When It Comes to Horror Cons, Texas Frightmare Weekend is a Killer Time!

For a certain demographic of pop culture, it isn’t enough to simply consume the movies, TV shows, comic books and video games that make up our nerdy love; we must pack ourselves into crowded banquet halls, armed with wristbands, Camelbaks of caffeine, and extra deodorant and fling ourselves into the madness known as ‘fan conventions’. While conventions have been going on for decades, the massive superstar quality of staples like San Diego Comic Con and Monsterpalooza have brought out celebrities with major star power in recent years, causing attendance to spike and the number of conventions themselves to skyrocket. Where there used to be only a handful a year, there are now close to twenty in some major metropolitan areas, plus plenty of much smaller cons geared toward more specific niches. Some fandoms, such as ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘Supernatural’, wrestling federations and universes like Marvel and Harry Potter have their own cons; some have eschewed the traditional hotel or convention center setting and taken to the sea (a ‘Walking Dead’ cruise, as well as a Saw franchise one, have both been wildly successful in the past few years), summer camps, remote private islands (‘Camp Mars’, for fans of Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars), and more. Conventions rake in huge bucks, from autographs to paid photo ops to vendors selling everything from action figures and t-shirts to full prop replicas, ultra-rare art prints and custom statues of the characters we all know and love.

But despite the high saturation of the ‘convention culture’ and an ever-increasing price tag (recent photo ops for a ‘Supernatural’ fan event reached nearly $600 for a photo with multiple cast members in it), fans can’t resist the opportunity not only to meet the content creators and icons that they love, but the chance to network with other like-minded fans and make friends into the same geeky domains they are. And for those in the horror genre, there’s little room for debate that Texas Frightmare Weekend is a titan that can’t be denied. The Dallas, Texas-based con’s inaugural year was 2006 and it was held in a tiny banquet hall; now, in 2019, the vendors have a mile-long waitlist to try and get a highly-coveted spot and the host hotel, the Hyatt Regency at the massive DFW airport, sold out of rooms before thousands of fans were able to get one. The tremendous success of the con can be credited to the founder, Loyd Cryer, and his wife Sue, who, along with a team of loyal and highly-trained staff members, and their undying love of the genre as well as comraderie with the fans themselves. They started the con as fans and it has flourished due to their genuine love and respect of the medium. They’ve leant their support to local charity Stop the Stigma to help raise awareness for mental illness, donating thousands of dollars in memorabilia, experiences and even special photo opportunities to benefit the charity. Over the years, the Cryers and their team have strived to bring the best of the best to the convention, as well as keeping prices as low as they can (pending cooperation from individual talent’s management and other such factors, of course) and offering experiences that no other con can. They partner up with local theaters such as the Texas Theater and the nearby Alamo Drafthouse for off-site screenings and Q&As, offer huge cast reunions, and they literally have something for everyone.

They hosted a 'Carrie' themed prom with PJ Soles in attendance, complete with buckets of glittery blood. Me and two of my dearest friends Brandy and Sarah got dressed in our formal finery, and Derek Mears (Friday the 13th, Predators, Holliston) snagged a photo with us on our way to the party!

They hosted a 'Carrie' themed prom with PJ Soles in attendance, complete with buckets of glittery blood. Me and two of my dearest friends Brandy and Sarah got dressed in our formal finery, and Derek Mears (Friday the 13th, Predators, Holliston) snagged a photo with us on our way to the party!

2019 is shaping up to be no different, and even though the convention is still months away (it runs the first weekend in May, in this case May 3-5), fans eagerly post in their Facebook group anticipating guest announcements, making plans with each other to meet up, and discussing their ‘must haves’ on the autograph lists. Texas Frightmare Weekend is boasting a star-studded lineup ranging from an unthinkably huge Nightmare on Elm Street reunion (Robert Englund himself of course, along with Heather Langenkamp, Ronnie Blakely, Amanda Wyss, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Brooke Bundy, Andras Jones, Toy Newkirk, Tuesday Knight, Joanne Willette, and Lezlie Deane), a Re-Animator reunion (Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, Kathleen Kinmont, Stuart Gordon, and Carolyn Purdy-Gordon),  a Halloween cast ensemble (Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney, PJ Soles, Nancy Loomis, and Sandy Johnson in an ultra rare appearance), Elvira herself Cassandra Peterson, Traci Lords, Lee Majors, Felissa Rose, Meg Foster and many more. Other headliners that caused massive excitement among fans were Tim Curry (who despite a recent stroke, will be appearing for photo ops and private conversations with fans who purchase a separate intimate experience),  Meat Loaf, Scott Ian and Charlie Benante from the metal band Anthrax, and perhaps most stunning, an extremely rare trio--- Sam and Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell, coming together for an Evil Dead ensemble appearance.

