A Horrific Weekend At The 2019 Mad Monster Party: Carolina

by Ben Martin

I’ve been attending horror conventions since 2011 when I traveled to Kentucky to meet legendary writer-director-composer John Carpenter. As a lifelong fan of the horror genre, I was immediately hooked! At that first convention, I felt like I’d found my tribe in a mass of horror movie-loving misfits. Thus, I was thrilled when a horror con finally made it to my neck of the woods in North Carolina. Mad Monster is a horror/sci-fi convention and events company based out of LA. Eight years ago, I attended this organization’s First Annual Mad Monster Party – Carolina and had a wonderful time.

Since then, I’ve been to my share of comic book and horror conventions; including the majority of the Mad Monster Party – Carolinas. Each time out at MMP, I had a great time, except for last year. In 2018, the headliner at The Mad Monster Party was none other than Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund. Of course, I was over the moon at the prospect of meeting such a genre legend. Sadly, that opportunity merely remained prospective when I attended that show on a single-day ticket. I never got to meet Englund, and neither did many other fans who had been waiting all weekend to do so. Frankly, after seeing such disorganization that resulted in a bad experience last year, I vowed to not return for this year’s MMP.

But, like any good fan, I reneged on that vow when I found that the headliner The 2019 Mad Monster Party – Carolina was none other than Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep)! Thus, I spent this past weekend (February 22-24) at The 2019 Mad Monster Party – Carolina, which was held at Hilton Charlotte University Place in Charlotte, NC. (And I have a case of post-convention crud to prove it.)

Like most conventions, this one featured celebrity guests including Bruce Campbell, Adrienne Barbeau, Danielle Harris, Doug Jones, Kane Hodder, Mitch Pileggi, and Ray Wise, among others. Beyond the guest list, MMP Carolina also featured many events with which to fill my horrific weekend. Upon arriving at the convention on Friday as it opened, I was happy to find that the head of Mad Monster, Joe Moe and the rest of his crew had taken steps to rectify the disorganization that was ever-present last year. It was clear from the start that MMP 2019 was going to be better organized. Furthermore, the convention’s staff (dubbed Stiffs) proved to be polite and knowledgeable.
The crowd for Friday was average, but not overwhelming. As I do at every convention, I spent a little bit of the time getting the lay of the land; familiarizing myself with the con’s two vendor halls. While many familiar vendors from previous MMPs filled the rooms, I was happy to see them. Despite not being new, these tried-and-true vendors offer something for every horror fan. I was also thrilled to find that the ballrooms turned vendor halls were laid out in a reasonably accessible fashion. As a guy who traverses conventions in his wheelchair, accessibility is pretty darn important to me.
Friday night’s main events were two Q&A panels. The majority of these panels consist of a 50/50 split. Meaning, half of the questions are generated by a moderator while the last half of the panel’s questions are produced by the audience. First up, was actor Mitch Pileggi’s panel. Despite being low-key and having to deal with a disorderly audience member, Pileggi provided an informative and entertaining Q&A. Following that, actress Danielle Harris also put on a fun Q&A. Although, I must admit that Harris comes across as someone who has done a million cons and doesn’t bother trying to hide that fact.
These panels were enjoyable, but certainly not ideal as every one of them was located in an outdoor tent. Even in NC, being in a tent during a February weekend filled with cold wind and rain is not a pleasant experience. The panels distracted from their environment for the most part; but it was hard to forget you’re in a cold, waterlogged tent when its polls shake with the wind. (Later in the weekend, I asked a Stiff why the panels could not be held elsewhere and was told that the tent was the only real space they had been provided by the hotel.) Soon enough though, my girlfriend and I warmed up in one of the hotel’s restaurant areas by watching Scaraoke. I had plenty of fun as a spectator as I didn’t have enough cocktails in me to participate.
Saturday morning came, and so did the masses. The priority was getting Bruce Campbell’s autograph. My lady and I were among the first batch of folks to be lined up to meet the actor. 148 other people and we were all squeezed into a back service hallway and entrance/exit area. After a few minutes we were given a slip of paper with a number on it, denoting our place in line, and luckily we were near the top after attendees with VIP (or in this case, RIP) tickets. Following that, we were told to write our name and what we wanted to be signed on the slip. Having gone through a similar protocol a few years ago while meeting the late-great Adam West (Batman ‘66), this was going to be another one of those impersonal experiences.
But before we all could be put in what may as well have been an assembly line, Mr. Campbell had to make his entrance. At this point, we were instructed to part to the respective sides of this hallway so that Bruce could get through. As if were a Biblical sea, the line parted and the headliner made his overblown entrance. Finally, we were able to pay and take our turns to meet Bruce. For a guy who signs 150 autographs an hour; this meeting was as quick and personal as I expected. Bruce didn’t even ask me my name, just looked at the piece of paper and then scribbled his signature on my Anchor Bay clamshell VHS of The Evil Dead. I thanked him and held out my hand to receive a handshake.

