The mod­ern hor­ror fan press lost one its found­ing fathers on December 18th, 2009 when Chas Balun passed away after a long and brave strug­gle with can­cer.  This wasn’t the kind of event that the main­stream press would take notice of but it sent a shock­wave through the hor­ror fan com­mu­ni­ty.  You see, a lot of the fans who fre­quent hor­ror mes­sage boards and writes blogs today grew up on Balun’s work, Your Humble Reviewer includ­ed.

Balun first entered the hor­ror-fan sub­con­scious with his self-pub­lished, 32-page hor­ror flick review guide, The Connoisseur’s Guide To The Contemporary Horror Film.  Don’t let the ele­gant title fool you — this was hor­ror film crit­i­cism from a fan’s per­spec­tive, intel­li­gent yet fero­cious, and it set the tone for his trade­mark style.  Balun wasn’t afraid to rev­el in the car­nal, bru­tal excess­es of the gen­re (when they were done well) and he didn’t wor­ry about what main­stream minds would think of his views.  He wrote for the hor­ror fans because he was a hor­ror fan, too.

And the hor­ror fans loved it.  Balun was soon writ­ing for Fangoria mag­a­zine and also began pub­lish­ing his own pro-zine, Deep Red, through FantaCo.  He even­tu­al­ly became pop­u­lar enough to mer­it his own month­ly column, “Piece Of Mind,” in the Fangoria off­shoot, Gorezone.  As we expect­ed, Chas wrote each column with his trade­mark mix of fero­cious insight, gal­lows humor and a deep pas­sion for the gen­re.  He used his print pul­pit to cham­pi­on obscure and for­eign hor­ror films, help­ing to broad­en many a young mind towards look­ing beyond stu­dio pro­duct for their hor­ri­fic thrills.  He was amongst the first gen­re scribes to cham­pi­on flicks like Combat Shock and Street Trash as well as direc­tors like Lucio Fulci and John Woo.

The work didn’t stop there, either: he sup­ple­ment­ed his pro­lific mag­a­zine work  with the pub­li­ca­tion of fur­ther critical/review tomes like The Gore Score and Horror Holocaust.  He even branched into writ­ing nov­els with shock­ers like Ninth And Hell Street.  If this seems like a mas­sive work­load, con­sid­er the fact that writ­ing was just part of Balun’s life.  He was also a graph­ics design­er, with sev­er­al t-shirt designs and more than a few comic books to his cred­it.  To top it off, he was an accom­plished body­builder and ath­lete.  He was tru­ly a renais­sance man that the fan­boys could look up to.

Best of all, Balun always had time for his fel­low hor­ror enthu­si­asts.  Stories of Balun tak­ing time to chat with fans at con­ven­tions and fes­ti­val screen­ings are legion.  He also wasn’t shy about cor­re­spond­ing with fans.  Your Humble Reviewer speaks from expe­ri­ence on the lat­ter: Balun was kind enough to answer my let­ters when I enquired about some videos he was sell­ing and respond­ed to my ques­tions in a kind, enthu­si­as­tic man­ner.  He even took the time to watch one of my stu­dent films and give it a thor­ough yet encour­ag­ing cri­tique.

In oth­er words, Balun was a men­sch among hor­ror jour­nal­ists, a hor­ror fan for all sea­sons who car­ried the torch proud­ly and con­tin­ued to inspire fans and film­mak­ers alike to the very end.  We could use more like him.