For the first time in ages, I will not be attending a Weekend of Horrors convention this year, but not by choice or a scheduling conflict. In fact no one is attending - the convention, a staple for horror fans dating back for over 25 years, is no longer being held. After years of declining attendance (and quality of guests/panels), not to mention splitting ways with Fangoria in 2010, they finally opted to just give it up rather than beat the dead horse any further. It's a shame it went out this way, but both parties simply refused to adapt to the times, sticking to the same format that they had in the 80s and 90s, before the internet took over. They still had the trailer reel to kick things off, but the spots were all available on iTunes. And they'd still bring out the auction for lame things like signed photos of John Saxon, when you can get most of this stuff on eBay. By the end it was embarrassing to attend; I kept going out of obligation but couldn't recall the last time I actually enjoyed one.
Luckily, we Los Angeles folk have Monsterpalooza, which is a superior convention in every way one can imagine anyway. While there are still a few D-listers charging 20 bucks for their autograph (when I first started going in the late 90s, no one charged. Nowadays, the guys that DON'T charge are given the evil eye from the others for "making them look bad"), everything about the convention screams "FOR THE FANS!". The panels mostly focus on creatures and makeup work instead of lame indies that might not even get made. Indeed, I still remember a WoH con in 2006 that had a panel for a film called Sin-Jin Smyth that has still not been released, and its participants on the panel were mostly drunk, as I recall. There's none of that sort of tomfoolery at Monsterpalooza; the guys on stage are professional and want to be there just as much as the people in the crowd.
That's another thing about the con; you'll see guys like Guillermo Del Toro or John Landis walking around even if they don't have a panel or anything in particular to promote - they're going because it's awesome. The dealer room is loaded with stuff worth checking out, and I'm sure more than a few attendees have come home to angry spouses after dropping the electric bill money on a rare poster or scale statue. And the attitude of the convention holders is infectious; when I'd go to a Creation-run con there would always be a lot of surliness among the staff and attendees, but that's not the case at any Monsterpalooza I've attended - the volunteers are friendly, the celebs seem to be having fun, and the attendees are in high spirits. Amazing what can happen when they're not being bilked out of their dough at every turn. Even if you don't spend a penny (besides the fairly cheap door admission) you can still have a great time, a far cry from say, the Supernatural convention, where you can't do ANYTHING without opening your wallet (check out Devin's depressing but 100% accurate report from that nightmare).
Hell, you even get free stuff that's worth a damn. As a model kit enthusiast, I've never been more bummed out over the fact that I don't have any children than when I saw the notice that the first 100 kids through the door EACH DAY (Fri-Sun) of the convention get a free Moebius monster kit. The convention is very much geared toward classic horror; you're more likely to see statues or kits of Lugosi or Karloff than one of the Saw villains. They also focus on the craft; makeup demonstrations and the like are common sights as you walk around, and the guest list is heavily skewed in favor of FX gurus and artists. Not only does it make it more appealing to the fans, but it also caters to kids in a way - you see a lot of dads bringing their budding "Monster Kids" around and opening their eyes to the world of horror via the stuff that has endured for decades. What from our generation is going to be around in 30 years? No one's going to be waxing nostalgic and introducing their kids to The Devil Inside.
And here's the funny thing - I love Monsterpalooza simply for doing things right. There's a great Onion article about a pro basketball player who was lauded for being a "decent human being", and the humor of that piece applies in a similar manner here. The convention is great mainly because it shows respect for the genre that it's celebrating - why is that so "weird"? I wish I could make it out to some of the others: Texas' Frightmare Weekend, Kentucky's Scarefest, etc, just to see if those are more like a Weekend of Horrors or Monsterpalooza. As I look at their websites, it seems to be the former - I don't see the sort of celebratory nature of Monsterpalooza's lineup (with tributes to Jack Pierce, Ray Harryhausen, etc) on their sites. I mean, the headline on one site's festival page is "Verne Troyer Announced!" Yeah man, that's who horror fans want to see: Mini-Me.
As I've said millions of times, most horror fans are actually the nicest folks in the world. Standing in line at a con will always result in making a new pal as you talk about this or that movie or complimenting each others' shirts or whatever; as opposed to at a ball game where you're more likely to get into a fight over a spilled beer. And I never heard of a guy in a Jason shirt beating a guy in a Freddy shirt into a coma, like some Dodger fans did to this poor Giants fan a year ago. Going to cons can and SHOULD be fun for all involved, and thus I want to thank Monsterpalooza for getting it right, and hope that the other annual cons around the country follow their lead when programming their own. You don't want to end up like the Weekend of Horrors, killed off by its own greed and lack of concern for the attendees.
Anyway, I hope some of you fine folks can make it. Probably too late to fly out, but definitely worth a road trip if you're in California or even Arizona/Nevada. Monsterpalooza is held at the Marriott across from the Burbank Airport, from April 13-15th. Tickets are available at the door; discounted weekend passes are available. Visit the site for a full lineup of guests and panels. And if you see me, say hi! I'll be the guy drooling at the Don Post Halloween III masks.