Horror Fans Feel the Burn as a Bloody Tradition Begins in Tampa
Chandra Singleton and her husband, Brian, have a love for old-school horror films - the kind of classic cinema that just doesn't get made much anymore.
The couple, both Tampa Bay-based professional graphic designers, also have a deep affinity for the kind of old-school gatherings that celebrated lost gems, the fringe movies that never found widespread mainstream success.
And it's true. As more and more fan conventions sprout across the U.S., booking the biggest names in current pop culture, and packing convention halls with tens of thousands of curious visitors, one thing that has been sorely lacking is the intimate feel of a true DIY fan experience.
That's how Bay of Blood: Tampa's Horror Weekend came to be.
After a year of planning by the Singleton's, their inaugural event officially commenced Friday. Singleton said she is hoping to draw at least 1,500 attendees during the three-day slate of film screenings, cast reunion panels and one special Saturday night dance.
"We love '70s and '80s cult horror. It will always be like that," Singleton said from inside the Holiday Inn Westshore, the host hotel at 700 North Westshore Blvd. "The Burning is one of my husband's all-time favorites and My Bloody Valentine is one of mine."
Both films, released in 1981, have garnered a large following. "The Burning," written, in part, by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, featured early screen roles for Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter and Fisher Stevens. "My Bloody Valentine," directed by George Mihalka, was as much about its cast of blue-collar laborers toiling away in the mines of Nova Scotia as it was about showcasing gruesome practical effects.
In addition to those two genre classics, Bay of Blood also is featuring the 35th anniversary reunion of another seminal 1981 release, "Friday the 13th Part II," and a rare screening of Mihalka's first film, the teen sex comedy "Pick-up Summer."
Occupying just one large room of the Holiday Inn Westshore, with 20 featured celebrity guests sitting along-side a handful of local vendors, cult video film sellers and horror-themed artists, Bay of Blood: Tampa's Horror Weekend feels more like a house-party gathering of like-minded friends than the typical frenetic crush of a larger convention.
That's exactly how Singleton wants it.
"Small and intimate," she said. "I don't ever want to be in a convention center. I miss that from old-school conventions."
If the weekend is a success, Singleton said she and her husband plan to expand to two Bay of Blood events per year in the future, but their focus will remain firmly fixed on classic genre cinema and not the current popular TV show or movie franchise.
By hand-picking classic films to spotlight, that shouldn't be an issue.
"The Burning" cast reunion is indeed a rarity. The event marks the first time as many as six cast members have ever gathered together to discuss the film and receive appreciation and adulation from fans.
It's the same with "My Bloody Valentine," which makes the planned Saturday night special event for VIP and Weekend Pass-ticket holders that much more special.
The Singleton's are throwing the first Valentine's Bluff Valentine's Dance since the fictional bloody rampage of crazed miner Harry Warden in the original film. With expected appearances from many of the actors who brought the dance to life back in 1981, it promises to be an event 35 years in the making that many longtime genre cinema fans likely never imagined happening.
"I just truly hope it's reaching the target audience it should," Singleton said.
Single day tickets for Saturday, September 24, and Sunday, September 25, can be purchased at the door for $40 and $35, respectively. Bay of Blood: Tampa's Horror Weekend runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit Bay of Blood online at https://bayofbloodweekend.com/.