With the expectation that The Walking Dead would abruptly slam on the brakes this week, we instead find “Slabtown” jumping the freaking track.
So far, this is my favorite episode of the season, hands down. Whatever happened to Beth, as throwaway a character as she’s been, has certainly been on my mind lately, and the payoff is huge. This episode gives two aspects I didn’t necessarily expect from this particular story juncture: sheer nail biting suspense peppered with meaningful character development.
Rejoining Beth in her high rise hospital room, almost feels like a dream sequence. A doctor and police officer, both in clean uniforms, enter the room and the intrigue, along with an eerily unsettling vibe, is immediate. Especially when we’re presented with the extent of the haze of apparent normalcy clouding this would be sanctuary.
Hospital equipment and lights attached to car batteries hum with the familiar sounds of a past life, while clean uniformed cops roam the halls, a man in scrubs mops the hallway in the distance. To think their could be anything this well put together at this point is mind boggling. Turns out the only things not so well put together are the people that built it.
These people are still waiting for rescue, and delusional enough to believe that ‘saving’ people and forcing them to contribute to their efforts was in line with some kind of greater good. And more so, that the abuse and entrapment of these individuals was justified if it meant keeping the machine running. “If we take, we give back.”
We meet a lot of different kinds of people on this show, some are outright Evil, some are crazed, and others straddle that fine line. These people don’t fit this model. While some of them definitely did lean towards evil, their delusion made them horrifying, and the skewed sense of self importance and self right righteousness it brought. I mean, these people were wasting energy doing laundry. A brilliant twist on the show’s established ranks of antagonism.
These people cling to an all but forgotten hope of being rescued from this hell on Earth. Either too stubborn or stupid to let go. In a lot of ways, they had a good thing going, but it was the delusional nature of their core philosophy that unnerved me in a way I no longer thought possible from this show, if for no other reason than sheer de-sensitivity.
From beginning to end this is a spectacularly well realized episode. From the unsettling surreal quality emanating from Beth’s hosts, to the harrowing escape plan, there was scarcely a moment I didn’t feel uneasy. That feeling was only multiplied by the supremely eerie setting of the fifth or sixth story of a besieged hospital. Sure, it was safe from the dead, but it was effectively a prison with no clear escape route, inhabited by insanity.
The two main sources of antagonism in this episode; Dawn, and her more sadistic male counterpart, Gorman paint a supremely off kilter picture with their every word and action. Moments like Dawn taking her anger over the loss of a prospective contributor out on Beth’s face, and the excessively creepy scene featuring the aforementioned sadist and a sour apple sucker, were truly hard to watch Beth endure.
This is the episode’s greatest strength, as it took a character we never really cared much about and turned her into an underdog that we had every reason to root for. Allusions to Beth’s suicidal past juxtaposed with her current strength illustrated her journey to becoming a survivor. In short, Beth’s character has gained a depth that will no doubt continue to resonate for as long as she remains a part of the show. No small feat.
This thread is ultimately brought full circle by the daring escape, which ends in heart wrenching failure. The build up and subsequent release presented here, for me, encapsulates everything that can make this show such an utter joy to watch, albeit a nervous, white knuckled joy. Neither element would’ve been nearly as engaging on its own, but together they form an expertly paced thrill ride.
The episode was light on the undead component, that is, until the last few minutes, but what we do get is on the same level as the rest of the material presented. Due to the desperate situation Beth and the newly befriended Noah are in, the encounter with the walkers feels more threatening, and sickening than they have in quite some time.
The looming terror of the elevator shaft used as a dumping/munching ground for the recently deceased, which ended up becoming the duo’s escape route, was electrifying. And the darkened, rotter filled basement, illuminated only by the shots fired from Beth’s jacked pistol was extremely effective in conveying the unabashed urgency of the moment. The zombies were scary again, and it was awesome.
While the episode did begin on a note of intrigue, where it ended has me more excited to see what comes next than I’ve been since we left off last season. With her one true ally (Noah) gone, and Dawn more pissed off than ever, Beth’s situation seems extremely grim. That is, until she see’s Carol being wheeled in on a stretcher. The single most exciting moment of the season thus far from where I’m standing. How the hell did this happen!?
As of right now, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what’s going on with Rick’s group, as surprised as I am to even type those words. Right now I’m more concerned with finding out how Carol wound up getting separated from Daryl, and just who Mr. Dixon was escorting at the end of the previous episode. I’d have to say my money’s on Noah at this point. Either way, I hope we follow this plot line for a while as I have an incredibly strong need to see how this all plays/played out.
If the next few chapters of this little diversion are half as strong as this one, it’s going to be a thrilling couple of weeks ahead. This is my definitive WD experience. Hat’s off.
What did you think of “Slabtown?” Was Beth’s struggle a compelling hour of television? When do you want to see Rick next, and where the hell is Morgan?
We may be just four episodes into Season 5 of “The Walking Dead,” but it’s already shaping up to be one of the show’s best, at least in this writer’s humble opinion. Before we move on to next week’s Episode 5.05, “Self Help,” with a photo and a clip, here’s a look “inside” tonight’s Episode 5.04, “Slabtown.” Just beware of spoilers if you’re not caught up yet!
“The Walking Dead” Episode 5.04 – “Slabtown” (aired 11/2/14)
In this episode we get to meet a whole group of other survivors, but what looks safe and nice on the outside has a bit of a dark side.
“The Walking Dead” Episode 5.05 – “Self Help” (airs 11/9/14)
A new set of issues confront our group while on a mission. Will they be able to push through and survive these challenges? Or better yet, each other?
To stay up-to-the-minute on all things walker related, follow @WalkingDead_AMC on Twitter and visit “The Walking Dead” on Facebook. For more info be sure to hit up the official “The Walking Dead” page on AMC.com.
The post The Walking Dead Video Blowout: Go Inside Ep. 5.04 – Slabtown; Sneak Peek of Ep. 5.05 – Self Help appeared first on Dread Central.
Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed such horror films as Saw II through Saw 4 as well as Repo! The Genetic Opera and 11-11-11, has posted the story of how he came to direct the music video “So” for Static-X via his public Facebook page.
In his story, Bousman explains that this music video gig was his very first professional job and became the, “…doorway in to doing what I love.“
I was very sad to hear of the passing of Wayne Static from Static-X. For those of you who know my story, my VERY first professional directing job was a Static-X music video. At the time, I was a tape vault assistant at THE FIRM, a musical management company. I was sitting in a managers meeting helping them with AV when I heard from one of the managers that the director for the Static-X music video fell out, and they were unsure what to do. I raised my hand and said, “I’ll do it.” At this time, I had never directed ANYTHING… (outside of a couple of bad short films). The co-owner of The Firm laughed at me, then told me to meet him in his office after the meeting. There was a collective gasp from the room. I was SURELY being fired for talking out of place.
Instead, Jeff gave me Wayne’s number and said, I’ll give you a shot, call Wayne and figure it out.
One week later I was shooting the music video for “SO”.
As fate would have it, I would reconnect with Static-X a few years later for the SAW III soundtrack.
Wayne, I thank you for allowing me a doorway in to doing what I love.
My thoughts go to his friends, fans, and family.
Starring Andrew Robinson, Ami Dolenz, J. Trevor Edmond, Steve Kanaly
Directed by Jeff Burr
Distributed by The Scream Factory
Preface: For better or worse (usually worse), I am a child of ‘90s horror. Born in ’81, my formative viewing years were the mid-‘90s, when weekends were spent walking a couple miles to the nearest Wherehouse where I’d peruse the shelves for an entire afternoon. Those halcyon days before I developed discernible taste meant that any new release on the horror shelf was ripe fruit for picking. I rented with impunity. Many of those titles were so bad no one has even bothered to release them on DVD, but one of the “prestige” (comparatively speaking) titles I kinda loved was the sequel to one of my favorite childhood horrors: Pumpkinhead (1988). Not having great taste (when you’re still a kid, of course) is actually pretty awesome because the film world is your oyster; you tend to be less judge-y regarding what you’ll watch. And I watched Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993) – a lot. But upon receiving Scream Factory’s latest Blu-ray it dawned on me that I haven’t seen the film in probably ten years… which may not have been such a bad thing.
It is not a good movie.
For starters, the script – which suffered at least four different writers – more or less ignores everything that made the first film so great, retconning Pumpkinhead’s history and giving the enigmatic demon one of the dumbest origins ever. This is mostly because it started off life as a non-Pumpkinhead vehicle. Here, he’s actually the father (let that sink in for a minute) of a young mentally-challenged boy named Thomas who likes to play with toy trucks. Back in the ‘50s, a group of hooligan kids thought it would be fun to chase Thomas through the woods, hang him from a hook over an old mine, beat him up and kill him. How else would you spend your afternoon? Thomas’ caretaker, an old witch not named Haggis (for whatever reason), watches over him and, eventually, over his grave after he’s killed. Cut to modern day, when Sheriff Braddock (Andrew Robinson) and his daughter, Jenny (‘90s horror heartthrob Ami Dolenz), move to town. He’s got a wife, too, but she’s basically wallpaper here. Jenny immediately strikes up a friendship with the local gang of misfits, led by Danny (J. Trevor Edmond), the son of local Judge Dixon (Steve Kanaly) and wearer of dated ‘90s bad boy outfits.
The group – which also includes former Punky Brewster, Soleil Moon Frye – goes out for a night of drinking and driving. Fun stuff. It ends poorly when Danny hits the old witch, Ms. Osie (Lilyan Chauvin), as she’s crossing the road. Concerned, they head over to her cabin and, rather than help her, Danny punches her out and steals a vial of blood so they can perform a ritual one of the girls read about literally seven seconds earlier. It works, and now Pumpkinhead is unleashed upon the town. Instead of killing the teens first, though, the creature stalks and kills a number of townsfolk who may or may not be related in some way (spoiler: they are). Sheriff Braddock seems to be their only hope, as he has a really lame connection to this malevolent demon that will surely come in handy during the climax.
Any shred of decency this film has should be chalked up to the tenacity of director Jeff Burr, a.k.a. the man you call when your horror film needs a sequel. After debuting with the creepy little anthology, From a Whisper to a Scream (released theatrically as The Offspring) (1987), Burr spent the next five years of his career helming sequels aplenty. I’ll always respect him because, even though it was hacked up by the studio, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) rocks. Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings was no different from his other projects in that he was brought on board with precious little time to make sure his film was, you know, good. Burr even admits in the bonus features he felt the script needed a lot more work, but movies have deadlines and he had two options: make the film, or don’t. Who knows what he could have accomplished with a few more weeks to polish the script.
