As Your Humble Reviewer dove into researching and writing this site’s ongoing Fango Files series, he realized one of the great virtues of Fangoria in its early days was its devotion to giving the reader an education in classic horror. Sure, the issues would trumpet whatever the horror flick du jour was at the time but you could always count on a few articles that would explore some classic films or filmmakers the younger horror addict might not know.
The retrospective component remained a component of Fangoria over the years but the growing popularity of modern horror (and perhaps the pressures of keeping a horror magazine alive on the newsstands) slowly pushed the retrospective component of the magazine into the background. It never quite went away but it lost its early position of the strength, getting downgraded to feature appearance status instead of being an equal partner with the new-film articles.
Thus, it’s a pleasure to discover Fangoria’s latest era has brought back the classics in a big way. Consider issue #296, for example: the cover might trumpet Resident Evil: Afterlife, Piranha 3D and The Last Exorcism but it also makes room for a mention of Dark Shadows. It’s a mere hint of what can be found on the pages inside: out of 14 feature articles, 6 either deal with classic fare or deal with figures/films connected to the genre’s history.
In fact, respect for the old-school is hardwired into the magazine’s centrepiece, a series of articles dealing with the current 3-D revival’s effect on the horror genre. On one side, you have an informative piece about Resident Evil: Afterlife, a quickie sidebar about the technology used on Saw’s 3D entry and a set-visit piece on Piranha 3D (in which Alexandre Aja claims there is a “satirical” element to his celluloid atrocity). Even if you don’t care about these films, the articles are solidly researched and written and offer some intriguing technical info about modern 3D processes.
That is balanced out by a nice overview of 3D in horror films from Michael Gingold and, best of all, an interview with Tony Anthony, the star/auteur behind Comin’ At Ya, the 3D spaghetti western that kicked off the 3D boom of the early 1980’s. It’s very cool to read about the nuts and bolts of how this filmmaker revived what was a moribund format and his plans to revive it for a modern audience using new 3D digital techniques. Since Piranha 3D is covered, this also allows for a quick interview with Roger Corman about his history of aquatic-themed terrors as well as a quick sidebar chat with Belinda Belaski, who starred in the original Piranha.
It’s also worth noting that Fangoria #296 balances out its roster of mainstream horror-flick articles with internationally-themed pieces on Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void and a Spanish ghost story entitled The Haunting. The Void piece is particularly effective because it is an interview with Noe and allows him to give vent to an artsy perspective you might not expect to find in an issue of Fangoria. The features are rounded out by a pair of nice interviews with Dark Shadows star Jerry Lacy and legendary Italo-schlock director Luigi Cozzi. The Lacy interview gets into some fun material about the wildly convoluted storylines in Dark Shadows while the Cozzi interview focuses on his fun Alien ripoff Contamination. Both are well worth the read for the retro-minded horror fan.
Even the monthly departments pay homage to horror history. In between the reviews of current books, discs and games, you’ll find a tribute to The Bad Seed’s Rhoda Penmark (the saint of killer kids in horror cinema) and an interview with Christopher Coppola about his vampire oddity Dracula’s Widow. The most interesting and unusual of these brief items is a piece that pays posthumous tribute to Dennis Hopper by discussing an episode of The Twilight Zone that he gave a memorable performance in. It’s a very inventive way to pay tribute to a departed actor and much more interesting to read than the usual eulogy.
In short, Fangoria #296 shows that this veteran of the magazine racks has a healthy respect for the genre’s past and isn’t afraid to expect it. In a time where all forms of media obsessively pander to the youth market, it’s nice to see a periodical that views its subject matter as a continuüm instead of way to make money on the kids. Your Humble Reviewer hopes it will continue to wave the horror history flag high.