by: Roger Barr
Horror movies have been around for ages, but how do we celebrate them? Sure, we break out some of our favorite ones during the Halloween season every year, but it's not like the Oscars have been particularly kind to the horror genre. Well, back in October of 1990, some people had the fantastic idea of creating an awards show specifically catered to horror films. That show was known as The Horror Hall of Fame. and was hosted by the man behind Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund.
While the Horror Hall of Fame sadly only lasted for three years, it was a fantastic celebration of all things horror. Years later, smaller award shows such as the Eyegore Awards and Spike Awards would come and go, but it was the Horror Hall of Fame that truly set the bar as far as I'm concerned. I remember watching it live on TV and thinking it was one of the greatest things to happen that October aside from Halloween itself.
It's with that in mind, that I'd like to take you on a tour of highlights from the 1990 Horror Hall of Fame awards show.
It all begins with a black & white shot of Robert Englund, dressed in a spiffy white tuxedo, cautiously walking up towards the infamous Psycho house. He opens the door and we cut to him emerging on stage at the Horror Hall of Fame awards show and announcing to the crowd, "A live audience!? This is going to be reeeeeally scary!!!"
The stage itself looked great, with the fog machines running on full blast and a huge audience, it felt like a genuinely big and important awards show. Seeing the a skull wearing headphones to let viewers know the show was being aired in stereo and hearing the announcer say, "Undead, from Universal Studios in Hollywood, California - the monster capital of the world - it's the Horror Hall of Fame! An all-star tribute to terror!", was just too great. Were horror movies finally getting the respect they deserved after all these years?
The guest list was impressive too. Chucky, Jason, The Cryptkeeper... and many more, including Big Bob? Who the hell was this Big Bob person? I would find out the answer to that question for the very first time at the end of the show in an unbelievably wonderful way. And just look at that Grim Reaper statue. Screw the Oscars... who wouldn't want that haunting, faceless award proudly displayed on their mantle?
Fun fact: The Horror Hall of Fame award was sculpted by Kevin Yagher, the makeup artist behind Freddy Krueger!
Even the sponsors for the show were displayed in blood rent fonts in front of a backdrop featuring tombstones and skeletons while pipe organ music played. What if somebody's teeth fell out while chewing Dentyne? What if somebody lost so much weight on the Ultra Slim-Fast diet that they became a skeleton? Honestly, I didn't want to leave my seat for fear of missing a single second of this awesome event.
Now, this was a long show, lasting over 90 minutes, so I'm not going to break down every single inductee into the Horror Hall of Fame. Instead, I want to share with you some of my favorite highlights from the show and then you can decide if you want to watch it from start to finish at the end of this article (which, if you ask me, you absolutely should).
Clapping Audience Monster Mask Man!
Every now and then, when the show was between segments or returning from a commercial, they would cut to shots of people in the audience. Sometimes those shots would feature monsters who were in attendance as well. It was a nice touch to show that they weren't taking it too seriously like a more typical, stuffy awards show. While some of the ghouls in the audience got full costumes - including ones who were dressed from head to toe as Frankenstein, the Mummy, or the Wolf Man - one guy clearly drew the short straw. In what I can only imagine was a last minute decision, this poor guy was thrown a cheap monster mask and told to clap on camera. And you know what? He did it with gusto! He didn't let the fact that he had the most crude costume of the evening get him down. Just like a kid with a low budget costume on Halloween who's about to run outdoors for a night of awesome trick-or-treating, he was just happy to be a part of it. So it's for that reason that I salute you, Clapping Audience Monster Mask Man! Your contributions will never be forgotten!
The Cryptkeeper Co-Host!
Robert Englund was a great choice to host the awards, but wanna know who was better? His co-host, the Cryptkeeper! Every time they were about to cut to a commercial, the Cryptkeeper would pop up to let viewing audiences know what was coming up next on the Horror Hall of Fame. Naturally, he'd deliver these macabre morsels of info with the thing he's known best for: cheesy horror one-liners. Here are just a few of his best ones:
"We've got the steamy story behind the Psycho shower scene, but first, a little torture... commercials! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!"
"Hitchcock was my hero when he yelled 'Cut!'. We never knew if he meant kill the scene, or kill the actors! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!"
"I don't know if this is face powder, or my dear departed sister, Helen! Thinking of departing my dearies? Over my undead body! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!"
"Don't go away, we'll be ROT back! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!"
"Somewhere here is the winner of the best horror film of the year. DYING to know, aren't you? Good! You'll find out after these GRAVELY important messages! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!"
