Before you could access thousands of hours of horror content on your cell phone, there was just one magazine celebrating the ingenuity and artistry behind the much-maligned genre.
That magazine, as film nerds of a certain age well know, was Fangoria.
Much like the gore-filled pages of EC comics, which were revered by young readers and hated by their parents years earlier, the magazine was controversial, even garnering a public condemnation from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Still, the kids loved it, and while the occasional controversy would lead to it being pulled from newsstands from time to time, readership remained steady for over three decades.
In the intervening years, those kids have grown up, and the public perception of horror has continued to grow with them—even just in the three years that Fangoria has been out of print (it released its last issue in 2015).
The genre is bigger than ever, no longer playing just to kids and teens, but to a much bigger audience that also includes parents and cinephiles—our own Cannabis Culture Poll found that the majority of marijuana users tend to be horror fans as well.
Fangoria’s new Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director, Phil Nobile Jr. is hoping to capture this expanding demographic with the magazine’s relaunched second volume.
"I think horror is in a position of, let’s say, 'fiscal legitimacy' that it’s never been in before," Nobile told Civilized. "It’s winning awards, it’s getting critical acclaim, but it’s also making bank, and that’s what studios will pay attention to."
Horror does seem to be having a moment. In 2017, Jordan Peele’s 'Get Out' became the highest grossing debut film based on an original screenplay in Hollywood history. Months later, the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s 'It' broke several records, becoming the most profitable horror film of all time. More recently, a new installment in the 40-year-old 'Halloween' franchise raked in the cash, making it the highest-grossing horror film with a female lead in its first weekend alone.
But is all this success necessarily good for the genre? In the past, horror’s "underdog" status has fostered the work of innovative storytellers that have gone on to change how movies are made. However, big returns beget bigger budgets, and with bigger budgets come a greater need for studios to hedge their bets.
"I worry that the huge success of 'Halloween'—which is quite good—will throw a wrench in that original film pipeline," he said. "Hollywood is very literal and has a goldfish memory, so I’m bracing myself for a bunch of reboots."
There’s irony in this that is difficult to ignore. After it was suggested that maybe that the relaunched magazine could learn a thing or two from the reboot trend, Nobile wasn’t convinced, but he did acknowledge the similarities.
"I don’t know that we’re learning from franchises, or if it’s just that we’re rowing in the same direction, but sure, 'Halloween' came back by treating the low-budget original as the important work it is," he said. "The new one got top-shelf actors and storytellers and crafting something classy and legitimate, and that’s pretty much our plan as well."
That does seem to be the direction that they are taking with the brand. Far from the glossy tabloid that would most often be found stuck under kids' mattresses, the magazine is being relaunched as a premium publication, printed on a better paper stock and with a heftier price tag.
"What I tell folks is that in 2018, Fangoria is an institution. What started as a disreputable magazine you hid from your parents has now been around for five decades. So, my plan has been for us to act like the institution the brand has become."
This effort to redefine what Fangoria is extends to a tighter control of its content stream. In its last iteration, the magazine had a fledgling online presence, hoping to attract new readers. Nobile’s Fangoria, however, forgoes the internet entirely. In fact, the brand’s new website has no content to speak of, instead taking the form of a print magazine subscription ad bearing the tagline "FANGORIA. Because reading about horror shouldn’t require an ISP."
It could be argued that this decidedly old-school approach might alienate younger fans (traditionally their biggest audience), many of whom are more accustomed to finding their movie news on Reddit than between the pages of a magazine. Nevertheless, the move towards a demographic shift is a notion that Nobile contests.
"I have a buddy whose teenage daughters are obsessed with buying vinyl. Analog and retro are huge with a younger crowd right now. On top of that, my social media feed is packed with pics of that older demographic, sharing the mag with their kids. It’s been fun to see."
Clearly Nobile and his staff are banking on some level of nostalgia to buoy to the brand, but all this is not to suggest that Fangoria will just be wallowing in the past. On the contrary, the brand is expanding into new and untested waters for the property, including a line of books and even films under their banner.
Their first film, a reboot of the 1989 cult classic 'Puppet Master,' bearing the subhead 'The Littlest Reich' was released earlier this summer. A second, original horror comedy entitled 'Satanic Panic' recently wrapped production, and Nobile promises that "there’s more to come."
This sort of cheeky, self-aware horror content being produced by Fangoria is entirely consistent with the history of the brand, which has always approached the genre with both humor and reverence. It’s also the kind of film Nobile used to watch while high, back in the days when he would partake.
"I’m sober now, but I used to love watching 'fun' horror movies or horror comedies high—'Creepshow', 'Slither', 'Fright Night', stuff you could laugh with," he said. "I literally can’t imagine watching the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' or anything from the New French Extremity while high."
"Or 'Funny Games'. That sounds like it’d be a nightmare."
You can subscribe to the relaunched Fangoria via its website.