Deadites, demon babies, a Mistress of the Dark and the original shock rocker.
There’s literally something for every conceivable type of movie fan, metal music enthusiast and horror hound at this year’s Spooky Empire — The Dark Side of the Con. Coming on the heels of its best-ever attendance in 2018, the bi-annual Florida celebration of all things Halloween, horror and rock and roll, also has a new home (for now) in Tampa.
In addition to reuniting "The Evil Dead"’s Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi — along with Raimi’s brother Ted, who starred in "Ash vs Evil Dead" — this year’s four-day convention, which kicks off October 31 at the Tampa Convention Center, also promises fans a chance to meet iconic actors (Mia Farrow), authors (Clive Barker), personalities (Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs), musicians (Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister) and the entire casts of "Friday the 13th Part VI" and "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2."
IF YOU GO
Spooky Empire – The Dark Side of the Con
Thurs. Oct. 31-Sun. Nov. 3. $10-$250.
Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin St., Tampa.
Thurs. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. 1 p.m.-9 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
If you’ve never been to a Spooky Empire event, allow founder Pete Mongelli to educate you on what sets his event apart from similar fan-based experiences in Florida.
“We have that cool rock and roll vibe that the other conventions don’t have,” Mongelli said. “Spooky Empire makes memories. There’s certain things you see at Spooky Empire that you don’t see anywhere else.”
After 17 years in Orlando, Mongelli said he and his wife Gina made the decision to relocate to the Tampa Convention Center after they were unable to secure an appropriately sized hotel in Orange County. Issues with parking last year, in particular, forced them to consider alternative locations.
“We just couldn’t fit in that hotel,” he said. “It was so overcrowded. We outgrew it the first year we were there.”
Mongelli said Spooky Empire drew almost 30,000 visitors in 2018, which marks “the highest we’ve ever had.”
“I don’t know if it was a fluke,” he said, “or just the guest list that lined up right."
In case it wasn’t a fluke, Mongelli said the additional space available in Tampa means more of everything that people have grown to love about Spooky Empire, including twice the number of vendors and twice as many tattoo artists.
“We’re pretty much doubling everything going into the convention center,” he said.
The larger venue also is expected to alleviate many of the issues that disrupted last year’s gathering, including the haphazard photo-op lines that were challenging to navigate and the crush of people that arrived to purchase an exclusive Funko Pop! figure of Elvira. And yes, there’s a new exclusive Elvira Funko figure to commemorate Cassandra Peterson’s return to Tampa.
“We do have a bigger space for the photo-ops,” Mongelli said. “With the Funko Pop!, we have it split up so there will be some on Thursday, some on Friday and the rest will be on Saturday.”
Mongelli said the biggest impediment last year was that the collectible figures did not arrive in time for the start of the show. And, he said, some guests tried to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase multiple figures.
“This year, it’s one per person,” he said. “This year, we already have the figures. They’re already in Tampa.”
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.