This weekend I got the chance to check out the second annual Connecticut HorrorFest at the Matrix Conference Center in Danbury, CT. Put on by Horror News Network, I had heard good things about last year’s event and was excited to see what they had going on this time around.
It’s a very new convention, and because of that it’s still pretty small. The layout was a bit different from the other events that I’ve been to. Rather than one large open show floor with aisles of vendors, booths, and tables it took place in two main rooms and a connecting hallway with those booths lining the edges of each. Most vendors were in the “Chainsaw Room,” while the cafe, tables to eat at, the panel set up, as well a few more booths were in to the “Fright Room.” For the most part the layout worked well, though the entrance to the “Fright Room” could be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there and the foot traffic in certain areas got pretty dense, particularly in that connecting hallway. The “Chainsaw Room” had a lot of open space so I can’t help but wonder if maybe they could have relocated one or two things from the hallway to there, but that’s not really a big deal. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a convention where there aren’t at least one or two tight spots.In spite of not having a ton of booths, they managed to collect a nice variety of vendors and basically anything you could want in a horror convention was at least represented in some capacity. Immediately upon entry it’s impossible to miss setups from local attraction The Haunted Graveyard as well as a giant zombie head and hands from Decimated Designs, a company that creates and sells props for similar places all over the country. In the “Chainsaw Room” there were a few tables filled with DVDs and Blu Rays of hard to find cult classics. There were vendors selling licensed horror shirts and merchandise such as refrigerator magnets, pins, and toys. The “Fright Room” housed comic book artists with prints and copies of their books as well as a few local artists.
The first table that really caught my eye was Grey Matter Art, a poster company in the same vein as Mondo. They were selling huge limited edition screen printed posters for films such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Terminator, and Puppet Master. All of the work was absolutely beautiful, but the Cannibal Holocaust poster drawn by artist Randy Ortiz really stuck out for me. It also gets the distinct honor of being the first poster that I’ve seen for that movie that doesn’t just feature the impaled woman. Look out for them at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ on the weekend of July 31st. They’ll be debuting some brand new stuff exclusively for that convention.
Almost directly across the hall from Grey Matter was one of the more interesting booths in the room. Hardcore Sweet Custom Cupcakes was set up selling some pretty creative and unique horror-themed cupcakes. Their website and shop in Oakville, CT feature food that’s a bit less horror-centric (though just as creative), but the ones they chose to bring to this convention appeared to be tailored specifically to the guests and panels that were appearing. “Hellraiser Heath,” “Leatherface,” and “Voorhees Velvet” were all on the menu. There was even a vegan option in the “Vegan Bicycle Bruiser” if that’s something that you’re interested in. Personally, I went in the opposite direction and opted for the “Leatherface,” which has candied bacon on top of it. Delicious.
The last thing I must mention from the con floor is a table that was running a raffle in support of the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut. A basket featuring a Captain Spaulding Pop Vinyl figure autographed by Sig Haig, signed artwork from Jeff Zornow, as well as a ton of DVDs, Blu-Rays, shirts, Walking Dead holiday ornaments, and more was up for grabs and all of the proceeds from the raffle went right to EFCT’s Camp Courage for children with Epilepsy.
The major draw of CT HorrorFest was the guest list. Both rooms had a handful of celebrities signing autographs and there were panels throughout the day where the audience could ask the guests questions. In the “Chainsaw Room” sat professional wrestler Mick Foley, bag-Jason himself Warrington Gillette and all of the remaining Sawyer Clan from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface), John Dugan (Grandpa), and Ed Neal (the Hitchhiker) were all present and accounted for. Stationed in the “Fright Room” were Faceoff finalist Tyler Green, Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp, actor Michael Jai White (Spawn, The Dark Knight), and the one and only Doug Bradley (Hellraiser). Horrocore Hip Hop group The Flatlinerz were also scheduled to appear though they ended up canceling their appearance.
The panels were all engaging and fairly diverse. Tyler Green did a live makeup demonstration to start things off, though I was only able to catch part of it. The first one that I saw in its entirety was The Amazing World of Horror Comics, with Jeff Zornow (artist, 68, Godzilla: Rulers of Earth), Matthew Summo (writer, Dedication), and Sam Costello (writer, Split Lip). The dynamic here was pretty interesting since Summo and Costello were very calm and laid back with Zornow being a bit more of a rockstar. He’s a little louder and more foul-mouthed, which can overshadow the other guys, but it certainly makes for an entertaining panel. They spoke at length about how they each got started, who their favorite horror comic creators are, and what the state of horror comics currently is. Zornow in particular talked about the recent trend of supernatural horror and how the rise of the religious right may have effected the genre shifting focus towards that. They ended the panel by giving away a ludicrous amount of free comics to the audience.
The panels that closed the convention were the big ones. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Reunion and Raising Hell With Doug Bradley both served as Q&A style talks with the celebrities we were all there to see. The Texas Chain Saw panel was more fun than it was informative, but that may just be because I listen to a lot DVD commentary tracks and was already aware of most of the trivia that was discussed. Ed Neal constantly cracked jokes and hammed it up for the audience as they all talked about their experience working on the film and what it was like to work with Tobe Hooper as a director as well as the extremely harsh conditions during filming. You can tell that they’ve all know each other for a long time and they just felt really comfortable hanging out in front of an audience and quipping back and forth.
As for Doug Bradley, that panel felt a lot more on the informative side. He spoke about his friendship with Hellraiser writer and director Clive Barker, his favorite baseball teams (The Pittsburgh Pirates if you were wondering), and his stance on remakes. The last half or so of the talk was dedicated to his absolute disgust with the recent remake trend and why there’s far less of an excuse to do it now that movies have an increased shelf life with services like Netflix and home media. I thoroughly enjoyed both of these talks, though they felt a bit short at 45 minutes a piece. I easily could have sat there for twice as long.
CT HorrorFest is a young convention. This was the second one ever and there’s clearly a lot of room to grow, but even with the small size they managed to make something that’s a lot of fun. The guests were great, the panels were entertaining, and even with really only a handful of vendors I could have spent a couple hundred dollars there if I had money to burn. I’m excited to see it get bigger and see where it goes from here. Be sure to check out Horror News Network for updates on next year’s event and check back here for a full gallery of cosplay from the convention coming soon.