Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend is a longstanding tradition in Orlando, a horror convention that takes place twice a year, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend many times. After a few years bouncing back and forth to and from various locations, it seemed to find a permanent home in the Double Tree across from Universal Studios. The venue worked well for them. Parking has always been something of a minor issue as event parking for the convention is very limited. But the layout is nice and easy to navigate, which is why it’s unfortunate that this was the last Spooky Empire at that location, and they’ll be moving to a different one in October.
The event itself was great. Last October’s show got a little overcrowded and hard to navigate, but this was an easy fix because there were fewer guests this year. While the vendors and majority of guests generally share the same space, they were placed in separate rooms for this event, which made navigating both the vendors and the guests much easier.As for the event itself, it was a blast. All of the guests I was lucky enough to talk to were polite, down to earth and personable. Nobody looked like they didn’t want to be there. Usually, headlining guests at Spooky have a line around the building. In the past, I’ve seen lines at least move outside for John Carpenter, George Romero and Robert Englund. This weekend, that only happened for the American Horror Story and Once Upon a Time guests. Brad Dourif, one of my favorite actors in horror or any genre, had virtually no line for most of the weekend. But this at least made it easy to go up and talk to him, get him to sign something and ask a few casual questions about his career.
His panel, which also should have drawn more of a crowd, was great. Dourif talked openly about his lengthy career, from his early Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (joking that it “was all downhill from there”) to his work with David Lynch in Dune and Blue Velvet and then of course his work on the Child’s Play films.
FX guru Robert Kurtzman also had an enlightening panel as he spoke about everything from working on Predator to From Dusk Till Dawn and Tusk, as well as addressing why he’s not currently working on Ash vs. Evil Dead. It simply comes down to the fact that with the show shooting in New Zealand they didn’t want to outsource an FX crew when there are working effects artists down there. Kurtzman was great to talk to all weekend, doing a special effects demonstration on both Friday and Saturday as well as signing and just talking with people and hanging out all weekend.
Other major guests included Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame as well as The Crow and Congo, who seemed genuinely excited to be there; plus Tom Skeritt and Veronica Cartwright of Alien, Alex Vincent of Child’s Play 1 and 2, and many more. For most attendees, the true headliners were the case of freaks from American Horror Story: Freakshow.
The vendors getting their own space, shared with the Halloween Extreme experience, allowed for more freedom to navigate that area—which, as with most conventions, tends to get a little pushy. There wasn’t much of that at this event, though. Everyone was there to have fun, unearth whatever forgotten gems they could find and in general just revel in the horror community.
It will be interesting to see how things change when they move to their new location in October, but for now they probably could not have ended on a better note.