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Into the ‘Wasteland:’ An Interview with Composer Mark Morgan

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 11:00

Composer Mark Morgan’s work includes such influential games as Fallout, Fallout 2, and Planescape: Torment, as well a plethora of movie and television gigs. His moody, wide-ranging scores veer into quiet, acoustic territory in addition to the electronic and industrial landscape for which he probably most well-known.

Morgan recently took time away from working on Wasteland 2 to chat with us. Find out what it’s like creating the sound design for the sequel to the progenitor of all post-apocalyptic RPGs in our interview!

The score for Wasteland 2 combines some pretty dissonant percussive and electronic sounds with Eastern and world music elements. How do you come to land on that specific instrumentation blend?

I drew from everything that I believe fits that world, to get that Dystopian feel and that which is distinctly Wasteland 2. It’s not just one musical element but the sum of all its parts that can make that unique texture and create the sound of the wasteland. In addition to the landscape and environments, Wasteland 2 features various tribal cults and different factions within those main cults. To find that sound musically, I combined elements from the modular synth that can be clinical in nature and blended them with a slide guitar or a wind instrument which in turn can evoke emotion and create some interesting sounds that fit the vibe.

Was there something you saw in the gameplay for Wasteland 2 that inspired the tonal palette for this score, or did you already have some pretty strong ideas in mind?

Before there was any gameplay Brian and I discussed the sound palette. I did a couple of demos using the concept art, so we had a good idea sonically of what was working straight away. Then it was a matter of fitting the music into the different sections of the game.

There are two distinct areas in the game, Arizona and Los Angeles, so both had to be addressed with their own distinct sound but still feel as if they are part of the same world.

Arizona needed to be open-sounding and have a strong feel of cold desolation. Because of the desert landscape and the fact that we were dealing with the Rangers, a little twang was needed, so we went with a very dark and minimal use of slide guitar. On some of the tracks, to get that dark vibe, we used a dobro slide and purposely brought to the forefront certain artifacts by recording the noisiest parts of the neck and body of the guitar. After which we blended that with the close mic natural sound. Hearing all the artifacts made it feel really dry and dusty which in turn gave it a more aggressive sound befitting the post-apocalyptic world of the wasteland…

LA has more of a glitchy electronic sound, but still has an organic quality because of the use of certain textures in the underlying ambience that pervades most of the game. The sound of LA is more apparent in the battle moments because of the overall nervous and glitchy, rhythmic components along with more pronounced ethnic elements.

The idea in the game was to tell the story by use of texture as opposed to playing melodies in the traditional sense. In some cases we concentrated on the sound of certain cults to give them an identity of their own. For instance, for the Mannerites, the underlying ambience is aggressive and relentless, and with an added subtle pulse that hopefully gives you a sense of unease that you can’t seem to escape from. Other cults were approached in a similar fashion.

As someone who seems to enjoy a wide variety of sound textures, how much experimentation are you allowed when composing for a game? Or, similarly, are you given free reign and then offered specific notes?

It depends on the game and the developer, but for the most part I’m given a lot of room to experiment and come up with the sound. Because Brian is very open musically, on Wasteland 2 I was given pretty much free reign. As far as he is concerned, almost anything goes if it works and fits the game.

Video game scoring often has to exist within the aural environment
without taking it over, save for the necessary aural crescendos. What is your approach to the background / foreground aesthetic necessary for video game composition?

Obviously you have to set the mood and tell a story so I approached it as if I’m writing to film. I want the player to feel as if they’re immersed inside the game, while at the same time not being too on the nose by telling them what is happening or what to feel. My goal is to be subtle enough not to intrude but give the player enough information to stay engaged. Having said that, in some games you have to be more literal and overt but I think it’s preferable to avoid that approach if possible.

How much of the game do you need to see before you can get a feel for how to approach the music, or do you begin composition pretty early on after you are hired?

As of late I’ve begun writing before there is any gameplay to speak of so the compositional process starts straightaway. For me it’s really about the concept art which in games for the most part tells the story. I’ve also been watching the beta being played on Twitch and other sites, especially when it comes to the battle music. After watching and seeing the actual gameplay I have adjusted the music accordingly.

Is there a certain genre of game that you find yourself attracted to when seeking new projects, or do you gravitate toward works that suit your specific style?

I would say a little bit of both. I do enjoy games, like with movies, that are narrative-driven, and in which music plays an important role in telling that story. I do like to go there and dig deep emotionally so I tend to gravitate to the darker themed subject matter. I’m not saying you can’t do that with lighter material, I just like using a palette that tends to be darker.

