Thursday, September 10, 2009

american scary [2006]

once upon a time in the u.s., beginning around say 1955 and ending around 1982, before cable tv wrapped its tentacles on the viewing public, there were only three networks, nbc, abc and cbs. oh these networks are still around but last i checked there are several competing networks and a couple hundred cable channels on air today. but back then, that's all there was. and if you didn't like what the networks were showing, tuff titty.

except there was an alternative. almost all metropolitan markets had at least one local channel as its own. the programming on these independents was whatever the managers of these stations could think up. they all thought up very similar stuff. when they had crates of bad movies, especially horror movies, and time slots to fill up these programmers needed a gimmick to get viewers to watch these horrible movies.

hence the birth of the horror host. the horror host is the guide before, during and after the movie that often had a shtick of some sort, cheap props, sets that looked like your little brother's bedroom, if your little brother collected famous monsters of filmland magazines and decorated his walls with cobwebbing and perhaps a poster of lon chaney in full werewolf makeup. pure cheese. utter schmaltz. and oh so beloved.

now director john e. hudgens finally released his documentary on tv horror hosts last year. an obvious labor of love this film is a collection of talking heads with the movers and makers of tv horror hosts and i'm sure, if your were a like-minded fanatic who begged his/her parents to stay up late to watch this sort of cheese, hudgens found and interviewed and has a few clips of your favorite horror host. also on hand is neil gaiman who discusses his own memories, distant as they are because his own england did not have horror hosts, of the phenomena.

what's cool about hudgens' work is that he starts right at the beginning with vampira's show in mid-50s l.a. and ends with horror hosts migrating to the internet. hudgens even has clips and an interview with sac's, and s.f.'s, own bob wilkins who was later succeeded by john stanley. wilkins and stanley were the odd men out of the group because tho their shows did have a fair share of goofy props on a cheap set they hosted their movies straight without any gimmicks or make-up. for the most part tv horror hosts were campy as all get out.

one might wonder what's the big deal about horror hosts. could be a kind of nostalgia that is lost on those born after the advent of mtv. viewing habits have changed and so has programming. would you believe there is a generation or two of kids who have never been to a drive-in movie? the horror!!! be that as it may, this docu is a terrific addition to a late-night fright fest when the last jack o'lantern is placed on the porch and somewhere in the distance a few dogs -- werewolves? -- begin to howl.

for the curious i highly recommend watching two horor hosts who are still at it and do their work both on tv and on the web. first is sac's own mr lobo who hosts his own weekly show at cinema insomnia. then there's the veteran tv horror host from washington dc count gore de vol's creature feature weekly web program which is positively hemorrhaging with good stuff found within the good count's links.

now, hie thee to some horror hosting and get a copy of this docu.



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