Apr 06, 2023

Family-Run Horror Movie Convention Terrorizes Bastrop

Reporting Texas

Horror movie fans take in the sights at the Cult Classic Convention on March 4, 2023, in Bastrop, Texas. Ry Olszewski/Reporting Texas

BASTROP — On a Saturday in March, a man donning a Ghostface mask and a fake blood-splattered black robe, prop knife in hand, whispered a polite “excuse me” as he worked his way through a crowd of about 50 people at the Convention and Exhibit Center in Bastrop.

The man was one of several hundred people who made the trek to Bastrop, located about 30 miles east of Austin with a population 10,400, for the seventh annual Cult Classic Convention.

Attendees came from at least three states and as far away as Las Vegas to see their favorite, if not quite famous, horror movie actors and directors and to meet new and old friends and like-minded horror aficionados. A number of the attendees came in costume. Elizabeth from the movie “Frankenhooker” was perhaps the most widely represented character; Patty Mullen, the film’s lead actor was at the convention. There were also several Leatherfaces from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and various versions of Jason Vorhees from “Friday the 13th.”

Rows of booths display horror movie merchandise and memorabilia at the Bastrop Convention & Exhibit Center. Ry Olszewski/Reporting Texas

Kristy Adams, 44, co-owner of Nightmare Toys, a horror toy store in Las Vegas, said she has been a horror movie fan since seeing the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” when she was 5 years old.

“I loved the aspect of being scared, but I was excited about it though,” Adams said. “I liked the feeling, and I was like, ‘Okay, this is cool.’”

Adams was attending the Cult Classic Convention for the second time and said she was impressed by the festival’s tendency to attract cast members from obscure movies.

“This year they had a lot of guests I was excited about,” Adams said. Those guests included Donna Wilkes from “Angel” and “Jaws 2” and Brad Loree, who played Michael Myers in “Halloween: Resurrection.”

Since 2017, Lisa and Roy Rose have hosted the annual Cult Classic Convention. During the convention this year, horror enthusiasts had the opportunity to meet their favorite actors from horror genre classics, including “Leprechaun,” “Phantasm” and “30 Days of Night.”

More than 45 local and out-of-state vendors, artists and filmmakers – morbidly titled enterprises such as Pallbearer Press and Gore Noir among them – sold “Stranger Things” neon beer signs, mummy-shaped squid and spice flavored cookies, Frankenstein keychains, special edition Blu-rays, horror-themed graphic novels, Halloween-scented candles and hundreds of arrangements of monster legos and figurines.

A Chucky doll sits patiently while its handler eats lunch at the Cult Classic Convention. Ry Olszewski/Reporting Texas

One young attendee lugged around a Chucky doll nearly as large as himself, as he and his family made their way through the exit doors and into the sun-drenched parking lot, arms overflowing with horror goodies.

In addition to autograph and photograph opportunities — and about as much cosplay as the average Bastropian will witness outside of Halloween — attendees had the option of participating in five panel Q&A sessions.

A pair of clowns take a break during the convention which attracted horror fans dressed in elaborate costumes. Ry Olszewski/Reporting Texas

One was with Director William Lustig, who chuckled after describing the absurdity of filming action scenes for “Maniac Cop 2,” which employed 48 stunt actors. Jeffrey Combs, whose breakout came in the 1985 film, “Re-Animator,” joined Lustig on a panel and reflected on his most underappreciated works, citing a 2007 “Masters of Horror” episode – “The Black Cat” – as being a must-see.

Sarah Webb – better known as the movie character Scarah – a self-described scream queen and “damsel of the damned” led panel sessions dressed in a clown witch costume reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

Special effects artist Tom Devlin, who worked on “Puppet Master” and more than 70 films in his career, was booked for a Saturday demonstration on how to theatrically slice someone’s throat in a movie. Devlin had to call off the appearance because of a broken ankle.

The gas station from the film, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” operates as part barbeque restaurant and part horror memorabilia shop. The business’s owners, Lisa and Roy Rose, have been organizing the Cult Classic for the past seven years. Corey Smith/Reporting Texas

In 2014, Lisa and Roy Rose moved from Cleveland to Bastrop and purchased the gas station used in the 1974 “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” They transformed the building into a barbeque restaurant and horror-themed merchandise store.

“We have cabins in the back and barbecue inside,” Lisa Rose said. “We have items that people can buy, you know, horror toys. We have Jason, we have Michael Myers, we have Chucky. So it all looks like Halloween every day at our store.”

Kaleb Bunker, 19, is a political science major from Texas A&M University who attended the festival and works part-time at the Rose’s store when not away at college.

“In everyday life, you can’t really live dangerously. But with horror you can,” Bunker said. “With horror, you get to toe that line between reality and imagination.”

Family Crisis Center, which has provided critical services to survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking, was the recipient of funds raised at this year’s horror convention. Corey Smith/Reporting Texas

The Roses hold a fundraiser during the convention. In 2022, they raised about $500 for Bastrop County Animal Shelter, Lisa Rose said. This year about $600 in donations from a silent auction went to the Family Crisis Center in Bastrop, along with donated clothes, bedding and separate cash donations, she added.

“Horror fans are amazing. I can’t believe how giving and caring they are … you wouldn’t think so with all the murder movies and the love of killing and all of that, but it’s completely on the opposite spectrum,” Lisa Rose said.

Though Lisa Rose believes it would be cheaper, “bigger and better” to host the annual convention in Austin, she and her husband remain committed to keeping the event in Bastrop.

Cathy Henzen, executive director of Bastrop’s Family Crisis Center, the event’s featured nonprofit, mingles among attendees. Ry Olszewski/Reporting Texas

“We do all the food for the events. We don’t hire people to pick up the actors, we personally go pick them all up from the airport, take them to the convention, you know, it’s very personal,” Lisa Rose said. “I can’t stress that enough. It’s just family, that’s our thing.”

The Roses host periodic meet-and-greets with horror movie actors at The Gas Station, throughout the year.

Asked about when the couple begins preparations for the following year’s Cult Classic Convention, Lisa Rose responded, “The day after the show? Yeah, the day after. For sure.”