American Scary – 2006 – Cinema Libre Studio
American Scary is an hour-and-a-half long historical documentary about the very American phenomena of the horror film host. Directed by John E. Hudgens, a notable Star Wars fan film producer, and written by Sandy Clark, the film consists of talking-head interviews with most of the salient figures from the horror host landscape interspersed with some splendid archival clips of these performers doing their silly/scary bits. Interviewees range from Vampira (Maila Nurmi) to Neil Gaiman (?), featuring prominent greats such as Chilly Billy Cardille, Svengoolie, The Ghoul, Son of Ghoul, Zacherley (Rolande), Count Gor De Vol, John Stanley and Bob Wilkins, along with several others. Conspicuous absences from Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) and the Son of Svengoolie are serious detractions, as they are two of the majors still in the public eye, but those figures who are included serve well to do the topic justice.
Several film historians and genre figures are also generously sprinkled into the mix, with Forry Ackerman, Bob Burns, Tom Savini, and Len Wein adding perspective with their amusing anecdotes, but the film becomes absolutely monotonous with its delivery by the 20-minute mark. The interview-clip-interview-clip, repeat same, format is staggeringly tedious, which I chalk up to this being a fan-made amateur film, but the guests themselves are never less than informative and engaging. Relatively frequent clips of the hosts doing their schtick are the saving grace for this film, but as a re-watchable entertainment piece the film fails miserably. Anyone looking to break in on the ground floor of the fabled history of this cultural sensation will find it an absorbing chronicle, but for those who want a little more depth (and bang) for their buck, I would steer you towards John Stanley’s marvelous book, I Was a TV Horror Host, or Elena M. Watson’s well-rounded, Television Horror Movie Hosts.
I also take great umbrage with the inclusion of two people who are peripheral, at best, for fans of the films these hosts were saddled with (and the hosts themselves). Leonard Maltin, that great self-appointed guru (jack-ass) of “film buffs” has done nothing but shit on the horror genre for his entire career. Seeing him sit there smugly and smile with reminiscence makes me want to strangle him even more. The filmmakers obviously knew nothing about his decided vindictiveness towards the films that we hold dear, giving him more screen time than the great Bob Wilkins and John Stanley combined! Maltin, that miserable little piss-ant, reviewed most of the films in his indispensable (as toilet paper) movie guides from network television broken up with commercials and edited for content. Fuck him!
The last ten minutes of the film are spent with the utterly pretentious Neil Gaiman, the (very timely) gothic comic and novel scribe, who fully convinces us that he is the only Brit absolutely lacking a sense of humor. Gaiman even goes so far as to denigrate the rest of the micro-budgeted hosts by saying that “doing a show with just a skull and a candle… what’s the point?” when relating how he was offered the job as the host of Fox’s glitzy 13 Nights of Halloween. Watching lead paint dry (and then eating it) would be more entertaining and informative than his ignorant conjectures on the functions of a horror host. Fuck him, too!
The priceless footage of the hosts in action leaves me wanting more and the anecdotes recounted by the hosts themselves are quite fulfilling, but this is strictly rental grade material. Now, let’s see if we can’t campaign towards expunging that cretinous Lenny Maltin from the face of the earth. It would be a grand delight just to see those haughty movie-morons the world over eulogizing the bastard! Sic Semper Tyrannus!
Jason’s Grade: C-