Directed by Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
The last decade has seen a notably revitalized interest in horror anthologies, to the delight of many genre fans (like myself) who miss the days when films like Creepshow and Tales from the Darkside were viable efforts that audiences could get excited about. The latest of these entries is Southbound, an anthology of linked vignettes along an ominous highway that slowly aims to create a world where all of your worst nightmares are possible. Following the modest buzz that the film generated after its premiere at 2015’s Toronto International Film Festival and its subsequent pick-up by The Orchard, Southbound finally sees an official release in limited theaters on February 5th, followed by a VOD premiere on February 9th.
While many lauded festival entries often suffer from the advanced hype that precedes them in the months leading to official distribution, Southbound actually still feels like it is coming out of nowhere. On the fest circuit, it often felt overshadowed by other more highly publicized entries like Robert Eggers’ The Witch or Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, both also releasing in the coming months. While some may take this to mean that Southbound is not as significant of a horror effort, I can confirm that for lovers of anthologies and offbeat horror alike, this is not the case. If anything, Southbound feels poised to be one of the biggest surprises for many horror lovers looking for something that is refreshingly peculiar this year — and I mean that in the best way.
Bringing in talent from the V/H/S franchise, The Pact, and 2007’s The Signal, Southbound features five segments executed with a decidedly offbeat tone that effectively brings to life a very strange and horrific world — all guided by an ominous radio DJ voice-over from genre mainstay Larry Fessenden. The film begins with the Radio Silence-directed segment “The Way Out,” which follows two criminals who seem to be on the run from an unknown dark force. Quite immediately, Southbound showcases some very impressive creature effects that feel far beyond its seemingly modest budgetary constraints, a testament to the film’s ability to carefully control what it does and does not show its audience. “The Way Out” is a somewhat quiet beginning for the film, but it lays the groundwork for all that is possible in the world of Southbound.
Following “The Way Out” is “Siren,” which is dually the directorial debut from producer Roxanne Benjamin and the segment that is likely to be the high point for many. “Siren” tells of an all-female rock band who accept a ride from a couple of unusual do-gooders after their tour van is left stranded on the side of the highway. In proper horror fashion, the couple ultimately proves to be far creepier than the women could have imagined, hosting one of the most amusing dinner parties I’ve seen on film in a while with the band members as the guests of honor. “Siren” arguably captures the most representative spirit of the film, masterfully incorporating genuinely chilling moments with darkly comedic material. The characters here are also quite likable, and the momentum packs a punch in this tautly scripted segment.
Once the film reaches David Bruckner’s “The Accident,” all bets are off in regard to the film’s wilder nature, and this amped up segment will definitely be a make-or-break moment for many viewers who are on the fence. Bruckner’s short about a man who causes a terrible accident wholly brings to life the bizarre universe of Southbound in an effective way, inspiring the most moments of genuine nervous laughter that are equally matched by an overwhelming sense of anxiety-inducing tension. Up to this point, the film feels very much like a grittier, modernized version of “The Twilight Zone,” but “The Accident” manages to also channel David Lynch’s darker, more mysterious work (think Lost Highway or Mulholland Dr.) to a resonating effect. In this segment, you not only fear the antagonists at work, but the world itself — a nightmarish landscape that is very much preying on its travelers. These surreal and outright absurdist aspects of Southbound are what wholly set it apart from the likes of the V/H/S and ABCs of Death franchises creatively, and it feels like a much fresher film for it.
That the multiple creative minds behind Southbound feel like they are operating on the same very peculiar wavelength makes this collection of subtly interwoven stories such a surprising joy. Whether or not you ultimately can get on board with the zany atmosphere in which the film operates, you have got to give it credit for remaining commendably consistent between the segments. Patrick Horvath’s “Jailbreak,” the fourth segment, is a full-on Lynchian story of a man searching for his sister; it is the most polarizing of the bunch and I can imagine many people will be baffled by the direction it takes, but it’s this kind of unabashed singularity in the film that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Radio Silence’s “The Way In,” the final segment, is arguably the weakest of the bunch, primarily because it does not seem to ultimately add up to much as a standalone effort, contributing instead as a part of the overall narrative destination of the film. Additionally, while I appreciated the way that Southbound‘s more outlandish content was channeled through a very subdued lens, showing significant restraint more often than not by leaning on an unsettling air, I can imagine that those used to the in-your-face approaches of the last couple of V/H/S films will ultimately be left wanting more bombast from a film like this. That the film is front-loaded with the more exciting segments also works slightly against it, as I can see the more restless viewers tapping out after “The Accident.”
Yet, despite these arguable flaws, there is an effectively claustrophobic air to the world of Southbound that remains with you throughout, growing more nightmarish as the film progresses — and it all just works. It helps even more that the performances across the board are rock solid and complement the film’s tone. As a fan of left-of-center horror efforts that are unafraid of getting a little weird, I have no problem admitting that Southbound is probably my favorite horror anthology since Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat. The film succeeds above all as a genuinely creative labor of love, which is more than refreshing in a genre that is so easily cluttered with uninspired dreck. Southbound is the best kind of collaborative passion project that rarely, if ever, feels disjointed, and it left me wanting to see more films like it. If the powers-that-be ever decided to further explore the widest reaches of this hellish world — or even a parallel universe that is equally as grim — I’d be more than happy to take the ride once again.
Have you had a chance to check out Southbound, or are you just plain excited for it? Sound off in the comments below, or tweet me (@TheAriDrew) and share your thoughts!
Just about a year ago we gave you the first word on Melanie Light’s “feminist vegan horror short film” The Herd, and now that Women in Horror Month has officially kicked off, Light decided to post her brutal short online for the masses. Check it out right here!
The Herd is a film with a purpose, using female humans as a replacement for the female cows who are tortured every day in the dairy industry.
Written by Ed Pope, the film was directed and produced by Melanie Light. It stars Pollyanna McIntosh, Victoria Broom, Dylan Barnes, Sarah Jane Honeywell, Jon Campling, and Charlotte Hunter.
For more info “like” The Herd on Facebook.
A number of kidnapped and trafficked women find themselves imprisoned in a squalid medical facility. For Paula, her continued survival relies on her basic human function. Escape, on any level, is seemingly impossible as the women are condemned to a life of enforced servitude at the whims of their captors for one reason only – their milk.
The post Avoid the Stampede! Watch Brutal Short The Herd Here! appeared first on Dread Central.
As the release of this year’s Ghostbusters movie draws closer and closer, the franchise continues to expand, with the latest comic series, Ghostbusters International, seeing the team head overseas to do what they do best.
Publisher IDW has done some weird and wonderful things with the Ghostbusters license in the past (including crossing them over with the Ninja Turtles), so head over to Comixology to see what writer Erik Burnham and artist Dan Schoening have concocted this time.
There’s something strange in the neighborhood… and whether that neighborhood is in New York City or Venice, Italy, the Ghostbusters will be there! After a bust at the United Nations, the boys in gray are engaged to investigate an Old World haunting, where they begin to unravel a mystery that sends them around the globe (while still trying to keep their contract with the City, County, and State of New York!). Join us for the next chapter in Ghostbusters history — because you demanded it: GHOSTBUSTERS INTERNATIONAL!
Happy February and Happy Women in Horror Month! In honor of the occasion, this month’s selection of brand new fiction from Nightmare Magazine is “No Other Men in Mitchell” by Rose Hartley. We hope you enjoy it, and as always, please let us know what you think!
NO OTHER MEN IN MITCHELL
If I’m gonna tell this story, I’m gonna have to start with the men.
In Queensland—right in the middle of it, bum-fuck-nowhere is the word—there’s a town called Mitchell. It has two pubs and a mechanic who services the road trains that pass through, and its only claim to fame is birthing Australia’s shortest-serving Prime Minister ever.
I got to know Mitchell’s mechanic while I was driving road trains over the Warrego Highway between South Australia and Queensland. If you don’t know what road trains are, just imagine a B-double truck and whack an extra trailer or two on the end. There are only a couple of roads in Australia you can legally drive them, far away from the cities. They call these roads highways but they’re really just long, narrow strips of cracking tar surrounded by red dust that stretches into forever. Once you get up to a hundred clicks an hour it takes half a kilometre to stop a truck that weighs over a hundred tons, especially if your bastard of a supervisor overweights you. If you apply the brakes too hard, you jackknife the trailers and you’re fucked. If there’s a cow on the road, it’s fucked. If you fall asleep, you’re fucked.
