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Photo by Mike Young

Scarefest is a yearly horror and paranormal convention held in Lexington, Kentucky. This year, the convention took place on November 5th to the 7th. There’s a 36,000 square foot dealer room that also features a celebrity row where icons of horror and paranormal set up tables to meet fans and sign autographs, and there’s a bevy of programming over the three days. It’s funny that trudging through an event like this feels a bit like meandering about like a zombie in a pack. By the end, the sleep deprivation and sensory overload combine to cause an almost hypnotic state. You don’t know what you’re doing on that last day, but you are drawn back to the event for last minute buying, autographing, or paneling. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just symptomatic of a great convention and overall Scarefest is a great one.  It’s scary in a whole different way though. Scarefest is a nicely ran event with around 10,000 attendees but it’s so good that it’s growing every year. Conventions like San Diego Comic Con and Dragon Con have become so ridiculously large and crowded that you spend most of your time doing the zombie shuffle and less actually participating in the event. I’m reminded of a time that I went to King’s Island and once inside, I was able to determine based on the length of the lines that I would only get to ride three rides for the entire day. I turned around and left the park to do something more substantial with my day rather than stand in lines. These overly large events are much the same and Scarefest may be on its way to becoming such an event. It’s just that good. The signs are already there, the trappings of a big show out to make money rather than be a fan event such as “gold circle” tickets and professional photographers overcharging for pictures with the stars. If this show goes the way of those big monsters, at least I can say I was there when it was still great.

The weekend started with a wedding, that’s right, a wedding. Last year, a couple was married at the event and it appears that this may become an annual event. Following the wedding, there was a costume contest, creepy karaoke, and all night partying. Now this is how you start a weekend at a horror convention.

Concerns aside, overall Scarefest is an outstanding show with one of the best combinations of guests and dealers I’ve seen at any convention of any size. That huge 36,000 square foot space is perfectly utilized to allow the crowds to see everything without feeling too cramped which is another problem with most shows. There was one dealer selling $10 pop culture t-shirts that was doing bang up business, there were plenty of dealers selling custom made jewelry of all types, of course there were DVD sellers with every movie under the sun, small press publishers selling a myriad of novels with the authors on site for signings, a place selling custom soaps (Funny at a con right?), and even a dealer selling rockabilly clothing. Along with all of that, the typical things were in place too, such as comic book sellers, and toys, and posters, and more. There were fewer costumes at this event than at others I’ve covered but what was here wasn’t typical and for the most part was of a higher quality. Seeing tons of costumed character moseying along in a giant dealer room can be fun but suddenly seeing one costume in a sea of regular (as regular as it gets) folks was quite entertaining. The highlight of the weekend had to be a giant Critter from the movie Critters rolling around with a person in a wheelchair inside. People were extremely polite and friendly at this show too which can be more of a problem at conventions than you might think.

Photo by Mike Young

Enough of the rant: here are the “goods”. It’s important at these events to clearly read bios of the people speaking at panels before settling in for a listen. I failed at taking that advice when I settled into a Q&A with Amelia Kinkade. As far as I knew she was at the event because she starred in a trilogy of late 80’s campy horror films called Night of the Demons I, II, and III. Little did I know that she had spent her time after the films becoming a psychic : an animal psychic. Now Scarefest is a “Paranormal and horror” event so having her as a guest is a brilliant move because her background strikes both prongs of the convention. It might have been better to have given her two panels where she could talk about each aspect of her background separately though. The first 20 minutes of her panel was all about classes that you can pay for to become an animal psychic. I wondered if I was going to be asked for a check or to give up information for a mailing list. With that said, once she got into the presentation and Q&A she was charismatic, really funny, and along with all of the animal communication stuff she told some really funny and interesting stories from making the Night of the Demons films.

The best event of the entire weekend had to be the George Romero panel. I went in just expecting the man that made zombies what they are today to reminisce about making his great films and to take questions from the audience. This did happen, but he was joined by actors Tom Atkins (Two Evil Eyes), Adrienne Barbeau (Creepshow), John Amples (George A. Romero’s Martin). Romero’s most recent films Diary of the Dead and the sequel Survival of the Dead aren’t exactly classics, but they don’t tarnish the greatness that is Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead or even Land of the Dead. The most interesting thing that Romero said, outside of all of the amazing stories of his classic films, was that Survival of the Dead was the first film that he has ever made solely at the behest of the producers of a previous film. The producers of Diary of the Dead wanted him to come back with them to do a sequel so he did and that was that. Of all of the actors on the stage, Tom Atkins remains the busiest still appearing in big genre releases.  His name you don’t recognize but his face you will. He was recently in My Bloody Valentine 3D and he appears in the upcoming Drive Angry with Nicolas Cage. The director of My Bloody Valentine, Patrick Lussier was most recently attached to the third Halloween film, cleverly titled Halloween 3-D. Atkins was also set to appear in that film. When asked about the progress ,Atkins replied that as he understands it that the movie is either not happening or probably more accurately that Lussier is no longer attached to it. He said that Lussier has turned his attention to a Hellraiser redo and that he has already told Atkins he will be involved. This is scary but not in the way the studio behind this remake would like. The original is completely disturbing and horrifying, even all of these years later. Any remake couldn’t possibly be as edgy as the original especially with a director whose previous works were done with tongue firmly planted in cheek in the director’s chair.

Photo by Mike Young

Needless to say, if you’re a fan of horror or a fan of the paranormal there was plenty for you to do all weekend. Paranormal fans got to meet ghost hunters and participate in psychic readings while horror fans had the stars of Hatchet 2 to listen to outside of the previously mentioned panel. No, Angelina Jolie wasn’t at this convention and neither was Robert Downey Jr. but the celebrities that were here are working in an industry where they love their fans as much as their work and it showed. They didn’t just do a panel and get ushered away by publicists. They walked around the con and hung out with fans. Scarefest is still a fan show for fans and that’s reason enough to buy a ticket for next year alone.