It was the 80's. An unbeatable time to be a horror fan. I sometimes think that younger people--fans of this stuff--might get sick of hearing about the era, but to my surprise many enjoy hearing about those days. And look at the popularity of Stranger Things and Stephen King's It, not to mention the recently-published-to-much-excitement Paperbacks From Hell.
It was a great time for horror fiction, and goofy, gloppy horror comedies and sequels were everywhere. But it was also the day of the first real Gorehounds. A tribe of which I proudly numbered myself among.
I had always loved horror movies, and I reveled in the slasher movie cycle. But sometime around the mid 1980's I began reading Fangoria, and my love of horror grew exponentially.
There was, and in fact still is, a comic store in Hampton VA that had a tidy little horror section in it. Magazines and books were what held my interest, and I bought a lot of stuff there. It was at this place of wonder where I beheld the first issue of Deep Red Magazine. I snatched it up off of the shelf with trembling hands, and I instantly knew that I was going to buy it. I was pretty broke in those days, and even the decision to purchase a new magazine was fairly big. There was no doubt, though, that this Deep Red was eminently suited to me.
Deep Red wasn't Fangoria, that's for sure. I loved Fango, especially the Early Timpone years, but Deep Red was a lot more raw. It didn't need to cater to advertisers or to timid publishing execs. Chas Balun and his crew told it like it was. They skewered sacred cows, and they enthusiastically praised worthy movies and directors.
It was the heyday of Italian horror, and I had been learning about names such as Argento, Fulci, and Bava from Fangoria. But in Deep Red I began reading about directors like Ruggero Deodato and Bruno Mattei.
Deep Red also reviewed oddities that no one else in genre journalism would, like the Oingo Boingo nuthouse movie, Forbidden Zone, and Herschell Gordon Lewis kids' movies.
Deep Red was down. Dirty. Rude. Uncompromising. It was also intelligent and discerning. Did I agree with the writers all of the time? Hell, no. They all seemed to hate Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and I have always adored that movie. But I mostly saw eye-to-severed-eye with the Deep Red bunch.
I rented every damned low budget or foreign horror tape I could get my hands on, and I sat through a lot of shitty transfers, brutally cut prints, and just plain bad motion pictures. I loved the thrill of the hunt, and in retrospect it was more fun doing that than having everything available at our bloody fingertips. The chase was at least as fun as watching a gory videocassette.
I bought every issue of Deep Red at that same store, and I loved every one of them. But times changed, and the wonderful little horror section dwindled. They stopped buying and stocking new materials, because frankly I was the only one buying them.
And Deep Red ceased publication. The publisher, Fantaco, folded, as I understand it, and there didn't seem to be as big a market for gorehound publications as the nineties wore on.
Chas Balun did some books of horror journalism, and he published some fiction. I had all of it, but in pressing financial times I sold some of them. What hurts the most was losing Chas's fiction: Ninth and Hell Street and Director's Cut. I'd love to have them again, but alas they command a pretty penny nowadays.
The years went on. Horror fads came and went, but nothing ever compared with the days when I was so excited about seeing a newly unearthed Lucio Fulci picture, or discovering a new Eurohorror filmmaker. The days when Fangoria still had balls and Chas Balun was doing Deep Red.
Chas Balun lost his battle with cancer in December 2009. I never had the opportunity to meet the man, but I felt like I was saying goodbye to one of my closest friends.
Horror movie journalism had lost its luster for me in the ensuing years. Sure there was cool stuff out there, but it didn't have the magic that I once felt in the pages of Deep Red. Horror had lost its guts.
Now here we are in 2017. Horror seems to be popular again, and people are looking to the past. I was delighted when I saw an announcement that Deep Red was going to come back into print. An all-new magazine from many who had worked with Balun before.
Can it work without horror's boldest spokesman at the helm? I'm betting that it will. And I'm putting my money where my mouth is with the Deep Red Kickstarter drive. As I write these words the goal has already been reached, and Deep Red will be a reality once again. I'd still love to see it be as successful as possible, and I hope, urge, plead with all horror fans to join us in the pledge to keep the bloody waters flowing.