I hit a cow once. The sun is so dry along the Birdsville Track it almost splits open your skin like drought-struck earth, but I had my arm hanging out the window anyway. The truck sailed over a crest and the black and white lump was right there in front of me, probably lowing but I can’t remember. I twisted the wheel to the left in reflex, which is a dangerous thing to do at the best of times, and the cow hit the side of the cab and burst open like a watermelon. Red innards and grey brains came sailing in through the window and plastered the inside of the cab. I never thought of myself as a redneck before then, but I sure was after that. I had red all over me. Ever driven for ten hours with brains stuck in your hair?
But I was talking about the mechanic. Barry. About a month after I quit driving trucks, Barry left his wife. I think I inspired him to leave. When I told Barry I was quitting, he had all these questions. What are you gonna do? Why are you leaving? As if he couldn’t imagine anything better than living in Mitchell. But Barry couldn’t find another woman to take him in. No surprise, ’cause he was an ugly son of a bitch with a nose like a cauliflower. He came back to Mitchell after three or four months and his wife took him back. There were no other single men in Mitchell, so it was either him or spending all her nights alone. A month later she slipped rat poison into his Four X and killed him, so maybe those nights alone were better after all.
So there was him. Then there was Cam, who I’d worked with on the Beverley uranium mine a couple years before. Cam had a shaved head except for one long, winding rat’s tail that hung halfway down his back. He came into my dorm room without warning one night and caught me with a Primo Levi book in my hand. My instinct was to hide it, but we got talking and eventually he asked to borrow The Wrench and never gave it back.
Good book, was all he said.
Cam hung himself with his jeans from a tree branch one morning before work. I imagine him swinging softly in the breeze, neck crooked, eyes staring. His brother did it too, six months later on Cam’s birthday. From a tree and everything. I don’t think he used his jeans, though. I think he used a rope.
Then there was Cam’s best friend, Thommo. He had no teeth from taking too much speed. Great bloke. He got me the job driving road trains, sat in as my driving instructor, laughing hysterically as I bunny-hopped the trailers down the road. Bloody near killed us both.
You’ve passed, mate, he said, and ticked all the boxes on the clipboard, still laughing and blowing smoke. Buy me a pack of Winnies.
Thommo fell in with some bikers, major ice producers. In central Australia there are these huge drug farms that the cops only find by sending out helicopters to scan the ground for plants and sheds. The blokes who run the places never get done for it, ’cause the police only ever charge the employees. The drug farm is still going, but Thommo dropped off the face of the earth. Just disappeared.
As for me, I quit driving road trains after I fell asleep on the road for the second time and the truck flipped sideways into a ditch and scared me shitless. I went back to my hometown in the Southeast. Mum cooked me roast beef that was dry and tough and talked about the mines in Western Australia, and how I could make a killing up there being a rigger. She had a mate could get me work.
Hundred and twenty grand a year, she said. Put some aside for your old mum.
I pictured myself up in the crow’s nest, climbing ropes with a dodgy harness and shouting orders to the fat blokes below, and I just got tired.
I’ll think about it, I told her. Just need some time off.
She shrugged, but I could tell she was annoyed. Me mate will have to fill the job soon, she said. Can’t take too long to think about it.
I sat on her couch for six months, and that’s when I heard about Barry. Bloody sad, that he went like that. When I came down with a fever, I thought maybe it was just the sadness, getting into my head and making me shivery. But it turned out to be meningitis. Or meningococcal. They never quite figured it out, and I couldn’t understand half of what the doctors said, probably because they never spoke to me. They spoke over me, to each other or to my mum. They thought I was a vegetable.
• • • •
I’m telling this all out of order, I know that. My brain’s still not quite right. I can’t get time to go in a straight line, as if it ever did anyway. I spend so much time alone with my thoughts now that I start thinking about things like time and whether it exists or not. And how I’ve lost so much of it, if it exists.
• • • •
I came to slowly over a few months, like a baby being born and coming into consciousness, in a pink-painted room, hooked up to a bunch of machines, with a real sore throat. From the conversations the nurses have over me I gather I’ve been shifted a few times, from emergency to some other unit. I don’t remember. Time has gone from me, like a flash in the corner of your eye that disappears when you turn your head to look at it. Not that I can turn my head anymore.
I’ve been in the pink room for two years.
Mount Gambier General is not the tidiest of hospitals, not exactly space age; and even though I’d spit on anyone who ragged on my mum, I can’t say she’s a charmer. She screeches at the doctors and nurses sometimes, tells them they’re useless dipshits. They hurry out, red and angry, and the nurses deliberately turn me less often than they should. They never test me for signs of consciousness, and they don’t bother to be gentle when they give me injections because they think I can’t feel pain. I don’t blame them for taking it out on me. Most people never get the chance to take their anger out on the right person. And everyone thinks I’m a hopeless case, a waste of a hospital bed. I hear the doctors discussing the mystery illness and whether it precludes me from being an organ donor when I finally drop off the perch. They discuss my death as a desirable, if not imminent, event.
When one of the doctors broached the organ donor thing with mum, she flipped her lid.
You wanna harvest my son like a fucking tomato plant? She said. No way. He might wake up.
The doctor tapped his chart and made a honking noise with his nose that sounded like fat bloody chance. Like I said, they’re not too stringent at Mount Gambier General. Pretty sure there are rock lizards that care more about the patients than some of the doctors do.
Yesterday mum helped a nurse turn me over, and as they lay me back down on the bed I thought I heard her sniffing away tears. She touched my face, once, brushed my hair back with warm fingers, but took her hands away too quickly and their absence left me with the fiercest longing I’ve ever known.
I wish people would touch me more often.
My mother sits by my bedside, touching the sheets, the monitor, everything except my hand, and tells me she’s going to lose the house because I’m not paying her mortgage anymore. Funny how she still complains, even though she thinks I can’t hear her. But it’s never once occurred to her to ask the fucking question: Dylan, can you hear me? Blink twice if you can hear me.
• • • •
At night I hear breathing in the bed next to mine. I can’t turn my head to look, but I know it’s a woman because I heard mum talking to the nurse about her. Sometimes there’s a whimpering when she exhales, like she’s having a bad dream, but she can’t speak and neither can I. Here’s what I can do, though: I can open my eyes. Blink, focus. That is all. A good day is when a spider runs across the ceiling: something to look at. A bad day is when a spider runs across my face.
It’s taken them this long to find me. Barry and Cam and Thommo. They turn up just as I’m slipping into sleep.
• • • •
There are a few things I’ve left out of this story. Sorry about that. Maybe you’ve been wondering, why did he begin by telling us all about his dead mates, only to rattle on all fucking day about becoming a vegetable and never once mention them? Like I said, I’m all out of order. Pretty soon you’ll see what I’ve done: lured you in by giving you the sob story about my mates and my full body paralysis so you’ll think I’m a pretty decent, if unfortunate, bloke. So now when I hit you with the crazy stuff, you’ll think, this poor bastard wouldn’t lie to me.
Remember earlier, when I said something like, that’s when I heard about Barry? Well I never heard about him. I found out he was dead because he appeared on my mum’s couch next to me, eyeing my beer. One moment I was alone in mum’s house, wanking off to the memory of one of the cleaners in Beverley and trying not to spill my Four X, the next there’s Barry lounging like a fat red troll on mum’s floral three-seater. Fucking dropped my beer. Barry looked kinda pleased, and opened his mouth into a red, wet tunnel to laugh, only no sound came out.
It freaked me out a little, but I knew what had happened. It was worse the first time, when Cam went. He materialised in the cab of my truck next to me while I was barrelling down a long, lonely gibber plain that looked like Mars. He grinned at me and twirled his rat’s tail. I veered off the road in fright, screaming and trying not to lose control of the truck but still snapping my head sideways, back and sideways again to see if Cam was still there. When I’d ground the gears to hell getting out of the scrub and back on the road, he was still there.
