When it was announced almost 6 months ago that the majority of the team responsible for the success and creation of ScareLA was leaving, the horror and haunt community as a whole was left confused and upset.  I know for me, ScareLA 2015 was single-handley the best convention I had been to and I wasn’t sure what to expect it.  Within a week or so of their announcement Executive Director David Markland, Creative Director Rick West, Executive Producer Gary Baker, Producer Johanna Atilano and Associate Producer Claire Dunlap had another, much happier, surprise for us – a new Halloween convention was coming and it was sure to kick off the season in a way none of would expect.  And boy, were they right.  Within months, they created the premiere Halloween event, Midsummer Scream, with passion and love; and they created this for us – the horror and haunt fans.

July 30-31 Midsummer Scream premiered at the Long Beach Convention Center.  As I walked up to the convention center, I saw lines and lines of people excited to enter the epicenter of all their horror dreams.  One thing is for sure, there was no shortage of entertainment for all walks of horror life.  Upon entering the main floor there were rows upon rows of vendors, make-up and special effects vignettes, mini escape rooms, and monsters roaming about.  Throughout the over 90,000 square feet area of the Long Beach Convention Center, tendrils of fog rolled all around the space.  One of the most impressive areas of the show floor, and Midsummer Scream in general, was the HALL OF SHADOWS.  This area featured 9 mini haunts, frightening makeup design by Boneyard FX, and lots of entertainment.  For those of us who have an obsession with haunts, this was a great introduction for what to look forward to by some of the most creative haunt designers in SoCal.  This was also my first introduction into the wonderful world of Boneyard FX and it was breathtaking to see their creature makeup and design come to life in their mini haunt attraction, TOXICITY.

When it came to the programming, Midsummer Scream’s panels were unmatched to anything else out there.  If you wanted to learn more about the major haunts in Southern California, you had panels featuring Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood, Knotts Scary Farm, Six Flags Fright Fest and The Queen Mary Dark Harbor; if you wanted to delve into the horror side of things, there were panels such as “Blumhouse Presents: Creepy Pasta, Urban Legends, and Ghost Stories”; and if haunts and horror weren’t your thing, no need to worry – there were panels dedicated to theme park attractions such as the “Frightful Attraction Design” that featured legendary imagineer Tony Baxter.  What really made Midsummer Scream such an incredible event is they literally had something for everyone; whether it be panels, haunts, live performances, theatrical productions, scavenger hunts, workshops and even a black kitten adoption from Kitten Rescue LA (even though I’m not a cat person even I was tempted to adopt one).

One of the main aspects that set Midsummer Scream apart from just about every other convention out there is the lack of what some of us call “autograph alley”.  I understand that having one of these at your convention is a good way to sell tickets and is a way for fans to meet their idols but it can be awkward at times.  The interactions seem forced and ungenuine because a lot of the time it’s just based on how much money you are willing to spend at the talents table.  I’ve encountered times where I couldn’t even talk to a celebrity unless I was willing to hand over money and from a fan’s point of view it makes for a really unenjoyable experience.  Listen, I understand we all need to make money, and I’m not hating on this tactic, but it’s refreshing not to run into these situations at a convention.  Instead, what Midsummer Scream did was have select talents pair up with a booth to then sell their merchandise.  It made for a much more enjoyable interaction and there wasn’t table after table of celebrities vying for attention.  The team did this when they created ScareLA and have now brought it over to Midsummer Scream.  It’s something that I commend them for doing as it shows that this event is for the fans; the fans of horror, the fans of Halloween, and the fans of those who love all things weird and spooky, not just a way to upsell and take more money from the fans.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with Midsummer Scream.  The team rose up from the ashes (cliche I know) and in a short amount of time created an event that surpassed everyone’s expectations.  I mean shit, they even had Oingo Boingo perform!  David, Rick, Gary, Johanna, and Claire proved to all those that doubted them that they had what it took to create an incredibly mind-blowing convention and cement themselves into the genre as the premiere kickoff event for the Halloween season.  Their passion bled through and was apparent by the amount of support they received within the community and the lines of people waiting to get into Midsummer Scream.  Did I mention they did all of this in less than 6 months – it’s hard to not have respect for their drive, passion, and love of the community.  In conclusion, I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves next and one can only that a year 2 will be around the corner!

Shannon McGrew
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