If you're in a horror movie and you're the baby-sitter, don't answer the phone. Don't hide in the closet. If you find an ouija board, don't play with it. Never say, "I'll be right back." If you're a woman, don't take a shower. In fact, keep your clothes on at all times, no matter how cute you find your co-star. Make sure your gas tank is full. Don't check the attic. Furthermore, avoid all basements, back alleys, graveyards, wooded areas and old houses. Don't look into or break any mirrors. Stay far away from vintage dolls. And pray to every god you can think of that you're not in a Wes Craven movie.
These rules will come in handy at Texas Frightmare Weekend, a three-day, pant-wetting celebration of screamers and gore. This horror film convention takes place May 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency DFW Hotel and packs the days with screenings of new films, panels on a variety of topics, and visits from some of the genre's most recognizable characters, including a visit from the elusive Tobin Bell, notorious for playing Jigsaw Killer from Saw.
"You have to respect the horror genre, because you can accomplish so much in the films," says Bell. "Plus for the filmgoers, it's a culture. It's not like romantic comedy fans where you go and have a couple chuckles ad then leave."
The obsessive support of the genre's fans allows films like Saw to release seven iterations of the psychological/torture/slasher flick, giving Bell's puzzling villain a chance to fully develop. Bell, who's a charming conversationalist by phone, made a career playing thorny cops and terrifying villains. Even in a bit on Seinfeld, he played an ornery man working at a record store. For him, villainy can be the ultimate character development.
"The role of an antagonist is well established and many times they are pretty powerful people," Bell says. "You get to do things you would never do or could never do in real life. A lot of things that are illegal. To me even what makes a protagonist interesting is finding out that they're not all good, that they're conflicted. Aren't we all conflicted?"
Beyond an event or two for Saw enthusiasts, Bell's visit as a special guest at Texas Frightmare Weekend will be his first appearance at a convention of this kind. According to him, he just couldn't avoid it any longer and looks forward to shaking the hands of hundreds of horror fans (and maybe playing a game, or two).
He won't be the only bloodthirsty visitor that weekend. His panel at 4 p.m. Saturday is just one in nearly 20 panels, including cast reunions of the original Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Terminator series. The weekend also includes screening of 14 new horror films, including the American premiere of Spain's Witching & Bitching, a story of bank robbers being chased by murderous witches.
Other highlights include George Romero's panel with the cast of Dawn of the Dead at 6 p.m. Saturday and the late night screening of REPO! The Genetic Opera, starring Alexa Vega. For the full schedule and passes ($30-75) visit texasfrightmareweekend.com.