The Blog Lagoon’s 31 Days of Halloween – Day Six: Fangoria Magazine and Why I Love the Night Life

mov210569Before I could reach the top shelf of the grocery store magazine rack, that is, before adolescent hormones moved in and took over, I got a head start on my lifelong obsession with movies by flipping through movie magazines while Mom did the weekly shopping. While my peers gravitated towards Sports Illustrated and Circus I found myself drawn to magazines like the nerd-tastic sci-fi-oriented Starlog magazine and it’s sinister, horror-centric twisted sister publication, Fangoria. Fango was my generation’s Famous Monsters of Filmland— a monthly magazine dedicated to the horror genre, with lots of splashy colorful stills from the most recent horror movies. I was mesmerized by the goopy, gore-drenched photos in the blood-spattered pages of Fangoria. At first, they scared me, but I couldn’t look away. While Mom shopped I flipped pages, practically daring myself to stare directly into the face of horror.

It didn’t take long for me to build a resistance to these shocking images so that I could look at them with the critical eye of a true horror hound. In fact, my first nominee for “what I want to be when I grow up” (Well…after truck driver, anyway.) was a special effects artist. I wanted to create elaborate, colorful, shocking scenarios with latex and spirit gum. I wanted to be the next Tom Savini and make girls scream at the sight of  masterfully constructed disemboweled torsos and convincingly rotted, maggot-infested zombie faces.

I read Fangoria every month, cover to cover, and learned a lot about movies I wouldn’t see for another twenty years. Classic horror, modern horror, horror fiction — Fango covered it all, and I soaked it all up, retaining ten times more knowledge about THAT stuff than I would about math or science from my public school education. I even had a letter published in one issue. This one:

That's MY letter on page 3!

That's MY letter on page 3!

I would seek out the movies I found in Fangoria, but more often than not, come up snake eyes. Remember, of course, this was pre-internet, and I was not old enough to get into R-rated movies, so if the local video store didn’t get it, or I couldn’t find it on cable, that was that. 

Like everything else in my life, I learned about this fairly obscure little zombie movie called Night Life  in the pages of Fangoria. I remember being vaugely chilled by one particular issue’s cover which featured Night Life, via the image of a terrifying lady-zombie  head, split open (by an ax, perhaps?) in gruesome up-close, in-my-face detail.

I love the Night Life. I've got to boo-gay.

I love the Night Life. I've got to boo-gay.

There was something about that image that just got to me, and considering Night Life was worthy of that issue’s cover, it was reasonable for me to assume that the movie would get a wide enough release that it would play theaters, eventually make it to my video store, and if all else failed, finally show up on Showtime and Cinemax. So I waited…and waited…and waited…watched the movie ads in the Dayton Daily News, obsessively checked the video shelves, and scoured the index of every month’s cable movie guide. Finally, I gave up and forgot Night Life.

Fast forward to years later, and I’m in college and watching HBO at 3 am, and what would you guess I stumble upon? The opening credits of Night Life, just as the title card is hitting the screen. I couldn’t believe it. I watched it and ended up not being disappointed at all. By today’s standards it’s a fairly tame, but there are some great gory moments. And even though I never caught a glimpse of the Fangoria covergirl who haunted me for years (editing-room floor casualty?) I felt like I’d achieved a bit of closure to my relationship with this elusive minor gem.

I worked in two video stores back in those days, (college video store during the school year, and hometown video store during the summers) and was disappointed to find that neither store could order a copy of Night Life because it wasn’t in print and hadn’t been for a while. (It had a brief run in 1991) About five years ago when finally EVERYTHING seemed to be getting a DVD release, I watched and waited for Night Life‘s number to come up…

…and I’m still waiting. BUT HOLD ON! — All is not lost. As I indicated in an earlier post, YouTube has become an unlikely hero for fans of out-of-print VHS movies that never ended up on DVD. I’ve watched a few “lost” films on YouTube, and while it’s not the ideal movie-viewing experience, it’s sure as hell better than nothing.

So, I think you see where I’m headed now.

I’m not  reviewing Night Life now because, frankly, I haven’t watched it in years and my horror movie dance card is pretty booked this month, but I can tell you this much: It’s about a teen boy, played by Scott Grimes (the same ginger-headed teen to save his family’s farm in the underappreciated –yeah, that’s what I said–Gremlins rip-off, Critters), who works in his cranky uncle’s funeral parlor. (Did I mention the uncle is played by Gomez Addams himself, John Astin!?) Long story short: the high school jocks that bullied Grimes in life, all DIE in a freak storm, and return from the crypt (at his job, as it were) to torment him some more. He has to save the girl, destroy the zombies and it’s all lotsa’ bloody fun. Horror comedies are always a shaky proposition but I seem to remember Night Life getting its tone just about right.

That said, I make no promises. Night Lifeis drenched in late-80s ugly, and not the greatest zombie movie — it probably doesn’t even crack the top 10– but in a world where Jennifer’s Body gets a wide release and Rob Zombie’s celluloid stillborns warrant sequels (Whoops. I promised not to mention him.), I’m sure you’ll find something gory to giggle about in Night Life.

So now, after that rambling non-recommendation, allow me to introduce you to a nifty little zombie movie I’ve carried around in my heart for most of my life. For your sake, I hope it’s as fun as I remember.

Oh- and a quick final note. Don’t be confused by the title card at the front of the movie. For reasons that are probably too dumb to investigate, Night Life was released overseas as Grave Misdemeanors (Grave Misdemeanors!? Really?!). Enjoy!:

~ by Number5ive on October 6, 2009.

5 Responses to “The Blog Lagoon’s 31 Days of Halloween – Day Six: Fangoria Magazine and Why I Love the Night Life”

  1. I was looking for this but didnt no the name

  2. Not sure how live this is, or what your personal feelings are in regards to this sort of thing, but here you go:

    • It works great! That’s a helluva lot easier than ripping the clips in parts from YouTube and then piecing them back together on a DVD.

  3. Fangoria always had a way of making movies seem gorier than they actually were. All their covers looked outrageous, and then the movies would be tame. I’m not complaining at all…I loved seeing it that way. Grocery store shocker. I also read Circus.

  4. […] The Blog Lagoon’s 31 Days Of Halloween €“ Day Six: Fangoria Magazine And … […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: