What raises the hair on the back of your neck? What can siphon out a scream from the very depths of your soul?
Kevin Blanchfield knows. As a partner in the Mad Monster franchise – producers of horror entertainment – Blanchfield has been bringing the creepy crawlies to Charlotte for the past two years, and this year will be no different.
University City will get its scare March 21-23, when Mad Monster Party, a three-day horror, science fiction and fantasy convention, sets up shop inside the Hilton Charlotte University Place on J.M. Keynes Drive.
“We’re not a traditional convention,” said Blanchfield. “If you’ve ever gone to a traditional convention, like a trade show – I’m not saying they’re boring, but we try to do things that are really out of the box and that no one else is doing.”
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From the minute the doors open at 6 p.m. March 21, a swirl of terror-themed events will begin.
Actors from the genre’s classic films, including “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” will be on hand to meet fans and sign autographs.
Big-name draws including Elvira, William Shatner and Henry Winkler, who appeared in “Scream,” will make appearances and pose for photos.
“There will be a green screen behind you, so you get to choose which backdrop you want,” said Blanchfield. “So if you’re with William Shatner, you can choose a ‘Star Trek’ or a ‘Twilight Zone’ theme.”
In past years, heavy-metal bands including Metallica and Kiss have attended, too.
In its short history, Mad Monster Party has become a popular attraction among fans looking for up-close access to celebrities. Organizers expect from 8,000 to 10,000 to visit this weekend’s convention.
“I haven’t run into anyone who doesn’t go out of their way to make sure that a fan has a great experience when they talk to them,” said Blanchfield. “I’ve seen a guy have Peter Criss (from Kiss) sign 90 items. It took him an hour.”
More than 80 vendors will hawk their goods, everything from vintage posters to one-of-a-kind movie props.
A film festival showcasing both classic and new films will run continuously throughout the weekend event.
“You remember ‘The Dukes of Hazzard?’ ” asked Blanchfield. “John Schneider just produced his first comical horror, and he’s world-premiering his movie at our show on Friday night.”
Other events include a costume contest, Scarioke (billed as a chance to “murder your favorite songs”), a haunted-house attraction, Crypt Critters – a display of live scorpions, alligators, camel spiders and other spine-tingling creatures – and a midnight staging of “The Rocky Horror Show” with members of the Charlotte cast.
Activities are family-friendly by day; the evening events take on a more grownup atmosphere.
Blanchfield anticipates the Mad Monster Party will continue to grow each year, eventually topping out at 30,000 to 40,000 festivalgoers.
It’s the smiles by the event’s end that keep Blanchfield working to build a bigger and better convention every year, he said.
“When they say, ‘Thanks for bringing my childhood icon to the show and letting me meet him,’ ” said Blanchfield, “that’s what I like.”