Archive for the ‘undead’ Category

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Over the last few weeks I’ve focused on horror mainly in film, television, and literature, but today I thought I’d shake things up a bit, and take a look at a medium I’ve always found to be a fertile ground for the genre, video games. There’s something effective about placing people in control of characters surrounded by danger, and terror, and developers have been trying to capture that magic for nearly forty years.

I could talk to death about mainstream titles like Resident Evil, Doom, and Silent Hill, and their impact on horror gaming, but everyone knows them. Instead I’d like to take a gander at a few obscure titles.

Monster party.

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Monster Party is one of the most  brilliantly nutty 8-bit gems on the NES. The game follows Billy, who after being confronted by a sentient gargoyle requesting his help sets off on a quest with his trusty baseball bat to save its world. Along the way Billy battles punk-rock zombies, singing plants, cow hurdling minotaurs, and…floating breaded tempura shrimp, and onion rings? I get the feeling drugs were consumed during development, (Billy transforms into a gargoyle after picking up a pill for Christ sakes!) because the whole game is a gleefully dark, and bat-shit experience. Monster Party is about as scary as you’d expect an 8-bit title to be, (not very) but credit however must be given to the atmospheric soundtrack, and imaginative first stage of the game, which effectively sets an eerie tone right from the get go. Also, the cover art was the stuff of nightmares, guaranteed to mortify any child unlucky enough to stumble upon it while shuffling through the game rack of his local video store during the eighties.

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Just look at this shit. LOOK AT IT!

                                                           Zombies Ate My Neighbours

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Lucasarts made a name for themselves in the late eighties, and early nineties developing point and click adventure games like Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, and Day of the Tentacle for the PC, but during the 16-bit era they ventured into the action-adventure realm with a little horror gem called Zombies Ate My Neighbours.

ZAMN as it will be called for the duration of this post, because the title has too many damn letters for me to keep typing, is a top-down, co-op, run-and-gun game that tasks players with rescuing their neighbours in a variety of horror inspired settings while trying to survive an onslaught of horror-movie monsters like werewolves, mutants, giant babies, squid men, blobs, aliens, and of course the titular zombies. To progress through each level players are required to rescue at least one neighbour, and if all of them die, it’s game over. To do so, players have a number of inventive weapons at their disposal, such as dishes, UZI water guns, weed-whackers, Soda-pop grenades, and many more.

ZAMN is a noteworthy title, because of the heavy censorship it received upon release. Nintendo, having a strict policy against excessive violence in their games ordered all depictions of blood, and gore to be replaced with purple ooze, a similar fate that befell the original Mortal Kombat when ported to the SNES. Many European nations censored even more of ZAMN, changing its name to simply, Zombies, and replacing the chainsaw wielding enemies with lumberjacks sporting axes.

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                                                                 The Souls series

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I know I said I was going to avoid mainstream titles for this post, but I couldn’t help myself for the last entry on the list. No series captures what makes a horror game effective so much so as FromSoftware’s Souls titles, Demon’s, Dark, and the most recent, Bloodborne. Each entry contains a dark, and atmospheric world with little reason given as to why you’re there, adaptable monstrosities lurking around every corner, limited resources at your disposal with which to slay them or survive their relentless attacks, and death actually matters, serving as a method of increasing the game’s difficulty.

You are never so close to sheer terror as you are while playing a Souls game, and that’s why it rounds out this list.

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That’s all for today skiddlets. Please feel free to comment, and share some of your favourite horror titles.

I’m always up for a new scare!

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After yesterday’s post about the Frank Henenlotter sexploitation film, Bad Biology, (and a number of others for that matter) I feel I may have given all you darklings out there the impression that I’m a depraved, gore-crazed lunatic who showers in blood, and eats his liver with fava beans, and a nice chianti while marathoning snuff films. Now, although most of that is true, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a softer side. In fact, I’m actually quite sensitive when you peel back all the layers of murder, monsters, and viscera, and happen to enjoy the occasional bad romantic-comedy as much as the next mildly insane, socially awkward purveyor of fear. One of my favourites being the much maligned 1993 classic, and original Zombiedy, My Boyfriend’s Back.

Directed by sometimes actor, sometimes writer, Bob Balaban, (known for Parents, and Gosford Park) My Boyfriend’s Back follows Johnny Dingle, who, after a foiled attempt to impress his crush, Missy McCloud, is shot and killed during a robbery, only to come back as a zombie. Now a member of the living dead, Johnny must reintegrate with society, struggle with his burgeoning cannibalistic appetite, and anti-zombie discrimination, all while trying to woo his beloved to take her to prom.

My Boyfriend’s Back is a ripe slice of early nineties cheese. The story is cornier than a thanksgiving bowel movement, and the special effects make Plan Nine From Outer Space’s look revolutionary by comparison, but I still love it. Despite its many faults, the film is intoxicatingly charming, held up by surprisingly strong performances from a cast that knew what they were starring in.

