The Weekend that was Spooky Empire 2010
It has become an October tradition attending Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend in Orlando, Florida. This is an event that I look forward to going every year and for me the convention always delivers. For any fanboy or girl growing up watching horror or sci-fi movies or television series you start to idolize the stars or the filmmakers that made your favorite films. Weekends like these are opportunities to meet some of these legends. Sometimes the experience is great meeting an idol of yours, sometimes it’s not, but all in all you get a chance to mingle with these horror stars for three days. Here’s a rundown of my experience at this years Spooky Empire.
I arrived at the Wyndham Resort (where the event was being held) early Friday afternoon. I checked into my room, got some lunch, and then wanted in line for my ticket. At five o’clock the doors opened and the Ultimate Horror Weekend had begun. If you have never been or heard of Spooky Empire before, the event has a lot of things to do. Along with the celebrities, there is the dealer’s room where you can find everything from dvds, posters, t-shirts, toys, and whole bunch of other stuff. Also in the dealer’s room you can find independent filmmakers that are up and coming. The convention also has plenty of Q&A with the horror stars, panels on different horror topics, horror authors, tattoo artists, classic horror movie screenings, a film festival, concerts, and parties all night.
Some of this years big guests were legendary director John Carpenter, stars of the first Nightmare on Elm Street like Robert Englund, John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, and Amanda Wyss, former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, Machete star Danny Trejo, Elvira, and many, many more. My first order of business at the convention was to get some autographs. I had all ready met and gotten Englund’s autograph in 2007, so the only ones I wanted to met this year were Carpenter, Saxon, and Frehley. I figured Friday or Sunday is the best time to get the stars autographs because it’s slower on those days. The first one I got was John Saxon, who was really cool. My favorite role of his is in Enter the Dragon where he stars opposite Bruce Lee and I also think he’s great in Dario Argento’s Tenebre. I got him to sign a DVD copy of Enter the Dragon that I had. Next I met John Carpenter, which to my surprise the line was very short for, but it was Friday and still early on in the night. I have many favorite films of his like, Halloween, Escape from New York, and Assault on Precinct 13. Another big favorite is The Thing, which I brought my DVD copy for him to sign. Carpenter was very cool and I was happy to met one of my favorite directors.
So far I got two out the three autographs that I wanted. Next was getting Ace Frehley’s one. So, I waited in his line, which didn’t seem to move. I remember asking someone from Spooky Empire earlier if Ace was in the room. At the time they told me yes, but after a while when the line didn’t even move an inch I figured he didn’t arrive yet. I asked someone else later and they said he wasn’t, but was on his way. About over an hour later Ace had arrived. Now Ace’s set up was a little bit different from the other celebrities. The other stars are all out in the open in a big room sitting at a table. Ace was in his own private room. They were only letting about five people in at a time. Once I walked into the room the lights were dim and they were handlers and bodyguards all over the place. It was like meeting the president or The Godfather. They also had some rules where you couldn’t take a picture with him or of him with your own camera. You had to pay about $30 to take a picture with their camera and pick up the photo later. When I got in you paid someone at a table and they gave you a ticket. All I wanted was for him to sign my record of KISS: Destroyer. They walked you over to another table where four other guys surrounded Ace. One of them took my ticket and I went up to him. I said “Hey Ace”, and he just took the record, signed it, and that was it. No handshake or not even a hello, but hey I got the Spaceman to sign my album, so I can’t complain.
The rest of the night I just walked around the place and took in the whole show. I met up with PCR columnist Lisa Scherer later on and went to check out Repo: The Genetic Opera with a shadowcast acting out the parts during the movie, kind of like Rocky Horror. I’ve never seen the movie before just heard about it since its release in 2008. It’s cool to see another movie get the same type of following as Rocky Horror. I was glad to see the movie with players acting it out. I mostly watched the movie than the players. They were two movie screens on the left and the right instead of one being in the center. I’m use to the Rocky Horror way where the movie and players are all in the center where you can watch both at the same time.
