Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA
Hey, it’s #FlashbackFrightday! Today, we’re looking not too far back to Midsummer Scream, that ultimate haunt destination of a Halloween and horror convention that kicks off the haunting season, to check out some of the shows and entertainment attractions that were available. In addition to all the panels and classes and the Hall of Shadows, Midsummer Scream offers a variety of theater acts and experiences each year that will keep any horror fan busy. Lets run through some of the residents this year!
For the first time ever, Zombie Joe brought not one but two Urban Death shows to Midsummer Scream. There was a 15 minute iteration of the regular, “adult” version of Urban Death, complete with mature themes, simulated violence, nudity, shock, and terror, and another “all-ages” version that touched upon many of the same motifs but omitted the nudity, bloody, and explicit scenes of violence.
I had a chance to check out the all-ages show on Saturday, and I came out absolutely enthralled with the performance. Somehow, the actors and actresses at Zombie Joe’s managed to create a form of Urban Death that was both tamer and more titillating. Of course, the most noticeable difference between this and the regular show was that everyone was fully clothed. But the amount of twisted humor and dark, tongue-in-cheek jokes was addictively alluring, bringing a silly but perverse style of horror.
The show wasn’t devoid of scares, though. The middle scenes moved toward more existential and psychologically unnerving bouts of terror, and there were a few variations on familiar scenes that Urban Death veterans might recognize, such as the hatchet killer in lightning and the campers trying to psych each other out. My favorites, however, were the bits that played on monsters in absurdity. One particular scene that featured an almost Muppet-like creature devouring an over dramatically screaming maiden left me (and the audience) in stitches.
It’s good to know that there will be a similar version of Urban Death: Tour of Terror this fall, designed for more “family audiences” in mind!
Force of Nature Productions brought its Midsummer Scream fixture, Fallen Saints, to the convention once again, with regular shows playing throughout both days. I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to see this, and I really ought to make time to appreciate the fine work this troupe does. But from others, it was once again a fantastic, sometimes chilling, also thrilling show.
Down on the Show Floor Stage, there were a plethora of open performances throughout the day. Haunt venue veteran, Mudd the Magnificent, brought his delightful brand of spooky magic to the crowd several times over the weekend. Also performing was Cornelius Cobb’s Carnival of Dreams, the Peepshow Menagerie, the Poltergeists & Paramours Fashion Show, and more!
On the second floor, the Theatre Macabre presented a variety of presentations and performances, such as Dr. Zomba’s Ghost Show of Terrors, Captured Aural Fantasy Theater, Something Scary presentation, Midnight Marinara, Twirly’s Traveling Tricks, and more!
Back on the show floor, new this year was Paranormal Pixie’s Pumpkin Patch, a collection of kid-friendly variety acts that provided fun content for families with younger children. Although Midsummer Scream isn’t specifically marketed for the all-family crowd, it’s generally known that the haunt community is a family with reliance of family support to fuel many of its endeavors, especially in fields like home haunts. It’s no surprise that many guests at Midsummer Scream brought family members along, and for those who happened to include younger children, Paranormal Pixie’s Pumpkin Patch was a great way to entertain the little ones.
Kimberly J. Brown, best known for her Halloweentown films, led a “Pumpkin Patch Parade” in the late morning. There was also a meet and greet with model and horror enthusiast Leeanna Vamp and her Fiends. Annie Banannie brought fun balloon storytelling to the stage, while Joe Selph presented a bit of dry silliness in his marionette theater. Jimmy Purcell gave drawing lessons for those interested in sketching monsters, and a kids costume parade closed out the end of the day as well. All in all, it was a lovely added feature to the festival!
Outside of direct entertainment items, the Black Cat Lounge provided feline lovers some kitty therapy with yet another showing at Midsummer Scream. Run by the Kitten Rescue of Los Angeles, the Black Cat Lounge proved to be super popular the entire weekend, with reservation slots booked up so deep one might have mistaken them for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge initial reservations. It seems people could not resist playing with these adorable kittens, and best of all, those who wanted to adopt a baby cat had the opportunity to do so right there!
There’s always been a rich tradition of haunts partnering up with charity organizations, and this was no exception. The great cause was well received by the Midsummer Scream crowd!
Another side attraction was the Godzilla Auction. Just what was this? Well, exactly what it said it was: a venue to bid on miscellaneous Godzilla-related merchandise. This actual auction, run by the Peekaboo Gallery, ran all weekend, auctioning off memorabilia from the King of the Monsters. From the classic, Japanese Toho series to American Godzilla iterations, there was plenty of artwork, props, figurines, apparel, and other souvenirs to vie for!
We didn’t even get a chance to glimpse some of the other attractions, such as Fox Searchlight’s Ready or Not Experience, presented by Sinister Pointe, or Neversmile: A Scene with the Director, or some of the immersive theater experiences on the show floor. It all goes to show how in just a few years, Midsummer Scream has exploded into a full-fledge, multi-faceted con that literally has too much content to be able to humanly cover. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a great thing!
Of course, for me personally, the highlight and annual entertainment target of Midsummer Scream is the Decayed Brigade sliders, who once again put on three shows in the Hall of Shadows each day, showcasing their athletic prowess and acrobatic tricks and treats. Between shows, a lot of the monsters could be found at the Decayed Brigade booth, where fans could purchase merchandise from the group, or on the show floor, prowling around and scaring the daylights (or nightlights) out of guests.
Decayed Brigade’s performances were an example of the hard work and talented abilities that these monsters put forth all year, so that they can be at their best come autumn. Primarily composed of Knott’s Scary Farm and Dark Harbor talent, the Decayed Brigade had their own runway at the corner of the Hall of Shadows, and each of their shows brought out large crowds who lined up well before showtime to catch a clear view of all the action.
This year, the action came from more directions than ever. Aside from the main runway, there were also diagonally criss-crossing paths and multiple props brought in to serve as obstacles and creative jump props. From campfire “logs” to a corpse on a spit to a fogged up limbo stick to coffin-shaped boards to a full-on skate-style ramp, there were lots of fun and inventive ways for the Decayed Brigade sliders to show off their jumps and bends.
The choreography was also bold and tightly synchronized, as the sliders flew over and under each other, often in opposite directions, and sometimes even in contorted positions. The timing and skill to avoid collision was truly impressive, and more than once, the crew left the crowd buzzing with some of their fly-by stunts. Be they tiptoe balancing slides or the old “surfboard” joint slide or spins and assisted direction changes, the shows were high energy and high intensity all afternoon long.
It all came to a head on the third show, which concluded with the traditional long jump exhibition. There was no record set this year, with several monsters hitting ten. This meant that the record of 12 would be safe… for now. But it was an impressive and wonderful time for everyone nonetheless!
Show 1 Gallery
Show 2 Gallery
Show 3 Gallery
Just from the entertainment alone, Midsummer Scream would have offered a great value for the whole weekend. That doesn’t factor the Hall of Shadows or panels, or the vendors on the show floor and the people-watching from all the dressed up / cosplaying guests on hand. Yes, Midsummer Scream has become a complete, legitimate, mainstream convention—one dedicated to a less conventional fandom, but an ardent and rambunctious one indeed.
We’ve got one more update coming from Midsummer Scream, and before you know it, it will be haunt season in earnest, starting with opening night at Halloween Horror Nights this year. The spookiest time of year is nearly nigh, and we can’t wait!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.