He rode with me all the way to Mitchell, just staring and grinning and not talking. Spooks can’t speak, in my experience, or at least we can’t hear them. My eyes leaked and my bladder too and by the time the town was in sight and Cam was going blurry at the edges I was a sobbing wreck. But I couldn’t pull over, see? ’Cause I was on deadline.
I rang around that night, trying to get hold of him to see what the hell was going on. Eventually his brother called me back and told me how Cam had hung himself, and I cried like a baby.
I was eating a hotdog at a petrol station when Thommo went. Appeared opposite me in the stinking booth, grinning and pressing his tongue into his gums where the teeth were missing. I stopped halfway through taking a bite and leaned back into the split red vinyl. For a second I thought that it was the real Thommo, that he’d quit working for the bikies and had just strolled into the petrol station while I was staring at my hotdog, but he kept on grinning and not saying anything and I remembered Cam.
You better not be dead, mate, I told him.
We sat there for a while, then he followed me into my truck and rode with me for a while before he faded.
And I cried like a fucking baby again.
• • • •
Their voices are tinny and far away but I can hear them now, maybe because I’m somewhere in between living and dying. Barry’s telling Cam and Thommo a story about a guy he knows who stuck a fish up his arse. The fish got stuck because he’d put it in head first and when he tried to pull it out the gills winged out and ripped his arsehole, so he’d ended up going to hospital and within hours the whole town knew what he’d done. I’ve heard the story before, but Barry adds a new detail with every re-telling, and it’s still funny to see him mime the gills, his hands flapping like little wings on either side of his face and his mouth opening and closing in a puckered O like a fish’s.
Thommo jabs a thin elbow into Barry’s ribs. Bet it was you. Bet you stuck the fish up your arse, eh Bazza?
They’re gathered at the end of my bed, leaning on the metal railing like they’re about to order a beer.
Oi, mate, me arsehole’s as pure as fuckin’ Mary, says Barry.
I try to speak, but of course I can’t. They look up at me in unison anyway, as if I’ve made a sound.
You’re awake, says Barry.
Guess what? says Thommo. Barry stuck a fish up his arse.
• • • •
A couple hours later and Cam’s trying to get the lid off the water jug so he can spill it on the floor. Barry goes for the pink wallpaper, taking hold of the top corner between thumb and forefinger, and tears a pathetic flint-sized piece off. Thommo’s trying to push my bed around with a wicked grin on his toothless face, but it’s the old kind of hospital bed and it doesn’t have wheels. It makes a loud scraping sound when he does get it to shift an inch.
They’re lazy bastards, and they’re not really trying. Thommo smacks his lips and calls for a beer break, but they’re spooks, they can’t drink, so instead they just pile onto my bed and stare at me.
It’s a little bit off. The spooks look like they did when they were alive, and talk like it, but they’re childish. They forget things, like what they said five minutes ago.
Why are we here again? Cam asks in his soft, sleepy voice.
But they keep coming back over the next few days, as if they know they’ve got a job to do but they’re not really sure what it is.
You’re supposed to save me. I think it as loud as I can, but they don’t understand.
Save you from what? Cam asks.
Mate, you’re not dying. You could live for years, says Barry.
Like this? My mind’s still here, but no one knows.
We know, they chorus.
I look at Cam desperately, and he nods. He understands what I mean.
Don’t worry, mate, we’ll do something about it.
But then he forgets, wanders off thinking he’s gotta take a piss, as if his cock will still work in the afterlife.
But I’m not in the afterlife. I’m still here.
• • • •
Why am I so attached to my piddling little life? I dunno. It’s all I’ve got. I love the feel of air going into my lungs, the light on my eyelids before I open them in the morning. I even love the itchy feeling of flies’ feet crawling over my cheek, if only because the strain of not being able to scratch it spikes my blood pressure. Not enough for anyone to notice, but enough for me to know that my body still knows me and wants me to live.
I’ve been trying to catalogue my best memories. I can’t write them down; couldn’t lift a pen even if I had one. And I’ve never been much of a words-on-paper man, even though my friends would say I can tell a tale. But there’s something about this dying thing. I don’t know what comes next.
I could tell you all about Cam, the way he’d tug on his rat’s tail when he wanted to say something but someone else was still talking, and how he broke up with his girlfriend by telling her he’d moved to New Zealand, except he forgot to give his housemates the heads up, so when she came calling to return his belt and jacket they told her he would be back from Beverley the next day and she took a shit in his favourite pair of shoes as a parting gift.
I could tell you how when Thommo was talking to the foreman he used to stick his tongue into the empty part of his gums and wiggle the loose front tooth like a pendulum, then cackle at the disgusted look on the guy’s face.
Those bastards like the money I make ’em but they sure as fuck don’t like to look at me, he’d say, and puff his smoke.
And Barry, Barry with his round red face and sweaty forehead and big, stupid grin as he waved a wrench, shouting maaayte! as I pulled into his workshop.
But me, I never was like them. Thommo always ribbed me for doing a year of economics at university—think you’re an educated man, don’t ya? he’d say, and elbow me—but that wasn’t it. I liked the feel of a woman. Not just under the sheets, I mean, but the feel of her in her kitchen, or on her front porch, or just lying on the grass having a smoke, one hand on her cigarette and the other on my knee. I say her kitchen, and her porch, because I never had a home of my own. All I had was a bunch of licenses—for rigging, heavy vehicles, boats—and a pair of work boots, and that was about it. Didn’t even have my own truck, but I never wanted one because it was a shit job and I was glad to give it away. I always thought, one day I’ll meet some woman and move into her place, and we’ll have a bunch of kids and it won’t matter anymore that I’ve built nothing, made nothing, because we’ll have each other and I don’t need anything more than that.
But I never met that woman. The smart ones wouldn’t give me a chance, they’d see my work boots and hear my voice still country-rough and look away before I could impress them with the books I’d read. The dumb ones—well, how can you make a life with them? And I was gone so often, working fly-in-fly-out or truck-in-truck-out from all these places where half the time there weren’t any women, and if there were they were toothless like Thommo or dumb like Barry.
There was one woman, Alicia, who I moved in with in Mount Gambier. She was ambitious, a country lawyer from a sheep-farming family with plans to move to Melbourne and work in a big firm one day. She laughed at my jokes and made me dinner sometimes, but every now and then I’d say something embarrassingly anti-capitalist and she’d just shut down.
So I’m part of the evil system? she’d say, on the defensive. Or, don’t be so negative. The world’s not a bad place.
Our eyes would meet at a loss and then she’d look away and we’d pretend I never said it. We blew up about something stupid, eventually. I missed a family event of hers one too many times and she was gone.
• • • •
Mum comes in with shaking hands one morning and does the unthinkable: lights up a cigarette. The nurses descend upon her faster than they do even when there’s a code red, shouting at her to put it out. She arcs up, her round little body shaking with rage, flyaway greys stuck to the sides of her face with nervous sweat.
It’s just a fucking cigarette. I’m just having a smoke with my boy, she shouts.
The thin young doctor comes in after the nurses, grabs her by the elbow and starts dragging her out.
Go on, get outside, he says.
She shakes him off.
Do I have to call security? he asks. I hate doing that.
• • • •
Barry and I sit in affable silence, watching the wallpaper. The TV’s off for once and I can hear myself think. Just when I think I’ve found my favourite memory of my mother, he breaks into my thoughts.
So you want someone to figure out you’re not a vegetable, right?
Yep. Not that you useless bastards are helping.
He affects a wince and spreads his hands. Mate, he says. You gotta trust me.
After Barry leaves, Cam shows up. He looks at me sadly and switches on the television.
Cam, I was trying to think here, I say.
He shrugs and looks up at the TV. It’s the news. Michael Schumacher’s had a skiing accident and they’re saying he’s brain damaged. His lawyer or someone is talking, saying, we’ve helicoptered him out of the French Alps, he’ll have the best medical care and rehabilitation money can buy to get him functioning again. The newscasters speculate how much the future at-home care will cost. They think it will run into the tens of millions.
I look at Cam and he meets my eyes. What I see there sends a shot of pain like razor wire through my belly. I know what he’s trying to tell me.
• • • •
Watching telly with your mum, Thommo says.
