For many, Halloween time is the best time of the year. The costumes, the candy, the general spookiness—there’s just no other time of the year like it if you’re a fan of what’s ghastly and ghoulish.
Yet, there is another time of year to enjoy such spooky delights, and it happens to be this weekend.
Starting tonight, the horror convention Midsummer Scream is back for another year of workshops, panels, vendors and performances that bring Halloween to life months before it resurrects. Taking of the Long Beach Convention Center, there are tons to see over the course of the three days, so here’s a rundown of what you should put on your schedule. You’ll learn a lot, see a lot and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be spooked by a lot as well.
Here’s just some of what’s happening:
The Convention kicks off today with a noteworthy appearance—Greg Nicotero. He’s best known now for his work with The Walking Dead as executive producer, director, and main special effects makeup advisor.
However, Nicotero’s legendary status reaches farther than the present success of the televised comic book series. His special effects work goes all the way back to working with special effects pioneer Tom Savini on (and starring in) director George A. Romero’s 1985 film ‘Day of the Dead.’ His studio KNB EFX Group has worked on hundreds of movies and television shows, including Frank Hubert’s “Dune” on the Sci Fi Channel. He also won an Academy Award for makeup on the 2006 film “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
He’ll be speaking with LeeAnna Vamp of the Let’s Get Spooky podcast about his career, and what it’s been like to work on such influential horror films and series.
Cabaret Macabre Performs
On top of the live interviewed insight with Nicotero, tonight will also have two performances from the Cabaret Macabre, teetering between disturbingly erotic and hauntingly captivating. Led by Brittany DeWeese, the Macabre dancers find ways to incorporate the drama and gore associated with horror into their moves.
During Cabaret sets of the past, they’ve even dived into the psychedelic, channeling scenes from Willy Wonka to show how horrific happy times can be. Cabaret Macabre’s full-length productions normally take place at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater in North Hollywood but their Midsummer Scream ones are only 15 minutes each, so it’ll be interesting to see how they pare everything down.
If you’re a fan of everything the monthly cult film screening party Cinematic Void does, then you’ll be excited to see their advance screening of WNUF Halloween Sequel, the next in their ode to local television Halloween specials.
They’ve crafted it to look like a fake television broadcast from the ‘90s, featuring themed commercials, music and all of the kitschiness you can think of. Plus, Cinematic Void is hosting a pre-screening mixer with holiday cocktails and visuals, and a Q&A with filmmaker Chris LaMartina and co-producer Melissa LaMartina after the screening.
As the first full day of the convention, Saturday’s schedule is packed with presentations, workshops, mini-film festivals and more. “The Supernatural Scares” short film block opens up the day at 11:15 a.m. with four short movies exploring how scary the supernatural realm can truly be. The hairs on the back of your neck will be fully standing up, making it the perfect time to learn about some fairly chilling topics.
Next, head to the “Anatomy of a Murder Mystery Party” class, where you’ll learn the ins and outs of planning the perfect murder mystery get-together. Instead of going through some overly thorough Powerpoint slides, you get hands-on experience from The Mystery Co. founder Paul Head, teaching everything from how to send the invitations to how to properly plan and play the Clue-esque game.
‘Low-Budget Horror Filmmaking Hacks’
If creating is more of your preferred method of fun, filmmaker Buz Wallick is teaching “Low-Budget Horror Filmmaking Hacks,” using his film showcase “Just Scare Me” as examples of filmmaking tips and tricks when it comes to horror movie productions.
There are workshops for making your own (decorative) tombstones and skull-shaped candles, but what might be more visually stimulating is “Sweet Sorrow: A Zombie Ballet” by the Leigh Purtill Ballet Company.
