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.