Event Report: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2013
A year has passed, and another Texas Frightmare Weekend has come and gone! Last year TFW expanded dramatically with a much larger location to become the Southwest's premier horror con. This year they proved that isn't going to change anytime soon.
This con is so hot that guests have begun just showing up without an invite. Veteran character actor Glenn Morshower ("Millennium", The Crazies 2010) popped up on Friday and was set up in the lobby until Saturday, when a table was located for him in the main room. He was swamped all weekend so it's a good thing he came!
The focus of the con (which ran May 3rd-5th) was originally "The Walking Dead," but with a few cancellations (almost all replaced with other guests, some from "TWD"), the star of the Weekend became Danny "Machete" Trejo, who was mobbed every time he was at his table. The presence of Alien stars Veronica Cartwright and Tom Skerritt was also a big draw, as was TFW staple Sean Patrick Flanery of The Devil's Carnival and Boondock Saints.
TFW has really expanded beyond being a regional con. I personally ran into people who came from Japan, New Mexico, Ohio, and Lousiana, and that's just a small sampling. This is a big, big show.
Upon arriving on Friday, one thing was clear to everyone: It was just as busy as Saturday was the year before. Now, for those of you unfortunate souls who haven't been to a horror con, Friday tends to be busy, but not too bad. Saturday, the one day that runs all day and all night, is when the crowds really hit and everything goes nuts. Sunday, then, is slower as things wind down with a short day. For Friday night to be just as busy as Saturday had been in 2012...this was an omen of great foreboding. Good news for the con overall, but if the crowds were this huge on Friday, what would Saturday hold?
With extended hours keeping the vending rooms open from 5pm to 11pm, the crowds had plenty to do on Friday. Friday also saw several film screenings and a couple of panels. One panel I had looked forward to, Busey Vs. Busey, didn't happen. Jake had canceled days before the con to start work on Wicked Blood in Louisiana with Lew Temple and Abigail Breslin. Gary was there...but the panel was still called off. I suppose he Busey'd. (I really want that to become a new verb, meaning "flipped out, went all weird, and took off." As in, "What happened to that guy? Oh, he totally Busey'd.")
Our own Woman in Black had requested that I watch Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan on Friday evening. Now, I'm not sure what I did to piss her off, but I'll avoid it in the future. I thought she loved me! I was supposed to review this one, but I only lasted about 90% of the way through. This is one of the worst things ever shoved into my eyeballs. People like Robert Kurtzman and Midnight Syndicate were involved, but I have no idea why. Their contributions were fine, but the rest of this film is just hatefully bad. I grew up watching Dan Haggerty as "Grizzly Adams," but his appearance here is limited to a pre-credit sequence where he shows up to discuss how often he poops, and then he's killed by a CGI logging saw.
I really, really wish I was making that up.
Foywonder has expressed an interest in reviewing this one so it is ALL yours, Foy. I'm sorry your path in life has led you to this point. May the Lord have mercy on your poor damned soul.
Axe Giant had sapped my will to live so badly that I needed to bail early and head home so I skipped the command performance of Jacob (review here), which I saw at last year's TFW. However, you can read an interview with director Larry Wade Carrell and see an exclusive clip from the new Blu-ray/DVD release by clicking here.
Saturday began early... but not early enough. When I arrived at the hotel, the entrance was blocked off. The huge hotel parking garage was completely full, and some dimwit decided that meant they needed to close off vehicle access to the hotel entirely. We had to go to the nearby airport terminal to find a place to park along with many other attendees.
Thirty minutes and a few dozen flights of stairs later, we reached the hotel parking lot... which had once again been opened to traffic. We could have been there faster, but it involved darting across an incredibly busy airport access road not designed for pedestrians at all. Many did just that, creating an extremely dangerous situation. Hyatt simply has to sort out this issue before next year, as it's frankly a miracle that nobody was hurt or killed. Contingency plans for a full lot should be in place, and it's clear they absolutely weren't prepared.
This brings up a major issue this year: TFW has nearly outgrown its new digs just two years after the move. Walking from the elevators to the vending rooms was extremely difficult until the main ballrooms for panels opened and started to absorb some of the crowds. Of course, all of the panels were then filled to complete capacity all afternoon, but at least you could move around the rest of the con.
