Robert Michael’s “Bobb” Cotter’s Vampira and Her Daughters: Women Horror Movie Hosts from the 1950s into the Internet Era

vampiraWell hello there, boys and ghouls!  Devilishly delightful weather we’re having, wouldn’t you say?  Time to curl up with something scary, lie on your bed of needles, and while the day away until the sun sets and things really get going, am I right?  And who better to curl up with than a superbly strange horror host?  While many people can think of famous male hosts, like Svengoolie, Joe Bob Briggs, Count Gore De Vol and Zacherley, there are plenty of wicked women who’ve taken up the mantel as well.  And with Cotter’s Vampira, these ghastly gals get their due.

Cotter digs deep into the history of the horror host, and uncovers a wealth of knowledge about these hidden stars. From classic hosts like Elvira, Moona Lisa, and of course Vampira herself, to YouTube and web-hosts like Miss Misery Rosxy Tyler and Penny Dreadful (who pens a glorious intro to this book, by-the-by), Cotter assembles female horror hosts from sexy to scary, with everything in between. And he does a bloody great job with it.

There’s so much fun information on what it’s like to be a horror host here including, how they got into the biz, and what they’ve got going on beyond those bloody spotlights. (Hint: most of them are incredibly talented in other areas as well.) As a horror fan who spent the 80s and 90s going to every opening weekend of the latest creepshow, I don’t know what I’ve been doing with my life, honestly.  I feel I’ve let the genre down.  But I’m so happy that there were (and are) so many lovely ladies bringing the creepy to folks for everyone to enjoy.  And I’m even more impressed that these ghouls have been able to provide such creepy thrills and chuckles while balancing so much else in their lives.

While Cotter digs into the role of the horror host(ess) with gusto, and shines a light on so many women who have done so much for the genre, there are many women that only get a brief mention. Why is that, you ask? Good question; with most of these women taking up their devilish duties on local access channels and basic cable from years past, there’s very little available on some of these wicked women. But it gladdens my heart that Cotter was able to do so much research, and find so many ladies who helmed horror shows. Why?  Because for a long time, horror seemed to be the purview of men, at least in terms of conventions, comic book shops, and the folks who talked about the genre.

I remember growing up and hitting the horror conventions, getting asked if I was press, or if I was attending with my boyfriend. Finding female horror hosts made me feel like I wasn’t alone, that I had a crypt full of ladies waiting to chat about our love of Night of the Living Dead, and how much we loved to watch Night of the Comet and the latest Friday the 13 joint despite ourselves.  Not to mention the feminist power of a woman leading the charge on a weekly horror show.  It was a way to not take over, but to show that we were here, and proud to let our fiendish freak flag fly.  And for that, I’m forever in their debt.  For collecting an encyclopedia of women who took the stage, I’m now forever in debt to Cotter as well.

As for me and the horror host I grew up with?  Back in the day, I tuned in to DC’s Channel 20’s “Creature Feature” with its host, Count Gore De Vol. He was my horror buddy, showing me all sorts of classic films…and quite a few clunkers, which he gloriously skewered. But back then, I had no idea that he was just one of many, many horror hosts who took to local television channels in the wee hours. And while there are several excellent documentaries and books that cover the horror host phenomenon, Vampira and Her Daughters is a must for horror fans looking for a comprehensive look at the female horror hosts of the past, and present. Gentler sex? Don’t buy that for a minute.

(Macfarland, 2017)

 

Denise Kitashima Dutton

Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is *not* hell in music form, and that beer is better when it's a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic Fangirl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, with multi-tasking with her Kindle.

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