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Texas Frightmare Weekend 2017 – Event Report

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I keep telling everyone who’ll listen that Texas Frightmare Weekend is the best horror convention, period. No hyperbole, not blowing any smoke up any orifice or article of clothing, just 100% honesty: TFW gets every single thing right almost every damn time.

2017 Was no different, as tens of thousands of horror nerds from around the world gathered to raise a little hell and have a lot of fun, surrounded by dozens of members of horror royalty from every aspect and period of the genre.

Thursday kicked off the pre-con festivities with two screenings: Evil Dead 2 with Ted Raimi in attendance at the historic Texas Theater and The Thing with guests from the cast and crew in attendance at the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson, TX.

Friday saw the con open for business at the Hyatt Regency DFW at 5pm for VIPs and 6pm for the unwashed masses. As has been the case the last couple of years, Friday night was almost as busy as Saturday. The lower lobby entrance to the con rooms was packed body to body when the cry went up and the general admission passholders were allowed inside.

Vendors this year were a solid mix of old favorites with a few new faces. Even constant Frightmare presence Father Evil had his own table and merch this year, available to greet sinners needing encouragem…um…forgiveness. I think there might have one one or two too many T-shirt and toy booths, but everyone seemed to be doing brisk business, so that’s just one man’s opinion. Many big hitters of horror showed up this year, from media sponsor Blumhouse.com to upstart horror streaming network Shudder.

Friday also saw the Party at Outpost 31 shindig. Every year TFW throws a huge party complete with DJ, costume contest, and more, and this year the party was themed to The Thing in honor of the 30th anniversary gathering of cast and cinematography legend Dean Cundey. The room was decked out with film-level FX displays courtesy of the wizards at Dark Hour Haunted House. Those cats have a Hollywood-quality latex and design shop, so they were able to recreate some of the biggest FX moments from the film to set the mood and provide photo ops.

The recreated medical lab from Outpost 31.

Movie screenings also kicked off Friday night. This year saw thirteen films across the entire weekend, with a pretty major change from previous cons: Due to this year’s main sponsor, many films featured were retro releases rather than new films premiering at the show. It didn’t seem to affect the attendees, as almost all films I saw were well attended, with some being almost standing-room-only. Classics like The Bird With the Crystal Plumage screened to honor con guests Dario Argento and much of the primary cast. Future releases from Arrow such as The Slayer and Curse also played. Curse lived up to its name: By screening in the Maverick room with the smaller screen, it was near impossible to read the English subs on the Japanese film past the first two rows. One of the few hiccups of this year’s show.

New movies debuted as well, with Kurando Mitsutake presenting Karate Kill in person and narrator and producer Lyle Blackburn introducing and doing Q&A for the Boggy Creek Monster documentary alongside a surprise guest, Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sanchez. A surprise screening this year turned out to be the next American Guinea Pig film, Sacrifice.

Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sanchez and producer Lyle Blackburn introduce Boggy Creek Monster.

Starting Friday and running all weekend, professional photo shoots were run by Wolf Studios. A recent con in Dallas sent shockwaves across the con world when there was a bit of a catastrophe due to mismanaged and oversold photo ops. Tensions were high leading up to TFW this year by those worried about similar problems. As always, the TFW photoshoots went off perfectly. Quick, professional, efficient. Everyone got their photos fast enough to get them autographed by the stars, wait times were kept minimal, and the powers-that-be even cranked the A/C in the waiting area after complaints last year that it got too warm.

Saturday is, as always, the big day at most three-day cons, and TFW is no exception. The crowd never grew to a level where movement was impossible, but it came damn close near mid-afternoon As usual, by around 3-4pm, the lower lobby hit critical mass for cosplayers, with dozens milling around for photos with attendees. Personal favorite cosplay that managed to avoid my camera: Mr. Meeseeks Freddy. Sexy Freddies abounded again, as did variations on Deadpool, but Negans were the hot choice for cosplayers. You could form a drinking game around Negan-spotting and be completely blasted by 2pm on Saturday. A completely accurate, fully-electronic with lights, sounds, and a working robotic claw eight-foot-tall version of the purple bunny from Friday Night at Freddy’s definitely won as most complete and kickass cosplay, although the life-size Groot complete with voice modulator to echo “I AM GROOT” down the halls was a close runner-up.