At least Burr makes his cast interesting. Andrew Robinson can always be counted on to do good work. Dolenz proves she’s more than just a pretty face; maybe not all that much more, but she’s got some decent chops. The smaller roles were hyped up most on the VHS back cover, including Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III alumni R.A. Mihaloff and Joe Unger, former (then current) Jason Voorhees, Kane Hodder, and scream queen Linnea Quigley. But the real player everyone came to see is the brother of Bubba, Roger Clinton, making his feature film debut. Why Burr didn’t just cast him as the lead is anyone’s guess…
For as much crapping on the film as this review has done, it is admittedly pretty entertaining. The Pumpkinhead design was tweaked a bit here, giving the beast a little more muscle and a menacing set of white eyes. Plus, unlike the recent abominations (read: sequels) that are now part of the series this creature was done practically; no CGI here. The kills look a little clunky at times, but Burr keeps the crimson river flowing freely enough that it’s all good fun. The dual revenge is a nice touch, too, ensuring we get a number of deaths across all demographics. And, to wax a bit nostalgic, there’s a certain feeling of childhood comfort that comes with watching it again all these years later. Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings is by no means a masterpiece (although compared to the third and fourth entries in the series…) but it’s entertaining enough that horror fans should have some fun watching it.
What was not entertaining was “Bloodwings: Pumpkinhead’s Revenge”, the PC game released for DOS in 1995. You are welcome to seek out those YouTube clips at your own risk.
For a low-budget ‘90s picture, the 1.85:1 1080p picture looks relatively strong. Despite having no restorative work done, detail is slightly above average and there’s a nice, fine grain structure that provides a filmic appearance. Colors look faithfully reproduced, even if they tend to lack vibrancy and pop. Black levels, however, are dark and stable. Some medium and wide shots look a tad soft, likely issues inherent to the source. It looks like a ‘90s DTV title, which isn’t such a bad thing. Also, this is the first time the film has been released in its original aspect ratio, as the previous Lionsgate DVD was full-frame.
The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is passable, though it’s certainly lacking any sort of real presence or range. Dialogue sounds a bit “canned” at times, but it’s presented clearly with no defects. Voices and discreet effects pan effectively across the front speakers, adding some sense of immersion to the soundtrack. There isn’t much support from the subwoofer, which remains mostly dormant throughout. It’s a competent, unimpressive effort that, much like the picture, is in keeping with the ‘90s DTV origins.
Director Jeff Burr is a fast talker on the audio commentary track, regaling listeners with stories from every step of the production. Burr has a wonderfully candid, unvarnished approach that is refreshing and makes his commentary tracks absolutely worth listening to for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of low-budget filmmaking.
Interview with director Jeff Burr runs for just over an hour. Just as with his audio commentary, Burr is never at a loss for words. He speaks for the entire duration of this interview virtually non-stop. Some of the information is redundant if you’ve heard the commentary, but his frequent anecdotes and honest storytelling will have most viewers hooked in from the start.
Re-creating the Monster – Interview with Special Effects Artists Greg Nicotero, Gino Crognale and actor Mark McCracken – The FX guys talk about watching old behind-the-scenes footage from the making of Pumpkinhead so they could see how the previous animators brought the creature to life, then making subtle changes to that design to make their beast unique. McCracken, the man under the suit, talks about his work, which from the stories they tell involved a lot of on-set humor.
Behind the Scenes Footage is entirely camcorder footage of Pumpkinhead being operated and shot on set, along with some of the on-set gags Nicotero & co. spoke of in their interview.
This Blu-ray doesn’t carry over a featurette on the making of the film found on Lionsgate’s previous release, though what is included here mostly makes up for that. Still, it would have been nice to get some interviews with the cast just to hear their thoughts on the film twenty years later. I’m sure Roger Clinton would’ve been available.
- Audio commentary with director Jeff Burr
- Interview with director Jeff Burr
- Re-creating the Monster – Interview with Special Effects Artists Greg Nicotero, Gino Crognale and actor Mark McCracken
- Behind the Scenes Footage
- Reversible cover art
Now that AMC has canned the majority of its unscripted shows, more of its regular bits of programming are gathering lots and lots of steam, included the long talk about adaptation of the Preacher comic.
Variety reports that “Preacher,” based on Garth Ennis’ graphic novel about a maverick Texas clergyman, is said to be heating up for a pilot order. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are writing the adaptation for Sony Pictures TV and Original Film.
Stay turned for more soon, including casting news. Who would you like to see fill the primary roles? Sound off below.
The 10th anniversary re-release of Saw scored one of the worst debuts ever for a movie released in over 2,000 theaters, trailing only the kiddy flops Delgo and Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure in terms of box office poison.
I can’t even wrap my head around what Lionsgate was thinking re-releasing Saw for its 10th anniversary. Is Hollywood now even trying to reboot nostalgia too soon, or were they hoping fans would flock in such a way as to indicate they really want a new series of Saw sequels/reboots?
Sorry, Jigsaw. Two films tied for the top of the Halloween weekend box office, and neither included elaborate DIY torture traps or creepy puppets on tricycles. If it’s Halloween, it used to be Saw.
The top box office spot for Halloween 2014 belonged to Jake Gyllenhaal’s sociopathic crime scene photographer as Nightcrawler opened #1. Box Office Mojo reports a $10.91 million opening, putting it in a virtual tie with last weekend’s #1, Ouija. When the dust settles on Monday, one or the other may pull ahead just enough to definitively lay claim to the top slot.
In its second week Ouija continued to appeal to tweeners looking for an entry-level horror offering at the mall’s multiplex. The $5 million Blumhouse spookfest benefited from the Halloween spirit, dropping only 44 percent with another $10.90 million.
That brings it to the $35 million benchmark that’s been the best any horror flick can do at the box office this year. The fact that Ouija is poised to be one of the year’s highest grossing horror movies should tell you all you need to know about what a weak year for the genre it has been.
