Jeremy Saulnier’s uber-violent Green Room (read our review) is set for a New York and Los Angeles bow April 15th, with an expansion planned for April 22nd and Nationwide opening on April 29th, 2016.
Green Room is said to be a brilliantly crafted and wickedly fun horror-thriller starring Patrick Stewart as a diabolical club owner who squares off against an unsuspecting but resilient young punk band.
Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Mark Webber, Eric Edelstein, Macon Blair, and Kai Lennox also star.
The full trailer has been released and shows how tense this taut thriller is, while also delivering a few brutal punches. The indie genre film is supposed to be brutal – and the new one-sheet foreshadows this with a shot of someone hammering down a machete!
“Down on their luck punk rockers The Ain’t Rights are finishing up a long and unsuccessful tour, and are about to call it quits when they get an unexpected booking at an isolated, run-down club deep in the backwoods of Oregon. What seems merely to be a third-rate gig escalates into something much more sinister when they witness an act of violence backstage that they weren’t meant to see. Now trapped backstage, they must face off against the club’s depraved owner, Darcy Banker (Stewart), a man who will do anything to protect the secrets of his nefarious enterprise. But while Darcy and his henchmen think the band will be easy to get rid of, The Ain’t Rights prove themselves much more cunning and capable than anyone expected, turning the tables on their unsuspecting captors and setting the stage for the ultimate life-or-death showdown.
Intense, emotional, and ingeniously twisted, GREEN ROOM is genre filmmaking at its best and most original. Saulnier continues to build his reputation as one of the most exciting and distinctive directors working today, with a movie that’s completely different from his previous, highly acclaimed Blue Ruin, but which is just as risk-taking and even more full of twists. The entire cast deliver first-rate performances, but Patrick Stewart gives a transformative and brilliantly devious turn as Darcy—elegant yet lethal, droll yet terrifying, Stewart makes the film simply unforgettable.”
Visit the official website for more.
February will almost certainly improve on a mildly disappointing January that saw only two major releases and two failed crowdfunding attempts from the makers of Sylvio 2 and DARQ. There’s more promising games coming our way over the next few weeks, and they’re joined by the ongoing crowdfunding efforts for Ghost Theory and Visage.Calendula
Fans of psychological horror games will want to have a look at Calendula, if only to understand what it means when its developer says it “begins as a usual game… until it is not anymore.” With an “obscure” atmosphere and a meta-narrative set inside a “labyrinth of metaphors and abstractions,” Calendula toys with the fourth wall as often as it does conventional game design.
Or, at least I think that’s what I read on its Steam page.
Release Date: February 2 (PC)Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
The best, or second best, Resident Evil is headed to the Wii U!
Release Date: February 4 (Wii U)Dying Light: The Following
Techland is going all out with Dying Light: The Following, which will be the largest expansion the game has seen since it released a little more than a year ago. The expansive map it brings will take advantage of the new dune buggies, and with a story campaign that involves a mysterious cult and potential cure for the plague that’s swept Harran, this DLC has the opportunity to improve on the base game’s disappointing narrative.
The Following is included in the game’s $30 season pass, or for $20 as an individual purchase.
Release Date: February 9 (PC, PS4, XBO)Dying Light Enhanced Edition
Dying Light will soon return with an Enhanced Edition that bundles all of the game’s DLC, including The Following, with a free “enhancement” update that’s mostly comprised of endgame content like bounties, meta-levels, and a Nightmare difficulty mode.
Release Date: February 9 (PC, PS4, XBO)Pesadelo – Regressão
Pesadelo is a frightening indie horror game that immediately fell off my radar after I spent some time with it a few years back. This made the news of a story-expanding sequel a welcome surprise, especially since I honestly think the first game had a story. Set in a monster-infested cemetery, a church bereft of salvation and “the school where everything began” Pesadelo – Regressão promises to deliver another frightening gaming experience when it hits Steam later this month.
Release Date: February 11 (PC)The Town of Light
The horrors that reside in The Town of Light aren’t comprised of serial killers, zombies, or monsters. Developer LKA is looking elsewhere for its emotionally devastating tale of Renée, a 16 year-old girl whose life is effectively stolen from her when she’s committed to an asylum.
The game is set in 1938 Italy, when a limited understanding of mental illnesses had much of the world employing decidedly medieval methods to cure them. If LKA can make something special out of such a promising concept, I’ll absolutely be grabbing this when it releases on Steam.
Release Date: February 26 (PC)Layers of Fear
Of the handful of unexpectedly brilliant horror games that managed to sneak up on me last year (Bulb Boy, Albino Lullaby), it was the surreal psychological horror game Layers of Fear that still lingers with me. The game’s been simmering on Steam Early Access and the Xbox One equivalent while Bloober Team slaps on another coat of polish. When they wrap that up, Layers of Fear will get a full release on Steam and consoles, with Aspyr Media handling the latter.
Release Date: February 16 (PC, PS4, XBO)The Walking Dead: Michonne
Telltale’s acclaimed episodic series is returning in a big way this year, starting with the three-part mini-series The Walking Dead: Michonne that’ll make sure we’re adequately prepared to reunite with Clem for a third helping of their emotionally draining episodic series.
Release Date: TBA February (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)Visage / Ghost Theory
Kickstarter is hosting two very promising supernatural horror games that are vying for your cash monies right now, so let’s start with the one that’s ending this month. In Ghost Theory, the paranormal activity you’ll investigate as a ghost hunter gifted with clairvoyant abilities and an arsenal of gadgets will be taken from real haunting grounds.
If that sounds like your sort of thing, its Kickstarter campaign will need your help if its going to have any hope of reaching its ambitious $141,439 funding goal.