Incredible Friday Night at Freddy’s cosplay. See that claw? That thing was fully functional.

Even more this year, it warmed the very cockles of my heart to see tons of young girls cosplaying. We’re not talking fairies, either. (Two very burly gentleman knocked the fairy category out of the park.) No, I’m talking 8- to 10-year-old girls in Clockwork Orange droogie outfits, blood-drenched Carrie Whites, and other hardcore horror cosplays. TFW in general always blows me away with the representation. I’ve been to many horror cons that are straight-up sausage fests. Almost entirely male with a few wives and girlfriends along for the ride. TFW is always 50/50 for the genders with tons of people of all ages. It’s honestly a family show, despite the extreme content. That’s something I’ve never seen elsewhere in the con world, and it’s just completely awesome.

Saturday of course is panel day, and Frightmare sported many cast reunions, kicking off Saturday with a Thing 30th anniversary reunion. The weekend saw panels with the casts of Fright Night, 31, and Suspiria, as well as standlone panels with Ted Raimi, Shannon Elizabeth, and others. Hosting this year fell to the folks at Blumhouse.com, also known for their Shockwaves Podcast. As they did last year, one panel was a live recording of a podcast. They also lea the trivia contest.

The panel I enjoyed the most was the packed out last minute addition: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. This was an important panel, as we’d get our first look at the puppets, new and old. While that was the main attraction, the puppet master himself, Udo Kier, stole the show. I’m saying it now: Every panel at every con needs Udo Kier whether he’s in the movie or not. Just keep him off to the side. Panel getting dull? Send in Udo.

Film legend Udo Kier has panel moderator Rebekah McKendry and co-star Michael Pare in stitches.

The good Herr Kier was an absolute riot. A simple question about his character turned into a lengthy monologue about the last night in the bar. “I went round the bar from one person to the next, and each said, ‘Oh Udo, here’s a drink.’ I’d drink it and move down. Before long I had a girl under each arm. By the time I reach the end of the bar it was time for bed. A big man very huge and strong, like Tarzan, picks me up in his arms and carries me like a baby up to the room, and he drops me on the bed. I wake up in the morning on the floor thinking, “Where am I? I don’t know how I got here.’ It was amazing.” (I personally saw him around 1:30 am halfway around that bar with a girl under each arm, so he’s not making it up.) The moderator moves on to Michael Pare, who plays Detective Brown in the film, and asks him about his character. Pare laughs and says, “Why are you asking me anything? You asked him one thing and got 20 minutes of comedy! Just let him go!” If someone has this whole panel on video, I hope it gets posted; I’d watch it every day. Udo randomly holds up one of his 8X10’s available for autographs, where he posed in a cowboy hat: “Look, everyone! Here’s me as a cowboy! I’m very Texan!

Saturday also saw the Frightmaker 101 panels. This is something unique to TFW: several seminars where people looking to get into the horror industry can learn from professionals how to hone their skills and get their break. I sat in on one panel (my first!) called “Indie Filmmakers Survival Guide” which was lead by Last Girl Standing writer/director Ben Moody and his producer wife, Rachel. The panel was standing-room-only as Ben said his inspiration for it was all these greats he’d see telling how they got their break…thirty years before. Not very useful. He’d funded, shot, released, and sold his first feature independently over the last two years, so his info was current. The packed crowd was full of budding filmmakers based on a quick poll at the beginning, all looking to learn what they could. Other Frightmaker panels included one on horror comics and another on horror writing.