Fun fact, My Boyfriend’s Back was the first movie role for Matthew Fox, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Matthew McConaughey, and Renee Zellweger, despite Zellweger’s only scene being cut.

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In honour of the 13th day of the month, (despite it not falling on a Friday this year)  I’d like to look at a film that celebrates one of the most well known slashers around, the hulking manifestation of angry abstinence himself, Jason Voorhees.

There are many out there whom think that horror has no heart. I of course mean the metaphorical definition of heart, not the literal, there a hundreds of movies with those if that’s your thing. They assume that because the genre is predominantly packed with blood, and guts, and violence that it’s incapable of evoking any other emotions aside from anger, or fear. To these people I offer a challenge, watch The Changeling, Let the Right One In, The Fly, (1986) Spring, the last segment of the Tales from the Darkside movie, etc, and tell me horror’s incapable of having heart. Hell even Frankenstein is essentially a love story, and The Creature is the Pop culture granddaddy of all monsters.

Another example of horror with heart is 2015’s The Final Girls, directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson.

The film follows Max Cartwright, (Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story fame) whose mother, Amanda, (Malin Akerman) star, and scream queen of the 1986 slasher flick, Camp Bloodbath, is killed in accident after a failed audition.

Three years later, on the anniversary of her mother’s death Max is invited to a special double-feature screening of Camp Bloodbath, and its sequel as a special guest by her friend’s brother. A fire breaks out in the theatre during the film, and Max, as well as a handful of others end up trapped inside the movie after slashing through the screen in an attempt to escape. There they must help the cast survive the wrath of Billy, a former camper who was severely burned by fireworks inside an outhouse by councillors.

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At its core The Final Girls is a story about grief, and the difficulty coping with the loss of a loved one. It’s a meta affair, akin to Cabin in the Woods, and Scream, and a heartfelt homage to the slasher genre that inspired it, namely the aforementioned Friday the 13th series. It’s also hilarious, thanks in part to a supporting cast featuring, Adam Devine, (Workaholics) Thomas Middleditch, (Silicon Valley) and Alia Shawkat, (Arrested Development).

The film released to positive reviews, but suffered the fate of bargain-bin burial thanks in part to its PG-13 rating, a red flag for many horror fans. It’s a shame really, because despite the lack of the coveted R rating, The Final Girls still managed to slip in some inventive kills, (I’m looking at you Devine pretzel).

The Final Girls is an easy recommendation, both entertaining, and surprisingly sweet. Do yourself a favour, and check it out. I snagged a copy for five bucks at Walmart, and it was five-hundred pennies well spent.

That’s all for today skiddies, but do come back tomorrow, and as always, stay scared!

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Creature features are a tough sell these days as we’ve seen pretty much all there is to see in terms of monsters gobbling up humans like the earth is an all you can eat buffet. Wolf-men, vampires, creatures from the Black Lagoon, check, check, check. Radioactive dinosaurs, ants, ticks, check, check, check. Flesh-eating plants, intergalactic porcupines, Killer Klowns from Outer Space check, check, check. Sharknados, telekinetic tires, and Ron Jeremy’s penis… sadly another triple check, and so on in infinitum. Do you see a trend? It would appear that as the years progress filmmakers are attempting to make things that aren’t scary, well, scary, (not counting Ron Jeremy’s penis of course. That thing is terrifying). So it’s always a pleasant surprise when a creature feature comes along that brings something unique to the sinner table, without stumbling into the absolutely ludicrous.

Take 2008’s Splinter, for example. On paper it has a fairly simple plot. A couple on route to a romantic camping trip in the forests of Oklahoma, (words I never thought I’d put together) are car-jacked by an escaped convict, and his junkie girlfriend. After suffering a flat tire the four end up seeking shelter in an abandoned gas station, and soon find themselves attacked by a parasitic fungus that reanimates the flesh of the dead in creative, and disturbing ways.

Splinter works because of its simplicity. There’s no complex backstory explaining the origin of the fungus, no end of the world type scenario, there’s just a handful of people in a small environment doing the best they can to survive.

Co-Writer/ director Toby Wilkins, did an excellent job with the relatively small budget he had to work with by focussing more on the characters, and less on the creature itself. Also praise is due for one of the most brutal amputation scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

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The creature itself is splendidly grotesque. It’s essentially a zombie with notes of John Carpenter’s Thing, and a little Cabin Fever flesh-eating disease tossed in for fun, and the mix of practical, and CGI really bring it to life.

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Splinter is definitely worth a watch, and is ranked high on my list of favourite horror films from 2008.

That’s all for today my dearest darklings, and as always stay scared!