Horror Con International had the very first of hopefully many more conventions this last September, 2015. I was buzzing as I walked in the door. Being the horror and gore lover that I am, I had been looking forward to this convention for a couple of months. When I walked into The Reef on South Broadway, Los Angeles, I was actually rather surprised. Nothing was horror-ed up or even remotely out of place. It was all a little too neat for my taste…decorators could have made some money in the lobby. But I proceeded to the front desk to ask where to go. Unfortunately, nobody had a clue about what was going on. Sure, they were well-aware of a convention going on, but they didn’t know where press could check in, what time things would be ready, or who I could even talk to. I was directed to the second floor, and told to ask one of the staff workers there, so I did. My assistant and I went up to the second floor and attempted to ask a Horror Con staff member for help. As sweet as she was, she was unable to tell me when and >where I could get the badges I’d reserved, and said I could enter with the paying guests at 1 pm when the convention was open.
Despite the lack of organization that greeted me, I was determined to make this a good experience. I went into the lobby again to plan my day, and checked the website again for details I might have missed. At 1:00, people were lined up out the door and around the block…but the doors were not open to the guests yet. I stepped inside and asked another staff worker at the desk if she could tell me where to get my press badge. She picked up a meager list and said with confusion that I was not on the list and could not receive my badge. Prepared for such an incident, I pulled out my confirmation, and when she called her manager over, I was given a badge based just on the single glance he took of me. Unsure if he’d recognized me from the site or not, I was a little baffled that he cared so little that I was legitimately a press member. Nevertheless, we had our badges and it was time to start poking around! I bounced back up to the second floor, my blood rushing in my ears with the excitement of all the creepy things I expected to see, and then it stilled, almost coagulating.
The floor was a disaster area, and not the kind I had come to see.
Vendors were pulling carts and dollies into the room and setting them by empty booths, staff members were milling around chatting and roughhousing in the corners, and everyone who came up was looking around like they’d gotten lost. It was getting close to 1:30, and the convention was not even running. I looked up and down the hallways, exploring a little, getting lost once or twice…and then sat down in defeat. I was thoroughly disappointed. Not only was it now getting close to 2:00 pm with hardly anyone setting up a booth, but the space was disorganized, huge, and maze-like. Where four or five large booths coudl fit, I would find one, maybe two. There were long walks between each vendor and they themselves seemed defeated and bleak. Nobody wanted to come near a vendor that
was stuck in a corner alone, and some were just impossible to find! I met awesome artists including Ben Russel, Maggie Wyman, Owen Klaas, and Jed Thomas, and made friends at the Miss Fluff, Boo-tiful Portraits, Dead of Night Charms, and Craftsylvania booths, admiring their work and their positive upbeat attitudes. I searched for four hours whilst I met these cute and spooky vendors and guests until I finally was told by a guest that the basement, which had previously been blocked off, was suddenly open, and vendors had been crammed downstairs.
I descended into the gloomy basement (actually a lovely atmosphere for the convention) and felt my heart drop with disappointment. I looked into a giant glass-walled room, and saw a single booth…if you can call two folding tables and chairs surrounded by emptiness a “booth.” I poked my head into the many glass-walled rooms, and found at best, three in one room, including the lovely lady I’d been looking for. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Andrea Von Drakenstien of Drakenstein Art, and I had been so excited to see and hold her little dolls in real life finally! But she was so hidden that nobody was able to find her, or the vendors beside her. I explored the basement and found it depressingly empty, and the only thing I found more inviting than Andrea’s dolls in the basement was a screening room, and the screening was not happening, despite the time on the board saying it would have been halfway in. The room was silent and empty, the machines off, and the screen blank. Well, if it was about an invisible, deaf, mute person standing still, then I suppose it was a success, because I didn’t see a thing, and I headed back upstairs after a wait.
I explored a little more upstairs, and I was happy to see that the booths were finally finished and people were milling about back and forth. I reconnected with friends from Scare LA, like A Corpse Maker and Cross Roads Escape Games (and I will be reviewing Cross Roads once they open)! I experienced delicious cinnamon cupcake with a Fireball whisky shot by Lydia’s Lil’ Pastries, complete with a Freddy Krueger sitting on a moon made of candy. I also happened to find the most adorable skulls in jars from Dead of Night Charms…and they were no bigger than my thumb. When day one ended, I hoped for improvements to my experience to come on day two….and thankfully, I was granted my wish.
Day two was a success, full of fun and spook and exciting new friends. The convention was much more organized, and there were even directory signs, which were not there the day before. I found a few people had been moved out of the basement, but not enough, considering that the entire convention could have fit on the second floor of The Reef if the organizers had planned a little better when placing vendors. I was able to take my time and enjoy each booth, making connections with more artists, craftsmen (and craftswomen), and other lovers of oddities and creepy things. I spent more time talking to Jed Thomas and Ben Russel, and had the pleasure to meet guests in costume. Cosplays and just downright creepy costumes littered the crowds…including a particular clown who thought it was funny to stand alongside mannequins and jump at people. But I knew his game….he didn’t get me this time.
Overall, I was rather disappointed with the convention. I couldn’t find half the things that the website advertised, I couldn’t get anyone on the staff to give me any straight answers, and by the middle of the second day, vendors were so disappointed that a few of them told me they would rather not return next year. I am not pleased with the review I am putting out. I really wish I had better things to say. Horror Con was poorly organized and executed seemingly without a concrete plan. I do however realize that the first year is sometimes the hardest and the worst for business, so I will say that I hope that next year, the convention is a success. I’d recommend visitor maps, proper signage, better use of large spaces, and having the staff be more prepared to handle large crowds and unpleasant situations.