Speaking of weak, oh my… Saw wasn’t expect to make much for its one-week only return to theaters and still managed to be a near record-making flop. A pathetic $650,000 was all the 10th anniversary re-release could muster for the Halloween weekend. That averages out to 39 tickets per theater. Perhaps Hollywood should strongly reconsider re-releasing movies that’s aren’t that old and are readily available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD, often in discounted bundle packs with other entries in the series.
Next weekend Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Marvel/Disney’s Big Hero 6 open so say sayonara to Nightcrawler and Ouija and everything else scrounging for dollars at the box office.
You can also pretty much say sayonara to big screen horror for the year other than The Pyramid, opening in the post-Thanksgiving weekend slot generally reserved for films being dumped by the studio with little prospects of making bank. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 doesn’t even really fit the mold anymore since the two-part climax abandons the Battle Royale-esque aspects in favor of a full-on Return of the Jedi-esque revolutionary war.
So, uh, have you seen John Wick yet? What are you waiting for? More headshots than a zombie apocalypse flick!
The post Saw Not Seen as Nightcrawler and Ouija Tie for the Halloween Box Office appeared first on Dread Central.
Normally on Sundays I whip up an editorial that sparks discussions, something that has an open ended question that allows you, the readers, to let your voices be heard. I don’t want today to be any different. But instead of asking something specific, I wanted to pay tribute to Halloween and hear what you did!
So, there’s not going to be any examples of what I did because I was actually under the weather and stayed at home whipping up a ton of posts. Therefore, tell me what you did so that I can live vicariously through you!
Did you go trick or treating with your family? Did you do a horror movie marathon? Did you go to or host a costume party? Let me know in the comments so that I get plans for next year!
Since Scream Factory finally ran out of titles to announce for “Shocktober,” Synapse Films decided to uncork a treat on All Hallow’s Eve by revealing plans to bring the underrated and often overlooked 1976 Sasquatchploitation flick Creature from Black Lake to digital next year.
Creature from Black Lake, directed by Joy N. Houck, Jr., and written by Jim McCullough, Jr., chronicles what happens when two collegiate fancy pants from the North venture deep into Cajun country to research stories about a Bigfoot-like creature that considers the swamplands its stomping grounds. What they find are locals that don’t much like Yankee city slickers nosing around and, more importantly, one very pissed off swamp monster that doesn’t much care for anyone from either side of the Mason-Dixon.
Cast members include Jack Elam, Dub Taylor, and Dennis Fimple.
As Dread’s resident expert on Sasquatchploitation cinema, you’ve probably seen or heard me reference this film on multiple occasion as it is pretty much the gold standard of Seventies Bigfoot cinema, second only to The Legend of Boggy Creek, though while that film gets all the glory, I’ve always felt this drive-in circuit shocker loosely based on the tales of Louisiana’s own “Honey Island Swamp Monster” is the more eerily effective combination of hairy hominid horror and Southern slice-of-life.
Now Synapse hasn’t stated outright that the plan is to give the film a Blu-ray release, but it is safe to assume from the company’s Facebook announcement that they’ve worked out a deal with Jim McCullough Productions, the company behind the film, for this to be the definitive collector’s edition release of Creature from Black Lake:
So, we’re sitting in our office working today and we’re thinking, “It’s Halloween, shouldn’t we maybe announce something today?” We have a few “irons in the fire” as it were and, since this one is officially signed, sealed and delivered with the McCullough family, we’re going to announce that work will begin in 2015 on the first, real, authorized version of this “bigfoot” classic! No other details available at this time, as the ink is barely dry, but we’re scouring storage facilities and the McCullough family’s inventory to bring this one out as soon as humanly possible! Should be a lot of fun! All you collectors out there, take note! If you have any memorabilia or vintage trailers or TV spots for this one, let us know!
Good luck with that last part. You won’t even find a trailer on YouTube.
The post Synapse Films Is Getting Its Squatch on with Creature from Black Lake appeared first on Dread Central.
See What Strains Await the Cranes in these Images and Preview of Sleepy Hollow Episode 2.07 – Deliverance
When the powers-that-be announced the second season of “Sleepy Hollow” would be an expanded 18 episodes, we were a little worried. After all, it was the show’s quick pace with very little dilly-dallying about that hooked us in the first place so we wondered if the eps might start feeling a bit “padded.”
So far, that hasn’t been the case as the series continues to captivate us (and plenty of others) week in and week out, and up now for the faithful following we have a look (via both videos and photos) at what strains lie ahead for the Cranes in tomorrow night’s Episode 2.07, “Deliverance.”
“Sleepy Hollow” Episode 2.07 – “Deliverance” (airs 11/3/14)
Abbie (Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod (Tom Mison) learn that Katrina (Katia Winter) is in imminent danger and race against the clock to help her.
Yesterday, horrible news was confirmed that Static-X frontman Wayne Richard Wells, aka Wayne Static, had passed away at age 48, just a few days shy of his 49th birthday. For many, the passing of the wild-haired musician was a sharply felt loss, one that resonated due to the fact that they’ve been around for many, many years, allowing themselves entry into chapters in our lives.
Personally speaking, I’ve been listening to them since the release of their debut album Wisconsin Death Trip, meaning that they’ve been a part of half of my life. While I didn’t own all of their albums, every one I did own was one I enjoyed thoroughly. Static’s ability to create incredibly groovy industrial metal was often emulated but never matched.