The P.T.-inspired psychological horror game Visage also has a long way to go in its crowdfunding efforts, but with a considerably lower target of $24,550 and more than a month left to get there, I won’t start worrying about it for a few more weeks.
Capcom has always had a steep hill to climb when it comes to keeping Resident Evil relevant in a medium that’s become much more social than it was in 1996, when the series began. I’ve criticized their more spectacular fumbles with games like Resident Evil 6, but they really have done a better job than I suspect most would have in keeping this series synonymous with horror, even when it hasn’t been especially scary.
Their experiments with action horror, online multiplayer and co-op left us with a mixed bag of games that haven’t ever strayed far enough to no longer feel like an extension of the series. It’s fitting that Umbrella Corps would be the first spin-off to drop the series’ name, since it also feels the least like a Resident Evil game. I have no idea if it’ll be any good, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t look like fun.
This video interview with producers Masachika Kawata and James Vance won’t sell you on the virtues of braining the living and undead alike with a specially modified brain pick, but it will explain how Umbrella Corps came to be.
Umbrella Corps is slated for a May release on PC and PS4.
Fan favorite writer, Darin Morgan, returns with a brilliant ‘X-Files’ story that’s the season’s best episode yet
“We’ve been given another case, it has a monster in it!”
It’s hard to believe that I was actually second guessing this X-Files revival a week ago after watching “My Struggle”, because after Wong’s “Founder’s Mutation” and this week’s exceptional episode, The X-Files revival is now batting 2/3, and it’s a very strong 2/3 at that. I daresay that this reflexive episode is right up there with “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” and “Bad Blood” in terms of episodes on that end of the spectrum.
Darin Morgan has developed an interesting reputation through his work on The X-Files. The more reserved brother of fellow scribe and director, Glen Morgan, Darin would turn out some of the series’ most eccentric outings that weren’t under the name Vince Gilligan. Darin only penned four episodes during his three years on The X-Files (as well as writing what might be the two best—certainly the most interesting—Millennium episodes, “Jose Chung’s ‘Doomsday Device’” and “Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me”), but each episode took the still-growing show in new, bold directions helping establish what it was capable of. These aren’t just a few good episodes, but stunning scripts that truly made an impact on the show. Entries like, “Humbug”, “War of the Coprophages”, ““Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’”, and series favorite, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (which also netted Peter Boyle an Emmy win, impressively) are standout entries that saw his voice greatly missed once he left the show early in its run.
It’s fascinating to hear Morgan open up on Kumail Nanjiani’s “The X-Files Files” podcast talking about his tenure on the show. Morgan talks about being a hypochondriac who was constantly worrying about deadlines, the demands of working on a television show, while talking about repeatedly going into Chris Carter’s office and trying to quit. His brother, Glen’s, presence on the series helped improve his stability and calm his nerves some, but judging by the lack of writing that Darin did post X-Files (as well as noting how many of those projects had some sort of connection to Glen, too), it seems to be an exercise that stresses him greatly, regardless of his obvious skill in the field. Morgan talks about dismissing now-classics like “Clyde Bruckman” as he was writing them, and witnessing how critical he is of his own work is also an enlightening realization.
There must have been a great deal of trepidation that Morgan felt before deciding to rejoin the series for this revival, and I’d say that we’re fairly lucky that he agreed to come back on at all. The fact that this return not only marks an incredibly sharp script that rivals his best work on the show, but that he was also director of the effort is a true feat. I’m not sure if this exercise led to Morgan’s revitalization or exhaustion, but I hope him getting his feet wet in these waters once more means that we’ll be seeing more scripts from him, somewhere, anytime soon.
Morgan’s episodes sometimes so often feel like a hodgepodge of elements (“Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” is certainly guilty of this), with this one being absolutely no different. Seeing pieces of his life and X-Files iconography weirdly fit into the installment (such as Kumail’s casting here) is part of the fun, and even though he’s been out of the game for a long time, “Mulder & Scully…” feels like a very comforting return to home for Morgan. If nothing else, this episode nicely subscribes to the “Darin Morgan Checklist” that so many of his episodes do. Some of these are really superb touches, like Tyler Labine(!!) and Nicole Parker returning as their stoner and friend characters from “War of the Coprophages” and “Quagmire” as a nice nod to the audience and a deep cut. Another Morgan trademark, Queequeg, Scully’s former dog, gets brought up (and Scully acquiring a new dog, no less—hopefully Queequeg II), too. Not only is this a lot of fun for the fans, but this feels like Morgan is also amusing himself rather deeply, and even if this episode turns out to be a huge failure, there’s no denying that his energy and enthusiasm for it is rampant throughout it all. Mulder and Scully’s excitement here is his excitement.
Part of the fun of this X-Files revival has been looking at how each of these original X-Files writers chooses to make use of the 13 years that have passed between the “series finale” and now. Darin Morgan explores the idea of Mulder being disillusioned over whether his life has been a waste or not. Sure, this isn’t the first time this has happened, but while Mulder and Scully were out of commission, a lot of cold case X-Files have turned out to just be pranks or publicity stunts. So when the current case of the week screams “Werewolf!” it doesn’t help his malaise very much. This is mostly channeled through the episode being a prime example of Mulder acting like the Scully here—which admittedly isn’t the first time this has been done, but there’s a fresh dynamic to it now as Mulder carries an air of “I’m getting too old for this x-shit.”
