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Scarefest X: Ten Years and Going Strong

By: Eric Brooks BMovieman.com Correspondent

 

X. The 24th letter of the English alphabet. To Romans, the number ten. For Scarefest, this year X was the number not the letter. Ten years is a good run for any event and certainly for Scarefest and achieving that milestone created an opportunity to reflect on the past and look to the future. Both were done admirably this year. While Scarefest has generally been a great success in its first decade, it has at times faced challenges and after Scarefest 9, its most serious questions. Patti and Chuck Starr, the founders and owners of Scarefest, made the difficult decision to sell the show and retire from active participation in it. This meant that going into the tenth anniversary of the con, it would not be owned or managed by any of the original founders. Needless to say, this posed a number of questions about whether and how Scarefest would continue. Into the void stepped Brandon and Nicole Griffith. They bought Scarefest and began the process of rejuvenating and reorganizing the convention.

The first order of business with any fan convention is the celebrity guest list and Scarefest is no exception. In the last several years, Scarefest has perhaps fallen a little short in this area and it needed a lift to truly succeed in its tenth year. The Griffiths came through with one of the strongest guest lineups in Scarefest history. This year the headliner was a guest long sought by Scarefest fams and one of the true legends of horror: Robert Englund. Having had multiple Jason Voorhees and at least one Michae Myers, getting the one and only Freddy Krueger was a huge coup. Based on the lines for his autograph and photo, he was definitely a huge success. The Griffiths did not rest on this success however. They also brought in the man who has played Jason Voorhees more than anyone else: Kane Hodder. Hodder, in addition to the usual autographs, photos, and Q&A also premiered his own biopic at the Scarefest opening party Thursday night. For people with less violent and more comedic tastes, there were a number of guests to satisfy those. Most notably, Scarefest tapped into another revival, Mystery Science Theater, for two stars: Bill Corbett and Mary Jo Pehl. Another legedary performer in attendance was Barry Bostwick, best remembered as Brad of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame. In addition to a great Q&A, Bostwick offered signed tighty whities! For years, many Scarefest attendees have hoped for a visit from the Buffyverse and this year they finally got their wish – sort of. An appearance was made by Buffy herself, the original that is, Kristy Swanson, star of the 1992 feature film. Continuing the theme of revival, another guest star in the midst of a return to a past role was Edward James Olmos whose appearance coincided with his return as Gaff in the Blade Runner 2049.

While the celebrities are the headlines of the show, the vendor hall is the meat of the act. It, too, was reorganized and retooled including a new floorplan and many new vendors in addition to some of the old favorites. Scarefest has always attracted amazing artisans and craftspeople and this year was no exception. As this year’s star attraction was Freddy Krueger, it only follows that his signature bladed glove was a popular item and the best were offered by Mark Phillips of Nightmares Unlimited. He had screen quality models from all the films handmade from the highest quality materials. In addition to Freddy Gloves, Phillips also offered Reanimator syringes, Hellraiser cubes, Phantasm spheres and other screen quality props. Some collectors may not wish to settle for a prop but rather would like to capture a whole scene. For making one, Erick’s Custom Movie Monsters is the place to go. Erick makes dioramas of all sorts of creepy creatures from classic Universal horror films to the most current films. They are presented fully staged and complete with atmospheric lighting. If games are more your style, Justin Purvis of Movie Buff offered a novel take on useless trivia. His game, Movie Buff, involves collecting cards by providing film facts, Because the cards do not ask specific questions but rather provide general categories for which information is given. The game is player generated and therefore endless in variation. The author tried it and it was fun! Technology is making more and more inroads at Scarefest and this year’s bet example was an app called Creepy Compass. This app is a crowd sourced mapping and reporting platform for paranormal activity. It will tell a user what has been encountered in any location nationwide, be it a ghost, bigfoot, or a UFO. It has numerous categories and a wide range of information. The only downside is that much of the info requires a subscription to access.

In addition to the new entries in the Vendors Hall a number of old favorites returned. Abbots Hollow Studios has been a regular in Lexington at Scarefest and Lexington Comic and Toy Convention in recent years. Randy Cieszynski, the proprietor, makes amazing leather goods including bags, wallets, pouches, jewelry, masks, journals., and books. Most include glass eyes or faces. The author purchased a wallet (he wore his old one out shopping at Scarefest) and a copy of the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft in a beautiful handcrafted binding featuring Cthulhu himself. It is among the most treasured finds in all the years the author has been going to Scarefest. Another returning favorite is Kenny’s Mountain Taxidermy and Curiosities. Kenny likes to find creepy, strange, dead things and mount them or stick them in jars full of preservative. He has all sorts of weird and wiggly critters that really do make amazing art pieces. One would be remiss in not mentioning one of the few vendors to be at all 10 Scarefests: Joel Robinson, the official artist of Scarefest. He has created the art on all the programs and t shirts over the years and it is some incredible art. Joel paints all manner of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy and his work is truly incredible. Joel is also very charitable and every donates two large banners of the Scarefest art for the current Scarefest signed by every celebrity in attendance to be sold to benefit the scleroderma foundation.

The celebrities and the vendor hall are the draws that attract visitors to Scarefest. It is the organization of the event and the execution of the staff, however, that make the event great when attended. This year the staff and organization really worked well and made the event enjoyable. Lines and waiting are an inevitable part of Scarefest, whether to get tickets or celebrity autographs or seats at a Q&A, and this year they appeared to run well and everyone seemed happy despite them. Staff was happy to answer questions and direct convention goers and did so efficiently and effectively. Things ran on time and without glitches. These are all testaments to the hard work of the staff and forethought of the organizers.

Going into this year, there were serious questions about Scarefest and its future. The Griffiths took on some real risks when they bought the show. The efforts they made to enhance the guest list and revamp the vendor hall really paid off. Both were definitely improved over previous years. The show was also as well run and organized as it has been in a while. All these things point to a bright future ahead. Attendance was good and hopefully the coffers are full for the Griffiths to keep the party going for decades to come!

 

 






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