One gets the sense that things weren’t going well at the Fangoria offices from the edi­to­ri­al that kicks off Issue #5.   In it, co-pub­lish­er Kerry O’Quinn takes on a very defen­sive tone as he insists that his mag­a­zine is inno­vat­ing upon the old-school “mon­ster mag­a­zine” for­mat by includ­ing fea­tures for a wide range of ages, mix­ing in glossy paper with col­or images and offer­ing unique fea­tures like “Monster Invasion” and “Fantastic Art.”  The edi­to­ri­al con­cludes with a request that read­ers fill out a sur­vey includ­ed in the issue, which kind of betray’s its forced con­fi­dence.

It was a dif­fer­ent sto­ry behind the sce­nes.  According to edi­tor Bob Martin, Norman Jacobs  (the oth­er co-pub­lish­er) con­fid­ed to him that the mag­a­zine was los­ing $20,000 an issue around the time #4 hit the stands.  This admis­sion also coin­cid­ed with the time peri­od that issue #6 was being assem­bled.  That issue would find hor­ror over­tak­ing the magazine’s oth­er ele­ments.  However, Issue #5 found itself in the same sit­u­a­tion as #4, with sci-fi strong-arm­ing hor­ror into sub­mis­sion between its cov­ers.

The cov­er of Issue #5 fea­tures the infa­mous sci-fi dud Saturn 3 as its cov­er fea­ture.  Thankfully, said fea­ture isn’t as slav­ish­ly pro­mo­tion­al as past cov­er fea­tures were.  It even ref­er­ences the con­flict between orig­i­nal direc­tor John Barry (the pro­duc­tion design­er for Star Wars, not the musi­cian) and producer/eventual direc­tor, Stanley Donen.  It also fea­tures a still of a sequence that didn’t make the movie’s final cut.

The sci­ence fic­tion the­me con­tin­ues in arti­cles like a ret­ro­spec­tive on the giant-ant clas­sic Them!, a look at how the Cylons in the orig­i­nal Battlestar Galactica were designed and an arti­cle on the alien make­ups done for the Saturday morn­ing live-action show Jason Of Star Command.  All are decent read­ing but the most inter­est­ing of the afore­men­tioned arti­cles is, odd­ly, the Jason Of Star Command fea­ture because the man who did the make­ups was John Carl Buechler.  He’d go on to do make­up for tons of Charles Band pro­duc­tions (every­thing from Re-Animator to Troll) and even direct a Friday The 13th sequel (part 7, for those keep­ing score).

The pure fan­ta­sy ele­ment of the ear­ly Fangoria style is also promi­nent in issue #5.  Not only is there a Fantastic Art fea­ture devot­ed to an artist spe­cial­iz­ing in fan­ta­sy nov­el illus­tra­tions, there is also an illus­trat­ed pull-out fea­ture enti­tled “The Legendary World Of Faeries.”  It might be swell for fans of that gen­re but it’s a bit­ter pill to swal­low for mem­bers of the hor­ror-lov­ing con­ti­gent.  Elsewhere, the “Monster Invasion” sec­tion offers an eclec­tic grab-bag of news blurbs on films as diverse as Demonoid, Baby Snakes and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, thus cement­ing the magazine’s schiz­o­phrenia.

It is worth not­ing at this point that there is one arti­cle in this issue that blurs the line between the magazine’s fan­ta­sy and sci-fi ele­ments: it’s the sec­ond install­ment of the “Animated Apes” ret­ro­spec­tive, a piece that focus­es on Son Of Kong.  This arti­cle is actu­al­ly one of the most inter­est­ing in the issue because it takes an in-depth look at how the effects men bat­tled with mon­ey-hun­gry pro­duc­ers on this rushed sequel.

Thankfully, there are a trio of fea­tures that make Fangoria #5 worth a look to the hor­ror fans.  The first is an arti­cle on John Carpenter’s The Fog by Bob Martin.  It’s a good arti­cle with plen­ty of solid infor­ma­tion on the effects, the bud­get and oth­er behind-the-sce­nes pro­duc­tion details.  Martin also thinks out­side the box by briefly dis­cussing whether or not hor­ror is a boy’s club with pro­duc­er Debra Hill.

The oth­er two hor­ror-cen­tric fea­tures are a nice ret­ro­spec­tive piece on the orig­i­nal Village Of The Damned that is built on a charm­ing­ly irrev­er­ent inter­view with direc­tor Wolf Rilla and a mak­ing-of sto­ry about Bert I. Gordon’s witch­craft opus The Coming.  The lat­ter is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing because said film was nev­er the­atri­cal­ly released in the U.S. (it debut­ed on T.V. years after the fact).  It was also nev­er issued on VHS or DVD in this coun­try.

In short, Fangoria #5 reveals itself to be a mag­a­zine in dire need of focus and a strat­e­gy to dis­tin­guish it from its mon­ster mag­a­zine brethren.  Changes would begin in the next issue that would set the mag­a­zine firm­ly on the path to hor­ror gen­re dom­i­na­tion.  As this issue indi­cates, those changes arrived none too soon because the “all things to all peo­ple” fan­ta­sy approach had tru­ly run its course.