Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend 2011


Myself and Night of the Living Dead's Kyra Schon

For a horror fan October is the best month of the year. Horror films are playing on TV all month long for Halloween, stores are decorated for Halloween and selling tons of cool stuff that goes with that holiday, and plenty of events to go to like Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend that is held in Orlando. Now those of you that never heard of this event it is a convention that features horror filmmakers, actors, and special effects artists from past and present. It also features a dealer’s room where you can pick up some DVDs, T-shirts, posters, toys, etc. Also there are a bunch of shows, movies, and panels, so there is a lot to do on this weekend.

For myself, this is the sixth time I been to this event and I make it my October tradition. I get to Orlando on a Friday and the first thing I do is check in, wait to get a ticket once the doors open and then once I’m at the event I grab a program and figure out what I’m going to do. I try to go to the celebrity rooms first and get what autographs I need on the first day before the lines start to get long. Looking at the guest list this year there wasn’t any big names to me there like there was in the past. The biggest name there this year was Clive Barker and I’m not a huge fan of his and his line went outside the building. I’ve waited in long lines like that before, but didn’t want to this year.

Some of the cast members from HBO's True Blood

There were some guest that were there that I have met before like Malcolm McDowell, Gunnar Hansen, Doug Bradley, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Michael Berryman, and William Forsythe. So, in some way I was kind of glad there were guests I all ready met and ones I didn’t really care for, so that meant more money to send on other cool shit. Two celebrities I did met and got an autograph and a photo opt was Kyra Schon who played Karen in the original Night of the Living Dead and Bill Moseley from Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 and The Devil’s Rejects. Night of the Living Dead is my favorite horror film of all time and I have collected autographs from cast and crew of the film throughout the years on one of the DVDs I have of the film. Kyra was very nice and wonderful and I was so glad to meet her. Bill Moseley was also very cool and I had him sign a copy of The Devil’s Rejects on DVD. He also gave me a cardboard cut out mask of El Superbeasto the lead character in Rob Zombie’s animated film, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.

Other celebrities that I met or saw were Joe Bob Briggs and former WCW/WWE wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. I talked to them for a little bit and they were very cool. Other celebs I saw there were some of the cast of True Blood like Sam Trammell, Kristin Bauer, and Mariana Klaveno, William Katt from The Greatest American Hero and Carrie fame, Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, Tom Towles from House of a 1000 Corpses and Night of the Living Dead 1990, Barry Bostwick from Rocky Horror Picture Show, horror vet Lance Henriksen, Night of the Creeps star Jill Whitlow, Rob Zombie’s Halloween star Kristina Klebe, the cast and crew of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Jon Provost from Lassie and Eddie Munster himself, Butch Patrick.

Horror legend Tom Atkins

One celebrity that was there that I thought was really cool was Tom Atkins. A very nice guy and I wish I got a chance to get his autograph and a picture with him, but I didn’t get a chance. I did catch his Q&A, which was one of my favorite things about the whole event this year. He told some great stories working with John Carpenter on The Fog and Escape from New York and stories about working on Halloween III, Creepshow, and Night of the Creeps. He also talked about how he started in the business and what he was up to now. He was very thankful to the fans that they have been very supportive throughout his whole career.

There were some great questions from the crowd that Atkins gave some great answers to. One was what Carpenter film he wished he could have been in and Atkins said The Thing. He was hoping to just play one of the characters in the cast, but Carpenter didn’t cast him in it. Another audience member asked why he wasn’t credited on Creepshow and Atkins said he didn’t want his name on it not because he wasn’t proud of the film, but it was kind of a tribute to an old actor he was a fan of in the 1940’s who was never credited on his films, but you knew who he was when you saw him on screen. So, Atkins wanted to do that just one time to pay homage to that actor, but he caught a lot of flak from S.A.G. about leaving his name out, so it was probably best to just have him credited.

