Rob Caprilozzi saw "Jaws" when he was a little kid and it scared him so much he refused to go swimming for a long time.
"You could put me in a pool and I'd be positive there'd be a shark in there," Caprilozzi says.
He saw "Alien" a few years later. "That chest-buster scene really got me. I was scared to eat for a while."
Caprilozzi doesn't let movies get to him like that anymore. But he still loves horror movies. The original "Halloween" is his favorite. Now Caprilozzi wants to bring a little bit of "Halloween" to Connecticut, as well as a little bit of "Friday the 13th," "The Exorcist," "American Horror Story," "The Walking Dead" and other horror favorites.
Caprilozzi, a Danbury native who now lives in Seymour, and his wife, Christine, are the organizers of CT HorrorFest, a one-day gathering of horror-movie fans, on Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Courtyard Marriott in Waterbury. Attendees are encouraged to come costumed as their favorite horror character.
For a first-time convention organizer, Caprilozzi got a good lineup of celebrity autograph-signers, headed up by Linda Blair, the head-spinning victim-villain from "The Exorcist."
Other celebs who will be there include Ari Lehman, who played little Jason Voorhees in the original "Friday the 13th"; Tony Moran, who played Michael Myers in the original "Halloween"; Naomi Grossman and Jennifer Lynn Warren, Pepper and Borquita (respectively) from the TV show "American Horror Story"; Micah Sloat from the movie "Paranormal Activity"; Gary Klar of George Romero's original "Day of the Dead"; and IronE Singleton, Moses J. Moseley and Theshay West, who all star in "The Walking Dead." (Coincidentally, Blair, Lehman and Sloat were all raised in Westport.)
Caprilozzi hopes CT HorrorFest — which also will feature vendors, costumed characters and a haunted graveyard created by the people who create Lake Compounce's annual Haunted Graveyard — will become an annual activity.
"We've been working toward this for 10 years, and now we think we're ready," he says. "We have to see how this one goes."
Ten years ago, the Caprilozzis founded Horror News Network (www.horrornewsnetwork.net). "We want to be thought of as the CNN of horror, with news updates every day and lots of other information for horror fans," he says. The site, staffed by eight volunteer writers and reviewers, focuses on movies, toys, games, comics and has a message board, a YouTube channel and a map showing about 500 places in the world where classic horror films are set.
Horror News Network is looking for new volunteer contributors and will be passing out information at the fest.
The Haunted Graveyard will fill half of one of the fest's two ballrooms and will feature a cemetery, catacombs, a slaughterhouse, vampires, witches and other ghouls.
Dave Belas, general manager of Haunted Graveyard, will be recruiting workers at the fest to play horror characters in Lake Compounce's annual Haunted Graveyard. His positions, which would be for weekends in October, are paid. "You can fill out an application, get an interview and get hired all on that day," says Bela, who hopes to hire up to 265 people.
"This is our audience," Belas says. "It's a direct avenue to people who love horror." Will coming in costume help a person get a job? "It couldn't hurt," he says.
Caprilozzi knows that holding a convention like this in August is out of the ordinary. Most events of this type happen in October.
"During October, so much horror stuff is going on and the Horror News Network is so busy that I'm almost glad when November comes," he says. He scheduled HorrorFest in August to decrease the competition for horror fans' attention and to increase the chance of getting horror icons to show up.
In addition to the movie stars, Caprilozzi says, ticket buyers have said they are eager to meet John Zaffis, a Connecticut-based paranormal investigator and founder of the Paranormal and Demonology Research Society of New England.
"With all the shows on reality TV, ghost hunting has become a big hobby. Everybody has a camera on their phone, or you can buy a cool piece of technology and go into a graveyeard," Caprilozzi says. "Towns have paranormal clubs. It's popular because it's such a simple thing to do."
CT HORRORFEST will be Saturday, Aug. 23, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Courtyard Marriott, 63 Grand St. in Waterbury. Admission is $20. Celebrity autograph prices vary and are at the discretion of the celebrity. No food will be available in the convention rooms. Parking is free in the hotel lot. Details: www.horrornewsnetwork.net/ct-horror.Copyright © 2015, CT Now