March 27, 2011

A Blood-Soaked Journey Down Memory Lane

(Deep Red #4)
Being a fan of genre cinema today is an easy, if not slightly overwhelming, way of life. The internet makes accessing information just a click away. Hundreds of websites, blogs and fan pages are all there feeding us news and reviews of new movies, books and merchandise. It is in all honesty a quite wonderful, albeit a potentially expensive, time to be a fan. Of course you have to wade through a lot of shit to find the good stuff, but it is out there. For all the good it brings it brings an equal measure of hostility and self promotion (of course we are all guilty of that!)  Everyone's opinion is the only one that matters and everyone is an expert. What you like or dislike is open to the masses and you often find yourself questioned and even criticized for what you enjoy. But, we must take the rough with the smooth, and this era is one I embrace. Movies are on demand at home or on your computer, there are thousands of outlets to buy your fix of horror. Theaters have more than one screen, so if you are lucky they may even show a horror movie occasionally, although rest assured it will rarely be independently financed. There are of course the select group of theaters that thrive on special screenings and limited releases. Bless them one and all. My point being is that horror is out there, ready to be gobbled up and spat out before moving onto the next fix.

(Fangoria #73)

(Toxic Horror #1)

It wasn't always this way though. Being a teenager in the 1980's, yes I am an old fucker, it wasn't easy at all, it required a hell of a lot of footwork I can tell you. I can only imagine what it was like in the decades that came before. First off we only had three channels on the television back in the UK. This was before Channel 4, and all its glory, came lurching into the world. So as you can imagine the pickings were slim. There was good stuff to be found though. Hammer Horror flicks and the Universal Classics were often screened, as were movies like The Omen, and Night of the Living Dead. I also fed myself on a steady diet of gore-soaked literature from the likes of James Herbert and Shaun Hutson. Cinemas in my hometown weren't what they are today either, the Pavilion only had one screen so only showed one feature per week, plus a late night screening of something like Halloween 3. I didn't get to see those though as unlike the States where an R rating means kids can be admitted with an adult, in the UK movies had ratings such as a 15 or 18, meaning if you were under the age of 15 or 18 you didn't get in. The most difficult part though was finding out about these wonderful, or not so wonderful, movies. I remember the day it changed though.

(Gorezone #1)

(Fear #1)

At school one day a friend brought in a copy of a magazine called Fangoria. Twas a wonderful thing, full of gory images from films I had never heard of. The hooks were in though, I needed more. At the time my father worked in London, so it was my duty to badger him about grabbing me a copy of this sick magazine. Then one day he came home with a copy, it was issue 73. This opened the flood gates for me, the video age was upon us and I wanted to see them all. Video stores at the time, such as my local Channel 5, only ever carried one copy of each movie unless it was a huge hit. You had to persevere though and put in your time to find the horror. My friend and I would spend hours searching the shelves for horror movies, any horror movie, and would usually leave with three or four at a time. Movies like Street Trash, Basket Case, Intruder and Demons, as well as more lightweight faire like Ghoulies 2, The Gate and Terrorvision. Again, this wasn't easy with the movie certification. At the age of 14 or 15 it wasn't easy to pass as 18, we seemed to manage though somehow. The same applied to the theater, we managed to get in to see Hellraiser 2, The Fly 2 and a seemingly endless supply of Elm Street flicks. We lapped it up, even making it down to London to catch Bad Taste at the Prince Charles Cinema.

(Theatrical Poster which adorned my wall)
Eventually, on one glorious day, I found a store in my home town that not only sold Fangoria, saving having to ask my dad to keep picking them up for me, but also its spin-offs Gorezone, Toxic Horror, The Bloody Best of Fangoria as well as a new UK based magazine called Fear. So every month I would trek down and pick up these beauties and devour every issue. This only opened my eyes to more though, and that involved taking myself to London to visit a store called Forbidden Planet. There I would find even more goodies such as the glorious Deep Red magazine and books such as The Official Splatter Movie Guide (I still have that as well as its follow-up) and The Nightmare on Elm Street Companion.

(I still have both of these)

It certainly wasn't easy though, many of the films I read about with shocking titles like Doctor Butcher MD and The Gates of Hell weren't readily available at the time. The Video Recording Act fucked up everything for a while giving us the legendary Video Nasties list of movies. Extreme times called for extreme measures though, and this called for my father's credit card. No, I didn't steal it! It meant he ordered a couple of films from the States using it. The films were Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. They weren't on the list but I still couldn't find them. Alas, I never received them, instead my father received a letter from Customs informing him that they had been seized. That put an end to that then. Over the years the laws were relaxed and many, if not all, of these films did finally see a release in the UK.

(Freddy was all the rage so I had to have this!)

Like I said though, it was not an easy time to be a horror fan. You really had to put time and effort into finding your fix. I wish I still had my old books, magazines and vhs movies, but most got left in the UK when I moved to the States in 2005. Yes I am a fool as some of my stuff was incredibly rare, not that I would ever sell any of it. 

(I managed to nab one of these from the theater)

Which all brings us back to the present day. I laugh sometimes when all I seem to read about is how there are no good horror movies being made or released. Of course there is, you just need to put a little time and effort into finding it. It may not be at the theater or in your local store, but I assure you it is out there just waiting to be found. With the resources available there really is no excuse. Don't just gorge yourself on what is easy to find, dig below the surface as there are some really tasty gems to be found.

(Another acquisition from the theater)


ProZac said...

Great read man! It was cool hearing about the horror scene in the UK. I will always remember the days of getting new horror mags and seeing pictures of new movies coming out. Great stuff!

Lord of Filth said...

Cheers brother! I just saw that the Elm Street book I had is now going for $125 on Amazon brand new. Used copies are far less lol.

DOC TERROR said...

These covers took me back. I was a kid when these came out. Probably wasn't even supposed to be looking at/reading these mags. I remember sitting at Walden books and reading them in the store because I knew my mother wouldn't let me buy them (due to the gore on the cover). My dad on the other hand loved Famous Monsters and let me purchase them upon our next visit. I think I need to get dad some old Famous Monsters issues for Father's Day for that. Thanks for the memories!

Lord of Filth said...

That sounds like a good idea! Glad you enjoyed the read.

Patrick O'Connor said...

I remember that cinema we saw Bad Taste in; it looked like a right shit-box from the outside but inside it was awesome, a real old-fashioned movie house. The film was wicked too. It's been a real pleasure seeing Mr. Jackson go from strength to strength in the movie world.