Stars from Thee Vaudevillains burlesque

Another question was what was it like working with Jamie Lee Curtis and why doesn’t she do horror conventions? Atkins worked very well with Curtis on The Fog and from what he has heard about her not wanting to come to conventions is that she wants to forget her horror movie past even though that is what got her known. He also heard when she does book signings for her children’s books and anyone comes in with any Halloween, Fog, Prom Night, or any other horror film that she has been in she won’t sign it and she’ll turn them away. So, that’s interesting information on Ms. Curtis. I’m wondering if she’ll sign an Activia container.

I spent the rest of Friday night checking out a burlesque show put on by Thee Vaudevillains. This group is at Spooky Empire every year, but this is the first time I checked out their show. Their theme was fairly tales and each girl was dressed up either as Snow White or Little Red Riding Hood or other nursery rhyme characters. It was a very good show that featured very beautiful women. The last thing I did that night was hang out with some friends at the pool party. Good thing the weather was nice on that night, because that wasn’t the case the next day.

Myself and Bill Moseley

On Saturday the weather was terrible. It rained the whole day and it felt like there was a tropical storm outside. Now I know the convention is all in doors, so the weather shouldn’t play a factor, but you still have to leave your room and walk to the convention because the buildings are not connected. Luckily for me I was close by, but if you were on the other side of the resort you had a lot of walking to do in the rain. This is the first time I remember it raining for a Spooky Empire. Usually the weather is always nice this time of the year. I hope no rain for 2012.

Saturday kind of went by fast and I spent most of the time hanging out with friends and walking around the dealer’s room and celebrity rooms. I did catch the Killer Klowns from Outer Space panel and movie. They had the three Chiodo brothers there that made the film and plus some of the cast like Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder. It was a very good panel and I haven’t seen the film in decades and it was still a good campy fun film from the late 80’s. There was no pool party that night because of the rain, but they still were a few people out there by the pool.

From left; Lance Henriksen, Michael Berryman, William Katt, Diamond Dallas Page, Gunnar Hansen

I ended up catching a few short horror films at the Freak Show Film Festival. Roid Rage and Cabine of the Dead were a few I saw. The films were nothing to write home about. Lots of these films are shot with a big budget and have a great glossy look and tons of aerial shots that look like Hollywood made it. I don’t have a problem with that type of look or shots, but I just don’t like to see that in horror films. It’s all right to have it when making the next big comic book movie, but for horror films they have always been the best when they are done on the cheap and have grittiness to them. Horror films that I love our Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Two Thousand Maniacs, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, and the list goes on. Those films were all made on a low budget and still pulled it off and are horror classics. So, that is just my opinion of what I want in a horror film. I’m sure they are new independent horror films either feature or shorts that are done cheap and dirty, but you won’t see these films at certain festivals because they rather have films that have a polished Michael Bay look with stupid CGI blood and gore and have cheap laughs instead of good scares.

On Sunday I spent most of my time in the dealer’s room looking for stuff to buy. Sunday is the best day to buy because it is the last day and everyone is cutting their prices in half or have good deals. Some of the purchases I got were a few books such as The Dead Walk, which talks about the history of zombies in film. The other book was a mini-novel called The Skinvestigator: Tramp Stamp, which is a sleazy throwback detective novel by Terry Cronin of Students of the Unusual comic book fame. The other purchases I bought were mostly DVDs like Shivers, Psycho a Go Go, Graduation Day, Bloody Moon, Bad Ronald, Mausoleum, Igor and the Lunatics, Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters, Malabimba, and Iron Man and Captain America cartoons from Marvel Super Heroes series from 1966.

After that, the convention was starting to wind down and I decided to head back home. This year’s Spooky Empire wasn’t as good as others, but as always I had a great time. I think the best night was Friday and the rest of the weekend was all right, but it is still one of my favorite conventions and if you have never been to a Spooky Empire convention I highly recommend it. I look forward to going to Spooky Empire in 2012. See you all there.

From left; Joel Wynkoop returns to his fans at Spooky Empire, one of the masks from Killer Klowns, Horror and Rock 'n' Roll T-shirts, more horror T-shirts, girls passing out drinks at the pool party