Rachel and Ben Moody’s Frightmaker 101 seminar, “Indie Filmmaker Survival Guide.”

Saturday night saw the traditional Scaraoke in the big party room, where the props from the night before were still present for photos. As the Scaraoke is free for all attendees, this winds up being the huge party of the weekend, packed out with alcohol flowing like rivers. The kind of performances you can expect range from the awful (someone tunelessly rapping “Like A Virgin”) to the sublime (a bearded gentleman warmly singing Sandler’s “At a Medium Pace”…google it) to celebrity cameos. (Sean “People Under The Stairs” Whalen apparently partied the night away and performed at least one tune.) Of course, TFW Scaraoke is not for the faint of heart. Reader Danny from Colorado was tragically mauled by a cougar. Let’s all observe a moment of silence in memory of his suffering.

By the time my last movie ended around 1:30, the bar in the main lobby was packed with a mix of 50% guests and 50% attendees. Michael Berryman had gathered several tables together and had a group of about 20 swapping stories. Whalen had moved up there from Scaraoke with his lady on his lap and had a number of guests and attendees deep in conversation (and drinks).

That’s what I always tell people about TFW: Main man Loyd Cryer is extremely careful not to bring in just popular guests, but guests that are decent people. Divas and douchebags need not apply, and if they get in, they aren’t invited back. You wind up with a crowd of people who are respectful and appreciative of the guests, and guests that often just hang out with attendees, making friends. TFW is like summer camp for everyone: We all have con friends (guests and otherwise) we only see once a year and enjoy spending time, sharing meals, having drinks. Everyone gets along, everyone has fun.

Sunday started early, the coffee line was seemingly miles long, and people started filtering out. There were still a few panels to go, a movie to screen, and six hours of shopping. Sunday is THE day to shop. Yes, some vendors are running low on desired items, especially the legendary Mondo artwork and the LeMarchand Configurations sold by the Pyramid Gallery, but you’ll have lower crowds hustling to get a look at the wares, and some vendors mark down prices rather than pay to ship their goods back home. It’s also a great day for guests, as folks like Malcolm McDowell who had hour-plus lines all weekend were down to walk-up levels by midday Sunday.

One guests whose lines never sank was Freddie Highmore of “Bates Motel.” The young Mr. Highmore was incredibly busy all weekend, the single biggest draw. Sheesh, the kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory puts on a dress and stabs people, and suddenly he’s the belle of the ball! I kid, I kid…it’s always good to see new additions to the pantheon of horror legends.

Sunday is always sad, as we have to say goodbye to everyone and it all comes to an end. That’s how my wife and I spend every Sunday of TFW, seeing everyone we need to see to say farewell for another year. Between longtime friends behind the tables and in front of them, it takes us hours to catch everyone, and that’s a wonderfully bittersweet thing.

Before I wrap this up, I always have to give a shout out to the folks at the Hyatt Regency DFW, who provide such a wonderful home away from home for us. The crowd at TFW is the wildest, freakiest batch of mutants this world can gather in one place, and this luxury top-of-the-line hotel treats us like family and tolerates all the madness. Special shirts and horror cosplay are the name of the game for all employees who normally wear suits in their jobs, so they have a blast along with us. The venue is getting a little small for the crowd, but I can see why Loyd stays with it year after year. I’ve never seen such a high-end hotel play such great hosts to we horror rabble.

