Recurring Nightmare; CreepIECon Returns to the Inland Empire for 2023…

The Growing Horror…

Last year, the city of Ontario, California hosted a horror-themed convention in February called “CreepIECon”, which was successful enough in its freshman year to take another stab at it in 2023. Having just returned from CreepIECon 2023 earlier today, it’s safe to say that by attendance alone, the convention has grown significantly from last year. Just from eyeballing it, Saturday’s attendance looked to be nearly double what I remember from last year, and while the number of attendees on Sunday was a bit more moderate, the event certainly pulled in more than enough people to justify its future return. What can I say? People in this corner of SoCal love their horror…

The Ontario Convention Center, not far from Ontario Airport.
The gleaming convention center was built back in 1997, and is right across the street from a Marriott Residence Inn where my wife and I spent two months back in 2014, following a nightmarish plumbing overhaul/reconstruction at our house! Ah, memories…
The Convention Center’s corner sign advertises “CreepIECon”, and judging by the monstrous crowd sizes in Saturday’s Dealer Hall, I’d say local horror fans certainly got the message… with or without their ouija boards.
A cheerful singer gives her all at the booth for Art’s Sideshow; a Prop Museum for Horror.

Nightmare Fuel: CreepIECon’s Dealer Hall

The Dealer Hall was packed to Soylent Green levels on Saturday. The sheer mass of bodies winding through the aisles of the Dealer Hall all but mandated my return on Sunday, just to see those things that were blocked by the humanity of the previous day. Not complaining at all, mind you; in fact, I think it’s great that a local SoCal convention can pull in these kinds of crowds. To that end, the Dealer Hall featured plenty of intriguingly ghoulish wares to separate attendees from their surplus funds…

Left: Some of the items for sale at this booth included a sign for the fictional town of Santa Mira, California (1983’s “Halloween III” 1956’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) and a “Beaches Closed” sign for 1975’s “JAWS” (I bought that very sign at San Diego Comic Con a couple of years ago, and it hangs proudly in my home office!). Right: At the Toxic Doom booth, there were comic books, artwork and masks loosely inspired by the Toxic Avenger horror-comedy franchise.
Mask up! More masks/figures for sale include Billy the Puppet (the “Saw” franchise), the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Michael Myers (“Halloween”), Goosebumps, the Toxic Avenger, The Munsters (the real Munsters, not the Rob Zombie reboot), one of the aliens from “They Live” (1988), and the accursed Silver Shamrock masks from the underrated “Halloween III” (1982).
Top: Two “Deluxe Piranha Plants” inspired by “The Little Shop of Horrors” (1984).
Bottom: A clever “Creature from the Black Lagoon” planter (if I had space in my living room, I would’ve bought this one).
The Fiends booth/attraction, featured many Halloween/horror-theme wares for sale, including clothes, artwork, and other ghoulish goodies, as well as a heart-framed stand for attendees to take a Valentine’s Day photo together. At CreepIECon, it was hard to believe that Valentine’s Day was the holiday right around the corner, and not Halloween; it’s as disorienting as spending all morning at a matinee movie, and then exiting the darkened theater into broad daylight…
From The Fiends booth: Some fashionably-attired skeletons stare slack-jawed at the giant, mutated candy corns on the far right.
That’d scare the sugar-filled s#!t out of anyone, even a skeleton…
Mannequins of Regan (“The Exorcist”), Chucky (“Child’s Play”) and Michael Myers (“Halloween”) at “The Horror Dude” booth.
I felt bad for the Horror Dude, who also sold Jason Voorhees masks and other items at his table, yet shutterbugs (like myself) were largely there just to photograph his amazing horror dolls and mannequins. He was a good sport about it, poor guy. If you can, look him at up on Etsy (The Horror Dude shop, on; he supplies custom-made items for other such horror events and shows, too.
More Monstrous Mannequins at The Horror Dude’s booth.
Three of the Dude’s creations include Leatherface (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), a murderous clown (have I mentioned that clowns are never a force for good?) and a beautiful recreation of Frankenstein’s Monster, as played by the legendary Boris Karloff.
“Roast of the Dead” coffee booth.
This is where my olfactory senses caught a whiff of Ethiopian roast coffee—a blend I haven’t had for nearly thirty years, yet remember vividly to this day. I could smell it, even though my COVID mask! As a longtime coffee addict, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to buy another bag. Sadly, the pre-ground bags were gone when I returned on Sunday, but the whole bean bags were still there, so I grabbed one. I’ll worry about buying another grinder later….