The guest list is no doubt impressive, but not everyone comes to Texas Frightmare for just the autographs. The con boasts a wide bevy of special-interest events, from panels and Q&As (always hilarious, enlightening and full of juicy behind-the-scenes stories), parties (a Friday night bash this year will feature an exclusive performance from G Tom Mac, the musician behind The Lost Boys’ anthem “Cry Little Sister”), while the Saturday night ‘scary’-oke singalong always brings out the best and worst talent at the con. In previous years, stars like Thomas Dekker, David Arquette, Rose McGowan and many more have leapt unexpectedly onstage to join fans in rousing sing-alongs, and it’s never a dull moment. There is horror trivia, usually hosted by the prestigious personalities of the ‘Shock Waves’ podcast, and screenings of movies both studio-endorsed and independent if you want to kick back and get your celluloid fix. After hours, many of the celebs meander into the bar for libations and hangs with fans; many of my personal favorite fan encounters have been in those booths and banquettes, whether it’s doing Jello shots with Udo Kier or having Brad Dourif tease me about my pregnant belly while I tried to squeeze between tables, or listening to Derek Mears tell hilarious stories until someone actually laughed so hard she had to make a mad dash for the bathroom. Years ago, I was standing in line for a coffee in the hotel’s Starbucks when John Carpenter wandered over to me and struck up a conversation. Last year, I sat in a private hotel suite watching Clive Barker sketch in a notebook with a Sharpie while we discussed religion. The first time I ever met Norman Reedus, he was sharing a cigarette with a friend of mine on the smoking patio and telling dirty jokes. One never knows who they’ll meet at Texas Frightmare, and the best encounters often happen away from those fabric-covered tables. Despite its ever-expanding size and arsenal of celebs, TFW manages to do something that most conventions (and certainly not the larger corporate ones) cannot; it has kept the intimate, family feeling even after all these years.  I met my daughter’s father at this convention, as well as many of the people who have become my best friends; I went to college for a degree in marketing thanks to the brand reps from Anchor Bay Entertainment who used to help sponsor the con, and I got a major job offer on a film set due to a director that I met my second year in attendance. Many of the staff members and volunteers have served for most, if not all, of the years of operation; several of them have tattoos of the convention’s logo to pledge their allegiance.

The amazing and sweet Fairuza Balk ( The Craft ) in the lounge after con hours a few years ago.

The amazing and sweet Fairuza Balk (The Craft) in the lounge after con hours a few years ago.

I myself have a long and storied relationship with Texas Frightmare; I attended my first one in 2007 and have been going since. I hosted Q&As and emceed panels; helped manage Corey Taylor, Marilyn Burns, and Thomas Dekker while promoting films I worked on; I have photographed panels, worked tables for vendors, screened a movie that I starred in. As much as it has grown and changed since the con I first attended when I was 21 years old, it is still my ‘home con’ and I still feel when I walk through the hotel doors as if I am entering a world where the outside doesn’t exist. We are the outsiders, the weirdos, and the horror misfits, but in here, we are all friends. People hold spots in line for others and give up their seats to others and everyone wants to hug you upon meeting you. The staff are friendly and if they don’t know the answer, they’ll radio for help or direct you to someone who can; there’s none of the nonsense the bigger corporate cons exhibit here, because the staff genuinely love what they’re doing and they’re all happy to be there. It’s the only con I’ve ever attended where every person there is just sincerely thrilled to be a part of the experience; even on Sunday, when people are exhausted beyond belief, hungry, weary, with sore feet and empty wallets, they all leave with smiles on their face--- or perhaps tears, already counting the days until they can do it again next year.

If you’re in the area, or you feel like taking a vacation, there are still plenty of hotel rooms available in the area, and you’ll never find a warmer or more welcoming horror convention--- as with most things, Southern hospitality reigns supreme here, and even if the meat on the menu is you, you’re all invited to the big family barbecue that is Texas Frightmare Weekend.

See more information, ticket prices, the full guest list and more at www.texasfrightmareweekend.com.  

Op-EdAmanda Rebholz