Spooky Empire Weekend, Part I


The first time I attended the Spooky Empire Weekend (when it was called Screamfest) I went as an author guest. It was fun, but it was NOT the kind of event where people flock to tables going “Oooh! Oooh! A published novelist!” Let’s put it this way: on the Guests page of the website, I was below the “blank placeholder” spot. This year, I went just as a civilian, and had a fantastic time.  

The dealer’s room was enormous and had thousands of DVDs, approximately 7% of which were official legal releases. I bought a pirated copy of my buddy Greg Lamberson’s movie Slime City just to tell him that I did. I also bought a deck of Texas Chainsaw Massacre playing cards, because everybody needs a pack of Texas Chainsaw Massacre playing cards, and the novelization of The Toxic Avenger. I don’t even like The Toxic Avenger that much, but I had to see what they did with this. (Report forthcoming…maybe…)

Much of my time was spent in the Freak Show Film Festival, which was run by Robert Massetti and which was, I must say, a damn good film festival. My original intent had been to camp out there and see the entire lineup, but sanity took over and instead I watched about half of them, leaving time for stuff like, y’know, meals. For the most part, each feature film was paired with one or two shorts…I’ll cover the shorts in a lump at the end.

The first movie was Nobody, which I really enjoyed despite the fact that if I’d known what it was about beforehand, I would’ve skipped it. I knew it was a noir movie, but it also fell into the What The %$&@ Is Going On? genre, where you’re not sure if you’re seeing reality, dream sequences, flashbacks, or what (although all is eventually made clear). I’m not big into that kind of storytelling, but it was a very solid, well-made little film. Also cold. The screening room was frickin’ freezing, and the entire movie is filled with cold outdoor night scenes. Fortunately, I’d packed a sweater, sparing me similar misery for the other films. I’m a thin-blooded Florida guy…

After dinner, I saw 13 Hours in a Warehouse, which is Reservoir Dogs meets an Asian ghost movie. The special effects are way too hokey for the movie to be scary, and some of the dialogue (most notably an extended conversation about Robin Williams movies) is shamelessly Tarantino-influenced…but it’s an entertaining movie, the acting is good, and I was never bored, which is always a risk when you’re watching a movie called 13 Hours in a Warehouse.

So I started the festival off with two features that I liked, but things really picked up on Saturday. Stay tuned…

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