This issue gets off to a good start by placing Splice on its cover, a film that Your Humble Reviewer considers the best horror film of the year thus far.  New editor Chris Alexander sets up the cover story in his editorial, offering some nice commentary about how the film works as a commentary on the dark side of parenthood.  His writing style mixes fannish enthusiasm with an intellectual approach, a combination that works nicely for the piece and also sets a tone for his approach to this venerable horror institution.

Alexander also penned the cover story itself, which chronicles this odd, uncompromising film’s twisty path to the multiplex while doubling as an introduction to the work of writer/director Vincenzo Natali.  It also features a sidebar interview with Delphine Chaneac, the actress/musician/dancer who plays the film’s alternately sexy/scary stand-in for Frankenstein’s monster.  As the interviews reveal, she’s as interesting and unusual as the character she plays.

The remainder of Issue #294 is a mixture of the familiar and the new.  On the familiar side, veteran Fangoria features like Monster Invasion, Nightmare Library and Dr. Cyclop’s video reviews remain intact (though the good Doc’s lair is now referred to as a “Dungeon Of Discs”).  Monster Invasion divides its time evenly between big budget fare (Jonah Hex, Predators) and indie fare like The Horseman.

The review sections offer in-depth exploration of books and DVD’s but the writing style in these sections can be inconsistent: the major problem is that a few of the reviewers try a little too hard to be provocative and/or comedic in their reviews.  There’s nothing wrong with using wit to add a little flair to a review but it should work hand in hand with the critique instead of competing with it.

On the new tip, Fangoria broadens its reach into other forms of media via Horrorcade, a video game review section and Sound Shock, a regular interview feature that focuses on soundtrack composers.  Video games aren’t an area of interest for Your Humble Reviewer but Horrorcade’s reviews are informative and enthusiastic about this medium.  Better yet, they are all written by the same person (Brian O’Toole) so they have a real stylistic consistency.  Sound Shock boasts features a Fabio Frizzi interview conducted by Alexander.  Fulci fans will love this interview as Frizzi is an interesting subject and Alexander asks the right questions.  There also brief monster and trash-movie tributes that pay affectionate tribute to unlikely candidates like Brainscan and Xtro.

There are 11 articles, which break down into five interviews, five “preview” articles on specific films and a sort of diary-style feature by actress Debbie Rochon.  It is interesting to note that all of the preview/set-visit pieces focus on indie fare (yes, even Splice was an independent production before Warner picked it up for distribution).  Given that Fangoria has long been accused of pandering to major studios, the indie focus is a refreshing development.  Of interest are a piece on All About Evil, a movie-themed slasher directed by a San Francisco drag personality, and a look at Someone’s Knocking At The Door, an underground-level indie that travels into sexually transgressive territory.

The interviews cover everything from the former kids who played heroes/victims in the Nightmare On Elm Street movies to chats with iconic figures like Jess Franco and Giovanni Lombardo Radice.  The Radice piece is particularly entertaining, giving the legendary “whipping boy” of Italo-exploitation horror room to vent about his feelings on the genre and his intense animosity towards Cannibal Ferox.  Also worthy of note is an interview with two of the stars of the latest Twilight entry.  Most horror fans would never consider that series part of the genre but the questions are cleverly geared towards getting the actors to discuss their thoughts on the genre and how the series relates to it.

However, the biggest surprise of the issue is the piece by Rochon.  “Game Over, Man!” – the latest installment of Diary Of The Deb – is a first-person reflection on her experiences starring in the extremist German horror flick Game Over.  It was a grueling shoot from both acting and personal comfort standpoints and Rochon brings us into the heart of the experience, balancing the often grim details with the perspective of a veteran and carefully-deployed flashes of wit.  The level of writing skill on display is truly impressive here: if Rochon ever writes a memoir, it’ll be a must-read for horror and exploitation fans if it’s as good as this article.

In short, reading Issue #294 of Fangoria was like having a reunion with an old friend who has landed on their feet after going through a tough period.  If this issue is an accurate indication of the magazine’s direction then there’s still life in these bones.  Tune in to the next installment of Nuevo Fango to see if Fangoria‘s current incarnation can continue this trend…