I couldn’t help but have a huge smile on my face as Mulder reduces these werewolf claims to mountain lions and grey wolves rather than think a creature is afoot. Even after knowing this beast has transformed he tries to simplify all of this to science. “Mulder, the Internet is not good for you,” Scully tells him in one scene, as he uses the web to become the ultra-Scully and deduce that this monster is some sort of horned lizard thanks to practical, scientific explanations. It’s pretty fantastic and probably the best Mulder and Scully scene to come along so far this season. This episode is all about flipping their dynamic, and the actors look to be having great fun with it all, too. Even when Duchovny is having to work through huge monologues (and speaking for both himself and Scully) and exposition. It’s really nice—as simple as it is—to see these two getting back in their groove here and excited to have a classic mystery on their hands. Both of them are having fun in their element and eager to see who is right in all of this.
Mulder’s theme of disillusionment is prevalent throughout the episode as a whole when it looks like nearly everyone is questioning their career and life decisions, listless in their own ways. It’s present in a smaller sense in Kumail’s animal control worker, Pasha, and then in the central case of the episode, Rhys Darby’s were-lizard creature.
That’s right, Rhys Darby of Flight of the Conchords fame, is revealed fairly early on to be the monster-of-the-week, this hideous were-lizard creature. The early reveal is always a good indication that who the threat is isn’t the priority of the episode, and sure enough, Morgan has packed a monster of a spin on this traditional premise. Darby is perfectly cast here as a fidgety, odd individual with transformation issues. In typical Darin Morgan fashion, the beautiful lore of the were-lizard is a hilarious subversion on established monster killing rules. The only way to kill a were-lizard, we learn, is by stabbing green glass into its appendix. It’s so silly, yet great mythology building that makes just as much sense as anything out of vampire of werewolf lore and the arbitrary ingredients involved with them.
This is already entertaining enough when the episode suddenly turns even crazier when we realize that Darby’s character is a lizard monster first who has now found himself plagued with turning into a human (after being bitten by one, of course). Not the other way around. It’s also retroactively a viable explanation for Darby’s off kilter behavior that’s so entertaining throughout. Furthermore, his jubilation when he’s no longer stuck as a human and turns back into a monster is perfect and an appreciated take on an overdone transformation trope. This is what he wants.
Let me just say, I cannot get enough of this plot. A monster who’s turns into a human, who then learns to realize regular, everyday, human problems are the worst and begins to go crazy, only to then become desperate to turn back into a monster again is so brilliant. The X-Files has played around with this monster-of-the-week perspective before in creative ways—like “Hungry”, for instance—but this is very, very different. There’s a stupefying majesty to watching Darby’s were-lizard in his newly found human form getting a dog to make his life happier, slowly acquiring more coping mechanisms before ultimately being reminded that life is shitty and hard. It’s all so simple, but it’s in that simplicity that all of this connects so well. This isn’t a man lamenting over the problems of turning into a werewolf. It’s a monster being like, “Shit, is my job going to give me enough money to pay my mortgage?” He has lines like, “Ever since I’ve become a human I can’t help but lie about my sex life” and other such great human observations that are all such tiny nuggets of humanity that we take for granted. Darby’s monster seeing these mundane things for the first time (before becoming disenchanted, like humans are so wont to do) is a wonderfully fresh angle on an X-Files monster. In fact, it poses the question of who really is the “monster” here, as Mulder tries to determine if Darby’s character is still to blame for these murders, perhaps slaying them in his confusion with the ways of being a human.
While some poignant topics are dug into, Morgan still isn’t past getting goofy when the time calls for it. There’s an extended sequence where Mulder is unable to work his camera phone and apps properly, still lost from the times. We also literally get a monster considering transgender surgery as an answer to their problems, and it’s safe to say that we’re officially in modern X-Files. There’s also a fairly gratuitous Scully wish fulfillment sequence that is pretty terrific and must have been sitting in a drawer of Morgan’s for 15 years waiting to get some use. The tone of the episode is already so ridiculous and broad that by the time that Mulder’s cell phone goes off and his ring tone is Mark Snow’s theme song to the series, you kind of just have to go with it. That’s how surreal things feel.
I understand that a lot of this review has touched upon Darin Morgan’s legacy within the series, and for any sort of revival of this magnitude I think the topic of the past is an important one to get into. While more than anything this return to The X-Files should be good, it should also honor and pay respect to the original seasons, too. While Morgan is all about paying respect to the past here, the most touching example must be during Mulder and Darby’s conversation in the cemetery about life. The two of them are standing against two prominent headstones, one for Kim Manners, and the other for Jack Hardy. Manners directed over 50 episodes of The X-Files and passed away in 2009, but Hardy is a lesser-known name, and only passing away less than a year ago. Hardy was close to the production team, acting as the first assistant director not only on Carter’s Millennium (which Morgan and Wong were also heavily involved in), but also Glen Morgan’s feature films, Willard, Black Christmas, and Final Destination 3. Clearly he’s particularly close with the Morgans, and seeing his tribute alongside Manners’ is really, really sweet.
All of this culminates in a rather contemplative episode that goes out on an unexpected twist that’s pretty in line with the rest of Morgan’s dynamic. There’s a great Scully in distress scene that’s subverted by her not needing anyone to save her in the end. She manages to be her own hero while simultaneously solving the whole case by herself, off camera, in mere minutes.
It’s not important though. None of this is. After all, it was probably just ice…
See you again in 10,000 years.
If you haven’t heard of the bullet ant, it’s an inch-long abomination with a particularly nasty bite that’s been compared to getting shot by a gun. In other words, it’s living proof that nature is actively plotting our downfall. And if that wasn’t sufficient enough proof of this, the bullet ant was blessed with another talent that’s clearly been designed by nature with sinister intent. It can scream.
