When it was announced that Fangoria was chang­ing edi­tors, part of the announce­ment involved the idea that the focus of the mag­a­zine would be broad­ened from just hor­ror films to more of a hor­ror “lifestyle” focus.  This prompt­ed a sense of dread in many hor­ror fans, as they are a cultish lot and don’t like the idea of their gen­re pas­sion being reduced to yet anoth­er com­mod­i­ty that can be bought and sold.  This is under­stand­able — Your Humble Reviewer is not crazy about that kind of mar­ket­ing speak being thrown around.

However, this type of broad­en­ing doesn’t seem to have hurt Fangoria when you look at its speci­fic appli­ca­tion.  For an exam­ple, con­sid­er the cov­er sto­ry of Issue #295 — it’s devot­ed to a look at the lat­est incar­na­tion of Splatterhouse, a video game that has been delight­ing and dis­gust­ing hor­ror fans in sev­er­al incar­na­tions since the 1990’s.  This piece cov­ers the his­to­ry of the game as well as the tech­ni­cal par­tic­u­lars involved in design­ing such a game.  Its val­ue is fur­ther enhanced by a brief but excel­lent his­to­ry of hor­ror gam­ing, start­ing with the Atari 2600 and going all the way to the present.  Both pieces are writ­ten in a way that is appeal­ing even for those not inter­est­ed in video gam­ing — if you have a schol­ar­ly inter­est in hor­ror his­to­ry, there’s worth­while mate­ri­al to be gleaned from the­se arti­cles.

Elsewhere, Issue #295 is devot­ed to the famil­iar roundup of arti­cles on new and forth­com­ing hor­ror films.  There are a few of the expect­ed main­stream-ori­ent­ed titles — a short vis­it to the set of Predators, anoth­er vis­it to the set of the new sea­son of True Blood — but the major­i­ty of the issue deals with more off­beat forms of hor­ror film­mak­ing.  For instance, there’s an arti­cle on Sushi Typhoon, a Japanese com­pa­ny that seeks to over­come Japan’s indif­fer­ence to hor­ror by mak­ing films aimed at a world­wide mar­ket­place, and a pre­view of the über-con­tro­ver­sial A Serbian Film.  The lat­ter piece is par­tic­u­lar­ly amus­ing because of how the film­mak­ers strain to find social and polit­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for their work to dodge the film’s inevitable “tor­ture porn” label.

An inter­est­ing ele­ment with­in the cov­er­age of up-and-com­ing films is how it spot­lights the unique method­ol­o­gy and per­son­al­i­ties behind the­se efforts.  For instance, an arti­cle on Salvage, a low-bud­get effort from England, involves some dis­cus­sion of how the film man­aged to get fund­ing through a gov­ern­ment-spon­sored film fund­ing ini­tia­tive.  Also, a piece on a 2001 Maniacs sequel is livened up by a side­bar inter­view with Kevin Ogilvie that finds this musician/actor dis­cussing his friend­ship with the now-deceased Forrest Ackerman in emo­tion­al­ly wrench­ing detail.  Even more inter­est­ing is the case of Parasomnia, a film made by hor­ror vet William Malone as a pas­sion project after spend­ing the last sev­er­al years toil­ing away on restric­tive major stu­dio tele­vi­sion and film projects (he even financed it him­self).

The appeal of the lat­ter piece is fur­ther enhanced by a side­bar arti­cle about Malone’s career.  Editor Chris Alexander wrote this piece and it is fueled by a pas­sion to sell the read­er on the work of a direc­tor he believes is under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed amongst gen­re fans.  This kind of per­son­al touch goes a long way towards mak­ing the mag­a­zine look less cor­po­rate and more fan-ori­en­tat­ed.  Your Humble Reviewer doesn’t know if this is a savvy busi­ness strat­e­gy but it’s def­i­nite­ly the kind of thing that will appeal to the gen­re enthu­si­ast.

The issue also con­tin­ues the magazine’s renewed inter­est in horror’s past.  This comes through most strong­ly in two par­tic­u­lar pieces.  The first is a pre­view of American Grindhouse, a doc­u­men­tary about the his­to­ry of exploita­tion cin­e­ma.  It’s an intere­view with direc­tor Elijah Drenner: his pas­sion for his work is easy to appre­ci­ate but he takes a detour into pre­ten­sion when he goes off on a lec­ture about how it isn’t real­ly right to refer to the­se films as “grind­house movies” (not the most advis­able step to take when your doc­u­men­tary is called American Grindhouse).  More appeal­ing is an inter­view with Lynn Lowry, vet­er­an star of films like The Crazies and They Came From Within.  It focus­es on her recent come­back via var­i­ous indie hor­ror efforts and she comes off as like­ably unpre­ten­tious and sin­cere about her work.

The schol­ar­ly bent touched on in the above two pieces is con­tin­ued else­where in the mag­a­zine via a series of short fea­tures that touch on speci­fic films from the genre’s past.  For exam­ple, there are com­pelling one-page appre­ci­a­tions of films like Possession, Silver Bullet and the t.v. film Dead Of Night.  There’s also a fas­ci­nat­ing piece about how the indus­tri­al group Coil almost did the score for Hellraiser: it works both as a cau­tion­ary tale about film stu­dio pol­i­tics and an explo­ration of the rela­tion­ship between the “new hor­ror” of the 1980’s and the indus­tri­al scene.  However, the most pleas­ing arti­cle in this area is a con­cise yet infor­ma­tive primer on art­house films that are wild and grotesque enough for hor­ror devo­tees.  It cov­ers every­thing from Salo to I Stand Alone and hope­ful­ly opened the eyes of young hor­ror fans who think the genre’s edgi­est extreme is the Saw series.

All in all, Issue #295 deliv­ers an impres­sive amount of infor­ma­tion (there are also DVD, game and book reviews here as well as an array of brief reports on upcom­ing films in the Monster Invasion sec­tion).  Fans wor­ried about the magazine’s pro­posed “lifestyle” ori­en­ta­tion need not wor­ry — every­thing here is informed by a sin­cere belief in the gen­re and its pos­si­bil­i­ties.  Your inter­est will inevitably depend on your inter­est in the speci­fic top­ics cov­ered — but it is worth noth­ing that the new Fangoria goes about its busi­ness with plen­ty of appre­ci­a­tion for both the old and the new.