Special Convention Review, Bowler’s Exhibition Centre in Stretford, Manchester.

By Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University; Photography by John Gilleese.

Panel at For The Love Of Horror

October 16-17 was a brilliant weekend for horror fans in Manchester and the North West with the much anticipated return of the For the Love of Horror fan convention. The convention got underway with evident excitement, especially given the global pandemic necessitated its delay last year; it was nothing short of therapeutic and joyous to get back to these important and celebratory fan spaces. Now in its third year, Andy Kleek and Monopoly Events’ For the Love of Horror line-up was a veritable treat, with this year’s focus on The Rocky Horror Picture Show reunion. Amidst the glitter lipstick, fishnet stockings, and gold pants in cosplay homage to the late-night classic film, there was a staged cast reunion who led a sing-a-long rendition of the ‘Time Warp’ to get us all in the mood to celebrate ‘Rocky’ once again, with cast members Barry Bostwick (Brad), Christopher Biggins (a Transylvanian), and Patricia Quinn (Magenta) leading with suitable aplomb. Offstage, the glorious Tim Curry (most famously associated with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clue, and IT) hosted a two-day meet and greet and photo session with fans eager to meet Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Many fans were evidently excited and delighted to finally meet such an iconic actor of the stage and screen at this special reunion.

Alongside the solid horror fandom that descended upon Stretford to celebrate this cult screen reunion, horror stars Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich from Scream (the most successful horror franchise of the 1990s) drew in an enormous crowd as the ‘bad boy’ duo in Wes Craven’s hit horror franchise; this was soon followed by the hilarious trio from Scary Movie, with David Sheridan (in full Officer Doofy costume), Lochlyn Munro and Jon Abrahams all keen to discuss their appearance in the cult 2000 horror comedy, and Sheridan in particular delighting all with his satirical performance.  Fans of 1980s films were treated to appearances by Tom McLoughlin (Friday the 13th: Part VI), Tom Atkins (Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, Night of the Creeps) Adrienne King (Friday the 13th), and happy camper Felissa Rose (from the cult classic Sleepaway Camp), and Tim Capello from The Lost Boys, a very popular guest whose return to For the Love of Horror from the 2019 Lost Boys reunion included multiple wonderful performances of his hit song ‘I Still Believe’ from the film’s dizzying, and gloriously 1980s synthy-soundtrack.

Deadpool at For The Love Of Horror

While conventions typically cater to those who collect photos/autographs and memorabilia, what I continue to enjoy most about the For the Love of Horror convention (and its sister events under the ‘For the Love of …’ banner) are the hosted and very insightful onstage special talks with the invited guests. These talks are open to all attendees and give the convention a sense of community beyond the typical convention space. I managed to peruse the vast trader’s hall filled with talented craftspeople from across the country displaying their beautiful sculptures, rare posters, custom paintings, and special collectors’ items. I was delighted to secure some rare collectible pop vinyls, superb Halloween and Scream cushions from Sue at ‘Curious Creations’ (based in Bristol – find their extensive work via their Facebook shop), a few coveted t-shirts from Hell on Shirts, recreated handcrafted film props and merch from Chroma Crystal (whose creations, including video membership cards from Clerks and MacReady’s blood sample in a petri-dish from The Thing were particularly enticing to us), and numerous wonderful dark art prints based on famous screen locations, including Candyman, The Exorcist, and Twin Peaks, by Leicester-based company Cult Locations Ink. Furthermore, Dean of Dean of the Dead had a full range of tantalising hot sauces (and For the Love of Horror-branded Killer Ketchup) to whet appetites with his tingly spicy delights. Dean also donated fiery sweets for audience members to try at their own risk on stage, a contest which resulted in a few breathless contestants and many ripples of laughter! It was simply brilliant to speak to (and buy so many items from) independent traders who have been waiting to get back to the convention circuit with their artworks and merchandise for so long; every single person I encountered at For the Love of Horror spoke of how happy they were to be back trading and being with other fans again.

Crowd at For The Love Of Horror

Outside the venue, a suitably spooky ghost train, complete with wicked Vincent Price laughter from ‘Thriller’, and numerous local food vendors kept people entertained in-between the queues for autographs, shopping, and public talks. The weekend was a feast for horror fans of all ages, and among the crowds of cosplay players, many of whom displayed considerable levels of talent and ingenuity in their creations. What was particularly delightful was the family atmosphere among the cos-players, with parents and kids and old friends alike celebrating their love of the genre with spectacular and artistic tributes to their favourite horror icons. This delightful assemblage included Predator — an admirable cos-player whose evident effort and style on display through the iconic creature’s signature three-dotted laser and painted alien skin was a delight— and numerous 1980s horror icons including Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers lurking in the crowd. Myers proved to be a popular choice due to the release of Halloween Kills on that same weekend, but we were also able to find Ghostface from Scream, Deadpool, Dracula from Coppola’s lush 1992 film, Nadja from What We Do in the Shadows (2019- TV series) and Jack Torrance from The Shining, and Dani, in a spectacular full flower dress and holding a teddy bear from Midsommar. All of this was suitably staged with elaborate sets for photos in Leatherface’s Lair, the Myers house, and the Santa Carla billboard, setting the scene for perfectly grisly keepsake photos. The scare-maze also attracted many who wished to test their nerves against their beloved foes in a suitably macabre installation. Having been delighted and terrified in these scare mazes before, I can assure you they are worth the wait!

Scream ghoul at For The Love Of Horror

After such a brilliant weekend celebrating the joy that horror brings to legions of fans across the world, it is superb to see Manchester host this special celebration of horror culture, and long may it continue to do so. Tickets for next year’s convention are already on sale and guests are being announced regularly on their social media channels (stay tuned), so you can be sure it will be very popular following this year’s extravaganza. How will they top this year? We can’t wait to find out!

Get ready for the 4th year of For the Love of Horror on October 22-23 2022.  You can buy tickets here: https://www.fortheloveofhorroruk.com/