Friday, October 17, 2008

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Time for Some Lunchmeat

It was almost 22 years ago that Exploitation Retrospect was "officially" born. Sure, the drive-in/trash film newsletter which lasted from 1986 till I pulled the plug on the print edition in 2000 got its start that summer when my buddy Lou and I decided to put my Apple Macintosh to good use and take advantage of the high-speed, high-volume copier at my unnamed internship employer. But when a local film critic wrote a feature article about our first issue that appeared right before Halloween, the whole thing somehow seemed more real.

Looking back on those early issues I have to admit that some (most?) of the material is cringe-worthy. Bad, scatter-brained writing, inside jokes, and not much layout to speak of for the first 20 issues or so. But reading them as I try to salvage anything for the upcoming ER book is like taking a walk down memory lane, or more like a stagger given the amount of partying we were doing at the time.

With the easy access to and low startup costs of websites and blogs, I have to admire – not to mention wonder about – anybody that would take the plunge into putting out a print zine in this day and age. It still pains me when I think about the $ I dumped into printing (once my internship was up) and postage (though no comparison to what it is now), not to mention the time that went into writing, layout and everything else that went with putting out the zine. Luckily, judging from what I've gone back and read I saved a lot of time by never editing anything. Sigh.

I recently picked up the first issue of Lunchmeat, a new horror movie zine with an interesting, albeit frustratingly underdeveloped angle. Billed on its eye-popping (literally), full-color front cover as a "VHS FANZINE", Lunchmeat is a fresh concept in an age when every genre zine and mag seems to dwell upon the audio/video quality and bonus features of DVDs of everything from the latest major studio horror flick to obscure 70s drive-in fodder.

Lunchmeat targets a very different time, an era when I spent an inordinate amount of time in video stores stacking my arms with every gory piece of trash I could get my hands on. We didn't care about featurettes, commentary tracks, or Easter eggs. Just let me see the damn film! Lunchmeat jumps feet first into that time and comes out with an impressively varied lineup of flicks that showcase what made going to the video store so much fun. Reviews in the debut include everything from the film that inspired the zine's name (the 80s gore flick LUNCHMEAT, naturally) and the backwoods hunting drama RITUALS to trailer/clip collections, horror comedy, Eurotrash, 70s revenge dramas and more.

I have to hand it to writers/editors Josh Schafer and Ted Gilbert, they manage to deliver reviews of more than a handful of flicks whose box art I'm intimately familiar with (I've had that SPASMS box in my hands probably two dozen times), though I've never pulled the trigger and rented them. The issue also includes a fun look at the evolution of "monster toys" from the 60s to the present.

As a first effort Lunchmeat is definitely headed in the right direction. The layout and production of the mag are nicely done. Though the full-color, card stock cover and heavy paper may have been overkill and contribute mightily to the $5 asking price for a 28-page zine.

My bigger complaint (and that may be too harsh a word) is with the content itself. Billed as a "VHS FANZINE" and sporting a graphic cover featuring half-naked babes and a black-gloved killer perpetrating some nasty eye violence, I had high hopes that the pages would deliver an enthusiastic look at a forgotten era, as well as talk of what made the tapes reviewed valuable or hard-to-find. I know some VHS tape collectors/traders and it's always fun to hear why something goes for an insane price or listen to their tales of haunting video store liquidation sales for some obscure find, only to discover that another collector – who might be sitting at the same table with us – beat them to it.

That kind of passion and information seems in too short supply in this first issue. The reviews spend too much ink on plot synopsis, so much in some cases that I found myself skipping large chunks of the review so as not to spoil a potential viewing. There's also a lot of talk about how much a particular tape goes for on eBay or the collector's market but they never explain why. Most of all, though, I guess I was hoping for more passion, some indication of what makes these movies great (or not) and what made them go to all this trouble. What I didn't want to read is that future issues will include original fiction. If I'm spending $5 for a "VHS FANZINE" that's what I want to read.

I'm probably spoiled from my days spent going to my PO Box and finding the latest issues of funny, sarcastic, informative and frequently cranky genre zines like Gore Gazette, Slimetime, Videooze, Wet Paint, Hi-Tech Terror, Grindhouse and the like pouring out. I'm not suggesting the editors of Lunchmeat mimic those great zines of days past, but I'm hoping future issues will remind me why I love this stuff in the first place.

Lunchmeat is available for $5.00 from Josh Schafer and Ted Gilbert at 710 Glendalough Rd, Erdenheim, PA 19038.

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