Video, Photos, and Written by Josh Taylor
For many in the haunt community, we look forward to one of the biggest conventions catered to Halloween each year, MIDSUMMER SCREAM. The convention that started in 2016 took a huge blow in 2020, as did many things in life, and postponed the event a full year. MIDSUMMER SCREAM 2021 was held at the Pasadena Convention Center rather than the Long Beach Convention Center where it usually took place. Pasadena provided a smaller venue for a smaller version of MIDSUMMER SCREAM they called “Awaken the Spirits” which lacked the usual mini-haunts of the Hall of Shadows. Whether the plan was to make up for the smaller convention earlier in the year or to simply expand the convention, we got a second version of MIDSUMMER SCREAM this year in SEASON'S SCREAMINGS. Taking place December 17th-19th at the Pasadena Convention Center, SEASON'S SCREAMINGS brought back many of the usual vendors that filled the floor with spooky and holiday offerings, a select few panels, and the return of mini-haunts in the Hall of Yuletide Spirits. I was there all three days to capture the fun of it all, and there was a lot to enjoy!
First, I have to say that combining Halloween with Christmas was a feast for the eyes. SEASON'S SCREAMINGS had several displays that pieced the two holidays together perfectly, and the vendors on the show floor truly brought their A-game. A good majority of retailers had merchandise that fits in with the holidays but had a spooky vibe to them, whether they were shirts with Krampus on them, or Christmas ornaments featuring Jason, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers. Kudos to everyone involved for creating this event, not as just another reason to bring out the Halloween merch, but as something completely different worth bringing out new merchandise and delivering on the Christmas theme. As for the main stage (and only stage) at the convention. Friday night kicked off the festivities with a variety show featuring a mix of acts you could find on the show floor or bigger acts like Kitty and Celina Nguyen who performed the song “Dancing with the Devil”, a song featured on the Netflix show Lucifer. There were several main stage acts on Saturday and I was able to catch two. The first was a conversation with Garner Holt (of Garner Holt Productions) as he told us about history with animatronics and how his love began with a visit to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and how he became the one to reimagine the Mansion with its yearly Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. This was truly a special talk to see, and of anything at the convention, this was the most attended stage show. Saturday evening’s show was “The Island of Misfit Tease” performed by the burlesque dancers of Peepshow Menagerie. This show was well attended, but I couldn’t help to think that the show on Friday and this show could easily be combined as the 3-day convention could easily be 2 but I’ll touch on that critique more in a moment.
The two panels I attended on Sunday featured The Boo Crew from Bloody-Disgusting.com recording a live podcast with actor Zach Galligan, talking with him about his role as Billy in Gremlins. The other featured director Kirk Thatcher taking us behind-the-scenes on the making of Disney’s Muppets Haunted Mansion. Both were great conversations and got me excited to revisit some films for my Christmas viewing.
What had me most excited about this entire convention was the return of some haunts though. The hall of Yuletide Spirits did not disappoint either. CalHaunts provided an impressive set along with several actors as part of “A Christmas Scarol”. It featured a graveyard, the home of Ebenezer Scrooge, and the home of Bob Cratchit. The ghostly actors could be seen wandering the hall at all times, retelling the story of Dicken’s classic Christmas story. Fear Farm’s “Gingerbread House of Horrors” featured a gingerbread man so cool that I’d hate it if they never brought it back. The Dreich Society’s mini-maze was “Holiday Fear” which actually got a few screams out of me and they did quite a bit with the space they were given. “Holiday Fiesta” by Casa Calaveras was less of a haunt and more of a display that showcased the holidays of a dead couple and the transition that happens from Dia de los Muertos to Feliz Navidad. It was a beautiful display that was very well made and worth taking a thousand pictures at. My other major highlight of the hall was “The Holiday Haunt with No Name…Yet”. It featured another graveyard display mixed with Celtic traditions and some animatronic gravestones. A simple display that was great as a photo opportunity!
Overall, SEASON'S SCREAMINGS was an event I’d love to see come back as a yearly tradition. My only complaint was that a 3-day event ended up giving me a bit of burnout. I could see this being a better 2-day event, combining the variety show and the burlesque show to create one major show and to have a headlining act as part of one of the other days. What was meant to be a major attraction on Sunday night, the behind-the-scenes look at Muppets Haunted Mansion, wasn’t as well attended as I thought it could have been and I’d probably bet that was due to people just being ready to call it a day by the time Kirk Thatcher took the stage. Other than the burnout I definitely had, I truly loved this event and for someone who is staying home and not visiting family, this was a nice way to celebrate the holidays and still get together with some friends within the community. I was so glad to see some of the haunts return and I believe this event could really go far in the future. MIDSUMMER SCREAM always delivers no matter the season.
Click on the photos to enlarge.