Midsummer Scream 2023 Review, Part 1: The Things I Saw on Saturday

Debuting in 2016, Midsummer Scream dubs itself “the world’s biggest Horror and Halloween convention.” It certainly is the biggest Horror and Halloween convention I’ve ever attended as this was my first. As regular readers know, I have been to a number of pop-culture conventions, dating back to the ’80s and some like, San Diego Comic Con, have horror elements, both in their presentations and their costumed attendees, but this is the first I have attended that focused on all things spooky and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity when it was presented.

While my inclination wouldn’t be to describe myself as a horror hound, I am certainly a fan of quite a bit of the genre, from Edgar Allan Poe stories to landmarks through cinema history, from Lon Chaney’s The Phantom of the Opera to two of the three films in the latest Halloween trilogy. But I am by no means an aficionado and have huge gaps in the slasher subgenre and the modern era that may or may not be filled.

On Saturday morning, I started my day listening to filmmaker Tom Holland, who joked about having the name before a certain actor known for playing Spider-Man. He talked about out starting as an actor, back when SAG already had a “Tom Holland” so he was credited as Tom Fielding. He went into screenwriting and his first feature-film script was for The Beast Within. He later took on the daunting task of writing Psycho II, a film he remains proud of. He wrote and directed two very popular horror classics, Fright Night and Child’s Play. At 80, Tom retains a great spirit and a good recollection about his career. I am hoping he has created commentaries on his films because I could have sat much longer listening to him talk.

Over the course of the weekend, many companies putting on Halloween-themed events held panels to preview what they had coming up in a couple months. The Grand Ballroom had enormous lines for Knott’s Scary Farm and Universal Studios that ran the length of the convention center. In the Knott’s panel, people were standing and sitting on the floor. The smaller Promenade Stage held similar presentations, such as the city of Anaheim, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of their Halloween parade.

I caught some of the Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group panel. They showed slides of the new wagons for attendees of the Haunted Hayride that would take visitors areas such as Midnight Mortuary and Hellbilly Halloween. To scare vegans, the food options included Hot Dog on a Stick and Pink’s Hot Dogs.

On the exhibit floor, Saw X had a small area to promote the film. Remember my aforementioned modern horror film gaps? I haven’t seen any of the Saw movies as the premises aren’t appealing. So the props on display, from a brain surgery trap seen in the new film to the few other pieces, had no impact. There was also a person wearing a long wig and pig mask, which I presumed was part of the series but at this convention, there’s no telling.

In the Grand Ballroom, the Saw X creatives held a panel to an enthusiastic crowd. They showed a trailer that thrilled the crowd. John Kramer is back and that’s because, although it is the 10th film in the series, the story’s setting places it as Saw 1.5. Almost everyone shrieked with delight at the sight of Amanda’s return.

They showed a clip with a guy locked in a chair with tubes protruding from his eyes. He has to turn a dial five times in a set amount of time or be killed. Each turn causes a finger to be broken. He could only do two, maybe three (I had my eyes covered) because the pain was too much. Time ran out so a device punched through his skull and popped both eyes out. One “lucky” audience member found the prop eyes in a box under her chair.

The day concluded with Slumber Party: Midsummer Scream After Dark. Under this banner, there was a dance party in the Grand Ballroom, a screening of Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls followed by a Q/A with the writer/director in the Screaming Room, and approximately every 15 minutes a Slumber Party Seance was held next to the Ballroom. At 10:45, finalists in the costume contest were revealed and a winner was to be selected. Unfortunately, I missed out on the nighttime fun.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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