H-Town scares his first Houston Horror Film Festival


Scene from the movie ‘Bad Candy’

Photo: Black Triad Entertainment Group

Troy Escamilla says it’s easy to spot a horror film festival. Just look for crowds of fans in costume as their favorite characters, says the Houston-area filmmaker and co-founder of the new. Houston Horror Film Festival, which will take place from June 25 to 27.

“Horror fans are among the most dedicated and passionate people,†says Escamilla.

This dedication will be on full display this weekend at the Houston Marriott South at Hobby Airport. As of June 14, ticket sales predict that around 2,000 guests will show up over the three days, according to Escamilla, while the festival Facebook event the pages show nearly 6,000 people interested in going.

the official selection of films includes 11 feature films and 83 shorts and micro-shorts. Notable feature films include: Halloween-themed “Bad Candy,” which won director Scott B. Hansen Horror Festival awards in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles; “Dwellers,†a found images film produced by David Ellefson, former lead bassist of the metal band Megadeth; “Rondo and Bob,†a documentary about the friendship between “Texas Chainsaw Massacre†art director Robert A. Burns and actor Rondo Hatton, aka The Creeper; and “The Rideshare Killer”, featuring horror icons Oliver Robins (“Poltergeist”, “Poltergeist 2”), Tuesday Knight (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master”) and Eric Roberts (” Oscar nominated Runaway Train). The festival’s diverse lineup of shorts ranges from “Koreatown Ghost Story”, starring Margaret Cho, to “Road Trash”, a made-in-Texas horror film narrated by Heather Langenkamp (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”). The festival will follow CDC guidelines limiting the capacity to screen films in person.

The screenings are just one attraction of the festival, which bills itself as a horror convention bringing together Houston’s passionate horror scene with famous filmmakers and guests from across the country. The guest list is long and continues to grow, according to Escamilla. “You don’t see freshman festivals attracting the celebrities that we were able to get,†he says. “Our line-up has several guests who don’t really do conventions very often. It’s definitely a huge draw for horror fans.

The guest list includes cast members of the cult classic “Halloween” including Tyler Mane and Clint Howard, as well as Butch Patrick (of Eddie Munster fame), a rare sight at conventions. Escamilla highlighted the many opportunities for fans and guests to mingle, including a sold-out VIP after-party on June 25 with Houston darkwave DJ Post Modern Sleaze. “Scream queens†such as Danielle Harris (in signature clown costume), Bai Ling, Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley and Felissa Rose will also be visiting.

With screening rooms and retail spaces featuring horror-themed drapers, graphic designers and comic book illustrators spanning two floors of the Marriott, the inaugural festival has bounced back from being postponed and went virtual in 2020. Escamilla and festival co-director Tony Rodriguez persevered pandemic upheaval due to their determination to host a major event in Houston, which horror fans have long driven or flown for conventions elsewhere in Texas and across the country. The future co-directors met in 2017 at Texas Frightmare Weekend, a flagship event in Dallas that Escamilla says it hopes to match with Houston’s own festival.

“We were just once talking about the fact that Houston, as tall as it is, doesn’t really have a horror convention,†says Escamilla. “The only thing Houston has in comparison is Comicpalooza, which is huge but not all about horror.”

The co-directors used their connections as longtime horror fans and filmmakers to recruit celebrity guests and garner around 200 film submissions. “We were really just two big horror nerds,†Escamilla says.

True to their interest in horror as an art, the co-directors underscored their desire for the film festival to be taken seriously. The festival ends on Sunday with an awards ceremony honoring the best films, film scores, directors, actors and actresses.

As the convention prepares to launch, the remarkable level of interest continues to surprise Escamilla. “We have people coming from all over the country, some from overseas,†he says. The cancellation of major festivals across the country in 2020 due to the pandemic has also helped.

Houston Horror Film Festival

When: June 25-27

Or: Houston Marriott South, 9100 Gulf Fwy.

Details: $ 20 (one day ticket); $ 40 (three day pass); houstonhorrorfilmfest.com

Observes Escamilla dryly: “Horror fans really die, no pun intended, to start doing these kinds of events again.”

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