I apologize to anyone looking forward to my traditional live tweeting and photos during the con; there was no wi-fi available so even the cell towers were absolutely maxed out. You could get texts through, and sometimes calls, but attempting to send data was just impossible most of the night on Friday and all day on Saturday. Mind you, this is at one of the biggest airports in the nation, not exactly the middle of nowhere. Yeah. THAT many people showed up.
I'm sure TFW is contracted to be at the Hyatt for at least a little while, but they'll have to come up with some strategy to mitigate those Saturday crowds before next year's show. Maybe stick some of the more popular panels and film screenings on Sunday to encourage attendance then and pull some of Saturday's crowds? Considering this level of attendance was reached even after major crowd-puller Norman Reedus canceled, I can't even imagine what would have happened if he'd been there.
With all the celebrities in attendance, the vendor rooms were in full swing. I noted we'd attained Buseyness, with Gary signing at his table and even taking pictures with fans on his way to lunch. (I'm also campaigning to make Buseyness a word...defined as "attaining a level of insanity that still manages to function properly in society.")
After some killer panels like Full Moon Rising with werewolf legends David Naughton and Dee Wallace and Horror Comics featuring legends Kerry Gammill (look for our review of the latest issue of Gammill's Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave soon), Bernie Wrightson, and Steve Niles, the films began.
Enough room opened up so I could take in the Maniac remake with Elijah Wood (see our Maniac review here), and I'm so very glad I did. Alexandre (Haute Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) Aja is a mad genius, and he produced and co-wrote this one. It's a wild, artistic, ultra-violent remake that stays true to the original in spirit and brings its own twisted sense of dark humor. I don't know that I'd watch it often as even this grue veteran had to cringe a few times, but it's a very fun ride.
While I wasn't able to catch them personally, the show also had early screenings of Neil Jordan's Byzantium, Rodrigo Gudiño's The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, and several indie films and shorts.
Saturday ended with Scaryoke and a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show featuring Dallas/Fort Worth's amazing shadowcast, Amber Does Dallas. I'm sure having the legendary Patricia "Magenta" Quinn at the con didn't hurt the spirits of the debauched revelers.
We arrived early on Sunday, fearing another maxed-out sell-out, but were surprised with attendance so light that you could move anywhere on the vendor floor without waiting for a crowd to clear. It made for a great time browsing the wares, reconnecting with people, and chatting with some of the guests as their autograph lines became manageable enough for them to take extra time just to talk.
The aforementioned Quinn was having a great time working the crowds, screen goddess (in this humble journalist's opinion) Diane Franklin was signing her autobiography, and Bill Moseley was spotted waiting in line to get an autograph from David (American Werewolf in London) Naughton.
Sunday also had Tom Savini's panel, Monsters, Murder, and Mayhem. Savini's panels are always fun because it's really just "Storytime with Uncle Savini." Similar to Kevin Smith's Q&A tours, Savini takes prompts from the audience and then launches into tales of his history in the industry. It's always a good time and a step away from the standard moderated Q&A panels.
Tales abounded of vendors and guests leaving a little early on Sunday because they'd actually sold out of merch. The con was just that successful. Authors, a segment of guests that sometimes struggles, had completely emptied their stocks of books. I've never even heard of that happening before. Such is Texas Frightmare Weekend, a beast to be reckoned with.
Whatever you do, don't let my tales of the overwhelming Saturday crowds dissuade you from attending next year. TFW remains the best run and most fan-friendly con in the world, hands down. You will never have a better opportunity to get face time with so many amazing celebrities in one place, thanks to TFW's continued insistence that all guests spend as much of the weekend as possible signing at their booths, as opposed to many cons that have featured guests do a panel, sign for VIP ticketholders for half an hour, then leave. It's just a fantastic time, and I'm convinced the folks at the Hyatt (who were, overall, amazing again this year) and the TFW powers-that-be will be working for the next year to minimize the issues that arose this year.
I have to shout out to Loyd Cryer and his AMAZING volunteer staff at Texas Frightmare for putting on the con and making it possible for us to cover it. Also, many thanks to Mitch the Viking for his assistance in helping me be two places at once and assisting with this coverage. Keep your eyes on the official Texas Frightmare Weekend website for updates.
Be sure to check out our full Texas Frightmare Weekend coverage here on Dread Central! Till next year, stay scary!
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