December 2003

Randy Schaub

magazine whore

Rue Morgue

Christmas is right around the corner, and you know what that means -- ghouls and goblins and ghosts! Magazines are so rarely creepy and frightening (on purpose), and so it’s always a welcome event to discover a high quality publication to fulfill one’s longing for blood and violence. I remember, as a child, going to a grocery store and seeing, way back on the shelf, soft core porn like Playboy wrapped carefully in tit-obscuring Mylar and well beyond the reach of children and very small adults. However, being saddled with no such protective restrictions, magazines like Fangoria and Creepy would sit right out in front, above the comic books, their covers adorned with such innocent pleasures as a freshly flayed human skull (eyeballs still in the sockets), or a lithe teenager trying desperately to keep her entrails from tumbling out of the wicked scythe-wound in her stomach (yes, I know it was all fake, but so were those tits).

Well, Creepy is long gone, and Fangoria, while still around, has sort of become the Woman’s Day of horror-mags, happily cheerleading any horror product that makes it as far as the consumer. But now there’s Rue Morgue, a glossy, high quality mag printed on thick stock and smelling always of fresh full color ink. Rue Morgue seems intended to fill the niche created when all those Fangoria fans from the eighties grew up, and came to expect a patina of journalistic maturity on their articles about zombies.

Rue Morgue is subtitled “Horror in Culture & Entertainment,” but the content is overwhelmingly movie-related. The writing covers not just Hollywood output but the increasingly popular gore streaming in from Japan, Korea, India, and Italy. Cult movies are given loving attention, as are indie movies from the likes of Stuart Gordon and Don Coscarelli. An average issue is full of reviews, first looks, news—all the stuff you’d expect from a fan-oriented magazine. This is complemented by smart writing and very generous coverage, with more stories than ads (and quite a variety, at that).

Where Rue Morgue could use some expansion is in its other media coverage. There are a few stories on horror-themed rock bands (which are, themselves, more silly than scary), some mention of horror video games and toys, and a couple pages of book reviews. It is the book reviews, especially, that I think need more attention -- I can count a dozen young horror writers (none of them a King, Koontz, or Rice), pillars of the small horror fiction presses, who desperately need more media exposure. Granted, Rue Morgue is unlikely to be stuck with piles of extra profit that they can use to hire on a fleet of book reviewers, but it would be nice to see the charge led by a magazine to whom the subject seems genuinely important.

A niche magazine like Rue Morgue will always have a smaller readership than over-read schlock like Maxim, but really, I urge you to give it a try on your next flight or Dentist-lobby sit-a-thon. Sure, it’s gross and geeky, but it’s the pinnacle of its genre, and it never hurts to expose yourself to a little subculture now and then.