“Terrible Tim” Sweeten revives the art of TV horror hosting

Every time he hosts his horror-movie showcase, Drive-in Movie Maniacs, or the annual Halloween-themed Horror on the Boulevard events at the Boulevard Drive-In in KCK, “Terrible Tim” Sweeten painstakingly makes himself up to look like a skeleton. That’s fitting. After all, he’s carrying out traditions and promoting movies that many have given up for dead.

“It’s kind of like drive-ins coming back,” Sweeten says of a recent spike he has observed in horror-hosting opportunities. “Is there any reason for it? I don’t know.”

Because it features public-domain chillers of varying quality — The Corpse Grinders, which features housecats gnawing on human flesh, might run alongside the George A. Romero classic Night of the Living Dead — Sweeten’s black-and-white host segments sometimes make up for films that need a little help to be scary. So in addition to the usual duties of introducing the film and making jokes, Sweeten also dodges a band of tormentors known as “the Haunted Creepys.” And he interviews guests such as Rainmakers singer Bob Walkenhorst, horror-makeup specialist Tom Savini, and veteran character actors Sid Haig and William Forsythe.

Drive-in Movie Maniacs airs on Johnson County Community TV at 10 p.m. Fridays and at midnight Saturdays. Time Warner Cable viewers can see it on channel 98.17, while Consolidated Communications customers can find it on channel 17, and Comcast of Olathe viewers can view it on channel 22. Because Web viewers can stream it at video.jccc.edu, Sweeten has picked up some German fans, he says, after the show featured a Teutonic goth band. (Some of the segments end up on YouTube as well.)

“We did something with the Kansas City Ballet,” he says. “They were doing Dracula. They allowed us into the Kauffman Center and basically gave us license to kill. They gave us box seats, so we had the Haunted Creepys stealing my seat. It was really cool.”

Sweeten is happy with the progress that his homegrown show has had, and he feels grateful for having received an evil blessing from Roberta Solomon, who hosted Creature Feature on KSHB from 1981 through 1990 under the name Crematia Mortem.

“There’s not many horror hosts who can say that they’re on television and they were passed
the torch by the horror host before them,” he says.

Contacted in Portland, Oregon, where she now works as a voice actress, Solomon says, “He’s as goofy as can be. There’s a certain kind of reverence that he has toward the movies and the people he’s interviewing. I’m
so glad that there’s somebody in Kansas City who has stepped into that arena.”

During a nearly hourlong conversation with The Pitch, Sweeten demonstrated that he not only has an enthusiasm for cheap films that others dismiss but also has an ability to make that passion go viral.

Not bad for a show put together exclusively with volunteer labor and shot at the Boulevard Drive-In, where Sweeten is employed. “For me to be working there, it just kind of became the set,” he says, “Anything we don’t have as far as props, we can just make because we have a full garage, every tool under the earth you can imagine.”

Horror on the Boulevard, October 10-11 at Boulevard Drive-In, 1051 Merriam Lane, KCK, boulevarddrivein.com, $10 per person, gates at 6 p.m.