Festivals are normally my go-to events, not conventions. I’ve been to the Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Tribeca, Milwaukee Film Festival, Philadelphia Film Festival, and I’ve volunteered at Sundance for the past two years (and continue to do so). Each of these festivals, I go to dig deeper into all the genres of film that I love. They are a complete blast and a one of a kind experience. However, none of these festivals focus on my one true favorite genre of film: horror. For that, I travel to Dallas for a convention known as Texas Frightmare Weekend.
I’m lucky enough to have one of my best friends in a town near Dallas, so I stay at her place. It helps even more that she is also a horror fan and attends the convention with me. We both attended the convention last year. As first timers, there was a lot to take in and figure out. How much money to bring? How should we plan our schedule? Who do we want to meet while we’re there? These are all questions that we scrambled to find the answer for. In the end we walked away with a few items purchased, saw some great panels, and met wonderful horror icons. Most notably for me was meeting Danielle Harris and Matthew Lillard, and seeing the wonderful George A. Romero in person. We accomplished a lot in a short amount of time spent there each day, but there was so much more to explore.
This year we were seasoned visitors. We knew what to expect and how to map out our days accordingly.
Texas Frightmare Weekend did NOT disappoint this year. I landed from a late afternoon/evening flight from Philadelphia to Dallas and immediately went to see a movie. Army of Darkness in 35mm with Ted Raimi there for introduction and a post Q&A is what my eyeballs feasted on first. I firmly believe the best way to watch Army of Darkness is with a crowd. The campy fun holds up to this day. Ted Raimi is hilarious and I could listen to him speak for hours on end of his many film industry stories.
Friday roles around and that is the official kick off of Frightmare. It doesn’t start until that evening and last year we skipped Fridays events. This year we decided it was best to go Friday, get our weekend passes, and go straight to the Mondo table to get posters everyone was raving about. Mondo’s limited edition posters at the convention were gorgeous. I snagged The Thing and An American Werewolf in London, two of my favorites. My friend got Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Friday the 13th Part 3, and The Thing. I may have dropped over $100 on two posters alone, but it was so worth the two-hour wait. Yes, two hours… you read that correctly.
After we secured posters back in the car, we roamed the convention to see the layout of merchandise tables and figure out how weekend plans would pan out. That night I got to meet the wonderful Pollyanna McIntosh. She’s most notable from The Woman by Lucky McKee, which we got to chat about. She is everything I hoped and absolutely amazing.
The weekend just kept getting better. I’ve been listening to a horror podcast called Shock Waves. It’s the podcast child of Blumhouse Productions and is every bit of awesome. It has honestly changed my life for the better. The podcast is run by Rebekah McKendry, Ryan Turek, Rob Galluzzo, and Elric Kane. Blumhouse.com was a sponsor of Texas Frightmare Weekend since the previous sponsor, Fangoria, is no more. Panels were moderated by the crew of Shock Waves. The first panel we attended was the 35th Anniversary Panel for The Thing moderated by Ryan Turek. Keith David, Thomas Waites, Wilford Brimley, and the legendary Dean Cundey entertained the guests with stories of life on set of The Thing. From stories of an intoxicated Kurt Russell, to Wilford Brimley’s wise cracks, to tales of John Carpenter catching his cast talking about him while on mic, you couldn’t help but smile.
Since I’ve become a huge Blumhouse fan, I had to go to the Blumhouse panel as well as the Shock Waves 50th episode live recording. Awesome doesn’t even sum up the experience. Underrated 90s horror movies were the topic, and hidden gems emerged from the depths of time. Freeway, Z Ram, Stir of Echoes, and Idle Hands [Editor’s Note: I fucking LOVE Idle Hands dammit!] were just a few mentioned in the large lineup. Ironically enough, I had just bought Idle Hands that day before. It felt amazing to be surrounded by people who share a common love for not only horror movies, but Shock Waves.
Meeting the Shock Waves crew, I thought, would be the highlight of my weekend since I look up to them so much. Then Sunday happened. My friend and I got to the convention early. The past two days, they capped the meet and greet line for one of my favorite horror directors. Dario Argento is a Giallo master and Suspiria means the world to me. Sunday, I got to meet the legend himself. Argento doesn’t speak a lot of English, but he is so very humble for every fan that comes to see him. I couldn’t stop thanking him for everything while he shined a smile for our picture together. I don’t think I have shaken that much meeting someone since meeting Michael Shannon at Sundance two years ago.
We got through Argento’s line quick enough to see a few more people. We met the energetic and loving Soska sisters, as well as the very funny Malcolm McDowell. Malcolm McDowell cracked a few jokes about Bernadette Peters, but don’t worry, it was all in good fun. He’s a really cool guy.
As our journey at Frightmare was coming to an end, there was one more panel for us to sit in on, the 40th Anniversary Suspiria panel moderated by Elric Kane. Dario Argento, Barbara Magnolfi, Stefania Casini, and Claudio Simonetti of Goblin all were in attendance. It was magical to sit and listen to Dario speak about Suspiria and his inspirations when it came to color, cast, and music. He is so grateful for the success of the film and how well it is regarded now. Frightmare was generous enough to make 40th Anniversary awards for them. Dario repeatedly thanked all of the audience in the crowd and you could feel the genuine love and appreciativeness. It was perfect.
Texas Frightmare Weekend 2017 was one for the books. The attendance may be crazy at times, but everything is worth it to celebrate such a diverse genre with fans and icons from the past and present. I met a fellow online Shock Waves friend in person (Hey Dustin!), met some of my horror idols, thanked my favorite podcast for everything they’ve done, and walked away with some pretty great memorabilia. The horror genre and their fans aren’t like any other. We’re passionate and it feels like one giant family. If you love horror, Frightmare is the place for you. You will not be disappointed.