Movie Man: Check out a pair of 'scary' documentaries

Will Pfeifer

“American Scary” had me all but won over before I tore the cellophane off the box. It’s about TV horror movie hosts, and during my misspent youth, I spent every Friday night with “Houlihan and Big Chuck” on Cleveland’s CBS affiliate. They showed monster movies, performed silly skits and made you feel like you were at a party even if you were watching TV in your pajamas.

And, as “American Scary” amply illustrates (too amply, in fact), just about every city in America had a horror host. New York had Zacherle, L.A. had Vampira, Washington had Count Gore De Vol, Philadelphia had Stella, Chicago had Svengoolie and so on.

And on and on and on. The problem with “American Scary” is it tries to cover too much ground. Virtually anyone who ever introduced a horror movie (living, dead or undead) gets screen time, which means though we see dozens of people, we barely get to know any of them. Just when you get interested in what someone is saying, director John E. Hudgens jumps to the next clip. It doesn’t help that he devotes way too much screen time to author Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s a horror expert, no doubt, but he grew up in England, which he admits has no tradition of horror hosts. He was obviously brought in just to put a big name on the DVD box.

Usually, when I’m done watching a DVD, I can’t wait to check out the deleted scenes. In “American Scary’s” case, I wish they had deleted more.

After watching “American Scary,” I wanted to shut off the DVD player. After watching “Collapse,” I wanted to shut off the DVD player, convert all my cash into ammunition and barricade myself in the basement. It’s that sort of movie.

For 82 minutes, police officer-turned-reporter-turned-doomsday prophet Michael Ruppert tells us how civilization is ending — soon. We’re not just running out of oil, Ruppert explains, we’ve run out of it, and what we’re finding are the remaining trickles. And when the oil goes, Ruppert warns us, everything else goes, too.

Solar power? Ha. Nuclear? Takes too long to get started. Electric cars? What are you going to make the tires out of — each one takes seven gallons of oil, as Ruppert reminds us again and again.

I’m not sure how much of what Ruppert says is accurate — opinions vary widely — but he’s a compelling presence, and “Collapse” is a fascinating movie. It’s so rare to see a movie driven by ideas that “Collapse” is thrilling, even if the ideas themselves are terrifying. As much as I liked watching Ruppert, I really, really hope he’s wrong.

Will Pfeifer writes about DVDs for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at man/.

From the Vault: A few more movies about offbeat personalities

“Confessions of a Superhero” (2007) A fascinating look at the folks who dress as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Hulk and pose for photos on Hollywood Boulevard. Director Matthew Ogens films everything beautifully, too.

“Cinemania” (2002) Four dedicated — and I mean dedicated — New York film fans offer us a peek into their obsessive, amusing and slightly frightening lives. You might like movies, but be glad you’re not them.

“Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession” (2004) In the days before home video, Jerry Harvey turned a cable channel into an oasis for movie lovers, screening cult flicks, Hollywood classics and foreign discoveries. His story doesn’t end well, but his influence is still being felt.

“American Movie” (1999) Directed by Chris Smith (“Collapse”), this is a hilarious, compelling and ultimately inspiring portrait of Wisconsin filmmaker Mark Borchardt and his struggle to make a horror movie. It's one of my all-time favorites.

Make room in your collection

Some DVDs coming out Tuesday:

“Death Race 2000”: The classic Roger Corman epic about a deadly race in the near future arrives on Blu-ray. Watch for a young Sylvester Stallone as one of the racers — “loved by thousands, hated by millions.”

“Hung”: Thomas Jane stars in this HBO series about a Detroit teacher who sells his body to make ends meet. Season 2 starts Sunday, June 27.

“Jack and the Beanstalk”: The latest version of the classic story about a boy, some beans and a giant who lives above the clouds.

“Remember Me”: Robert Pattinson (of “Twilight”) and Emilie de Ravin (of “Lost”) get romantically involved in this tearjerker set in the days before 9/11.

“She’s Out of My League”: Jay Baruchel (“Knocked Up,” “Tropic Thunder”) plays an average guy dating a beautiful woman. The reviews were pretty bad.

“A Star is Born”: Judy Garland and James Mason star in this remake of the classic Hollywood story about a nobody who becomes a star. Watch for a review in an upcoming Movie Man column.

“Thirst”: The DVD cover calls this straight-to-video thriller “ ‘Open Water’ in the desert!” I guess that means there won’t be any sharks showing up, right?

And CDs:

Eminem, “Recovery”: Here’s a surprise: Eminem’s latest CD includes a Parental Advisory sticker. Didn’t see that one coming.

Miley Cyrus, “Can’t Be Tamed”: Remember when Miley was that clean-cut little girl on “Hannah Montana”? Those days are long gone.

Ozzy Osbourne, “Scream”: This is not the soundtrack to the horror movie of the same name. It’s Ozzy’s first solo album in three years.

Danzig, “Deth Red Sabaoth”: Congratulations, Danzig. You managed to spell one of the three words in your album’s title correctly.

Vince Neil, “Tattoos & Tequila”: Not a good combination, Vince — especially if it’s the tattoo artist who’s drinking the tequila.

Soundtrack, “The A-Team”: Why would a studio release a soundtrack CD the week after the movie arrives (and dies) in theaters?

Dweezil Zappa, “Return of the Son of ...”: One final question: What kind of world do we live in where a two-CD Dweezil Zappa collection exists?