It's alive! WKNO-TV has exhumed the concept of "horror host" in its newest film series, Professor Ghoul's Horror School, a lighter, more educational version of the mid-century predecessor, Fantastic Features hosted by Sivad. Each Friday night at 10 p.m., Professor Ghoul hosts a screening of a classic horror film selected from a long list of genuinely terrifying movies and comically campy creations. The lineup includes Devil Girl from Mars (1953), House on Haunted Hill (1959), Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973), among others. Read on as Professor Ghoul (played by Mike Degnan) tells about the series and why it's time for a revival of old-school horror. — Hannah Sayle
Flyer: What made you decide to host this series?
Professor Ghoul: Horror films are a cultural institution in this country, and when I got the opportunity to present some of the classics from horror's golden age — and not-so-golden age — I jumped at the opportunity. A lot of these films are being left behind as AMC is moving away from showing films. There aren't a lot of outlets for these movies. The horror host is a cultural institution as well that has been left behind in the dirt. It's something that deserves to come back.
What makes a good horror host?
Definitely a twisted sense of humor, a knowledge of the genre, a love of the macabre, and perfect hair.
Yes, you know a thing or two about perfect hair.
How did you get yours so tall?
It's a combination of diet, exercise, and watching thousands of horror films.
We heard you might have some other guests
on the show?
We'll have various guests stopping by, but the one constant is my sidekick, Shotzi the cat. Shotzi, a puppet cat, is our primary student. We're a televised educational program, so he's there to reflect what the students at home might be thinking as we attempt to get more into the subtext of the films. And at the end of the day, everyone loves a puppet.
What kind of films will you cover in your horror school curriculum?
I chose films that have the most educational value, whether it's what to do or what not to do. We've got everything ranging from William Castle films to Ed Wood films.
So what are some things horror filmmakers
should do or not do?
These days, you tend to have horror movies that concentrate completely on the violence or are there to totally make fun of the genre. It's lost the art of making a film that has thrills and jumps. What makes a good horror film is a connection with the characters on an emotional level, good jumps and thrills, and good use of tone and atmosphere. You should feel a palpable sense of dread. Bad horror films concentrate too much on one-liners or special effects, don't draw the audience in, and telegraph the jumps and scares before they happen.
Who is your favorite character in a classic
I've always been partial to the Wolf Man. While he's the villain of the film, he's the classic tragic villain: trapped by circumstances. He isn't a sadistic monster; he's a monster who is going to do what he's going to do but at the same time wants to escape from it. He's a furry version of the Hulk.
What's the scariest place in Memphis?
I've heard very frightening tales of Prince Mongo's old castle. I heard it's become a swamp in the back.