I blame it all on a guy named Mike Walker.
I was a nice, normal horror fan. This was just into the 1990's. Well before DVD made nearly every movie imaginable available to fans. I was discovering Argento, Deodato, Fulci, Franco, and others through the bootleg circuit. Ahem. Make that through duplication services. I was happy doing this, until the day that the aforementioned Walker showed up and handed me a magazine. It was something I had never seen before. Film Threat?
Not that I wasn't ready for such a breakthrough. I had been watching early John Waters movies, and I was discovering a lot of foreign and independent things at the video stores. But this...this Film Threat...this was something altogether different.
The issue I was given was the very last one that was published prior to the magazine being acquired by Larry Flynt Publlications. And hoo boy, was it an eye-opener.
Who were these people I was reading about? Nick Zedd? Richard Kern? G.G. Allin? What kind of bizarre tapes were being sold in the magazine? It was punk rock for the movies.
The timing was right. That was part of it. Punk was seeing a major resurgence, and alternative music had been assimilated by the mainstream yet. Things were still edgy in the early 90's. And underground filmmakers were often shooting their opuses in the Super 8 format. Which, to me, was and always will be more effective and visceral than digitally shot movies.
Independent film was chic in the mid 90's, and part of the credit for that goes to Film Threat. The biggest catalyst for the success of indie movies was Pulp Fiction, and FT was the first national magazine to showcase Quentin Tarantino in its pages.
Yes, I was hooked. Shortly after I discovered that Film Threat had sort of gone legit with a glossy magazine that was present in many bookstores. Film Threat Magazine was, as I previously indicated, part of the Larry Flynt family of wholesome periodicals.
Yet those of us who craved pure subversion were not forgotten. A sister magazine was launched that was devoted to underground cinema. Thus we had two magazines to enjoy: Film Threat was more accessible, and it largely skewered Hollywood product, while Film Threat Video Guide covered the underground. I loved them both.
It was the perfect pair of magazines for the new fan. Ones who were raised on Black Flag and Eraserhead, and who dropped their pants and mooned film school stuffiness. Film Threat was irreverent, acidic, informative, and funny as hell.
I loved that FT championed people like Todd Haynes and Bruce La Bruce, but it was unafraid to praise movies by Woody Allen and John Sayles. Film Threat, and its readers, demanded honesty and integrity from filmmakers, and we didn't care where they came from.
I learned so much about different types of movies: Underground, transgressive, queer, punk, foreign, experimental. The sky was the limit.
Being a Film Threat reader and subscriber felt like being in a club. Being in my mid-thirties I was older, I think, than most of the readers. I still felt like I was part of a tribe. I had letters in the Hate Mail sections, won contests. It was so much fun.
Sure, more than a few feathers were ruffled along the way. FT pulled no punches. Like the time Film Threat called horror journalist, Chas. Balun to task for bootlegging practices. It was an ugly situation, and a lot of horror fans leaped to Balun's side. Me, I had to agree with Film Threat, mostly because they had the distinction of being right about what was going on. FT always championed the rights of filmmakers.
Then there were the movies that were being distributed by FT. I bought them all: The Hardcore Collections, Steal This Video, Hated: G.G. Allin and the Murder Junkies, My Sweet Satan, and all the rest. These movie shocked, provoked, and assaulted viewers.
The hardcopy magazine unfortunately folded by the late 90's, but a website was born. Film Threat.com continued the tradition of the magazines. Until it, too, closed its doors in 2015.
It takes money to keep a website going. Believe me, even my little effort here costs me every year. Film Threat founder Chris Gore launched a Kickstarter drive to revive the site, but it failed to reach its goal. Now he has started another one, with an eye toward greater visibility and ambition.
What began as a snotty, messy, upstart fanzine gradually morphed into one of the most influential and important film journals in history. Countless fledgling directors, actors, screenwriters, crewmembers were inspired by Film Threat. Discerning viewers were pointed toward worthy movies. Undiscerning viewers became discerning viewers. And Hollywood were kept on their collective toes by the no-bullshit stance of Film Threat staff and readers.
We need Film Threat. The movies have become more homogenized and formulaic than ever. No one else is as capable of speaking out for serious movie fans than Chris Gore and Film Threat.
A new Kickstarter is open, and some pretty cool incentives are up for grabs. Yes, I am in. I couldn't give a lot, but I did my part. I'm asking you to consider doing so as well.