Monday, November 1, 2010
Virginia Creepers (2009, Sean Kotz and Christopher Valluzzo)
Growing up in the 80's and 90's, I remember seeing horror hosts here and there on TV. Of course there was Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson, Al "Grampa Munster" Lewis and even Rhonda Shear and Gilbert Gottfried on USA's Up All Night. There were probably more that I used to watch that have long since been forgotten but to be honest, it wasn't until I was a teenager that I really got into horror. Sure I loved the Universal Monsters but when it came to actually sitting through those movies, my attention span resisted. I can't say that I know very much about the history of horror hosts buy they have always interested me and Virginia Creepers is a perfect introduction.
Virginia Creepers is a documentary centered on the rise of television horror hosts in the 1950s in the Virginia/Washington DC area up to the present day. Starting in 1958 with the Nightmare Theater featuring host Jonathan (John Willet), the film features in depth interviews with fans, crew members and the hosts themselves about how these shows came to be and feature vintage clips and footage, much of which has never been seen since it was originally aired. As the film progresses, we see other hosts such as Jerry "Ronald" Sandford, Bill "The Bowman Body" Bowman, Sir Graves Ghastly, John "Dr. Sarcofiguy" Dimes, Karlos Borloff and one of the longest running horror hosts, Dick "Count Gore DeVol" Dyszel.
Virginia Creepers is an incredible look into the lives of an under-appreciated group of entertainers who touched the lives of many people who grew up watching them. The interviews cover every minute detail of these shows and the old clips are a hoot. Hearing about the classic days of television and seeing how history was being made was fascinating and even at 2 hours in length, the film kept my eyes glued to the screen the whole time. The best part of the film was that you could tell how much each of the hosts truly loved what they were doing, and it was apparent that the film makers of this documentary (Horse Archer Productions) shared this love as well.