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Is It Time For Horror Conventions To Evolve?

Weekend of Horrors 1986Back in 1986, Media Home Entertainment released a documentary about that year’s Fangoria Weekend of Horrors event, which hit VHS and never (officially) made the transition to DVD. Running an hour long, the tape included footage shot on the convention floor, clips from horror movies, and interviews with various stars, and it’s a must-watch time capsule that perfectly captures horror fandom in the 80s.

But the most interesting thing about the documentary, watching it back in the present day, is just how little has changed on the horror convention scene. If it weren’t for the grainy quality of the footage and the fact that all of the stars look a whole lot younger than they do now, it would be hard to tell what decade the doc was shot in, as the 1986 con looks much the same as the ones taking place today.

And there’s something beautiful about that, as it just goes to show how dedicated horror fans are to the movies they love. The shirts and costumes worn back in 1986 aren’t all that different from the ones you see on convention floors here in 2015, and it’s hard not to smile wide when you realize that fans are as eager to meet guys like Robert Englund today, 30 years later, as they were when the doc was shot.

At the same time, however, I can’t help but feel that the 1986 Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors documentary holds a microscope up to one of the horror genre’s biggest issues: the inability for both the genre, and us fans in particular, to move past the past and embrace the present/future. The horror convention scene, perhaps more than anything else, illuminates that problem year after year.

I’ve personally been attending horror conventions for a decade now and I’ve seen very little evolution on the scene, most notably when it comes to guest lists. Almost every convention I’ve been to, and every one I’ve come across online, has shared many of the same celebrity guests, with guys like Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, and Doug Bradley representing the so-called usual suspects.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think those guys should be honored at every convention across the country due to their vast and enduring contributions to the genre, but one thing I rarely see on the scene are the new stars of horror movies released within the last five or ten years. There’s no shortage of beloved horror films that have come out in recent years, so where are all the fresh faces in the autograph rooms?

The answer to that question, unfortunately, probably has more to do with us fans than the convention promoters themselves. Aside from the stars of mega popular shows like The Walking Dead, most fans seem to have little interest in meeting the relevant horror icons of today, so it’s really a case of supply and demand. And that’s a bummer, because it means it is us fans who are refusing to evolve.

I can’t help but wonder what the horror convention scene will look like another 30 years from now, when most of the stars from our favorite 1980s horror movies are no longer with us. Will that be when actors from the movies of today start being integrated into the scene, or will the lack of nostalgia-inducing stars simply be the end of horror cons altogether? Somewhat of a scary thought, isn’t it?

I worry that the latter will be the case, as it’s not exactly like we’re allowing for new horror icons to be created. They’re certainly out there, from final girls like It Follows‘ Maika Monroe to villains such as Jill Larson from The Taking of Deborah Logan, but if we’re not establishing them as icons by incorporating them into conventions, then we’re simply not allowing for the genre to move forward.

I realize this post may read like I have a negative outlook on horror fandom, and though that may to an extent be the case, the simple fact of the matter is that I wish to see the genre evolve with each passing year. And horror cons are a big part of the genre as a whole, so big in fact that I believe they have the power to help move things along and ensure that future generations will have icons to look up to.

I’m not saying we need to replace the old icons on the horror convention scene, but rather that it would be nice if we started bringing in some of the newer ones to sit next to the greats and help elevate their notoriety in the community. If you agree, drop a comment below and let us know which stars from horror movies released in the last five-ten years you’d love to meet at a horror convention!

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If you don't get enough of me here on Halloween Love, you can also find me on Dread Central, iHorror and Shock Till You Drop. Contact me via john@halloweenlove.com.
  • prospero761

    Would love to see that doc. My sister and I were there.

  • John Squires

    You can actually watch it on YouTube, in full: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjarx7G2Kb8

  • Much of the reason horror cons are the way they are, is very much because of that specific documentary. That VHS was so heavily copied and traded. The copy I had was bordering on visible. Everyone watched and still watched it and thinks, MAN that looks like a fun time. I think probably every con since was has felt the influence of that tape. You WANT a horror con to feel like that tape, so that’s the kind of cons we make!