I’m always trying to find that perfect project that can fit and be pushed by a certain style of music that I hear in my head. That to me would be the ultimate and most challenging project.

“War of Borders” reminds me very specifically of one of my favorite songs from the DOOM score, and your credits include some very influential games, like Civilization and several of the Fallout games. How has your approach to scoring video games changed between your earlier works and and, say, Wasteland 2?

Interesting question. I think now I’m more engaged in the actual gameplay and what it’s about as it relates to the story. In earlier games, often because of time constraints or maybe just the way they were done usually, I was only given a vague idea on what the music would or could be. I don’t even remember getting any concept art or anything that really related to the game. I would just write what I felt without having much knowledge of the inner workings or subtleties of the game. Maybe in some instances that can work but I do much prefer knowing all I can about the game before I start.

What composers do you yourself admire, and is there a game score you hold up as the pinnacle of the artform?

As far as composers I admire, they come from all genres not just the scoring world. Some that come to mind are Ryuichi Sakamoto, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Alva Noto, Trent Reznor, Miles Davis.

As for games I know there are some great ones but I haven’t listened to enough of them to feel I could give a valid judgment.

Additionally, Stasis looks to be a really interesting game. It has a certain industrial aesthetic that seems to fit nicely with your style. What brought you to become involved in that project, and what can you say about your involvement up to this point? How far along are you in scoring it?

I saw the game on Kickstarter and was in awe of the artwork Christopher Bischoff had created and I wanted to be part of it. I emailed him and asked if he had a composer, he hadn’t so I was able to talk him into letting me do it.

It’s cool in the sense that there really isn’t any music during gameplay to speak of. The score is built around a lullaby that was played on a music box then reworked to fit the emotional moments in the game: panic, friendship, fear, loss etc. So the game has a musical thread that goes through the entire score.

We’re probably a month away from finishing the music and then we’ll take a look at maybe releasing the soundtrack.

Are you a fan of video games with an isometric point-of-view? If not, what sorts of games most readily pique your interest?

I’m interested in all types of games. For me it has to come from an artistic place and the story is also very important. Then the criteria is if I feel I can contribute musically to the project.

What other projects are upcoming for you?

The next project game-wise is Torment: Tides Of Numenara. I’m also working with a friend of mine on a TV show, Aquarius, based on the Manson murders.

The soundtrack for Wasteland 2 can be found on inXile Entertainment’s Bandcamp, and more of Morgan’s songs are available on his personal site, markmorganmusic.com.

Categories: Horror News

‘Sunset Overdrive’ Review: Overcaffeinated

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 02:10

The best way to describe Sunset Overdrive is to compare it to coming home after a long night of trick or treating, locking yourself in your bedroom and gorging on your bounty. Take that sugar rush, chase it with a few Red Bulls, and you have the essence that makes up the heart and soul of this wonderfully over-the-top action game.

More than that, after straying from their roots with the gritty Resistance trilogy and losing their way a bit with Fuse, this is the first Insomniac-developed game I’ve played in some time that actually feels like they’re making the kind of game they would want to play.

Insomniac is a ridiculously talented studio that’s had a monumental impact on video games, so it’s good to have them back.

As for Sunset Overdrive, this game is goddamn bonkers, and I do mean that in the best way possible. It employs a liberal use of color, has a great sense of humor and it’s managed to take one of the things I loved most about Crackdown, like abusing my newfound powers to cause mayhem and ruin anyone who’s dumb enough to get in my way, with the fluid movement of InFamous.

As we find ourselves wading in a sea of video games that strive for realism, Sunset Overdrive embraces insanity. This is a video game, and that means its sole purpose is to be fun. In that regard, this game doesn’t just succeed, it excels.

There’s even a bit of Saints Row in here as well. The big open world this game offers is your plaything, something to keep you entertained. There’s a story, but this is definitely one of those games where some of the most fun and memorable experiences you’ll have are waiting off the beaten path.

Now, when I play any game that gives me the option to really customize my character, I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time tweaking the face and making sure my clothes let monsters know I’m a laid back guy, but not one to be trifled with. There hasn’t been a character customization system that’s blown me away since Brink, and that ended up being the best thing about that otherwise terrible game.

Sunset Overdrive has plenty of options to choose from when you’re designing your character, and many of the options are themed to match the game’s colorful, punk-rock world. I’d say I would’ve liked to see more, but there really is more than enough to satisfy most folks.

Speaking of the game world, the art style here is more than eye candy, it’s eye protein. If Insomniac had any trouble working with the Xbox One hardware, it doesn’t show at all in the final product. This game looks fantastic, and it never slowed down for me, even when much of the area surrounding my character was populated by explosions, gunfire and the orange arterial spray from slain mutants.

