By Travis Irvine
When I first thought about making a feature- length satirical horror movie about killer raccoons eight years ago, many of my friends said, “oh! You should submit it to troma!” They were referring to troma entertainment, the independent production company that is famous for The Toxic Avenger and other low-budget, schlocky horror flicks. even more friends said, “You should send it to Fangoria so they can review it!” Fangoria? what was that?
Soon enough, I found out. Fangoria magazine has been the horror movie fan’s ultimate publication since 1979. Issues are purely dedicated to all things horror—films, shows, special effects and more. It really doesn’t matter if the films Fangoria reviews and writes about are independent, cult or mainstream. Anything from big-budget hollywood horror blockbusters to low-budget flicks made by inde- pendent filmmakers may grace the cover of this reliably offbeat publication.
In fact, Fangoria actually started out much like an inde- pendent horror film—with a small budget and a hint of con- troversy. according to Fangoria’s website, the magazine was origi- nally supposed to be dedicated to fantasy films and called Fantastica. It was produced by the publishers of Starlog, a magazine entirely devoted to science fiction films and aimed at teenage au- diences. However, Starlog’s competitor, Fantastic Films magazine, filed a suit saying the two names would be confusing to the publications’ primarily young audiences. after Fantastic Films won the case, the Fantastica staff chose the name Fangoria instead.
But Fangoria wasn’t out of trouble yet. The fan- tasy focus was a giant flop, and the magazine was losing around $20,000 an issue. So the editors focused on the one article from their first issue that had received an “immensely positive audience response”—a piece about the special makeup ef- fects of tom savini in the 1978 movie Dawn of the Dead. With its seventh issue, Fangoria featured a cover story on stanley kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining and dedicated the issue entirely to horror films. It became the first issue of Fangoria to earn a profit, and by issue twelve, the formula for Fangoria was set.
So what is this distinctive formula? Imagine a comic book, mix it with a 1950s sci-fi flick poster and the back of a cereal box, then add some splat- tered blood. Lots and lots of splattered blood. And explosions. And pictures of fake corpses, fangs and zombies!
Fangoria’s February 2012 issue featured a cover story on Nicolas Cage and his sequel film Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, with a large picture of Cage’s character screaming at readers with a flaming skull. Such is Fangoria’s world. It’s been pretty successful and, frankly, it’s pretty cool.
Every issue carries interviews with high-profile figures like Cage, but also has articles about people like horror actress Barbara Crampton, who is famous for a movie in which she almost receives oral sex from a severed head. There’s also interviews with actors like Michael Biehn, who played the protagonist in The Terminator and is now directing and acting in his own independent horror movies. Zombies, psycho killers and vampires—all not real, of course— are the subjects of other articles, and are all surrounded by advertisements for bloody video games, horror conventions and the like.
The magazine also reviews hollywood’s horror blockbusters, like the recently released Underworld: Awakening and The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe. There are also horror films that one would never hear of otherwise, like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or actor-turned-director Vincent D’onofrio’s Don’t Go in the Woods. With these and articles focused on similar independent projects, Fangoria maintains its circulation base. Obviously, this is a niche market, but it is a niche that is filled with frightfully dedicated fans who will likely keep horror movies—and Fangoria— undead for years to come.