[Editor’s Note: Our own Scott Drebit will be hosting panels this weekend at the sixth annual Calgary Horror Con. Ahead of the three-day event, Scott caught up with the convention's CEO and founder, Dan Doherty, to discuss what sparked his love of the genre, the convention's origin, this year's special guest lineup, and more.]

Dan, let’s start at the start. When did you first get into horror?

Dan Doherty: I’ve been into horror since I was a kid—I’m not sure of the exact age. For me, it was a way to test my bravery. I was bullied a bit growing up, and it was a way to test it from a safe distance. And then after a while, it just becomes an adrenaline rush; you immerse yourself in a good horror film, but there isn’t much that scares me these days other than public washrooms [laughs]. I can remember watching C.H.U.D. when I was fairly young, maybe ten, but I’m not sure if that was the first. All I know is that once I was introduced to horror, I was hooked.

That seems to be the case with pretty much everyone—once you’re in, you’re in, and it’s not something you usually outgrow. Other than the Calgary Horror Con, are you involved career-wise in the film industry?

Dan Doherty: Well, since starting the con, I have been involved in a lot of indie films, but that’s something you do for love, not for money [laughs]. When I started the Horror Con, I already had an artistic background, and I had a friend that really wanted to do a film, but didn’t have a budget for effects. So I said, “Let me do them,” and the finished product was pretty awesome.

Since then I’ve been working a lot in independent shorts, as well as doing horror photography. Now, I still have to have a regular job, but it’s what I do at night, my hobbies, that I live for. The money isn’t quite there yet with the Horror Con; it’s coming, it’s growing, but I do it because I love it. My dream one day would be to write and direct my own film and be the makeup artist. I look at a film like Tokyo Gore Police, and that’s exactly what he [Yoshihiro Nishimura] did. I don’t want to micromanage, but at the same time I like to get my hands dirty. And that applies too with the Horror Con. I know where I want to see things go. I guess my hobbies are starting to take over [laughs].

Well, that’s everyone’s dream right? The Alberta film industry, for those who don’t know, has grown quite a bit over the years. Do you find that the horror community has grown along with it?

Dan Doherty: The challenge is that we’re known for cowboy films. We have beautiful rolling hills and mountain ranges, so the westerns are drawn here. I wouldn’t know if it’s increased or decreased, but the Ginger Snaps movies—two of the directors are Alberta-born. I see a lot of independent horror being made, and I see it continue to grow. When things are rocking in the film industry, there’s still people willing to work independently—as far as horror goes, that will continue to grow. It’s all about building a community. It’s going to be the independents that breathe life into horror; I don’t think Hollywood’s coming here to make horror films. Although they should. We have every landscape, and we just opened a big production studio.

And speaking of film communities, how did the Calgary Horror Con come about, and what year are we in right now?

Dan Doherty: We’re in year six, and looking back, I don’t know if I’d ever do this again, but I’m glad I did. It’s been a dream. I started out six years ago in the food court of Mount Royal University [laughs], and now we’re in a hotel and continue to outgrow our venue. The goal is not to necessarily get bigger, but to get better. I started it not to meet celebrities (although that draws people in), but to have a community of people who were into the same things that I was.

When you come to Horror Con, there are no anime voice-over actors. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy other things. I love Star Wars, I like Star Trek, but when you come to Horror Con, if you want horror, everything’s geared towards you. I wanted to have the film festival, the celebrity panels, the vendors. I’m building the show for me; and hopefully everyone who is into the same things as me, helps me to keep going. That may seem selfish, but hey, I’m a horror fan. I wanted to create a show. I wanted to build that community. The economy’s down, so I discounted tickets. I want to keep it going. It’s been a dream come true. I get to hang out with people I’ve seen on the big screen! I learned a long time ago that life’s too short—you better do what you love.

You’ve summed up what the spirit behind the ideal horror convention should be, and as someone who’s attended the last few Calgary Horror Cons, that spirit is very much alive. So who are some of the people you have lined up for us this year?

Dan Doherty: The big one for me is Dick Warlock. He was Michael Myers in Halloween II, he was the assassin in Halloween III, he was Kurt Russell’s stunt double in The Thing, he did stunts in Jaws, he’s the guy who did all the badass stuff in a film, and he’s also acted. He’s a legendary stuntman. He’s been in everything.

He’s Hollywood history, really.

Dan Doherty: He is, and he’s never gotten the credit he deserves. He’s done badass stuff. I’m also a huge fan of Derek Mears. This is my bucket list, right? He wore the classic Predator costume in Predators, he was the head zombie in Dead Snow 2, he’s donned the mask of Jason Voorhees in the relaunch of Friday the 13th from 2009—he’s been in some pretty big blockbusters. He’s another stunt guy, but he’s also done a lot of acting as well.

Ken Kirzinger, as far as I know, is the only Canadian Jason. Him, Mears, Tyler Mane—those are your current horror guys. I got all the big monsters this year; we have the biggest Michael Myers and the smallest [laughs]. We have the Final Girls from Friday the 13th Parts 1 and 2: Adrienne King and Amy Steel. We have Tiffany Helm from Friday the 13th Part V and Emily Perkins from the Ginger Snaps trilogy. And many more guests!

I always want to do distinctly Canadian, I always want those people coming in. I’m proud of where I come from. It’s important to have that representation. Two friends of mine [Dan Zachary and Dan Walton] have a film coming out here at the end of the month and in the States in September called American Conjuring, which won Best Picture at Horror Con last year; it’s a terrific film—they’re coming as well. This year I took in over 800 film submissions and narrowed it down to 50—some Canadian, even local—and they’re in not because they’re Canadian, but because of what they made. I like to showcase local; but that’s not the driving force. I’m here to promote horror and bring in a strong lineup every year.

I’m certainly going to be in attendance, but I’m also going to be helping out, correct?

Dan Doherty: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it! Alberta is a hotbed of horror writers, and the more the merrier. I’m appreciative that you’re going to step up and do some panels this year; and hopefully we can continue to strengthen the community.

The pleasure is definitely all mine, Dan. And for anyone with a thirst for horror in the Calgary area June 11th and 12th, there’s only one place you should be: the Calgary Horror Con. It’s gonna be a beauty.

For ticket and lineup information, visit:

Poster by Chris Labrenz:

  • Scott Drebit
    About the Author - Scott Drebit

    Scott Drebit lives and works in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is happily married (back off ladies) with 2 grown kids. He has had a life-long, torrid, love affair with Horror films. He grew up watching Horror on VHS, and still tries to rewind his Blu-rays. Some of his favourite horror films include Phantasm, Alien, Burnt Offerings, Phantasm, Zombie, Halloween, and Black Christmas. Oh, and Phantasm.