Can we stop calling Texas Frightmare Weekend a “regional con” now? The first reader I met this year was Aaron from Australia, who had flown all the way here to experience TFW as his FIRST con. He wasn’t alone; I ran into folks from all over the country. TFW is huge, getting bigger, and certainly ranks with the other massive “national” cons out there. This was the tenth TFW, and it’s not slowing down or getting smaller.
Everything this year was about being better. From the top down, every aspect of the con this year was improved over years past. Crowds and lines were handled much, much better; guests were laid out in smarter, more manageable ways; the vendor list was shaken up for less repeats and more variety; even parking was controlled and guided better than in years past.
And thank goodness because the world is aware of TFW, and they all showed up! On Saturday, not only was hotel parking full, the airport terminal parking connected to the hotel garage was nearly full. That’s just crazy sauce.
The biggest and best change was the removal of several merch tables in the main vendor room to create queues for the guests there. Since each table brings hundreds of dollars to the con organizers, it’s a demonstration of their love for their attendees that they took this hit to make life better and getting around easier. I don’t know of any other con willing to do that just to make things more enjoyable.
Guest highlights this year were two folks doing a con for the first time: Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich. Much of the rest of the lineup was full of industry legends: Malcolm McDowell, Udo Kier, Sid Haig, Brad Dourif, Tom Savini, and the entire Phantasm lineup. New kids on the block like AJ Bowen, Alexandra Breckenridge, and Trick ‘r Treat‘s Quinn Lord kept things fresh.
One of the more interesting and novel guests and presentations was Victoria Price, Vincent’s daughter, who brought her slideshow, Vincent Price: Master of Menace, Lover of Life. The show displayed her personal photos and memories of everyday life with her father, juxtaposed with his career as a horror icon.
As always, TFW brings a ton of films for attendees to enjoy. This year saw the premiere of Gutterballs 2: Balls Deep as well as screenings of Wolfcop, Bloodsucking Bastards, documentaries Despite the Gods and Lost Soul, as well as several independent features mostly from Texan filmmakers.
Extracurricular activities are always a bonus at TFW, and 2015 was no exception. A Friday night Phantasm-themed ball was a smashing success. With appearances and performances from the Phantasm gang amidst décor and atmosphere from the design geniuses from Dark Hour Haunted House, the party went long into the night. Throughout the weekend we also had Scaryoke, a Dark Art show, several off-site screenings of films like Phantasm and Spider Baby with cast in attendance at local theaters, and the traditional Frightmakers 101 classes teaching attendees the finer points of making films, doing makeup, and special FX creation.
Fueling much of the madness this year was Virus Vodka, a new horror-themed vodka from a local distillery. Themed cocktails were available at all hotel bars. I tried more than one, and it’s yummy stuff! There was a little more stagger to the attendees than usual after hours, and I blame Virus for that.
The vendors offered a mix of old and new with a major emphasis on authors, a move I applaud. Permuted Press was the main sponsor of the screening room, but other presses had large multi-table presence at the show such as Winlock Press. Everyone from veteran authors to Kya Aliana, a 20-year-old author of anti-Twilight YA vampire fiction, were present for attendees to chat with and purchase their novels.
Haunted attractions are a big deal in the Dallas area, so local houses had a big presence despite the shuttering of two legendary local haunts since last year. Dark Hour, Dan’s Haunted House, and Reindeer Manor led the way, wandering the halls all weekend posing with and spooking everyone they could. Dark Hour’s booth was a big attraction as they had a prize wheel awarding everything from grab bags to free passes to anyone wishing to give it a spin.
As you may have read, Dread Central got in on the giveaway act this year as yours truly left Twitter clues for attendees to find vouchers for prizes. I’ve got to thank the generous sponsors who provided prizes for this effort: WellGo USA for providing a selection of discs featuring previous TFW films, The Pyramid Gallery, Dark Hour, and Titan Books. All kinds of spooky souvenirs went home with Dread Central readers thanks to these kind folks so show them some love!
Without a doubt, the single best part of TFW every year is the people who put it on. The volunteers are amazing, and organizer Loyd Crier works tirelessly to bring the absolute best of horror to Texas every year. The Hyatt Regency at DFW always goes above and beyond for us, working in costume or in special themed t-shirts, displaying their solidarity.
More than anything, though, it’s the attendees that make TFW great. Amazing cosplay, good natures, and just friendly Texas spirit permeate the show every year. I make new friends each time I go, and this was no difference. I’m already anticipating next year’s show, when I can see all the maniacs I met this time.
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled right here on Dread Central for further TFW 2015 coverage in the form of reviews and interviews from the con!