I wouldn’t call Bruce Campbell rude necessarily; however, he is always in his established persona. That being one of a charming jerk. Still, Saturday held the highlight of the convention when I met Ray Wise (Robocop 87’, Batman: The Killing Joke). The actor’s face and name may not immediately click in your mind, but I can assure you that you’ve seen him in more than a few films or TV shows. Mr. Wise was an absolute gentleman and delight of a human being. I spoke with him for a few minutes about his work, specifically in Twin Peaks.
After that, it was off to a chilly screening room to enjoy some offerings of The 8th Annual Mad Monster Party Film Festival. This festival is always good fun, bringing a nice selection of horror or genre-related feature-length and short films. (I should note that two Charlotte, NC organizations are primarily responsible for putting together the festival: Mutantville Productions  and the Charlotte Film Society. One of the more notable features this year was the Southeastern Premiere of a documentary called Toy Masters (2018). This doc covers the history and controversy around the creation of He-Man & The Masters of the Universe; keep your eyes peeled for my forthcoming review. Saturday night was filled with many fun activities including Madame Monster, a sort of vaudevillian burlesque show. Alas, I must admit to conking out early.

As with most final days at a convention, Sunday at MMP 2019 was a fast and fun one. Against my better judgment, I headed back out to that Q&A tent for Ray Wise and  Adrienne Barbeau’s panel on one of the earlier DC Comics adaptation’s, Swamp Thing (1982). While I admittedly think Swamp Thing is a bit overrated, this panel was a great way to kick-off the day. However, I was a bit disappointed to find that neither of the actors is comic book fans, notably since Ms. Barbeau voiced Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995). Following the panel’s conclusion, I sought the warmth of the vendor halls where I made my purchases. I didn’t make big or exciting purchases; just some stuff for my apartment: magnets, as well as a multitude of horror-themed soaps from one of my favorite vendors, Little Shop of Horror, Durham.
The final event on Sunday was Bruce Campbell’s Q&A panel. Unlike the other panels, this one was not moderated; instead, Bruce went solo and let the audience supply the questions. As I said, Campbell always has the persona turned on, and it makes for an entertaining show. Sure, I found meeting the man to be a bit disappointing; but this panel at least partially made up for that disappointment. Thankfully, We all made it out of that tent just in time, as the structure had started to sway with the wind near the panel’s conclusion.

I found The 2019 Mad Monster Party- Carolina to be an enjoyable show! (Even if I did have to catch the con crud while attending it.) Joe Moe and Mad Monster certainly rectified all the mistakes made with last year’s convention. Considering what a draw Bruce Campbell is for the horror crowd, MMP was very well organized by a very knowledgeable staff. I fully expect to return for next year’s con and would recommend it to any horror fan. In closing, if The Mad Monster Party sounds like your jam and you reside in Arizona The 2019 Mad Monster Party – Arizona will take place from Friday, June 28-Sunday, June 30, 2019!

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