Nerd Culture

Mad Monster Arizona 2016: A Field Guide to This Weekend's Event

Strange and frightening things tend to happen on Friday the 13th. Thanks to superstitions and triskaidekaphobia (aka the fear of the number 13), it’s a rather infamous date on the calendar associated with unluckiness and unfortunate circumstances. And thanks to the legendary horror film series of the same name, it’s also become associated with all things sinister and scary.

So it seems very fitting that the latest edition of Mad Monster Arizona, the annual weekend-long convention that primarily focuses on the horror genre, will kick off on Friday, May 13. The three-day extravaganza — which runs through Sunday, May 15, at the We-Ko-Pa Resort in Fort McDowell — features a multitude of special guests, programming, and events associated with horror, as well as science fiction and fantasy.

Kevin Blanchfield, one of the organizers of Mad Monster Arizona, says that the horror genre is largely the focus of the event, it's also aimed at those who also enjoy sci-fi and fantasy.

“It's about all kinds of genres,” Blanchfield says. “The majority of the event is about horror but we try go across the board and include a lot of pop culture and rock ‘n’ roll stuff as well. We try to reach out to everyone."

Hence the reason why the lineup of special guests at Mad Monster Arizona includes names as renowned Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero, Frankenhooker star Patty Mullen, and Chris Sarandon from Fright Night, as well as Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange and Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols. Esteemed character actor Danny Trejo, who played a badass vampire in From Dusk Till Dawn and the vigilante-for-hire Machete, is also scheduled to appear at the event.

Blanchfield says that majority of the special guests at Mad Monster Arizona have dabbled in the horror genre over the years.

“A majority of our guests have had at least one horror-based acting role in their career, but have also done other things as well,” Blanchfied says.

Mad Monster events, which are put on in cities across the U.S. by the cult film magazine and website of the same name, have taken place in the Valley annually since 2013. And according to Blanchfield, this year’s Mad Monster Arizona featured some of its most high-profile guests yet.

“We're bringing out some bigger names this year than we have in the past with George Romero, Danny Trejo, Malcolm McDowell and Nichelle Nichols,” he says. “People have a chance to not only meet them but also get a photo or autograph.”

Mad Monster Arizona offers more than just a chance to interact with scream queens and the people behind your favorite slasher flicks during Q&As or photo ops, however. A variety of activities will fill all three days of the event, ranging from concerts and “Scaraoke” sessions to film screenings, a costume contest, and the “Miss Scarizona” pageant.

“During the show itself there are a lot of Q&A events and panels, like one featuring the scream queens from Friday the 13th on stage together,” he says. “We also have many after-hour events taking place at night.”

And since Mad Monster is a geek-oriented event, you’re likely to encounter many attendees portraying characters from the horror genre, whether it’s a wicked-looking Pinhead from Hellraiser, Freddy Krueger, or Jason Vorhees from the aforementioned Friday the 13th series. They probably won’t be out for your blood, however, but might pose for a photo or two.

“You never know who you’ll run into at Mad Monster Arizona,” Blanchfield says.

If you’re up for attending the event and having a bloody good time, we’ve created a guide outlining all the information you’ll need to know.

Dates & Times: The official hours for Mad Monster Arizona are from 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday, May 13; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 14; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 15. After-hours events and late-night activities (such as concerts, Scaraoke sessions, and the costume contest) will be offered on Friday and Saturday until midnight. 

Location: The thrills and chills of Mad Monster Arizona will unfold at Fort McDowell’s We-Ko-Pa Resort and Conference Center, 10438 North Fort McDowell Road. 

Admission costs for the event vary. Single-day tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door for Friday or Sunday only, while Saturday admission will be $30 in advance or $35 at the door. If you’re up for attending all three days, however, the “shriekend" option is available for $50 in advance or $60 at the door.

Those who’d like to get the most out of the experience can spring for the R.I.P. (or “Really Intense Partier”) package for $179 per person. It boasts such perks as a mystery schwag bag, an exclusive T-shirt and poster, priority line access at photo ops and autograph sessions, and the chance to rub elbows with special guests in an exclusive lounge. 