Any time I see or play a game that doesn’t shy away from bombastic visuals and vibrant colors, I can’t help but give it some praise. There are so many games that stick to the greys and browns that it genuinely excites me when I see something that’s anything but. This may be an action shooter, but it’s one that isn’t burdened by anything other than the singular goal of being fun enough that you won’t want to set it down.

One of my few “big” complaints about this revolves around the controls. They would’ve benefited from some extra fine-tuning, especially since you’ll rarely be shooting while standing in place. There’s plenty of games that offer exactly that. In Sunset Overdrive, you’ll be shooting while bouncing from one car to the next, scaling buildings and riding power lines.

Granted, this issue could be a matter of my needing more practice before I’m mowing down hordes of mutants while using power lines to race from one roof to another like a significantly less grim Cole MacGrath.

If its colorful world and wealth of quirk, wit and charm don’t draw you in, the weapons might. Sunset Overdrive has an arsenal that even rivals Dead Rising, the current king of coming up with batshit crazy weapons for us to use on the zombies hordes.

As your arsenal grows, you’ll accrue weapons that spew fire, exploding cat statues, harpoons, bowling balls, streams of acid, and vinyls that ricochet between enemies, among so many others. Finding the loadout that works best with your playstyle will be important, especially if you’re planning on surviving in a world overrun by mutants.

Plot isn’t super important here, but here’s a introduction for those who care. Sunset Overdrive takes place in Sunset City, where the Fizzco Corporation has decided to gift its citizens with an exclusive first taste of their new energy drink, Overcharge Delirium XT, weeks ahead of its public launch. Almost immediately after consuming it, people start mutating into violent monsters.

With no one left to enforce the law, some of the remaining survivors turn into real dicks, forming groups of bandits that are just about as dangerous as the mutants. That leaves you, an still-human teenager with a penchant for shooting things without breaking stride, to clean up this mess.

Along with the main campaign and the aforementioned memories that will only be made when you stray from it, there’s a number of optional side quests for people like me, who’d very much like to get as close to 100% completion as possible. Yeah, I’m totally the type of person who will — and has — spent hundreds of hours collecting every stupid orb in Crackdown. There’s nothing quite as time-consuming like that here, but there are some collectibles.

Should you find yourself needing a temporary break from the single-player offering, Sunset Overdrive has an eight-player co-op mode called Chaos Squad that pits you and a group of friends and/or strangers against hordes of mutants. Killing everything that moves is only part of it, as you’ll also be tasked with random objectives — like climbing tall structures, defending convoys, etc. — to complete in order to make it to the next round.

If the idea of killing humans in another generic shooter is beginning to sound as dull to you as it does me, I suggest you give this a go. Just make sure you set aside some free time in your schedule beforehand, because this game is very difficult to put down.

The Final Word: Sunset Overdrive is colorful, addictive and apologetically bonkers. This is a wild ride you won’t soon forget from a developer that finally seems to have returned to its roots in delivering zany, over-the-top fun.

Categories: Horror News

R.I.P. Wayne Static Passes Away At Age 48

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 23:00

Update: Static-X’s PR team has just confirmed that Static has indeed passed away.

Wayne Richard Wells (aka Wayne Static), the enigmatic frontman of Static-X, has passed away at age 48. While the cause of death has not yet been determined there are reports of drugs being involved. His death comes days before his 49th birthday.

Micah Electric of 9Electric posted the news less than an hour ago, stating that Static, “…was a good soul who chose the wrong path.

Static-X rose to fame with the release of their debut album Wisconsin Death Trip in 2001, particularly with their most popular single “Push It”. The album went platinum two years later. The band went on to release a total of six studio albums, the last of which was 2009′s Cult Of Static. Static also released a solo album entitled Pighammer.

Static-X and fellow hard rock band Drowning Pool were set to embark on a UK tour in January.

We send our deepest condolences to his friends and family.

Categories: Horror News

‘Furious 7′ Trailer Released: This Looks Insane

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 16:48

The trailer for Furious 7 has hit the internet! Directed by horror favorite James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Dead Silence), the films follows the events that took place in the sixth AND the third films in the high-octane action series. It is the last film to feature actor Paul Walker, who died in a car accident during the filming of the movie.

James Wan directs this chapter of the hugely successful series that also welcomes back favorites Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky and Lucas Black. They are joined by international action stars new to the franchise including Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russell.

I’ll be honest and say that I used to hate these movies. However, I’ve grown to realize exactly what they offer and that is pure, unadulterated fun. Watch the trailer below!