For many horror fans, this loss also has another level behind it as the band was deeply ingrained in our genre. Let’s look at the list of soundtracks they appeared on over the years: in 2000 they appeared on Scream 3 (“So Real”), The Crow: Salvation (“Burning Inside”), and Dracula 2000 (“Ostego Undead”). In 2002 their song “Anything But This” was on the Resident Evil soundtrack followed by “Deliver Me” in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003. Then, in 2006, they were featured on Saw III with their song “No Submission”.
Also, their video for “So” was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed several entries in the Saw franchise as well as Repo! The Genetic Opera. Their video for “Black And White” was shot by Underworld director Len Wiseman. Both of these videos can be seen below. And this doesn’t include their vampire-fueled video for “Cold”.
The band’s music, which they dubbed “Evil Disco”, was the perfect fit for certain subgenres of horror. They were aggressive, sinister, fun, and exciting. The films they appeared on all shared those qualities, almost as though they were created just for Static-X.
We’ve lost several horror icons in the past several months. While Wayne Static may not have been a star or director in the horror world, his music played an integral role in creating a mood, an atmosphere.
Wayne Richard Wells, November 4, 1965 – November 1, 2014. Rest in peace, sir.
If there’s one truly under-served facet of the horror genre in the video game medium it’s the slasher sub-genre. However that’s coming to an end with games like Until Dawn and now Summer Camp coming to light! Speaking of the latter…
Gun Media is hard at work on Summer Camp along with special effects legend Tom Savini and Friday the 13th composer Harry Manfredini. How’s that for super-fucking-cool?
In the third person slasher horror game you’ll play as a teenage camp counselor alongside other players trying to survive until dawn or you can even play as the killer. Yeah, I think I’m going with the killer’s side first, but that’s just my preference!
No release date has been announced just yet but we know when it gets here the game will be available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Dig on some concept art and a trailer below.
The post Summer Camp Slashing its Way to Consoles and Steam appeared first on Dread Central.
It’s Sunday and it’s unfortunately time to start wrapping up 2014′s Halloween weekend. But if we’re going to finish things, we’re going to end them with a bang! That’s why we’re wrapping up this holiday with Prosthetic Records and their Top 10 Halloween Music Videos!
The label states:
To celebrate October, the most haunting month of the year, PROSTHETIC RECORDS has compiled a list of ten music videos from past and present artists on their roster that will surely unnerve your senses.
Not only have they put together this list, they’ve also whipped up a Spotify Playlist, which you can check out right here.
Head on in for this brutal Halloween playlist!
It’s hard to believe it’s been as long as it has since Bethesda gave us our first look at The Evil Within through that creepy, live-action reveal trailer. It was an effective debut for what would eventually become a great horror game, and now we can see how much work was put into it with this behind the scenes look from studioADI.
You would think something like this, with its buckets of gore and complex prosthetics would take some time to create, but it sounds like they really powered through it.
“Shot over a weekend, the FX set crew consisted of ADI veterans, Mike Spatola and his team of makeup artists from Cinema Makeup School. Day One primary focus: submerging suit perfomer Mick Ignis into the role [of] a four-armed banshee from hell.”
If I would have seen just one person dressed as my new favorite four-armed blood witch, it would’ve made my Halloween. Unfortunately, all I saw were generic woodland critters, princesses and a couple of Ghostfaces.
I recently played through some of The Evil Within for our 13 Days of Horror — check that out in the video below!
Composer Mark Morgan’s work includes such influential games as Fallout, Fallout 2, and Planescape: Torment, as well a plethora of movie and television gigs. His moody, wide-ranging scores veer into quiet, acoustic territory in addition to the electronic and industrial landscape for which he probably most well-known.
Morgan recently took time away from working on Wasteland 2 to chat with us. Find out what it’s like creating the sound design for the sequel to the progenitor of all post-apocalyptic RPGs in our interview!
The score for Wasteland 2 combines some pretty dissonant percussive and electronic sounds with Eastern and world music elements. How do you come to land on that specific instrumentation blend?
I drew from everything that I believe fits that world, to get that Dystopian feel and that which is distinctly Wasteland 2. It’s not just one musical element but the sum of all its parts that can make that unique texture and create the sound of the wasteland. In addition to the landscape and environments, Wasteland 2 features various tribal cults and different factions within those main cults. To find that sound musically, I combined elements from the modular synth that can be clinical in nature and blended them with a slide guitar or a wind instrument which in turn can evoke emotion and create some interesting sounds that fit the vibe.
Was there something you saw in the gameplay for Wasteland 2 that inspired the tonal palette for this score, or did you already have some pretty strong ideas in mind?
Before there was any gameplay Brian and I discussed the sound palette. I did a couple of demos using the concept art, so we had a good idea sonically of what was working straight away. Then it was a matter of fitting the music into the different sections of the game.
There are two distinct areas in the game, Arizona and Los Angeles, so both had to be addressed with their own distinct sound but still feel as if they are part of the same world.
Arizona needed to be open-sounding and have a strong feel of cold desolation. Because of the desert landscape and the fact that we were dealing with the Rangers, a little twang was needed, so we went with a very dark and minimal use of slide guitar. On some of the tracks, to get that dark vibe, we used a dobro slide and purposely brought to the forefront certain artifacts by recording the noisiest parts of the neck and body of the guitar. After which we blended that with the close mic natural sound. Hearing all the artifacts made it feel really dry and dusty which in turn gave it a more aggressive sound befitting the post-apocalyptic world of the wasteland…
LA has more of a glitchy electronic sound, but still has an organic quality because of the use of certain textures in the underlying ambience that pervades most of the game. The sound of LA is more apparent in the battle moments because of the overall nervous and glitchy, rhythmic components along with more pronounced ethnic elements.
