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#SDCC14 Exclusive: Anne Rice Talks Prince Lestat, Future Vampire Chronicles, Updates on Her Werewolves, Witches, and More!

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 23:32

With vampires and witches descending on SDCC today, we squeezed in a few moments with someone who knows a thing or two (or 20) about both types of creatures: author Anne Rice, in town to promote Prince Lestat.

Since "True Blood," "The Vampire Diaries," "Salem," and "American Horror Story: Coven" were all in town, Saturday was the perfect time to head over to the Hyatt for a quiet one-on-one with Ms. Rice, one of the forerunners when it comes to stories about these two uber popular supernatural beings.

We dug right in to find out all we could about Prince Lestat. With so much time having passed since her last entry in The Vampire Chronicles and considering all the various incarnations of vampires over those years, we first wanted to hear from Anne about what excited her most about reconnecting with her muse, Lestat. What was her favorite reaction to revisiting this familiar character in her new novel?

"Exploding with a whole bunch of new ideas," she answered. "I didn't know whether I could. I wanted to get back, I wanted to talk about him again, and I started reading all the books. Right away I thought, 'Of course, of course. I want to do this, I want to do that. I want to take this further, I want to go there.' All this came to me, and that's [why] taking ten years off from the Chronicles has worked out well for me because Prince Lestat couldn't have been written ten years ago. I didn't have it in me at the time. I hadn't gone to those places yet."

"In the book he is coming out of his depression. He's coming out of his exile so I'm accommodating that long delay. Nobody's heard from him in a long time."

We mentioned that she's said before Lestat simply wasn't talking to her anymore, and she agreed, "He wasn't. In a way, he really wasn't. And I associated him with some of the most painful and dark periods in my life. He was very much associated with that, and what I had to do was go and ask him, 'Can you talk about something else besides pain and darkness?'"

"And the novel shaped up with the vampires all turning to him and saying, 'Come back. We need you. We need you as the leader. We have to have some kind of new faith in what's going on.' And that's really what the novel is about; it's about how he becomes 'Prince Lestat.' How he lives up to that title, what that title means."

What sort of surprises might there be for the fans along the way during Lestat's new journey? Rice was pragmatic. "I can tell you this: From the very beginning the audience has always been polarized on every book from the start."

She has no illusions of pleasing everyone. "There were people that hated the second novel [The Vampire Lestat] and felt it was not as good as the first. There were people that read the second one first and thought the first was not as good as the second when they read it. There were people who hated the Queen of the Damned and people who loved it… Every single book that happens."

"Some people are very disappointed, and they say it's not what they wanted. That's one of the first, loudest things you hear. And I think that's inevitable, that's going to happen. But I certainly put everything into it that I wanted to be in it, and I certainly have found it very satisfying to take Lestat into new areas and to revisit old characters and bring in new characters. Some people, again, it's not going to be for them, and that's inevitable."

Anne's next remarks were music to my ears as she compared Prince Lestat to my most favorite chapter of The Vampire Chronicles, the aforementioned Queen of the Damned. "It's definitely the most like Queen of the Damned. It's the only one other than Queen of the Damned that really talks about the whole tribe being in a crisis, more or less - several crises actually - and demands from the young ones for the Old Ones to please come forward, come out of hiding, and take over and lead."

"The young are very dissatisfied that Mekare and Maharet, the eldest of the tribe, are in hiding, in exile, unreachable. They summon people to themselves every now and then. It's Maharet really; Mekare is not doing anything except holding the Sacred Core inside her. It's about the proliferation of the young vampires in 2013 all over the planet needing somebody to be a leader. They are a leaderless tribe, a leaderless people. The threats they are mainly facing are from one another. They are battling over territory in the cities, they're squabbling. Different things happen and they don't know whether it's the Old Ones targeting them or other young ones. There's a lot of chaos. They want somebody to step up; they want somebody to be a leader. And that's what it's really about. It's whether or not Lestat will come forward and whether any other of the ancients is willing to come forward and give up their sort of sublime solitude and their sublime exile to come into the fray, more or less, and be seen and be heard and so forth."

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THE WOLF GIFT, THE MAYFAIR WITCHES
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With a lot of chaos in play and Anne's own Facebook post back in March of this year that she was already formulating ideas for the sequel, which the author confirmed for us will be titled Blood Paradise (conceived by her editor, Vicky Wilson), we wondered how many more novels about the Brat Prince there might be on the horizon.

