Texas Frightmare Weekend 2010: The Directors and Other Observations (Pt. 1)
I got back to Austin around 8:30pm on Sunday night. It was hard leaving the 2010 Texas Frightmare Weekend. A great time was had by everyone; both the people attending and the celebrity attendees. I can say with 100% accuracy that the group of celebrities that where there (some new school and a lot of old school) were some of the nicest people (note I didn’t say “celebrities”) I’ve met. From iconic directors like John Carpenter and George Romero to new directors like Robert Hall, Frank Sabatella, and Stacy Davidson, all the celebrities were just as excited to meet their fans as their fans were to meet them.
I got to Dallas on Thursday night to attend the screening of Romero’s Survival of the Dead and the North American premier of 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (see my review of Survival and Maniacs). Both movies were far from perfect but just seeing them in a theater packed with true, hardcore horror and gore fans was such a rush compared to the usual theaters I go to full of obnoxious and pretentious 20-something’s who over analyze everything and who wouldn’t know a great horror flick if it slit their throats and fucked their larynx!!! Practically the entire cast and crew of 2001 Maniacs was present not just for the pre-screening, but they all stuck around and did another after-show panel. Some of those in attendance for Maniacs included director Tim Sullivan, Christa Campbell, musician turned actor Kevin “Ogre” Ogilvie (from the industrial band Skinny Puppy), Ryan Fleming, and the real star, the stuffed sheep Jezebel (there was a total of about 10 from the movie present). It was a huge blast and they were even filming audience reactions a la Paranormal Activity for a promo reel. I wish I could see all my horror movies in this kind of environment!!
On Friday the convention was set to begin at 6pm but I got to the Sheraton Grand Hotel a little before 10am. I wanted to get my pre-ordered tickets in hand and roam around and grab lunch in the hotel. A buddy of mine told me that the celebrities attending always stay in the hotel where the convention is held so I was hoping to run into 1 or 2 of them. Luck was definitely on my side because when I finally got to the window to pick up my tickets (there was already a 30min wait) my simple “weekend pass” that I purchased online got bumped up to the “V.I.P Weekend Pass” at no additional charge to me. This allowed me to get John Carpenter’s autograph for free (he was charging $35 each) and I could cut to the front the line for every celebrity. For example, by the time I got to the Romero line the wait was about 2 hours to see him. I showed the volunteer my VIP pass, moved to the front of the line, and saw him in 20 minutes!! Sure people were pissed but with privilege comes reward J!! The VIP pass also allowed me to get into the convention each day an hour earlier. So on Friday it opened at 6pm but I got in at 5pm with other VIP holders. No lines for anything.
What I find so amazing is that these horror icons sit at their tables, signing their names, shaking hands, and taking pics with their fans for HOURS at a time. I mean seriously; could you see James Cameron, Brad Pitt, or Jennifer Aniston doing that? No fucking way. Of course they all charge for their signatures (the majority charged $20); their time is worth something!! But they don’t charge for pictures with them and they don’t just rush their fans through the line. I met and got signatures and pics with Kane Hodder, George Romero, Derek Mears, Doug Bradley, and John Carpenter. I wanted to get so many more but my modest budget didn’t allow for it. Every single one of them took the time to ask me my name, shake my hand like a long lost friend, and shoot the shit with me for a minute of two. Awesome shit people!! Derek Mears was one of the first people I met and since it was only around 5:15pm there weren’t a lot of people there yet. I got to talk to him for about 10 minutes. He’s a super nice guy and self proclaimed “super horror geek.” He was even tempted to give me some info on his upcoming Predators movie but said “[director] Rodriquez would have my balls if I said anything.” He’s a really down to earth guy who loves being a creature actor.
Kane Hodder is another who was so cool and “everyday guy”-ish. He wears gloves on his hands because of several burns he’s gotten throughout his career and is more than happy to pose for a pic with you. But be warned, if you ask him to strangle you in the pic he’s really gonna do it!! No joke. A few years ago he got into a little trouble because the guy he was “strangling’ passed out. I had him sign my Hatchet DVD, and when he stood for a picture he looked at me and said, “Why is everyone so fucking tall here?” I just looked at him and said, “You’re in Texas baby!!” He just laughed and threw me a fake punch.
Doug Bradley was the most surprising to meet in person. He is so gentlemanly in his appearance and demeanor that it was almost hard to picture him as the demon Pinhead who enjoys torturing souls!! He was nice as could be and had an awesome t-shirt on his table that read, “Say ‘No’ to the Hellraiser Remake. It’s a waste of good celluloid.” I guess that sums up his views on the potential remake!! After we got our pic together and he was sitting down, he said to me “See you in Hell Scott” and gave me a little wink. I was in heaven, er; I mean Hell!!!
Last but not least: George Romero and John Carpenter. I’ll be honest that I was extremely nervous meeting these two. I was afraid I’d lose all speech abilities and miss my opportunity to tell them how influential they’ve been in my life. But seeing each sitting behind their respective tables really put everything in perspective: They are everyday guys who are passionate about filmmaking and horror movies and who have forever changed the face of modern horror. They know this but they never let it go to their heads. Romero shook my hand firmly and before signing my DVD of Day of the Dead took the time to look me square in the eye and ask me my name and how I was doing that night. We talked for about 2-3mins and I told him how influential Dawn of the Dead was on me when I was younger. To that he asked, “My Dawn or the other guy’s?” My eyes got wide and he started laughing. It was awesome!!!
Carpenter was the exact same way. His line was about a 5-6 hour wait (but I again jumped to the front with my VIP pass and saw him in 30mins), but he took his time with each one of his fans. There was a couple behind me in line who had an infant in a little one-piece outfit that read, “World’s Youngest John Carpenter Fan”; and even better was that the mother asked Carpenter to SIGN HER BABY!! Yes!!! She wanted her baby’s outfit signed by the master himself.
It was an incredible time all around, and best of all I was really happy with how down-to-earth all the celebrities really were. That was no act on anyone’s part; they were all genuinely cool. From a world filled with asshole “Reality TV ‘star’” and douche bag actors and actresses it’s nice to see the horror celebrities haven’t lost their heads over their success. And I did, by the way, get to meet Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Lance Henriksen, Robert Hall, and most of the cast from the original Day of the Dead by just walking around and eating in the hotel. I didn’t bother any of them for autographs or pics when they were eating, but they all took the time to shake my hand. Class acts, every one of them!!