The idea in the game was to tell the story by use of texture as opposed to playing melodies in the traditional sense. In some cases we concentrated on the sound of certain cults to give them an identity of their own. For instance, for the Mannerites, the underlying ambience is aggressive and relentless, and with an added subtle pulse that hopefully gives you a sense of unease that you can’t seem to escape from. Other cults were approached in a similar fashion.
As someone who seems to enjoy a wide variety of sound textures, how much experimentation are you allowed when composing for a game? Or, similarly, are you given free reign and then offered specific notes?
It depends on the game and the developer, but for the most part I’m given a lot of room to experiment and come up with the sound. Because Brian is very open musically, on Wasteland 2 I was given pretty much free reign. As far as he is concerned, almost anything goes if it works and fits the game.
Video game scoring often has to exist within the aural environment
without taking it over, save for the necessary aural crescendos. What is your approach to the background / foreground aesthetic necessary for video game composition?
Obviously you have to set the mood and tell a story so I approached it as if I’m writing to film. I want the player to feel as if they’re immersed inside the game, while at the same time not being too on the nose by telling them what is happening or what to feel. My goal is to be subtle enough not to intrude but give the player enough information to stay engaged. Having said that, in some games you have to be more literal and overt but I think it’s preferable to avoid that approach if possible.
How much of the game do you need to see before you can get a feel for how to approach the music, or do you begin composition pretty early on after you are hired?
As of late I’ve begun writing before there is any gameplay to speak of so the compositional process starts straightaway. For me it’s really about the concept art which in games for the most part tells the story. I’ve also been watching the beta being played on Twitch and other sites, especially when it comes to the battle music. After watching and seeing the actual gameplay I have adjusted the music accordingly.
Is there a certain genre of game that you find yourself attracted to when seeking new projects, or do you gravitate toward works that suit your specific style?
I would say a little bit of both. I do enjoy games, like with movies, that are narrative-driven, and in which music plays an important role in telling that story. I do like to go there and dig deep emotionally so I tend to gravitate to the darker themed subject matter. I’m not saying you can’t do that with lighter material, I just like using a palette that tends to be darker.
I’m always trying to find that perfect project that can fit and be pushed by a certain style of music that I hear in my head. That to me would be the ultimate and most challenging project.
“War of Borders” reminds me very specifically of one of my favorite songs from the DOOM score, and your credits include some very influential games, like Civilization and several of the Fallout games. How has your approach to scoring video games changed between your earlier works and and, say, Wasteland 2?
Interesting question. I think now I’m more engaged in the actual gameplay and what it’s about as it relates to the story. In earlier games, often because of time constraints or maybe just the way they were done usually, I was only given a vague idea on what the music would or could be. I don’t even remember getting any concept art or anything that really related to the game. I would just write what I felt without having much knowledge of the inner workings or subtleties of the game. Maybe in some instances that can work but I do much prefer knowing all I can about the game before I start.
What composers do you yourself admire, and is there a game score you hold up as the pinnacle of the artform?
As far as composers I admire, they come from all genres not just the scoring world. Some that come to mind are Ryuichi Sakamoto, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Alva Noto, Trent Reznor, Miles Davis.
As for games I know there are some great ones but I haven’t listened to enough of them to feel I could give a valid judgment.
Additionally, Stasis looks to be a really interesting game. It has a certain industrial aesthetic that seems to fit nicely with your style. What brought you to become involved in that project, and what can you say about your involvement up to this point? How far along are you in scoring it?
I saw the game on Kickstarter and was in awe of the artwork Christopher Bischoff had created and I wanted to be part of it. I emailed him and asked if he had a composer, he hadn’t so I was able to talk him into letting me do it.
It’s cool in the sense that there really isn’t any music during gameplay to speak of. The score is built around a lullaby that was played on a music box then reworked to fit the emotional moments in the game: panic, friendship, fear, loss etc. So the game has a musical thread that goes through the entire score.
We’re probably a month away from finishing the music and then we’ll take a look at maybe releasing the soundtrack.
Are you a fan of video games with an isometric point-of-view? If not, what sorts of games most readily pique your interest?
I’m interested in all types of games. For me it has to come from an artistic place and the story is also very important. Then the criteria is if I feel I can contribute musically to the project.
What other projects are upcoming for you?
The next project game-wise is Torment: Tides Of Numenara. I’m also working with a friend of mine on a TV show, Aquarius, based on the Manson murders.
The best way to describe Sunset Overdrive is to compare it to coming home after a long night of trick or treating, locking yourself in your bedroom and gorging on your bounty. Take that sugar rush, chase it with a few Red Bulls, and you have the essence that makes up the heart and soul of this wonderfully over-the-top action game.
More than that, after straying from their roots with the gritty Resistance trilogy and losing their way a bit with Fuse, this is the first Insomniac-developed game I’ve played in some time that actually feels like they’re making the kind of game they would want to play.
Insomniac is a ridiculously talented studio that’s had a monumental impact on video games, so it’s good to have them back.
As for Sunset Overdrive, this game is goddamn bonkers, and I do mean that in the best way possible. It employs a liberal use of color, has a great sense of humor and it’s managed to take one of the things I loved most about Crackdown, like abusing my newfound powers to cause mayhem and ruin anyone who’s dumb enough to get in my way, with the fluid movement of InFamous.
As we find ourselves wading in a sea of video games that strive for realism, Sunset Overdrive embraces insanity. This is a video game, and that means its sole purpose is to be fun. In that regard, this game doesn’t just succeed, it excels.
