Movie Review: Every Other Day Is Halloween
With horror movies, after the screaming comes the laughter — The shedding of the intense emotion built up through carefully calibrated techniques designed to make us afraid. We laugh at the ridiculousness of becoming so caught up in something so blatantly manipulative.
This is why horror movies have long attracted the concept of the jokey TV host, the person dressed in familiar horror garb who pops up every couple of minutes to tell us that it was ok to be afraid and who enhances the laughing at ourselves with visual gags and corny jokes. It’s comforting to have that reassurance, then get sent back in for another scare after the commercial break.
Every Other Day Is Halloween is a documentary portrait of a beloved TV horror movie host, Count Gore De Vol, who hosted the popular Creature Feature program in the Washington D.C. area from 1973 to 1987. Horror hosts were popular back in the day when local TV stations provided regional fare instead of being just feeds from national networks. While not every local community was blessed with a horror host, with Every Other Day Is Halloween, director C.W. Prather has made a nostalgic ode that makes you wish you had your own Gore De Vol on your own TV.
The man behind the cape and faux Transylvanian accent is Dick Dyszel, who comes across in the film as an incredibly charming, thoughtful and gracious man. Dyszel is a TV hosting legend. The “other” in the documentary’s title refers to Dyszel’s multiple TV personas. In addition to Gore De Vol, he also starred as Washington D.C.’s local Bozo the Clown as well as another local creation: Captain 20, a sci-fi inspired children’s show afternoon host, complete with Spock ears and purple wig.
Although Bozo and Captain 20 weren’t Dyszel’s creations, he fought hard to put his own stamp on them and to create kids’ programming that was actually stimulating for children. For example, he turned his Bozo show into a fun game show that really made the kids the stars of the program. But as his reward, Dyszel raised the ire of Bozo creator Larry Harmon who was unahppy that somebody else was putting a new spin on his creation.
Not content to just be a cathode ray tube babysitting substitute, Dyszel convinced station executives to give him an adult show. Although a character of Dyszel’s own invention, Count Gore De Vol followed in the tradition pioneered by Maila Nurmi as Vampira, the Los Angeles horror host of the ’50s, and continued by John Zacherle aka Zacherley “The Cool Ghoul” in Philadelphia and NYC, and others.
Every Other Day Is Halloween includes a ton of clips from De Vol’s Creature Feature program, which was filled with the typical bad jokes and puns one expects from a horror host. But Dyszel also successfully kept the show topical with political humor since he was located in the heart of D.C. as well as appealing to adult sensibilities with vaguely risque material, such as the annual tradition of having on Penthouse’s Pet of the Year for some sketches.
But Dyszel also made Creature Feature an interactive show for the adults, like he did with the kids shows. To get around SAG rules that he couldn’t have non-union actors appearing on the show, he held contests where the prize was an appearance on the program. The benefit was two-fold: It allowed people onto the show that Dyszel could swap jokes with and it gave the audience at home an opportunity to become more invested in Creature Feature by giving them the dream of appearing on their favorite program.
Overall, Every Other Day Is Halloween is a positive documentary. In addition to Dyszel’s story, the film concludes with a look at the spawn of Gore De Vol. Although local stations don’t do horror hosting anymore, Dyszel took his character online where he still does sketches and presents films — and a new generation has followed him there. Horror hosts abound on the Internet now taking what was once a regional phenomenon to the global stage.
Although it’s nice to see that the horror host tradition hasn’t died completely, there’s something unmistakeably tragic about the loss of regional programming. In the film, Dyszel relates a sad, familiar story of the little station bought by a larger conglomerate that only analyzed the numbers and the bottom line. That Dyszel was influencing future local stars like underground filmmaking legend Jeff Krulik (Heavy Metal Parking Lot) and horror writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) just wasn’t important enough to keep Count Gore De Vol undead on TV.
Dick Dyszel is a fighter though, that much is clear from the documentary. He truly has a vampire’s most vital quality: The ability to never say die. To watch him do his thing online, please visit the official Count Gore De Vol website. And visit the Count’s alter ego Dick Dyszel’s official site.
Watch the Every Other Day Is Halloween movie trailer: