Events & Attractions

Midsummer Scream 2017 Day 2 Recap

This past Sunday concluded Midsummer Scream 2017.  The second day of the convention seemed surprisingly busier than the day before and with a slightly shorter schedule (the convention ended at 6 instead of 7 on Sunday) it felt like the day was that much more jam packed with things to do.  Our goal for the second day was to change it up a bit and hit some of the educational content as well as a performance.  We had Halloween Decorations: A History, the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights presentation, Slashed! The Musical and the 45 Years of Knott’s Scary Farm presentation.  What we actually did, was a little bit different, but here’s a more in-depth recap of the events of day two of Midsummer Scream.

Halloween Decorations: A History

This was one of the few educational sessions I was excited about.  As someone who isn’t a home haunter (yet) the other classes really didn’t have anything of value for me, but since I am a huge fan of vintage Halloween as well as Halloween decor I felt this class was right up my alley.  Presented by Mike Gills of AtmosFX the slide presentation explored Halloween decor through the decades and explored the origins of Halloween in America as well as the evolution of classic characters like skeletons, witches, ghosts, and other Halloween icons.

The presentation had its moments, but in the end this wound up feeling like one of those time share presentations, but instead of selling timeshares they were selling the AtmosFEARfx line of digital decorations. Each section of the deck followed a formula; show a series of slides with pictures of the evolution of the characters over the decades and then end with a promo video of that particular creature in digital form from the AtmosFEARfx line of decorations.  Don’t get me wrong, I like these digital decorations and am actually considering buying some after seeing the videos, but it wasn’t why I was there and had I not sat in the front of the room, I likely would have left mid presentation.

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

Despite living in Southern California my entire life, I’ve actually never been to Halloween Horror Nights.  I almost made it last year, but between my kids’ birthdays, my wedding anniversary, Halloween, and life, October usually doesn’t leave me a lot of free time to hit all the local haunts I’d like to.  That said, I knew this year Universal was planning mazes around Ash vs Evil Dead, The Shining, and American Horror Story so I really wanted to see what they had planned.  Thankfully, Universal did not disappoint.

The hour long presentation from Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood Park Director Chris Williams and Creative Director John Murdy  went into significant detail about both the Ash vs Evil Dead and Shining mazes and gave some additional details around this year’s haunt, including some of the character themes in this year’s scare zones as well as details on the return of their VIP passes.

Ash vs Evil Dead, based on the STARZ television series, will feature a number of locations recognizable to fans of the show.  The maze will feature two facades.  First, you’ll come upon Ash’s trailer at Mossy Haven Trailer Park and then as you make your way through the maze you’ll come to the second facade; Ash’s childhood home in Elk Grove, Michigan.  From there you’ll be taken into Ash’s childhood room, ripe with pop culture references and homages to the Evil Dead franchise.  The maze will also transport visitors to the iconic cabin in the woods, complete with fruit cellar where they’ll come face-to-face with Henrietta.

As for The Shining maze, Universal is going all out for this one.  Before diving into the details around the maze John Murdy asked the audience, “If you were going to make a Shining maze, give me one thing that should be in it.”  The audience shouted numerous answers including the Grady twins, the REDRUM door, the hedge maze, and the elevator of blood.  Murdy confirmed all would be in the maze, but he said, more importantly, they were paying attention to the aesthetics of the film, ensuring to catch the look and feel of the Overlook Hotel and going as far as paying special attention to the carpet used in the scenes since they were such a visually noticeable part of the film.

Custom carpet from The Shining being installed at Halloween Horror Nights
Custom made recreations of the carpet from The Shining being installed for the Halloween Horror Nights maze.

Following details on The Shining, the two announced the return of Universal’s VIP tickets for Halloween Horror Nights.  The VIP R.I.P. experience includes valet parking, unlimited front of line access, a guided walking tour, exclusive dining with dinner & 2 drinks.  The presentation ended with an extensive look at some of the concept art around this year’s monsters from around the various Halloween Horror Nights scare zones, which you can see in our image collection below.

After the Halloween Horror Nights presentation, we had hoped to catch Slashed! The Musical, but unfortunately since the Terrace Theater was a bit of a distance from the main convention area it took us a while to get back and the lines were simply too long for us to even bother trying to get in to catch it.  So we skipped it and decided to go make some purchases from the vendors, which means I finally bought up a handful of prints from The Art of Sketch!

45 Years of Knott’s Scary Farm

Growing up in Southern California, Knott’s Scary Farm was THE Halloween event to attend.  My friends and I attended annually in high school, I worked as scare talent in Tales from the Inquisition in 2001, and it was where I went with my wife on our very first date.  Needless to say, Knott’s Scary Farm and I have a bit of a history, so there was no way I was going to miss this presentation.  The 90-minute presentation was hosted by author and historian Ted Dougherty and featured four different panels of guests that explored the last 45 years of Knott’s’ Halloween Haunt.  There was a TON of information shared, but here are some of the highlights I found the most interesting:

  • Knott’s Scary Farm started in part thanks to local horror host, Sinister Seymour who hosted shows like Fright Night on KHJ-TV and Monster Rally on KTLA
  • In the early days of Scary Farm, there were no specific rules that said you couldn’t touch the guests
  • The infamous sliders started in 1984, but didn’t use knee pads, instead they’d use leather strips to prevent burning through the knees of their jeans
  • While sliders became popular in Ghost Town Streets, sliding actually started in Camp Snoopy
  • The original “Haunt Crew” was nothing more than ride operators and supervisors who would overhaul their attractions for Halloween
  • Park decorations were originally handled by food and merchandising teams who were responsible for “haunting” their locations
  • While doing the maze Quarantine, based on the 2008 film, Entertainment Design Manager Todd Faux pitched Sam Raimi an Army of Darkness maze in the Mine Ride (Sadly it never happened)
  • The massive Special Opps Infected, was originally pitched to take over the entire Knott’s Soak City park

As a fan of Knott’s for so long, this was probably one of the greatest tributes/retrospectives that could have happened.  I think the only thing that would have made it better was if Elvira had been part of the last panel discussing the entertainment over the years.  I would have loved to hear her reaction to Ed Alonzo talking about getting booted out of the Bird Cage Theater because she “wanted to show her boobs off again.”

Overall, Midsummer Scream was a blast.  It was well organized, for the most part the panels and presentations were all solid, and it had a lot to offer fans of horror, haunts, and Halloween.  The only problem I had with the show really was that there just wasn’t enough time.  I had wanted to catch some of the screenings and some of the performances, but there were so many major panels there was just no way I was going to be able to catch all of it, especially since it seemed best to arrive at panels 30 minutes to an hour early even as a member of the press.

If you missed Midsummer Scream 2017, be sure to check out all of our social media for additional updates from the event as well as a number of photos from the panels and show floor. Midsummer Scream 2018 is already in the works and if it’s anything like this year’s event you won’t want to miss it!

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