In October, Spooky Empire was gearing up for what was going to be its biggest convention ever—by far. They’d moved to the Orlando Convention Center, they’d pulled together an amazing, all-star lineup of guests. From the people I talked to who had been lucky enough to see the setup, it would have looked astonishing. But it just didn’t come to pass. Only a day before the convention was set to begin, Central Florida was rocked by Hurricane Matthew and the event was cancelled.
This past weekend was the result of six weeks of rescheduling. Trying to bring back old guests and trying to bring in new ones to fill in the gaps. This was basically an entire convention planned from the ground up in under two months, and I think that has to be taken into account.
This was a smaller Spooky Empire than what are used to seeing in autumn, it’s closer to the size of their mid-year May-Hem event. And it’s much smaller than it was originally planned to be. But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t fun to be had. There were some heavy-hitting guests that brought in, I would think, an entirely new legion of fans.
The biggest draw for the convention, for most people, was the cast of Stranger Things. This was a show that came out of nowhere earlier this year and took the nation by storm. It was a show that provided a heavy dose of nostalgia while telling a great story with all the right influences. The kids were arguably what really sold it and made it work, so everyone was excited to meet them.
I’ll admit, it’s always strange meeting celebrities who are kids because it’s always strange to see children have to act like adults, but this entire group was a beacon of positive energy. All of the young cast were, fun, quick-witted and genuinely seemed like they were enjoying themselves to no end.
Another major name in attendance was Weird Al Yankovick. He might not have much to do with horror outside an appearance as himself in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, but people were happy for the chance to meet him nonetheless.
One of the biggest draws for me, personally, was the Spooky Empire Film Festival. This was something I was very excited for and I was happy to see how well organized and orchestrated it was—well, save for a Blu-ray mishap on Friday night. Blair Bathory organized the entire thing and, like the overall convention, had many obstacles to overcome in rescheduling it. But she pulled it off very well. It was great to know that anytime during the convention, there would always be something playing.
I saw several great shorts in the Film Festival, which was a big draw for me, because film fests like this are often the only time one actually gets to see short films, especially with an audience.
In general, the convention itself was laid out in an easy and well-organized manner. There have been times in the past when Spooky Empire has felt a little cramped, just because there’s a lot going on in a sometimes smaller space. That definitely wasn’t the case here, because this was a smaller convention in a massive venue.
My only real complaint would be that the Orange County Convention Center is too big for its own good and nearly impossible to navigate, even if you’ve been there before. It definitely got easier after the first day, but finding the way into the building and toward the convention was no small task. Once there, Spooky Empire itself was well laid out and easy to navigate, but getting there was a bit of a journey.
I certainly enjoyed myself. I loved how spacious the vendor room was this time and I had a great time talking with the guests. This was not the Spooky Empire that it was originally planned to be, it wasn’t the Spooky to end all Spookies, but given what they were up against, it’s still something of a victory that it turned out to be the organized and fun event that it was.