Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Horror's best year? Could be 1981, according to Horrorhound

I just finished reading issue 29 of Horrorhound, a bi-monthly magazine that, like Warning Signs, does its best to cover all facets of the horror genre.

Disclaimer: I'm not a subscriber or contributor. I picked up the magazine to read the tribute to the horror films of 1981.

Let's get a few basics out of the way. First, the cover price of Horrorhound is $6.99, which is much better than the $9 or $10 you'll pay for a newsstand copy of Rue Morgue or Fangoria. So that's nice.

Horrorhound isn't the household name Fangoria is or that Rue Morgue is becoming. That's not a bad thing. It helps keep the cover price low and cuts down on the most annoying aspect of Fangoria in the 21st century: too many ads for movies that are also reviewed in the same issue.

I'm not just blowing smoke here. I'm in the newspaper biz, and while I understand there are differences between papers and magazines, I get equally upset seeing an ad for a DVD and then a supposedly unbiased glowing review of the same release within a few pages. In the paper biz, we call that advertorial and it makes me want to puke.

Horrorhound, from this one issue, appears to be mostly free of such conflicts. While the content of many of the short articles--particularly those on horror toys and collectibles--are so over the top positive that they easily could be ad copy, there isn't much in the way of actual advertising.

The tone of the magazine is generally positive. We're all fans and it's hard to say anything bad about things we love. It's hard to see the faults in a film such as "The Howling," the subject of a franchise spanning retrospective (other 1981 films such as "An American Werewolf in London" and "Friday the 13th Part II" have been covered in previous issues), but it's easy to rag on the sub-par sequels. Sequels that, by the way, wouldn't exist if horror fans would stop watching them.

Thanks to the retrospective, "The Howling" gets a brief mention in the issue's centerpiece: a tribute to (and list of!) horror cinema in the year 1981. Among the 40 films mentioned are: "Scanners," "My Bloody Valentine," "Escape From New York," "Wolfen," "The Evil Dead," "Halloween II," and "Ghost Story." Even half of that output in a year these days would be a dream.

Since the entire issue is devoted to 1981 (minus a couple interviews on new releases and current stars), the folks in charge added features such as 13 "WTF" Moments in "Friday the 13th Part II" and an entire page of DVD covers of the Evil Dead series.

The overtly fanboy writing can be distracting, but I'd be a hypocrite if I tried to tell Horrorhound's writers not to write like that. And (forgive me now for any past and future typos) a closer copy edit is needed. Horrorhound doesn't have the budget of the two big horror 'zines, but one would hope they had more time to get things right.

Heck, I'd be willing to help out. (Dear Horrorhound, I am a writer attempting to make my way in the horror community. Since I respect your efforts in not only publishing a magazine but getting it into my hands, I would like to help you make it the best product possible. ...

Or something to that effect.)

The good news is that Horrorhound is worth your time every other month. It's cheaper than Fangoria and isn't trying to sell you as much stuff. (Which means they could use all the single copy and subscription purchases they can get.)

And they made a solid argument for 1981's candidacy as best year in horror cinema. (Separate votes for best year in horror literature and best year in horror overall, although a column in the issue on '81's contributions to heavy metal will help the case in that category.)

Threat level: YELLOW. Issue 29 and the tribute to 1981 is the May/June offering from Horrorhound. If this is your cup of tea, better go find a copy now. (For an explanation of Warning Signs ratings, visit our Warning System page.)

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