The potential is "unlimited right now," according to Rice, "unlimited. The second one I hope to have finished by October. It's just boiling over with material…

"When I finish it, I'll know. There'll be a period of exhaustion, but then I'll know if there's going to be a third right away or if it's going to take a little time. But I would say it's unlimited right now; I don't see closing it out. I never really wanted to close it out anyway. When I stopped, I left it open; that's why a lot of people were disappointed in Blood Canticle back in 2003 because there was no real finale. It was just Lestat went dancing off into the night. *laughs* I left it open. I didn't resolve things... I liked the idea of them all existing out there and all moving through time and making new connections and making new vampires."

With new connections being mentioned, we asked Anne, now that Lestat is back in her life, does she still have time for Reuben Golding and his Wolf Gift cohorts? "I'll get back to them soon," she promised. "They're just a different language and a different kind of pleasure to write."

What sort of differences are there when writing about vampires versus werewolves? "[Wolves] are a lot of fun... to me it's a different story [to write] about immortals in the modern world and how they adjust. The wolves are different because, you know, they're really human most of the time. Fully, completely human. So in some ways it's a lot of fun to write about them because they can function so well in the human world. With the vampires, it's always after dark. And it's always titanic powers: mind-reading, flying, defying gravity, being able to burn someone up with your mind."

"When you deal with characters who are that powerful, it takes a lot of negotiation. How do you find a plot when you have a houseful of people who can all read each other's thoughts? You have to find some way to describe how they shut one another out or confuse one another… with the wolves I don't have to do that so much."

With witches being so ubiquitous these days, especially on TV, we had to ask Anne about any progress being made with regard to James Duff's adaptation of her The Lives of the Mayfair Witches novels, a project that first sprang to life over five years ago. You'd think HBO, Showtime, or even upstarts like A&E or WGN America would snap it up. Unfortunately, it's not so simple.

Rice explained, "The actual, practical reason [is] Warner Bros. owned two of The Witching Hour books for ten years, and when they reverted back to me, they reverted back to me with a lien against them for a certain amount of money. It's that that's hanging things up. The rights are available; they're mine, I own the rights, but whoever steps up to make a movie or a miniseries has got to pay Warner Bros. that money… It's a fairly large lien… they paid me quite a bit for The Witching Hour and for Lasher, the second novel. But there is a lot of interest... I think things will move. Let's hope that Prince Lestat, even though it's not about the witches, will help."

As for any of the latest reboot/remake/reimagining rumors about the granddaddy of them all, her classic Interview with the Vampire, Anne acknowledged, "There's a lot of movie interest. Let's hope... It's always a matter of hammering out the contract, and it's so complicated. I do think it's a golden era though. We have never had fantasy and the supernatural on TV like we have today of the finest quality… It's just a banquet table right now of unbelievable entertainment. It's really great… Today we have this feast, and we have this archival culture where you can find anything of any age, too. It's just a great time."

It certainly wasn't always that way. Genre films and TV shows of any sort were few and far between back when Anne was growing up and starting her career. She told us how impactful NBC's 1973 TV movie "Frankenstein: The True Story" was on her writing back in the beginning. "That had a big influence on me," she reminisced. "I saw that and wrote Interview with the Vampire… it was so well done and so beautiful, so romantic and so rare, at that time, that it just sent me right in to my desk to write Interview with the Vampire. And now we've got 20 times that happening."

With Prince Lestat hitting bookshelves October 28th, Halloween 2014 is sure to be one to remember for Rice, and she'll be celebrating in style at the Lestat Coronation Ball (hosted by Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat Fan Club) in New Orleans on October 31st.

Anne extended us - and our readers - an invitation: "If you've never come to the Ball, think of coming because it can be quite wonderful. It also can be a lot of fun to be in New Orleans and in the French Quarter for Halloween!" Be careful what you wish for, Anne. We just might take you up on your offer!

Our thanks to Anne Rice for her time, Becket for his camera work, and Josh Zajdman at Penguin Random House for coordinating.

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#SDCC14: Alien: Isolation - Hands-On Impressions; Interview with Developer Al Hope

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 21:48

There are a million things to do at Comic-Con, but if you're a fan of Alien and a gamer, all roads led to Sega's impressive Alien: Isolation booth. It's home to one giant sized Xenomorph egg & opens up to let attendees slide in and spend time with the game in the coolest setting possible.

After checking out the game a bit, we were able to chat with the game's developer, Al Hope. Read on for our first impressions and Al's comments.

Alien: Isolation was running on the PlayStation 4, and the controls were pretty simple. You have to hold down the R1 shoulder button to bring up the Motion Tracker we all know and love. L2 was aim, R2 was fire, pressing the right stick in would crouch, and X would let you interact with the environment (i.e., picking up weapons and collectibles and hiding). Like in Outlast, something tells me hiding is an activity we all will be doing a lot of.