• • • •
I’m alone. The TV’s up too loud but I can’t turn it down. My left leg is aching like a motherfucker because the nurses didn’t turn me properly and my right leg’s slightly over the left and now all the blood’s getting trapped there. The fluorescents are putting white spots in my vision but I don’t want to close my eyes because I’ve got to make the most of my time on earth, even if that just means looking at the ceiling instead of at nothing. I’ll have enough of nothing when I’m dead.
Last night the boys came to visit me one last time. They apologised.
She watched the show, but I don’t know if she put two and two together, Barry said. Sorry mate.
It’s alright, I tell them.
I don’t blame them. They tried their best, but no one knows they are there. I know what that’s like.
Now they’re just waiting for me to join them.
• • • •
In the morning, mum comes into my room with dark circles under her eyes.
I saw a TV program about a boy in South Africa, she says. He woke up after twelve years. They said he was conscious the whole time, had something called locked-in syndrome.
So Barry did his job right for once, I think.
They asked him to blink if he could hear them, she says.
She leans in and breathes ciggie smoke and apples all over me. I’m gonna ask you in a sec, she says. But I’ve got my hand on the plug, see.
The white spots start to pop in my vision again. Blood pressure goes up.
I’m gonna ask you three times, and if you don’t blink then I’m gonna pull the plug. And they’re not gonna know about it until it’s too late, ’cause I’m not letting anyone open you up and gut you, give away your organs, she says. You’re my boy.
There are so many things I want to say to her. I want to give my organs away. I want to help other people live. Imagine how many people could keep living their beautiful, stupid, precious little lives because of me? How many people could lie on the grass with their hand on someone’s thigh, listening to someone else breathe, watch the sunset with my kidney throbbing in their side, my eyes taking in the view, my heart beating in their chest? But I can’t tell her.
This is how it is. I breathe in. I breathe out again.
I think about blinking.
She asks me the question. Dylan, Dill baby, can you hear me? Blink, blink if you can hear me. But blink twice, so I know it’s on purpose.
What if I blink? What will happen then? She’s losing the house, probably already lost it. She doesn’t complain to me about it anymore, as if it’s so awful she can’t bear to talk about it, even to a silent body. She can’t afford to give me the Schumacher treatment while she’s sleeping on a mate’s couch. Where would she send me? Who would pay for the rehabilitation?
Dill, blink twice. Blink twice.
And then, would I ever move again, even if I did get the rehab? Actually I don’t even care if I can’t move: would I ever speak again? All I want now is my voice back. It’s not enough that Cam and Thommo and Barry can hear me. I need real people, real laughter.
Mum’s crying now. Her shoulders are heaving up and down, her breath comes hard and heavy. She’s making an awful noise, a ragged animal noise, and I wish she would stop.
Dylan. Baby. Can you hear me?
Mum, please touch me, I think.
As if she’s heard me, her hand creeps towards the bed, patting blindly. She finds my hand through her sobs and squeezes it. The calloused skin presses loving indentations into my hand. Then she slips the plastic peg of the heart monitor from my finger to hers in one deft movement, so the alarm won’t ring out when my heart stops. Her arm arcs up to rest her hand against my forehead. The warmth of her palm is the last thing I feel.
She pulls the plug.
• • • •
It will take a few minutes for my heart to stop, now that the sucking sound of the respirator has gone quiet. My eyes drift closed and I’m back on the gibber plain. Miles and miles of red rocks that look like Mars, the heat of the sun on my shoulders. I’m sailing over the crests of the narrow highway in the cab of my truck, all alone, nothing but red rocks and dust and blue horizon.
Nightmare Magazine is edited by bestselling anthology editor John Joseph Adams (Wastelands, The Living Dead). This month’s issue also contains original fiction from Dennis Etchison (“Princess”), along with reprints by Seanan McGuire (“Inspirations”) and Adam L.G. Nevill (“Where Angels Come In”). We also have the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” and of course we’ll have author spotlights with our authors, a showcase on our cover artist, and a feature interview with author David Mitchell.
You can wait for (most of) the rest of this month’s contents to be serialized online, or you can buy the whole issue right now in convenient eBook format for just $2.99.
You can also subscribe and get each issue delivered to you automatically every month, for the discounted price of just $1.99 per issue. This month’s issue is a great one, so be sure to check it out. And while you’re at it, tell a friend about Nightmare!
The post Nightmare Presents: No Other Men in Mitchell by Rose Hartley appeared first on Dread Central.
Publisher Quirk Books endeared itself to horror fans with mash-up releases like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters as well as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and its sequels. Wonder what’s ahead for this coming spring/summer? Read on for the details of two upcoming Quirk novels that should be on your radar.
Arriving May 17th is My Best Friend’s Exorcism from Grady Hendrix, whose first novel, Horrorstör, was picked up for a pilot by Fox.
Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act… different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
Next, hitting bookstores and online outlets June 7th, is Paul Krueger’s Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, in which demons are real, booze is magic, and a well-crafted cocktail is Chicago’s only hope.
College grad Bailey Chen has all of the usual new-adult demons: no cash, no job offers, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend still around when she moves back home. But her demons become a lot more literal when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders. It turns out supernatural creatures are stalking the streets of Chicago, and they can be hunted only with the help of magically mixed cocktails: vodka grants super-strength, whiskey offers the power of telekinesis, and tequila lets its drinker fire blasts of elemental energy. But will these supernatural powers be enough for Bailey and a ragtag band of mixologists to halt a mysterious rash of gruesome deaths? Includes 13 cocktail recipes from an ancient book of cocktail lore.
The post My Best Friend’s Exorcism and Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge Heading Our Way from Quirk Books appeared first on Dread Central.
A few months ago we bought you the news that Resident Evil 4 was coming to the Wii U, although at the time it was exclusive to Europe. Now Nintendo has finally released a new trailer confirming that it will be released in the US tomorrow, February 4th, via the Wii U eShop.
So if you feel like revisiting a game that is, quite simply, one of the best ever made, then look no further. The Wii U may have been a failed system that’s now in its final days, but it sure as hell still has some life left in it.
The post Resident Evil 4 Coming to Wii U in the US TOMORROW! appeared first on Dread Central.
Directed by George Clarke
Distributed by Left Films
When I’ve already uttered “oh no” 20 seconds into a film’s opening scene, I fear the worst. The Blood Harvest’s clunky introduction was a worrying moment for the wife and me, and it had me apologetically glancing in her direction as her body language screamed, “Just because you’ve got to review it doesn’t mean I’ve got to watch it!” Thankfully, she was bluffing, the great big bluffer. We were in this together for the long haul, and I was grateful for not having to suffer this alone – in sickness and in health, etc.
Deliberately, the impending plot remained a mystery, so when predictable slasher fodder was unattractively captured using over-exposed, glaring-daylight cinematography, I presumed we were set to endure 90 minutes of plotless stalking, overlaid with pseudo-grindhouse filters and cheap gore, such is the tiresome trend of late.
I was wrong… just. George Clarke’s latest feature is as endearing in parts as it is buttock-clenching in others and something I eventually enjoyed.
When a series of grisly murders take place in and around Belfast, unorthodox Detective Chaplin (Render) believes something supernatural may be at work. Fired from the investigation for his outlandish views, he works secretly with his old partner, Detective Hatcher (Van der Velde), to bring an end to the bloodshed. But the closer he gets, the stranger everything becomes; and you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re all headed down a well-trodden path. Thankfully, refreshing twists and contagious enthusiasm help hoist The Blood Harvest higher than my early assumptions predicted.
After dallying perilously close to dialogue-heavy suicide on more than one occasion in order to bring the audience up to speed (Chaplin’s early phone call to his boss being a prime example), Clarke manages to get to grips with pacing for the most part – his editing technique and experimental camera angles being a genuine joy and my personal highlight. While the special effects are practical and of a decent standard considering budget, they’re made all the more impressive by the director’s shot manipulation and wily chopping, helping to conceal any glaring flaws rather than expose them. Even if lighting or equipment issues spoil a lot of the film’s cinematography, it’s not difficult to see beyond the restrictions to some genuine talent.