Categories: Horror News

Biofeedback Horror ‘Nevermind’ Returns to Kickstarter

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 16:30

Back in February, developer Erin Reynolds revealed a clever concept for a horror game called Nevermind. The point of the game is to scare players, but Nevermind goes a step further than that by using biofeedback to monitor stress levels. When the player starts feeling anxious, the game reacts, becoming more challenging. The goal of this is to help people cope with stress by forcing them to take control so they can progress through the game. It’s a neat idea, but it didn’t quite catch on when Reynolds turned to Kickstarter to help realize it.

The game’s Kickstarter campaign wasn’t a success, raising a little over half of its ambitious $250,000 goal. This time around, Reynolds is only looking for $75,000 to fund her project. As I write this, the campaign has raised just under $43,000 with about 34 hours to go.

If Nevermind sounds like something you’d like to support, you can do so here. I also recommend you check out our interview with Reynolds.

Categories: Horror News

Co-op Coming to ‘The Forest’ in Next Update

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 16:06

Because I possess the same amount of patience as that of a child, I decided to ask Michael Mellor, animator and AI programmer at Endnight Games, about the progress they’ve made on adding co-op to their open-world survival horror game The Forest. They confirmed it awhile back, but until now, we had no idea when it’d arrive. According to Mellor, co-op will be implemented in the next patch, assuming “nothing goes horribly wrong in the next few days.”

Making video games is tough, and that’s especially true for indie developers with small teams and limited resources. There’s a chance co-op won’t be ready in time for the next patch, but if it does, I know what David and I are playing next on our YouTube channel.

Categories: Horror News

‘How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition’ Review: Smells Like Wet Ghoul

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 15:32

I tried, multiple times I might add, to get into How to Survive. My main complaint is that in co-op, both players — this is true for local and online play — must share a screen. This means you cannot at any time stray more than a screen away from your co-op partner. This may seem like a small complaint, but tethering me to another player at all times came close had enough of an impact on my enjoyment of what was otherwise a solid post-apocalyptic zombie genocide simulator.

For some reason, despite the numerous improvements, content and new features the How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition brings with it, that umbilical cord remains.

Even though my biggest gripe with the original game remained in this latest iteration, I stuck with it to see what else this new edition has to offer. For starters, weather plays a larger role this time around — hence the Storm Warning bit — and you can now even be electrocuted by random lighting strikes. You’re given a warning, but that wasn’t enough for me to get shocked twice during my playthrough.

The thing that makes this edition worth it, even if you’ve already played the original version, is it comes bundled with a generous helping of DLC. The Barricade add-on is one of my favorites, as it brings this game closer to ROAM, a game I’ve been waiting for ages to get my hands on.

The rest of the DLC adds special costumes, a new survivor — a flamethrower-wielding Nina — the volcanic El Diablo island, a more challenging difficulty level and a incredibly tough new mode where you’re tasked with surviving against waves of superpowered baddies.

In terms of content, the Storm Warning Edition is something I have trouble recommending at its full $19.99 price tag, but if that’s a bit too steep for your liking, the game is currently 80% off ($4.00) as a part of Steam’s Halloween Sale.

That’s definitely worth it, so long as you’re willing to overlook its many quirks.

This game would’ve benefitted greatly from a little added variety in the combat animations. They feel stiff, almost comical to look at. The aiming is a bit unreliable, too. There were many occasions where I couldn’t get my bow or gun to lock on an approaching ghoul, even if it was right in front of me. That’s a bit frustrating.

There’s also a matter of the visuals. I wouldn’t call How to Survive ugly, but it in no way takes advantage of either the PS4 or Xbox One. I noticed very few graphical improvements over the original, so that was clearly a missed opportunity for some much-needed improvement.

Also worth mentioning are the monsters themselves. For the most part, every one of these creatures are ones we’ve seen in multiple other games. There are the classic shambling undead, and peppered among them is the odd armored zombies, exploding fat guy, the more agile creatures that come out at night, and a handful of bosses — many of which are actually pretty fun.

The lack of originality here is a bit disappointing, but I’ve talked about that enough already.

How to Survive tries not to take itself too seriously, but in doing so, its silliness gets a bit excessive. Some of the game’s side quests can be unlocked by visiting talking monkeys — yeah, I don’t get it either — the dialogue’s leans a little too heavily on the cheese, and then there’s Kovak. As a character in the game, he’s useful.

