Event Report: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012
Texas Frightmare Weekend, which ran May 4-6, 2012, now bills itself as the premier con in the Southwest, and as our event report will attest, that's definitely accurate. This year the guest list was massive, around 20 films were screened, and a Carrie-themed prom was held. The film list alone was bigger than many film festivals.
Folks, we can just drop the pretenses and say what everyone should know by now: Texas is THE mecca for horror in the United States.
More goes on in the horror world right here in the Lone Star State every day than anywhere else. We've got countless filmmakers, crew, writers, musicians, models, photographers, and yes, even journalists working in the horror genre than anywhere else. Period.
We also now have a massive convention every year. Texas Frightmare Weekend was always a great con, but with its new digs at the Hyatt Regency DFW, it's expanded to extreme size. It dwarfs every con I ever attended in LA. Two huge vendor/guest rooms tightly packed, two screening/panel rooms, a ballroom for parties, conference rooms for classes in horror 'frightmaking', a custom snack bar just for con attendees...it's ridiculous!
Guests this year included many outright legends in filmmaking. Italian masters Deodato and Bava made the trip. Western legends Barry Corbin and Buck Taylor were on hand. Classic ladies of film Piper Laurie and Nancy Allen were there. That's without even touching genre favorites like Danielle Harris, Norman Reedus, Derek Mears, Michael Rooker, Michael Madsen, William Forsythe, Tom Towles, Tony Todd, and Gunnar Hansen. Star-studded? Just a little.
I couldn't be there Friday, the 4th, but unlike many cons where Friday evening amounts to "get into the vendor room before Saturday to avoid crowds", we had big events like a screening of Michael Biehn's writing and directing debut, The Victim, along with a Q&A and a "surprise" midnight screening of the brand new Japanese gross-out epic Zombie Ass.
On Saturday, the 5th, the hordes fell upon the Hyatt. Thousands. Big "T", four digits, THOUSANDS. Swarms. I've been in mosh pits kinder than some of the tighter vendor aisles, which is fantastic. Dallas really knows how to come out to genre events. Creatures from all of the local haunted attractions were there, including The Haunt House's mayor, Rigor T. Mortis, who held court for hours in the main con lobby downstairs with his entourage of creeps. Mixed in were a large number of extremely cool cosplaying attendees. The favorite of most was a life-sized Queen Alien, around 10-feet-tall and realistic.
This is one of those situations where you just do not have enough time for everything. In order to see and do everything I needed and wanted to do on Saturday, I had to skip most of the panels and screenings until the evening when the vendor/guest spaces closed. The only criticism I have here is that the main panel room is a bit small. "The Walking Dead" panel had a massive line, and even standing room only, many were turned away.
I ran from screening to screening until 2:30 am on Saturday evening. While I was catching The Infliction (review here) in the smaller screening room, my wife remained in the main hall and watched Jacob, a film that instantly gained a massive amount of buzz. Based on her reaction and the last 10 minutes or so that I caught, this is a real gem that absolutely nobody knows about. Look forward to seeing more about Jacob in the very near future here on Dread Central, I believe it very well may be the next big thing in horror films.
I did not get to see if madness on the scale of last year happened on Saturday night due to the very late screening of Strippers vs. Werewolves (review here) that I attended. I do know that the attempt to corral the insanity in the Frightmare Lounge, a ballroom set up with a bar and stage for live entertainment, apparently didn't work. The two times I checked, it was empty, and the crowd and many guests were in the hotel bars and common areas, likely raising hell. It's a good idea, but I'm not sure the location of the room (away from most of the action) and purpose was communicated to the attendees enough to override the lure of the Hyatt's gorgeous, well-attended bars upstairs.
After just three to four hours of sleep back home, I grabbed my buddy Mitch and headed back to the Hyatt for the final day. I brought Mitch because he's an expert on tabletop RPG's, and I had an appointment to speak to the folks from Director's Cut, a survival horror RPG being developed right here in Texas. Look for a whole lot more about this in the near future, including reviews of their RPG system and upcoming card game.
