Horror fans: Get ready for a screamin' good time.
The Flashback Weekend Chicago Horror Convention returns this weekend at Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare in Rosemont.
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Wes Craven's iconic original "A Nightmare on Elm Street," star Robert Englund, decked out in his full Freddy makeup, will be the main attraction this year.
It's the first time he'll appear in his legendary get-up at a horror convention. The makeup will be done by master artist Robert Kurtzman in the same process used in the "Nightmare" films.
Fans will get a chance on Friday, Aug. 8, to take a picture with him as Freddy, and Englund also will appear live onstage that day. He'll make appearances without makeup on Aug. 9 and 10 for autograph and Q-and-A sessions.
"This event is really historic and has never been done," says organizer Mike Kerz. "Robert Englund has never done a personal appearance in makeup, with fans meeting him and getting a picture."
Now in its 12th year, the popular horror festival attracts fans from across the country, Kerz says. As many as 8,000 people are expected for the weekend.
"It's really a gathering of like-minded people who are celebrating horror films," he says.
Fright flicks are unique in that they are often made by independent filmmakers and don't face the same constraints as mainstream films produced by corporations, he says. Fans in particular love the films' creative vision, the artistry involved in the makeup effects, the technical design and the actors who bring the characters to life.
The movies also have relatable underlying messages of good vs. evil.
"They're certainly a roller-coaster ride on top of it," Kerz says. "It's a thrill ride."
On Friday, Aug. 8, fans can enjoy Friday Night Frights Live, a live onstage late-night horror talk show hosted by Chicago's own Svengoolie (Rich Koz). The show will feature celebrity guest appearances, including Englund, entertainment and other surprises. A cash bar is available. Another Friday night highlight is the Full Moon's 2014 Shock-o-Rama Roadshow.
On Saturday, Aug. 9, Q-and-A sessions will be held with celebrities including Zach Galligan, Traci Lords, Lance Henriksen, Englund and others. At 3 p.m. is a "Phantasm" cast reunion and question session, and at 9 p.m. is Phantasm Stars in Concert, with performances from the Reggie Bannister Band, Bill Thornbury and Kat Lester in the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare ballroom.
Also on Saturday is the ninth annual costume contest. Hosted by Svengoolie, it includes a kids' category and prizes. The seventh annual Zombie Pinup Beauty Pageant features contestants competing for the title of Miss Zombie Queen 2014, with judging based on the quality of makeup and effects, costumes and adherence to the spirit of the classic pinup image.
Flashback film room screenings Saturday include "Death Spa," "Demons," "Horror's Hallowed Grounds" and "Phantasm."
On Sunday, Aug. 10, highlights include a reunion of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" with Caroline Williams and Bill Johnson, a Q-and-A reunion session with Barbie Wilde and Nicholas Vince from "Hellraiser" and a Q-and-A reunion session with "Children of the Corn" cast members.
The horror convention also serves as a fundraising event, with net proceeds going toward the preservation and operation of the Midway Drive-In in Dixon.