Tuesday, May 5, 2009

American Scary (2006)

Documentary featuring a multitude of horror hosts reminiscing and parsing their profession. The origin of the "creature feature" program phenomenon is traced back to Universal Studios releasing their classic horror catalog to local stations in a package called "Shock Theater" back in the mid-1950s. Shown late at night, these movies were usually introduced and commented on by a wisecracking costumed personality (often the station's weatherman, or a feature reporter) between commercial breaks. Slim-waisted Vampira (she of Plan 9 From Outer Space) is generally considered the first of her kind, along with Ghoulardi in Cleveland and Chilly Billy in Pittsburgh. The characters got more colorful and the sketches more zany until finally the wraparound segments were eclipsing (and sometimes even butting into) the feature itself. Interviewees include John Stanley and Bob Wilkins of San Francisco's immortal Creature Feature show, Bob Burns, Joe Bob Briggs, Joel Hodgson (creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, arguably the logical post-modern conclusion to the horror host-hosted show), and author Neil Gaiman -- who hosted a short series for a cable channel in the mid-2000s. Strangely absent from these proceedings (though she is prominently mentioned, of course) is Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira. Could she not find her cobwebby dress? ... oh well. Watch horror movies and keep America strong, kids.