Horror Hosting Tradition Revived in Arizona for First Time Since ‘80s
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
Updated: Friday, July 20, 2012 14:07
Andrea Beesley and Jeremiah Wilkerson — the couple who filled the community’s horror and sci-fi movie needs at The Royale Cinema in Mesa — have two babies on the way this July.
One is tiny human kind, while the other is a project that’ll revive something Arizona hasn’t had since the 1980s – horror hosting.
Horror hosting began in 1957, when movie production company Screen Gems released a bundle of Universal horror flicks for televised syndication. It was suggested that these films be “broadcast,” which in some cases meant they would be introduced and presented by a TV station’s weatherman dressed as a vampire. As more horror and sci-fi movies were released as public domain, more US television stations developed their own locally grown horror hosts.
The last Arizonan host was Edmus Scarey on KNXV-TV — that is, until Wilkerson and Beesley threw on some lab coats and became Dr. Midnite and Nurse Nocturna.
Technically, the Dr. Midnite crew won’t break the decades-long stretch because they’ll be hosting online via DrMidniteShow.com instead of buying station time, but they do plan to revive the ever-important local element of these shows by presenting live at venues such as FilmBar and Phoenix Art Museum.
Wilkerson, who grew up in Iowa just in time to catch the tail end of horror hosting, is considered the evil genius of the operation.
“I feel like my generation kind of grew up [on local horror hosts], and […] instead of doing it out of necessity, I feel like we’re doing it out of love,” Wilkerson said. “We really admire and appreciate something unique and fun, so we’re really excited to keep the tradition alive. We don’t want to see it go anywhere.”
When the Royale Cinema in Mesa closed, Wilkerson suggested keeping the spirit of the alternative theater alive and using Beeseley’s established brand as the Midnite Movie Mamacita to build a horror film community around this new project. Beesley and writer/critic Mark Moorhead (who is also penning the script for Dr. Midnite) unsuccessfully attempted to get something similar off the ground “a few years ago.”
“It’s not super mainstream but that’s always been a challenge, especially with Midnight Movie Mamacita,” Beesley said. “We’re showing older movies that people may not have heard of or are not particularly interested in but we’re hoping that with the enhancement of having the characters around to make it more entertaining that it should be an experience they want to try.”
In traditional form, the audience will tune into their hosts in small breaks, ranging from 15 seconds to five minutes, throughout the screening.
“It’s really hammy,” Beesley said of their recent promotional shoot, for which she and Wilkerson got into character. “If you watch all the old horror hosts, everything is very campy and fun with double entendres. And for me to not be the main character is kind of nice, too. […] Once I kind of get the lab coat on and my nurse hat and my little eye patch, it’s pretty easy to fall into the character.”
That probably has something to do with working among the amazing sets in the horror-ific Monsterland Bar & Grill (+ seasonal haunted house), where Wilkerson works as security.
The community is also contributing in anticipation of the show — from the help of public appearances with Zachary Jackson, aka Becky B, and local band The Green Slime, which composed the Dr. Midnite theme song, to friends who have loaned camera equipment and graphic design know-how.
Local filmmakers may eventually get in on the show, though Wilkerson and Beesley are set on using public domain films, such as the 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead” or 1972’s “Blood Freak,” for now.
Filming will begin in June — a month or two before Beesley’s due date — but you can catch Nurse Nocturna, Dr. Midnite and Becky B at Phoenix Comicon, where they’re presenting a horror-hosting panel titled “Don’t Touch That Dial” on Saturday, May 26, in room 131 BC at 6 p.m.
The first Dr. Midnite Show will be up Friday, July 13.