Halloween came early to Concord, North Carolina this year as horror fans throughout the Southeast and beyond descended upon the city’s convention center to attend February’s Mad Monster Party. The annual event feels like it gets bigger every year, filling the center with celebrities, vendors, cosplayers and more in celebration of all things horrifying and fantastical.
The Mad Monster Party takes place over three days and Friday’s opening ceremonies already had lines wrapped around the building. The grinning purple head of Barlow the Mad Monster himself greeted everyone as they arrived in the lobby, along with a poster for the revived Famous Monsters of Filmland. Our very own Corey Taylor recently bought the rights to the Famous Monsters brand and will be relaunching the magazine, as well as using the name for making toys, producing films, and hosting festivals. Last year's party even hosted Taylor, who mingled and took photos with fans and participated in an extensive Q&A panel.
It's a damn good time to be a horror fan of any kind. The genre is in the midst of a renaissance that still doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon - think of all the massive horror titles and blockbusters that have come out over the past few years, from the films of Jordan Peele to the revival of slasher franchises like Scream and Halloween to recent smash hits like Smile or M3GAN or The Black Phone or Terrifier 2. The love of the horrific and the gruesome was on full display across the convention center with people of all generations wandering the halls with smiles on their faces as they showed off their costumes and perused the wide variety of wares.
Once guests were checked in, they immediately passed by a collection of various props that were used in Halloween Ends, the franchise finale to the world's most famous slasher series that finally brought the story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers to an end. There were masks, Laurie's various obsessive newspaper clippings, maps, and even Michael's stabbed hand. What many people might have missed though, is that everything was displayed on the actual table from the movie - the very one where Michael met his ultimate demise. Even something as exciting as that was just a taste of everything Mad Monster had to offer that weekend.
Vendors selling collectible figures, autographed photos and merchandise, incredible original artwork and fanart, as well as authors, actors and filmmakers all hung out together in the main room as partygoers enjoyed themselves. One vendor talked to me about how neat it was that the celebrities were in the same place as the vendors, at other conventions the two are often separated into their own areas. The VIP (or as Mad Monster calls it, RIP) list included Alexandra Breckenridge, John Carrol Lynch, Devon Sawa, Keith David, Christine Elise, Lance Henrikson, Ross Marquand, Dylan McDermott, David Morissey, Denis O'Hare, Alex Vincent, Deep Roy, Alex Winter, Sean Whalen and Yan Birch. The room also had WWE Hall of Famers present and accounted, such as Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Ron Simmons and Scott Steiner.
Only two famous guests spent most of their weekend away from the main hall, likely due to the sheer demand. Robert Englund, best known as the nightmare man Freddy Krueger and who also guest starred in the latest season of Stranger Things, was greeting fans and taking photos in his own area. It wasn't hard to find. All you had to was follow the long, long lines full of people dressed in the iconic striped sweater. Englund was the most talked-about guest that weekend, with everyone who had met him gushing about how friendly and fun the horror legend was in person. It was hard to find a single person that was disappointed in the experience.
The line to meet Englund also had things to enjoy along the way, like a live tattooing station set up by Ink Alliance and various sets to take photos in - the Nightmare On Elm Street house, the asylum from Rob Zombie's Halloween, the bathroom from Terrifier 2 and others. On the other side of the building was Peter Criss, founding member and frequent drummer of KISS. Equally as massive lines to meet him went up stairs and wrapped around the lobby of the connecting Embassy Suites. It was as if a KISS convention was happening right next door to the horror one, but that's part of the amazing cross-appeal of something like Mad Monster, which brings not just horror but also music and sci-fi and other parts of the culture together.
The evening hours offered costume contests and Scaraoke where ghouls and goblins sang their favorite tunes as the drinks flowed and music blared. Saturday night held the Madame Monster Spooky Showcase, a burlesque-style show with a horror aesthetic. There was no shortage of excitement, curiosity and fun throughout the party that weekend. Countless memories were made. As the sun set on the event's final day, Barlow seemed to bid farewell to the guests as they all made their way home. The legacy of the late John McGarr, who created the character and whose face is the first and last thing every Mad Monster guest sees, lives on and feels stronger than ever.
Any horror fan or self-professed nerd or metalhead will find lots to love at this event. Make sure to attend the next party that's happening this year, taking place in Arizona July 7th through the 9th, as well as the Mad Monster Expo that will return to North Carolina August 25th through the 27th.
Check out the gallery of images taken by Nicolás Delgadillo throughout the weekend below.