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While film festivals generally cater to filmmakers hawking their own films and to the film industry at large, genre conventions cater to the fans, those individuals who keep the industry alive and relevant.

From New Horror Previews To Cult Hero Worship, It’s The Fans Who Win At Texas Frightmare Weekend

It was closing day at Texas Frightmare Weekend, soon after the Verne Troyer (“Mini Me”) panel and just before the vendors finished taking inventory, packing up their wares and rolling their goods out of the hotel on carts and dollies. A scrawny kid who looked to be in his early twenties rushed up to me, nearly out of breath, and exclaimed, “You’re the dude with the ‘Scooby Doo Massacre’ trailer!” I responded with a start, “Well yeah; but it’s ‘Saturday Morning Massacre.’” It seemed, after pulling out my iPad and playing the video for my new excited friend, the mesmerized look in this guy’s eyes was the perfect cap to a fan-filled horror-themed weekend.

I have no idea how that kid recognized me, though I do have an inkling on how he found out about the trailer. All things considered, he was clearly a fan. While film festivals generally cater to filmmakers hawking their own films and to the film industry at large, genre conventions cater to the fans, those individuals who keep the industry alive and relevant. As a hawker of films, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear insanely positive reactions from individuals who just really love horror movies. There’s no questions like, “What festivals are coming up next?” or “Have you gotten distribution?” Instead, diehard fans ask, “Where can I see this?” and “Can I buy a copy from you right now?”

Back to the trailer. I suspect the kid found out about it the previous night. Since Frightmare all takes place in a hotel, there’s plenty of room parties to go along with it. After all the panels have ended and the vendors have closed shop for the night, the real partying begins, and the hotel bar is always the starting point. Saturday night the bar was packed and completely surreal as I spied Anthony Michael Hall and William Forsythe literally making the rounds, chatting up all the fans and posing for pictures. It’s these convention type environments where fans can easily connect with celebrities and directors and both parties don’t feel awkward about it.

After a few drinks, I joined the Pot Zombies 2 crew in their room for a trailer party. They stocked the place with tons of beer and liquor and set up a projector to show their short teaser for a film they haven’t shot yet (they go into production in July here in Dallas). Over the course of a couple of hours, over a hundred people showed up to see the trailer and hang out – including Ari Lehman, the guy who played a creepy-as-hell Jason Voorhees as a kid in Friday the 13th, and Laurence R. Harvey, a body horror obsessed psychopath named Martin in The Human Centipede 2. Making my way around the room, I was sure to share the trailer to our film (‘Saturday Morning Massacre’) with fans as well, and that’s likely how the word got out.

Being somewhat of a fanboy myself, especially of genre films from the seventies and eighties, my curiosity was piqued when I heard there’d be reunion panels for two polarizing movies, filmed over a decade apart. The panel for Carrie, featuring prom pranksters Nancy Allen and P. J. Soles, along with a first horror con appearance from religious zealot and mother of the title character, Piper Laurie, was primarily a discussion regarding the villains of the film. While the They Live panel, featuring homeless drifter turned construction worker Rowdy Roddy Piper and sidekick Keith David, along with alien coconspirator Meg Foster, was, by and large, a discussion regarding the film’s heroes.

Both panels were happy reunions for the participants and a glimpse for fans into the behind-scenes-antics that happened on set. When asked how they originally perceived the script, the cast of Carrie all agreed they thought it was satirical. Piper Laurie remarked that she’d even prepared some physical comedy bits, including pulling herself around the set by her hair. Director Brian De Palma’s response was something to the nature of, “No, you can’t do that – you’ll get a laugh!”

During the They Live panel, an enthralling discussion ensued over the epic fight scene between buddies Roddy Piper and Keith David. Initially laughing off the apparent accidental punches David landed, Piper changed his tone when David excused himself and left the room. I’m unsure what the ideas was behind this bit, but the audience reacted with riotous laughter when Piper ranted on in trademark professional wrestler style about the physically exhausting battle between the two.

Both films have lived interesting lives in the wake of their releases. Carrie‘s major claim to fame is that it was a benchmark for genre films receiving Academy Award noms. “[Carrie] lead the charge,” said P. J. Soles, “Not because it was a Stephen King film, but because of De Palma’s vision.”

On the other hand, They Live was number one at the box office for three weeks in a row and then promptly disappeared without a trace. Although the script, painfully critical of Reaganomics, was “terribly frightening,” according to Meg Foster, and “prevalent everywhere,” it quickly vanished during the height of Ronald Reagan. That backdrop makes the whole political element of the film appear that much more important.

One of my favorite moments during the panels was a shock and awe response from Nancy Allen regarding the cruel trick her character played on the Carrie, resulting in a pig blood drenched pseudo prom queen. “I think that kids do a lot worse things now than drop a little blood [sic],” she said.

What’s really cool about Texas Frightmare Weekend is the variety of reasons people go there. Whether you’re pitching your own movie or interested in checking out new titles, there’s always people who can help feed your needs. Panels range from cult classic films to modern movies and shows currently televised (there was a completely full panel with the stars of “The Walking Dead,” for example). Additionally there’s film screenings, cosplay fun, and a whole lot of buying and selling. But what ties everything together is that while everyone is there for different reasons, they’re all bound together by the fact that their fans.

Photos by Adam Donaghey

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