My main gripe comes from all of those annoying “Kovak’s Rules” tutorials they’ve crammed into the game. I like monkeys enough to overlook how dumb their inclusion is, but the tutorials were annoying enough to bother me even though they can be skipped. It just felt lazy, like no one could come up with a better way to tell the player how to survive, so they shoehorned some bizarre guide rather than try and come up with something that’s a bit less intrusive.

This is first and foremost a zombie apocalypse game, but it also cleverly borrows from a few other genres. There’s some lite RPG features, including an leveling system that unlocks new abilities the further you get into the story. There’s also a solid crafting system so players can use items scavenged about the environments to make and modify weapons and armor, as well as cook food.

Some of the rarer items you’ll need for crafting can’t be found by scouring every inch of the game world. That’s where the side quests come in, as completing them can net you that critical piece you needed to finish building that anti-zombie Zorg ZF-1.

For those of you who are looking to get this on Steam, this edition comes with full controller support, Leaderboards, Steam Achievements, and Steam Trading Cards. The console versions include achivements/trophies and leaderboards, and all versions of the game support solo, local co-op and online co-op.

At least 505 Games and Eko Software have done an admirable job in supporting How to Survive since its release with a steady stream of updates and new content. Some of it, like the Heat Wave DLC, is hardly worth anyone’s time, but for the most part, the rest is worth checking out.

The How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition doesn’t go as far as I hoped it would in remedying the lingering issues that plagued the original, if you go into this with low-ish expectations, I don’t think it’ll disappoint. There’s plenty to do here, and it can be an especially good time if you have a few friends to play it with, so long as that whole screen-sharing thing doesn’t bother you as much as it did me.

The Final Word: How to Survive isn’t a solid addition to the crowded zombie genre, even though it sometimes feels like an Early Access game and isn’t quite as funny or as quirky as it tries to be.

Categories: Horror News

Victory Records’ Top 10 Halloween Music Videos

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 12:00

Halloween may have been last night but it landed on a Friday, which means we get to keep the celebrations going! So, to make sure your day starts off on the right note, our friends over at Victory Records have whipped up their Top 10 Halloween Music Videos, which is features the most horrifying videos from their roster! You’ll see such bands as Sister Sin, Fall City Fall, Erimha, and more.

Victory Records states:

It’s Halloween still, didn’t you know? It’s time to celebrate gore, blood, guts, and most importantly, the music videos that accompany them. We’ve teamed up with Bloody-Disgusting to bring you some of the most sinister music videos we have to offer, so press ‘Play’, turn your speakers up loud, and get ready for your neighbors to start wondering “What in the HELL is going on over there?”.

We have conjured up the most disturbing, haunting, and overall weird videos from WRETCHED, ISLANDER, FALL CITY FALL, SEEKER, SISTER SIN and more, so sit back and try to relax – Victory Records has you covered for this Halloween weekend.

Stay scary, ladies and gentlemen. Stay very scary.

Head on in to check out this list!

Categories: Horror News

Silence is Your Friend in ‘Escape Dead Island’

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 10:00

Because the game is only a few weeks out now and we still haven’t seen much of it, Deep Silver recently posted a new video from Escape Dead Island that shows off how incredibly easy it is to stealth kill one of the game’s zombies versus how ridiculously difficult it is to take that same ghoul out with a shotgun at point blank range.

These undead creatures possess serious bullet sponge prowess, I’m guessing, unless they’re shot in the head. That’s why you always aim for the head, folks.

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Post by Dead Island.

Escape Dead Island releases on Nov 18 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Categories: Horror News

[13 Days of Horror] ‘The Evil Within’

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 03:27

Sorry this episode is coming to you so late, my apartment is temporarily without Internet, so I haven’t been able to record anything new for you. You can thank Comcast for that. I’m going to try my best to get caught up as quickly as possible, starting with a playthrough of the first two chapters of Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a video!

Categories: Horror News

‘Dying Light’ Drops Support for PS3, Xbox 360

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 22:38

In news that may be disappointing for some folks, but really isn’t that surprising, Dying Light developer Techland has announced they’re dropping support of last-gen consoles for their upcoming open-world zombie beat ‘em up. As we continue to progress into this exciting new generation of gaming consoles, the PS3 and Xbox 360 will only see less love down the road. The only thing I find surprising about this decision is that they didn’t make it sooner, especially after they made a similar move with the upcoming dark fantasy RPG, Hellraid.

Unless you don’t own a PS4, Xbox One or a decent PC or plan on getting one of those things soon, this really is good news.

This move frees them to focus all of their resources into making this ambitious open-world game the best game it can be, without holding any platform(s) back. And with some serious competition coming from the Yager-developed Dead Island 2, this game will need to be great.

