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Bigger, badder and scarier - BanGoreFest is back!

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A three-day celebration of gore, goth and frightening fun

ORONO A celebration of all things scary is coming to the New Balance Field House on the University of Maine campus in Orono. The second annual BanGoreFest is set to take place Oct. 28-30.

When I was growing up, I used to sneak movie monster magazines into the house so my mom wouldn't see them. She didn't want me to have them, nor did she want me to stay up to watch scary movies on TV. Reruns of 'The Munsters' or 'The Addams Family' were OK but not those diabolical magazines or movies full of freaky monsters.

I remember the anticipation-filled walks up to Bell's General Store in Houlton where I would scan the magazine rack for images of Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, The Wolf Man and my favorite Frankenstein - all looking scary, exciting and yes, forbidden. It was kind of funny seeing them surrounded by 'acceptable' mags like 'Woman's Day,' 'Sports Illustrated' and 'Consumer Reports.'

There they were, peering out at me from the back row as if they had accidentally been placed there by a corrupt renegade magazine distributor. I would plunk down my hard-earned lawn-mowing money, sneak peeks all the way home and then run up the back stairs almost as if one of those monsters had been chasing me.

The scam worked until mom found my monster stash.

'This stuff will warp your mind,' she said. I didn't dare tell her that I'd been in deep for at least a couple of years at that point. Bottom line: It all had to go. Every gloriously gory issue.

A few years later, a kid in Bangor named Christopher MacMillan went through a similar situation with his mom.

'I had a mother who wouldn't allow me to read comic books or anything by Stephen King,' MacMillan told me in a phone interview last week from his current home in Powell, Ohio. 'I couldn't even watch the old black and white movies. It wasn't really her thing, so it couldn't be mine. So there was no greater joy than going to a friend's house and watching and reading and doing all of these things.'

Confronting and embracing fear has become a full-time occupation for MacMillan. These days, he operates educational reptile expos in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

'I love getting the kids in and getting them to hold some of these reptiles,' he told me. 'I love it when they bring their moms who have a fear of some reptile and the next thing you know, they have pictures of themselves holding the reptile they were afraid of and everyone's happy.'

MacMillan has turned his love of spooky things into weekend-long celebratory conventions for fans of horror, sci-fi, gaming, cosplay, wrestling, metal music, comics, toys, props and all associated media.

In the spring, MacMillan presents the Bangor Comic and Toy Con and in the fall, a completely different experience - BanGoreFest a weekend of classic and indie films, visiting actors, artists, directors, makeup specialists, props, Q&A panels, signings, wrestling stars and live music.

MacMillan has prepared three jam-packed days of virtually every conceivable horror-related attraction.

'We had a smaller version of it last year,' MacMillan said. 'Technically, this is volume two the first big attempt.'

Friday, Oct. 28 will see BanGoreFest open at 6:00 p.m. for 'Friday Night Fury' with artists, gaming, media guests, a 'drink & draw' event, live music and even a wedding involving one of two surviving 1958 Plymouth Furys used in the movie adaptation of Stephen King's 'Christine.' Her caretaker, Bill Gibson, will take Christine for better or worse, til death do them part, in front of BanGoreFest attendees.

Following the wedding, there will be a concert featuring several area hard rock bands.

'It's all about introducing these bands to new faces,' MacMillan said. 'There will be people there who will be enjoying Seize The Vatican or Acadia or any of the other bands who will be there for the very first time. Then, they can connect with those bands and see them in other venues. Friday Night Live' will kick off our event at the New Balance Field House. This one will rock a little harder and then in the spring, we schedule the more geek' or fun bands at Bangor Comic and Toy Con.'

On Saturday, Oct. 29, day two of BanGoreFest will open at 10:30 a.m. for VIP pre-purchase ticket holders and 11:00 a.m. for everyone else.

A series of Q&A sessions and photo opportunities with actors, directors and artists will take place throughout Saturday and Sunday.

Kicking off Saturday's Q&A will be legendary comic book artist Basil Gogos, best known for his portraits in 'Famous Monsters of Filmland' magazine.

'When I was a kid, I loved art so having Basil Gogos there is probably the big piece for me,' Macmillan told me. 'I've always loved his paintings.'

MacMillan remembers his younger years when he was inspired to draw only to have his passion squashed by grown-ups who failed to recognize it as art.

'I know, growing up, how hard it was for me when I had art teachers who told me I had to stop doing comic book art because there's no career in it. They told me I had to become a real' artist. So it goes back to that thing. Being told no' all the time drove me to want to provide something to someone else and say Hey, you can do this. Just show up and do it.''

One of the most celebrated figures scheduled to take part in BanGoreFest is actor Tony Todd. 'It will be very exciting to have him in Bangor,' MacMillan said.

Todd's credits include 'Platoon,' 'Candyman,' 'Night of the Living Dead' and 'The Crow.' Todd is also known for his guest-stints on 'The X-Files' and '24.'

The cast of the 1983 film 'Christine' will participate in a Q&A at 1:15 p.m.

At 2:00 p.m., Wrestling Hall of Famer Jake 'The Snake' Roberts will field questions from the audience.

