The Ultimate Horror Weekend was home to the annual Freak Show Film Festival, highlighting low-budget and independent horror efforts, which screened throughout the weekend. This year, cult filmmaker Hershell Gordon Lewis was awarded the festival's Lifetime Achievement Award directly following the first-ever public screening of his newest film, The Uh-Oh Show.
Just down the hall from the screening room, hundreds waited in line for a chance to meet their favorite horror celebrities. From fresh faces, such as Derek Mears, the man-behind-the-hockey-mask in the recent remake of Friday the 13th, to long-time fan favorites like actor/FX legend Tom Savini, the celebrity autograph room was a major draw for thousands of fans looking to add to their collection.
Vendors and businesses from all over the state, and even the country, flocked to the convention's dealer room, where dealers and collectors can sell their products directly to their target demographic. From bootlegged DVDs to action figures and authentic horror props, the vendor room at the Ultimate Horror Weekend is a flea
market of film merchandise from the classics to the low-budget indie flicks of the YouTube generation. Fans of both the mainstream and the obscure had plenty of treasures to discover.
Many vendors travel the country on the convention circuit, going from one horror event to another, making fairly substantial profits from their products. Others, however, were new to the game and trying to make a name for themselves with products that they hope will be a hit.
The Slaughter Beach Company is one such business. Based out of Redington Shores in Pinellas, the company was started by two cinema fans wanting to turn their talents and ideas into a profitable business. Owners Geoff Langhans and Jeff 'Threat' Gross have spent the last two years preparing for this moment the day their products are finally unveiled to
"It's a chance just to get your name out there, and compete with the big guys. Even if we don't make a profit right away, the experience and connections we make are well worth it," said Langhans, noting that he had already exchanged business cards with other vendors and artists looking to collaborate.
When the sun began to set, and the celebrity guests started to call it a night, the real party began. Kicking off the night was the extremely talented VaudeVillains Burlesque, a local Tampa Bay theatrical company that features dance numbers, improv, and classic vintage variety shows.
As the entertainment continued long into the night, hundreds migrated to the hotel's pool area, the traditional home of the convention after-party, where fans let loose and partied all the way into the next day of the convention. It was a chance for attendees to mingle with their favorite horror stars, meet new friends and just have a good time.
Sunday evening, as the vendors packed up, and the guests headed back to their hotels, the once crowded halls of the Wyndham's convention center started to thin. The Ultimate Horror Weekend was nearing its end. Old friends and new friends alike said their parting words, and went their separate ways, with a promise that they'd do the same thing next year.
Featuring dozens of celebrity guests, the event is an annual three-day festival of music, movies, and just about anything horror-related.
This was the convention's seventh year, and by far the largest yet. The gathering's size and notoriety has grown immensely in the past few years. Starting as a relatively small horror gathering in Ft. Lauderdale, the convention (formerly dubbed Screamfest) has since relocated to the Wyndham Orlando Resort on International Drive. Once filling a lone ballroom, the Ultimate Horror Weekend has now taken over the Wyndham's massive convention center.
Filmmakers such as John Landis (American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers) and Hershell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs) joined horror legends, including Linda Blair (The Exorcist), Tippi Hedren (The Birds), and Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), as guests for the event.