What do people want to do in October? Most people I know get ready for Halloween, in many different ways. Personally, I like to watch more horror movies than usual, and listen to spooky music and look at Halloween areas in stores, post creepy art, stuff like that. I believe most people agree on the watching horror movies bit, at least (more horror movies are released and consumed this time of year than any other). But the question is, what movies do you want to watch? For every good horror movie, there are tons of bad and mediocre ones. Why go into it uninformed when so many people passionate about their horror (as well as gore/ sleaze/ trash/ exploitation films) love to tell about them?
The next question is where do you want to read about them? Who’s opinion do you trust? There are hundreds of blogs and websites dedicated to reviewing and discussing these kinds of movies, but for real passion, you need to go back to the days of underground ‘zine publishing, when you had to really make an effort to find a good off-the-beaten-path movie. Making a blog is easy- the people putting out these ‘zines had to take a lot of time and money to get their love of horror and exploitation movies out to a viewing public. So to help you find some good movies to rent this Halloween, I’m going to present 3 old relics of the underground reviewzine publishing era.
At PMT, we usually focus on ‘zines that have more in them than just reviews (interviews and thoughtful articles, filmographys and things like that). But there were also movie reviewzines around back then, that were 99% nothing but movie reviews without all the articles and claptrap to get in the way of telling you how much a movie ruled or sucked. Movie reviewzines were incredibly prevalent in the late ’80s/ early ’90s, and I have a ton of them. Most of them were pretty mediocre, without much style or knowledge put into them. Most of them also reviewed all the same movies. The best you could hope for was one that had at least a couple of reviews of movies you hadn’t seen or heard of and could seek out.
Some, however, worked hard to write interesting reviews and had writers and editors with colorful personalities who you enjoyed reading. Usually these were also put out fairly often, and were smaller and cheaper (around a dollar each or even free). Many of these went on to become well known in the underground film ‘zine scene, and transformed into more than mere reviewzines. Titles such as Gore Gazette, Stink, and Psychotronic Video (all of which started out local in NYC, being given away free or cheap in the Times Square area, where they showed a lot of these movies) got their start as thin (sometimes one page) reviewzines. You got to know the writers and it was more like a (possibly drunk) friend telling you their take on whatever movies were being reviewed that month.
This month, to help you guys choose your movies to watch for October, I’m going to pick a bunch of reviewzines of varying degrees of temperment and literary competency from my big box of them at random, and put them up on PMT so you, the reader, will have plenty of reviews from the bygone trashy era to peruse at your leisure. I don’t know where these writers are now, but their reviews live on from beyond the trash heap to inform and inspire.
The first one we’re going to focus on is one of the better ones- Psycho Video vol. 1, #5. Most of the reviews were long and involved, but still written from a non-academic (and non-pretentious sounding) angle. The staff all had a great sense of humor (notice their reaction to getting slagged pretty hard in the great (and sorely missed) Film Threat magazine in this issue), and this ‘zine had a lot more reviews of movies I had not seen or heard of than most of the reviewzines out at the time (I still haven’t seen a lot of the movies reviewed in this issue).
Above average. Here’s some pages:
This next one is far more typical of your average reviewzine- Lifestyles of the Bodily Dismembered (nice name, tho). The reviews are amateurishly written, and very little attempt at literacy or trivia dropping or even spelling and punctuation has been made. The main difference between this one and other reviewzines are the band interviews. The movies reviewed are fairly typical but there are a few lesser known ones in there. I believe it was mostly distributed in the St Paul, Minn area. It features several longer, more in depth reviews of movies they liked, and a whole bunch of short, blurb type reviews that don’t waste your time for movies they weren’t as impressed with.
Lastly, we have City Morgue #5, a mean spirited and nasty little reviewzine from Michigan. Most ‘zines I have more than one issue of, but I only have this one single issue of City Morgue, so I can’t comment on how it evolved. I can say that the editor comes off as a bit of a sexist/ racist cretin (which is probably why I only got one issue), trying to sound gruff and anti-P.C. (aping people like Rick Sullivan and especially Nick the Yak (he even says Nick’s line he used to use all the time “It’s your money!”)) but coming off as pretty pathetic. Most of the movies reviewed (with a couple of exceptions) are the same ones most everyone reviewed around that time. Here’s a few pages for your perusal:
Hopefully you read some reviews and found some new movies to watch (or avoid) for the Halloween season. Or at the least, got to see some more exhibits in the history of post modern trashaeology preserved in all their harsh, misspelled, imperfect and borderline racist (at times) glory…