Possibly the most frustrating thing about The Blood Harvest for me is the acting. Literally from minute to minute I’d switch from really appreciating a specific delivery or exchange to curling my toes up and squirming with unease – my outlook interchanging with the frequency of Render’s accent! Never before has my opinion fluctuated so much during one feature, which ultimately means I’m either an indecisive, fussy bastard or the actors were inconsistent. That being said, a special mention must go to Alan Crawford and Liam Rowan – while not wanting to drop any spoilers, their animated, bestial antics are more than enough to steal the show; the film’s vastly over-ambitious comparisons to Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre can only have been dreamed up because of their performances.
The steampunk style of our maniac’s head gear is a lovely touch, as is the hissing, piston-like echo of his breath from within the metallic confines of soldered baked bean tins, all presided over by an excellent, intrusive score that accompanies the visuals and agitates throughout. Made for an estimated budget of £10,000, this surprising tale does enough – by the skin of its teeth – to keep disbelief suspended and serves up a satisfying finale, which, married with some genuinely striking imagery (arches, candles, the film’s best use of light), helped me forgive the many shortfalls I was so sure were going to ruin my evening.
Is The Blood Harvest for everyone? Definitely not. But, for all its flaws, it turns out it was for me… just.
- Coming Soon
- Bloopers – An enjoyable few minutes which really add another layer to the production (a shorter version can be seen mid-credits at the end of the feature).
- Making-of Featurette – An interesting, in-depth 34 minutes of cast and crew interviews, explaining how The Blood Harvest came to be.
The recent surge in Latin American horror films continues with Face of the Devil, which hits DVD in the UK on February 8th. Read on for full details.
From the Press Release:
Matchbox Films and Jinga Films have announced the UK DVD and digital release of Frank Perez-Garland’s supernatural horror FACE OF THE DEVIL with a street date of February 8, 2016.
FACE OF THE DEVIL follows seven friends who go on a remote jungle vacation, where they are terrorized by a primeval spirit; as they struggle to survive, they come to realize that the demon is not a product of the forest, but an urban entity they brought with them from the city.
A fascinating addition to the recent new wave of Latin American horror films, FACE OF THE DEVIL received its world premiere at Cambridge Film Festival and has since been selected to screen at Dublin Horrorthon and Cine Excess.
Alone on Halloween, a young woman finds a mysterious VHS tape on her doorstep. It’s a tape that shows a series of gruesome and ghastly tales that appear to be all too real. But these terrifying glimpses of damned souls are not the only horrors that stalk her: A sinister, pumpkin-faced killer is using the videotape as a portal into our reality; and if he makes it through, this twisted trickster seeks only one “treat” – and that is blood.
Dread Central: Halloween anthologies seem to be all the rage right now… were you aware of that when you took on this role, and have you seen some of the others (namely, Tales of Halloween and of course the original All Hallows’ Eve?
Andrea Monier: I was aware of the anthology format and think they are a fantastic way to keep up with our shrinking attention spans! I have seen the first All Hallows’ Eve and am still terrified by thoughts of Art the Clown… what a spectacular villain in horror. One of my favorite films of 2015 was an anthology called Wild Tales, an amazing Argentine-Spanish film. Along with All Hallows’ Eve 2, everyone should check that out as well.
DC: The wraparound is essential to this genre… so it must be quite an honor to be the “face” of this 10-tale terror-fest. I mean, you’re joining the ranks of The Crypt-keeper from “Tales from the Crypt” and Udo Kier from The Theater Bizarre – but your character is totally different. She’s actually a part of the horror. Can you tell us a bit about who you play and how you were cast?
AM: I’m’ always honored to be included in a film! I play a young woman who has been stood up by her boyfriend on Halloween. Feeling a little spooked by the spirit of Halloween, she finds a mysterious VHS tape left by a masked “Trick-or-Treater,” or so she thinks. With curiosity getting the best of her, she decides to watch the tape and finds that these aren’t just silly Halloween stories; there is something else lurking within. I was cast by my friends at Ruthless Pictures, whom I have worked with on several projects.
DC: When it comes to anthologies like this, it’s always interesting to know what came first – the filmed segments as a whole, or the wraparounds?
AM: I did see the segments before our shoot, which made me even more excited to shoot the wraparound since I loved the shorts so much. What a fun project to be a part of!
DC: Jesse Baget is such a name in parody and horror… can you give us some insight as to what it was like working with him as a director?
AM: I have worked with Jesse as both an actor and a producer for years. I cannot say enough good things about the guy. Seriously, not only is he the nicest person ever, but he’s super talented and hilarious. A funny fact about Jesse is he can do tons of celebrity voice impressions and has a fantastic voice to do all sorts of characters. He’s a multi-talented dude for sure! I’m looking forward to doing more films with him.
DC: For fans of horror and gore, please help whet our appetites for the movie by telling us some of the more horrifying scenes that have stuck with you personally.
AM: Well, we have a new villain in this one, Trixter, the pumpkin-masked killer. Be sure to see him pop up throughout the film, gearing up to make his kill… who will it be? The shorts will give you all sorts of thrills, but be sure to watch the last one, “Alexia,” for a terrifying reveal!
All Hallows’ Eve 2 (review) is available on DVD and VOD NOW!
IFC Midnight just released a fresh crop of images from the latest man’s best friend becomes man’s hungriest enemy flick, The Pack, and we have ’em right here for ya!
Look for the flick, directed by Nick Robertson and starring Anna Lise Phillips, Jack Campbell, and Kieran Thomas, in limited theaters and on VOD platforms February 5th via IFC Midnight.
Also dig on the alternate poster below courtesy of Bloody Disgusting.
A farmer and his family must fight for their lives after a ferocious pack of feral wild dogs lays siege to their isolated farm.. Through a series of frightening and bloody encounters, they are forced into survival mode to defend themselves from the ravenous beasts and make it through the night.
A little while ago we bought you news of Visage, an intriguing upcoming horror game that was partially inspired by the cancelled Silent Hills. Now we’re happy to announce that it’s launched a Kickstarter campaign for $35,000, along with some creepy as hell gameplay footage, which you can watch below. So if you’re in the mood for some good old fashioned survival horror, then head over to Kickstarter now.
Are you a horror game fan who’s grown tired of the over-reliance on jump scares in some horror games, being startled instead of being truly, inescapably scared? You loved games like Silent Hill and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and you wonder where the other horror games are that can manage to scare you like that. Do you find yourself wandering the endless virtual hallways of Steam, helplessly searching for P.T. and Amnesia levels of absolute, raw, mind-breaking terror?
Horror and indie game fans can take this quest to Kickstarter, where Canadian indie game developer SadSquare Studio has just launched the campaign for its much-anticipated, P.T.-inspired horror game, Visage.
Visage is a first-person survival/psychological horror game, spurred to development, in part, as a reaction to the evaporation of Silent Hills. Though noticeably inspired by P.T., Visage also draws upon influences from classic psychological horror games like Phantasmagoria and more recent entries into the genre, like Penumbra and Amnesia. At the same time, Visage adds randomized gameplay elements and a visually arresting blend of photorealistic environments with lurking pockets of surreal and nightmarish images, to create an overarching vision all its own.
SadSquare released a five-minute alpha gameplay trailer of Visage in October that was pronounced “gloriously creepy” by Power Up Gaming, with “an interesting premise” behind it. “A hit horror game in the works,” declared OnlySP, calling Visage a “gorgeous-looking game” that “looks like a mash-up of The Grudge, Allison Road, and Slender Man.”
The main character in Visage finds he’s trapped in a house, and you, the player, will need to find a way out. Of course, this house is no ordinary one. It carries a history, a past filled with families that were murdered in horrific ways — deaths that have left behind traces of themselves, presences that now follow your every move. As you try to find your way out, exploring every room, walking the never-ending corridors, you’ll find you’re being affected by the things that are stalking you: You’ll slowly start to lose your mind.
In Visage, you have no weapons, no defenses, no sanity tutorials. You’ll be hunted. You’ll be attacked. You’ll probably die. All you can do is search everything, interact with your environment, and try to find clues and items that might help you escape — all while trying to maintain as much of your sanity as possible, because if the house doesn’t claim you, the madness will.
Most notably, Visage will feature randomized events throughout its gameplay. Though the core story will be the same for all players, each playthrough will be unique, with certain events triggering at different times or potentially not at all. This mechanic adds to the game’s replayability and amps up the “what’s coming next?” tension factor, mitigating the scare-killing effect of Let’s Play previews and your spoilerific friends who might get through the game before you do.