Techland broke the news in a Facebook post, saying “after thorough internal testing, we have come to the conclusion that we have no choice but to leave past-gen systems behind and release Dying Light exclusively on the next-gen consoles and PC.” because the aging consoles “couldn’t run the game and stay true to the core vision of Dying Light at the same time.”

Dying Light hits PC, PS4 and Xbox One on January 27, 2015.

Categories: Horror News

Goblin Announces New Album ‘Four Of A Kind’

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 21:37

Italian progressive rock band Goblin have announced that pre-orders are now available for their new album Four Of A Kind through Pledge Music. There are multiple levels that one can pledge, up to $500, which will net the pledger a reservation spot to hang out with the band in a studio in Rome (travel and accommodation not included).

Four Of A Kind will be the band’s first new studio album since 2006′s Back To The Goblin. The band is noted for having composed such Italian horror films as Suspiria, Profondo Rosso, Phenomena, and more.

Categories: Horror News

‘Shadow of the Eternals’ is Back in Development

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 21:30

After three failed attempts to get Shadow of the Eternals made with the help of crowdfunding and the arrest of one of its developers, one of our favorite survival horror games may be getting that “spiritual successor” after all.

The news comes from a press release sent out by Quantum Entanglement Entertainment — that’s a mouthful — a “unique entertainment company” based in Toronto, Canada. The studio was co-founded by Silicon Knights founder Denis Dyack, who last served as the chief creative officer at Precursor Games, the studio that was originally behind the game.

Quantum is working on the oft-requested follow-up to Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, but one look at this game’s incredibly rocky past and it’s clear we should all probably take a wait and see approach with this one.

Categories: Horror News

Bold Statement: ‘Halloween 3′ Is the Best In the Series

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 21:13

It doesn’t have Mike Myers. It doesn’t have Sam Loomis. It wasn’t directed by John Carpenter. And Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is the best in the series. Now hold on, before you knock down my door with pitchforks and torches, hear me out! The Halloween franchise started with Carpenter, Debra Hill, and the tale of “The Shape”. When it came time to film Halloween 3, Carpenter and Hill weren’t interested unless it didn’t involve Michael Myers. For many horror fans that was like signing the movie’s death warrant before it even got released. But I fell in love with this strange little movie the first time I saw it, and now I’m going to sway you, too!

The Plot

Here’s the basic rundown: A doctor’s patient is murdered in his hospital bed, then the murderer light himself on fire. The Doctor, confused, and the patient’s daughter, heartbroken, team up to find out why this tragedy happened. As Halloween ticks ever closer, they find themselves embroiled in a plot for world domination by an Irish millionaire with a Halloween mask company. Sound weird? It is! This movie, which some may shrug off as ridiculous, actually kind of revels in its weirdness. It’s a simple story with a lot of strange plot hooks and twists… not your run of the mill.

The Direction

Season gets ragged on for being a “cheesy” horror movie, but the production quality is actually pretty high. Director Tommy Lee Wallace used a variety of filming techniques, from wide sweeping shots to claustrophobic close-ups. And each type of shot served its purpose. Halloween 3 opens (after a computer-generated pumpkin smiles at us from the opening credits) with a man running for his life from an unknown threat. The scenes are still and static, and the actor does all the movement. It sets a mood early in the film that illicits feelings of confusion and entrapment. When our heroes make it into the small town of Santa Mira, California, the tone shifts and the movie fills with suspicion, paranoia, and dread. This isn’t just another slasher cash-in, this is a weird movie that’s filmed well.


The Acting

Tom Atkins is a horror mainstay, the guy’s been bringing barrels-chested machismo to flicks since the late sixties. His most famous role, perhaps, is of the detective in Night of the Creeps, but he really shines as the hunky lead in 3. His no-nonsense, straight-faced earnestness in this movie keeps the plot from getting out of hand, and he’s got a great scream too. His love interest, the bereaving Ellie played by Stacey Nelkin, is a tough and inquisitive partner. The two make a glimmering duo in this movie. But no one in the movie keeps up with Dan O’Herlihy, who plays the ruthless villain Conal Cochran with seething delight.

The Special Effects

The gore in Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, doesn’t come often, but when it does it’s grisly. When an annoying customer complains about a malfunctioning Halloween mask she gets a blast of energy right to the face. Her death scene is one of the nastiest in all the Halloween movies. It’s strange, we don’t expect it, and it’s tough to look at. Other moments, including the melting of a child’s head (in a mask, we’re not that evil), are executed with a lot of talent from Don Post Studios. The movie’s not the bloodiest horror flick out there, but when it hits it hits hard.

