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Fangoria’s “Chainsaw Awards 2021”: Catharsis and Hope – A Dispatch From the Edge of My Couch

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Fangoria's "Chainsaw Awards 2021": Catharsis and Hope - A Dispatch From the Edge of My Couch

I’m not gonna lie to you, gang. I’ve never been lucky enough to view any other year’s “Chainsaw Awards.” I don’t know what to compare this one to. I wish I’d seen a few, like when Bruce Campbell hosted or when Issa Lopez won Best Foreign Picture for her Tigers are Not Afraid. I wish I’d been more tapped into what seems like an incredibly fun and increasingly important part of awards season. But instead, this was my first one. And… I loved it.

The 2021 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards was a much-needed and truly cathartic celebration of a year when horror helped us the most.

Let’s forget about winners and nominees for a second. This year’s award ceremony was of course edited together from various remote locations, each presenter and recipient filming their own piece to be later put together into the show. It was a reflection of the times, of course, but also a reminder of the nearing days where we’ll all be together again. Instead of guests accepting their awards from the stage, we were instead offered glimpses into horror luminaries’ houses and offices.

It’s only now, as of this writing, that I realize the show’s host, David Dastmalchian is not, in fact, Patrick Fischler. Shame on me. The whole time I was watching the Chainsaw Awards, I could’ve sworn the host was the guy from the diner in Mulholland Drive. You know who I’m talking about… He’s the guy sitting at the diner who very meticulously recounts the details of a terrifying nightmare wherein a monster hides behind the very Winkie’s Diner in which he’s now telling the story. Anyway, they go outside, the monster’s there, Patrick Fischler passes out and David Dastmalchian hosts the 2021 Chainsaw Awards. It’s maybe the scariest scene in a movie that’s not typically classified as horror, and it has nothing to do with anything I should be writing about.

David Dastmalchian Fango Awards Host

Again, this one’s on me for not recognizing one of my favorite characters from The Dark Knight here hosting the award ceremony. And Dastmalchian is plenty capable of keeping the whole thing flowing smoothly. And he did this fun Dr. Fearless vampire-guy character, just to shake it up a bit. Who doesn’t love a Transylvanian accent and vampire makeup? But if for whatever reason you do not, you’ll be happy to learn that our host spent the rest of his time in a fine burgundy suit. And look, I’m not the first guy to confuse Dastmalchian with Fischler… They were both cast in that newer Twin Peaks, so maybe David Lynch made the same mistake and then just didn’t want to admit it.

So a hearty thank you to David Dastmalchian! His credits include Bird Box among many other appearances, so horror fans may already recognize him. We needed someone like him to be the fan surrogate for the evening. There has to be someone to stand in for us, the fans, to thank all these genre stars for their work. And he did a fantastic job! Plus, now I’m super excited to keep an eye out for him in James Gunn’s new Suicide Squad.

Folks, Keith David was there. What a national goddamn treasure that man is. Whether you love him from The Thing, or They Live, or even Community, you’ll have to admit that Keith David’s dulcet tones might make him the perfect award presenter. I could listen to him list off award nominations all day. He could even move on to the phonebook for all I care. Just keep the guy reading stuff and, most importantly, keep him talking. It’s always a treat catching up with Keith David, whether it’s here, or in the recently-released In Search of Darkness: Part II. The guy is a perfect “talking head,” whatever the nonfiction media may be. He was there in some of the best movies of the 80s, and he’s still out here pushing the genre forward today with roles in stuff like Creepshow and the upcoming Black as Night.

Keith David Creepshow

Speaking of talking heads from In Search of Darkness: Part II, here’s Phil Nobile, Jr.! He’s the editor-in-chief at Fango, but he’s also compelling in front of the camera, as displayed both in that aforementioned documentary, and here at the Chainsaw Awards. I like to refer to the guy as Fangdaddy. It’s fitting, and I hope it sticks. Anyhow, Fangdaddy shows up with another personal hero of mine, Dr. Rebekah McKendry, PhD! Fans will undoubtedly recognize Dr. McKendry’s voice from the many iterations of her various podcasts, most recently “Colors of the Dark” and her “Nightmare University.” Dr. McKendry is so fun to listen to because of her encyclopedic horror knowledge. She LITERALLY teaches the class on this stuff.

Fangdaddy and Dr. Horror (Tuesdays this fall on NBC [or ITV for you Brits]) were in good (virtual) company. Other notable presenters included Rue Morgue editor Andrea Subisatti, our favorite horror blogger Gory Cory, Issa Lopez, Tananarive Due, New Jersey’s favorite not-Bruce-Springsteen son, Kevin Smith, and… Biqtch Pudding! I’ll again perhaps sell myself short by admitting I wasn’t familiar with the divine Ms. Pudding, but I am now super excited to catch up on everything “Dragula.”

In addition to the presenters, we had some famous faces accepting the awards too! It seems the man of the hour was Leigh Whannell, and it is a treat putting a face to the name and seeing somebody so talented and successful come across so gracefully. This guy is the one you want making the big horror movies he has been. He proves it just by the set dressing of his office. He was wearing a Mr. Howdy sweatshirt, he had all the books, all the merch all over his office. He just seemed like a cool dude, and I’m happy to be alive in a time when we’ll probably get to go back to seeing Leigh Wahnell movies in a huge theater.

Leigh Wahnell

And Jason Blum! In his house! The titular Blum House! He’s more handsome than my partner expected, and just as charming as you’d hope. It’s no wonder this is the guy who makes the deals.

Anyhow, the specifics of this thing are special, of course, but what’s really important, what’s really vital here is the feeling of everyone coming together. This wasn’t just famous horror heads pal-ing around. This felt like it was made with us fans specifically in mind. Creators and viewers joining in from their living rooms all at once. Everybody checking in and giving thanks. We’ve made it this far, and a lot of us have horror to thank. 2020 was batshit year, and I know for sure that I have horror movies to thank for whatever level-headedness I managed through it all. It felt necessary to have all these people come together to praise the genre and its luminaries.

Thank you, horror. And thank you 2021 Chainsaw Awards.

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