Frightmare Weekend – Cult Style:
Once a year spanning a weekend, usually the first in May, Texas becomes a haven and haunting ground for horror, exploitation, anime, dark art and cinema fans alike. Nestled a stones throw away from the airport the Hyatt Regency DFW is host to this extravaganza that celebrities, vendors, reporters, a bustling myriad of those who wish to break into the scene and legions more who appreciate all the aforementioned continue to create.
My introduction (to this event) came several years ago when I furiously scribbled for another site. This year saw me accompanied in my journeys, by my patient wife and frustratingly cute (can-do-no-wrong) twenty month-old daughter. Our travels began somewhere in Cornsville (exact location withheld to protect the innocent) following a night of hastily packing enough supplies to shelter, feed and suffocate a small hamlet (a necessary evil any parents of a young child are sure to understand).
Our route took us through several states, an aquirium, a Legoland Discovery (fingers crossed they don’t charge me for the damage), a slew of gas stations and several rather inexpensive hotel chain establishments. We never imagined we would also get to spend all our change (and then some) while navigating the inner workings of several small town laundrettes. Other unscheduled halts included the grass verge of a highway and the darkened cavernous belly of a parking garage. There’s a moral to this story folks, if you’re going to transport a toddler across country take with copious amounts of Dramamine, Benadryl and nausea medicine and have it at the ready at all times!
Our arrival at the event was met with relief, bags of laundry drenched in a stench I wouldn’t even want to guess the origins of and smiles all round. But wait, I had yet to drive around the Fort Worth/Dallas area in hopes that I could locate an automated toll booth that wouldn’t charge us by the minute. I drove through the ‘wrong one’ the first time around, as if travelling on Dallas interstates aren’t bad enough that I had to add to the elevated stress levels, and so had to rectify the situation lest our arrival home was heralded with a collections agent and an application for bankruptcy pinned to our abode amassed with Post-It notes?
After unpacking a luggage cart bursting at the seams with content we headed elevator bound, downstairs, to the festivities themselves. By this time it was mid-afternoon Saturday, the majority of the day spent on dizzying utterly confusing streets, disassembling a vomit covered carseat, yet again, and in the hotels laundrette. But we were here and I was grinning like a loon. The event for me is a virtual candystore and I’m child eager to fill my belly with sugar leaden treats. This year wasy daughters first foray into the convention world, her eyes were large as saucers bouncing from one delicious sight to the next.
Naturally the event had something for pretty much every taste, booths ranging from autograph authenticators (for there were autographs to be had… at a price) to artists, themed stuffed toys (Howdy Lilwickdkids), purveyors of the macabre in its many guises and filmmakers (much the same thing really). My reason for attending was much the same as it always is. To load up on shirts and dvds I will probably never get to indulge my senses in.
I’m not much of standing-in-line-waiting-for-an-autograph kind of a guy. In actuality I’m a stunning example of an introvert and would probably either A) soil myself in a celebrities presence B) get immediately tongue tied and come off as an obsessive stalker type or C) say something silly enough to get me banned for life or D) all of the above in no specific order. Odds are I’d do all three. Not on purpose, but rather as witnessed through the guise of a slapstick routine that would play continually in a glorious technicolor loop plaguing me for all eternity.
Whoops – I nearly forgot…there are also screeners (in past events I’ve witnessed gems like Wolfcop and Blood Sucking Bastards and others nowhere near as impressive), panels (where rabid fans get to shout inane questions at their idols from the shadow encrusted corners of the auditorium) and ‘meet and greets’ (where rabid fans flashing wads of cash can ask inane questions from a closer and more intimate surrounding).
This year had me very nearly changing my mind on the whole paying for an autograph thing. As well Clive Barker, Ron Perlman and the D.D.P (for all those 90’s wrestling fans out there!) Fiona Doriff was there. For those who dont know she’s the star of such classics as the most recent Chucky movies, (BBC America’s) Dirk Gentlys Holistic Detective Agency (portraying a lovable psycho type creature driven by fate) and rumoured to star in a television series adaption of the Purge films. But more importantly, than all that (for me), she starred in a short film that stunned even me. A film in which she filleted some poor guys junk like a Kilbasa, the film of which I speak…SHE (look it up!) Obviously I didn’t have a blade or a large sausage in hand (drumroll for pun placement please) so I wouldn’t be able to garner the picture I really wanted. I’m rather a sick puppy when it comes down to it. But I was still very tempted even given the reasonings listed above.
Other eye tickling treats included, but weren’t limited to, the fans. Many dressed as their heros while others like myself merely donned attire to advertise those who they hold in high regard. Of those wandering the halls I believe I witnessed seven Jasons (showcasing his many guises throughout the franchise), twelve Freddys (some giving credence to the belief that he’s foregone his exercise regime and taken to drinking heavily) a handful of Chucky dolls, a child on a trike and enough traumas to the face, some including the guilty weapon, to scare an ER nurse into early retirement.
As I’ve mentioned before my interest laid in the dvd, novelties and shirt arenas. There were plenty on display and I was literally spoilt for choice everywhere my eyes chose to wander. Atomic Cotton were in attendance as too a myriad of others peddling their wares from across the country. As well regulars, such as Vinegar Syndrone, Severin, Arrow Video and Full Moon (responsible for a wide swath of cinematic silliness including but not limited to Puppet Master, Gingerdead Man and Evil Bong) there were also vendors one might not expect to find, but are delighted to see.
The Texas Triffid Ranch boasted oddities one might not be able to smuggle past customs whilst a slew of artists covered everything from cult artwork, Gothic pieces d’art to characterizations from ones likeness. Glass etching artists were busy at work for all those feeling lucky enough to be able to get something as fragile as their creations home in one piece and there was even a tattoo artist for all those wishing to witness a willing victim have a patch of their flesh adorned with assorted colorful illustration.
As evening turned into night (you would have to think hard upon the sight as you’re indoors, underground with no windows in sight) the panel activity transformed into screeners and crowds started to line up in somewhat of an orderly manner. As the familia bedded down for the night I prepped myself for a Takashi Miike film, As the Gods Will, and a feature I’d taken time off work in order to drive across country to see The Song of Solomon (my thoughts on each are elsewhere on this site if you’re interested). Stephen Biro was kind enough to grace the latters audience with his presence and even took the time to answer a few questions on the film. He later took my money in exchange for a pair of DVDs and a shirt, what a gracious chap!
Sunday saw our little rabble calm down some and my spending decrease dramatically. I plucked a few shirts from those on offer, caught up with old friends and found myself at a loss for words as I tried to recall a swath of band names to recommend. What can I say I’m getting old. As the event drawed to its finale the hotel staff busied themselves in order to bring back the establishment to its former glory.
There’s only 365 days to go until I grace this part of Texas with my presence again and the surrounding countryside, a rental vehicle and stack of hotel towels with the contents of my daughters intestinal tract. I have my fingers crossed her travelling “etiquette” improves some for our next roadtrip lest it become more a less exciting airport to airport experience. Whatever the decision I have my eyes peeled for updates on the official website. Who knows I may even splurge for an autograph next year, or better yet that Bad Taste mask I’ve had my retinas on.
If you happen to see me at the Frightmare festivities next year say hi. I may even return salutations. Odds are I’ll accept a drink, some film or band recommendations and witty dialogue exchanges if you’re buying and willing to put up with my silly accent!
Your slave to cinema extreme, jaded and splattered in humor and grue and occasionally your guide to a convention that’s frustratingly hard to drive to.
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