I mention this because it’s the first thing that came to my mind when the makers of the zombie survival game H1Z1 took to Steam earlier today to announce a new type of zombie that will soon be making the post-apocalyptic wasteland a considerably scarier place to live. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to… the Screamer.
We’ve seen this guy before in Resident Evil 6, Killing Floor, State of Decay, and Dying Light, among others, and often with that same outfit. Killing Floor’s Siren wore one, and the Screamer would have too, had it not been cut from Left 4 Dead.
As much as I would’ve liked to see its creator, Cher — an intern at Daybreak Games, not the Cher — bring a new twist on the screaming zombie concept, it’d be hypocritical of me to criticize a design that’s alarmingly effective in instilling in me a primal fear that still resonates with my lizard brain.
No word on when it’ll come to H1Z1. I’ll let you know when that changes.
Showtime’s third season revival of “Twin Peaks” has netted Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive) and Tom Sizemore (Natural Born Killers), according to Deadline. Not only have those two joined, but writer/director/co-creator David Lynch will apparently be reprising his role as FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole!
The trio join confirmed actors Jennifer Jason Leigh, Laura Dern, Amanda Seyfried, Sherilyn Fenn, Kyle MacLachlan, and more.
The third season will be premiering on Showtime in 2017. It picks up over two decades after the events of the first two seasons, which aired in the early 90’s.
I gotta tell you all, with each additional casting announcement, I’m getting more and more psyched for the return of this show! I already loved the first two seasons but this is getting me so amped that I can barely take it!
A lot has changed since I last sat down with Matt Cohen’s supernatural horror game Paranormal nearly three years ago. It’s still the most faithful, albeit unofficial, game adaptation of the Paranormal Activity film franchise, thanks to procedurally generated supernatural happenings that get progressively worse as you delve deeper into the story.
Three years later and I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Such is the life of an artist.
Cohen and Co. have been rebuilding Paranormal in the Unreal engine while simultaneously expanding the scope of the nearly four year-old indie game beyond the walls of its haunted house setting. The latest build should arrive very soon, according to a post on the game’s Steam page.
I didn’t need a reason to fear my phone, I already get plenty anxious every time it makes a noise. When it rings, I cautiously pick it up like I’m in a horror movie and I’ve just found something curious on the floor of the serial killer’s cabin.
The augmented reality horror game Night Terrors aims to take that illogical fear to an entirely new level by turning our phones into fun little gateways to Hell. Open it and your home will be filled with a variety of demonic entities and horrific specters not meant to be seen by human eyes.
Night Terrors developer Novum Analytics raised $46,732 last summer via a flexible funding campaign on Indiegogo that didn’t reach its ultimate goal of $70,000. Novum wanted to give us the “scariest game ever made” so they came up with a system that “understands where you are in your environment” and uses that information against you in some truly frightening ways.
Novum recently started a second Indiegogo page so those who missed out on the first could get in on the action. Night Terrors arrives this Halloween on iOS and Android for $5.99.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the newest entry in this more gritty, dark version of the 90s action/adventure series, starring the titular Tomb Raider, Lara Croft. It is a follow-up to the 2013 reboot, Tomb Raider, and the PC version is a port of the XBox One version, exclusive to that console through Christmas. This time around, Lara is on her own Last Crusade, searching out an artifact her father only dreamed of being able to find.
Though not a traditional horror game, Rise of the Tomb Raider plays, in many instances, like an uber-violent exploitation flick from the 70s. This Lara Croft is not simply a gun-wielding adventurer, intent on seeking out and unlocking the world’s secrets. No, she is also a grim survivalist, hell-bent on punishing those who ruined her life and sent her on this journey. The new hero of this franchise snatches dudes into watery depths and slices their throats, a la Jason Voorhees, or sneaks up behind them and executes them like James Earl Cash, from Manhunt.
This incarnation of Tomb Raider is very often compared to the wildly popular Uncharted series, but I’ve got a bold claim to make here: save for the writing, I think Rise of the Tomb Raider exceeds the heights of the Uncharted games.
The MacGuffin in this game is more or less the Matrix from the original Transformers animated movie, and it totally works as a means for drawing Lara into this adventure. There are eternal prophets, soulless soldiers, and secretive organizations involved, and that sort of plot is befitting of a Tomb Raider game.
As far as actual writing goes, however, it’s kind of flat. The villain, Konstantin, is barely visible throughout the game, which is both a benefit and a curse. Why would he spend all of his time trying to taunt Lara Croft like a Bond villain? On the other hand, his absence is certainly felt toward the end of the game, when we are supposed to care about this standoff between the adventurer and the secret society wackadoo?
It’s one of the few knocks I have against this game. The writing, the banter, the characters, they are all so grim and mordant. The game has no sense of self-deprecation or humor at all, and a story that is more or less the retelling of Last Crusade without Sean Connery in a brimmed hat is kind of lacking, to be honest.
The game’s real villain and real sidekick is the environment, and that’s where the tension excels. I’ve never been a huge fan of third person platforming in these games — Uncharted included — but the combination of the puzzles and the feel of the running and jumping in Rise make for some interesting mechanics. The game handles exceptionally well, to the extent that some non-scripted climbing sequences feel as though they are cut scenes designed for the player’s benefit help the cause.
To build on that idea, the visual language of Rise of the Tomb Raider is similarly wonderful. It is built in such a way that you don’t necessarily have to constantly click the right stick to reveal your waypoint. The game naturally guides you in the right direction.
For example, walls that can be scaled are marked with white blazes, and the climbable ice has a different color tint than its surroundings. If you still can’t find your way, the waypoint indicator also reveals points of interest in directing your journey.
