Freddy Krueger, Jason, Chucky and Leatherface have been giving children and adults nightmares for decades. An annual horror convention lets fans see a different side of childhood villains and heroes from their favorite films.
Held in different parts of the country, Mad Monster Party celebrates the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres with a weekend-long party. The Arizona event is Friday, July 13, to Sunday, July 15, at the We-Ko-Pa Resort.
The event offers a party atmosphere with photo ops with celebrities, a costume contest, “scaraoke,” a horror movie-themed pageant, a vendor room and afterparties.
Founder Eben McGarr grew up watching horror movies and reading comic books. He wrote, directed and produced the horror films House of the Wolf Man and Sick Girl.
He started the conventions in 2010 because he wanted to create an intimate event for pop culture fans like himself. He said the experience brings out different emotions in fans.
“You live vicariously through all of these fans who are meeting these celebrities for the first time. I’ve seen grown men cry meeting Hulk Hogan,” McGarr says.
“It’s not that this enhances my appreciation for the genre as much as it gives me a sense of validation that we’re able to bring different cities this taste of Hollywood and pop culture.”
This year, fans can meet and take pictures with horror movie icons such as Freddy Krueger actor Robert Englund, Leatherface actor R.A. Mihailoff and Jason actor Kane Hodder.
Celebrities often dress up as their characters, sometimes wearing costumes or holding props from specific films or video games.
“If you’re a fan, you’re only going to get that at Mad Monster Party,” McGarr says. “At larger comicons, you don’t see pop culture icons dressing up as the characters they’ve made famous in film franchises.”
Some of the photo opportunities include multiple actors from the same films. During the convention, guests can judge contests and take part in panels.
“We try to make it as fun for the celebrity as it is for the fan,” McGarr says. “We are able to get certain celebrities to do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily because we engage with them in their interests.”
Each show has a different flavor, based on where and when it is held. The Chicago convention, for example, had a true crime theme, and the New Orleans event incorporated voodoo.
“We really try to embrace what it is that each different city brings to the table,” McGarr says.
Because the We-Ko-Pa Resort event starts on Friday the 13th, the Arizona show will be themed around that movie franchise. It will have a special scavenger hunt inspired by the newest Friday the 13th multiplatform video game.
As part of the Miss Scarizona Pageant, contestants present their best horror looks and talents. In the past, participants have donned bikinis covered in blood and spooky Hollywood glamour looks and brought talents such as live singing, dancing or freak show acts. Judges consider contestants’ style, personality, screaming ability and talent, and the grand prize winner takes away $500 in cash.
The costume contest also allows attendees to show off their creativity, dressing up as film characters or creatures such as dragons or zombies. The top contestant will win $500.
On Sunday, attendees who come dressed up in costume can take free green screen photos.
RIP guests receive special perks such as early entry into the show and special access to panels, signings, screenings and the RIP lounge.
During the convention, vendors will sell collectible items such as original artwork, comics, horror-themed household items, vintage toys from the ’50s and ’60s or movie memorabilia.
The event has themed panels on topics such as women in horror and panels focused on the actors.
Levi Tinker, general manager for TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, will moderate the panels. Many of the celebrity guests, including Christine Elise, have acted in different genres of TV and film.
Elise is best known for her portrayal of Kyle in Child’s Play 2, Emily Valentine on Beverly Hills, 90210 and Harper Tracy on ER.
Elise wrote, directed and starred in the 2010 short film Bathing & the Single Girl and published a book based on the movie in 2014. She writes, directs, photographs and cooks for her vegan cooking YouTube channel Delightful Delicious Delovely & Video Vegan.
This is her first year at the Arizona Mad Monster Party.
The daughter of artists, Elise started acting in her twenties after going to film school to be a director. With each character, she tries to bring herself to the role.
“The most unique thing I have to offer anyone, anything or any role is myself,” Elise says.
“So, inevitably, any character I play is as much just me in the situations the writer wrote. Of course, I would never or could never actually do a lot of the things my characters have done, but from my perspective, they are just me.”
In Child’s Play 2 and Cult of Chucky, the actress worked opposite a Chucky doll. She says it was easier than using technical jargon convincingly or filming a love scene.
“It is all acting, even if the other actor is inanimate,” she says.
“In fact, Chucky is easier to work with than a real man or woman in a love scene. Love scenes suck. They are so awkward, technical and fake. I’d rather work with Chucky all day.”
Elise says fans have most connected to her outcast character Emily Valentine, however.
“She held a place on 90210 for all the kids who did not feel spoken for by the rest of the cast,” she says. “Outsiders, the disenfranchised, either economically or because they were ‘not cool.” Or they were not white, or they were gay or punk rock. She was a badass, and she landed the dream boy. For a second. Many people have thanked me for that. Also, I was even called a lesbian icon of the ’90s. I love that! Because I was an outsider in high school, too.”
Mad Monster Party, We-Ko-Pa Resort, 10438 N. Fort McDowell Road, Fort McDowell, madmonster.com, 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, July 13, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 14, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, July 15, $25 for advanced Friday or Sunday tickets, $35 for advanced Saturday tickets, $60 for advanced three-day tickets, $199 for RIP pass, photo ops additional.