American Scary (Movie Review)

scaryposter.jpgRarely does a film come along that I just can’t say enough nice things about. It happens more often with freaky-deaky, insomnia-addled, whack-job-endowed documentaries than with any other genre, and that’s where American Scary comes in — which could not suit its subject matter better. It plays this week as part of SFIndie’s San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, or Docfest, Saturday, September 29 at 12:30 pm and Thursday, October 4 at 9:15pm, at the Roxie on 16th Street near Valencia.

American Scary is a look at the bizarre pop-culture tradition of horror hosting. That’s right, horror hosting — you know, the guy named “Professor Heewill Dismemberus” with the top hat and fangs who hits WITF-TV in Oklahoma City round about midnight on a Saturday, amid the crash and flash of lightning & thunder; he’s got a scantily-clad fortysomething assistant called Devouria and maybe one named Freako the Killer Dwarf, and together they introduce the worst f!##!*!!!ing horror movies you’ve ever seen, the perfect accompaniment for a couple of hours of hardcore vegging and/or laughing your ass off, with or without any combination of friends, bonghits and/or tequila.

5.jpgIt’s an American tradition like apple pie, baseball, Senior Prom and grisly serial murder, and one of the most twisted expressions of all-American innovation, creativity, and hamminess you’ll ever see. The horror hosts are the natural heir to the sacred crown of Vaudeville, a variation on tacky burlesque that’s family friendly, except for the bloodsucking vampires and rampant evisceration and stuff — which, let’s face it, is all meant in good fun (and what could be more fun, mUAHAHAHAHAhahahahaHAHAHAHA!!)

4.jpgAmerican Scary director John Hudgens stitches together interviews with horror host greats Zacherly, Vampira, Ghoulardi, A. Ghastly Ghoul with amazing archive footage of TV shows from the ’50s to today, along with raves and cracks and appreciations from lunatic fans and horror writers (including friend-of-Roche P.D. Cacek — HI, TRISH!!) and ex-Roche interviewee Neil Gaiman (hey, dude!), who quite frankly seems to be the only one who’s not entirely sure why he’s there, and for most of the flick I don’t think Hudgens was sure either. All is made clear in the film’s final moments when it’s revealed that Gaiman once did a guest stint as a horror host and even rose creepily out of a coffin. Rock on. Not entirely relevant, but whatever, dude.

3.jpgThe most interesting aspect of American Scary is its exploration of the horror-hosting resurgence in the modern day. Public Access cable channels have allowed areas throughout the nation feature horror host spinoffs, and they’re the fun ones — the ubernerds of today, whacked-out geeks like yours truly whose creativity leads to the creation of a horrorshow persona and the showcasing of random effluvia from the underbelly of American cinema. They’re the people I want to high-five. Keep the faith, friends.

2.jpgAmerican Scary is a frenzied, fractured, fun and hillarious museum tour through the dark side of local television. If you are a fan of old, bad horror movies, pop culture and the vagaries of American entertainment, you absolutely cannot miss this film. Visit SFIndie for more info on this and other films playing at Docfest.

Photos below, top to bottom:

Ghoulardi (Cleveland), The Ghoul (Cleveland), Vampira (Los Angeles), Zacherley (Philadelphia), Bob Wilkins (San Francisco), John Stanley (San Francisco).

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All images courtesy of SFIndie.

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