Based on a novel that Purtill wrote as a sequel to “Romeo & Juliet,” the ballet quickly follows Juliet’s cousin Rosaline through many misadventures through encounters with vampires, werewolves and of course, zombies, as she tries to find the lost Juliet. Entirely made up, but definitely worth expanding your imagination for, “Sweet Sorrow” balances the dark romanticism of the Shakespearian universe with the supernatural. It may end up being a little more solemn than Cobbs’ “Carnival of Dreams,” the variety show of zombie comedians, a werewolf ventriloquist, and more old-timey takes on spooky entertainment.
The Cobb Family is continuing the tradition, trying to bring a bit more of a chilling element to the magic of the height of the Cobb Siblings’ shows from the 1930s.
Metallica In The House
One of the biggest attractions of the day comes by way of “The Original Monster Kids” panel. Kirk Hammett of Metallica—who happens to also be a huge horror memorabilia collector. He will lead and moderate the discussion, featuring Bela Lugosi’s granddaughter, Lynne Lugosi Sparks; Lon Chaney Jr. and Sr.’s grandson and great-grandson respectively, Ron Chaney; and Sara Karloff, the daughter of Boris Karloff. They’ll mainly dish about what it’s like to have to carry on the legacy of such historic horror actors, even sharing intimate home movie clips, photos and old stories.
A little less personal but equally entertaining will be “Night of the Living Drag,” a daytime Drag Revue hosted by the “Mistress of Scare-emonies” Peaches Christ.
Each performance is meant to make you chuckle and screech, and possibly even retch. Queens MR. HE, Miss Clair Voyance, The Reel Guys, Natasha Nightmare, Oceana, and Luxe will be decked out in their finest monster outfits, but entirely fashionable.
Capping the day off will be a live taping of “Girl That’s Scary,” the Black women-hosted podcast analyzing and adoring horror and sci-fi through a non-white lens. Part of their appeal is how personable they are, so it’ll be like having a large-scale conversation with your homegirls, and they want it that way.
The last day of Midsummer Scream is where you’ll learn the most.
The classes and panel discussions Sunday will not only provide historical deep dives into certain elements but some of the conversations are meant to make you think a little deeper about some of the sociological implications that come with the genre itself.
Like the “We ARE the Weirdos, Mister!” panel taking place in the early afternoon. Tom Bloom will moderate a discussion with Shanita Bump, Joshua Grannell, Jannica Olin, Teri Gamble and William O. Tyler on how they’ve maneuvered through hurdles regarding race, gender identity and differences in ability, all from the perspectives of people who have experienced them before.
‘History of Horror Comics’
Educational in a different way is the “History of Horror Comics” class, which examines how comics paved a new way for stylistic sophistication in narrative horror, starting in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s.
Touching on classics like “Vault of Horror” and “Tales from the Crypt,” Benjamin Dickow (Captured Aural Phantasy Theater) will give a lecture on how the comic-book horror genre still holds a heavy influence over film and comics today.
A somewhat similar conversation, focusing on the small and big screens, is happening at the same time. Presented by Fangoria, the “Making Horror Fun Again” discussion features the creator of the “Scream” franchise, the screenwriters of “Freaky” and “Malignant,” and the creator of the shows “American Gods” and “Hannibal” all talking about just how relevant and representative horror movies are to present society.
The genre has always meant to be a varied reflection of fears with the audiences watching the films, while holding up a mirror to society in general, and moderator Nay Bever (Queer for Fear, Attack of the Queerwolf) will lead the discussion on what all of that might continue to look like as the world keeps chaotically spinning.
You might want to end the weekend by taking in a little bit of retro horror style with the “Beach Blanket Massacre Fashion Show,” the annual creepy catwalk hosted by “Poltergeists and Paramours.”
This year, it’s got a 1960s “spooky beach” theme with designs by Ama Lea. Afterward, take in what it feels like to attend an award show with the 2022 “Screaming Room Awards.” Mr. HE and Remy Cashman host the convention’s final event, revealing the winners of this year’s Screaming Room Film Festival with all the ghostly glitz and glamor you can imagine.
Cervanté Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org