Friday, June 18, 2010

The Freddy In Space Horror Convention Survival Guide!

We're a few days shy of the official start of summer and here on the east coast, this means one thing to me - the start of convention season. Yes, horror conventions are a yearlong thing, but things really tend to heat up here on the east coast in the summer, with conventions like Monster Mania and Horrorfind Weekend coming to town. I don't know if i'd go so far as to call myself an authority on horror cons, but i've been to more than enough to have learned the ropes and i'd say i'm just as qualified as anyone else to teach others those ropes. I've drawn up a list of tips that will not only help you survive your first horror convention, but they will also help you to get the most fun you can out of it. Follow them and I can guarantee you will have the time of your life.


1) Network In Advance!

It's a lot nicer to arrive at a hotel that's got a few people in it that you know than to arrive at one packed with no familiar faces at all. As the years pass and you go to more and more conventions, you'll get to know people and that cramped and sweaty hotel lobby will feel like your second home, but if it's your first time, chances are you will be flying solo (but hopefully you've brought someone with you who you can hang out with). Most websites for conventions have forums so I suggest you hop on those forums in advance and chat with some fellow horror fans who are gonna be at that convention. Make some friends and make plans to meet up with them. Trust me, it'll be a big help and you'll have a lot more fun when you're mingling.


2) Bring Lots of Money!

There is nothing worse than being at a horror convention, finding something you really want to buy, and realizing your wallet is empty. On the other hand, there is nothing better in this world than going to a convention with a fully packed wallet and knowing that you don't have to worry about not having enough money to buy that treasure at the end of the weekend. If you think $300 is enough for the weekend, bring a few hundred more. I'm not saying you have to spend it all, but as Clarence Worley taught us, it's better to have a gun and not need it than need a gun and not have it. Save up for months in advance, have a yardsale the weekend prior, do whatever you gotta do to ensure you have enough money in your wallet to be able to buy whatever the hell you want. Horror conventions don't come around all that often, so I personally have no problem dropping several hundred bucks on a single one. If not then, then when do us horror fans get to splurge?


3) Get a Hotel Room For The Weekend!

In order to get the full convention experience, you need to stay the weekend and you preferably need to stay at the hotel that the convention is being held at. Not only can you get drunk without worrying about having to drive home or walk across a heavily trafficked street to another hotel, but you can also make pit stops up at your room whenever you want to drop off stuff you've bought and to take power naps or refuel on alcohol. Trust me, you really don't want to have to lug around bags of goodies with you all day. Stop being a cheapskate and get a damn room. You'll thank me when you're riding up to your floor in an elevator with George Romero and that dude from Dream Warriors.


4) Stock Up On Alcohol Before You Check In!

Maybe i'm just a closet alcoholic, but for me, you can't have a horror convention without mass quantities of booze. It's nice to grab a drink every once in a while at the bar, especially at night (which we will get to in a second), but you really don't want to be dropping all your money at the bar. On the way to the hotel, stop at a liquor store, grab a bottle of Jack or a 30 rack of your favorite beer, and then go check in. Just make sure you bring some kind of leak proof bag that you can fill with ice to keep your beer nice and cold. Some hotels even offer mini fridge rentals, which are worth it for the right price.


5) Hang Out In The Bar!

Whether you're a drinker or not, I can't stress this tip enough. In the bar is where you will most likely have the most memorable experiences of the weekend. After signing autographs all day, the celebrities just want to have a couple drinks. Where do they go? The hotel bar, naturally. This is THE meeting place at a horror convention and it's thanks to my spending good portions of my day in the bar that i've gotten wasted with some fellow horror bloggers and taken shots with Derek Mears.


6) Don't Act a Fool!

