Hello, everyone, it’s Mikey, and this blog is based episode 139 of our Scaretrack podcast in which I talked on the phone with Mark Jardine from Mad About Horror, an online source here in the UK for all things Halloween and horrifying.
Horror is a 365 passion for a lot of people, and Mark’s business is no exception. “Halloween is our biggest time of year, for sales, at least,” he said, “and we’re constantly in the warehouse, dispatching orders over the Halloween period, but then, once we come out of that, we’re preparing for the following year. In January, I was over in New Orleans at Halloween Expo and HAuNTcon looking for new suppliers and catching up with existing suppliers to see what was new for 2019. Louise has just gotten back from Transworld, where she was looking at new stuff, and Neal will be at Texas Frightmare in a few weeks.”
And I thought I had a busy schedule. I asked Mark to say a bit about what Mad About Horror is and does.
“It’s not just a title. We are absolutely mad about horror. Our customers are, too. Mad About Horror has been going for about 12 years. My colleague, Louise Edlin, started up the business. She started with Halloween decorations and then began speaking with suppliers here in the UK. She’s good at buying. The product range expanded, and she started making contacts with suppliers in the US, where the market for Halloween is huge. Eventually, she ended up getting in touch with Trick or Treat Studios. They’re massive in the latex mask market. She started selling those, and that market got bigger,” he explained.
“A lot of your listeners are hardcore horror fans, and they aren’t the sort of people that will go out and buy a Halloween costume. People who are in the market for a cheap, polyester Halloween costume will go down to their local supermarket and pick one up for 20 or 30 quid. Others want a fancy dress—I don’t mean cosplay. That’s something different altogether. Others want to create their costume themselves. They’ll go to a charity sharper and buy themselves a plaid shirt, rip that to shreds, and douse it in fake blood. People who are really into Halloween want to create their costume themselves. However, we noticed that costumes weren’t really the way for us to be going, so we don’t offer those,” he explained.
Mad About Horror focuses mainly on masks along with various seasonal decorations and props. “We probably stock 12 different Michael Myers masks, manufactured by Trick or Treat Studios. We were obliterated of stock having anything to do with Michael Meyers, and it was the same with Trick or Treat studios—they couldn’t produce the masks quick enough. Nobody really had any idea as to how big the film actually was going to be. We had pre-orders as long as your arm from people who wanted the new mask. When they couldn’t get the new one, they just bought anything they could get their hands on,” Mark explained.
“We’re still waiting to replenish our stocks on Michael Meyers masks, because that’s how quickly they sold out. That’s how strong the UK and European collectors’ market is for horror stuff. If there’s anything to indicate how big horror is, that’s an indicator right there,” he said.
Mad About Horror has a fan following itself. “People will come and ask us information about what we’ve got, what new releases are coming up, and so on. We sell a lot of licensed film stuff, we still do a lot of Halloween decorations, and we sell animated props, most of which are for home use. A rising ghoul is always a popular one, and all the way down to polystyrene gravestones, which look brilliant. We put them in our garden. People stop by our house and say they love what we do. However, having said that, I don’t get a heck of a lot of time to decorate my own house because I’m too busy supplying stuff to other people. We don’t get to enjoy Halloween, because we’re too busy making sure everybody else does.”
The quality of everything on the website looks fantastic. The Michael Myers masks especially look great.
“That’s one of the things Trick or Treat Studios does well. They’ve got a great group of sculptors working for them, but they’ve also got really good relationships with the film industry. The 2018 Myers mask that we’ve got on our website is sculpted by the guy who’s credited as having worked on the mask for the film. That’s as close to a screen-accurate mask as you’re ever gonna get. Off the top of my head, I think the mask is priced at £64.95 for a screen-accurate mask.”
A screen-accurate Mike Myers mask for 65 quid! You can’t argue with that.
“We also had Trick or Treat Studios screen an accurate, 1:1 scale Chucky Doll.”
Take my money, take my money!
“We’ll gladly take anyone’s money, but we’re currently waiting for the main batch to come over now. We were lucky enough to get a hold of some Kickstarter dolls for people who helped back their Kickstarter campaign. We airfreighted some over, but we’ve got our main batch coming over soon. When I was over in New Orleans, I was lucky enough to meet up with the Trick or Treat guys, and they had one of the Chucky dolls there. I kid you not, the quality of it is incredible. The doll itself hasn’t been without its controversy, but I think it’s fair to say that fans want the best. Keep in mind, we’re talking about a mass-produced item. There are screen-accurate dolls out there that are custom made and not licensed by the studios, but you might pay thousands and thousands of pounds for these custom-made dolls, and we’re retailing them at 450 quid.”
I asked Mark to say some more about the Chucky Doll.
“It’s completely and utterly poseable because of the skeleton it has, and it’s covered with a foam body, which gives it a softer touch. It’s great. I was so excited and relieved when I saw it, because there’s always a worry that when something’s being awaited with such anticipation, it won’t meet that expectation.”
Yep, with that kind of high expectation, you’ve got to make sure the product delivers.
Mark agreed. “We have to remember it’s not a toy. We’ve sold loads, and we’ve still got some more to receive and get out. Halloween is kind of a horror fan’s Christmas. It’s a year-round event, really, and we’ve always got something to be looking forward to,” he said.
“We also sell collectible horror figures. I’m currently at my desk at home with a couple of Neca Gremlins looking at me. I don’t just sell horror, I truly love it.”
I asked Mark to talk about how he got into horror.
