Universal Studios in Hollywood hosted the Eyegore Awards on Saturday night, and it was a press event in the truest sense of the word – which is to say, an event that existed primarily if not exclusively in order to get the press to show up. In fact, as the press notes clarify, the Eyegore Awards are “exclusive to Universal Studios Hollywood’s ‘Halloween Horror Nights.'” Universal was opening the crypt door on their Halloween Horror Nights that same evening; no doubt the Eyegore awards gave a little extra incentive for the media to cover the attraction.
The awards were held inside the Globe Theatre, near the Frankenstein parking structure of the studio lot. The darkened interior was dotted with tables but not nearly enough chairs, creating a standing-room only ambiance. Tucked in the corners were bogus (or were they?) displays evoking old-fashioned carnival freak shows, complete with a bearded lady, a two-headed woman, and more. A slick musical ensemble churned though up tempo versions of everything from “Tubular Bells” to the main theme from the Broadway PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
The ceremony was the soul of wit – which is to say, brief. The honorees for 2007 were Roger Corman, Patricia Arquette, Sheri Moon, Shawnee Smith, Corey Feldman, Don Mancini, and Michael Berryman, who also hosted. On a stage backed by ghoulish figures from the Halloween attraction (including SCARFACE’s Tony Montana, complete with his “Little Friend”), Berryman got things going by joking that the Eyegore statue was vaguely familiar, like a person whose face you recognize even if you do not remember the name (words that could apply very well to himself).
Don Mancini generated some laughter when he turned his acceptance speech into a tongue-in-cheek political tirade, asserting that the world would be better off if Jason, Chucky, and Hannibal Lecter ruled the world, because their particular brand of homicidal behavior was so much more limited in scope than that practised by current world leaders. He also apologized for Chucky’s absence, explaining that the killer doll was busy working at Knott’s Scary Farm (actually, Chucky’s Insult Emporium is part of the Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, not the Knott’s Halloween Haunt).
Shawnee Smith earned even bigger laughs. After a brief bump and grind directed at the musicians (“You gotta give the band some love”), she admitted to being terrified of the made-up ghouls lurking around the park that night, claimed she could not sit through her own SAW movies, and joked that she would not be able to keep her Eyegore award statue in her room with her.
Both Corman and Arquette were no-shows. Arquette’s brother, David, accepted for her. Dressed in a Zorro outfit, he ruefully looked around the room and noted that he was not at a costume party. (Like most Halloween attractions, Universal likes only their paid monsters – not their customers – to be dressed for the season.) He took the opportunity to plug his own movie THE TRIPPER and said that Patricia would like to dedicate her award to Bela Lugosi for “putting fishhooks up his nose.” (David was clearly confusing the actor who played Dracula with Lon Chaney, the silent era “Man of a Thousand Faces,” who was famous for the painful lengths he would go to create monstrous makeups. Although no fishhooks were actually used, he did distort his nose quite a bit for his Phantom of the Opera makeup.)
Corman was reportedly lost in traffic, so presenter Rob Zombie accepted the award for him. In the space of a few minutes, he managed to equate being cheap with “genius” no less than three times and told a funny story about Corman being unable to afford extras for a concert scene featuring the Ramones in the movie ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL – so Corman charged people to attend, as if it were a real concert. In effect, the extras paid to be in the movie.
After the ceremony, the band struck up the tunes again, while the press moved in to try to get interviews with the honorees. As I drifted out toward the Universal back lot, to enjoy the scares being provided live that night in mazes based on movies featuring Jason, Freddy, and Leatherface, I could not help singing a silent lament for the state of the horror movie genre. Long ignored by respectable organizations like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, horror movies don’t get no respect, so any opportunity to give them the recognition they deserve is a welcome one. However, the value of an award is diluted when too many are given out and the criteria for winning are not clear.
Corman (who produced and directed one of the greatest horror films ever made, 1964’s THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH) has certainly earned any award that comes his way, and Berryman (who was so memorable in the original THE HILLS HAVE EYES) has had such a long career as a character actor that he deserves some kind of recognition. Mancini created Chucky in CHILD’S PLAY – a B-list horror icon at best – but I suppose the success of the long-running franchise warrants acknowledgement.
The other honorees, however talented, don’t have very extensive genre resumes. Shawnee Smith starred in the 1988 remake of THE BLOB before disappearing off the map and then re-emerging in the SAW films. Corey Feldman was in a couple of FRIDAY THE 13TH films and THE LOST BOYS before disappearing off the map and re-emerging for a LOST BOYS sequel, currently in production. Sheri Moon has done a bunch of music videos and a few films directed by her husband Rob Zombie. Patricia Arquette battled Freddy Kruger in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS and saw visions on TV’s MEDIUM. Professional performers everyone, but not icons of the genre in the tradition of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee.
I suppose there is nothing wrong with a studio-run awards show whose voting procedures and judges (if any) are entirely unknown; after all, it is just part of the great tradition of Hollywood hype that keeps the dream factory alive. But it would be nice if there was more attention to making the awards stand for something more than an excuse to get some celebrities to show up (a prerequisite for getting the press to show up). Without too much more effort, it should be possible to focus more on the genre specialists, who devote most or all of their careers to horror, not those who dip their toe in the water from time to time. Admittedly, the Eyegore awards are just for fun, and I’m taking things too seriously, but isn’t that part of the fun of being a horror fan – taking things too seriously?