Chiller Theater and my childhood


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.


Not the Chiller Theater I’m talking about but damn it, it’s going to have to do for now.


midnight in the garden of my brain

i just had another nightmare about evil, and the devil in particular.

i dreamed a co-worker and i were sent to a huge luxury house in vancouver for something work-related. we arrived and had a hell of a time finding our way around the place. it was a labyrinth of opulent dining halls, bedrooms with views of an ocean painted red by the sunset, staircases going this way and that. eventually we realized that whatever we were sent there for must have been some kind of error, but the charming, gregarious people (all between the ages of 40-70 years old) at the house were having a lavish get-together with mountains of incredible food and invited us to stay and join them, so we did.

we ate a bunch and chatted with them and they were all really nice. then i wandered around the place and started getting spooked — something about it was creepy, ominous, but i couldn’t figure out what. then a kid i used to look after in summer camp (in real life) was there and did something to piss me off so i slapped him across the face, hard. i couldn’t believe what i’d just done. then i noticed he had a large, old bruise on the same side of his face already, and i realized i must have hit him before, that i had some sort of weird rage problem i had never been aware of. i was beside myself, i was so ashamed. eventually the party people came in the room and i thought, “that’s it, now the police are going to get involved. what an absurd thing i’ve done,” but the party people couldn’t have cared less. they laughed about it and that was that. on one hand, i was relieved, but on the other i was shocked by their lack of concern.

my co-worker and i were finally leaving the fancy house and the old couple who lived there were thanking us for coming. they had the glass i had drank water out of at dinner and asked me to hang it up on a weird, wooden chandelier-like thing before i left. i thought it was odd but said ok. when i climbed the step ladder to hang the glass, i saw that each spot on the chandelier for hanging these glasses had a different symbol that reminded me of markings i’d noticed before in the symbol of baphomet and on the cover of the necronomicon, like this:


like the symbols at the points of the star

at this point, i became alarmed. it suddenly became clear to me that this old couple had lured me into their home to acquire this item that now had a personal connection to me, and were going to use it to seriously fuck with me somehow. i don’t remember the rest of the dream well but i think i was too chickenshit to say or do anything about it. i think i just left with my co-worker and was terrified for my immortal soul.

it was a vivid dream, and definitely the scariest i’ve had in a long time. i think it’s weird that most of my dreams revolve around abstract evil. i’m so legitimately obsessed with it that i think about it in my sleep. that’s pretty nuts.

but i can already see some inspirations for this dream that have come from my recent life:

  • ben read rosemary’s baby while on his honeymoon (he said the book was underwhelming, which i always thought was a distinct possibility — i figured polanski turning it into a film would be tantamount to kubrick making the shining), and the mansion and party people in my dream were basically rip-offs of the satanists in rosemary’s baby.
  • the mansion itself was quite similar to the venue of ben and madeline’s wedding last month. not identical, but it had the same sprawling opulence and incredible views.
  • i’m not as confident about this one but i think the slapping of the boy has to do with my recent efforts to try to be kinder to the people closest to me. it’s amazing how we get comfortable — too comfortable — with those people, and allow ourselves to treat them in ways that we would never dream of treating anyone else. or at least, that’s me. i have a suspicion that most people are better at this than me, but i’m aware of it and have added it to my laundry list of things i need to improve at unless i want to die alone.

i wonder if people who read these posts hate hearing about my dreams as much as jenn does. huh.