“I know some horror fans have been watching horror movies since they were in nappies. I was probably a bit of a scaredy cat when I was younger. I started getting into horror movies later on, although there were a couple of horror movies that my dad introduced me to when I was a younger. I was probably about 11 when I watched Gremlins and around the same age when I watched Alien and American Werewolf in London, which terrified me. The scene in the woods absolutely terrified me as a child, and I begged my dad to turn it off.”
This reminded me of my younger brother and me. He’d watch any scary film, but I’d be terrified watching Casper the Friendly Ghost. Everyone’s reactions are different.
“As I said, I didn’t start watching horror movies until I was a little older, and I released a blog on our website about revisiting some of the early horror movies that are on my list. I think there’s certainly a massive element of nostalgia among the horror community. There was one I used to love and watched recently, and it just wasn’t as exciting as I remembered it being. This was the original version of It, with Tim Curry. We still sell many Tim Curry-related It items. I loved the remake, and I’m very excited about Chapter 2,” said Mark.
I loved the remake, too, as did loads of other people.
“On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t feel nervous about saying I recently watched the original version of Pet Sematary, which I’d not seen, and really enjoyed it.”
I realized Mark and I are a lot alike. For me, the problem with scary films is, as some of you know, I freak out. I’ll go through any scare attraction, I’ll go through extreme stuff, and I’ll go on any tall rollercoaster. None of that phases me, but, for some reason, at a horror movie, I scream like it’s the end of the world. Everyone in the theater stares at me. When we decided to go see It, my lovely wife decided to find the biggest screen with the best surround-sound, and she sat us down right in the middle. It was the best view possible, and all I did was scream. I think most of the audience were having a better time laughing at me rather than watching the film.
I next asked Mark about his business model.
“One thing we do is supply a number of props to the scare industry. We supplied a few things to Howl-O-Scream last year. Louise and I visited, and we had a wonderful night. I thought the set-up at Howl-O-Scream was great. It’s nice to see they’re nominated at the Scare Awards this year. They’ve worked really hard for that. We also supplied a number of things for haunt parks. A number of our props were in the Walking Dead Do-or-Die Maze.”
I hadn’t heard of that, so I asked Mark if he meant the Walking Dead Living Nightmare.
“That’s the one. I saw five skulls above the door, and I didn’t want to go in. I sat on a bench with my head in my hands. I was nearly in tears. Louise just stood there, talking on her mobile phone, looking at me and saying, ‘You’re the marketing manager of a horror company, and you can’t go into a scare maze? You need to get yourself together.’ She was very sympathetic to my plight.”
This is similar to what Hannah has told me in the past: “You run the UK’s first scare attraction podcast, yet you scream when a dog barks in the middle of a movie.” What can I say? Goosebumps gets me. When I was a kid, I couldn’t watch Are You Afraid of the Dark? or Sabrina the Teenage Witch. When that Molly Dolly came out, it always got to me. Hannah is the same as your marketing manager. She’s like, “Get yourself together!”
Mark tried to make me feel better by offering, “When I’m at the cinema, I’m a screamer, too. I’m a scare actor’s dream.”
Oh, yeah. The more you scream, the more they’ll go for you.
“If nothing else,” Mark added, “I’m providing a public service not only to the scare actors but to the attraction-goers around me, who will probably enjoy the fact that I’m screaming.”
I asked him how he was with dungeons.
“A few years ago, prior to my involvement with Mad About Horror, my wife and I went with my mom to York Dungeon, and I may or may not have had a mini-panic attack. I never went in. We really enjoyed Thorpe Park. My involvement with the horror industry has created an understanding. I’m a little bit more seasoned, and now I know what to expect, and I understand where the fun comes from,” he said.
“After Living Nightmare, we had to go to Do or Die to see our props, and that was quite funny. We wanted to get pictures of the props, but trying to get pictures while someone is chasing you isn’t easy. However, Do or Die had quite a queue, so I had time to do a live video telling all our followers how frightened I was as a way to take my mind off what might be waiting for me. That served as a bit of protection to get myself through it.”
I asked Mark about how he sees his business expanding.
“We’re in the process of setting up a specific brand to supply scare attractions. The people who run scare attractions can find all that stuff on our website, but we’re looking at setting things up so people who run events can look at our professional range of products specifically without having to wade through film-licensed stuff, which doesn’t necessarily work in scare attractions, for obvious reasons. We’ve got some brilliant stuff coming such as life-size, live-cast molds. People lie there for four hours while they cast these things, and then the heads are molded. Some of the stuff we’ve got coming is really nasty and gruesome. There’s lots of conversation about this in our WhatsApp group.”
I’ve often wondered what would happen if one of us lost our phone and the Good Samaritan who found it went through the messages to figure out a way to return the phone. They might think: What the hell are these people into?
Mark had a funny story to tell about this. “A non-horror friend was looking over my shoulder as I was going through my Instagram feed on the Mad About Horror page, and my friend became rather disturbed by some of the things appearing on my phone. If you think you’ve got a problem with sponsored ads, you should see some of the things we get as pop-ups.”
Such is the brave new world of marketing. I let Mark have the final word, and he summarized things quite nicely.
“It’s a dream job to let your creativity run wild, although we need to be careful because of the nature of what we’re doing. We work with suppliers in the US as well as a number of artists across the States and the UK. We can put together custom stuff. We see ourselves as consultants as much as anything. If somebody running a scare attraction is looking for new stuff, they can get in touch with us, and we can source products specifically for their theme.”
As long as we have people like Mark in the industry—and we have many—we can count on vibrancy and creativity in haunting for years to come.