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THE MOVABLE BUFFET

Halloween horror fest swoops down on Palms

Fangoria Trinity of Terrors brings movie screenings, horror celebrities, parties and a concert. The convention may be a first for Sin City.

October 25, 2009|Richard Abowitz

"Halloween has always been a weird holiday," says George Maloof, owner of the Palms casino. He does not mean weird in the sense of haunted, but more in the sense of being afraid of Las Vegas being a ghost town for the weekend. Or to put it another way: The bump you would expect from the seemingly natural match of this most unnatural place, Sin City, with a holiday dedicated to naughtiness and disguises isn't as much as you would think.

Halloween in Vegas has never become an event the way New Year's weekend has. As Maloof puts it, "To be frank, Halloween hasn't always been the best holiday. So we will do whatever we can to make it special."

Since Maloof opened the Palms in 2001, most Vegas casino operators have paid attention to what he does to create buzz for the property -- such as inviting MTV's "Real World" to film there, opening the successful Playboy club, and installing a recording studio that has been a celebrity magnet for everyone from the local band Killers to Michael Jackson.

But part of what he is doing this year to make Halloween work amid the worst economy Vegas has ever seen turns out to have been the result of simply being receptive to the right offer when it arrived from Fangoria, the 30-year-old horror magazine.

Scott Licina, vice president of Fangoria Entertainment, says his event partners approached the Palms with the idea for Fangoria Trinity of Terrors, a three-day mix over Halloween weekend of movie screenings, panels, horror celebrities by the dozens, parties and a concert by Slipknot.

"They pitched it to us. It made a lot of a sense around Halloween. I was just really into it," says Maloof.

So much so that he signed on for the Palms to host it for three years.

It may surprise people that a horror convention over Halloween weekend is not necessarily a sure thing in Vegas. It certainly surprises Licina that nothing like his convention has even been done here before.

Las Vegas is a city where tourists consistently have proven to prefer entertainment from the middle of the road. Alternative culture, even on Halloween, has an unimpressive track record here. For example, the jam band and college rock-focused Vegoose Music Festival arrived for Halloween weekend in 2005 with great fanfare as an annual event; it lasted until only 2007 before being discontinued.

Of course, big depends on your definition, but Fangoria Trinity of Terrors certainly makes this the most significant horror aficionado event to be a Vegas offering in at least a decade. Just a few of the more recognizable names who'll be participating: Bruce Campbell, George A. Romero, Roger Corman, John Waters, Malcolm McDowell, Kristy Swanson and Corbin Bernsen. Many of the other celebrities you have to be a true horror fan to recognize.

"A lot of people told us that this won't work in Vegas," Licina said. "But to me this is a no-brainer. It is about finding the right approach. Fangoria is the Cirque du Soleil of horror. The Palms is a city unto itself. And when you look at a horror and a rock 'n' roll show with the Palms as the big top, it is a perfect fit."

That is the key to what Maloof saw in Fangoria's convention idea. While the Vegoose Music Festival was held in a field off the Strip with evening events spread around the city, Trinity of Terror is focused entirely within one casino, which means it need only attract people into the Palms.

Fangoria and the Palms are in alignment on another issue: not jacking up the prices in the typical Vegas way of expecting tourists to pay more for entertainment here than they would normally spend at home. "We wanted to create a real bargain. This is the cheapest show we've done in years," Licina says. He notes that day passes are $20 compared with other Fangoria conventions this year that charged $25.

Not that you can't spend enough to be a VIP -- this is still Vegas -- and get a variety of extras for your cash, but even the Silver Bullet Pass tops out at $275, by Vegas standards a reasonable price for a three-day event (including the concert by Slipknot).

Filmmaker Waters ("Multiple Maniacs," "Mondo Trasho," "Serial Mom"), who will be speaking on Halloween, could not be more excited about the enterprise:

"It will be scary and fun. You have Fangoria, who will bring everyone in from the cutest little punk rock kids to men my age looking pitiful in 'Star Wars' outfits. And Las Vegas is already where you can go look at hookers and drink. Throw it all together, and this seems like the perfect day to be in Las Vegas for me."

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robert.abowitz@latimes.com

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latimes.com/movablebuffet

For more of what's happening on and off the Strip, visit the Movable Buffet blog.

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