Horror hosts have been bringing us laughs and frights since Vampira and Zacherley charmed their ways into our living rooms in the 1950’s. Since then, there have been dozens of hosts bringing us that special atmosphere you just can’t get with just watching a horror movie on its own. Horror hosts have mostly been a local phenomenon, each with their own following, so watching them on a weekly basis builds a sense of community. Still, occasionally there are breakthroughs; case in point: Terrible Tim who hosts Drive-In Movie Maniacs in Kansas City, Missouri just signed a national deal in the United States and may be headed to a television near you.
From the press release:
Drive-In Movie Maniacs will begin nationwide syndication on RetroTV, ActionTV and The Family Channel this October, covering more than 60 million households. Host Terrible Tim is bringing classic horror TV back from the dead and turning the world of horror hosting on its severed head, all across the USA!
Drive-In Movie Maniacs premiered on five local stations in 2013 and have been steadily growing since then. For watchers who don’t use cable, they also have live streaming on Facebook where viewers can comment in and Terrible Tim will answer the comments. The interludes from the movie are silly, funny and a throwback to the horror hosts of the past. I had a chance to speak with Tim Sweeten, the man behind the Maniacs about the national deal and what started it all.
Rue Morgue: Hey, Tim! Thank you for speaking with me today. What got you started into horror hosting?
Tim Sweeten: I grew up a huge horror host fan with my dad. We used to stay up and watch late movies together when I was a kid, so horror hosting was a huge part of my childhood. In 2009, I found a couple of new horror host shows being aired on Public Access TV in the Kansas City area, which sparked a re-interest in the genre for me, although none them were being made on a local level. I thought, “why is nobody doing this locally anymore?” KC has such a rich tradition of horror host shows produced right here, dating as far back as the 1950s, and it seemed a bit sacrilegious not to continue the legacy. KC hadn’t had a true horror host in 25 years, hence Drive-In Movie Maniacs was born. But in all honesty, it’s all really a tribute to my father, so I blame him. <3
RM: That’s really sweet. I can relate to the father tribute. How did you get the name Drive-In Movie Maniacs?
TS: At the time I was working for a drive-in theater, so we knew we wanted to do something tied to that theme. While the show was in preproduction, we had a bunch of different ideas, but nothing ever really felt right. At the time, a friend was running a live streaming channel and wanted our show, but he wanted a double feature for his programming, so he threw out the name Drive-In Maniacs Double Feature. However, the show was never intended to be a double feature. I mean we already had connections at, and were geared for, local Public Access channels, not streaming. So I offered to stretch our material in order to meet his programming needs, but explained that we were not meant to be a double feature. I just took a play off the name he had mentioned, but shortened it to Drive-In Movie Maniacs; it had a flow to it. Then I just added the word Movie and changing Maniac to Maniacs just seemed natural.
RM: It really does have a nice flow in the name. Who are your favorite horror hosts and which are the biggest influences?
TS: My favorites are the ones I grew up watching here in KC. Friday Fright Night, hosted by Hugh Bowen was a major influence on us as a group. Uncle Ed’s All Night Live was the show that really got me hooked on horror hosts. Every night we eagerly awaited 11pm as to recite the “All Night Live Pledge.” Then came KC’s biggest horror host of all time, Roberta Solomon, aka Crematia Mortem, and her Creature Feature/Friday Nightmare on channel 41. She was KC’s last real horror host and set the bar pretty high for any and all who follow. She officially passed the KC Horror Host “torch” to me in 2014, and subsequently she did a special guest spot on our show last season. It was awesome! She will always have my heart; her and Terrible Tim kinda have a secret “thing” going on (lol). She has been very inspirational and shown great affection towards us, and we adore her! Roberta is a great friend and colleague, can’t say enough great things about her. ALTHOUGH, KC has a long tradition of horror hosts stemming back to Gregory Grave, Marilyn The Witch and Penny Dreadful in the 1950s & 60s. We wish to honor their legacies and the tradition of horror hosting in Kansas City.
