January 29, 2014

Barking At The Vacuum Cleaner - Mini-Review Of Xerox Ferox: The Wild World Of The Horror Film Fanzine And A Lord Of Tears (2012) Update

The cover of Xerox Ferox by John Szpunar
       My advanced age notwithstanding, I somehow managed to miss out on the glory days of the horror film fanzine.  Before the internet, horror and exploitation fans discussed their more esoteric viewing choices via a slew of these do-it-yourself publications that examined the marginalized movies most mainstream press chose to ignore.  It was a grassroots movement uniting fans worldwide in celebrating movies that made their homes primarily in the drive-ins and grindhouses.

     Author John Szpunar has assembled what must currently be the most definitive examination of the fanzine phenomena available with his new(ish) 800 page release Xerox Ferox: The Wild World Of The Horror Film Fanzine published by Headpress.  Szpunar interviewed over forty of the individuals responsible for many of the most well-known and revered of the horror film fanzines - familiar names like Chas. Balun, Bob Martin, Tim Lucas, Bill Landis, Michael Gingold, and Tim Ferrante.  The author acknowledges in the book's introduction only two glaring omissions that he was unable to interview: Psychotronic's Michael Weldon and the Gore Gazette's Rick Sullivan.  Maybe we'll see a Xerox Ferox Volume 2?

Nightmare USA by Stephen Thrower
     Fret not, though.  Even taking those two omissions into account one still finds more than enough fascinating information about this largely unexamined and yet historically significant era to keep busy for a long, long while.  I generally don't enjoy books comprised primarily of interviews, but Szpunar clearly knows his topic well.  He asks all the right questions of his subjects, and Xerox Ferox successfully weaves all of these interviews into a compelling history of a pivotal era in horror journalism.  Not since Stephen Thrower's Nightmare USA: The Untold Story Of The Exploitation Independents have I felt as though I've learned as much about a topic about which I was previously ignorant.  If I have one minor quibble, it's only that I wish the images of the fanzines sprinkled throughout were all clearly legible.  I suppose that just gives me an incentive to track down some fanzine compendiums, huh?

     I believe that the horror blogging community in particular will find Szpunar's Xerox Ferox to be especially interesting.  Horror blogging is an obvious outgrowth of these fanzines, and the personal accounts of what these trailblazers endured to get their commentary out into the world before the advent of easy internet distribution is inspiring.  John Szpunar's Xerox Ferox: The Wild World Of The Horror Film Fanzine earns my highest recommendation.


     The Dog Farm first brought director Lawrie Brewster's then forthcoming feature film Lord Of Tears to your attention way back in February of last year.  Since then, Lord Of Tears has seen release (you can order the Collector's Edition DVD or Blu-Ray here), and it continues to rack up some impressive accolades from all over the world.  It won both the Best Female Lead Award and the coveted Audience Award at the 2013 Bram Stoker International Film Festival, and it's earning a wealth of enthusiastic reviews from horror journalists all over the web.

The Collector's Edition disc release of Lord Of Tears available now at www.hexmedia.tv with Limited Edition Serial Numbers and loads of great extras!  Each package is signed by director Lawrie Brewster and writer Sarah Daly!

     Now director Brewster tells me Lord Of Tears has been named an official selection of the prestigious Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival in April!  Congratulations to Mr. Brewster and everyone else who worked so hard to make Lord Of Tears an unqualified success!

     Check out the new Lord Of Tears trailer, an interview with Lawrie Brewster discussing what's next for Hex Media, and a creepy video of the movie's Owlman terrorizing video chatters on Chat Roulette!



  1. Fanzines must have been the best way to experience horror. Now, the instantaneous internet communication is a luxury, yet it prevents the whole experience of discovery. Too many people have offered observations (most not worth a damn) that spoil, taint, and ruin the experience. On a similar way, a Halloween movie with Michael Meyers gets nationwide release on the same afternoon. Back in the 70s, the movie may have traveled from town to town. Word of mouth would generate interest, but no outside influences would ruin the experience. Now, we can read the Wikipedia summary a week before a film's release.
    And that's why I never snooped at my Christmas presents, too.

    1. I believe that "loss of innocence" the internet engenders is truly a double edged sword. It's a glorious thing that any person with a point of view, an internet connection, and a laptop can publish and share with the whole world. On the other hand, it also often serves to devalue the discourse by making the figurative price of admission a little too low. I try my damndest to make sure that my own contributions aren't just adding to the din to puff up my own ego. Still, I do like a puffy ego . . .

      Funny how instant gratification is so much less gratifying than the thrill of discovery. The easy access we enjoy probably would have sounded like heaven to the folks producing those fanzines back in the day, but it kills a lot of the magic.

      Thanks for commenting, Carl!

  2. I too, unfortunately missed out on the fanzines. I will definitely have to check out Xerox Ferox...sounds right up my alley! I missed out on Nightmare USA when it was first released as well. I keep my eyes peeled for a copy on Amazon and Ebay but it's really hard to find a copy for a good price.