This a tip you're gonna wanna follow if you do plan on following tip #5. When you're in the autograph room, paying to meet your favorite genre stars, feel free to geek out a bit. But when you're in the bar, or if you encounter one of those idols when they're not signing, play it cool. When he's in the bar drinking away the hours he just spent being admired and praised, Bruce Campbell doesn't want you coming up to him and sucking him off. Chances are, he just wants to hang. We're all uber geeks on the inside, but act cool and just hang out with your heroes if you get the chance. After all, they're people just like we are.


7) Talk To People!

This one pretty much goes hand in hand with the alcohol thing, at least for me. I've been to a couple conventions where I didn't really drink too much on a particular night and so I ended up not talking to anyone. What fun is that? A large portion of the fun that comes from horror cons is meeting and hanging out with like minded people so by all means, meet and hang out with your fellow horror nerds! Besides, you never know when that weird dude with the mohawk is gonna turn out to be the guy who gets you into that awesome party up on the 6th floor. And again, much like the first tip, it's through talking to people that you're gonna meet people who you will end up seeing at future conventions. So be nice!


8) Take Free Shit!

One thing you are guaranteed to find at every single horror convention around the globe is free shit. Companies and dealers love to give out free posters, bags, stickers, etc. Don't be shy, take their free shit! Just try and take one of each thing so there's enough to go around. Personally, I use most of this free stuff to fill out packages that I send to giveaway winners.


9) Buy a Fright Rags Shirt!

Ok, so they're not always gonna be at every convention around the world, but if they are, take advantage of their convention prices and buy a Fright Rags shirt! And be sure to say hello to Kristy Jett and Ben Scrivens while you're at it!


10) Hit Up Panels In Advance!

There are almost always various panels and Q&A's going on throughout the weekend at conventions and I can't tell you how many i've missed out on due to not following this tip. These panels are always in high demand, due to the ability to hang out and chat with celebs without paying, so you're gonna want to get to the room they're being held at way in advance. If a panel is at 7pm, get there at least an hour early. If there's a panel going on at 6pm that you really don't care to attend, sit through it anyway so you're guaranteed a seat for that 7pm panel you really want to be a part of. If you want to see them all, get there before the first one starts and don't get up from your seat!

And now, for the tip we've been building up to, the simplest tip of all....


I don't think I really need to tell you to have fun at a horror convention, given the fact that you already know that and that you're pretty much gonna have a blast whether you want to or not, but just think about one thing for a second. How often in your daily life do you get to be surrounded by nothing but horror fans and cool horror shit and how often do you get to be in the same building as several of your lifelong idols and heroes? It doesn't happen very often so if you're lucky enough to have a convention come around your area, cherish every single second of it and have the time of your life. Like I promised in the beginning of this post, if you follow the above tips, I guarantee you will. Get drunk, spend a shitload of money, and make memories that will last forever.


The Frog Queen said...

I gotta move....and quit building decoarions every weekend of my life...I might actually get out and do fun stuff :)!!! GREAT post, thanks for sharing!!


Morphine said...

I would love to go to a horror convention sometime but sadly I can never afford either the tix or a way there. One day I hope, but that day is in the far future.

Joe Monster said...

This post was extremely helpful, man! This October I'm planning on going to Screamfest in Orlando and then making my way up to Jersey for Chiller later that month. They're my first ever horror conventions and your tips will definitely be kept in mind. I'm hoping to meet some cool people there above all else really.

Johnny said...

Gonna try and make it out to that Chiller, Joe!

kaiyn said...

I would love to go to a horror con, but usually can't afford it. And because Creation are bastards, apparently there isn't going to be anymore Weekend of Horrors in Chicago. :(

Still Johnny, all that is good advice no matter what kind of con you're going to!

Morphine said...

Yeah, if I ever go to a con I will be sure take this great advice into account. (I wonder if its ok to black out when I my horror fangirl side takes over when I meet icons)

Jennie Boots said...

Don't forget any of your already owned items such as DVDs, collectibles, books or figures that you may want to bring to have autographed. Also I like to bring my stainless steel flask and a little peppermint schnapps. A Camera with a fully charged battery. Also, a fun tradition John and I have is to buy eachother a present at the convention and surprise one another with it at the end. The end of the convention can be a little depressing but the surprise can give you a little something to look forward to.

