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Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

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06 March, 2010

DVD Review: VIRGINIA CREEPERS: THE HORROR HOST TRADITION OF THE OLD DOMINION

Title: VIRGINIA CREEPERS: THE HORROR HOST TRADITION OF THE OLD DOMINION

Year of Release—Film: 2009

Year of Release—DVD: 2009

DVD Label: Horse Archer Productions


[Ed. Note: If you happen to be a host of such a program, and would like to see it reviewed here, please contact me at unimonster64@gmail.com.]

Though the Horror-Host phenomena of the late ‘50’s through the ‘70’s was a national one, it’s readily apparent that some areas of the country were more receptive to the concept than others. Chicago was a hotbed of hosts, as was Cleveland, Ohio. The Midwest in general seemed more eager to accept the idea of the Horror-Host than most of the country, with the possible exception of the South. And of the Southern states, Virginia had perhaps the richest history of Hosted Horror shows. A new documentary from Horse Archer Productions [http://www.horsearcherproductions.com] explores that history, and looks at the future of Horror-Hosting in the Old Dominion state.

VIRGINIA CREEPERS: THE HORROR HOST TRADITION OF THE OLD DOMINION is the work of long-time friend of the Crypt Sean Kotz and co-producer/director Christopher Valluzzo. Hosted by Mr. Lobo, the host of the nationally syndicated Cinema Insomnia, currently on air in Richmond, Virginia, this is an affectionate memoir by Virginians, for Virginians. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing that those of us from the rest of the country who love the Horror-Host tradition can’t take from this—in fact, that’s one of the film’s strengths. Not all of us come from a place with such a thriving legacy of Hosted Horror shows, yet all of us can relate to the way the Hosts and the fans connected in such a personal way. Hosts were more than middle-aged men in fright wigs and make-up; they were our escorts through the stygian darkness, lighting the way with humor and a friendly presence. These might not have been our Hosts, but we recognize the archetype, and the kindred spirits who called them their own.

From Virginia’s first Host, Jonathan, of Nightmare Theater on Roanoke’s WSLS-10, who debuted in 1958, to Karlos Borloff, the modern-day host of Monster Madhouse, on Fairfax Public Access (FPA-10), virtually every Host of the Dominion state is examined, through archival footage, photographs, audio recordings, and interviews—dozens of interviews. Most of the interviewees are the Hosts themselves, and those who were closely connected with the productions. Many are the fans who still have vivid recollections of watching their favorite Host or Hostess decades before. All convey the impression that, whatever else may have been happening in the state at that point in time, it has always been a hospitable climate for the Horror-Host. Though the documentary has a two-hour run-time, it seldom drags. The large number of Hosts covered insures that the film moves briskly from one to another, leaving little excess time to slow down the pacing. The music is a definite selling point for the film, as it adds a lively background mood to what could otherwise be a rather dry series of interviews.

The disc does have one flaw worth noting, though it is more of an issue with the DVD, rather than the film itself. That flaw, a significant one to the Unimonster’s tired old ears, is the lack of either subtitles or closed-captioning. The closer I get to the half-century mark, the less tolerance I have for low audio levels. While a person with normal hearing would doubtless have no problem with the lack of such amenities, they are bothersome to me. These are minor flaws, however, and don’t do more than cause a minimal distraction from the viewer’s enjoyment of the film.

One caveat is in order before I give this disc my enthusiastic recommendation. As long-time readers are aware, the first incarnation of the Unimonster’s Crypt was my regular column at Sean Kotz’s Creaturescape.com, and I still consider Sean a good friend in the horror community. One of the Hosts that are featured in this documentary is Count Gore De Vol, another good friend and someone who kindly reposts my rants and tantrums at his site. Some may wonder if the close involvement of two friends of mine has influenced my recommendation in any way, to which I respond, “Of course it has!” That by no means detracts from this documentary, from how much I enjoyed it, or from the validity of that recommendation. If you’re someone who shares the Unimonster’s love of Hosted-Horror shows, then you owe it to yourself to visit http://virginiacreepersmovie.com and decide for yourself.


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