This is not a blazing action game so if you think that you're gonna be going on massive bug-hunts (which were pitifully presented in Aliens: Colonial Marines), then look elsewhere. This is a true survival horror game.

The level we got to play was a simple challenge map. We had to get from point A to point B without dying. Easier said than done. Trying to survive the various hallways is a lot harder than you may think. The stealth approach seemed to be the best tactic. There were closets to hide in and things to duck behind.

Even though you may not see the Alien at first, you can feel that he's omnipresent at all times. This is you against it. As the motion tracker pulsates, signifying that the creature is nearby, the DualShock 4 controller rumbles accordingly. Pretty much in accordance with your heart rate because this was some high anxiety on display. When the Alien gets close by and you're hiding, it's really hard to resist the urge to run. Doing so, however, will alert it to your presence, and if you're not packing some serious firepower, you may just want to stay the hell where you are until it is "safe."

There was never a feeling of safety though, as much like the original movie, this felt like a haunted house in outer space type of experience. Along the way in our playthrough we managed to find a flame-thrower. Even though that's a serious weapon, the Alien was lightning quick, and before we knew it, it was upon us... drooling... black lips peeling back over its metallic teeth until the familiar inner jaws shot out like a rocket. Fade to black.

If this is representative of the final product, we're all in for a serious treat. The graphics and sound were mind-blowing and the controls very intuitive. Immediately upon exiting the egg, I had to speak with game developer Al Hope to ask him some of the hard questions and dig deeper into what to expect.

Again, every Alien fan who's played Aliens: Colonial Marines is naturally taking a wait and see approach to Isolation. We asked Hope if there was anything he could tell us to temper some of those fears.

"The honest answer is, we started making this game about four years ago, so, way before 'Colonial Marines' came out," Hope tells us. "Me, in particular, wanted to make a different kind of 'Aliens' game. I think games based on the franchise previously had been about the James Cameron experience: Vietnam in space, lots of pulse rifles, lots of aliens."

"That can be a great experience but I really loved the first film and I thought there had to be an awesome video game there. So, from day one, that’s what we were going to do. So it was me going to SEGA and then going to FOX and saying, ‘Hey look, this could be incredible.’ So, for a long time we’ve been working on this project going in a completely different direction. We really wanted to make a game completely focused on survival and not about killing so it’s a completely different experience. We really, really just wanted to make one Alien super meaningful to the player: terrifying, intelligent, something that actually made you feel like you were being hunted. I think that's what 'Alien: Isolation' is. For the first time a game offers the player a chance to experience Ridley Scott’s 'Alien' and that’s a completely new and unique experience."

Being that there is just one Alien menace and players are used to getting a constant amount of stimuli in their games, we wondered what Hope's team did to limit the experience to just one 'Big Bad' while keeping it interesting for the player.

"At E3 we announced that we were going to introduce some other characters to the sort of wider world, so the game takes place on a very remote deep space station. There’s a very small amount of inhabitants in that situation. Now, they're in the same situation as the player; they’re desperate to survive. That makes them extremely unpredictable. Sometimes you’ll come across people and they can be kind of a help and can help you on your way, sometimes they can be less so. That provides a big problem to the player because everyone starts getting jumpy and starts firing a weapon. You can see what can potentially occur."

"Because they are also unpredictable, they’re using the same core A.I. They’re listening and that informs their core behavior. You can have these incredible escalation of events where you think you have a plan of action which might seem very simple but, in a moment, things can change up and suddenly you’ve got a completely different scenario to deal with."

"For me, it’s a game about player choice: moment to moment, what are you going to do? There’s some things to collect in the world that allows you to, if you get the right components, build tools and devices which will help you change the odds. If you’re in the space of an alien and you throw a flare and you get it right, it will attract his attention and he’ll move out of the way and you can bypass him without a confrontation. We also have the synthetics that are all kind of basic androids, and they’re way behind in the tech race and they’re very unpredictable. Sometimes they’re helpful and sometimes they’re very aggressive. There are a number of mysteries and stories within the game, and that gets revealed over time."

In terms of creating the Nostromo and the original cast for the game's DLC...

"For us to be doing this in the first place is amazing. Actually, for this demo, to kind of pitch it, we recreated the medical lab from Alien. We built one and then we smashed up the second one. But, of course, you do that and all the light bulbs start going off and you think maybe we should build the 'Nostromo.'"