  • Grimbridge

    I agree. I love cons but I’m at the point where guys like Kane and miscellaneous Devil’s Rejects cast members don’t excite me. I think one reason there is a lack of newer guests is that many working actors view conventions as a last resort, and those who are still working on popular films are probably expensive to get at a convention. However, there are some cast members from newer films that are definitely available and just not being asked, and that’s a bummer. I love the 80’s as much as the next guy, but there are new horror films practically every week right now, and a majority of them are truly worth seeing. There should be more publicity and promotion for new horror and I think conventions would be a great platform for that, rather than just a strictly nostalgia driven affair.

  • J

    Are the “stars” of modern day Horror movies iconic? I don’t know that many actors/actresses out there in today’s Horror scene will generate all that much interest from fans. Simply including these actors/actresses at the Cons won’t make them an attraction.

  • John Squires

    And that’s precisely the problem: many horror fans aren’t interested in the horror movies of the present. I would to see conventions used as a way to really increase the exposure of new movies/new stars, rather than focusing almost entirely on the past.

  • J

    I think many horror fans watch horror movies of the present. And while those movies, I think are appreciated, the characters aren’t something that really stay with you after the movie is over. Conventions didnt create those iconic characters decades ago. Theres something missing in modern day Horror. Maybe Rule 3 from your post about teh 3 rules of Horror fans could be of assistance in making stars. Pointing out and hammering home the truly memorable performances by actors/actresses.

  • John Squires

    Pointing out and hammering home memorable performances/great modern horror movies is what I’m all about, my friend. Simply saying I’d love to see conventions take that same approach. I do believe that they could make a difference, in terms of spreading awareness about those characters/actors/movies within the horror community.

  • Dori Fleischmann

    I jumped at the chance to meet Adam Green, and I would love a shot at meeting people like AJ Bowen, Sharni Vinson, Zoe Bell, Ti West, Eli Roth, Alexandre Aja, Lucky McKee, Angela Bettis, the folks who were behind NOTLD: Mimesis, various people from Deadgirl, Marc Sentor, more folks from Repo!, the leads from Contracted…Nick Principe (Chrome Skull), I’d pay a lot to meet Lena Headey, do some Final Destination reunions, Cabin Fever Reunion, get some foreign horror represented like Marytrs, Inside (OMG Beatrice Dalle!). I’m all for some new blood at conventions.

  • John Squires

    All great choices and this is exactly what I’m talking about. Let’s get folks like these at future shows!

  • I agee,for I heavily had this same thought the other day and realized that both celebrities and convention organizers need not to be greedy and charge less for both autographs and photo ops(since everyone doesn’t live on a Donald Trump-esque income),and the fact that the horror genre is in sheer need of newer stars(both actors and actresses) to bravely take the charge in being new horror celebrities that’ll kindly do service to the genre in convention appearances and fanbase support,since the likes of Sid Haig,Bill Moseley,Robert Englund,and Bruce Campbell are no longer in their youth(with Moseley and Englund in their 60s,and Haig in his 70s). And the genre also needs more talented performers,writer,artists,and filmmakers to keep the genre fresh and going,and the fans all need to treat each other like family instead of being in ferocious rivalries with one another(whether it’s on-line or off-line).

  • James H

    Great story! You make incredible valid points. I have bee going to horror cons for since 2011 and now i am no attending as many because of the same faces showing up at every con. I love Moseley, Hodder, Englund, Bradley as much as the next person, but I have met them before. Some more than once. I want new faces! I would love to see as mentioned Maika Monore invited to some cons. Between ‘The Guest’ & ‘It Follows’, she deserving. Also I would love to meet Angela Bettis,Ti West, Jason Eisner, Adam Green, Jocelyn Donahue. ‘The Witch’ just got released recently and I would love to see the director Robert Eggers and star Anya Taylor-Joy. Hopefully change will come. I don’t want to see horror cons fade into obscurity.

  • Erick Lorinc

    But also, Maika Monroe, Michael Dougherty, and Adam Green would make tons of bank if they went to these. There just aren’t a lot of people nowadays who want to be known for their modern horror outings. Derek Mears is proof that relative newbies can be embraced by the con goers