Some might see this as hand-holding, but I prefer it to wandering around the landscape without an inkling for where to go. The way the environments are set-up and marked gives the player a rhythm for how to traverse the world, and it becomes less about the puzzle of “Where do I go?”
The different areas are distinct enough, even if they all feel somewhat like “exotic locale” to me. What separates Rise of the Tomb Raider from its contemporaries is that it is neither a linear experience, nor is it an open world game. Unlike Uncharted, each section of the game doesn’t get locked off once you complete the narrative for it.
At the campsites, you can fast travel back to any location and complete any number of quests, tombs, or collectible hunting. The map gives enough detail to drive players to seek out ancillary content without making it seem like it’s necessary. I tooled around with some of the side content, but I basically main-lined the story for the sake of the review, and I felt completely satisfied with both the amount of content and story within the core game, so people looking for plenty more to do can find whatever they want.
The game is also not so open that you feel entirely rudderless. Rather than give you quests within the world that spit you back out into an open world, you engage in sort of linear main quests that connect different sections of the game. They are crucial to building the world and the narrative for you, and they are very often a balance of spelunking / climbing and combat.
Until the end of the game — which I’ll get to in a few paragraphs — I never felt overwhelmed by the amount of combat in this game. The combat encounters always felt necessary, or at the very least, narratively acceptable, so I dug how they were spread out among the platforming elements.
One only need take a look at screenshots or trailers to notice just how amazing Rise looks. Very often, actual gameplay looks better than the cut scenes in most games I’ve played over the last few years. The art style is also a plus. The environments not only look great, they are well designed.
And speaking of things that are well-designed, the puzzles, while simple, are some of my favorites from a game of this type in a long while. There are a few that are quite difficult, but for the most part they are intuitive and easily discernible through a little bit of detection. I found myself kind of amazed at how some of them are constructed, not merely because they are good puzzles, but because they build on the skills of other puzzles. That is really something the designers deserve credit for that I’m sure will go unnoticed.
The crafting and upgrade system was reminiscent of The Last of Us for me, personally. Beyond guns, Lara can craft various explosives from found elements in the world. Trees can be stripped for arrows, and gears help to aid weapons upgrades. It’s a fairly in-depth system, but it never gets over its own head with sophistication. It was just the right amount of added complexity to make character progression feel natural.
In addition, the game’s side content builds on the crafting and upgrade system in such a way that might behoove players to branch out and complete more of it to get their character fully decked out in the three basic skill types: Brawler, Hunting, and Survival.
The story is one of the least interesting elements of the game, but it does a serviceable job of building the story of the 10th century prophet at the heart of the game. I never really cared about any of the characters, save Lara herself, though I did find her arc in Rise fairly compelling. Besides Jonah, her erstwhile companion, I didn’t find myself connected to any major story element.
Which brings me to the third act of the game. Once all hell breaks loose, it really breaks loose. Rise of the Tomb Raider was never that game to me. It was about retrained encounters that were absolutely necessary, and yet the end of the game seems to forget all about that.
The amount of combat in the lead-up to the resolution is ridiculous, and it goes to ridiculous ends. The game seems to bask in a sort of Roland Emmerich style destructothon, much to the game’s detriment. I’m over the overly-epic finale, and I kind of wish this game had sidestepped the worst offenders of the past. AAA games have an insecurity about endings, and it is played out in a big way here.
Rise of the Tomb Raider works best when it is about exploration, spiked with some combat. When it attempts to become a third-person shooter, it loses some of the magic that made the first three-quarters special.
This is probably the most blatantly unfortunate comparison to be made between Rise of the Tomb Raider and the Uncharted series. For me, the Nathan Drake games could never quite stick the landing. The first two acts were superlative, but the third act always got bogged down in the lore, in supernatural nonsense that felt as though it had to be there to make the story bigger than life, somehow.
Tomb Raider almost avoids that trap, but not quite. Still, it’s better than ninety percent of the games I played in 2015 — I still consider it a 2015 game, despite the 2016 PC release — and so I’ll take it over a milquetoast spy movie any day.The Final Word:
Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the best action adventure games out there, and I’d go so far as to say it’s better than any Uncharted game I’ve played.
I will always and forever cherish fan communities for all that they have to offer. The reverence and care they have for a material is undeniable but their creativity in pushing properties into new mediums and angles is nothing short of admirable.
Today marks another amazing entry in fan-created content as writer/director James Campbell has released Ripper, a Batman fan film that pits the world’s greatest detective against none other than Jack the Ripper, the infamous serial killer who stalked the Whitechapel district of London in 1888, killing five prostitutes and mutilating their bodies in horrifying ways. The video’s story is loosely inspired by Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, a one-off DC comic written by Brian Augustyn that was released in 1989.
There are a lot of amazing things about this fan film, including the fantastic set design, the great wardrobe, and the overall giallo feel that makes delightful use of color. However, I feel like the soundtrack didn’t fit the film. There’s definitely a place for retrosynth soundtracks, a lá Goblin or John Carpenter, but it felt very mechanical and cold compared to the warmth and antiquated look of “London”.
Still, this is 100% worth your time and I highly recommend giving it a view when you get a chance!
The movies of Tim Burton often have a strong fantasy element behind them. Yeah, they can be horrific and surreal, but there’s this strong undercurrent of childhood wonder that permeates through them that I, at least in his older films, love. Movies like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Sleepy Hollow almost felt like stories you would read to your children before bed. Admittedly, you’d only do this if you wanted to give them nightmares. That’s why I’m going to be an awful/awesome parent.
