Wednesday, April 17, 2013

American Scary (Film Review)

Director John E. Hudgens's 2006 documentary (available for Instant viewing on Netflix and Amazon) impresses on several levels.  The film comprises a virtual history of horror hosts, starting with Vampira in the late 1950's and continuing to the early 21st Century (considering figures such as Roland, Svengoolie, Elvira, and Chilly Billy along the way).  There's an abundance of vintage performance clips and interviews with the actual people who inhabited the now-famous roles (luminaries such as Tim Conway, Tom Savini, and Neil Gaiman also provide commentary).  The viewer quickly learns just how influential one generation of horror hosts was on the next (e.g. Ghoulardi naturally begot Son of Ghoulardi), and witnesses the proud sense of community that exists amongst modern contemporaries.

What I appreciated most about this documentary, though, is its reverent approach to its campy subjects.  Sure, horror hosts are shown hamming it up in front of the camera and spouting countless cheap jokes and bad puns, but the figures are never offered up for mockery, never treated like overgrown adolescents who've decided to air their glorified Halloween antics.  Intelligent analysis is hardly absent here, as the various interview subjects ponder the function and cultural significance of the horror host figure.  As informative as it is nostalgic, American Scary makes for a wonderful viewing experience for fans of the macabre.

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