In the early days of television, most programs were hosted live by local personalities. Sometimes there was a person hired for their hosting skills. More often than not, the station pulled someone from the control room or off the street. They needed someone to introduce the program, read the station’s call numbers, and read messages from sponsors. Hosts were needed to introduce Saturday morning cartoons, game shows, and the weekly horror film (Shock Theater), where the most interesting personalities were created.
American Scary: a tribute to the Golden Age of Horror Hosts offers a glimpse into the world of horror hosting with interviews from past and present personalities. You’ll meet legendary figures such as Vampira (known as the first horror host), Zacherley, Svengoolie, Marvin, Ghoulardi, Bob Wilkins, and many more. Many of these horror hosts (like Svengoolie or Ghoulardi) offered comic relief during the movie. In the case of Zacherley, he would often insert himself into a scene of the movie by recreating the set on the sound stage.
Aside from the horror host characters, the documentary also provides a short history of the presenters and where you can find horror hosts today. I personally thought the film should have gone into a little more depth here, especially how local programming disappeared from broadcast networks. Of course, horror hosts are still around on public access channels and the Internet.
The directors of American Scary also interviewed too many people, especially fans. And I wish they could have done something about the music and the organization of the narrative. But it’s fun, it’s nostalgic and it’s a good pairing for all your favorite horror films this Halloween.