"Good night Robert! See you on Tales From the Crypt, kiddies! Unpleasant dreams! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!"
Classic Cryptkeeper, right? Well, that last line he delivered was particularly fun, because the Cryptkeeper actually dressed up like Freddy Krueger! Guess that makes him the Cryptkrueger? Damnit! They should've had me as a writer on this show...
Elvira Loves Mug Root Beer!
Even the commercial breaks were fun to watch. Granted, I think all classic commercials are fun to watch, but since most of these ones were based on Halloween and horror, they were extra special. This first one featured Elvira plugging Mug root beer and her "Go Psycho With Elvira!" Halloween contest. It features the original Psycho house, parties with monsters in a haunted house, and some awesomely weird guy at the end who proudly proclaims, "I love my mug!" Look closely during the commercial and you'll even see a cameo by the one and only Michael Berryman hanging out with Elvira!
A Gremlin Annoying Audience Members!
As I mentioned before, there were some classic Universal Monsters in the audience, but there were a few occasions when a Gremlin popped up in the audience. He was visibly excited to be at the show, and his twitchy fervor was clearly annoying and distracting the two audience members in front of him. Didn't they learn anything from Gremlins or Gremlins 2? If there's one place we know they're gonna cause chaos, it's in a theater. Too bad Hulk Hogan wasn't in attendance to put this Gremlin in its place. Then again, the heartbreak on its face when they later announced that Gremlins 2 wasn't the winner of the 1990 Horror Movie of the Year award, was absolutely priceless.
Sam Kinison's World Screamieres!
Yes, they brought in Sam Kinison to do a "World Screamiere" bit in the Horror Hall of Fame show. And while he wasn't in horror movies, he did explain why he was there: "I've had experiences in horror... I've been married twice, and my movie agent has been legally dead for three years OH OOOOOHHHHHH!!!!!" Classic Kinison.
Also, how can you go wrong with Sam Kinison providing commentary over the world premiere... er... "screamiere" of trailers for the new Psycho IV, Jacob's Ladder, Maniac Cop 2, Graveyard Shift, and Dark Shadows horror movie trailers? I particularly liked his commentary for Maniac Cop 2: "Maniac Cop. Doors don't stop him. Walls don't stop him. Bullets don't stop him! Has anyone tried a donut!?" What more could you ask for? Well, I'd ask for the bit to go on much longer, because it only lasted a paltry two minutes.
When I Learned You Could Make
Monster Fangs From Starburst Candy!
I remember seeing this when I was younger and being absolutely amazed. Makeup artist Steve Johnson (who worked on films like The Abyss and Ghostbusters) and his wife, scream queen and creator of the greatest exercise video in the history of the world, Linnea Quigley, had a segment in the show called "Monster Makeups". They were quick segments where Steve demonstrated on Linnea how you could create awesome monster effects on a super low budget. One of them involved using Jell-O, paint, and powder to create a convincing open wound, but my favorite was how he created monster fangs from Starburst candies! This technique was originally invented by Dick Smith using chewing gum and peanuts, but for this demonstration, Steve used flattened a strawberry flavored Starburst candy to make some fake gums to place over Linnea's teeth. He then took some pieces of a lemon one, rolled them up into fangs, and stuck them onto the fake gums in her mouth. The end result was a seriously great looking set of fangs! Amazing! So now you have a new Halloween activity to try out this season - you can actually make monster fangs from Starburst candies!
Clarence Clemons In A
Halloween Miller Lite Commercial!
Another commercial I absolutely loved was a Miller Lite Halloween commercial featuring Clarence Clemons. In case you're not familiar with him, Clarence (aka "The Big Man") was the saxophonist from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, but he also appeared in movies like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Fatal Instinct, and a boatload o' TV shows. In this commercial, he's promoting Miller's contest to send someone out to Universal Studios for Halloween. All you had to do to win was be lucky enough to find the special orange Halloween can hidden in a pack of Miller Lite. I don't know who found that winning unique Halloween can, but I really hope it still exists out there in some horror fan's collection. The commercial itself looks amazing too, featuring a big party in a haunted house, a mummy who can stand upside-down on the ceiling for some reason, flying vampire bats, dancing skeletons, and Clarence having his lucky can struck by lightening as it turns black & orange while two lovely lady spirits smile approvingly. It may have been shot in 1990, but it still screams of the eighties!
Jason Voorhees & Danny Pintauro!
