I watched the biopic film Ed Wood a few nights ago. I saw it shortly after it came out in the mid-90’s and liked it then, even as a dumbass teenager, but wanted to revisit it as an adult because I thought I might appreciate it more now.
I’d say I liked it slightly more now, not much. I just appreciate the subtleties of Depp and Landau’s acting more than before but that’s about it. I basically ‘got’ the rest of the film on the first watch. It’s a good one, for sure. Man, Depp was great then. Why does he suck so bad now?
Anyway, Ed Wood got me thinking about the horror movies I grew up watching, or was at least aware of, when I was a kid. That got me thinking about Chiller Theater, and that’s what I want to write about now.
Chiller Theater was the name of a program that played horror movies at 2 am on Saturday night (or early Sunday morning, for you anal nerds) back in the early 90’s. My Saturday nights back then often went like this:
- lots of juice and popcorn
- 11:30 pm: Almost Live
- midnight: Saturday Night Live
- 1:30 am – 2:00 am: [killing time flicking channels, struggling to keep eyes open]
- 2:00 am – as late as I could manage: Chiller Theater
Chiller Theater had a campy title screen, and an Igor/Cryptkeeper-like voice that welcomed the viewer and introduced whatever flick was on that night. That’s it, but it’s all I needed for this to be the holy grail of my Saturday night — it was really all a horror movie fan could ask for.
I rarely made it all the way through a film on Chiller Theater. I know I watched all of Evilspeak (it was bad but I liked it), and I remember seeing the beginning of Rosemary’s Baby, and some flick about teens camping on a mountain and getting hunted down by a lunatic with a hatchet. I know there were others but I can’t remember them now. Usually, I’d only watch the first 10 or 15 minutes of a flick before I decided it sucked and that I was too tired to keep going, and I’d head to bed. Even though I thought most of the movies sucked, I still felt like a wimp for not sticking it out. I really wanted to stay up and watch that shit, no matter how bad it was.
I know that sounds lousy but I loved the ritual, and the trope of the late night horror show, and have incredible nostalgia for it. I’ve been digging online for more info on Chiller Theater but am finding multiple shows of the same name, and none of them seem to be the one I remember. The only one I can find that still ran in the early 90’s was one hosted by a guy named Ned the Dead but I watched a clip of that one and it definitely wasn’t the one I saw, so I don’t know. I think my Chiller Theater was on KVOS or some other Pacific Northwest-based channel of the time but I can’t find shit for that.
Oh well, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I remember Chiller Theater, and that I loved it, even if it mostly sucked. I hope I meet other people someday who saw the show and remember it fondly too.