So, for all the merchandise, food, and other horror-themed wares on display, I walked away with a really nice bag of coffee. However, I’m perfectly okay with that. My little house is already buried in collectibles and knick-knacks anyway, but it’s always fun to see others find that one thing that makes their horror collection a cut above…

Making Connections… No Stitches Required

As seen in last year’s CreepIECon, there were successful attempts made with connecting goths, ghouls and deadheads via Horror Speed Dating (that little room was packed), and even a VIP Lounge upstairs (the lounge required a VIP premium admission ticket, of course). I didn’t partake in either, and that’s fine; I’m a happily married old guy, and I’m perfectly okay with leaving the trials and tribulations of dating to younger, far braver souls than myself…

Sign for the CreepIECon VIP Lounge (upstairs, and only for VIP ticket holders), and the general admission Horror Speed Dating event, where horror fans could ‘meat’ each other…

There was also a general admission Arcade Room as well, with video game consoles and other relics from my childhood. However, since I have the gaming skills of a coordination-challenged toddler, I’m happy to simply observe…

Dark Stars

While it seemed that there weren’t quite as many higher-profile celebrity names in the Autograph Alley this year, there were still a few well known faces to horror aficionados. The largest draw—certainly with the longest lines—was the big cast reunion for 1996’s “Scream.” Stars Skeet Ulrich (“Billy Loomis”), Jamie Kennedy (“Randy Meeks”) and Matthew Lillard (“Stu Macher”). Kennedy also starred in 2005’s “Son of the Mask,” the ill-conceived sequel to the 1994 hit comedy starring Jim Carrey. Lillard would also star as “Shaggy” in the live action “Scooby Doo” movies, beginning with 2002’s “Scooby Doo.” Another name I recognized in Autograph Alley was Jeff Daniel Phillips, who played “Herman Munster” in Rob Zombie’s less-than-successful reboot of “The Munsters.” I also caught a glimpse of baby-faced actor Quinn Lord, who (at the tender age of 7) played the enigmatic Halloween goblin “Sam Hain” (get it? Samhain? Ancient Celtic name for Halloween…?) in the underrated Halloween anthology flick, “Trick ‘r Treat” (2007).

Somewhere back there are actors Skeet Ulrich, Jamie Kennedy and Matthew Lillard.
The trio from 1996’s original “Scream” were reunited as a package deal for this convention, and judging from the humongous crowds near their respective booths, they were easily the biggest draw of the weekend. To be honest, I was never a big fan of the “Scream” franchise. I still remember seeing it during a midnight showing at a local university multiplex, near my old apartment. I thought it was okay, but it tried too hard to be equal parts horror and self-aware-comedy; not fully succeeding at either. I walked home, long before daylight, at around 2:30 am, and wasn’t the least bit frightened. Personally, I much preferred 2000’s “Scary Movie,” which at least had the sense to commit to being a full-on comedy.
On the left, a backdrop of the 1313 Mockingbird Lane address for Rob Zombie’s “The Munsters” reboot, and the mustached fellow on the right is actor Jeff Daniel Phillips, who played Frankensteinian patriarch, “Herman Munster.”
I’ve already written my long list of grievances with Rob Zombie’s “The Munsters” reboot.
The young man on the far left is actor Quinn Lord (“Trick ‘r Treat”).
At the tender age of 7, Lord starred as the Halloween goblin in the underrated horror anthology gem, “Trick ‘r Treat” (2007). If you are as big a fan of the Halloween holiday as myself, then you need to seek this movie out. “Trick ‘r Treat” evokes more genuine feeling (and horror) for the Halloween holiday in its sparse, 100 minute running time than the entirety of the “Halloween” movie franchise; and I say that as a sincere fan of the “Halloween” franchise.
Me, meeting actor Alex Winter, from the “Bill & Ted” movies, as well as “The Lost Boys.”
A genuinely nice guy; it was a privilege to meet the man responsible for nearly 34 years of great laughs and good times.

