This past weekend in Orlando was Spooky Empire’s 10th annual Ultimate Horror Weekend (formerly Screamfest). This was my 4th year at the show and my first for Florida Geek Scene. The largest horror convention in Florida, Spooky Empire combines great guests, a zombie walk, artists, tattoos, author, movies, Q&A’s, bands, memorabilia displays, horror vendors and their notorious all-night parties.
Since 2006 the show was at the Wyndham Orlando resort but moved due to the uncertain future of the location. This year, the new (and possibly temporary) home of Spooky was the Hilton Orlando.
This year’s big guests were Rose McGowan (Planet Terror, Scream, Jawbreaker) and Robert Englund along with the cast of Nightmare on Elm Street 4.
It wouldn’t be Spooky without some yearly fan favorites like Ken Foree (Kenan & Kel, Dawn of the Dead, The Devil’s Rejects), Bill Moseley (Night of the Living Dead 1990, House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects) & Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn, Dawn of the Dead, Machete).
My favorite guests and one of my reasons for attending was the cast of Zombi 2. Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Ottaviano Dell’Acqua. And with Rock ‘N’ Roll High School star P.J. Soles returning to the show it was awesome she brought co-stars Dey Young & Mary Woronov.
Some of the other numerous movie & TV guests included the Cast of Cannibal Holocaust (director Ruggero Deodato, Carl Yorke & Francesca Ciardi), John Kassir (the Crypt Keeper), Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects) & Traci Lords (Blade, Cry Baby, Zack & Miri Make A Porno).
In addition to film guests, the show featured authors R.L. Stine (Goosebumps) & Heather Brewer (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, The Slayer Chronicles).
The weekend kicked off with a zombie walk from the Rosen Center (future home of May-Hem) to the Hilton Orlando. I arrived late to the show so I wasn’t able to catch the walk, did hear it wasn’t as good of a turnout as previous years.
Mucklebones Monster Museum was amazing, featuring detailed displays from classic & modern horror movies. A smaller but also awesome display was from Evil Puppets featuring you guessed it, horror puppets.
All weekend there was plenty of panels, photo ops, a car show, Q&As, author signings and even a film festival from the Freak Show Film Fest. The weekend’s events ended with their yearly costume contest where the cast of Monster High won 1st place.With how much is packed into 3 days, it’s impossible to do everything. I’d recommend just going with the flow instead of trying to plan an itinerary.
The slightly cramped vendors room featured a lot of movies, t-shirts & artwork for sale. It wouldn’t be a Florida show without convention veterans like Convention Exclusive (action figures) and the Fine Print Shoppe (t-shirts screened on-site). I would’ve liked to see more vendors selling comics but it’s understandable since it’s a horror show.
It wasn’t only vendors in the vendors room, the fine folks from the Team Robin campaign were on hand taking donations and selling raffle tickets for a package from Voltaire and a silicone Hellboy mask. Over $900.00 was raised at the show to help a young girl get the wheelchair she needs.
It was a long weekend with some really great costumes, I think this year had way more costumed attendees than in the past. Some great costumes included the couple dressed as zombies from the VJ-Day in Time Square photo, Hellboy, Beetlejuice, Todd McFarlane’s Red Riding Hood.
While it may have been a horror themed show, there was a lot of non-horror costumes. Spartans from 300, Deadpool dressed as the Doctor & Ash and uh someone dressed as Justin Bieber (now that’s scary).
If you’re looking for a unique costume for your next convention, please don’t choose Rick Grimes from the Walking Dead. There had to be at least 10 Ricks this weekend.
After being at the Wyndham for so long I was kind of shocked by having Spooky at a new location. The Hilton Orlando is a really ritzy hotel, kind of a weird place to have a horror convention. Gone was the all-night pool party which was replaced by a field(?) for what would turn into an awkward high school dance. If you didn’t feel like hanging out in the grass there were two fire pits onsite that were a great place to hangout and relax with friends. The convention itself had a slightly different layout then previous years. The vendors and guests were in one large room with a barrier in between. While it made for a cramped vendor area it must have been good for sales since you had to walk through the vendor room to get to the guests. Q&As, panels & movies were in separate rooms.
Other than visiting a couple rooms for drinks, I didn’t actually stay at the hotel. Due to poor planning I ended up staying at a Days Inn across the street. It was only a slight pain in the ass walking back and forth all weekend but hey, there was a 24 hour IHOP onsite so it more than made up for it.
If you wanted to take a break from the show or grab a bite to eat there’s plenty of bars & restaurants on International Drive near the convention center. I’m pretty sure everyone ended up at Dennys or IHOP at some point this weekend.
From what I saw, things went so well because of Spooky’s large army of volunteers. Well-trained and easily found all over the convention (plenty of purple shirts), the volunteers were friendly and knowledgeable. Whether it was finding a Q&A, keeping lines from getting out of order or helping the guests, they were always hard at work.
Don’t feel like waiting until next year to go to Spooky Empire? Spooky Empire’s May-Hem is in May at the Rosen Center. While the May-Hem show isn’t strictly horror they usually end up getting a good amount of horror related guests.
Visit Florida Geek Scene on Facebook for more pictures from the event.