Already a success on Steam Greenlight, where it was greenlit in just eight days, Visage comes to Kickstarter with a modest funding goal of $35,000 for a release on PC. Depending on the success of the Kickstarter campaign, Visage will also be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and include V.R. support for a truly immersive experience.
While Visage will feature a full, original score by Peter Wicher and some of the surreal paintings of award-winning graphic artist Jarek Kubicki, its Kickstarter campaign also offers backers an exclusive opportunity to contribute their own original music or images to be used in the game. At certain funding levels, backers could even have themselves or their family members featured in the game, either in portraits or as the main antagonists that stalk the player.
To see the full list of available Kickstarter rewards and help contribute to the making of Visage, players can visit the Visage Kickstarter project page.
To learn more about the game, or to check out the alpha gameplay trailer, listen to soundtrack samples, and more, go to SadSquare’s Visage spotlight page or visit the SadSquare website at www.sadsquarestudio.com.
The post Silent Hills Inspired Game Visage Launches Kickstarter Campaign appeared first on Dread Central.
Twin brothers Aaron and Austin Keeling have always shared an appreciation for things that go bump in the night. After dealing with phantom housemates in their childhood home, it wasn’t long before the pair developed a keen fascination with the paranormal. So it makes perfect sense that they would bring those fears to life in their feature debut, The House on Pine Street.
The House on Pine Street finds a seven months pregnant Jennifer (Emily Goss) returning to Kansas with her husband, Luke (Taylor Bottles), after a particularly rough patch in their lives. Still struggling to get her life back on track, odd things begin happening; and Jennifer begins to question her sanity as she attempts to find out what is plaguing their new home.
Combining homegrown resourcefulness and a reasonable budget, the directing duo have delivered a simple but nerve-shattering shocker that’s guaranteed to cause a restless night’s sleep. The film hits DVD and VOD in the UK through Raven Banner and Second Sight on Monday, February 1st, whilst Raven Banner has also struck up a deal with Terror Films for U.S. distribution.
Stay tuned for further details; in the meantime enjoy an exclusive clip from The House on Pine Street, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The post Icy Cold Chills Abound in this Sneak Peek of The House on Pine Street appeared first on Dread Central.
The only way out… is through, when Goosebumps Alive comes to The Vaults, Waterloo, England, from 6 April, 2016. In anticipation, we’ve got two pairs of tickets to give away to a couple of lucky Goosebumps fans looking for a frightful day out!
Goosebumps is here to haunt you again… The gruesome imagination of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps is yours to explore, adventurer. But be warned. This immersive theatre experience, in the abandoned underground world of Waterloo, might bring back nightmarish childhood memories you wish you had forgotten…
With the acclaimed designer of Alice’s Adventures Underground and a haunting score from The Tiger Lillies, R.L Stine’s creations will seem almost… alive. Though, surely they can’t be, can they?
To win a pair of tickets to take on the adventure of the summer, answer this question correctly:
What year was the first book in the Goosebumps series published?
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your full name, contact email address, and telephone number. We’ll take care of the rest! Travel to and from the show is NOT included.
Terms and Conditions:
Winners will be selected at random from all correct entries. Winner receives a pair of tickets to see Goosebumps Alive from 6 April 2016. Winners can redeem their tickets any time from 6 April until 29 May. For a full list of performance dates and times, visit goosebumpsalive.com.
Tickets are to be collected at the box office with no cash alternative. Tickets are subject to availability and are non-transferrable and exchangeable. Competition is run by BoomEnts.com.
The post UK Readers: Win Tickets to Goosebumps Alive in London! appeared first on Dread Central.
Directed by Burr Steers
In the wake of the zombie craze that descended upon popular culture in the late aughts, Seth Grahame-Smith’s parodical novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies saw Jane Austen’s classic tale of love and marriage in Regency era England infused with zombies, ninjas, and apocalypse-themed passages. While some Austen purists were not too keen on the gimmick, the novel soon became a widespread sensation, praised for its comedic spirit and absurdly creative interpretation of the source material. Needless to say, a film adaptation was almost immediately announced after the book’s release, though it would be plagued with production woes for almost five years following the announcement.
After being passed through the hands of multiple directors and screenwriters, and even at one point seeing Natalie Portman accept the lead role (she remained on board as a producer after her departure), Igby Goes Down director Burr Steers ultimately took hold of the writing and directorial reins, vowing to retain many of the original beloved turns in Austen’s classic. While behind-the-scenes conflicts and multiple belly-up deals rarely bode well for a big studio project like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, fans who have been following the tumultuous saga will be pleased to find that Steers ultimately manages to deliver a riot of a cross-genre ride that, though flawed, wholly owns its ludicrous premise — and has a great time in the process.
Expanding significantly upon Grahame-Smith’s method of simply inserting original zombie-laden material amidst Austen’s prose, Steers’ film presents a surprisingly genuine and fully realized alternate reality. In this world, Elizabeth Bennet (James, “Downton Abbey”) and her sisters attempt to traverse the rigid societal expectations placed upon them as women, while also keeping up on their martial arts and weapons training as warriors amidst a country overrun with the undead. As the well-being of the land begins to come into question after a string of increasingly intensified attacks, Elizabeth realizes that she must ultimately set aside her pride and join forces with famed, but egotistical monster-hunter Mr. Darcy (Riley, Maleficent) — with whom she often clashes — in order to save the people she loves from a brain-hungry zombie army.
The best thing about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is that, despite the trappings of its inherent Regency era refinement, it knows exactly when to lighten up. The screenplay and performances exude just enough stone-faced earnestness to give weight to the looming threats and romantic entanglements in the story, but ultimately, everyone on board here knows that this is a movie about strong women kicking zombie ass. Austen’s built-in quips about gender roles and social commentary uphold this sentiment and translate well to this latest adaptation, but the additional energy brought in with Steers’ own overarching themes of very modern female empowerment really gives an extra jolt to his film. While some of these thematic elements are not always the most subtle, they are certainly no less effective.
Even despite years of developmental shakeups, it feels like the studio still managed to get it right with its cast, particularly in regard to the film’s leads. Lily James is magnetic, imbuing the timeless heroine of Elizabeth with a commanding grace, while Riley quite succeeds in conveying Mr. Darcy’s conflicted pomposity and reluctant longing. Elsewhere in the cast, Booth, Bella Heathcote, and Charles Dance turn in solid supporting performances as the familiar roles of Mr. Bingley, Jane, and Mr. Bennet, respectively. The film’s breakout performance, however, belongs to Matt Smith (Dr. Who), who charismatically bumbles his way into the lives of the Bennet sisters as the socially inept Mr. Collins — a cousin and potential suitor (!) of Elizabeth’s. Smith is a true delight here, anchoring the film with non-stop hilarity in just about every scene he graces, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is exponentially better for it.
On the technical side, the action and visual effects in the film are handled with more care than would often be expected in a February genre release. The zombies are comedically gross at some points and outright creepy at others, with the usage of CGI remaining much less distracting than I was personally anticipating. However, if there is any source of complaint for genre fans, it will likely be in the film’s lack of outright carnage. The opening scene establishes the type of PG-13 action that can be expected from the remainder of the film, most notably when it showcases an almost bloodless decapitation from the perspective of a zombie. I was not particularly bothered by this approach, as I felt that the overall style of the film’s action sequences didn’t necessarily merit a gore-fest, but there will undoubtedly be an outcry from horror fans who require a healthy helping of viscera with their zombie flicks.
Though Steers primarily succeeds as he adds his own flare to even Grahame-Smith’s narrative direction, the film stumbles somewhat in its final act — what is admittedly the least Pride and Prejudice-y section of the movie. There is one particular twist involving the antagonist that failed to pack the intended punch, muddling up the finale’s momentum more than I liked. I was also left wanting to see more action out of Lena Headey’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who most certainly could have been granted a greater role in the finale since Steers veered into his own direction at this point.