"Our game takes place 15 years after the 'Nostromo' goes missing. So, if we’re doing that, we thought maybe we can get the original cast to come and be part of this. One of the goldmines we got was from Twentieth Century Fox; they gave us a huge amount of archive material. For this, one of the most important things we had were the continuity photos of the cast in their full make-up from the front and the side, and we used that original 1979 material to recreate those faces. That really helped us take it further."

Hope continues, "This whole project has been based on ‘We have to make this happen.’ The attention to detail, the atmosphere, the immersion… for me, I was convinced that if we could get it in front of the right people, [we'd succeed]... and fortunately they said yes. For Sigourney Weaver, for the first time in video games, to come back and reprise her role… I still remember the cheer when I told the team that she’d agreed to do it. It was a pretty magical moment."

Alien: Isolation is a single-player experience and Hope confirmed that there are no plans to add on multi-player down the road. Given this fact we inquired as to the length of the game's campaign.

"That’s a really good question and a difficult one to answer, not because I’m trying to avoid it, but because of the nature of the game. People get really immersed and highly involved in the world. It’s a highly detailed world. And also the fact that it’s a very dangerous world means that you can try, but it’s high risk. You go can through the game and replay it differently each time."

"That’s what’s fascinating about [Comic-Con] for me... you have people standing here and these people play for about forty minutes to an hour but that’s because every time someone goes inside an egg, we have a different entertaining experience. When you’re playing the main game, say you do die and you’re in a certain space trying to get from point A to point B, when you go again it’s going to be different. The Alien is really dynamically reacting off the world around you and reacting to your actions."

Alien: Isolation is a first person survival horror game where players must traverse a space station in solitude. Well, not total solitude, there is one guest. A gigantic Xenomorph that wants to know what your insides look like. You will need to use all of your wits, not just to succeed, but to survive.

Alien: Isolation will be released on October 7th, a short one week before the new title from Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami releases, The Evil Within. Both titles will be available for PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

For more info visit the official Alien: Isolation website, "like" Alien: Isolation on Facebook, and follow Alien: Isolation on Twitter.

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Nymph Swims to DVD in September

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 21:25

Here's the thing... you put Kristina Klebe in a movie entitled Nymph, you immediately have our attention. Having killer mermaids in it? Well, that's just a bonus! Read on for all the fishy details.

Epic Pictures Group has announced a September 9 DVD/VOD release for the creature feature from Apocalypse of the Dead director Milan Todorovic.

Nymph stars screen legend Franco Nero (Tarantino’s Django Unchained), Kristina Klebe (Halloween, Proxy), and Natalie Burn (The Expendables 2).

Synopsis
The story tells the tale of two young women who go on a Mediterranean vacation and uncover the watery lair of a killer mermaid hidden beneath an abandoned fortress.

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#SDCC14: Jurassic World Rolls into Comic-Con

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 20:58

If you can avert your eyes from staring at the copious amounts of camel toe and moose knuckle long enough you never know what you'll see hanging around the San Diego Comic-Con. Case in point: These blink and you missed 'em Jurassic World vehicles.

Vincent D'Onofrio, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, BD Wong, Andy Buckley, Idris Elba, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, and Nick Robinson star.

Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) penned the script with Derek Connolly and directs. Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, and Pat Crowley produce Jurassic World. In theaters June 12, 2015, this is a new sci-fi terror adventure set 22 years after the horrific events of the original Jurassic Park.

More as it comes.

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#SDCC14: New Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Trailer

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 20:44

San Diego, 2014. A mandarin buffet of all things nerdy. But forget the modern trends, cosplay, steam punk, “bronies”. This is the place for the classics, and it doesn’t get more classically nerdy than a Lord of the Rings video game.

It seems Monolith Productions has picked the perfect place, at the perfect time, to unleash a new story trailer for Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The new trailer, hot iron branded with the title The Bright Lord reveals the game will feature of the ghost of Celebrimbor. The trailer shows glimpses of him remembering Sauron tasking him with the creating the original rings and the ultimate betrayal, and savage murder that ensued.

If getting a glimpse into the story behind Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor wasn’t enough, the trailer also answers everyone’s dark prayers by revealing Gollum will be featured in the game.

But why should a horror fan care? Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor may be a fantasy RPG, but it is showing some strong horror elements. The game’s protagonist, Tallion is imbued with wraith abilities and is essentially a ghost, hell bent on murder. Speaking of murder, the trailer shows glimpses of Sauron murdering Celebrimbor’s innocent family. Pretty horrific for a fantasy game based on a novel written for children.

The heat has been sweltering for anyone looking forward to the release of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor as this trailer comes just a scant day after news broke that the game was being bumped up from it’s original release date to September 30th. Rejoice nerdom, our day has come.

