MOLINE — Horror-film fan Jeff O'Neil absolutely can't wait for the release of the movie “Haunt,” the newest scary offering from Bettendorf natives Scott Beck and Bryan Woods — in limited release nationwide Sept. 13.
But even if the highly anticipated flick isn't yet in the Q-C on Friday the 13th, O'Neil, 44, of Colona, will have his hands full scaring up another big event, the first Midwest Monster Fest, which he organized for Sept. 14 and 15 at the Spotlight Theatre and Event Center, 1800 7th Ave., Moline.
“Me and my son (14-year-old Ryker), we go to different conventions, but you have to drive to Chicago, Kansas City, Indianapolis. You can't go to anything local like this,” O'Neil said Wednesday. Back in December, he was injured on the job, so with all his free time, he set out to plan the Moline monster fest — which includes an indie horror-film fest, celebrity guest actors, vendors, authors and contests for costumes, special effects and pinups. “Let's finally do this; let's put our money where our mouth is, so here we are.”
“It's just a lot of fun,” O'Neil said of getting scared. “I love Halloween, and I have loved the fun and spooky side of Halloween since I was a kid. I love dressing in spooky costumes, jumping out and scaring someone. Why does someone like going on a roller coaster? It's going down fast and getting that rush. It's kind of the same — you get that scare, get that heartbeat going.”
His son has been into scary stuff since he was 9 and volunteers to dress up at area haunted houses, O'Neil said.
“He gets into special effects makeup, he loves to draw, he really got into it,” he said. “It's something we enjoy doing.”
Their favorite haunted houses include Factory of Fear, in Moline, and Shock House and Skellington Manor, in Rock Island. O'Neil said he didn't schedule Midwest Monster Fest closer to Halloween because of all the area haunted houses and Halloween-related activities already taking place.
For his film fest (which includes showings Friday night at Rozz-Tox in Rock Island), O'Neil said he received 100 entries from around the world, with the help of the submission site FilmFreeway.
“It was amazing to see how many films were coming in,” he said, noting many to be shown are short films. Local filmmaker Izzy Sutton led the selection of the movies to be shown.
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Since this year is the 45th anniversary of the landmark “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974), Midwest Monster Fest will feature appearances from three key players — John Dugan, who played the grandfather; Teri McMinn, who was the infamous “girl on the hook;” and Ed Neal, who was a hitchhiker.
“John Dugan, he was a young man with makeup and costume; we're lucky enough to have him,” O'Neil said. “Teri McMinn, she was in the van; she was one Leather Face put on the meat hook.”
Dugan was just 20 when he played the old patriarch of a cannibalistic family, directed by Tobe Hooper. He portrayed a 113-year man whose family lured young people to their Texas homestead, where they were killed and eaten. The low-budget film has become a classic in the horror genre, spawning several sequels and a remake, according to imdb.com.
All three actors will take part in a Sept. 14 panel at 2:30-3:30 p.m., to discuss “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Among other highlights in the schedule are:
Sept. 14 – 11 a.m. “Why do we like horror” panel; 12:30-2:15 cosplay contest; 4 p.m. F/X demo; 5 p.m. author panel with Ben Clayton, Emily Allison and Patrick McLaughlin, and 6 p.m. film fest awards.
Sept. 15 – 11:30 a.m. F/X challenge; 2:30 p.m. F/X awards, and 4 p.m. pinup contest.
Other celebrity guests for both days include W.F. Bell of “The Walking Dead,” Wyatt Weed of “Predator 2” and the Q-C's own Laila Haley (“Sinister 2,” “Overdue”) and Marlena Midnite (host of “Midnite Mausoleum”).
Among the merchandise to be available at the fest are some promo items from Q-C natives Beck and Woods, whose screenplay for 2018's “A Quiet Place” resulted in the film making nearly $341 million in the worldwide box office, the fourth-highest grossing sci-fi horror film of all time.
“'Quiet Place,' I loved that movie. They did such a fantastic job,” O'Neil said. “I can't want to see 'Haunt'.”
At 8 p.m. Sept. 14, the fest's official after-party will be Zombie Prom Quad Cities, hosted by Factory of Fear and Recently Departed Productions. Zombie attire and makeup are required, but if you don't have your own makeup, zombie makeovers will be available for a $10 donation. Zombie Prom Quad Cities is for those 16 years of age and older, and advance tickets start at $20.
That event will include the Zombie Prom King & Queen Contest, a professional photo op, and on-site food and cash bar (21-plus). Throughout the night, there will be prizes and giveaways from the sponsors, which include Factory of Fear, 3-D Skin Lab, and Stage 1 Studios.