Season’s Screamings 2022 launched on Friday with macabre vendors, celebrity photo ops, a smorgasbord of haunted house installations, and a burlesque show, all of it themed to the winter season – though of course the spirit of Halloween was very much in evidence. Set in the Pasadena Convention Center, the annual horror convention provided an antidote for horror fans still suffering withdrawal pains since October 31.
As usual, Season’s Screamings’ cornucopia overflowed with outlandish offerings, but the Hall of Yuletide Spirits seemed a little underpopulated, at least on Friday Night (no doubt because one haunter had to pull out at the last minute because of Covid infection). Also, it’s in the nature of the timing that the numerous panels and presentations, although entertaining and interesting, offered little news about upcoming Halloween haunts (that will have to wait for next year’s Midsummer Scream).
The seasonal splendor began before one even reached the venue, with beautiful snowflakes projected on the wall of the convention center. Inside, the signature inflatable black cats (mascot for Black Cat Productions) were on display in the lobby, along with a makeup demonstration and several great photo ops and, including 13 Floor Entertainment’s sign for Midnight Falls, the fictional town where the annual Los Angeles Haunted Hayride takes place.
The main event on Friday night was the Peepshow Menagerie Holiday Burlesque Show, a PG-13 striptease (e.g., with pasties) from the creators of Famous Monstergirls of Burlesque, who also had a booth in the main vendor room.
The vendor rooms offered a literally exhausting avalanche of options: art, beauty products, masks, makeup, props, and more. Of course there were costumed characters walking the floor, but what caught our eye was the recurring motif of a plastic skeleton in a bathtub, seen at two different booths. We guess it worked since it got us to stop and make a purchase or two.
We also have to a shout-out to Fiendish Thingies, featuring surreal art by Owen Klaas. The art is eye-catching, and we appreciate the name inspired by a line of dialogue from the Beatles’ film Help.
As always, a highlight of any iteration of either Midsummer Scream or Season’s Screamings is the haunt displays. This year’s Hall of Yuletide Spirits featured a fabulous entry area assembled by Fear Farm (an excellent haunt reviewed here). The settings captured the beauty of the holiday season while maintaining a suitably sinister atmosphere, and there were several colorful Christmas characters on view, including a gruff-voiced, resentful elf whose lack of Christmas spirit was quite amusing.
There were a few displays, including “Gremlins Take Over!” by the Pizza Planet Truck. The Holiday Haunt with No Name…Yet offered a glimpse of a great home haunt we missed this Halloween. The Christmas overlay included an obscure bit of folklore: Christmas trees inhabited by spiders, which apparently provide the tinsel in Germanic tales.
Prims Haunt (a former home haunt which went pro this year) offered the ghastly “Milk and Cookies,” in which poor Saint Nick is being “milked” to pay back the world for all the free milk and cookies he has been receiving for centuries. Apparently, his capture was effected with the help of rebellious elves, tired of providing slave labor.
The Hall of Yuletide Spirits offered three brief but scary walkthrough attractions. The North Pole Jail House, by Santa Ana Haunt, featured Santa Claus under arrest, presumably for being drunk in public: during brief interludes outside of his cell, he could be seen imbibing eggnog laced predominantly with vodka.
Valley Fright Nights (which made its debut last summer at Pierce College) offered a brief excerpt of their 3D Freak Show maze, whose colorful clowns were perhaps more suitable for a holiday themed convention appearance than the haunt’s other two mazes. Valley Fright Nights promises to return for the summer of 2023.
Lastly there was Holiday Fear from the Dreich Society, which featured an icy, wintery theme set inside what looked like a Japanese temple. Yuki-Ona (the “Snow Woman” from a Japanese tale in Lafcadio Hearn’s book Kwaidan) was nowhere to be seen, but the walkthrough included a frozen skeleton samurai and a really nice abominable snowman.
Beside the scary trio of haunts, Casa Calaveras offered Holiday Fiesta, a seasonal variation on their Dia De Los Muertos display, which has made previous appearances at Midsummer Scream. Technically, it is a walkthrough, but it is not a haunted house; it’s more a series of installations, telling a tragic story – though the beauty of the presentation overwhelms any sadness. Though we have seen it before, this one is always worth another look.
Season’s Screamings continues on Saturday and Sunday, December 3 and 4, with holiday horror screenings; panels on The Shining, The Grinch, and the History of Haunt Sliders; and celebrity appearances by Sarah Karloff (daughter of classic horror movie star Boris Karloff), Bela Lugosi, Jr. (son of the actor famous for playing Count Dracula), composer Alan Howarth (frequent collaborator with John Carpenter), and actors actors Keith David (They Live, Nope) and Steven Weber (Tales from the Crypt, iZombie), among others.
Also appearing for autographs and on stage, writer-director Mike Flanagan will have a reunion with cast members from his films and television shows: Henry Thomas and Alex Essoe (both in Doctor Sleep), Kate Siegel and Anabeth Gish (both in Midnight Mass, The Haunting of Hill House). Flanagan will discuss his work and make drop a hint or two about his upcoming Netflix miniseries, The Fall of the House of Usher.
The Pasadena Convention Center is located at 300 E. Green Street. Get more information about Season’s Screamings at the Midsummer Scream website.