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7th signs

Musings on Scarefest 7

By: Eric Brooks, Contributing Author

 

In September 2007 a new phenomenon occurred in the Bluegrass, one that has since become a fall staple enjoyed by thousands. In that year paranormal expert Patti Starr and horror enthusiast Jeff Waldridge brought forth the Scarefest horror and paranormal convention. By fusing the two Waldridge and Starr created a unique show with broad appeal. Over the seven years it has been held, the show has grown and improved and become one of the largest of its kind going. I have been fortunate to attend five of the last six and have grown to look forward to almost immediately after it ends and for the whole year until it arrives. Over the years, there have of course, been changes from the expansion of the vendor hall to the addition of the Portal to the subcontracting of the screening room. One of the most significant is that after last year Jeff Waldridge, who ran the event and was the horror end of the partnership, decided to retire from it. As I am more of the horror persuasion than the paranormal, this was of some concern to me. As I approached Scarefest 7, I wondered how all these changes would play out and what the event would look like and further, how the future of Scarefest appears. What follows is what I found.

 

      

 

          Fundamentally, the thing that really drives Scarefest, or any fan convention for that matter, is the celebrity guest list it offers. Scarefest, on the whole, has done pretty well on this score bringing such greats as George Romero, Lance Henriksen, Danny Trejo, Tom Holland, Adrienne Barbeau, Elvira, and Malcom McDowell. This year seemed initially a little light in this area at least on the Horror side. Corey Feldman was the highlight for a long time. I am a great fan of The Lost Boys but could not really feel excited about Corey. His resume beyond being one of the Frog brothers just isn’t deep. Fortunately several other stars were added that help flesh out the roster a bit. Sean “Samwise Gamgee” Austin and Carey Elwes brought broad and substantial appeal. Scarefest also produced a late score with Gary and Jake Busey. Unfortunately, Scarefest was bitten by a bug that has gotten it before when Gary Busey had to pull out at the last minute to film The Big Brother UK. Had he made it known that he wanted to do something with UK, he really should have just asked the Big Blue Nation. In all the guests, at least on the horror side, were good but not great. I had the opportunity to see three of the top guests: Cary Elwes, Sean Austin, and Corey Feldman. One was one of the best I have ever seen anywhere, one was very pleasant and interesting and one was a hot mess.

 

The first Q&A I attended was that of Carey Elwes. For reasons that defy explanation, Elwes was apparently not on the original schedule for a Q&A. As a result, he was given a slot vacated by a demonologist who did not show (much to the chagrin of a lot of folks who were either possessed or concerned about being so in the future) in a very small room behind the main hall. This made for a very intimate q&a as compared to the usual several hundred people, so much so that Mr. Elwes  even noticed this journalist taking notes and asked what I was writing for so I of course plugged bmovieman.com! Mr. Elwes was incredibly entertaining and so engaging. He began by walking the entire room through order his new book As You Wish, a memoir of the making of The Princess Bride, on Amazon. I ordered mine and can’t wait to receive it in October (look for a review at bmovieman.com around Halloween!).  Mr. Elwes told many funny stories about The Princess Bride and even did great impressions of many of the folks he worked with including Andre the Giant and Rob Reiner. As one would expect, Elwes described The Princess Bride as the greatest moment of his career. He was only 23 when it filmed and one of the least experienced people in a film whose cast included a professional wrestler with more prior screen time. It propelled him into what has become a great career of over 3 decades and has provided what he called “endless love”. After discussing his most famous work, a fan asked about the dichotomy of that film and Elwes’ most famous foray in horror: Saw. Saw resulted from the fact that Elwes’ management was producing the film. Elwes’ really like the film script and was impressed with the detail that director/writer James Wan used in creating the script and proposal. He even had a meticulous blueprint of a trap of some sort and when Elwes remarked on it Wan noted that not only was there a drawing, the trap was actually operational (here again Elwes did a great impression of the Kiwi Wan). The session was fantastic and at its end Elwes made sure to shake hands with those in attendance. All of them. That is class and that is Elwes.