    I agree with your double edged sword view of the "loss of innocence". While on one hand, we have lost the magic of discovery that made up much of the culture in the past. On the other hand, we now have the ability to view far more films than we could of ever hoped to 30 years ago. I've used this bit before, but I'll say it again: Sitting in my home right now is a virtual video store. When I was a kid, our local Mom & Pop (Video Paradise) shop was a nirvana of movie magic. This is back in the days when a single VHS tape would cost you ninety bucks! Had you told me in 1988 that twenty six years later, I would not only own MORE movies than Video Paradise had, but that I would easily store them in my home, I would have thought you were nuts.

    While there's not too much in the way of new films that come as a surprise these days (like Carl said, you can read the entire plot on Wikipedia a week before the film is even released!), there is a new venue of discovery (that I actually find a bit more exciting....but I'm kinda strange anyway) and that's searching for retro films that have never made the jump to modern formats. There are SO many films that have never seen the light of day since VHS ruled the earth. So many forgotten gems that are just waiting to be rediscovered! Plus now you have filmmakers discovering films that they made and forgot about, some only now receiving their first release since being made (such as The Miami Connection).

    The magic is still there, my friends. It's just transmogrified.

    1. I've learned the hard way with books about the genre that they often don't go to multiple printings. If I'm even remotely interested in something, I get a copy as soon as I can.

      I occasionally come across a tape of something not otherwise available, but I've turned into such an AV snob that I find it difficult to watch the poor picture quality and incorrect aspect ratios. Of course, if something has never made the jump to disc it's often more of a B grade movie anyway, so the aesthetic considerations matter a little less. Speaking of B grade movies on tape . . .

      I saw a movie called The Fifth Floor (1978) starring Bo Hopkins second billed at a drive-in once. It's never made the jump, and as near as I can tell its last home release was on VHS in 1991. It's not terribly expensive or difficult to find, but I suspect what made an impression when I was much younger would probably suck a little bit now. Still, it nags at me. Familiar with it?

  3. I am really kicking myself in the butt for not picking up the book, but I'm sure with some dilligent E-bay hounding I'll eventually get it! You are absolutely correct, though.....you need to snag genre books right fast, because when they're gone, they're a fortune!

    When it comes to VHS collecting, I may pick up a tape that I already have on DVD or Blu Ray simply because the box art is so awesome and it looks good sitting on the shelf. When it comes to films I'm actually going to watch, you hit the nail on the head: B thru Z grade movies are the order of the day....and in that case the grainy, slightly blurred video and hissing analog sound only add to the atmosphere and the authenticity of the experience. For instance....I recently popped in my VHS copy of Evil Dead.....I've gotta tell you, it's a completely different experience on VHS as compared to DVD and Blu Ray. It feels crunchy. It feels raw. And again, for many of the films, VHS is the only way that you'll be able to see these films....unless some madman comes along and saves them from the analog graveyard!

    I am familiar with The Fifth Floor! I haven't seen it in a super long time, but I remember that it was a pretty decent flick. What was it about the film that made an impression on you?

    1. I would only have been nine or ten when I saw The Fifth Floor. Bo Hopkins as the heavy made an impression, but more than that, I was freaked out at that age by the scenario. Trapped in an asylum when you're not crazy - even though I now know that scenario is so common it's practically its own sub-genre - was a scary premise. Of course, the collector in me is interested because it's one of the only movies I remember pretty vividly from childhood that isn't available on disc. I have no recollection of what the main feature was that night.

  4. Well, I've got some possibly good news for ya! I did a little research on The Fifth Floor and it turns out that it's a fairly rare film. Amazon came up empty and I did find one VHS for sale on Ebay for $12.99.
    Digging a little bit more I found a DVD of The Fifth Floor for sale. I've never dealt with this particular site so I cannot vouch for them. I'm also willing to bet that this is a DVR taken straight from VHS...and it's $28.50!

    Here's the link: http://www.movies.shoppingcartsplus.com/catalog/item/8433233/9376645.htm

    If you're into the whole "stuck in an asylum even though you're not crazy" genre, check out The Dead Pit! It's got all that type of stuff....plus zombies and an undead evil doctor! Woot!

  5. I've seen The Dead Pit! The VHS box had flashing eyes like Frankenhooker. I've seen those DVD-Rs, and I would assume it would have to be a VHS dupe. I'm pretty sure I've not seen a foreign release of The Fifth Floor, either. I'm too poor to pay for bad copies of movies that probably aren't anywhere near as good as I remember. lol

  6. Yes it did! Those boxes were awesome! Man, I can remember that box flashed it's glowing red eyes for YEARS at our local Mom & Pop shop!
    I hear ya....It's hard to keep up on all the films and books I want (especially with all the amazing re-releases Scream Factory and Co. are putting out!)


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