It’s shocking. Shocking how the independent horror magazine has declined over the last decade. There are still some around if you look hard enough, but that’s not the point – the distribution network has given way to the homogenised glossy majors, muscling out the marginalised indie mags. Perhaps it’s due to the erratic publishing schedules that are an inevitable result of self-production; relying on goodwill for deadlines and getting a good printer, but the lack of an outlet for anything different that seems to be the main stumbling block. Previous independent horror magazines such as Shock Xpress, Necronomicon and Flesh and Blood have taken the route of transforming into large format paperbacks to increase their shelf lives. The advantage is permanence and longevity, the disadvantage is the lack of immediacy that their shorter magazine formats offered. Indeed Flesh and Blood has spawned a mini-empire of horror rated books – namely the FAB Press which has released this Eyeball Compendium.
Eyeball was a sleekly minimalist magazine that launched in Autumn 1989 with the subtitle "The European Sex & Horror Review", later changed to "Sex & Horror In World Cinema" to broaden the remit whilst continuing to exclude the Hollywood product. Eclectic in terms of writing and subject matter, the magazine unapologetically juxtaposed recognised art films such as Last Year In Marienbad or Pierrot Le Fou with perhaps less lauded celluloid of the ilk of Gestapo’s Last Orgy or Franco’s Sadist of Notre Dame. Where art, sex and horror met in a perfect blend, say in the films of Argento or Zulawski, the magazine was in its most delirious element. Equally the tone varied from descriptive to analytical, from personal responses to the academic. This pot pourri of styles always kept the reader on their toes with its combination of intelligence and sometimes deliberate shock tactics. Added to this the lines between basic "fan" writing and academic pretension were often blurred in a deliberately irreverent fashion – who can forget issue 3.3 recurring? As influential and enjoyable as it was Eyeball lasted only five issues (the gap between 3.3 and 4 being four long years) but now it’s back – bigger, thicker and easier to find on your bookshelf. Rather than merely reprint the original issues and stick a fancy cover on it Eyeball Compendium organises its articles, interviews and reviews into sections, adds plenty of new material and even some originally published elsewhere (e.g. on the web or in the aforementioned Shock Xpress), along with amendments and updates. The format has been altered from the standard A4 to a more stocky bookshelf-unfriendly size which nonetheless makes the text far easier to read. And there’s no need to throw out your original dog-eared copies of the magazines because a lot of the pictures differ from the book.
So what do you get in nearly four hundred densely packed pages? Well there’s a veritable who’s who of horror writers from editor Stephen Thrower, Stefan Jaworzyn and Pete Tombs to Ramsey Campbell and Kim Newman. There are re-evaluations of the work of Argento, Paul Morrissey (including a fascinating interview from Issue 4), Nicolas Roeg (including an interview with writer Paul Mayersberg), Pupi Avati and Alain Robbe-Grillet. There’s the unearthing of oddities such as Death Bed and tracking down its director. There’s an interview with Fassbinder collaborator turned horror film-maker Ulli Lommel (whose Tenderness of the Wolves is a perfect blur between art and horror). There is the welcome championing of British experimental cinema, of Polish cinema, of Slovak surrealism. There’s little in the way of padding and even when you disagree with the opinions expressed, at least you feel a reaction to the writing. Finally there are the reviews, nearly two hundred pages of diverse films from Lars von Trier to Pedro Almodovar, Jesus Franco, Jean Rollin, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava, etc. Nazis sit alongside nuns, scheisse movies (if you have to ask it’s probably better you don’t know) make an appearance, women are often imprisoned and there are some seriously bad 70’s fashion statements abound. In fact, too much to mention.
Excellent layout, profusely illustrated in stylish black and white, at turns infuriating, informative, funny and shocking, Eyeball Compendium is an essential tome for anyone seeking to broaden their outlook on alternative, counterculture, art, sex and horror cinema.