A studio that is known almost exclusively for their fairy tale stories is Disney, who have spent the better part of nearly a century creating movies that area adaptations of renowned fairy tales, such as Sleeping Beauty, Pinnochio, etc…
But what if the worlds of Tim Burton and Disney came together and the surreal director took on the responsibility of creating movies based on those tales? That’s where artist Andrew Tarusov comes in as he took 10 iconic Disney movies and created faux posters in the style and artwork of Tim Burton.
They’re not 100% on the spot but I actually really like that because it shows Tarusov’s own flair and embellishments while remaining nearly completely faithful to the concept.
You can see the gallery below and then find out more about Tarusov at his official website.
This exclusive clip from Daniel Robbins’ upcoming werewolf flick Uncaged gets a bit hairy.
“Orphaned as a child in the wake of a grisly tragedy, Jack was raised alongside his cousin and best friend, Brandon. At age 18, however, Jack’s otherwise uneventful life takes a sinister turn when he’s suddenly plagued by a series of bizarre sleepwalking episodes. After repeatedly waking up in the woods naked with no memory of the night before, Jack straps a camera to himself to document his behavior—and discovers a shocking truth: He is the unwitting heir to a monstrous family legacy of savagery, slaughter and unrelenting horror from which death may be the only escape!”
Starring Zack Weiner and Ben Getz, Uncaged comes out on all formats tomorrow, February 2nd, 2016 through RLJ Entertainment.
Those of you keeping up with the film know that I produced Southbound (in the interest of full disclosure), which opens in limited theaters this weekend. While there’s already a poster, our friends at Collider have unveiled an alternate one-sheet, which details the road to hell interpreted by Andy Belanger, artist and co-creator of the Image comic “Southern Cross.”
Set for a limited theatrical run (locations here) on February 5th before heading to VOD just a few days later on February 9th, Southbound includes stories directed by Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner (The Signal), Patrick Horvath (Entrance) and Radio Silence, several of whom were involved in Tom and my V/H/S films.
In Southbound, “On a desolate stretch of road, weary travelers — two men on the run from their past, a band on their way to the next gig, a man struggling to get home, a brother in search of his long-lost sister and a family on vacation — are forced to confront their worst fears and darkest secrets in these interwoven tales of terror and remorse on the open road.”
Get full release info at the Facebook page.
The Blackout Experiments is a documentary about a horror so messed up, they couldn’t have made it up. I watch horror movies because I like to see characters endure unspeakable horror, and sometimes triumph but not necessarily. I have no interest in experiencing it myself, so I would not buy what Blackout is selling, but following the customers who are obsessed with it is the sort of third person horror that fascinates me.
The focus is Russell, an older gentleman who became perhaps dependent on Blackout. The sampling also includes Abel, a younger man, a man named Bob and even a woman, but Russell dominates the narrative of the doc. Filmmakers Rich Fox and Kris Curry were given access to film some of the Blackout experiences.
Blackout certainly pushes the limits of what can be served up as entertainment to a paying customer. They never cross the line, although they make physical contact which is more than the performers in a haunted house maze are allowed to do. Blackouts involve being willingly taken to a dark room and can involve captivity, physical and psychological abuse, and even gunplay (if that wasn’t as carefully orchestrated as it appears, there is now evidence documenting it).
The participants give testimonial interviews in a black void, like an Errol Morris documentary. Subliminal words flash on the screen just long enough for us to read them. At only 80 minutes, we could have spent more time with some of the other participants to give a broader scope. Certainly a woman’s obsession with Blackout raises different questions, but maybe the footage didn’t warrant it.
The first thing that might be shocking about Blackout is that the participants are grateful for it. Even the permanent markings by tattoos are a badge of honor that they survived and endured. You do have to wonder what someone is lacking to welcome this. Most of us go through enough trials and tribulations involuntarily that we don’t need to create more. If we’re a true adrenaline junkie, we go rock climbing or skydiving. The documentary is a study of the personalities who derive validation from Blackout, and become dependent on it.
Blackout knows this and they use it against their customers. Abel compares it to David Fincher’s movie The Game and he’s right. Blackout doesn’t quite have the resources the Hollywood version had, but in its contained setting, they control their customers. Some of it is just gross like sticking your hand in a chicken, or creepy like a woman sawing a doll in the room, which I don’t even know how the customer could see so maybe it was only for the cameras.
As horror documentaries go, The Blackout Experiments conveys the subjects’ experience well. It’s mainly because the filmmakers had access to Blackout so they don’t have to rely on re-enactments. Blackout creators Josh Randall and Kristjan Thor are careful to maintain mystery as they allow the filmmakers to document them. It’s both the best commercial for and PSA against Blackout they could have hoped for.
“A shocking mix of Lucio Fulci’s macabre universe and John Carpenter’s horror atmosphere for a creepy delight,” here’s your first look at Domiziano Cristopharo’s Italian horror Virus: Extreme Contamination.
“An italian scientist moves to Kosovo to study the impact of a meteorite that is the cause of some strange events. Once there, he discovers that the object has been moved in a near military base where all the people were turned into dangerous weird creatures. ”
The film is Freely inspired from “The Colour Out of Space,” a short story written by American horror author H. P. Lovecraft in March 1927.
LevelK has acquired world rights to Luke Shanahan’s forthcoming feature debut, psychological thriller Rabbit, which will start shooting in May in South Australia, reports ScreenDaily ahead of the EFM market in Berlin.
Abbey Lee (The Neon Demon, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Alex Russell (Chronicle, Unbroken) will star in the psychological thriller.
