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and more) and the latter offered lots of fun performances, including surprise performances from Rose McGowan and David Arquette.
Compared to the two days that came before it, Sunday was a relative breeze at Texas Frightmare Weekend, interacting with fans at the FANGORIA Booth, hosting an informative panel on Physical Media in Horror with representatives of Severin, Vinegar Syndrome and Alamo Drafthouse, and getting in some last-minute shopping. Overall, however, from the looks on everyone’s face, there was something inherently rewarding about the Texas Frightmare Weekend experience, and one I guarantee more will go out of their way to witness for themselves next year.