This year I was going to try to catch more movies, panels, and Q&A than I did in previous years. On Saturday I was able to take in some of those. First on Saturday, I met up with Lisa and another PCR columnist, ED Tucker, his wife Cindy, and friend Lonnie Dohlen. After making some rounds in the dealer’s room and through the convention we all went to lunch and talked about the convention and our experience with it thus far. After that I went around and talked to some filmmakers based out of Tampa Bay and Orlando that I’m friends with. Filmmakers that were there were Andy Lalino and Andrew Allan who were at a table with Stephen Biro of Unearthed Films selling their new film Brainjacked (which I was the editor on), Joe Davison and Dwight Cenac promoting their new film As Night Falls, Actress Melanie Robel was there promoting a film that she starred in called Voracious The Creation, Kevin Hoag and Co. were there also promoting his new web series, Apocalypse Boyz, and many others.
I also got to run into some of the celebrities that I’m friends with that are from the Tampa Bay area such as Brooke McCarter from The Lost Boys and Herschell Gordon Lewis’ latest film The Uh-Oh Show (I was the editor on that as well), Mike Christopher who is also in The Uh-Oh Show, but is famous for playing the Hare Krishna zombie in George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. I bought Mike’s action figure at the show and got him to sign it, which was way cool. I also saw pro-wrestlers The Nasty Boys, Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags who are always fun to talk to. Also I want to point out earlier when I was in the dealer’s room with ED Tucker, Gary Busey, who was a guest at the show, walked by us. He was just wandering through the room with a drink in his hand and he had a look on his face like he was going to kill somebody. I was about to say hello to him, but decided not to in fear that he would punch me in the face, because he looked scary and angry.
The rest of Saturday I took in a few films that were showing there. One was Emerging Past starring Brooke McCarter and Krista Grotte and caught the premiere of As Night Falls. This year I was able to see more films than I ever did at a Spooky Empire. I also was able to sit in on a panel for Ted V. Mikels’ Astro Zombies M3: Cloned which the second unit director of the film Gary Lester hosted. Actor from The Godfather John Martino was talking at the panel, but I’m not sure what the connection was between him and Astro Zombies, because he wasn’t in the film. Oh well he told a great Godfather story though. I also got to met the writer of the 1981 made-for-TV horror film, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, J.D. Feigelson who was there selling his movie along with VCI the company that just released the film on DVD. I bought a copy of it and also got him to sign it as well. For the rest of the night I walked around some more, talked to a few friends, went to the party over by the pool, and then called it a night.
On the last day of the convention I took a few more laps around the dealer’s room looking for great deals on DVDs. I also wanted to catch a few Q&A sessions before I left. I was able to see one, which was John Carpenter. It was great seeing him at the convention because I know he doesn’t do too many of them. Carpenter just took questions from the audience. Some questions people had were good and you got to hear his take on horror films of today and he also touched on how he got involved in making movies and what inspired him. Other questions people had were not so great like asking the current state of the Halloween films and if he was going to continue the story where it left off before Rob Zombie re-made it. Not sure if they knew that Carpenter hasn’t had anything to do with the Halloween series since Halloween III and that was back in 1982. Someone did ask him if he thought Rob Zombie ruined Halloween and the character of Michael Myers. He didn’t want to comment because Rob is his friend and said that the new Halloween films are Rob’s vision and not his.
After the Q&A I was going to stay for the Nightmare on Elm Street Q&A, which was in the same room, but they had everyone leave and get back in the line, which was all ready way down the hall and at that point I passed. I did learn after the Carpenter Q&A that John had a minor seizure on Saturday afternoon when he was on break from signing autographs. He was taken to the hospital, treated and then released. I had no idea when I saw him at the Q&A. He looked fine and was very sharp. It was really great of him for coming back to the show after experiencing that and continuing on throughout the day.
Soon after the Carpenter Q&A, I said my good-byes to some of friends that were still there and headed back home. I did have a good time all weekend, I have to say though the event for me wasn’t as fun as others, but I still had a fun time and was able to buy some cool stuff and saw some different things. I missed hanging out with actor and friend Joel Wynkoop and his wife Cathy who are always at the event, but couldn’t make it to this one. Hope they’ll be there next year. If you’re a fan of horror films like me, going to these shows are dreams come true. You get to meet some horror icons, there’s plenty of horror merchandise you can buy, and you can hang with tons of people that connect with you. So, that’s my Spooky Empire experience for this year. Hope to see you all again at Spooky Empire 2011.