“Rabbit tells the story of 25-year old medical student Maude, who is haunted by visions of her identical twin’s violent abduction. Convinced the twin is still alive, Maude follows clues to a caravan park where she discovers her fate is intrinsically linked to her sister’s, and encounters a secret society.”
“The concept behind Rabbit was to introduce a horrific ‘event’ and explore a genetic link between identical twins and their ability to communicate telepathically,” Shanahan told the site. “I was interested in exploring how two characters, sharing 99 percent of the same DNA, deal with such feelings of loss, pain and guilt.”
David Ngo (One Eyed Girl) produces for Longshot Films and Projector Films, with backing from South Australian Film Corporation, Fulcrum Media, The Cutting Room Post Production and Digital Artisan.
Ava’s my kind of woman!
From Jordan Galland, the director of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead, Ava’s Possessions finds “Ava recovering from demonic possession. With no memory of the past month, she is forced to attend a Spirit Possessions Anonymous support group. As Ava struggles to reconnect with her friends, get her job back, and figure out where the huge blood stain in her apartment came from, she is plagued by nightmarish visions–the demon is trying to come back.”
After premiering at last year’s SXSW Film Festival, Momentum Pictures will release on VOD on March 4th.
The official one-sheet is here, and damn is it classy! I love the colorful vibe and hilarious tagline: “She can handle her spirits.” I’m, ready to drink up!
Ava’s Possessions is written and directed by Jordan Galland. It stars Krause, Jemima Kirke (HBO’s Girls), Carol Kane (Netflix’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), and Alysia Reiner and Deborah Rush (both of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black), alongside horror favorites Whitney Able (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), William Sadler (Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight), Lou Taylor Pucci (The Evil Dead), and Dan Fogler (NBC’s Hannibal).
I’ve always kind of enjoyed the subgenre of movies about teachers at bad schools that go to war with the troubled students. Movies like 187, The Substitute and even The Principal. As much as I like these movies I must admit that each one sways off into varying degrees of silly. When you’re dealing with this subject matter I think that’s just something that comes with the territory. One film that falls into this category, and is arguably the silliest, that I had not seen was Class of 1984 from director Mark L. Lester (Commando, Showdown in Little Tokyo). Given how much I enjoy Lester’s other works, I decided it was time to rectify this situation.
Perry King stars as Andrew Norris, a music teacher starting his first day at an inner city high school that is reportedly quite troubled. Before he even makes it out of the parking lot he gets an understanding of just how troubled this school is when he meets Terry Corrigan (Roddy McDowall), a fellow teacher who is carrying a gun. Norris is understandably puzzled by this but Corrigan explains that once he gets accustomed to the school he’ll understand why the gun is necessary.
Inside the school Norris encounters more unsettling things. Everyone entering the school is forced to go through a metal detector, certainly not your normal high school practice. Worse, kids are still able to sneak weapons in past the detectors. Norris catches one and points it out to security but they basically shrug it off and say, “Hey, what can we do?” Norris struggles to understand how this can all be real.
As Norris makes his way to his classroom he gets a good look at the school. It’s an absolute mess; the whole place looking like it should be condemned. Everything looks rundown and the walls are completely covered with graffiti. This looks less like a place of education and more like a halfway house where filth runs rampant.
Once Norris finally makes it to his classroom he finds a handful of kids actually there to learn to play instruments but the rest are hoodlums looking to cause trouble, one such kid is Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten). Stegman is a student in the class but he has no interest in learning. He hangs out in the classroom with a bunch of his thug friends, who basically act as his goons. Norris won’t stand for this and kicks the other kids out. Stegman decides to join them and this immediately starts a war between Stegman’s gang and Norris.
Class of 1984 is definitely more over-the-top than the films I mentioned earlier. It takes everything to the extreme, but that was Lester’s intent. He was purposely over exaggerating the situation to prove his point on the educational system at the time. While the students appear to be unruly and do not care, authority figures do nothing to stop them. Thus the truly bad students get a little braver and continue to push the limit until they’re basically a crime syndicate operating out of the school. There’s actually a scene in the movie with Stegman’s gang that references a lot of mafia movie scenes with people waiting to see the big boss. So despite how silly the film may seem at times, there was an underlying message that Lester was sending.
Messages aside, I think Class of 1984 is a ton of fun. King’s portrayal of Norris is very similar to Charles Bronson in the Death Wish films, particularly Death Wish III. In fact I think the perfect way to describe Class of 1984 is to imagine Paul Kersey teaching a high school music class. That pretty much nails it.
King in general is really terrific. He’s one of those guys that I can never think of off the top of my head, but whenever I see him he never fails to deliver. Across the board the cast delivers superb performances. A young Michael J. Fox stars as Arthur, one of the good kids in class. Even with his baby fat you could tell Fox was going to be a star. Van Patten is an awesome villain to King’s hero. The whole time he is just such an asshole that you really want him to get it. The scene that is likely to stick with you the most, however, comes courtesy of one Roddy McDowall. He’s definitely been broken down by the system and lost his passion to teach. In an effort to regain it, he goes to extreme lengths to force his students to learn.
Class of 1984 is now available on Blu-ray from a variety of different companies. Being the fan of mediabooks that I am, I checked out the German mediabook release from CMV Laservision. This release does appear to be region free, as it worked on both my region A and region B Blu-ray players. The transfer looks pretty solid, a few moments here and there are on the rough side, but for the most part it looks very, very good. There are a few special features that are in English, including the wonderful making-of/documentary “Blood and Blackboards,” which is from the old DVD release of the film. This 35-minute doc features a bunch of interviews from various cast members talking about their experience working on the film. It’s definitely worth checking out if you like the movie.
