The bloody rise and frightful fall of Fangoria
October 22, 2017 7:46 PM   Subscribe

With no new print issues since 2015, most readers and contributors have concluded that classic horror movie magazine Fangoria will be an internet-only phenomenon going forward. EW delves into how Fangoria got to where it was, and what went wrong.

If you'd like to see what the fuss was, or want to revisit old memories, you might be interested in the Internet Archive's enormous collection of Fangoria back issues. I believe that it's a complete run, though I haven't gone through and verified it.
posted by Pope Guilty (12 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I loved Fangoria as a kid! Mom would buy it for me, but Dad would throw it away if he found it. (Thanks, Mom.)
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 8:01 PM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh man. My brother went through a period in our tweens when he was going to be the next Stephen Spielberg. He read voraciously about directing, special effects, script writing, and became one of those people who do the 'six degrees of Kevin Bacon' thing before that was even a thing.

Then one day, somehow, somewhere, he got his hands on a few issues of Fangoria (I think it might have been at a garage sale, bundled up with some more innocent-looking Starlog mags my parents would have been OK with). And then he was all 'Tom Savini this' and 'Evil Dead that' and doing some seriously gross stuff with latex purloined from the school art cupboard.

Growing up in a devoutly Christian household in a small country town those mags were our only inroad to the late 70s / 80s horror scene, and were kept well hidden. We read about movies we'd only heard spoken about in hearsay about hearsay, real urban legends. Somebody's brother's sister's cousin's boyfriend had seen, say, Halloween, but nobody was ever sure what it was really about except it was both terrifying and awesome to speculate. And here we were with a stack of colour photos, posters, interviews, dialogue.

Good times.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:49 PM on October 22, 2017 [13 favorites]

Yeah, this takes me back as well. I wasn't a regular reader and can't remember buying a single issue (whereas I was an avid reader of Starlog in the early years), but I'd always thumb through it with a combination of disgust and fascination. The stills of various gory makeup effects somehow made them sublimely ridiculous and 100X grosser at the same time. I'm terribly amused that they got criticized for showing a single nipple or curse word; Heavy Metal had explicit sex for years and years and was just out there on the newstand, because it was all cartooning, I guess.

As for why it's disappeared from newstands, aside from newstands themselves disappearing (and many of the magazines with them), I'd imagine that it's not just the rise of rival websites but the rise of CGI making explanations of practical effects, Fangoria's usual bread and butter, seem a lot less compelling, not to mention that making low-budget horror films seems to be almost a hobby thing these days; if you have a decently wide circle of SFF fans or RPG gamers, it seems like you probably know somebody who knows somebody who at least took a whack at making a zombie film or showed up to one to shamble around in too-raggedy-for-Goodwill clothes, gray make-up, and splatters of red-dyed corn syrup.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:43 PM on October 22, 2017

Corn syrup? My friend, you dye liquid detergent so it washes out and does not attract ants... Here is how to make it by the gallon
posted by jadepearl at 11:21 PM on October 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Strangely enough, I was just searching the Internet Archive for an old issue of Fangoria last night. IA is fantastic, but try looking for, say, issue 45 there. It's kind of a headache to find anything in specific. I'm not really sure why. But it is very cool that the resource exists (I eventually found a scan of the whole magazine someplace else).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:13 AM on October 23, 2017

If you love talking about such things, please come join us over on the Classic Horror Film Boards. I've been a member since it was on AOL back in the day, and we love us some spooky things.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:09 AM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd imagine that it's not just the rise of rival websites but the rise of CGI making explanations of practical effects, Fangoria's usual bread and butter, seem a lot less compelling,

I'm a little surprised by that idea just because everybody I know who loves horror/SF movies seems to love practical effects and think better of filmmakers who use them instead of simply building the effects in Maya or whatever.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:38 AM on October 23, 2017

Sad but not unexpected given the state of magazines in general. I think I still have the first 100 issues or so boxed away, I started with the Evil Dead issue and trolled comic book stores and flea markets for back issues.

I even got my free ad that came with a subscription, a tiny, tiny bit of fame.
posted by beowulf573 at 5:38 AM on October 23, 2017

I rarely had my own money in the early-mid 80s, and there was no way my folks were going to buy it for me, but I looked at Fangoria regularly at the drug store in my provincial Maryland town. That, DAW pulp covers at the supermarket, and VHS covers at our video store implanted a pretty much permanent interest in lurid horror.

Starlog they would occasionally buy me, and the ads were a pretty important pre-internet gateway for me to Japanese model kits and anime.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:51 AM on October 23, 2017

You can't do what they did in print anymore. It can't compete with the Internet because print's too expensive and, arguably more important, it's too slow.

Back in the day, I was a stringer for a print magazine covering genre movies and TV. At first it worked well enough. There were web sites and they'd get people on the set junkets, but the guys from web sites tended to be pretty green*, and they didn't have the same professional sheen that the seasoned reporters from the print magazines had. We got taken more seriously than the web sites.

But that changed pretty quickly, and a big part of that was the lead time. We were a bi-monthly magazine. That's like cave paintings now. To get a blockbuster on the cover, we needed our story and art done, edited, ready for press a couple months before the film came out. And I began to notice that that was becoming an issue. We'd call up publicity departments asking to schedule interviews and get photos for an upcoming movie, and they'd be like, "what? We're not going to be doing that for another month," and we'd talk about how we had to have it in the can by X date, and they started to decide they didn't need us in that case. The web sites could cover them and they'd learned they could get to the audience they wanted that way. They adapted very quickly to the immediate turnaround the web sites could give them and we got lost in the dust. We were still more professional, but at the end of the day, that didn't matter.

We had a web site, but we tried to run it like a print magazine. Stuff got released daily. We put up a film review on Friday. Eventually it got overtaken by people who were basically on call 24x7 and could turn around something at 2:00 a.m. if a story broke. The relationship ran down because I didn't want to live that way, and they couldn't really work to a fixed schedule anymore.

*The last piece I did for them, they sent me to the set of the original Twilight movie in Portland, Oregon, because they had no idea what it was or how big it was going to be. I'd never heard of it, and all they told me was "vampires in high school." So I went, figuring it was some cheap b-movie, and there were two other people on the junket, both from web sites. One was like an 18-year old kid from Boston who had literally never been on a plane before. The other was a woman in her mid-forties who was in total fangirl geekout mode the whole time, running around with her copies of the books getting people to sign them and stuff. It was unprofessional as hell, but there you are.

I started to realize this thing was way, way bigger than the traditional fan community understood and I urged my editors to put it on the cover. I told them; they can't say I didn't tell them. But of course it didn't make the cover. If it was going to make the cover, they'd have sent the staff writer instead of me. So instead, Entertainment Weekly put Twilight on the cover and it was their highest selling issue ever.
posted by Naberius at 7:33 AM on October 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

Ah, I used to love Fangoria. More of a Starlog fan back then, but Fango was lush.
posted by doctornemo at 7:38 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Corn syrup? My friend, you dye liquid detergent so it washes out and does not attract ants... Here is how to make it by the gallon

All of those recipes use mostly corn syrup or chocolate syrup. What am I missing?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:24 PM on October 24, 2017

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