Spooky Empire Retro was clearly designed with an attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The location is exactly the same as last April, at the Wyndham Orlando, which was once a longtime home for Spooky until it began to expand a few years ago. And it works. The event was well laid out and incredibly easy to navigate throughout the weekend. There were two vendor rooms, a separate room for autographs, another for photographs, and a main room for panels.
This system worked last year and it felt even more streamlined, less hectic this year. Spooky Empire Retro is a much smaller event than the main show in October, which may explain why it was so easy to navigate.
I attended several panels over the course of the weekend, including Q&A’s with Kane Hodder and the cast of Rob Zombie’s Halloween on Saturday, as well as Malcolm McDowell and the cast of The Monster Squad on Sunday. All four panels were fun, well organized, there was a bit of a hiccup with the clip introducing Monster Squad, but the technicians and moderators recovered quickly.
Kane Hodder talked a bit about playing the other incarnations of Jason in Friday the 13th: The Game, which was something I simply hadn’t heard him mention before. In the game, Kane Hodder returns to the role of Jason to provide the motion capture—but fans will be able to play as almost every version of Jason from the entire film series. Many of these roles were not played by Kane and he addressed this in a way that was enlightening and honestly impressive.
The Halloween ten-year reunion panel was a lot of fun. It wasn’t a very serious affair and it’s clear that this cast still gets along really, really well. There weren’t necessarily any new questions addressed, but there was a funny point where Tyler Mane was asked if there was any other monster besides Michael Myers that he really wanted to play and he said that he’d always wanted to play Frankenstein’s Monster, which had also been Kane Hodder’s answer to the same question earlier in the day. Mane immediately fired back with “Fuck Kane Hodder! And you can tell him I said that,” which got a big laugh from the audience.
Malcolm McDowell was completely candid and bitingly funny in his panel on Sunday. He talked about the difficult process of making Caligula and how relieved he was to get cast in Time After Time almost directly after that. In talking about Time After Time he also mentioned the research he did for playing the part of H.G. Wells and listening to recordings of interviews with Wells from the 1920s. McDowell was prepared to study the man’s actual voice so that he could be as authentic as possible in the film, only to discover that Wells spoke with a very high-pitched, soft-spoken cadence that McDowell felt would probably not fit the movie very well.
The Monster Squad panel closed out the weekend. While the crowd was tapering off at that point, it was one of the most fun panels of the event. Usually, with actors that were kids when they made the movie, they don’t always remember a ton about the filming process or have spoken to death about their small part in it.
That’s just not the case with Andre Gower and Ryan Lambert. They are so, so grateful that people love the movie, they’re still happy to talk about something they did thirty years ago. The panel was really funny and insightful. Ryan Lambert talked a bit about playing Rudy as such a larger-than-life action hero of a character, but smartly pointed out that Rudy was probably the loneliest member of the squad. A fifteen year-old hanging out with twelve year-olds, Rudy didn’t really have any friends or group that he felt like he belonged to. He also talked about working with Tom Noonan, who never dropped character as Frankenstein, even to do on-set interviews.
I got the chance to meet and chat briefly with both Monster Squad cast members and Malcolm McDowell, all of whom were incredibly kind and courteous. Overall, the weekend was a blast. It was exactly what a convention should be. A place to share in the love of horror, to meet other fans and talk about your favorite things and to encounter some of your genre heroes in a refreshingly down-to-earth environment.
I’ll definitely be excited to return again in the Fall. Spooky tends to move around a little bit, so it’s nice to have a single location for Retro, especially one that’s smaller and slightly more laid back.