Book World: Fangoria, the fabled horror magazine, has risen from the dead

 

 

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Like Freddy Krueger, Fangoria is back - bloodier than ever.

The fabled horror magazine that has thrilled and terrified readers since 1979 looked dead and buried last year. But now, just in time for Halloween, Fangoria has crawled out of its own grave in the form of a new quarterly journal with photos so high-gloss that the blood looks wet.

For kids who grew up drooling over the gory special effects of Wes Craven and Tom Savini, the revival of Fangoria is a reason to howl.

The new issue, which hits stands this week, sports a cover photo of the indefatigable killer Michael Myers in David Gordon Green's upcoming "Halloween" (opening Oct. 19). Inside is a ghouls' gathering of features that would satisfy any "Halloween" maniac.

Managing editor Meredith Borders has written a chatty on-the-set report: "Jamie Lee Curtis walks over to us with a big grin on her face and her phone in hand. 'Can I show you something?' she asks, like we already know each other."

There's also a piece for die-hard fanatics about continuity problems among the various "Halloween" sequels and a true story about a young man in North Carolina who built and lives in a replica of the Myers house. "I have to carefully pick what I'm going to invest my time in," he says without any apparent irony.

Handy advice abounds in these pages. Makeup artist Tate Steinsiek explains "how to slit your own throat," and director Corin Hardy walks us through hideous visuals in his new movie "The Nun." "Malignant Growths," a piece about homemade horror films, should come with its own barf bag.

But the frights aren't all visual. Toward the back of the magazine is a roundup of current and upcoming books, including literary novels such as Laird Hunt's "In the House in the Dark of the Woods." And - (BEGIN ITAL)surprise(END ITAL) - at the very end, there's a short story by Chuck Palahniuk about a ravenous old neighbor.

It's striking how retrospective this new issue of Fangoria is, reflecting the genre's tendency to keep cannibalizing its own canon. Director Don Coscarelli writes about the influences on his "Phantasm" (1979). Another story unearths unused script treatments of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974). If the original Fangoria offered young readers a taste of something forbidden, this revived version offers older readers a taste of something nostalgic.

That return to mummy is intentional. The new editor in chief, Phil Nobile Jr., suggests that he's looking forward and backward at the same time. (Or maybe his head is spinning around like Linda Blair's.) He remembers his three brothers taking him to see "An American Werewolf in London" when he was 11. "I would be shaking in the theater," he says. "I would have nightmares."

The old Fangoria magazine actually helped. "Fangoria was, to me, a way to get past that because it didn't just revel in blood and guts," Nobile says. "It showcased the craft, the people who made these things, and so that cured me of that terror because I could see that it was these people's jobs to scare me and to gross me out, to freak me out."

Now, he's in a position to do that for another generation - or several generations at once.

"The thing that I thought Fangoria was when I was 13, I want to create that version for my 48-year-old self," he says. "I want to have something that's smart about horror, that doesn't talk down to me. Horror has always been a way to explore themes in a commercially viable way, a way to make statements that can get big and broad in a way that we kind of don't tolerate anymore in other genres."

Nobile notes that the invasion of horror in pop culture has created a very different consumer landscape. He can remember a time when there were two horror conventions a year. Now there's one practically every weekend. "They're becoming like these Disney Worlds," he says. "It used to just be me and a bunch of guys in black T-shirts trying to find that DVD we couldn't find. Now it's a big family outing, and the kids get made up, and there's little Freddys running around and little Jasons."

Those children of the corn are Nobile's new market.

"I don't know how much indoctrinating Fangoria is going to do," he says, "but I hope it finds its way into the hands of an 11-year-old."

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