Tommy Brunswick describes the horror genre the way a horror movie’s tagline might describe its leading monster.
“You don’t choose it,” the Milford resident laughs. “It chooses you.”
Horror chose Brunswick when she was still a child and she’s since devoted her life to the genre as a fan and a professional filmmaker. Most recently, Brunswick and her husband, Todd, took their passion for the genre to the next level by co-founding a Metro Detroit horror expo, Motor City Nightmares, in 2008. The event returns this weekend to the Sheraton Detroit Novi.
The expo will feature appearances by stars of the horror genre, including Chris Sarandon, voice of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” character Jack Skellington, and “Candyman” star Virginia Madsen. The film festival will screen nearly 30 horror films, including Michigan-made movies and international entries. Vendors will be on hand with a wide variety of horror-related memorabilia and art.
Plymouth resident Adam Lorenz, a lifelong horror fan who sells Halloween memorabilia as the Krypt Klepto, says the event fills an important niche for Detroit horror fans.
“If you’re looking for an event like this, you usually have to travel to Indianapolis or Cincinnati,” Lorenz says.
The Brunswicks added a September expo for the first time last year to satisfy high demand for the event. Motor City Nightmares’ annual April show draws 5,000 to 7,000 attendees, and last year’s September show drew about 3,000 to 5,000.
“You know how Detroit has the most loyal rock music fans?” Tommy Brunswick says. “That’s how our fans are. Totally awesome, totally loyal. Just great people.”
The event is a major networking opportunity for many locals who are professionally involved in horror filmmaking. Clawson-based hair and makeup artist Donna Schwandt says she scored jobs on six locally produced movies after she impulsively entered and won the expo’s “Miss Nightmare” horror-themed beauty pageant in 2012.
She also met her husband, horror filmmaker Chris Schwandt, through one of those movies. The couple now have two children.
“It was kind of like destiny,” Donna Schwandt says.
Many of the event’s celebrity panels are organized so that industry stars can share their experience with up-and-coming local filmmakers. Todd Brunswick says the expo is “really chill and laid-back,” and even the Hollywood stars are expected to behave accordingly.
“ ‘No one can be a jerk’ is kind of our rule,” Todd Brunswick says. “If there’s a guest or a celebrity that comes in and they have an attitude about them that doesn’t jibe with the vibe, they don’t come back.”
However, Lorenz worries that the local professional filmmaking community at the expo may be dwindling because of cuts to Michigan’s film tax incentives. Lorenz, who is also an actor, has seen multiple industry friends move out of the state for work and he’s considering doing the same himself.
“There’re still going to be the independent filmmakers who are putting things together on shoestring budgets,” he says. “They’re always going to be there. But… if you’re really looking to make a living in the future, most people are going to be forced out of the state. It’s a rare few that can tough it out.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
Motor City Nightmares
5-10 p.m. Fri.;
10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat.;
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.
Sheraton Detroit Novi
21111 Haggerty, Novi
Tickets: $25 Fri., $30 Sat., $20 Sun.; weekend pass $65
Scarefest Scream Park: A 5,000-square-foot haunted maze, hayride, forest walk, beer tent, live music and an 8,000-square-foot haunted house. Overnight camping available. Fri.-Sat. nights after dark through Oct. 30, also Oct. 23 and 30. $15-$45. 34111 28 Mile, Lenox Township. (586) 749-6666 or scarefestscreampark.com.
The Deadland: This attraction has all new, bloody, dead things and scares for the 2016 season. 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and Sept. 23-25 and 30 and Oct. 1-2, 7-9, 13-16, 20-23 and 27-31. $10-$15. County Line Antique Trade Center, 20900 Dequindre, Warren. (586) 252-4375 or thedeadland.com.
Erebus: This massive, four-story, indoor haunted attraction is considered one of the best in the country and is open rain or shine. Sept. 23-24 and 30, Oct. 1-2, 6-9, 13-16 and 19-31. $23-$28 general admission, $50 VIP. 18 S. Perry, Pontiac. (248) 332-7884 or hauntedpontiac.com.
Hush: This monster- and zombie-filled attraction has been completely redone for 2016. Sept. 23-24 and Oct. 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 20-23 and 27-31. $18, $30-$45 VIP. 34043 Ford, Westland. hushhauntedattractions.com.
Wiard’s Orchard’s Night Terrors: This thrill park features several haunted attractions, plus cider mill goodies, karaoke, live music and paintball. 7:15 p.m. Sept. 24 and 30, Oct. 1, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23 and 28-31. $19-$59. 5565 Merritt, Ypsilanti Township. wiards.com.