A Legacy Lost

Finally, I think I love this movie because of everything it could have been. The original plan for the Halloween series was for it to be serial in nature. Scary things happening in each film, with the only through-line being the date: Halloween. But because Halloween was such a success, they hurried up and put out Halloween 2 which meant more Michael Myers. Once the audience got a taste for that pasty terror, there was no going back. Now I love Michael Myers, I think he’s a great, scary, complicated villain. But holy smokes, how awesome would it have been to get a high-quality anthology of horror movies every year?

So before you skip Halloween 3 on your binge this season, remember… it’s well acted, well shot, and weird as hell! What more could a horror fan ask for? You can keep your Michael Myers, tense plotting, and minimal aesthetics. Give me melting heads, screaming men with mustaches, and evil Celtic maniacs!

Categories: Horror News

Free ‘Among the Sleep’ DLC Comes Out of Hiding Next Week

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 21:09

Developer Krillbite Studio has revealed some free DLC for their quirky toddler horror platformer, Among the Sleep, which released on Steam in May. Apparently, the DLC has been developed in collaboration with the folks who helped the game raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars on Kickstarter last year. According to the announcement trailer, it’ll release on November 5 and looks like it will be set in a snowy cabin in the woods.

In related news, Among the Sleep is 40% off on Steam until Nov 3 as a part of its massive Halloween Sale.

Categories: Horror News

‘Costume Quest 2′ Review: Sweets from a Stranger

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 20:47

Written by Vikki Blake, @_vixx

With all the hallmarks of a fun – if forgettable – seasonal hit, it’s tempting not to take Double Fine’s Costume Quest 2 too seriously.

But beneath the agreeable exterior beats the heart of a slick little RPG that’s as sweet and addictive as the Halloween candy we’re tasked with collecting. It’s no surprise that fans have been clamouring for a second instalment.

Costume Quest 2 plunges us back into the lives of Wren and Reynold – the fraternal twins you may recall from the original game – who once again find themselves stumbling unwittingly into yet another Halloween disaster, this time courtesy of arectypital bad guy Orel White – a pissed off dentist with a grudge against all things Halloween – who banishes the holiday.

And so our premise is set. The perky twins set off to locate the dentist and undo the past,
leaping back and fore through time via a selection of time portals whilst collecting candy from strangers and battling monsters along the way.

The gameplay plays out just as the original story. There’s a mishmash of puzzles, sidequests, turn-based battles and, naturally, trick-or-treating. With each door you knock in the hope of topping up your candy pail, there’s every chance you’ll encounter a weird and wonderful enemy instead of a friendly neighbour.

When a monster does step in and challenge you to a battle, your chosen flavour of twin transforms into whichever costume they happen to be wearing at the time. On most occasions, the costumes – and their associated superpowers – are fantastically fun, with each lending it’s own particular RPG flavour (Soldier, Medic etc.).

Unsurprisingly, this means that, initially, you’ll need to seek out bigger and better costumes. This is not as easy as it seems. Whilst some costumes come ready-to-wear, many do not, and to complete them you need to think strategically – and sometimes a little experimentally – and explore your surroundings to locate the materials and patterns necessary to create your costume.

That said, the costume selection is by no means a prerequisite, and it’s probably pretty easy to sail through the game with nothing but the costumes you and your friends arrive wearing (our Candy Corn companion aside). Once you settle into a party that works as you’d like, it’s hard to bust out of the rut and experiment with the new outfits.

Which brings us onto the battles themselves. Rarely challenging, the turn-based combat offers up the bog-standard mix of basic attack with the occasional individual special power, although these can be enhanced by collecting/purchasing Creepy Treat cards.

Time-based responses and button-prompts are your tools and whilst they’re rarely difficult, it’s easy to mis-time the odd attack and have a colleague expire as a consequence. The key, as you might expect, is to mix up the cards and your characters so that each contributor brings something different to the fighting arena.

The issue here is that the combat rarely challenges you, and you may often find your curious exploration of the story environs stuttered by interruptions of the rinse-repeat combat sequences. Animations are rehashed over and over, and progression feels consciously sluggish compared to the original. Oh, and I did I mention that you have to backtrack, endlessly, to fill up your life meters after each battle? No? Maybe that’s because I was so frickin’ tired of it, I STOPPED CARING.

That said – and somewhat amazingly – the game’s holiday-themed foundation rarely feels cheesy or forced. The environments are colourful and detailed, crammed with Halloween-based props that lend a rich, warm and comfortable glow to the various backdrops that are the perfect setting for this warm, occasionally laugh-out-loud story.

