TFW – The best little horror convention in Texas

As dawn broke over the city, we found ourselves at ground zero for one of the worst outbreaks of the undead in Texas history.  With the zombie hordes amassed, it took the efforts of the Zombie Wranglers from Zombie Manor and a little undead defense from the Response Team from Cutting Edge to quell the growing threat.  As the mob shambled down Plaza Drive, terrorizing motorists and threatening to spread the infection further, we stayed just out of bite range and captured footage of the entire event.

After escaping the flesh-eating hordes, our next stop was inside the (relative) safety of the Hotel itself.  Surrounded by hundreds of rabid fans, the inside of the hotel was wall-to-wall with booths filled with memorabilia, horror legends, and vast amounts of merchandise.  It was an incredible wash of fan service and good memories.  Upstairs on the Mezzanine, we stopped in at a Special Effects symposium hosted by the wicked and ultra-talented Uncle Tom of DWN Productions.  Check out all their products and masterful costume creations on their website.

Here we learned about mask creation and caught a look at DWN Productions’ graphic and gory short film, Race War.

After seeing some amazing examples of their work, we spoke briefly with Uncle Tom about how he hand-creates every mask and costume and his best tips about working in the industry.  Through his trademark colorful presentation, he preaches that practice makes perfect and the best way to get into the industry of special effects and makeup design is not through workshops and schooling (though an apprenticeship can help) but simply through massive amounts of hard work, dedication, and imagination.  Also, as with any part of the industry, don’t get into it for money or you may up looking like the inspiration for one of his masks.  Be sure to also check out the following resource materials he strongly recommends:

Making Faces, Playing God: Identity and the Art of Transformational Makeup by Thomas Morawetz

Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen: Making and Applying Prosthetics by Todd Debrecini

Tom Savini Special Effects School

We narrowly survived the unique madness that is Uncle Tom and then swung by the Main Ballroom to check out the Movie Prop Auction.  With unique items like Freddy Krueger’s sweater, Alice’s jumpsuit and motorcycle from Resident Evil: Afterlife and swords from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Gladiator, it was one of the largest memorabilia auctions around.  I happened to catch that Denzel Washington’s Ipod from The Book of Eli sold for $185.

Then it was on to the TXMPA Tax Credits and Funding seminar.  Hosted by Bob Hutchins, Director of the Texas Film Commission and Barak Epstein of Videotex Systems, we discussed the new Sales Tax Incentives offered through the TXMPA, contacting TXMPA for film production assistance with locations, and helping to push new legislation to support filmmaking in the state of Texas.  Check out their website, TXMPA, for all the details and how you can help create a more supportive state for filmmaking right in your own community.  Be sure to check out the Texas Film Commission and Austin Film Commission as well for more resources regarding funding assistance and workshops to enhance your own presence in the trade.  Also look for the TXMPA to be offering certifications in various film production areas coming in Fall of 2010.

After taking in some inspiring lecture on furthering our beloved industry, we headed down to the convention hall and luckily ran into a couple horror greats like Bill Moseley and Sid Haig of The Devil’s Rejects fame, the zombie godfather himself George A. Romero, and the legendary Jason Voorhees himself, Kane Hodder.  Of course, I was not surprised when I found out how Mr. Hodder shakes hands.

After fulfilling every fans dream (and waking up a bit later) we headed by the Screening Room and caught the iconic master John Carpenter and the cast of Christine as they answered some questions regarding their parts in and memories of one of the greatest Stephen King adaptations ever made.  Afterward, John was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his success and contributions to the genre of Horror.

Lastly, we hung around and caught a screening of Dallas-made horror flick The Final, director Joey Stewart’s unique little story about a group of high-school outcasts who develop and execute a plan of sadistic, maniacal revenge on their tormentors.

With brutal efficiency, the students inflict their pain upon their fellow classmates until the shocking conclusion.  Though hampered by a few novice filmmaker mistakes, some unnecessary exposition on heroic measures and cowardice, a couple slow spots, and a few great-looking/bad-actor selections, The Final stood for me as both a work in depraved imaginings of revenge and a fantastical look at just how far fear and pain can push a person.  With headlines these days speaking of children committing suicide due to bullying and events like Columbine and Virginia Tech forever etched in dark memory, The Final will stand as both an exploitation of the dramas of school violence and a testament to the unspoken agony of those who commit such atrocities.  It may not be a stand out flick, but it will easily make you think about the world around you.

The Final also saw selection into the After Dark Horrfest IV: 8 Films to Die For.  Look for it as part of the ADHFIV Boxset or on Stand-Alone DVD.

So that concludes our foray into the weird, grotesque, and terrifying at Texas Frightmare Weekend.  We enjoyed some of the best horror to date, basked in some fond memories, met legends of horror, dodged the undead, and lived to tell the tale.  If you managed to make it out to Irving for the event tell us your story.  We hope to hear from you and be sure to leave the lights on!

-Jarod Warren