Greetings, my Derby City friends! I am the Phantom of the Ville, the grim grinning specter of all things spooky and unusual happening in our wonderfully weird Commonwealth. Although October 31st might be the scariest night of the year, the night when the veil that separates the living and the dead is the thinnest, in this town the scariest day is spread over an entire weekend starting this Friday, June 29.
Horror Conventions don’t get much bigger than Louisville’s own Fright Night Film Fest which is taking over the Galt House Hotel and Convention Center this weekend. Just a short few years ago, Fright Night was just a little show started to bring attention to local and regional films and filmmakers whose underground horror films needed a place to be seen and to find distribution. Almost every year since then it has nearly doubled in size and scope, bringing in genre directors as big as “Halloween” director and Master of Horror, John Carpenter, and cult film master director and producing legend Roger Corman.
Fright Night Film Fest has hosted a who’s who of horror film stars, writers and artists from local horror heroes to Hollywood bogeymen who’ve haunted our collective nightmares. The exhaustive list includes a “Fright Night” (1985) reunion with Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse and Stephen Geoffreys and a “Phantasm” (1979) reunion with Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin and the dreaded Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm (I love that guy!). The number of guests who have worn the hockey mask in “Friday the 13th” sequels or the white, altered William Shatner mask in the “Halloween” franchise is almost too large to count.
Last year Fright Night mad maestro, Ken Daniels, added yet another level to the convention called Fandom Fest, which expands the overall theme of the show from just horror to sci-fi, literature, music and pop culture so that now you might run into someone like last year’s Guest of Honor and “Happy Days” icon, Henry Winkler. Although the Fonz did it, this show is far from jumping the shark!
The fact is that this year might be the biggest yet for Fright Night Film Fest. The Guest of Honor this year is none other than every horror fan’s favorite actor, Bruce Campbell (“The Evil Dead,” “Army of Darkness,” “Bubba Ho-Tep”). I was lucky enough to meet Bruce for the first time many years ago before “Army of Darkness” had even been released (SEE EMBARRASSING PHOTO) at a Fangoria Convention in Chicago and again at Oxmoor Mall when he was on the road promoting “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.”
This is a true story. Just a few weeks ago I clicked “Like” on God’s Facebook page and was immediately redirected to Bruce Campbell’s Facebook page! I clicked “Like” anyway.
Campbell will only be appearing at the show on Saturday, and I recommend checking his schedule posted on www.frightnightfilmfest.com so you don’t miss the opportunity to meet this extremely charismatic horror legend.
Also appearing this year is John (Gomez Addams of “The Addams Family”) Astin’s adopted son and star of Peter Jackson’s Oscar Award Winning “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Sean Astin. It can easily be argued that Astin’s Samwise Gamgee was the true hero and heart of the LOTR films, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to meet him.
Cult icon, Corey Feldman, star of “The Lost Boys” (1987) will also be with us in the River City. Don’t forget that Feldman originally played Tommy Jarvis in “Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter,” which is my absolute favorite entry in the Jason Voorhees saga. Little Corey Feldman actually played the character who KILLED Jason Voorhees with his own machete. That’s right, kids, Jason was technically still human in that sequel and didn’t become an undead zombie until “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.”
The horror film reunion that I’m howling at the moon in excitement over this year is the “Monster Squad” (1987) reunion of Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert and Stephen Macht. Macht, especially, is a genre hero of mine and a fine actor as well, appearing in personal cult favorites like “Galaxina” (1980) and the woefully under seen and under appreciated “Nightwing” (1979), a vampire bat horror film that mixes leather winged terror with Native American mysticism also staring Nick Mancuso and the great David Warner.
Among the list of over fifty celebrity guests, other horror favorites include Deborah Foreman (“April Fool’s Day,” “Waxwork”), James Marsters and Nicholas Brendon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Norman Reedus, Jefferey Demunn, Iron E Singleton and Madison Lintz from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Kristina Klebe (Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”), Sid Haig (“House of 1,000 Corpses,” “The Devil’s Rejects”), Kane Hodder (four time Jason Voorhees star and “Friday the 13th” fan favorite) and too many others to even list here.
A couple of returning guests warrant special mention. The first is Tommy Lee Wallace, director of “Fright Night Part 2” (1988), Stephen King’s “It” (1990) and the wacky love it or hate it “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982). Personally, I love it. Long Live Tom Atkins! Wallace brought “Fright Night Part 2” and some of his student films to a lecture at Western Kentucky University when I was a Phantom undergraduate in Bowling Green, and I’ll never forget meeting him for the first time.
The other is the modern Michael Myers himself, Tyler Mane (“The X-Men,” “Troy,” Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” and “Halloween II”). When Mane was at Fright Night for the first time a couple of years ago, I got to spend some time sitting with him at his table and as a result got to know him just a little bit. As big and intimidating as he is (and at the risk of ruining his bogeyman reputation), I found him to be one of the nicest horror stars in the business. He not only cares about his fans, but he stayed around long past the call of duty just to hang out with Fright Night Staff and fans.
This year the whole show should feel happily at home in the atmosphere of the luxurious and historic Galt House, which I’ve heard through unconfirmed rumors has its share of ghosts, specters and unruly poltergeists. In any case, there will be one extra Phantom at the Galt House this weekend to be sure! See you there!
And PLEASE add your own experiences at Fright Night Film Fest in the reviews/comments section below. We’d just die to hear from all of you!