There’s even a bit of Saints Row in here as well. The big open world this game offers is your plaything, something to keep you entertained. There’s a story, but this is definitely one of those games where some of the most fun and memorable experiences you’ll have are waiting off the beaten path.
Now, when I play any game that gives me the option to really customize my character, I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time tweaking the face and making sure my clothes let monsters know I’m a laid back guy, but not one to be trifled with. There hasn’t been a character customization system that’s blown me away since Brink, and that ended up being the best thing about that otherwise terrible game.
Sunset Overdrive has plenty of options to choose from when you’re designing your character, and many of the options are themed to match the game’s colorful, punk-rock world. I’d say I would’ve liked to see more, but there really is more than enough to satisfy most folks.
Speaking of the game world, the art style here is more than eye candy, it’s eye protein. If Insomniac had any trouble working with the Xbox One hardware, it doesn’t show at all in the final product. This game looks fantastic, and it never slowed down for me, even when much of the area surrounding my character was populated by explosions, gunfire and the orange arterial spray from slain mutants.
Any time I see or play a game that doesn’t shy away from bombastic visuals and vibrant colors, I can’t help but give it some praise. There are so many games that stick to the greys and browns that it genuinely excites me when I see something that’s anything but. This may be an action shooter, but it’s one that isn’t burdened by anything other than the singular goal of being fun enough that you won’t want to set it down.
One of my few “big” complaints about this revolves around the controls. They would’ve benefited from some extra fine-tuning, especially since you’ll rarely be shooting while standing in place. There’s plenty of games that offer exactly that. In Sunset Overdrive, you’ll be shooting while bouncing from one car to the next, scaling buildings and riding power lines.
Granted, this issue could be a matter of my needing more practice before I’m mowing down hordes of mutants while using power lines to race from one roof to another like a significantly less grim Cole MacGrath.
If its colorful world and wealth of quirk, wit and charm don’t draw you in, the weapons might. Sunset Overdrive has an arsenal that even rivals Dead Rising, the current king of coming up with batshit crazy weapons for us to use on the zombies hordes.
As your arsenal grows, you’ll accrue weapons that spew fire, exploding cat statues, harpoons, bowling balls, streams of acid, and vinyls that ricochet between enemies, among so many others. Finding the loadout that works best with your playstyle will be important, especially if you’re planning on surviving in a world overrun by mutants.
Plot isn’t super important here, but here’s a introduction for those who care. Sunset Overdrive takes place in Sunset City, where the Fizzco Corporation has decided to gift its citizens with an exclusive first taste of their new energy drink, Overcharge Delirium XT, weeks ahead of its public launch. Almost immediately after consuming it, people start mutating into violent monsters.
With no one left to enforce the law, some of the remaining survivors turn into real dicks, forming groups of bandits that are just about as dangerous as the mutants. That leaves you, an still-human teenager with a penchant for shooting things without breaking stride, to clean up this mess.
Along with the main campaign and the aforementioned memories that will only be made when you stray from it, there’s a number of optional side quests for people like me, who’d very much like to get as close to 100% completion as possible. Yeah, I’m totally the type of person who will — and has — spent hundreds of hours collecting every stupid orb in Crackdown. There’s nothing quite as time-consuming like that here, but there are some collectibles.
Should you find yourself needing a temporary break from the single-player offering, Sunset Overdrive has an eight-player co-op mode called Chaos Squad that pits you and a group of friends and/or strangers against hordes of mutants. Killing everything that moves is only part of it, as you’ll also be tasked with random objectives — like climbing tall structures, defending convoys, etc. — to complete in order to make it to the next round.
If the idea of killing humans in another generic shooter is beginning to sound as dull to you as it does me, I suggest you give this a go. Just make sure you set aside some free time in your schedule beforehand, because this game is very difficult to put down.
The Final Word: Sunset Overdrive is colorful, addictive and apologetically bonkers. This is a wild ride you won’t soon forget from a developer that finally seems to have returned to its roots in delivering zany, over-the-top fun.
Update: Static-X’s PR team has just confirmed that Static has indeed passed away.
Wayne Richard Wells (aka Wayne Static), the enigmatic frontman of Static-X, has passed away at age 48. While the cause of death has not yet been determined there are reports of drugs being involved. His death comes days before his 49th birthday.
Micah Electric of 9Electric posted the news less than an hour ago, stating that Static, “…was a good soul who chose the wrong path.”
Static-X rose to fame with the release of their debut album Wisconsin Death Trip in 2001, particularly with their most popular single “Push It”. The album went platinum two years later. The band went on to release a total of six studio albums, the last of which was 2009′s Cult Of Static. Static also released a solo album entitled Pighammer.
Static-X and fellow hard rock band Drowning Pool were set to embark on a UK tour in January.
We send our deepest condolences to his friends and family.
The trailer for Furious 7 has hit the internet! Directed by horror favorite James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Dead Silence), the films follows the events that took place in the sixth AND the third films in the high-octane action series. It is the last film to feature actor Paul Walker, who died in a car accident during the filming of the movie.
James Wan directs this chapter of the hugely successful series that also welcomes back favorites Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky and Lucas Black. They are joined by international action stars new to the franchise including Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russell.
I’ll be honest and say that I used to hate these movies. However, I’ve grown to realize exactly what they offer and that is pure, unadulterated fun. Watch the trailer below!
Back in February, developer Erin Reynolds revealed a clever concept for a horror game called Nevermind. The point of the game is to scare players, but Nevermind goes a step further than that by using biofeedback to monitor stress levels. When the player starts feeling anxious, the game reacts, becoming more challenging. The goal of this is to help people cope with stress by forcing them to take control so they can progress through the game. It’s a neat idea, but it didn’t quite catch on when Reynolds turned to Kickstarter to help realize it.
