Colorado Festival of Horror Celebrates Third Year with Beer Release Party and Free Screening | Westword
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Colorado Festival of Horror Celebrates Third Year With Beer Release Party and Free Screening

Colorado Festival of Horror has genre greats, an impressive amount of local talent and a free screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Cosplay artist Colleen Cole.
Cosplay artist Colleen Cole. Stasis Photography
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The Colorado Festival of Horror is back for a third year, sinking its fangs into a week-plus celebration of everything that fans love about the genre.

More than just a convention floor of vendors (though it has that, too), what sets COFOH apart is how it elevates local talent, a recognition of how the genre is enriched by its diversity and a busy schedule of extra-creative event opportunities, many of which boast a distinctly Coloradan flavor. Those features are on full display this year, with a lineup of activities so packed it spills over the festival dates with two different kickoff parties this weekend.

"God, we've got so much stuff going on," confirms festival founder Daniel Crosier. "Leading up to [the festival] we've got the beer kick-off event, which is Saturday, September 9, at Outworld Brewing. I think the new batch they're brewing for us is called Red Rum, and we'll be unveiling a new pint glass, again designed by the great Xander Smith."
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Art by Xander Smith
Colorado Festival of Horror
Smith, a concept artist for big-time creature features such as American Horror Story, Scream Queens and Godzilla vs. Kong, will be in person at the beer bash for a meet-and-greet and signing. The pint glass is one of several locally designed tie-ins this year, which include a pin, T-shirt, collectible VIP badges and even the debut of a COFOH-set comic book, True Believer, written by the much-lauded Boulder-based horror scribe Stephen Graham Jones, who will also be attending the festival.

Following the Outworld event is the official festival kick-off party The Saw Is Family, which offers a free screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the Sloan's Lake Alamo Drafthouse Barfly at 7 p.m., Thursday, September 14. The film will be hosted by local programmers the Horrible Things Film Club, and two actors from the original macabre masterpiece will be in attendance for a Q&A: Allen Danziger, who met the wrong end of a hammer in the film as the ill-fated Jerry, and John Dugan, who played the trembling but still bloodthirsty Grandpa Sawyer. Space for the evening is on a limited first-come basis.

The festival rolls out the following day at the Marriott Denver South in Lone Tree, where visitors will be able to mingle with artists and vendors in the Death Dealer's Room, catch speakers on a wide range of topics in the "Nope!" panel room and get into the mix themselves in the Don't Go Down There! workshop room. A significant amount of the presenters and participants hail from Colorado, including filmmakers, artists, writers, professional cosplayers, haunted house performers and monster-makers.
Up-and-coming area horror talent will also be showcased in the Killing Floor: Meet the Next Generation of Horror Creators panel on Sunday, September 17, at 1 p.m. Part teaser, part networking get-together, the Killing Floor will allow local filmmakers and artists to pitch their work, chat about the production process and seek potential collaborators and sponsors. Projects include the in-production horror comedy When Baked Things Attack, by Elisa Sargent. Sargent's film, which is adapted from an earlier comic book, concerns a wedding celebration in which possessed pastries interrupt the nuptials. The quirky tale is a longtime labor of love for the director.

"The original story of When Baked Things Attack is actually thirty years old," she explains. "It came about when my little brothers and I took the family camera and created flying cookie monsters from Nilla Wafers, and man-eating alien cakes out of sofa cushions.... The concept came up again in film school and was written up as a short script." Sargent and creature builder and producer Joe Curnes will debut some of their creations at the panel, as well as seek potential victims for a December shoot.

Crosier is particularly proud of hosting a launchpad for fellow genre enthusiasts from the Denver area. "It's something that is kind of near and dear to me, because I want to support creatives," he says. "I want to support our locals who are doing a mix of things and don't get the attention that I think they deserve."
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Cover by Juan Samu for COFOH-set comic True Believers.
Hex Publishers
Of course, no convention would be complete without celebrity guests, and COFOH has assembled a diverse collection of actors, authors and other genre talents. Honorable mention goes to three "chainsaw ladies" who've all had memorable turns wielding the whirring blades: Monique Dupree (House of Hardcore wrestling, Troma films), Michelle Bauer (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-rama) and Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Legend of Billie Jean). The addition of Williams, whose Texas Chainsaw 2 character Stretch is considered a landmark final girl, is a particularly nice touch in a year that will begin by celebrating the franchise.

"She's definitely one of those final girls who delved into it, got into the grit and took on the chainsaw to fight back," says Crosier. Williams and Dupree will both be available for in-costume photo ops, and Dupree will also host Dripping Horror Cosplay Karaoke (Friday, September 15, 10 p.m.), a new event for the fest. And speaking of firsts, it will be the first time ’80s scream queen Bauer has ever attended a Colorado convention.

The aforementioned cosplay karaoke is a highlight of the late-night programming, which will keep convention-goers partying into the wee hours with horror trivia (Friday, September 15, 8 p.m.), a performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show with a Denver shadow cast (Saturday, September 16, 10 p.m.) and the Drawn in Blood art competition (Saturday, September 16, 9 p.m.). But all of that is just the tip of a midnight iceberg: there are also more contests (Gore Galore for cosplay and Inked in Blood for tattoos), film programs of shorts and Godzilla movies, plus many more notable guests, including cosplayer and contest judge Colleen Cole and comic artist Barry McClain Jr.

There's a little bit of everything, by design, says Crosier.

"I find this is one of the most versatile genres and platforms, and it's the most accessible...anything and everything, you can find under this umbrella."

Colorado Festival of Horror, September 15-17, Marriot Denver South, 10345 Park Meadows Drive, Lone Tree. Tickets are $10-$550. Find tickets, passes and more information at cofestivalofhorror.com.
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