The only autograph I purchased over the convention weekend was that of actor Alex Winter; better known as “Bill S. Preston, Esquire” in the “Bill & Ted” trilogy of sci-fi comedies. Winter was also one of “The Lost Boys” in director Joel Schumacher’s 1987 teen vampire classic. I had to meet him. The actor also starred and co-directed the 1993 cult classic, “Freaked.” It was delightful to meet Winter, and I told him how, during the height of the 2020 pandemic, my wife and I invited a small group over to screen “Bill & Ted Face the Music” in our backyard, on a collapsible movie screen, with our then-new digital projector. That movie gave us and our (masked) friends a nice movie night under the stars, and a much-needed break from pandemic stress and worries. For that evening, and for those much-needed laughs, I’m forever grateful.

Creepy Cosplay

Now, onto my favorite part of sci-fi/fantasy or horror conventions—the cosplayers. Cosplayers are the heart and soul of any sci-fi/fantasy/horror convention, and while there weren’t as many cosplayers visible on Saturday (the more crowded day of the weekend), there were quite a few of them on Sunday, when there was a bit more breathing room. In addition to regular folks donning their wildly imaginative “Sunday best” for the event, there were also a few stilt-walking cosplayers making the rounds of the Dealer Hall and other sections of the Ontario Convention Center.

“A Boy and His Dog.”
For Saturday morning, the line to get our entry wristbands for the event was literally wrapping around the block. Waiting nearly a full hour for admittance, I took photos of the imaginative cosplayers behind me; one of whom was dressed in the familiar mask and orange jumper of “Sam Hain” (“Trick ‘r Treat”); he was the tallest Sam Hain I’d ever seen, and as we stood in the afternoon sun, he called his mask the “dome of heat.” His friend came dressed (and in character) as a werewolf; he was really into it, entertaining many of his fellow attendees.
Two Mexican-theme “Ghostface” cosplayers add a creative touch of Dia de los Muertos to their “Scream” cosplays.
I really enjoyed their spirit and humor as they went full-slasher mode for me! With three of its cast members signing autographs nearby, 1996’s “Scream” was the big event of this convention.
I saw the two cosplayers on the left in line to get into the even, but was unable to get their photos; I wasn’t sure what movie/TV show they were from, and I didn’t care, because they looked sensational. Also loved the “Leatherface” cosplayer (and his prop chainsaw) from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” on the right.
The big-eyed, Pumpkin-headed schoolgirl on the left shows both school and Halloween spirit!
A masked Dr. Hannibal Lector from “Silence of the Lambs” patiently waits, like a spider in its web…
Left: Looks like Donnie Darko’s Giant Rabbit has been bionically-enhanced!
Right: That whimsical, half-dead Gingerbread Man in crocs brought a genuine smile to my face.
The stilt-walking cosplayers came out in force on Sunday.
Left to Right: a horned demon (my personal favorite of the lot), a hideous scarecrow, and a psychotic clown (are there any other kind?) all stood head and shoulders (and torsos) above the other attendees.

For More

All 71 of my photos for CreepIECon 2023 can by found in my Flickr account link HERE.

Until Next Year

As the ancient Egyptian priests might’ve said after mummifying their Pharaohs, “That’s a wrap.” CreepIECon 2023 is over, and life returns to (ab)normal here in the Inland Empire counties of Southern California. With COVID restrictions easing, attendance at CreepIECon 2023 was dramatically up from last year, and it certainly appeared to be a success. Will I go next year? Barring any horrific happenings in my own life, I’d certainly bet on it. So until CreepIECon 2024, keep checking this column for reports on other upcoming conventions, including Ontario’s Comic Con Revolution (coming in May), WonderCon in Anaheim (March), this summer’s San Diego Comic Con (the mother lode of all conventions), and the 57-Year Mission in August (aka the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas).

As Bela Lugosi once said during the Ed Wood phase of his career: “Take care…beware!”

Images: Author

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