By: Scott Weinberg
An invitation to cover the first annual Texas Fearfest filled me with several questions: Who would be there? Would it be well-attended? Would there be enough events / activities / geek-toys to keep a guy like me entertained? (And most importantly) would the weekend prove eventful enough to warrant a 3-hour drive from Austin to Mesquite? Obviously I wouldn't be able to answer any of these questions without actually attending the convention, which is why I borrowed a friend's car, filled the tank with gas, and hit the highway that leads to Mesquite. And I'll spoil the ending of this article by stating (right now) "Yes, this event was completely and entirely worth the time, the effort, and the amazingly annoying drive. Here's why:
I got there and met up with one old friend (and two new ones) from FEARnet, which was great, and the day got even geekier than that. By arriving on Saturday morning I'd already missed a midnight screening of Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse, which I heard was quite a good time. But with two full days of serious mayhem ahead of me, I got to browsing around the vendor room. Suffice to say that if you're in the market for anything from a Texas Chainsaw Massacre lunchbox to a Chucky the Killer Doll action figure, this would be the place to find it. As I scoured the numerous aisles of horror-centric goodies, I came across bootlegs of amazingly obscure old horror movies, board games, jewelry, gothic weapons, and more posters than you can possibly imagine. Good thing I didn't have $300 stuffed into my back pocket, because I would have blown through it like Freddy Krueger plows through sleeping teenagers. I hung with the (very popular) FEARnet posse and helped out by doing a few video interviews. And then I got hold of a panel schedule.
For the true-blue movie geek, a "panel" is a really excellent thing. You get to hear your favorite actors and filmmakers discuss their work (which is fun), plus there's usually some sort of video presentation (which is even more fun), and then you can raise your own greasy hand and ask a few questions (which, if you're not a dummy who asks stupid or redundant questions, can be amazingly fun). And once the panel winds down, you can usually head to the back of the room to get an autograph, a photo, or a quick handshake from someone whose work you really admire.
Some call it geeky, I call it awesomely fun ... and geeky. So while it was unfortunate that two of Fearfest's scheduled guests (filmmaker Tobe Hooper and actor Jason Mewes) had to cancel at the last minute, there were more than enough filmmakers and horror icons to keep the fans satisfied. I kept popping my head in and out of the panels, and was pleased to note that the sit-ins were both well-attended and well-behaved. Ryan and Theresa Schifrin (of the groovy monster movie "Abominable"), John Gulager and Marcus Dunston (of the ferocious "Feast"), and Rudy Scalese (director of the excellent "Going to Pieces"
documentary) were among Friday's highlights -- but the panels I kept hearing nerd-buzz about were the ones in which numerous Jason Voorheeses (Richard Brooker, Kane Hodder, Ken Kirzinger, etc.) Michael Myerses (Tony Moran. Don Shanks, etc.), and Leatherfaces (Gunnar Hansen, Andrew Bryniariski, etc.) were chatting about their professional carnage.
My favorite panels were for "Wrong Turn 2" and "Hatchet," partially because those two directors (Joe Lynch and Adam Green) are drop-dead and stunningly cool horror geeks who A) really know their stuff and B) wear their horror passion on their gore-strewn sleeves. If there's one thing horror fans can recognize it's insincerity, falseness, and bullpoop in general, but Green and Lynch just ooze hardcore horror love. Needless to say, these "new guys" proved to be a big hit at the convention. Plus there was a very tasty tex-mex buffet, a few well-attended screenings of Chainsaw 1 and 2, and an arrival from genre god Joe Dante. (The guy who directed "The Howling" and "Gremlins" shook my hand. I still haven't washed it.) I was only there for two days, but by the end of the event, total strangers had become old pals, and that's always a good feeling. I didn't even mind the three-hour drive home ... Well, yes I did, but it was totally worth it either way. I'm not sure how the "powers that be" think their festival went off, but speaking only as an outside observer, I was pretty darn impressed. Hats off to Dread Central and Pit of Horror for carving together a "first annual" event that felt like an old-school splatter love-fest. Invite me back next year!