Also appearing will be cast members from 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer,' Camille Keaton from 1978's 'I Spit On Your Grave,' Steven Tash and Jennifer Runyon of the original 'Ghostbusters' and Alexandra Paul ('Baywatch,' 'Christine,' 'Sharknado').

Robert Mukes, a veteran of movies from Rob Zombie, is slated for a 5:00 p.m. Q&A session on Saturday.

A series of workshops are scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday, including a talk with famed special effects and makeup artist Tom Devlin of the 'Puppet Master' movies.

'Making Horror Movies with a Low (or no) Budget' is the subject of a workshop scheduled for Saturday with Shane Grant of 'Cemetery Theater.'

A celebration of the 30th anniversary of 'Aliens' with Christian Matzke is set for 4:00 p.m.

John Brightman, the founder of New England Paranormal Research, will host a workshop at 5:00 p.m.

Two blocks of short horror films are scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Many BanGoreFest fans will want an autograph or to have their photo taken with the festival's stars; MacMillan says they will not go home disappointed.

'For the autograph-signing sessions, you can bring an item for them to sign or choose one of the items they have for sale,' said MacMillan. 'Some of (the stars) will allow fans to take a selfie-style photo with them at the table. Some do and some don't. If you want a more professional photo-op, you can sit with the background for a photo from Soubanh Phantay and his Memory Maker Photography. They'll print it there for you and then you can take that photo of you and whomever you want to be photographed with and they'll sign it for you. Some charge and some don't.'

Part of what drives MacMillan to present such a diverse lineup of talent and events is his desire to introduce people to things they have never seen before.

'I want to introduce people to the stars from the movies and the directors, the wrestling, all of these local independent actors and directors and writers, the artists I need to get them out and provide them with an opportunity to bring their work to new faces,' MacMillan said, audible excitement in his voice. 'To do that, you've got bring in Tony Todd, Alexandra Paul and Jake 'The Snake' so people can come, see, meet and take in whatever their lifelong passion is. At the same time, they can also walk around and be entertained. You might spend 10 minutes with Tony Todd but you're going to want to be there all day.'

Another factor in driving MacMillan to present such a rich and all-encompassing lineup of talent and events is his awareness that many people are interested in different aspects of the horror genre. Some are there for the fear factor. Others are more interested in science fiction, music or art.

'Some people might think that it's completely horror-related and they say Well, I'm more sci-fi or more comic books,'' MacMillan says. 'Really, this is our way of saying you don't have to go to Boston and spend $500 on travel, hotels, food, tickets, etc. We have something in central Maine that provides an opportunity for a lot of local artists and businesses to benefit from. You can get there on 20 bucks in gas and still have plenty of money to buy the things you want, supporting all of those businesses.'

The goal, MacMillan says, is to provide a punch twice a year. 'And if you choose to go the more sci-fi-related/comic-related con in the spring or this horror-con in October, you can do it on a smaller budget than if you had to travel somewhere.'

Sunday's third day of BanGoreFest will unfold with Q&A and photo-ops from a completely different cast of characters than that scheduled for Saturday.

Wrestling legend Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine will field questions beginning at noon.

Danny Hicks from 'Evil Dead II,' 'Darkman,' and 'Intruder' will speak at 12:30 p.m.

Felix Silla, best known as Cousin Itt from the original version of 'The Addams Family' as well as from movies including 'Return of The Jedi,' 'The Towering Inferno' and 'The Hinderburg,' is scheduled to answer questions beginning at 1:15 p.m.

MacMillan has stacked the rest of the day with high-profile figures. Attendance should be high for Q&As and photo ops with Tony Todd, Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and James Leary and George Hertzberg, cast members from 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer.'

Christopher MacMillan isn't sure how many fans to expect for BanGoreFest this year, but he anticipates several thousand attendees streaming (and screaming) through the New Balance Field House.

'I know that when we post something about it on our Facebook page, we see it getting a lot of clicks and views,' he says. 'It's hard to gauge an expected turnout for a fall event, but we're expecting between two and five thousand people.'

As opening day approaches, MacMillan says the preparations become more intense, but that it's also been a lot of fun putting together an event like this.

'It's six months of kind of a crawl,' MacMillan says. 'Then it turns into a run and then finally a weekend of just getting hammered. There's a lot of moving parts to get it all to line up.'

When things get a little crazy, MacMillan reminds himself of why he decided to put this festival together in the first place.

'I guess what really spawned it all was seeing 'Jaws.' I was probably six or seven when I first saw that movie and I was attracted to that fun sort of nervous feeling that you get. I remember being scared when I saw 'Humanoids From The Deep' and really scared when I saw 'Alien.' I loved the 'Creepshow' stuff, Friday the 13th' Michael Myers and Halloween' it was fun. For me, it wasn't just the Halloween season. I enjoyed it whenever I got the chance to have some fun and get one over on Mom.'

(BanGoreFest takes place Oct. 28-30 at the New Balance Field House on the University of Maine campus in Orono. Single and multi-day tickets can be purchased in advance at www.BangoreFest.com. VIP three-day tickets are $58.02 and include the official show T-shirt and a vendor and sponsor swag-bag.)

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