Back in the day, there used to be such a thing as ‘convention season’– a specific block of time that the geek community set aside each year to attend as many of their favorite big-name shows as they could (with the exception of San Diego’s Comic Con, of course). Now convention season is a 12-month affair that offers hundreds of events across the United States- and the world- and doesn’t apologize for the over-abundance of actors from The Walking Dead and ridiculously over-priced autographs.
A subsection of the convention circuit, there are still a small amount of horror-themed shows that have a permanent place with fans. Though numbers have dwindled in recent years- be it because of the economy or lack of interest- many of these shows have continued to make their mark on annual calendars, and these shows are no stranger to competition.
SPOOKY EMPIRE (ORLANDO, FL) – APRIL 21ST-23RD, 2017 AND OCTOBER 2017
2016 plagued the permanent extravaganza by offering up a hurricane (yes, a real hurricane) during their annual Halloween weekend. The show moved to December and offered a mediocre, last-minute roster to appease ticket holders and loyal attendees. Someone even created a crowdfunding campaign to help them ease costs, but it wasn’t well received and caused widespread criticism for the normally well-organized show. The show’s spring dates have been announced, and while we’re still anxiously awaiting guest announcements (surprise, surprise), we’re sure that it will be a fun addition to a wide-open April for the city of Orlando. The fall show is always the biggest of the two, and as long as the weather stays neutral this October, we’ll hopefully see the return of owner Petey Mangelli’s three day tattoo, horror and rock and roll party from a much more organized and thought-out perspective.
HORRORHOUND WEEKEND (CINCINNATI, OH) – MARCH 17TH-19TH, 2017 AND FALL OF 2017
Another horror show with two appearances each year, Horrorhound Weekend kicks off the 2017 convention season in March this year. It’s impressive that they nailed Freddie Highmore (Norman Bates from Bates Motel) as a headliner, and the Monster Squad reunion seems like a cool change to the classic lineups. Of course, there are actors from The Walking Dead and Jigsaw himself Tobin Bell is set to return, but the guest list reads of variety, which is a welcome change. With John Waters and his Friday performance on deck, and the vendor floor jam-packed with grindhouse and freaky goods, crowds should be pleased.
MAD MONSTER PARTY (ROCK HILL, SC) – MARCH 24TH-26TH, 2017
The first and only horror convention in the Carolinas caused quite a bit of controversy online when it announced the impending move from its home of five years in downtown Charlotte to tiny Rock Hill, SC – 20+ miles south. While Charlotte boasts the 17th largest population in the United States (around 3 million), with plenty of options for lodging, dining, and entertainment, its new location offers a drastically reduced number of all of the above. Unlike previous years where Mad Monster Party hosted their annual convention in hotels, this year will see them move into an events center which will undoubtedly affect the “Party” atmosphere of Mad Monster Party, and will likely take away all of their famed after-hours fun when the event center closes. That said, while many have expressed their unhappiness with the move, many others have rallied behind the con during this time, and its impressive guest lineup will surely still bring in the masses hunting autographs. The party crowd, however, may leave disappointed, assuming they show up at all this time.
MOTOR CITY NIGHTMARES (NOVI, MI) – APRIL 28TH-30TH, 2017
A solid favorite for the midwest convention family, Motor City Nightmares is set to return to Detroit (correction: Novi, which is basically Detroit without the abandoned houses) this spring. Another convention only months away without a solid celebrity lineup, the concern for this event is that they haven’t offered anything new in years. The same celebrities return year after year (we’re hoping it’s profitable for them), as well as the same audience. The events and vendors offer variety for the crowds, but there are only so many times one can get Sid Haig or Tony Todd’s autograph without it becoming a mundane experience. It’s such a cool community that we’re hoping it reinvents itself in the coming years to compete against some of the other larger events in the area.
TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND (DALLAS, TX) – MAY 5TH-7TH, 2017
One of the longest-running horror-themed conventions on the circuit, Texas Frightmare Weekend rarely disappoints. Bringing in plenty of wrestlers and actors from The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy, the show’s roster has gone a bit more ‘mainstream’ to bring in a wider audience and compete against other Texas-based shows such as Alamo City Comic Con and Comicpalooza. The cast of Stranger Things will be there to meet with fans, and The Shinging’s Danny Lloyd will be making a rare appearance as well. The vendor floor always brings in some of the best in horror goodies, and with Blumhouse.com as a sponsor they are right on point with their marketing. No complaints here.
DAYS OF THE DEAD – MULTIPLE DATES/LOCATIONS IN 2017
Days of the Dead has kept the same formula for years, and it seems to work regardless of the location. Their 2017 show lineup includes all of their previous locations- Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Louisville- and it appears that they’re aiming for another shot at Los Angeles as well, though the dates have yet to be announced. The promoters have bit the Stranger Things bug to add to their guest lineup, but fan-favorites PJ Soles (Halloween), Heather Langenkamp (Nightmare on Elm Street), and Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects) naturally return. They’ve added some pro wrestlers to the mix too, but it seems that the guest roster is pretty transparent as it has been for years. The good thing is that they’ve figured out a successful formula and stuck to it, and they know their limitations. Attendees always have a good time, and ultimately, that’s what really matters.
MONSTER-MANIA – NEW JERSEY (MARCH) AND MARYLAND (SEPTEMBER) -2017
Another classic horror event, promoter David Hagan and his family always put on a good show for the northeast horror crowds. Competing against Chiller Theatre (which has become more mainstream in recent years) and other small, up and coming events (rumblings of another event in Jersey this year have been seen on social media), the lineup is always changing to please attendees. We were disappointed last year to see Paul Rudd announced, and then canceled, within a 24 hour period (happened to Horrorhound Weekend too, let’s be fair), but they made up for it with two stellar shows. The Thing reunion is fun for the March show, and while the fall lineup only includes Malcolm McDowell so far, we’re sure that the pending announcements will appeal to fans. Hell, this group deserves accolades for the FAQ page on their website alone.
CRYPTICON – MULTIPLE DATES/LOCATIONS IN 2017
The crews behind the CRYPTICON shows are an incredible group that truly care about their fans. Kansas City has nailed Michael Cudlitz and Seth Gilliam from The Walking Dead, as well as a rare appearance from Cerina Vincent. Their all-night party room is legendary, and their vendors are always busy. Seattle is bringing in the ‘zombie king’ himself George Romero, and Roy Wooley from SyFy Channel’s Face Off will be offering workshops for the artistically-inclined. Minneapolis is still in the planning process, but rarely disappoints with a well-thought out event lineup, as can be seen from the 2016 offering still place-holding their website. The show has more of a family feel to it, which appeals to horror fans seeking a non-commercial convention atmosphere.
The Bottom Line:
If we missed a show, don’t worry- this is simply a preview. The convention industry is always changing and bringing in new shows- we just can’t break down every single one for the sake of our editor’s attention span and time management skills.
Here’s to a scary 2017! (And we’re not talking about presidential inaugurations and healthcare reform.)
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine