THE DARK SIDE (#90, April 2001)
This should be interesting. I've never read an issue of The Dark Side, mainly because I don't live in the UK. A compendiary rundown...this bi-monthly sovereign state publication emerged in 1990. Aside from a two-year lapse in productivity ranging from 2009 to 2011, The Dark Side has maintained its pole position as the chosen fright rag of Brit...er, Engl...er, Iri...people who live in the United Kingdom. It reads like a transoceanic answer to Fangoria. But is it worth the extortionate subscription? I may only have a moth-eaten relic to go on (heh, it's barely a decade old), but I'll try to reach a fair, even-handed conclusion.
- Might as well start with the cover. It's tubular. I'd recognize that skull anywhere. It's lifted from the one-sheet promoting 1972's Tales From the Crypt, though it's flipped horizontally. The left eye socket should be empty. Fuck, I need to get laid.
- The first feature proper is an interview with Hideshi Hino, the manic chap who helmed Guinea Pig 2: Flowers of Flesh and Blood and Guinea Pig 5: Mermaid in a Manhole. Actually, I'm just being melodramatic; Hino isn't manic at all. As it turns out, he's an articulate cartoonist who seems genuinely shocked by the series' cult appeal. Hats off to Jay Slater (and his intrepid interpreter, Junichi Tomonari) for conducting a breezy, yet edifying talk.
- Why haven't I seen Cradle of Fear? I dig anthologies, I dig brazen exploitation flicks and I dig "old school" Cradle of Filth. For the record, I'm partial to everything up to and including 2000's Midian (I do make exceptions for certain tracks on 2004's Nymphetamine). Damn, I digress with the frippery of a vernal tween glomming onto a ruby red iPhone. Focus, Dom! Focus! I remember reading about the London-lensed genre treat when it hit video shelves, but I never took it home. Thanks to the interview with writer/director Alex Chandon, I have been shaken out of my ambivalence. I shall add it to my rental queue pronto.
- I expected to find a wealth of reviews, but The Dark Side's backlog of film and DVD critiques is borderline overkill. Stretched out over a couple of columns, the reviews themselves are dry and often synopsis-heavy (a big no-no, in my book). What's more, some of the selections are arbitrary as hell. I mean, Pulp Fiction? Really? The spacing is hard on the eyes. So yeah, there are plenty of cons to countervail the pros.
- Reading Jay Slater's piece on the relevance (or lack thereof, rather) of Video Nasties in the new millennium, it occurred to me that horror fandom is/was an entirely different experience in the UK. I can't imagine growing up in a country where it was once illegal to own a copy of Cannibal Holocaust. Slater posits that technological advances have rendered the forbidden fruit of banned films null and void. Bear in mind, this was written in 2001. In concert with the pullulating immediacy of the web, the BBFC was finally beginning to slacken their ratings system. You'd think that the value of Pre-Cert VHS tapes would have depreciated as a result, but as a card-carrying VHS collector, I can tell you that hasn't been the case. It's pretty sad.
- Every other page spread is black-and-white. The Dark Side alternates between banausic grayscale uniformity and resplendent thwacks of color. It's jarring. I don't care for it.
And that's all, folks. This magazine could be fine-tuned as of 2012. I don't know. The content is certainly strong enough to recommend an online subscription. This issue sported a few standout articles, but the page count is dreadfully low (57), considering the asking price. Then again, I have no fucking clue how to convert foreign currency. A pound is worth five billion American dollars, right?