I’ll be quite honest. Until I was contacted by Felix in regards to submitting a piece with this series, I was not familiar with Cinema Crazed. I quickly remedied this by checking out their site. The word “prolific” comes to mind. Cinema Crazed runs the gamut from horror, to mainstream features, to television, and more. I was also impressed with the amount of articles and reviews that they managed to publish on a weekly basis. Not impressed enough for me to increase my own output, but that’s solely because I’m a lazy bastard.
For his submission to this year’s Halloween Horrors series, Felix choose to look back at the Horror Hall of Fame awards that aired around Halloween during the early 90’s. While serving as a reflection of these events, this piece also reminded me of the excitement that I (and presumably, some of you) would feel as the holiday approached during our own childhood.
Felix had his entry submitted very early on, but was unfortunately never heard from again. I can only assume that he was eaten by bears shortly after. His memory will live on in the piece that follows.
The Horror Hall of Fame
Before “Spike Horror Awards,” before “The Fangoria Awards”, there was “The Horror Hall of Fame.” From 1990 to 1992, “The Horror Hall of Fame” was an annual awards show filmed at Universal Studios that sought to celebrate the horror and fantasy genre much in the way the Oscars celebrated film as a whole. It was three years of television where horror was given center stage, allowing the fans to proudly celebrate their love for horror of all kinds, and not be reduced to the margins Hollywood likes to push the fan base in to. “The Horror Hall of Fame” knew and understood that horror is a perfectly valid form of storytelling as well as a genre where genius filmmakers could flourish.
With “The Horror Hall of Fame” we got to see the pageantry and glitz of a normal awards ceremony. Except we got to visit it with Fred Krueger himself, Robert Englund, who hosted every year in a dapper suit and bow tie. Oscar sometimes throws the horror community a bone, but “The Horror Hall of Fame” was where the scene was. It didn’t just display the gore and grue of horror, but also presented a lot of the brilliant storytelling behind the genre as well. Growing up with a horror fanatic like my mother allowed me and my brother to see it every year. One special Halloween afternoon saw me and my brother rushing home from school to prepare for Trick or Treating with our little sister and cousin, and watching the ceremony my mom recorded on VHS the night before.
After a wonderful evening or trick or treating, we came back home to finish the ceremony and cap off a wonderful Halloween. Truth be told, “The Horror Hall of Fame” owes a lot to the benefit of nostalgia, mainly because of its production value. While it surely aspires to be a horror version of the Oscars, even honoring a slew of iconic horror movies, a lot of the broadcasts all feel so cobbled together and edited to look like a long award broadcast. There are a lot of very long retrospectives about films like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Alien” , as well as ten minute long looks back at Boris Karloff and the legacy of EC Comics. What’s left is Robert Englund presenting a ton of clips and ads for current horror movies to an audience that feels smaller than what the broadcast would have us believe. All the while, host Englund keeps up the maniacal tone with a wry sense of humor and some good old fashioned tongue in cheek award presentations in the spirit of the event.
To break up the monotony of the long montages and speeches, there is some stand up comedy from “The Amazing Jonathan” who indulges the audience with gruesome prop comedy, and works hard to involve the audience. As well, there are some excellent special effects demonstrations by Steve Johnson and the legendary Linnea Quigley called “Scare Tactics.” This series of segments always stuck out with me even as a child, because the masterful editing, dark comedy, and great props always kept me in awe. After all those years when “The Horror Hall of Fame” was defunct, those segments burned themselves into my brain as one of the reasons why I became so fascinated with the cogs and mechanics of gore and grue. It also started my lifelong obsession with Linnea Quigley, but that’s a whole other story. In either case, the fact that all three shows were apparently spliced together to form one whole show never worked against the specials.
They were charming in their own way, and seemed to have a genuine love for the spirit of horror. No way would you ever see the Oscars pay homage to “Texas Chainsaw Massacre“. The 1990’s were a time where many studios took horror much too seriously, and tried to turn every genre entry in to some form of award fodder or critically acclaimed gem. There weren’t too many instances of flat-out horror entertainment until the late nineties. “The Horror Hall of Fame” covered all the bases with fun montages and silly special effects along with an awareness of how the genre continues to challenge societal norms. Before the age of the internet, not many people were able to learn the full story of how the government aided in taking down the edgy and groundbreaking EC Comics.
The broadcasts also allowed us to look back at the lives of Boris Karloff and Roger Corman with spirited montages about their work and testimonials by their friends and family. It’s a shame that “The Horror Hall of Fame” never saw part IV, since the ceremony had a bit of magic to it that made you want to keep watching, even when it slowed to a lull at times. It was also made evident in part III that the producers were working toward a more mainstream appeal by honoring more contemporary horror movies. For example, the Cryptkeeper has the honor of co-hosting the second ceremony alongside Englund, and there’s a heavy emphasis on Chucky in the last two specials. Considering Freddy Krueger was dead by 1990, it makes perfect sense since (beside Candyman) Chucky is pretty much the only movie maniac of the 90’s.
While I think “The Horror Hall of Fame” had surefire potential to become a better ceremony than the previous years, it had its novelties, its quirks (Aaah!! It’s the Terrifying Phyllis Diller!), and a lot of nice little nuances that you could inspire a few chortles here and there. Whether it was picking out Adrienne Barbeau in the crowds, the audience dancing to Bobby “Boris” Pickett singing “The Monster Mash,” Robert Englund’s stunning humility after Sam Kinison introduces a very lengthy montage dedicated to the death of Freddy Krueger, or one of the final appearances by an elderly Vincent Price as he introduces the best horror movie of 1991, “The Horror Hall of Fame” was such a neat annual treat that successfully lent some spice to Halloween.