Even though you can often see the next twist or turn coming a mile off, that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment in any way thanks to a (mostly) sharp, witty script. (And at least this time you can read the text at your own leisure – the original game was not so obliging.)

The Final Word: There’s a heady mix of exploration and combat here, and whilst the latter can, on occasion, be a little tiresome, it’s not quite enough to tamper the enjoyment. In fact, very little does – Costume Quest 2 is fun and funny way to while away a few hours long after the Halloween decorations and candy pails have been boxed away for another year.

Categories: Horror News

‘The Evil Within’ Demo is Now Available on Steam

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 20:24

Let’s say you read my review, but you’re still unsure about The Evil Within. If that’s the case, Bethesda just made it even easier to decide whether or not Shinji Mikami’s long anticipated return to survival horror is worth your time by offering a lengthy demo of the game that can be downloaded right now, free of charge, on Steam.

The demo covers the first three chapters of The Evil Within, so it’s pretty substantial. In the event that you fall hopelessly in love with its gory charm, purchasing the full game will let you save any progress made playing the demo.

Also, for some reason, they’re offering free copies of Call of Cthulhu with each purchase.

The Evil Within is available now on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Categories: Horror News

No Monster is Safe in This ‘Alone in the Dark’ Trailer

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 20:05

Aside from being the first sequel in about six years, Alone in the Dark: Illumination is special in that it will — for the first time ever — add cooperative multiplayer to a series that’s exclusively been about the solo experience for over two decades. As someone who’s managed to sink several hundred hours into Left 4 Dead, I’m looking forward to seeing how a similar multiplayer component will work in a series like Alone in the Dark.

At the very least, I’d like it to be good enough to help me forget about the still MIA Left 4 Dead 3.

You can pre-order Alone in the Dark: Illumination for $26.99 (10% off) right now on Steam.

Oh, and happy Halloween!

Categories: Horror News

Twisted Music Video Of The Week Vol. 159: Bobby Pickett “Monster Mash”

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 17:30

It’s Halloween, so what better way to celebrate than with some ghoulish dancing and partying? Gather your candy, adjust your masks, make sure your costume is on tight, and get ready for Bobby (Boris) Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers‘ “Monster Mash”!

Really, could there be a more perfect song for tonight? Get on down and enjoy this performance from American Bandstand!

Categories: Horror News

Blackest Rainbow Releasing ‘Blue Ruin’ Soundtrack

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 17:09

Blackest Rainbow records has opened up pre-orders for the soundtrack to 2013′s revenge thriller Blue Ruin. Composed by brothers Brooke and Will Blair, the core is heavily influenced by horror films of the 80′s and their synth scores and yet also has elements of sinister ambience and classical melodies.

Blackest Rainbow is releasing the soundtrack on vinyl with two color variants. The first edition will be 180-gram blue vinyl with a rust haze and will be limited to 150 copies. The second edition is also 180-gram blue vinyl but this time with rust splatters and is also limited to 150 copies.

You can pre-order the soundtrack via Bandcamp. Shipping will occur in December. Head below to stream the music, which is perfect for creating a terrifying Halloween experience.

Blue Ruin (Original Score To The Film) by Brooke Blair and Will Blair

Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin premiered at 2013 Cannes Film Festival to great critical acclaim and won the FIPRESCI Prize. It gained distribution and opened in the US to April 2014 to a great response from critics and audiences.

This revenge thriller focuses largely on the consequences of revenge, and the main act of revenge you expect will be the focus of the film happens early on and it spirals progressively into even darker and grim territory, dramatically enhanced by the score by brothers, Brooke and Will Blair. The relationship between composers and director has been long standing, having all known each other since they were kids, with Jeremy and the film’s Macon Blair, who plays lead protagonist Dwight, working on films for quite sometime. Macon, also happens to be the elder sibling to Brooke and Will. Brooke and Will composed music to most Jeremy’s previous work, and Macon also starred in some of this output.

Being so familiar with one another personally, Jeremy’s horror and 80s inspired early work, and his love of Carpenter’s music, the brothers settled a synth based score, which feels remarkably organic, and at times even almost classical. Minimal tones gliding through one another, with the tense and melancholic themes of the film, percussion seemed like it would detract from the tone of the film. However at times there is a slight percussion sound, which was created from a sample of Macon’s heartbeat, that was unexpectedly captured on set by his lavalier mic on set. Editor Julia Bloch sent them a short file, which was manipulated into a “drum”. It seemed appropriate to incorporate Dwights’ actual life force, his heartbeat into the score. The intensity of this picture is driven home through the power of this score.

Categories: Horror News