Age limits: Mad Monster Arizona is open to all ages, and kids under 12 can get in for free with a paid adult. That said, however, certain subject matter featured at the event might be too frightening for some children. Also, after-hours programming is only open to those and 18 and over.

Getting There: The We-Ko-Pa Resort is located in Fort McDowell in the northeast Valley. Take the Loop 202 freeway to Country Club Drive in Mesa and then head north on the Beeline Highway (Arizona State Route 87) for 15 miles. Turn left onto Fort McDowell Road and follow the signs to the resort. Parking is free. 

What to Bring: All of the usual necessities when attending a ‘con, like your ID, cash for the vendors, a backpack or small bag to hold your treasures, and comfy shoes.

Special Guests:
Famed director George Romero, actors Malcolm McDowell and Danny Trejo, Tank Girl star Lori Petty, and Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols are some of the most notable names that will attend this year’s event. More than 30 other actors and actresses are also scheduled to appear, including Frankenhooker star Patty Mullen, Chris Sarandon from Fright Night and The Princess Bride, Donnie Darko's James Duval, William Katt from The Greatest American Hero, The Howling's Dee Wallace, and P.J. Soles from Rock 'n' Roll High School.

Speaking of rock-related projects, Mad Monster will also feature appearances and performances by a number of musicians and artists renowned for their affinity for horror, such as Wednesday 13, Doyle of The Misfits, Skinny Puppy co-founder Nivek Ogre, and local fetish troupe The Agents of Lust.

Costumes: Mad Monster Arizona is ultimately a geek event, so costumes (particularly those inspired by the horror genre) are very much encouraged. Nuke the Fridge will also host a massive costume contest starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday that will award $500 to the winner and various prizes for second and third place. There are rules, of course, including the fact that no dangerous costumes or weaponry will be allowed. Ditto for nudity.  

Vendor Hall: The resort’s 15,000 square-foot ballroom will host more than 50 different vendors of a geeky and horror-minded bent from around the Valley and throughout the southwest. The lineup includes local cinema series Cult Classics, the outrageous auteurs of Brain Damage Films, artists Daniel and Dawna Davis of Steamcrow, and the geeks of website Nuke the Fridge, as well as such companies as Oddball Books, Sindicate Clothing, Creepy Collectibles, and dozens more. There will even be a few tattoo artists on hand in case you’d like to get some ink done.

Programming: Many of Mad Monster Arizona's special guests will participate in Q&As during the weekend. That includes Romero, McDowell, and Trejo, all of whom will have solo sessions on Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile, several group panels focusing of specific films are also planned for Friday night, like one dedicated to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 featuring Bill Johnson, Bill Moseley, and Caroline Williams, as well and a discussion about the original Halloween from 1979 with stars P.J. Soles and Tony Moran. (A full rundown of Mad Monster Arizona events during the weekend can be found here.)

After-hours events: Like any memorable slasher film, most of the attention-grabbing action and events at Mad Monster will happen after dark. Friday night, for example, will include the “Scaraoke” session at 11 p.m. and a gig by fetishistic performance art ensemble The Agents of Lust at 11:15 p.m.

The following evening will feature the “Scares that Care” charity auction at 6 p.m., followed by the costume contest at 7 p.m., the “Miss Scarizona” pageant at 8 p.m., and more Scaraoke at 9 p.m. A concert by 647F, The Relapse Symphony, and Wednesday 13 also kicks off at 9 p.m.

Keep in Mind:
Be sure to follow ‘con etiquette when dealing with special guests, including asking permission before taking photos of both special guests and fellow attendees. And like at any other geek gathering, please show respect and courtesy to anyone in costume and practice the “cosplay does not equal consent” mantra.

Blanchfield also says that people should refrain from approaching celebrities or asking for autographs when they aren’t at their respective tables. When they are on the clock, however, Mad Monsters special guests will be signing any sort of item (albeit for a fee) in addition to the photos and merch they'll have available for sale. 

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.