Prior to film school I spent nearly a decade in the classroom of USA’s Up All Night. Ronda Shear, Gilbert Gottfried, and Caroline Schlitt (who was later replaced by Ronda) were my instructors and they taught me the beauty of sleazy filmmaking.
During adolescence I didn’t fully comprehend what the term B-movie meant. I was so enamored with horror I tried to view everything I could possibly get my hands on. I knew there was a difference in the actors that appeared in The Toxic Avenger as opposed to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that Halloween was a lot scarier than Class Of Nuke Em’ High or Sorority Babes At The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, but they were all so wonderful to see. With my insane trips to the local mom and pop videostore to nab eight to ten movies at a time I went through their horror section very quickly. I even got to know them personally and they would order back catalog titles and set them to the side for me, but it still wasn’t enough.
Up All Night became my supplement. No where else could you see such an assortment of independent low budget horror. Every weekend scantily clad bimbos, final girls, creatures from beyond the radioactive grave, mad scientists, seducing vampires, demons, prehistoric cavemen, spacemen, and idiot jocks populated confusing nonsensical plotlines while Gilbert and Ronda made fun of themselves and the films we were viewing.
The horror host, or horror curator has been around since the 50’s with The Vampira Show. Maila Nurmi created a seductive vampire character and introduced films every week for a year before the show was canceled. She then went on to play in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space and in the eighties was hired to help develop a new horror show which would eventually provide Cassandra Peterson the chance to host as Elvira. The Mistress of the Dark is probably the most well known horror host in the history of this niche profession. So while Up All Night did not invent anything new, its wealth of low brow horror presented to the masses for nearly a decade is unprecedented.
I am forever in debt to the USA network for showing me the pure joy of genre filmmaking. I am also a huge Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan which also provided a parallel education. MST3K provided the beauty of terrible cinema and the ability to intellectually poke fun of horrid films. Through the lessons learned by both shows an eclectic taste for the genre was born.
The current popularity of SyFy’s Sharknado proves there is still a niche for bad genre fare. Lloyd Kaufman’s empire – if you will – is also evidence of the unspoken love of fans. With the release of Return To Nuke Em’ High on the horizon why aren’t there more easily accessible horror hosts? Even TCM Underground has been taken away and all that remains is AMC’s 31 Days Of Horror. Local hosts like Svengoolie, Karlos Borloff, Mr. Lobo, Gunther Dedmund, Count de Vol, and Dr. Gangrene will have to do. I would be ecstatic if they brought back Joe Bob Briggs, but something tells me syndicated horror curators are a thing of the past.
Here’s where I would like to list some of the great titles we were given by Up All Night. These films all provide something useful to a film education, even if it is what not to do. Thank you Up All Night for providing the opportunity to see: Surf Nazi’s Must Die, Basket Case, Fertilize The Blaspheming Bombshell, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Monster In The Closet, The Revenge of the Teenage Vixens From Outer Space, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Frankenhooker, Rock N’ Roll High School, C.H.U.D. II: Bud The CHUD, H.O.T.S., Chopper Chicks In Zombietown, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, and all of the Vice Academy films.
Who’s your favorite horror host? Do you think they can bring back horror curators? Or am I just crazy for having such nostalgia for Up All Night?