Now here were two presenters nobody was expecting. Danny Pintauro, from Cujo and Who's The Boss?, walking out with Jason Voorhees to induct Night of the Living Dead into the Horror Hall of Fame? I gotta say, kudos to Danny for doing his best to play it straight and deliver his lines while Jason just stood there looking menacing. When Danny announced that two of the original producers, Russ Streiner and John Russo, would be accepting the award on behalf of George Romero and the rest of the crew involved with the film, Jason slams it down on the podium. For a split second, you think Jason's gonna bludgeon Danny with that heavy award. It was funny to see Jason just standing there, looming behind Streiner and Russo as they delivered their speeches. Also, I'm pretty sure this is the first time Robert Englund and Jason Voorhees shared the same stage until 2003 when Freddy vs. Jason finally happened.
Chucky As A Presenter!
As if the Cryptkeeper and Jason Voorhees weren't enough, they also had Chucky show up for a segment called "Horror Around The World", which featured foreign horror films including The Lift, Amsterdamned, Wohi Bhayaaanak Raat, and A Chinese Ghost Story. While Chucky's lines weren't all that funny - his best being when he told Robert Englund, "I thought you weren't going to wear your makeup tonight!" - it was great seeing him as a presenter behind that podium. I'm convinced that we need more puppet presenters in award shows. And you gotta admit, Chucky really classed up the joint in that snazzy white tux of his!
Vincent Price & Roddy McDowall!
There were many wonderful tributes over the course of the evening, but the most touching and heartfelt one had to be when they had Roddy McDowall induct Vincent Price into the Horror Hall of Fame. The two were friends for over 50 years, and it was so nice seeing them have a conversation with each other. "I think you're one of the sweetest, kindest dearest, most elegant fellows I've ever met in my life. I think it is totally appropriate that I'm honored to give you the lifetime achievement award for being just plain EVIL.", Roddy told his old friend. Vincent replied with a beautiful acceptance speech:
"Thank you. Thank you. You know, when I heard you were going to be kind enough to present this to me, I knew that you would come dressed correctly. Beautifully dressed as always... groomed as they say. But I didn't quite know what to wear to be an inductee into the Horror Hall of Fame, so I put on my usual little outfit with a touch of blood, a little death, and no face. It's wonderful. I love it. And I'm very thrilled to know, quite truly for all of us who've been in horror pictures throughout the years, we've all thought that they've been vastly underrated. They've done an awful lot for movies, to bring people into pictures, to thrill people, to give them the fun of a scare, and also, I think, to bring a lot of people together. You know when I used to take my girlfriends to early horror films with my friends like Boris Karloff and people like that, it was wonderful because she would lean over and grab my hand. And many, many a romance has come out of that. Just think of it. I'm a romantic actor, and I thank you."
What a couple of class acts and a truly wonderful moment between two longtime friends in the horror business. I love it.
Big Bob The Spider Grabs The Award!
Amidst some tough competition including Tremors, Nightbreed, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch, it was Arachnophobia that won the 1990 Horror Movie of the Year at the end of the show. When Anthony Perkins handed the award to director Frank Marshall, everyone expected a standard speech. Frank was indeed very gracious in his acceptance of the award with the writers, producers, the crew, and the cast. This was the cue for one particularly special cast member to arrive: Big Bob! In case you didn't know it, the main spider in Arachnophobia was named Big Bob, and he showed up for the event in style by descending from the ceiling on his web. He then latched on to the Horror Hall of Fame award statue and proudly took it up into the ceiling, presumably for a late night snack. Amazing!
Honestly, can you think of a better way to end the inaugural Horror Hall of Fame show than with Big Bob the spider actually showing up to claim the Horror Movie of the Year award? Maybe if they dressed him in a miniature spider tux, but that's really the only way they could have improved this bit. Never forget that this was the only award show in history where the big winner of the night was a big spider.
It was a great first outing for the Horror Hall of Fame awards show, and while it's sadly no longer running, it did go on for two more years. Maybe I'll cover the 1991 and 1992 Horror Hall of Fame shows sometime in the future. After all, how could I not after Robert Englund concluded the inaugural show by announcing the follow-up with a Freddy style delivery: "I look forward to seeing you all next year when we do the sequel..."
"...The Horror Hall of Fame 2! HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!"
Now that you've seen my favorite highlights from the show, you can watch the 1990 Horror Hall of Fame in its entirety!
So what did you think of the 1990 Horror Hall of Fame show? Did you have any favorite moments or think some other films deserved to win awards? Drop a comment below to let me know!
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