RM: I had no idea how much history Kansas City had with horror hosting. What type of horror movies to you like to show best?
TS: We tend to show only public domain films, but I love the old Italian stuff form the 60’s & 70’s; they just don’t make movies like that anymore and ANYTHING starring Barbara Steele. She is the Queen of Scream! But I also love the Hammer Films, and anything with Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee is always fantastic! I try to pick the best public domain films I can find. It’s a lot of homework.
RM: It sounds like it. How did the character of Terrible Tim come to be?
TS: The character developed over time through lots of trial and error. I look back at the early episodes and cringe sometimes (lol)! It wasn’t until middle of season two that the character was really discovered. I was trying way too hard when we first started, so I stopped trying to be scary and just starting being goofy. That’s when I really found the character. Terrible Tim is basically my own personality on steroids, but he’s really kind of a tragic figure. The whole basis of the shows revolves around Terrible Tim’s struggles in life, whether it’s getting into a fight with pro wrestler Jerry Lawler, battling it out with his nemesis, The Haunted Creepys, or getting anally probed by Aliens, you as a viewer get invested in his trials and tribulations.
RM: I can imagine that extra-terrestrial anal probing would make for difficult days. What is your favorite scary movie and what movie is your favorite to host?
TS: Hmm, hard question to answer. I like all the movies we show and could never pick just one. I love the idea of bringing these films to a new generation and at the same time preserving cinema. I feel it’s a noble cause. We love introducing people to films they may have never seen; that’s what it’s all about for us, just sharing our passion for these old horror flicks. I don’t think I ever really mentioned any movies that I REALLY like, so here’s a few of my favorites that we’ve shown: The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Night of the Living Dead, The She Beast, just to name a few. Night of The Living Dead really holds up today because of the social implications on race that it entails. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, but I’m always shocked when they shoot Duane Jones character, Ben, and it’s like…holy shit! It’s more relevant now than ever as far as I’m concerned. Same with The Werewolf of Washington, when we did that episode we had no clue Trump would actually become President. Looking back now, it’s seems very foreshadowing. We are very aware of the themes of the movies we show, so we try to bring a bit of social commentary to our stuff, without getting too political. I don’t get too caught up on politics, as much as I do hypocrisy on either side. So as a TV show we tend to call bullshit on any topic we seem appropriate, in our own subtle way. The show is actually pretty deep at times, when you pull back the layers. We do our best to keep things at least PG-13 for the viewers at home because people do like to watch with their children, so we try to make most of that kind of stuff go over a child’s head by doing things a bit more thoughtfully.
RM: It’s like picking favorites with kids. You love them all equally for their differences. What’s next for Drive-In Movie Maniacs?
TS: Global Domination! 🙂 This is a really huge year for us because Drive-In Movie Maniacs is about to go national! We recently landed a national syndication deal with Luken Communications! We will start airing nationwide October 5, 2018 on Retro TV, The Action Channel and The Family Channel! This means our show will be going out to nearly 40 states and reaching close to 70 million viewers across the USA! We will be on Friday nights, with a special Halloween showing as well! It’s a really exciting time for us! After being on TV in Kansas City for five years, we now have a chance to bring our brand of horror hosting to the American masses, it’s amazing! We are super stoked for this fall! I mean look, I can’t stop using exclamation points! Anyway, we have been truly blessed indeed, and are looking forward to this opportunity.
As someone who has streamed the Drive-In Movie Maniacs on Facebook on Saturdays on several occasions, I am personally excited for Tim and everyone in the Drive-In Movie Maniacs family. They have worked so hard to get where they are now and they only seem to be growing bigger. Make sure to catch them this Friday on RetroTV, The Action Channel or The Family Channel if you can. Keep up to date with the new national horror host on their Facebook page or their website and here’s to Terrible Tim bringing horror in Kansas City, Missouri to the forefront!