Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA
Today is a #FlashbackFrightday of sorts, as we spend some more time at last month's Midsummer Scream convention. We've covered the Saturday and Sunday panels and the Hall of Shadows. Today, we delve into the show options available to guests who attended this ever-growing Halloween and horror con!
(Photos in this update by Dan and myself.)
Midsummer Scream has featured a variety of acts over the years, from big slider stunt performances to haunted theater to sinister magic. This year was no different. Outside of the exhibition floor, guests could partake in a viewing of Force of Nature Productions' Fallen Saints, a psychological exploration of one's inner fears that ran approximately once every 45 minutes throughout the day. There was also Zombie Joe's Underground Theater and its infamous Urban Death, running 15 minute shows every half an hour. We've written about Urban Death before--that shocking, disturbing, exhilarating cornucopia of horror and dark humor and tension and raw emotion. The Midsummer Scream showing was one of four iterations of Urban Death being performed this year--the regular full show that ran in May, this Midsummer Scream version, a performance currently running at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, and the Tour of Terror half-haunt version that will once again haunt guests this fall.
The entertainment spilled over into the Hall of Shadows as well, with magician Mudd the Magnificent and entertaining clown Twirly among many performers on the Hall of Shadows Stage. That doesn't even get into the Theatre Macabre, featuring its own series of interactive shows, immersive theater, and live recordings. There was also the Screaming Room, back for another year, curated by our pals over at HorrorBuzz. In just three years, it has evolved from a side attraction showing classic eclectic horror cinema to a curated short film festival in and of itself. It's a testament to the hard work the producers and participants have poured into this endeavor.
One of the shows we did spend some extra time at was the intriguing and ultimately inappropriately hilarious Peepshow Menagerie, occurring twice a day at the Hall of Shadows Stage. This could best be described as a display of haunted burlesque--with some extra monster flair. Imagine a burlesque striptease performed by iconic horror villains or creatures (or, in the case of our viewing, a very sad clown), and that's what this show brought to Midsummer Scream. Part sexy, part confusing, part hysterical, it provided a most unique and most certainly NSFW flavor of entertainment. But for those who appreciate the perverse humor, the shows were spellbindingly ludicrous!
Of course, every year, we make it a point to stop by and visit and watch the talented Decayed Brigade performers. This troupe of sliding monsters from both Knott's Scary Farm and Dark Harbor have really pushed the envelope of sliding to new levels, elevating it from a simply scare tactic to incorporating athletic stunt elements and theatrical shows with running storylines across multiple episodes.
Decayed Brigade also had their own booth through the weekend, where fans could purchase merchandise or take pictures with their favorite monsters. After the sliders received their makeup, guests could even have face painting of their own done by one of the talented make-up artists who volunteered their time for the Brigade. These ladies are also veterans of Knott's Scary Farm and other haunts, and their skill in quickly putting together fantastic faces should be applauded. They made everyone look great, and the production value as a whole rose once again this year!
For those brave enough to venture into the Hall of Shadows might come face to face with the Decayed Brigade monsters, scaring folks between shows. Of course, Hall of Shadows entry need not be required. Some of talent hit the exhibition hall and lobby areas too! Even if it wasn't at their actual shows, it wasn't hard to run into Spaz, Spats, Ducky, Sequel, Seaweed, Nonni, and others. They were practically crawling out of the woodwork!
Of course, the big highlights were the actual slider shows, which once again took place within the Hall of Shadows itself. This year, the sliding area was made more spacious, allowing for larger crowds and a longer runway. Although it was once again in the middle of the mini-haunts layout, the extra space overall seemed to impact maze operations less than in previous years. The placement of the two Terror Trucks--which are completely enclosed--nearby allowed for quasi operation during shows, while a solid third were located another row over and not really impacted by the show traffic. While it would have been nice to have the Decayed Brigade completely out of the mini-haunts area to avoid disturbing those mazes entirely, this was the best set-up for the show that I've seen in all my years of attending Midsummer Scream and Scare L.A. before it.
Once again, the Decayed Brigade sliders presented three shows each day. Each show bore a different narrative, loosely tying together to paint a story of descent into madness and nightmares. Similar to last year, the first show featured the more traditional tricks and stunts, while the second show provided more focused storytelling, and the third show mixed the two with a culmination in the traditional long jump activities--each monster trying to best each other, and the record books!
What really struck me in watching the Decayed Brigade perform over Midsummer Scream was how effortless they made these complex sliding stunts appear. To be sure, there were some mishaps--a couple mistimed jumps and unintended collisions--but by and large, the technical tricks looked easy. The jumps, limbos, spins, and crossings looked elementary, and even the incorporation of multi-directional sliding with monsters coming across multiple cross aisles and angles intersecting the main avenue came off relatively smoothly. Clearly, all the practice the Decayed Brigade has put in during the offseason has paid dividends. Whereas most monsters slowly amp up during the summer into "haunt shape," the Decayed Brigade folks have been keeping in shape year-round.
Another noticeable difference in this year's show was the theatrical lighting afforded to the team, producing some fantastic, dramatically lit photo opportunities. A large projected screen in the background accented the production, providing some video overlay to support the motifs being narrated. Props go out to the Brigade videographers, who put together some great sizzle reels to really make everything extra slick and polished.
It was also cool to see some of the new innovations the crew cooked up for this year's show. The most notable was an addition seemingly taken out of the pages of park skateboarders--the introduction of a ramp during the third show that practically lunched the sliders airborne, allowing them to pose midair or do fancy aerial tricks before landing. The use of multiple directions of sliding literally brought a new direction to the performance. Using "body bag" mannequins as the first and last bodies for the long jump proved to be a smart and safer innovation, saving live bodies from injury (for those aiming for records, the first or last person was typically who received collision bruises from short jumps or late takeoffs. Certainly, this year marked new innovation from the Brigade!
And that's what has really marked the growth of the Decayed Brigade. Six years ago, they were mainly friends winging it with sliding tricks and jumps, putting together shows on improv based on the strength of their [back then] Scary Farm chemistry and personal friendship. These days, the Decayed Brigade has really become a professional performance group, performing not only at conventions such as Midsummer scream and special haunt events like the Sliders Unite exhibitions at Dark Harbor but also special events for media companies and corporate parties. And its membership continues to grow too, attracting top performers who fuel a passion for their haunted craft. It's been exciting to see how far they've come, and it is even more exciting to see how far they'll go.
If photos don't really convey the intricacy of the Decayed Brigade performers, here are videos of the three shows that I recorded over the Midsummer Scream weekend.
That wraps up the entertainment portion of Midsummer Scream. We've got one more update to go--highlighting the exhibition floor and the interesting guests and ghouls found throughout the weekend at Midsummer Scream--before resuming our regular updates. At least until Halloween season kicks off in earnest in mid-September.
Enjoy the weekend, and see you soon in the fog...
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.