Published by Comfy Couch Publishing / 2009
Stupidly, I held off on the opportunities to nab Issues #1 and #2. A fanzine primarily focusing on horror and cult VHS seems right up my alley, and with some friendly nudging from Freddy in Space--I finally gave in to stubbornness and ordered #3 direct from eBay.
A quick wait and the magazine landed in my mailbox yesterday afternoon. After the slick and vibrant front and back cover, the next thing to strike me were the many welcoming staples of an indie fanzine. All the pages are printed in black-and-white on dull paper with no ads and little misspellings and format inconsistencies lurking about. This lack of sheen doesn't matter with the extremely concise use of page space with a ribald exuberance mixed into the ink. In fact, the magazine seems to strive for a rough feel with much of the text in a purposely distressed (but easy to read) "typewriter" font.
The bulk of the featured VHS reviews start things off with most written by either Josh Schafer and Ted Gilbert--as is most of the magazine. There's a nice, amusing flow between the two, usually with each writer alternating per whole page review. Front/Back cover scans are also included and you can these guys don't particularly mind stickered or the dreaded cut box. Though most importantly the tail end of the reviews usually detail the VHS edition itself; speaking to picture/sound quality, rarity, and/or the film's presumed distribution situation. I'm personally more into tiny nerdish details like this, so I was left wanting more, despite the attention given being much more than what you'd find anywhere else. Some of the flicks covered in no particular page order are The Black Room (1984), Screamtime (1983), W (1983), Mutant Hunt (1987), Deadline (1981), and Paperhouse (1988). Louia Justin also provides much appreciated thoughts on 1986's seldom reviewed and even "seldomer" found The Abomination. Oh yes, one day I will find you...
To be honest, after these reviews stopped, the spotlight on VHS lessens along with Lunchmeat's appeal to some extent. We move on to an article/review by Gilbert dedicated to vintage pulpy sci-fi mags; this time placing a Fall 1946 issue of Planet Stories under focus. Next an interview conducted by Rick Fusselman with David A. Prior; director of the legendary Sledgehammer, Killer Workout (reviewed as well), and Night Wars. Prior's still working as of late, but it's always nice to hear the thoughts of such seemingly "lost" genre directors and his earlier cannon snaps in well with the home video boom. The aforementioned Sledgehammer is certainly one of the most sought after in horrortapedom.
The late '80s/early '90s child-friendly TV spookfest Monsters is showcased in an article covering three of WorldVision's VHS releases. This might be the best aspect of the magazine, since I was a fan like Schafer and there being a plethora of such one-offs of obscure television on tape that are all too neglected by the horror community. Director of The Bloody Ape and longtime genre VHS collector Keith Crocker is interviewed, providing a taste to the enthusiasm of the hobby with war stories and tips on how to approach the art of dead format hording. Though I must admit never hearing of Mr. Crocker or his body of underground work before this, but that's just the magazine doing its job.
Rounding out the 'zine are articles concerning horror-tinted sword-and-sandal such as Bava's Hercules in the Haunted World and Fulci's Conquest, the Republic serials Zombies of the Stratosphere and The Crimson Ghost, a spread of the staff's favorite demonic VHS covers, and crossword pertaining to the world of Hammer Horror.
As mentioned, this more formal content provides good diversion from the magazine's primary theme, or at least VHS horror fanzine selling point. That's the problem though, there's too much "other" stuff (not that it's bad) while many things that are begging to be explored within the Realm of the Bloody Tape are untouched. Maybe golden era home video studio spotlights with reviews of their most popular releases. Throw in some reviews of tapes hailing from countries outside the States. Expand coverage to other dead formats like CED, Laserdisc, and even Beta. Perhaps a running price guide of sorts. A continual article showcasing one of the "rarest of the rare." Hell, crazy shit like tape collecting "theory" could be made so zany that it's magnetic to the last sentence.
I can't be too hard on these guys though. Like other great obsessive fanzines, hearts are clearly in the right place--as in splattered all over the page. It's funner, cheaper (tired of blowing a ten on genre mags), and refreshingly provides angles rarely touched in the biggies like Fangoria or Rue Morgue. I'm glad I decided to get in early and wholeheartedly recommend this issue, despite the growing pains. I'm there for #4 and look forward to see what is unearthed in the future. Viva la VHS!