Ever since I can remember, I've been into horror films and scary things. I was kind of a loner as a young child, and watching old monster movies was a constant activity for me when I was a kid. As I got a little older, I was fortunate to be around during a golden age of horror films, when directors like John Carpenter, George Romero, and Tobe Hooper were busy creating some of the best fright films ever made. I had no real interest in sports or other things that most of my peers seemed to get into as we got older, but I became well educated on the people who made my favorite horror films come to life.
Horror conventions have been around for awhile now, but I had never been able to attend one until relatively recently, when I helped a friend and his crew film the Housecore Horror Film Festival late last year in Austin. After meeting the cast of the original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", who were guests at that festival, I decided I was going to try to attend more horror conventions in the future.
When I found out that the Texas Frightmare Weekend would be happening May 1 - 3 in Dallas, I decided that I would make the long journey to attend on Saturday, and I'm glad I did.
The convention was held at a Hyatt Regency in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, and driving around its maze like roads made me long for the comparably simple design of Bush or Hobby Airport in Houston. Once inside the hotel, I was impressed with how nice the place was, and also immediately shocked at the sheer number of people attending the convention. Folks wearing impressive costumes were everywhere, as thousands of horror fans milled about. I accidentally brushed against Reggie Bannister, a famous actor from the Phantasm movies, as he quickly walked past me. A moment later, a person in an impressive demon costume posed while people took photos, and I tried to get my bearings as best I could.
As I left the main entry area and found one of the huge halls where celebrities would be signing autographs, my close friend, and local Houston club and concert promoter Robert Ehlinger found me, and led me to the end of a long line to meet Malcolm McDowell. Robert was staying for the whole weekend, and I decided that next year I would do the same. Robert was clearly having a blast, and when I asked him what his favorite part of the Frightmare Weekend had been he answered, "Getting to meet C. Thomas Howell. I've always been a huge fan of "Tank" and "Red Dawn" since childhood, and I let him know that."
In a festival with so many stars attending, Robert met several others that had impressed him over the weekend.
"Meeting Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, and Elvira also put me on cloud nine, and this year I finally got to walk around in costume. I learned how many people want to take photos of you while suited up."
As I waited in line to meet Mr. McDowell, I looked around the crowded room, horror film stars were greeting fans almost everywhere I looked. Sherilyn Fenn from Twin Peaks was signing autographs across from me, and the massive room featured vendors selling everything from special effects contact lenses, to carnivorous plants and animal skulls, as well as every kind of horror collectible or tee shirt one could imagine. I fulfilled a lifelong dream when I got to shake Mr. McDowell's hand and got his autograph. After that, I found Lisa and Louise Burns, the two real life sisters who played the dead "twins" from Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining". They were both entirely charming and seemed to enjoy interacting with their fans. At that point I noticed that Udo Kier, was signing autographs at the table next to them, and so I went over to meet him next.
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After exploring the first exhibition hall, I walked to the even bigger one across from it, and was blown away again. Elvira was in one corner, I nearly bumped into my boyhood hero, Tom Savini as he walked out, and people like Sid Haig and Tara Reid were busy speaking to fans. After walking around for another hour or so I sadly realized that I should hit the road for the long drive back home, vowing to spend the whole weekend at the festival next year. I also made a note to budget better, since all of the celebrities charge for autographs, and most of them start at $45 or so.
For anyone who loves horror films... Really loves them, I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend. Besides meeting a ton of legendary people responsible for making the movies we love, there are screenings of films, and more horror merchandise for sale than anyone is ever likely to find anywhere else. In short, the Texas Frightmare Weekend was a hell of a good time, and I was sad to leave.