I believe it's impossible for today's internet generation to truly understand the seismic impact that Chas. Balun had on the horror genre. In an age where there's so much instant communication between fans and where genre reviews have proliferated online, it's hard to convey the singular place that Balun's maverick writing was able to occupy in the '80s. Sure, there was FANGORIA and other genre mags, but those magazine rarely, if ever, offered real opinions. They were journalistic entities, dedicated to reporting on the latest horror films in production. And as far as books of film criticism went, what few books that were devoted to the horror genre were typically concerned with 'classic' horror films and what little attention the newer crop of genre pics received was usually negative - with perhaps some grudging admiration expressed for the likes of George Romero. But Chas. Balun changed all that.
A fan so enthusiastic about discussing the often-unacknowledged films he loved, Balun self-published his first book of reviews, The Connoisseur's Guide to the Contemporary Horror Film, in 1983. This was no slick publication, it was proudly handmade - with illustrations by Balun himself.
In a time before the internet and blogs, Balun's writing was a galvanizing influence on a generation of '80s gorehounds. Balun eventually started publishing his work through Fantaco Books but the handmade aesthetic always shone through. Every book with his name on it (as well as the issues of his magazine Deep Red) was always a one-of-a-kind adventure, guiding eager horror aficionados through the wild 'n wooly frontier of splatter cinema. Balun made splatter legit in a way that no one had done before (he even coined the immortal term "chunkblower") but the greatest gift Balun gave his readers was to write with such unbridled good humor and enthusiasm. Yes, he could be caustic when the occasion called for it (and it often did) but his down-to-earth approach was proof positive that wallowing in the wettest gorefests wouldn't warp you. Hell, if anything it seemed to make you a happier, more life-loving person!
In a heyday that stretched for many years (and that reached its peak during his tenure as a columist for Fango's sister publication, GoreZone), Balun was to splatter cinema what critic Lester Bangs was to rock and roll. As indispensable to the scrappy spirit of the splatter age as the films he wrote about, Balun was all about the unfettered fun to be found in slime-spewing aliens, fire-breathing cockroaches, tit-torturing cannibals, and Fulci - always Fulci.
Gone now, at age 61, after a long - and I'm sure incredibly valiant - battle with cancer, it's no exaggeration to say that Balun changed the lives of a generation of horror fans. I never had the pleasure of meeting Chas. but he was a larger than life hero to me. My thoughts go out to his friends and family.