Svengoolie – This Guy Gets It!


I have discovered my true calling – I must become a horror host.

What’s a horror host? Think of Grandpa Fred in Gremlins 2, the avuncular vampire with a puppet friend who introduces horror films on the Clamp Network:

And I’ve just noticed the film Fred’s introducing is the same mad tentacle beast attack film that appeared in the intro to Malcolm in the Middle!

Horror hosts weren’t really a thing in the UK, but America seemed to have loads of them. One for each city, by the looks of things. They were there to provide continuity, context and comic relief around screenings of horror films. Campy costumes, cheap gaudy sets, cheesy jokes and the sort of horror I can stomach – it’s my perfect job!

Elvira is undoubtedly the most famous of all the horror hosts. She was such a personality that she eventually got her own film – the horror host became the hosted! But earlier this week I learned of another – Chicago’s Svengoolie.

Looking like Coffin Joe’s less evil cousin, Svengoolie would emerge from his colourful coffin to introduce horror films on Chicago TV. Here he is introducing Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. How about that incredible CG intro? And those rubber chickens:

And it looks like he’s still at it! You can play Svengoolie games on his website and everything! Svengoolie apparently does public appearances too. The next one promises “family fun with live entertainment, a carnival, a special railroad exhibit, food and more.”

A special railroad exhibit! Honestly, being a horror host looks like the best job in the world. How can I become a horror host?

But I’m writing about Svengoolie not just because I’ve now found my calling, but also because reading about him struck a chord.

I recently wrote about my vow to embrace naffness, as cool things exhaust me. Well, it looks like I’m not alone. Writing about Svengoolie on Bloody Disgusting, author Patrick Bromley momentarily sang from the same hymn sheet as me. Most of these emphases are mine:

“When I was a kid, watching monster movies on Svengoolie was considered cute by those around me, but by ’94 I was no longer at an age where watching monster movies and horror hosts was thought to be “cute.” That was ok. It left me with a choice: appear cool to my classmates, or continue to watch horror and be happy. It’s the choice that many a fan has faced at some point in his or her life, and the way we choose helps define who we are as a person. Svengoolie helped keep me on the path of being a devoted horror fan. But as the genre continues to dominate TV and clean up at the box office in 2018, loving horror is finally considered cool thanks to sites like this and people like Svengoolie, who has helped carry the torch for nearly 40 years.

“The thing about Svengoolie is this: he’s so uncool that he’s cool. His jokes are incredibly corny. His set is sparse, his show cheaply produced in such a way that it’s not too far off from a public access production. There’s nothing edgy or hip about him, but because he has remained true to himself year after year – the show is the show is the show – he has circled back around to being hip again. He exists in a space that is free of irony. He has nothing but affection for these movies and doesn’t present them in a mocking way, even if he does make jokes about them. Plus, the show is hipster proof; they can’t make fun of anything about Svengoolie that the show isn’t already making fun of about themselves first. Svengoolie doesn’t care about being cool. He just wants to entertain us, to make us laugh, and to celebrate monster movies, reminding us lifelong fans why we love this stuff and introducing a new generation of would-be horror nerds to movies they’re discovering, as I did, through his show. I can’t think of anything cooler than that.

YES SIR! Svengoolie personifies naffness, which makes him immortal!

You can read Patrick’s full tribute to Svengoolie here. Would recommend.

So my embracing naffness was but the first step on my journey to becoming a horror host. How exciting.

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