Johnny said...

Yes, a flask is essential!

Cat said...

I'm going to Monstermania in Maryland this year. This tip list is awesome!! I'm sending it to my dad right now (he's going with me).

Johnny said...

I may see ya there, Cat! I'm definetly going to the one in Jersey in August, not 100% sure about Maryland, but i'm gonna try and make it out.

Mike said...

2) Compare The Guest List to the Guest Rooms

Now, this one comes from a few happy accidents... we've all been to a convention where there are 50 people on the guest list and yet we only see about 30-40 between the guest rooms. Now, most fans just assume that the other guests were unable to make it for one reason or another but don't assume. Ask your convention staffers because often guests guests (or managers) bring displays and things which take up the space where the convention initially meant to sit that guest. The thing is these shifts in rooms etc are often so last minute that they end up setting up those guests either in the merchant's room, a lobby space, or in a spill over room (originally assumed to be just storage/ overflow) which isn't even on the convention map. Quite often there is some guest at the convention who is misplaced at the last moment... they are there but because they aren't where people are looking for them... there aren't any lines or pressure. I've had some of my best convention conversations in glorified closets which ended up being the spill over space for guests who didn't fit in the signing rooms.

Mike said...

I got a few to add to your list, Johnny.

1) Always Help People Carrying Boxes.

First off, offering to lend a hand when you see someone can use it shouldn't need any explanation. Still if that isn't second nature to you *smacks you up side the head* then stop and think who those people are. Most often, at conventions, the people lugging those big boxes and things in or out of the venue are merchants, convention staff or even the managers/ assistants of guests. I can't tell you how often I've heard 'Hey, thanks for the hand man... what's your size let me hook you up with a shirt' or 'Thanks man, that was a lot of help... hey, you wanna meet _____.'

Mike said...

3) Avoid Impulse Buying and Consider the Net

This may at first seem counter to what Johnny is saying about bringing plenty of money... but it really isn't. Often at a con its easy to get excited and blow your load of cash on a bunch of DVDs etc... but why would you do that? Face facts, with the net, lightweight and well packaged media like that is designed to travel. Plus with sites which don't have a big staff or even a real world store-front... they can afford a lower profit rate then someone who is traveling with DVDs. There are exceptions like if it's a self produced DVD, the releaser/ distributor is there and offers a major discount, or there is the chance to get it signed... but when push comes to shove DVDs and books, comics, etc are cheaper to order.

I always recommend making a list of titles which interest you so you can get them later. I mean if it's not something you can enjoy having with you at the convention (shirt, food, something to get signed, something to get you buzzed, etc) then why lug it around anyway. There are plenty of things which make sense to buy in person.

1) Something old where quality is a factor

2) something cheap that costs less then shipping it would

3) something which can easily be damaged in shipping

4) something which is bulky/ heavy and would be a pain to ship

5) something which you can have fun with at the convention (like if you plan to read that comic that night then of course pick it up.)

Remember, the convention is no longer the only time you have access to these things (so we really have to change that thinking with the times.

Mike said...

4) Remember... have something to offer which other people don't.

This may seem silly but many con regulars remember the things that Johnny mentioned like the booze and the bags etc. What these same con-goers typically forget are the cups, mixes, and things to cut that booze with. When you're partying you want a buzz... not black out drunk... so later in the evening even people who normally take it strait start looking for things to cut the booze with so they can wake up and enjoy the con the next day.

Another thing is the average hotel room has 2 glasses and 2 mugs... the average hotel party has about 6-8 people in a room... minimum. So what... are people suppose to go to their room get glasses and bring them with them to the party. Few people do that... and a number of people get billed for those cups because they leave them somewhere and the hotel assumes they stole them. Then you have other people who end up going with the classic digging through the garbage for a used soda bottle that can double as a glass. Trust me... at some point in the evening a few extra $1-2 bottles of soda and a $1 pack of plastic cups are exactly what the party calls for.