 

I followed Carey Elwes with two more Q&As: Sean Astin and Corey Feldman. Sean Astin was very professional in his coat and tie and very personable. His Q&A was in the large hall and it was very full. Astin spent most of his time discussing the obvious subject: The Lord of the Rings. Such an epic film experience would be the highlight of any career and it certainly was for Astin. If nothing else, the use of an entire country as film set made for many dramatic moments. Apparently, the actors, crew, and director Peter Jackson would fly around in helicopters and when he saw a location he liked Jackson have the choppers set down and the equipment trucks would roll in. This meant any number of times when they would land on some unsuspecting farmer’s field. The people of New Zealand are so friendly and laid back and Jackson is such a hero there that the choppers were generally welcomed warmly and allowed free reign to film away. Astin got to see a whole country and many amazing landscapes. The length and intensity of the shoot (two years) meant the cast also formed a reall strong bond that still holds. Of course there was one major drawback, namely that Astin had to be up a 4am to get into his Hobbit gear, including the feet which were quite uncomfortable. Astin was very friendly and enjoyable and even managed to get through being session bombed by Corey Feldman.

 

Corey Feldman was the final Q&A that I attended. Corey is the classic 80s child star gone wrong. He has battled drugs, alcohol, and even being one of Michael Jackson’s kid pals. Now he is a façade, all flash and no substance. He sports dyed hair, designer shades, and fancy clothes but very little real personality. It frankly is very sad. Feldman was funny at times and had some nice reminiscences of Keifer Sutherland.

      

Celebrities aside, the other major component of the Scarefest is the vendor hall. Over the years it has grown substantially and the variety of vendors has dramatically increased. This year proved to be a most interesting one in the hall. Several folks normally present in the hall were not this year. For example, escape artist Aron Houdini was on the injured reserve list recovering from spinal injuries and dealing with his unfortunate diagnosis of early onset Parkinson’s disease. Here’s hoping he gets back soon. There were several new entrants, however, that really were great additions. One was a booth from an outfit called Roadtrippers (roadtrippers.com). They apparently explore the country looking for the weird, the macabre, and bizarre, and the just plain cool. They then seem to display it at their booth. They had curiosities like a human skullcap inlaid with brass decoration used for Central American ceremonies, a piece of molding from the Amityville Horror house, a mummified cat, and even a knife that may have been used at the Vatican (or may more likely have come from Rome, Georgia). As a museum curator, I have always been fascinated with cabinets of curiosities and loved theirs. The other booth of note to me was that of Asylum Artwork. Asylum Artwork is the night job of an otherwise mild mannered pharmacist. She creates bottled specimens and preserved animal artwork that is simply amazing. She doesn’t kill anything, she just makes use of what is otherwise dead and wasted. It is truly a remarkable talent that results in some remarkable work.

 

Of course, there are other elements of Scarefest besides the celebrities and vendor hall. There are seminars, the Portal, and the screening . I attended two seminars. The first was by a paranormal expert named Stephanie Bingham who spoke on a variety of paranormal beings. I had seen Stephanie before and she was excellent again. I also saw B Movie Man himself who spoke on Werewolves in film. This was a spur of the moment workshop but was well done and full of neat facts. Who knew the original wolfman’s hair was actually yak? I never made it into the screening room. I just couldn’t get excited about the films and was deterred by the fact that they charged two dollars a film or five for the day. It was not a lot of money but I found it annoying. The Portal is a new element added about 2 years ago that provides a venue for gaming and related activities. I entered bvriefly anf there were some interesting games but I didn’t have time to get fully involved in any.

 

In all, Scarefest 7 was another good time. Some new things were enjoyed and some old ones revisited. In many ways Scarefest seems to be on good footing and has a solid fan base. There are, however, some important questions. Most significantly can Scarefest continue to attract high level guests? This year’s list was good but not great. Cary Elwes was an amazing surprise and Sean Astin lived up to expectations. Corey Feldman was, well, unfortunate. Given that Lexington’s other fan show, Lexington Toy and Comic Con is getting the likes of George Takei, William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, and Michael Biehn, Scarefest will have to reach a higher bar if they are to keep pace. There are also several things that Scarefest might add that would be really meaningful and separate it from the pack. Bringing in authors (they had Clive Barker once but he had to cancel) would add a whole new dimension and with two great independent booksellers in town, a book fair would be very doable. I also heard someone mention having a “best vendor booth award”. I know other shows do awards and I think Scarefest could generate greater fan connection by giving awards for things like best booth, best guest, best seminar, and perhaps a special horror contribution award. In all Scarefest has been a great addition to the cultural landscape in the Bluegrass. If it keeps changing and evolving it will continue to be!

 



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