After years of aspiration, we finally head to the birthplace of Joe Bob, a certain chainsaw massacre, and the cowboys from hell to see what all the fuss is about Texas Frightmare Weekend.
My wife and I are regulars to Central Florida’s resident horror convention for the last 15 years, Spooky Empire, and she’s been to Ohio’s Horror Hound with the girlfriends in the past, but we had always heard about this little, but long running convention in Dallas that everyone in the groups always talked about. So join me as I recollect the weekend’s events with you and for more on what the hell is Spooky Empire, check out my extensive feature on the event here.
What they say is true and they like to do everything big in Texas. This year’s convention boasted the likes of such horror icons as Robert Englund, Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira), Bruce Campbell and oh my goodness, THE Sam Raimi! Wow! Of course, I was all about the Sam Raimi, not only for his multiple contributions to the horror genre as both a Director and Producer, but also for being behind what is still one of my favorite Super Hero films to date, 2002’s Spider-Man. However, the wife was there for one reason and one reason only: Joe Bob Briggs! More on that later.
We opted to splurge and procure a room at the host hotel that also happened to be on the grounds of Dallas-Fort Worth airport just outside of terminal C, which, as fate would have it, was where our flight also came in. We had a late arrival on Friday but knew the doors were open until 11pm, and as crazy as the stories go of picking up passes on the busiest day of any con, Saturday, decided to grab our passes right then and avoid the next morning’s rush. We walked any part of the convention area that a lack of pass would allow before we hit the lounge with the rest of the con goers and partook in some adult libations. After pondering the idea of whether to attend the Evil Dead: Party ‘til Dawn (and yes, it was going to go until literal dawn), we figured it best to save the extra cost to attend the fiesta and put it towards an autograph or photo op instead and call it an early night.
Saturday morning came and if you were following me on Twitter, you may have noticed this is about when my tweets abruptly stopped. That’s because I indulged in the breakfast buffet, my friends, and although everything I was taught about buffet’s harboring germs and bacteria, I had gone decades without incident. Until now. I’ll just leave it at that. We did happen to bump into Ryan Turek of Shock Waves podcast and Blumhouse Productions fame while leaving the dining room. Which brings me to our first stop of the day: The live taping of the Shock Waves podcast with Ryan, Elric, and the rest of the gang. The topic of the day: Top 5 VHS cover art. Each member of the team and their very special guest, Horror illustrator, Ghoulish Gary Pullin, went around the table discussing each of their favorite classic VHS box art, complete with accompanying slides. It probably won’t play well in the visually restrictive confines of the podcast format, but chatting with the bunch at their table afterwards, it was the best idea they came up with in the forum of a live action medium like a convention setting, and I would agree. The funniest takeaway from the event: Ryan has a thing for scantily clad skull faced women, as you’ll hear for yourself when episode 146 releases to the interwebs on May 24 (maybe even available as you’re reading this right now).
After the podcast, we met up with some horror group buddies, one all the way from Newcastle, England and another from the Texas area, before tackling the Joe Bob Briggs line. And tackle we did. Joe Bob had the most consistently long line all day, next to Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell of course. We chatted with our line mates and made some new friends as we trudged along for about an hour before meeting the man, the myth, the legend, accompanied of course by his trusty mail girl, Darcy (she was handling all the money, btw ;). Man, that dude is tall! Who knew? And super nice and kind, soft-spoken too and really took his time with each fan, not rushing anyone along before his or her time was due. It was also around this time that I had my first beer of the day, a spiced amber lager from local brewery, Revolver Brewing, and exacerbated my previous condition from breakfast. I soldiered on, for you, our loyal Horror Bound readers, and did a lap around the first of two main halls to scope out some of the wares the vendors were peddling.
An aside here to talk about the layout, logistics and staff of the con itself because after all, they’ve had fifteen years to perfect the plan. This is where my one gripe would have to be mentioned. I’ve been to a lot of cons in my days, as a fan of pop culture in general, and typically if the space allows, like a larger convention center environment, all the vendors typically set up on one side of the venue and media guests the other. In smaller locales like a hotel, then one typically sees the different “ballrooms” being utilized with the media guests in one ballroom, panels in another, and then vendors in yet another. Here at Frightmare, it was strange because they had both media guests and vendors split evenly across two ballrooms, which I found odd. I would never complain about the sheer number of attendees, especially on a Saturday, because for one, it’s great for the convention, and for another, that’s to be expected on the busiest day of any fan event. But having to cross an overly congested hallway just to see the rest of the vendors or if one had plans for autographs from guests in two different rooms, one starts to see how this could be a, very minor, but nuisance nonetheless. Speaking of the crowds, everyone in our group kept overhearing throughout the day how busy this years convention was, even our local buddy, who has been to the con for five or six years in a row now, said it was the busiest she had ever seen it. So maybe it is time to seek a larger venue in the years to come.
So, we finally made our way across the hallway to the other room so I could achieve my singular goal for the weekend: meeting Sam Raimi. Friends, think about the two furthest points in a room (the northeast corner and southwest corner, for example), and that’s how long this line was. And that was just to get one of the limited tickets available to even get an autograph. Not to mention the line that already existed from the first disbursement of tickets earlier that morning. Although everyone was told not to lineup until fifteen minutes before the allotted time for tix, apparently people had been there for well over an hour. But, you know, that’s the devotion of the horror fandom so I can’t really blame them.
At that point I was ready to call it, I made a quick trip to the gift shop for some Pepto, picked up some swag from a Sony Pictures rep who was there promoting Brightburn and retired to my room to curl up in the fetal position for the rest of the night, while the ladies hit the lounge for some more cocktails.
As we walked past garbage cans overflowing with Whataburger bags and empty bottles and cans of varying beer companies early the next morning to catch our flight out, I wondered if my experience was good enough to return another year. I feel like my gastrointestinal grief will forever tarnish my memory of Texas Frightmare, so I guess I’ll have to give it another go before I can form my final opinion. But next time, I think we’ll stay off site for a little more peace and quiet and a breakfast menu that serves à la carte.
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