The game’s Kickstarter campaign wasn’t a success, raising a little over half of its ambitious $250,000 goal. This time around, Reynolds is only looking for $75,000 to fund her project. As I write this, the campaign has raised just under $43,000 with about 34 hours to go.
Because I possess the same amount of patience as that of a child, I decided to ask Michael Mellor, animator and AI programmer at Endnight Games, about the progress they’ve made on adding co-op to their open-world survival horror game The Forest. They confirmed it awhile back, but until now, we had no idea when it’d arrive. According to Mellor, co-op will be implemented in the next patch, assuming “nothing goes horribly wrong in the next few days.”
Making video games is tough, and that’s especially true for indie developers with small teams and limited resources. There’s a chance co-op won’t be ready in time for the next patch, but if it does, I know what David and I are playing next on our YouTube channel.
I tried, multiple times I might add, to get into How to Survive. My main complaint is that in co-op, both players — this is true for local and online play — must share a screen. This means you cannot at any time stray more than a screen away from your co-op partner. This may seem like a small complaint, but tethering me to another player at all times came close had enough of an impact on my enjoyment of what was otherwise a solid post-apocalyptic zombie genocide simulator.
For some reason, despite the numerous improvements, content and new features the How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition brings with it, that umbilical cord remains.
Even though my biggest gripe with the original game remained in this latest iteration, I stuck with it to see what else this new edition has to offer. For starters, weather plays a larger role this time around — hence the Storm Warning bit — and you can now even be electrocuted by random lighting strikes. You’re given a warning, but that wasn’t enough for me to get shocked twice during my playthrough.
The thing that makes this edition worth it, even if you’ve already played the original version, is it comes bundled with a generous helping of DLC. The Barricade add-on is one of my favorites, as it brings this game closer to ROAM, a game I’ve been waiting for ages to get my hands on.
The rest of the DLC adds special costumes, a new survivor — a flamethrower-wielding Nina — the volcanic El Diablo island, a more challenging difficulty level and a incredibly tough new mode where you’re tasked with surviving against waves of superpowered baddies.
In terms of content, the Storm Warning Edition is something I have trouble recommending at its full $19.99 price tag, but if that’s a bit too steep for your liking, the game is currently 80% off ($4.00) as a part of Steam’s Halloween Sale.
That’s definitely worth it, so long as you’re willing to overlook its many quirks.
This game would’ve benefitted greatly from a little added variety in the combat animations. They feel stiff, almost comical to look at. The aiming is a bit unreliable, too. There were many occasions where I couldn’t get my bow or gun to lock on an approaching ghoul, even if it was right in front of me. That’s a bit frustrating.
There’s also a matter of the visuals. I wouldn’t call How to Survive ugly, but it in no way takes advantage of either the PS4 or Xbox One. I noticed very few graphical improvements over the original, so that was clearly a missed opportunity for some much-needed improvement.
Also worth mentioning are the monsters themselves. For the most part, every one of these creatures are ones we’ve seen in multiple other games. There are the classic shambling undead, and peppered among them is the odd armored zombies, exploding fat guy, the more agile creatures that come out at night, and a handful of bosses — many of which are actually pretty fun.
The lack of originality here is a bit disappointing, but I’ve talked about that enough already.
How to Survive tries not to take itself too seriously, but in doing so, its silliness gets a bit excessive. Some of the game’s side quests can be unlocked by visiting talking monkeys — yeah, I don’t get it either — the dialogue’s leans a little too heavily on the cheese, and then there’s Kovak. As a character in the game, he’s useful.
My main gripe comes from all of those annoying “Kovak’s Rules” tutorials they’ve crammed into the game. I like monkeys enough to overlook how dumb their inclusion is, but the tutorials were annoying enough to bother me even though they can be skipped. It just felt lazy, like no one could come up with a better way to tell the player how to survive, so they shoehorned some bizarre guide rather than try and come up with something that’s a bit less intrusive.
This is first and foremost a zombie apocalypse game, but it also cleverly borrows from a few other genres. There’s some lite RPG features, including an leveling system that unlocks new abilities the further you get into the story. There’s also a solid crafting system so players can use items scavenged about the environments to make and modify weapons and armor, as well as cook food.
Some of the rarer items you’ll need for crafting can’t be found by scouring every inch of the game world. That’s where the side quests come in, as completing them can net you that critical piece you needed to finish building that anti-zombie Zorg ZF-1.
For those of you who are looking to get this on Steam, this edition comes with full controller support, Leaderboards, Steam Achievements, and Steam Trading Cards. The console versions include achivements/trophies and leaderboards, and all versions of the game support solo, local co-op and online co-op.
At least 505 Games and Eko Software have done an admirable job in supporting How to Survive since its release with a steady stream of updates and new content. Some of it, like the Heat Wave DLC, is hardly worth anyone’s time, but for the most part, the rest is worth checking out.
The How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition doesn’t go as far as I hoped it would in remedying the lingering issues that plagued the original, if you go into this with low-ish expectations, I don’t think it’ll disappoint. There’s plenty to do here, and it can be an especially good time if you have a few friends to play it with, so long as that whole screen-sharing thing doesn’t bother you as much as it did me.
The Final Word: How to Survive isn’t a solid addition to the crowded zombie genre, even though it sometimes feels like an Early Access game and isn’t quite as funny or as quirky as it tries to be.