Lastly, I have to talk about the volunteers. The TFW volunteer staff is the best there is. Period. Why? Because they give a damn. I saw one longtime volunteer actually upset that he messed up a photo for a fan in a wheelchair. She had to stand up a second time to take the photo over, and he was going on about how awful he felt. That’s the level of care you see across the board. It’s important to them that the show is perfect for guest and attendee alike. I saw an interaction with a guest and one of the volunteer leads. This guest is…not one of the higher-end guests, let’s just say. The volunteer had brought her four different granola-bar-type snacks. The guest said she couldn’t decide between two of them. The volunteer, surprised, said, “No, these are all for you if you want them. I wanted to make sure you had a selection.” The guest was visibly touched and very grateful. She said she wasn’t used to being treated like a VIP at cons. (It was her first Frightmare.) Seems like a little thing, right? Guests are often treated like cattle. Get out there, sign stuff, be sure to give us our cut…that’s how many cons treat guests, especially those that aren’t top-tier stars. Not at TFW. Guests get doted on and everyone is treated like stars. Why? Again, the volunteers CARE. They honestly care.

And that’s why TFW is the best. The guests love it here. If they don’t, it’s on them, and they probably won’t be back because they don’t fit. Most will tell you TFW is their favorite con to appear at. Robert Englund is always quick to cite TFW as his favorite when asked. Extremely happy guests make for extremely happy attendees. All the other great activities just put tons of icing and sprinkles on the cake for attendees.

As I always work the con so you folks can read all about it and what goes on there, I’m often ready for it to end so I can rest on Sunday evening. By Monday morning, though, I miss it and all of the wonderful people there. I wish it was this weekend, all over again. The year can’t pass fast enough.

This is only the beginning of our Texas Frightmare Weekend 2017 coverage!  More news and reviews from the show will be dropping in the days to come.  You can find them all by searching for the tag “TFW 2017” in the search box up there to your right, or be really extra special cool and just read everything on Dread Central.

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Must-See: Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees Fan Short Film

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The short film titled Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees made its much-anticipated debut on YouTube channel CallMeJeff86 on January 15th, 2018.

The film is a passion project that pits two horror movie icons against each other; it’s Michael Myers from Halloween against Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th in a bloody fight to the finish.

What are you waiting for? Give the 3-part short a watch below, and then let us know what you think!

Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees is written and directed by Mason C. McDonald and stars Jeff Payne as Michael Myers, Dustin Miller as Jason Voorhees, and John Alton as the Vengeful Father.

Don’t forget to follow the film on Instagram and Twitter!

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PG-13 or R? The Strangers: Prey at Night Gets Official MPAA Rating

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Earlier this week we let you guys know that there is a killer The Strangers: Prey at Night fan art competition going on and you can read all the details on that right HERE.

But today we have some cool (if expected) news that The Strangers: Prey At Night hs officially received an R-rating from the MPAA.

The sequel has been rated R for “horror violence and terror throughout, and for language” and I think that makes about as much sense as we could have expected.

For those who are interested in such bits of trivia, the original The Strangers was rated R for “violence/terror and language” so there you go! Impress your friends with MPAA trivia.

Would The Strangers: Prey at Night getting a PG-13 have affected your enthusiasm for the upcoming film? Let us know below!

The Stranger: Prey at Night is directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) from a script by Bryan Bertino and Ben Ketai. It stars Martin Henderson, Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, and Lewis Pullman.

The film hits March 9, 2018.

Synopsis:
A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive. Johannes Roberts directs this horror film inspired by the 2008 smash hit The Strangers.

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Artist Reimagines Superheroes as Tim Burton Illustrations

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The world of Tim Burton has always been full of imagination and wonder built on a surreal and often horrific foundation. Films like Beetlejuice and Sleepy Hollow capture the imagination with stunning visuals, all based on the mind of the visionary director. Burton’s artwork was also featured in his illustrated poetry book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories.

Burton’s work has not only amazed viewers for over three decades, it’s also been an inspiration to countless artists and creators. Enter Los Angeles-by-way-of-Russia artist and animator Andrew Tarusov, whose work has been used by companies such as Cosmopolitan, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Maxim, and more. In a series he simply calls “Tim Burton’s Superheros”, Tarusov took 10 of the biggest comic book characters and gave them a dark twist that is 100% befitting of Burton’s style.

You can see a gallery of these images below. To see more of Tarusov’s work, head on over to his official website.

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