Everyone in life has what is commonly referred to as a “bucket list”; this list that a person makes to themselves of things that they absolutely have to do before they kick the proverbial bucket. I, like the majority of people, have my own list of things I simply have to do before I die to consider it a life worth lived. Nine days ago, from March 15-17, I was able to finally mark something off of my bucket list by attending my first big horror convention at Cincinnati’s Horrorhound Weekend.
Horrorhound Weekend—for the uninitiated—is one of the country’s biggest horror conventions. Put on by the good folks over at Horrorhound Magazine, the three day convention brings together some of the biggest horror stars of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This being my first convention, I was overwhelmed with the amount of panels, celebrities, vendors, bands, and films that I wanted to see. I really can’t think of a better word to describe the entire experience than overwhelming. Here I was hanging out in the same building as Neve Campbell, Christian Ricci, Chritopher Lloyd, Tom Atkins, Robert Patrick, Elvira herself Casandra Peterson, Unknown Hinson, Devon Sawa, Lori Petty, Dick Weiend, PJ Soles, Tony Todd, Meat Loaf, Doug Jones and so many others. All of these people and more would be accessible to regular people just like me—even now it feels truly surreal.
I was most attracted to all the film panels throughout the weekend and Horrorhound had me covered. As soon as I had checked into the luxurious Motel 6 where Cincinnati meets Sharonville, I went straight to the convention and got in line for the Pet Sematary panel. To be clear, I’m referring to the the 1989 Mary Lambert Pet Sematary that haunted me for years growing up. I was lucky to hear Denise Crosby (Rachel Creed), Miko Hughes (Gage Creed), and Brad Greenquist (Victor Pascow) talk all about their experiences making the movie and how much the legacy still lived on as evidence of a new film adaptation coming in just a few weeks.
Then, it happened; I was star struck. I was 11 when Wes Craven’s genre-defining Scream was released. Neve Campbell’s portrayal of Sidney Prescott redefined the final girl; her performance was forever planted in my DNA. I was lucky enough to tell her all this during her q and a. I had crushed hard on that character; I felt like I grew up with that character and fought mask-wearing, knife-wielding serial killers together. My journey with horror began with Scream. Campbell’s performance. She was a final girl who broke all the rules of what it meant to be a final girl while at the same time honoring the archetype instead of eschewing it.
The hottest ticket concerning panels of the weekend was definitely The Addams Family reunion. This was the first time that Christina Ricci (Buffalo ’66), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Twin Peaks alum Carel Struycken, Jimmy Workman (Pugsley, retired), and John Franklin (Children of the Corn) had done a convention together. It was the first horror convention Christina Ricci had ever done for anything. Once again, I found myself lost in the panel listening to the cast answer questions from moderators and audience alike about what it was like to bring both The Addams Family and Addams Family Values to life in such spectacular fashion. I could not have been more fascinated to be reminded of how truly iconic these films were and played such an important part of my childhood.
One of the biggest horror films of 2018 was David Gordon Green’s Halloween. It hit the reset button on a franchise that ran out of good ideas when they brought back Michael Myers. At the Halloween panel was the actor who portrayed Michael Myers himself in the film, James Jude Courtney; he was joined by two podcaster/investigative journalists Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall. One of the things that stuck out to me most was that Rees and Hall’s characters acted as a sort of Greek chorus, commenting on the events unfolding in the film. I was able to ask them both what they thought about the comparison and they seemed to like the idea much better than the journalist that Jefferson Hall remembers saying they were “utter shit.”
Both the Halloween and Cassandra Peterson (TV horror host Elvira) panels turned out to leave unexpected lasting impacts. It was amazing to meet Neve Campbell and hear Christina Ricci talk about growing up as Wednesday Addams. James Jude Courtney (Michael Myers) was such a great storyteller however, that I could see myself plying the man with round after round to hear all of the many wisdoms he has learned through decades of stunt work and acting. Elvira is always a character I have personally not allowed myself to enjoy because of my undying love for Vampira; I always had a stupid either/or attitude. After attending Ms. Peterson’s panel, she is delightful and perhaps the hardest working woman in showbusiness. I’m looking forward to an Elvira deep dive.
Of course, there is so much more to do than go to film panels and chase down autographs. Some people actually live for the celebrity photo op, but it’s not really my thing. There are always exceptions to any rule however and Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps, Halloween III: Season of the Witch) was in attendance. I have always loved the characters that he has portrayed; he brings a certain quality that makes any otherworldly situation seem grounded. No matter how over the top, Atkins’ characters are always the anchor. I am happy to report that he was a total gentleman and it was an absolute pleasure to meet him.
Horrorhound Weekend is as much a party as it is a convention. During the costume ball on Saturday night, Unknown Hinson and The Cryptkeeper Five rocked a packed house full of werewolves, zombies, vampires, and me. Unknown Hinson is the rockabilly raconteur who most are familiar with from Cartoon Network’s Squidbillies as the voice of Early. Any fan of the Cramps or the late Dick Dale will definitely love the surf rock and B movie punk. We danced as he sang songs about rednecks, cheating wives, and hard liquor. I was happy to hear him announce from the stage that a thirteenth season of Squdbillies had just wrapped production.
One of the things that I keep coming back to when I think back is how it all felt like a dream that I couldn’t quite control. It is impossible to do all the things that you want to do. I was only able to make it to one film screening, A24’s The Hole in the Ground. Instead of more movies I lost myself in a sea of endless vendors—that’s where the energy seemed to constantly be.
The vendor hall actually hummed with excitement; I never knew who I was going to walk past or what must-have item I was going to pass. Of course I ended up spending way too much money but I don’t regret a single purchase. One of the highlights of the entire weekend was meeting longtime Rue Morgue artist Gary “Ghoulish” Pullin. He was there selling his work and I was able to snag a signed Halloween poster.
The entire experience of Horrorhound Weekend was a whirlwind of fun; I feel so lucky to have finally gone to what is the first of many conventions to come. It meant the world to me to be able to see filmmakers, performers, and artists talk about their craft. I learned something from each experience that I had and every person that I met.
The horror community is like a family. I had to mention to Neve Campbell that I was a weird kid that really didn’t have many friends; I spent most of my time escaping into horror films. Today that kid feels at home with the other freaks and weirdos. We all love horror; we all accept each other. It really is the best feeling. There are two types of families in life: the family you’re born into and the family you choose. Horrorhound reminded me that horror is the family I choose.