Something else to consider is that a lot of people are buying DVDs... and yet most hotel rooms don't have DVD players. Depending on how you party... some people like to sit back and mellow out. Well if you think ahead and pack a DVD player or video game system... when you're leaving the party you just need to mention that fact and you will have people showing up at your door with all sorts of DVDs and stuff... they can't wait to get home to watch. This is a great chance to unwind and have an after party while checking out some movie that you didn't know if you wanted to spend the money on buying... while you're still at the con so you could always pick it up the next day.

Remember we're a community... so if you plan to take the community on... be the guy who has the missing piece to every puzzle and you will have no problem circulating with the people who all seem to prep in the same way.

Other things to pack (bottle opener, cork screw, a shaker, screw driver, super glue, eye glass repair kit [even if you don't personally wear glasses], note pad, post-its, sharpies, duct tape, masking tape, pop tarts/ granola bars, condoms, a flash light, a strong magnet, AA and AAA batteries, a USB charger, cheap book-bags/ pocketbooks, umbrellas, asprin, band-aids, ace bandage, extra pair of headphones, salt, pepper, sugar, crackers, etc) It seems extreme but consider that most of that stuff isn't perishable and even still, the cost of all of those things in a small bag is much less then if you ( or someone you're with ) needs to get any one of them at 3 in the morning.

Mike said...

5) Define your Role

This is a mix of everything I've said and everything Johnny's said... but really the key to having a fun/ successful time at any event is to decide what role you are going to play. The crazy people add character to the event but too many of them and the cops get called. Johnny obviously plays it smooth and approaches the night lounge lizard style... where as I tend to shine later in the evening as a mix of tech, field medic, boy scout and McGuyver. Just like that lifeboat game... if you aren't coming to the con with a group of your own... find a group you get along with which doesn't have someone filling your role... because balance is always a good thing... because then you as a group are a lot more flexible.

Johnny said...

Great tips, Mike, especially #4. Something I should've included amongst all the drinking talk is to not get blacked out. Just get a nice buzz and keep that nice buzz going, not only so you have fun and don't do stupid drunk shit, but also so you're not too hungover the next day. I always take it easy Friday night so i'm good to go on Saturday.

Mike said...

Thanks man. I don't know how many times I'm with people and someone who hit it hard earlier brings the whole scene down for want of a couple of asprin.

Or when you decide to walk like the wizard of oz resides at that denny's up the street and that hot girl you've been chatting up twists her ankle and would have turned back were it not for that bandage in my bag.

I don't know if it's a con thing or women's shoes are just built like shit but someone will inevitably break a heal, snap a strap, or in some way damage them to the point that their end up walking with all the grace of a flesh eating ghoul.

The magnet seems the weirdest... but you tape the magnet to the end of a stand of duct tape... and you can quickly get keys which somehow fall behind that cabinet etc without moving the cabinet.

It's always something... but I suppose if your group keeps control over themselves that a lot less of those issues will arise.

Strange Kid said...

This is some great info you guys. Just like, Morphine I've never really had the opportunity to make it out to many of these events, but every year I tell myself I'll make it to at least one.

It's hard as a fan to keep up with all the cool merch AND save for these kick-ass events, especially when they're so far away. That parts sucks, but the more I get to know this community of bloggers and hear these stories, the more stoked I get to go to these events and put some faces (and a few rounds of beer) with the writers.

Grade-A post, Johnny!

Morphine said...

Agreed with Strange Kid, One day i need to go to some events and actual have some face to face with fellow horror fans.

the jaded viewer said...

Yup solid advice. For Chiller-goers, don't forget about the tent outside!

It might not have the A-listers on the bill but somehow horror fatale's like Tiffany Shepis are at the tent with a few other cool peeps.