When I was a teenager attending Saratoga Springs High School, I wasn’t part of the cool crowd. No, I was about as big a dork as they come. My Friday nights were spent watching The X-Files somewhere with my equally dorky friends, not attempting to take nips out of my parents’ liquor bottles. Sure, you could’ve found me cheering on the Blue Streaks in the stands at the East Side Rec, but it was all a cover: I was way more interested in baseball cards and comic books to give a crap about jock sports.
Now, years later, long after the majority of my contemporaries have put away childish things, I’m still totally into them—cards, comics, The X-Files (reboot) and a number of other dorky hobbies I don’t mind spilling e-ink about here on saratogaliving.com. One of those is horror movies, which I’d consider myself a connoisseur of. What I like most about the genre is how it thumbs its nose at the futility of life. Most horror films seem to be saying, “Look, you’re going to die someday anyway, so why not go fast—or at times, painfully slow—at the hands of a masked psychopath or giant monster?” I must’ve watched hundreds of horror films in high school, and I even invited a few people over to my house to watch some of them with me.
Getting my horror fix in Saratoga was easy back in those days. I still remember the exact layout of the Drive-In Movie Store, which used to be located in a small strip mall on South Broadway in Saratoga (it’s long gone at this point). You’d walk in, and once making it through the circuitous layout of the room, off to your left, there’d be a sizable selection of worn-out slasher film boxes (in those days, you’d get the VHS tape once you paid up at the counter). I’d spend the most time in that section, hunting down the next movie that would make my hair stand up on end. I was obsessed with freaking myself out. I watched The Shining multiple times, as well as The Last House on the Left (the original!). I dug right into the Halloween series, and even cracked the first couple Friday the 13th films, the first of which doesn’t even star the hockey-masked Jason Voorhees, but rather his insane mother and a young Kevin Bacon, whose fate I will not divulge.
One horror series I never summoned the cajones to watch, though, was A Nightmare on Elm Street. To this day, I haven’t seen a single one of the movies from start to finish. I guess the concept of a guy who invades your dreams—and can actually murder you in them—scares the living daylights out of me. But he’s not just any old dream-state menace. His face looks like somebody pressed it into a panini machine; and he has a leather glove, which he only wears on his right hand, that has sharp, Wolverine-like talons jutting out of it. Throw in a fedora and striped sweater, and Freddy Krueger is my worst nightmare. And it just so happens that the actor who originally portrayed Freddy, Robert Englund, is headlining Albany’s upcoming Empire State Comic Con, which opens its doors to the public April 6-8 at the Albany Capital Center. Instead of watching this guy tear people up onscreen, I could actually shake his…left hand in Upstate New York.
Also on tap to appear at the Comic Con are Englund’s Nightmare co-stars Amanda Wyss (Tina Gray) and Charles Fleischer (Dr. King). (Sadly, Johnny Depp, who made his onscreen debut in the film, will not be making an appearance; my guess is he’s gone on to bigger and better things.) But the Nightmare cast members are just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of talent appearing at the event. Also making cameos at the event: co-headliner Ryan Hurst (Opie on Sons of Anarchy); Cara Buono (Karen Wheeler on Stranger Things); Brian O’Halloran (Dante in Clerks); and the meanest, greenest badass of the late ’70s, Lou Ferrigno, who played the Incredible Hulk.
Single-day passes cost between $20-$30, and three-day passes weigh in at $55 (though, for kids, they cost about a third of that price at $20). And if you have a little extra scratch to spend, you can pick up a VIP pass for $110, which will get you a fast pass to the autograph line; a free bag of swag; and a number of other onsite perks throughout the weekend.
Look, if I end up summoning the courage to go to the event—and, you know, get sign-off from my better half—I’m going to make an effort to have fun. There’ll be cards, comics and toys there to tempt me, for sure. But I’ll know that there’s a man somewhere at the event, who could, just by looking at him and picturing that claw strapped to his right hand, give me real nightmares.