It is currently available for pre-order here and below.

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#SDCC14: What We Know About The Next Mass Effect After BioWare's Panel

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 19:20

I couldn't be at BioWare's SDCC panel this year and it killed me to miss it. Turns out they remain tight-lipped about the direction of the next Mass Effect game, but we got some interesting tidbits, nonetheless.

Fans speculated that BioWare would at least indicate the direction or title of the next game in the series this afternoon. Instead, fans who attended the SDCC panel got glimpses of character armors and vehicle designs. They were also treated to a quick video that showed the (somewhat infamous) Mako in action.

Those who played the original Mass Effect will recall the mobile infantry vehicle that was necessary for exploring the planets you traversed. The all-terrain buggy was taken out of the sequels when fans complained that navigating it was a royal pain in the ass. To be fair, it was. But it was also a lot of fun, and its removal cost the series its exploratory spirit. Something that many of us absolutely loved, warts and all.

See what I'm talking about (from the 2007 game):

Naturally, most of us assumed that the Mako was gone for good. But this news indicates that BioWare intends to make good on their promise that the new game brings back the exploration. That's a really good thing. While I love the storyline, there was something about picking my team and just scouring every damn corner of the game that I'm looking forward to doing once more.

BioWare also reminded the panel that Commander Shepard is not returning for the next game (which, producer Michael Gamble stressed, will not be called Mass Effect 4). Curiously, though, we may see other familiar faces, and BioWare hinted (but did not state or confirm) that the next game could be set in another galaxy (an obvious choice if they're looking to avoid reference to the trilogy's ending).

If I were a betting man, I would assume this means we'll see Dr. Liara T'Soni once more. Asari live for a thousand years, and Liara was just over 100 when we met her in Mass Effect. She also happens to be one of the only characters who cannot die at any point in the trilogy (unless you really screw up at the end of 3). Hopefully they can pepper in some other characters without making it seem too forced or reliant on past glories.

The new game is being developed by BioWare Edmonton and BioWare Montreal, and they maintain that gender selection for your hero will remain. It's obviously an important feature for player agency and hopefully they'll include more precise character customization. They also confirmed that cooperative multiplayer (introduced in Mass Effect 3) is expected to return as well.

This information comes courtesy of Nerd Appropriate's Twitter feed, which I'll posted below. Appreciate the diligence there, folks!

Watch this space in the coming months. No, it may not be horror, but I'll going to be covering Mass Effect for Dread Central. Let me have this one, guys. I'm kinda excited about it.

- @masseffect #SDCC - I for one am excited about planetary exploration with a brand new Mako! Exciting stuff. pic.twitter.com/AYkVi83Iq7

— Nerd Appropriate (@NerdAppropriate) July 26, 2014

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#SDCC14: Hotel Guests Have The Chance to Win Exclusive Wrong Turn 6 Poster

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 18:41

If you're like me, this news is shocking because you can't quite believe there are six Wrong Turn movies. At any rate, 20th Century Fox is giving hotel guests a chance to win a really cool poster this weekend.

Are you staying at the Four Points Sheraton Downtown or the DoubleTree San Diego? If so, these hotels will be outfitted with special, bloody Wrong Turn 6 door hangars on their doors. Should you happen to see one, all you have to do is tweet out a picture of the door hanger with the hashtag #WT6. Then all you have to do is stop by Fox booth #4229 and receive an exclusive Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort teaser poster.

You can dig on it below.

The sixth installment in the down-home slasher franchise is due this October, directed by Re-Kill's Valeri Milev.

Watch this stop for more info!

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#SDCC14: Legendary Announces Skull Island Movie With King Kong!

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 16:31

Legendary Pictures is apparently all about the info bombs at this year's Comic Con, as they've just announced the return of King Kong in a Skull Island movie! Yes, the stars are already aligning for a King Kong/Godzilla rematch, aren't they?

Legendary previewed some ambiguous teaser footage at their SDCC '14 panel, which wound up being a teaser for a Skull Island movie, set to showcase the return of King Kong.

While it doesn't take a genius to see what Legendary Pictures is planning to do with all these resurrected monster franchises, King Kong has always been near and dear to my heart. I've even got nostalgia for King Kong vs. Godzilla, as it was one of the first films in the Godzilla series that I saw. The prospect of another knock-down, drag-out brawl between these two cinematic titans makes me smile.

Of course, Godzilla was distributed by Warner Bros., and Skull Island will presumably come from Universal. How will this affect things? Stay tuned!

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