Every year, on the first night of Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios puts on an event celebrating those in the television, film and music industries who bring the horror genre to terrifying life. It might not be the most well known awards show, but it’s a meaningful one. Unfortunately, the horror genre doesn’t tend to get a lot of respect in the awards circuit, and this is an opportunity for these artists of the macabre to get their due.
It’s a special moment for the recipients, but it’s also a thrilling experience for the fans lucky enough to be in attendance. It’s the only time of the year where horror fans can get together and celebrate the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into terrifying audiences. To do so in the presence of some of the greatest masters of the industry is a truly unique experience.
As with any Hollywood award show, the night began with the red carpet. Every time I’d look up, another icon would be coming around the corner. In one moment makeup legend Rick Baker would be passing, then actor Danny Trejo, director John Landis, and on and on. It was a fantastically eclectic group of celebrities, with comedians, musicians, actors, directors, even reality show judges working their way into the auditorium. All the celebrities appeared excited to be there, helping create an overwhelmingly positive vibe before the show even began.
The host of the show, McKenzie Westmore of SyFy’s “Face Off,” did a great job setting the tone of the evening. This wasn’t going to be as stuffy as most awards shows, but it was going to be appropriately respectful. She was entertaining, professional and brought a perfect amount of levity to the proceedings. She began the show by inviting Chris Hardwick (host of “The Talking Dead”) and Robert Kirkman (creator and executive producer of “The Walking Dead) on stage to present the first award.
Of course, with these two presenting, the award was going to have a Walking Dead tie-in, but the recipient’s credits go far beyond that of the show. The first award went to a true legend of the horror industry, Greg Nicotero. Not only the special effects make-up supervisor for The Walking Dead, he was also responsible for projects as varied as Sin City, Predators, and even the classic ankle smashing of Misery.
Legendary actor Danny Trejo, aka Machete, presented the next award to director Robert Rodriguez for his varied body of work. Primarily focusing on From Dusk Till Dawn (the film and the new TV show), Trejo and Rodriguez had a fantastic chemistry together, and it was a real thrill to see them sharing the stage.
I was as excited to see the next presenter as I was the person he was honoring. Brilliant master of makeup Rick Baker presented the next award to director John Landis, another legendary filmmaker, responsible for classics such as “An American Werewolf in London,” and Michael Jackson’s famed “Thriller” video. Baker spoke from the heart, telling the story of his history with Landis and the profound effect they have each had on each other’s lives. It was a touching moment between two very close friends, and it was wonderful to see this occur in person.
Finally, the event closed out with the highlight of the entire evening, a live performance from famed guitar legend Slash. Having listened to Slash since I was a little kid, it was a surreal experience to be in such an intimate venue with this legendary performer. Joined by singer Myles Kennedy, they performed the title song from “Nothing Left to Fear,” the first film from Slasher Films, his new film/TV production company. It was a slower paced song, one filled with atmosphere. Opening with a repeating refrain from Slash, Myles eventually joined in, escalating the material to something hauntingly beautiful. As the song progressed, Slash’s performance grew more intense, showcasing his mastery of the guitar. It was a sublime closer to an already thrilling event.
With that, the Halloween season had begun, with Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights running on sporadic evenings through November 2. This was the first time tickets to the Eyegore awards were made available to guests, and it’s a welcome development to this fantastic event. Only 500 tickets were provided for purchase, but considering that prior years were industry-only, this is a fantastic indicator for the future of the show. It’s always a treat to participate in this event, and in the coming years, if tickets remain available to the public, I can’t recommend it enough. If you are a fan of the genre, this night served as a reminder of the legitimacy of horror, and is a welcome kick off to the Halloween season.