Sunday was a typical con Sunday. Smaller crowds, and those who attended were subdued due to the sheer volume of alcohol consumed the night before. I took advantage of the thinner crowds to get my hands on Lollipop Chainsaw, which was the primary sponsor of the show. They had booth babe Jessica Nigri on hand as well as several stations set up with a demo of the game.
Created by Japanese madman Suda-51 and American madman James Gunn, Lollipop Chainsaw is everything it should be: crazy, violent, profane fun. In the 10-minute demo I cheered, chopped, and kicked my way through hordes of high school zombies. Any chainsaw-wielding zombie game that includes a "Sparkle Hunter Bonus" that turns zombies into sparkling bursts of glitter when you kill them HAS to be good, right? It is, and I can't wait for June to come so I can check out the full game.
Sunday also saw Tom Savini's presentation "Monsters, Murder, and Mayhem", which was a video compilation of every kill he's ever done as an FX master. The reel was followed by a Q&A with the man himself and was every bit as fun as it sounds.
Below you'll find our gallery of photos from the weekend. Unfortunately, the panels were all too dark to yield any good shots, but what we did come away with should whet your appetites to attend next year!
As 5:00 pm rolled around on Sunday, everyone still present looked like they needed a very long nap. I know it was true for me. Everyone I spoke to said it was one of the best cons they'd ever seen, and I absolutely agree. There were some first-time bumps with the new venue to work out before next year, but overall the Hyatt was a fantastic location.
I want to spend a minute talking about that. The front desk crew wore horror-themed t-shirts all weekend instead of their usual formal business attire. I was told the manager purchased them so everyone had one. Why? They wanted us to feel at home, that the staff was like us. Folks, we don't get that very often. You know this; you love horror or you wouldn't be reading this. We just do not get treated like that by the "norms" in society. I've seen cons held in many venues, but I have never seen a venue treat a con and the con attendees as well as Hyatt DFW treated the crowd at Texas Frightmare 2012. The level of service and respect shown was just out of this world, in a VERY upscale hotel. This is not some dive; the Hyatt Regency DFW is one of the nicest hotels I've ever seen. Gorgeous, gorgeous building. The place even houses a museum, for crying out loud. Yet, the staff treated everyone involved with as much respect as they'd give an oil baron or CEO. Unwashed nerds wearing ragged BRUCE CAMPBELL DID YOUR MOM shirts got four-star treatment at every turn. Amazing.
So I want to do something a little odd here. Horror is here to stay. We know this. It's a huge industry. We go to cons with tons of walking money ready to spend on swag, food, and booze. Companies need to know this and recognize us as valued customers, like the Hyatt DFW crew did.
What I want you to do is this: If you attended Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012 and witnessed the excellent service we were given, such as the ice water coolers constantly refilled every ten feet in the vendor rooms, or the special cocktail menu at the main bar, or the reasonably priced concession stand...TELL THEM. I've spoken with them, and they assure me that e-mails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will reach the right people at the local and corporate level. Take a few minutes and LET THEM KNOW how much you appreciate their work. If companies the size of Hyatt come to realize that horror events are profitable and extra effort is appreciated, we'll see more events like this nationwide. I guarantee it.
I've got to thank Loyd Cryer for putting this all together and making it possible. I've also got to call out the incredible volunteer staff of the con. Again, the best I've ever seen. Not a bad apple in the bunch, maintaining great service even under harsh conditions. If you saw a red shirt, you saw someone doing whatever they were asked to do in order to make the con go down without a hitch.
In the coming days, you'll be seeing more of my continuing coverage of Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012. I have reviews, interviews, and news coming as I sort through the debris from the 48 hours of insanity. Next year simply can't get here fast enough! Make your plans now to come out and join me; you will not be disappointed!
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