These gripes certainly do not detract too much from the film though; the action is consistently engaging, and the humor sticks, making Pride and Prejudice and Zombies quite an unrelenting blast. It offers an unseasonably exciting movie-going experience for genre fans in a February, boasting non-stop thrills, laughs, and likable heroines that are gracefully badass. In a nutshell, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is arguably the best kind of popcorn flick, delivering substantial entertainment with a more than generous helping of well-placed wit.
Have you had a chance to catch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Sound off in the comments below, or tweet me (@TheAriDrew) and share your thoughts!
Developed by Capcom
Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC (Reviewed)
Rated M for Mature
You know, I don’t feel particularly bad for being a bit late on this one. I like to play games through before I pass judgement, but I cut that short when one of these 100+ hour super RPGs demands my attention. I get through enough to get a good sense of the game’s style and scope, and generally around the 20 hour mark I have a reasonable grasp on what to expect. Fallout 4 only took up about 30 hours before I gave it my seal of approval. As it stands, I am sitting now at 77 hours played of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. Every time I boot it up to get a few screenshots, I spend another half a work day pissing away my time eviscerating ogres and dismantling dragons. This game has sucked me in like a toxic high school ex over Christmas break. I love, hate, and just cannot stop coming back to this game.
Granted, the game really played its hand just a few hours in. Assemble a balanced party, fight off smaller monsters to get to bigger monsters, climb said bigger monsters to hit them in their weak spot, do this for about 10 minutes, move on to the next objective. Each monster has its own weak points, elemental resistances, and behaviors, so there’s a good deal to be experienced with just trial and error. It reminds me of what drew me to Pokémon as a child, with each new zone and gym presenting a new and unexpected set of challenges for me to wrap my little brain around.
There’s something uniquely awesome about hanging on to a griffon for dear life as it flies around, desperately trying to thwack its wings with the right element to bring it down before your stamina drains and you fall to the earth like a defeated sack of potatoes. Dragon’s Dogma is at its best in these moments. There’s nothing like the tension of climbing on an ogre’s ass and slapping it as hard as you can to try and get it to stumble before it can eat your healer.
The amount of innovative ways to deliver death to monsters in this game is staggering. Tired of hacking and slashing your way through goblins? Grapple them, then kick them off cliffs. Lizard men giving you trouble? Cut off their tails, make them lose balance, then sit on them while your teammates laugh and unleash holy hell. There’s a stats consideration for almost anything, with certain enemies targeting women over men and certain passageways requiring a shorter hero to enter. This unique attention to detail can be often frustrating, but always respected. Making my character, I didn’t realize that being a big burly dude would actually prevent me from fitting in small spaces, but I also didn’t realize it would make it easier for me to make monsters fall down. This is a game where the weight of your inventory doesn’t just affect stamina consumption, but how quickly you can wear down a monster by grabbing onto its arm. It often doesn’t explain its mechanics in full, but I can see the appeal in taking the time to learn them.
Unfortunately, this is also the game’s greatest downfall. While this level of detail can make combat fun in a clunky, experimental way, it makes interacting with the world a fucking nightmare. This whole “just see how it works” mentality it applied across the board, without any consideration of playability, fun, or my sanity. Quests are easier to fail than North Korean loyalty screening, and with similarly unforgiving results. I actually had to restart the game 5 hours in because I had the audacity to go to the major city before exploring the forest, thus blocking off a questline and an entire zone for the rest of the game. About 60 hours in, I made the foolish mistake of talking to a random soldier with a quest marker over his head before the nobleman in the castle behind him, thereby irrevocably ruining my chances of getting the best reward. When I decided to talk to a boy about his adventures before delivering flowers to a church, I was rightfully punished with a cutscene that changed the day, withered the flowers, and led to another quest failure. Justice is swift in Dragon’s Dogma, and punishment is severe for not reading the game’s fucking mind.
Keep in mind, there are no explanations for why this would happen in the quest description. Quests generally have a brief description and mark a location on your map, with no hint as to what random other quest will instantly invalidate it. I can intuit that taking the male bandit lord’s quest will cancel out my ability to make nice with the female bandit lord, but why the fuck does killing a griffon suddenly make it impossible to discover the roots of a conspiracy? It is an unforgivably punishing style of gameplay that is indicative of a Japanese design mentality. I love the goofy freedom provided, but it makes it almost impossible to play the game without a wiki open.
Oh, and whoever decided that there needs to be one time only escort quests that require you to take a helpless NPC directly through the path of a dragon, go fuck yourself.
So, those are the basics. Monster fighting is unique and fun, but quests are a load of boiled ass. In between all of that, there is a lot to see and a ton to do. Crafting is a big part of the game, with tons of recipes and upgrades to delight that little item hoarder in your heart. Perishable items such as fish and meat go sour, but even then can be mixed with things to create useful items. Armor and weapons can be upgraded with materials, and beyond that can be empowered by literally bathing yourself in dragon fire. It’s a surprisingly simple and intuitive system given the rest of the game’s obtuse complexity.
As for the combat, you don’t just pick a class and play it through the whole game. There are 9 “vocations” (read character classes) for you to level up, each filling a different role and requiring a different playstyle to master. Leveling up a vocation unlocks “augments”, permanent buffs that can be equipped by any of the vocations. There are certain vocations that only you as the player character can assume, but this is fine since you usually want your sidekicks to be on support roles anyhow.
This leads me to the game’s most curious feature, the Pawns. I wasn’t sure if I should discuss them in the gameplay or plot section, since they are kind of impossible to discuss without knowing both. I’ll take this opportunity to briefly introduce the plot, which is really the best I can do anyways without giving massive 100+ hour gameplay spoilers. You play as the Arisen, a normal everyday person living in the quiet fishing village of Cassardis. One day, the skies open, and a meteor descends that turns out to also be a dragon. As the fiend lays waste to your friends and family, you gallantly pick up a sword and try to stab it. After planting your sword firmly in its claw, the dragon smacks you, claws out your heart, and eats it. Surprisingly, this doesn’t prove as fatal as you might assume, and you awaken as a newly empowered Arisen.
Aside from being able to walk around without a heart, the Arisen’s main power is the ability to command Pawns. Pawns are a race of humanlike entities with no will of their own who require an Arisen to give them purpose. You create your own personal Pawn that levels up with you and remains your companion for the rest of the game, and recruit two additional Pawns from the “Rift”. Essentially, this is Dragon’s Dogma’s take on multiplayer. The Pawns that inhabit the Rift are actually other player’s personal Pawns, who will gain insight into quests and monsters while in your world. It kind of feels like a message board with fireballs. Pawns more experienced in fighting Ogres will let you know they are weak to fire, and that wolves hunt in packs.
It is, in theory, a good idea. Different players will play the game in different ways, so it makes sense that they would have different experiences to share. In practice, it only made me wish the game was actually multiplayer. The information, “chimeras can be silenced” is only useful once before I grasp the concept that chimeras are in fact able to be silenced. Pawns also seemingly don’t possess short-term memory, so expect to be told several times a minute that “goblins hate both ice and fire!” The game is played through with a party of 4 in mind the entire time, so why they didn’t just make the whole thing multiplayer is puzzling.
Almost as puzzling as the fact that I’ve heard this often described as being like Dark Souls. This game is absolutely nothing like Dark Souls. Other than it being kind of hard at times and you can cut off tails, it is absolutely nothing like Dark Souls. The comparison is baffling, as none of the mechanics, gameplay, or even style resemble anything even remotely Dark Souls. I think that Dark Souls has just become the go-to name drop when a game was hard enough you had to actually turn on your brain, which granted Dragon’s Dogma did make me do. If you want to compare it to anything, compare it to Monster Hunter mixed with Dragon Age.
There are three more things I have to talk about before I can really call the review comprehensive, and the first is the jumping. I haven’t had this much fun just jumping around in a game since Guild Wars 2. Almost the entire game is designed to have interesting little areas that can only be reached by well timed jumps and extensive exploration. Different classes have different styles of jumping, and there are entire areas, loot crates, and quests that can only be accessed by having the right jump in the right area. It’s phenomenally well done, adding a whole new dimension to the already robust world
The second, less enthusiastic topic is the menu. The purpose of this review is for the PC port of the title, which was previously only available on Xbox 360 and PS3. As much as I dislike re-releases, PC ports don’t rub me the wrong way. I think the PC offers a unilaterally superior experience, with the extensive modding community part and parcel to my ability to get lasting enjoyment out of a game. That being said, there is a darker side to ports, that certainly did arise in Dark Arisen. First off, any game that doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut to a map needs to check itself, because it certainly wrecked itself. You can assign hotkeys to certain items, but not integral functions like the quest log, map, and equipment. This is totally unacceptable, and just plain lazy.