I think Class of 1984 is a great movie that crosses a variety of genres. It’s sort of based in that urban school drama but ventures into over-the-top action and has some of the violence and gore that you would find in a horror movie. The end scene is actually kind of shocking. Look, like I said earlier, it’s basically Paul Kersey teaching high school and that should be more than enough to peak your interest.
Class of 1984 is now available on Blu-ray from CMV Laservision.
Written by Charlie Brigden
I don’t know about you, but whenever sometimes says the word “witch” I think of my ex. And after that, it’s of course Suspiria, especially musically. In that movie Goblin really come into their own and they’re a pretty huge reason why Dario Argento’s movie is regarded as a masterpiece. But there’s a new goat on the block and its name is The VVitch. A 17th century tale about witchcraft in New England (where else?), it scared the shit out of a bunch of hardcore horror hounds in festivals last year and hits cinemas next month in the US and March in the UK. Milan Records are putting the soundtrack out and kindly sent us a copy for our delectation, and, well, holy shit.
The VVitch is one of the most unsettling scores I’ve ever heard. Composed by Canadian Mark Korven – who unsurprisingly had one of his earliest jobs writing music for the 80’s revival of The Twilight Zone – and performed by the composer and two other musicians (with a choir backing them up), it starts your skin crawling from the first second. Beginning in a reasonably traditional way with a slow moody string line, it feels immediately like a precursor, something foreboding. Fan, meet shit. Dissonance follows, something that you encounter a lot during The Witch, and here it surges into a wave of scratching and biting strings, with low notes clashing with a horrible chorus of shrieking that not only sounds terrifying but also feels absolutely authentic.
And that’s an intentional and crucial part of Korven’s approach. While he uses the familiar chaotic and malevolent strings that we’re so used to in the genre, their source is less traditional, at least for a modern score. Appearing are the Spanish Viol, the Finnish Jouhikko, and the Swedish Nyckelharpa, stringed instruments that range from the 14th century to the 18th, as well as the infamous Hurdy-gurdy (probably still best known from the Donovan song so memorably used in David Fincher’s Zodiac), together with the cello and waterphone (the latter of which was a staple of Bernard Herrmann). So while the instruments themselves are perhaps appropriate for the film in terms of period, they also work to unsettle us a bit – they’re certainly familiar, but there’s something in there that we don’t recognise.
And then there’s The Element Choir, a group led by folk artist Christine Duncan who are responsible for the frankly horrific choral parts in the score (horrific in a good way, of course). Just listen to the wordless underlying chorus in ‘A Witch Stole Sam’, or the floating, ghostly voices in ‘William’s Confession’. They’re also responsible for the most terrifying moment in the score, ‘Witches Coven’, which is essentially the chorus furiously chanting incantations in an unknown language. It’s a chilling moment, and I say that listening to it on a Tuesday afternoon. Do I dare play it late at night?
I’m not especially prone to hyperbole, but much of The VVitch is a deeply uncomfortable listen. As mentioned earlier, it’s full of dissonance and atonal pieces, with the score constantly shifting and warping, creaking. The percussion sections sound like they were literally created with tree branches and sticks, something that feels consistent with the setting of the story and the imagery that comes with witchcraft. And there’s one moment during ‘Caleb Is Lost’ where the strings produce this horrible gutteral growl that genuinely made me shiver.
I haven’t seen the film of The VVitch so I can only go by this soundtrack, but what Mark Korven has composed is able to work all by its lonesome, which is not always guaranteed when it comes to these kind of scores. But it’s an utterly rewarding listen, not only in the way it’s able to creep you out but also the haunting beauty contained within, such as the two solo string tracks that bookend the album, as well as ‘Isle of Wight’, which is a wonderful folk song. Get ready for The VVitch – to quote the tagline for a classic horror movie, it knows what scares you.
The VVitch is released on February 19th (digital) and March 4th (CD) from Milan Records. A vinyl edition is due for May.
Charlie Brigden is a longtime horror nerd who runs his own site about film scores and soundtracks, Films On Wax. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter as well as subscribe to his podcast on Soundcloud.
Well, this was unexpected!
Legendary horror director/musician John Carpenter has not only announced that he will be releasing Lost Themes II, his sophomore album, via Sacred Bones Records on April 15th, 2016, but he’s also opened pre-orders right away!
The way I’ve seen it done is that usually an album is announced to build up hype and excitement. Then, a few weeks later, the pre-order links go live. This decided to axe out the whole waiting part and just go straight for it, which I think is rather genius.
Lost Themes brought us 9 original tracks that sounded like they came directly from the director’s film catalog. However, the whole purpose was for listeners to create their own movies, their own scenes in connection with each song. I absolutely love that because his directing style is so unique that it creates a foundation. However, our imaginations can go anywhere with that, which makes it such a treat for horror fans.
You can pre-order the album via iTunes.
Jun 2 – Barcelona ES, Primavera Sound
Jul 1-3 – Ásbrú IS, ATP Iceland
Oct 28 – Manchester UK, Albert Hall *2nd show added!*
Oct 29 – Manchester UK, Albert Hall
Oct 31 – London UK, Troxy
Lost Themes II track listing:
1. Distant Dream (3:51)
2. White Pulse (4:21)
3. Persia Rising (3:40)
4.Angel’s Asylum (4:17)
5.Hofner Dawn (3:15)
6.Windy Death (3:40)
7.Dark Blues (4:16)
8.Virtual Survivor (3:58)
9.Bela Lugosi (3:23)
10. Last Sunrise (4:29)
11. Utopian Facade (3:48)