Furthermore, certain aspects of the gameplay just didn’t feel as smooth on a mouse and keyboard. Climbing monsters felt off, with directions sometimes failing to register. When using abilities, players either hold Ctrl or Alt to bring up their primary or secondary skills, which I’m assuming is reflective of holding a trigger on a controller. You then push one of three buttons to activate a skill, and release the button to cast the spell. Since spells have different charge levels, releasing at specific times is important. On a controller, I see how this works, but it just feels awkward on a mouse and keyboard. It didn’t break the game for me, but it also never got to the point where it felt natural.
The final bit is the reason I’m reviewing this game in the first place, the Dark Arisen DLC content. This is actually the third release of Dragon’s Dogma. The game first came out as just Dragon’s Dogma, sans the Dark Arisen suffix. This first release of the game was riddled with flaws, many of which were addressed in Dark Arisen. Previously, the game was an absolute monster to get around, as your only means of fast traveling was to teleport to set “portcrystals”, of which there used to be only two. The DLC adds four more, as well as an “eternal ferrystone” that allows you to warp to them infinitely. It also balanced much of the game and fixed some bugs, altogether providing a significant quality of life improvement for players.
It also added a new endgame zone, the Bitterblack Isles. For a game involving ripping out cyclops eyes and cutting off hydra heads, this zone is distinctly more horror. The cramped, musty halls are dark and heavy with dread. Hideous monsters and reaper-like wraiths patrol the corridors, presenting a daunting challenge to even the most experienced players. There’s even a mechanic where enemy corpses rot, and the stench attracts bigger, more gruesome foes. It’s rife with fear, and hones the game’s sense of overwhelming monstrosity to a fine point. After grinding for a week to be worthy of entering the decrepit isle, I can easily say it was well worth the effort.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is a deeply flawed experience that will frustrate and infuriate you. There are several times I put it down and refused to come back. Yet still, even while writing this, here I am again, back into the game. It’s utterly unique and deeply engrossing. The game took risks, and for all its failings there are equal triumphs. This is the kind of game that couldn’t get made in America. A Western design studio would look at it, point to all the flaws, and opt for another polished if not short and safe clone. This kind of adventure into the unknown is what gaming is about. From deep within my cold, jaded heart, that spark of what makes me love RPGs is once again Arisen.
Travis Zariwny’s reboot of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever is on its way via IFC Midnight, and you can check out the flick in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on February 12th! In the meantime, here’s a new still.
Gage Golightly (“Teen Wolf”), Dustin Ingram (Paranormal Activity 3), Nadine Crocker, Matthew Daddario, and Samuel Davis star.
Executive producer Eli Roth presents this reboot of his instant classic gorefest, which features all new characters and all new kills. This story is familiar: Fresh out of college, a group of five friends retreat to a remote cabin in the woods for one last week of partying – only to become snacks for a gruesome, flesh-eating virus. What’s surprising are the ingenious new deaths, which offer a fresh spin on a horror-comedy milestone.
It doesn’t take much to catch my attention these days, and this is something I’ll readily admit to just about anyone. So when a group of filmmakers tosses a phrase like “Psychosexual Slasher Mystery” in my general direction, I’m going to check things out. That’s pretty much a given.
Writer/director Joe Magna uses that exact phrase to describe his upcoming feature-length horror outing Dummies on Indiegogo, which is reason enough for everyone to stop cramming processed food into their gaping maws and take a look. You can finish your snack after you’re done. You have my word.
If Magna’s name sounds familiar, you may remember his work as a Scare Consultant on Blumhouse’s Hellevator. He also directed a segment for Horror Month Massive Blood Drive PSA, which was spearheaded by the Soska Twins. In other words, Magna has some serious horror credentials, which means Dummies has the potential to be something special.
“Dummies is designed to be a no holds barred thrill ride. Scratch the surface of this nightmare, and you will find a story that is rich in character and depth, providing twists and turns that will keep the audience both mentally and physically on the edge of your seat, right up until the terrifying conclusion,” Magna explains on the film’s Indiegogo page.
The filmmaker and his crew are hoping to raise at least $15,000 to bring Dummies to life, so feel free to pull as much money as you can afford out of your mattress (or bank account, if you’re so inclined) and hand it over. The Indiegogo campaign makes this process incredibly simple. If you need a little more information before you hand over some cash, check out the pitch video below.
The post Psychosexual Slasher Mystery Dummies Launches Indiegogo Campaign appeared first on Dread Central.
Writing, directing, producing, and editing team Dion Cavallaro and Paul E. Thomas are hard at work putting the finishing touches on their upcoming found footage horror flick The Museum Project. To help spread the good word about Freeze Frame Films’ promising endeavor, Cavallaro and Thomas have given Dread Central a first look at the film’s trailer.
The team also delivered a pretty snazzy poster to promote the movie, which you can find nestled below.
However, if you’re expecting the same old found footage flick, think again. Freeze Frame has taken a different approach with The Museum Project:
We as filmmakers realize that the found footage style has been used quite a number of times; however, we wanted to offer our take on the genre and deliver a fun, creepy, atmospheric ride for the audience. Our film runs at 45 minutes, which is definitely a short feature length, but we feel that we’ve cut the fat that a lot of other found footage films falter with. We really believe this film holds true to the found footage genre without all the incessant fill that can plague these types of films. We’ve really tried to create an efficient, concise, and gripping film that we hope horror fans will enjoy.
A group of students decide to base their media assignment on a local railway museum myth. However, when they trespass the premises after hours, they soon learn that some myths are more than stories.
Dion Cavallaro, Paul E. Thomas, and Freeze Frame Films are currently aiming for a March release. In the meantime, feel free to stare at the following trailer for as long as you like. Also, check out Freeze Frame’s official Facebook and YouTube pages for lots of helpful info.
The post Exclusive: The Museum Project Debuts Its First Spooky Trailer appeared first on Dread Central.
The upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a winner, and even better… it’s almost here! Look for a review soon, but in the interim dig on this new one-sheet. The apocalypse begins on February 5th!
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies stars Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, Douglas Booth, Charles Dance, Lena Heady, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Bella Heathcote, and Suki Waterhouse. Burr Steers wrote the screenplay and directs.
A zombie outbreak has fallen upon the land in this reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England. Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet (James) is a master of martial arts and weaponry, and the handsome Mr. Darcy (Riley) is a fierce zombie killer, yet the epitome of upper class prejudice. As the zombie outbreak intensifies, they must swallow their pride and join forces on the blood-soaked battlefield in order to conquer the undead once and for all.
The post New Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Poster Makes a Cameo appeared first on Dread Central.
A new thriller is on its way featuring Dread Central favorite Doug Jones, and while we’re not sure just how Dread-worthy this one is at the moment, we’d be remiss not to mention it!
From the Press Release:
Starring a powerful ensemble cast of Hollywood’s leading action film stars, including Will Kemp (Van Helsing, TV’s “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce”), Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), William Forsythe (Raising Arizona, The Rock), Brent Spiner (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”), and Vinnie Jones (Snatch; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), the hair-raising thriller THE MIDNIGHT MAN arrives on DVD and Digital HD March 1 from Cinedigm.
Making his feature directorial debut, D.C. Hamilton’s THE MIDNIGHT MAN follows a gifted hitman on a grave mission, derailed by losing his greatest physical quality, the inability to feel pain. Co-written and co-produced with cast member Brinna Kelly (The Midnight Monster), the mind-numbing tale pushes audiences to the edge of their seats, feeling fear in a way it has never been felt before.
When Grady (Kemp), an assassin with a genetic disorder that renders him unable to feel pain, is sent on a high-stakes assignment, his world is turned upside-down after an attack when he awakens to discover that he can feel pain for the first time in his life. With the clock ticking and his greatest asset gone, Grady will go head-to-head with his worst fears and unspeakable enemies, while experiencing a tactile world he never could have imagined.