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‘Alien: Isolation’ Will Look Identical On Xbox One and PS4

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 11:00

Afraid October 7th will arrive and you won’t be able to decide which platform you should get Alien: Isolation on? Assuming you have a PS4 and/or Xbox One, or are planning on grabbing one and/or the other by October, developer Creative Assembly is making the decision an easy one.

According to Gary Napper, lead game designer on Isolation, both current-gen versions will look “identical”. Obviously, that doesn’t extend to the last-gen versions, but at least we won’t need to worry about varying frame-rates or all that other technical junk that seems to plague so many new releases these days.

The news comes from a chat with Official Xbox Magazine, where Napper confirmed “There’s no noticeable drop or change in graphics between [the PS4 and Xbox One].”

Napper describes the game as being “platform agnostic”, because “I only think about the differences between platforms and the different mechanics we can use like the light on the PS4 pad and the stuff with Kinect 2.0.” So unless you really want to use the Xbox One’s Kinect or have a certain controller preference, it won’t matter which version of the game you get.

Alien: Isolation will release on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on October 7.

Categories: Horror News

[Review] Sci-Fi Thriller ‘The Machine’ Explores a Worn Out Theme

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 10:59

The new British indie sci-fi thriller The Machine is drawing a lot of comparisons to Blade Runner* for its exploration of what makes us human. This one’s a lot more blatant in its approach, however. The protagonist may as well have been shown actually beating a dead horse, screaming “If she loves, she’s human!” There are a lot of other ideas packed into its script though and the production design is really slick on a humble budget. It’s a mixed bag that leads up to a wholly predictable climax, but for the most part, the good parts outweigh the bad.

In an attempt to cure his fatally ill daughter, talented neuroscientist Vincent (Toby Stephens) is secretly using his hefty government funding to develop a self-aware being of artificial intelligence. The U.S. is at war with China, so the Ministry of Defense is sparing no expense to fund Vincent, but instead of repairing wounded soldiers, he’s creating a cyborg in the visage of his former assistant Ava (Caity Lotz), who met a cruel fate at the hand of enemy goons. It’s soon clear that Ava’s empathy and moral compass is superior to the humans around her, but Vincent’s boss (Denis Lawson) isn’t interested in her emotions – he simply wants her to be the perfect weapon.

Lotz’s performance as the titular machine is genuinely moving in parts as she discovers herself and her relationship with Vincent transitions from creator to patriarch figure. When she’s “activated,” she’s essentially a newborn baby, a fragile child struggling with nature vs. nurture. Vincent acts as the nurturer while Lawson represents nature, teaching her it’s better to kill your enemies before they can get the upper hand. While her heart draws her towards VThe new British indie sci-fi thriller The Machine is drawing a lot of comparisons to Blade Runner* for its exploration of what makes us human. This one’s a lot more blatant in its approach, however. The protagonist may as well have been shown actually beating a dead horse, screaming “If she loves, she’s human!” There are a lot of other ideas packed into its script though and the production design is really slick on a humble budget. It’s a mixed bag that leads up to a wholly predictable climax, but for the most part, the good parts outweigh the bad.

In an attempt to cure his fatally ill daughter, talented neuroscientist Vincent (Toby Stephens) is secretly using his hefty government funding to develop a self-aware being of artificial intelligence. The U.S. is at war with China, so the Ministry of Defense is sparing no expense to fund Vincent, but instead of repairing wounded soldiers, he’s creating a cyborg in the visage of his former assistant Ava (Caity Lotz), who met a cruel fate at the hand of enemy goons. It’s soon clear that Ava’s empathy and moral compass is superior to the humans around her, but Vincent’s boss (Denis Lawson) isn’t interested in her emotions – he simply wants her to be the perfect weapon.

Lotz’s performance as the titular machine is genuinely moving in parts as she discovers herself and her relationship with Vincent transitions from creator to patriarch figure. When she’s “activated,” she’s essentially a newborn baby, a fragile child struggling with nature vs. nurture. Vincent acts as the nurturer while Lawson represents nature, teaching her it’s better to kill your enemies before they can get the upper hand. While her heart draws her towards Vincent, Ava is wicked good at doing martial arts in a skin-tight, flesh covered suit, so some viewers may want her to stray toward the nature side of things.

Stephens and Lotz have great chemistry on screen as he struggles through his own ethical dilemma as well. Their relationship dips into romantic territory at times, but it feels like a very organic move and never overshadows the main story. The screenplay, written by director Caradog W. James, muddles through other murky side plots that are hurriedly looked at. There’s the revolution among the reborn, brain-implanted soldiers at the research facility, as well as Chinese agents running about. This leads to a climactic insurrection you can see coming a mile away, which is made up a fairly standard shootout action scene.

While for the most part The Machine is competent, it has difficulty balancing all of these stories and its “thinking man’s sci-fi” approach. In regards to the “what makes us human” theme, this film gives layman plenty to chew on, but for seasoned sci-fi fans, nothing is really brought to the table. The relationship between man and machine was even explored more deeply in last year’s Her. But for a nice blend of action and sci-fi The Machine is a suitable, enteraining film.

* more than a thematic similarity is the shot of Vincent standing over a docile Ava, his hands cradling her head in silhouette. It’s the same “Do you love me, do you trust me?” bit from Blade Runner.incent, Ava is wicked good at doing martial arts in a skin-tight, flesh covered suit, so some viewers may want her to stray toward the nature side of things.

Stephens and Lotz have great chemistry on screen as he struggles through his own ethical dilemma as well. Their relationship dips into romantic territory at times, but it feels like a very organic move and never overshadows the main story. The screenplay, written by director Caradog W. James, muddles through other murky side plots that are hurriedly looked at. There’s the revolution among the reborn, brain-implanted soldiers at the research facility, as well as Chinese agents running about. This leads to a climactic insurrection you can see coming a mile away, which is made up a fairly standard shootout action scene.

While for the most part The Machine is competent, it has difficulty balancing all of these stories and its “thinking man’s sci-fi” approach. In regards to the “what makes us human” theme, this film gives layman plenty to chew on, but for seasoned sci-fi fans, nothing is really brought to the table. The relationship between man and machine was even explored more deeply in last year’s Her. But for a nice blend of action and sci-fi The Machine is a suitable, enteraining film.

* more than a thematic similarity is the shot of Vincent standing over a docile Ava, his hands cradling her head in silhouette. It’s the same “Do you love me, do you trust me?” bit from Blade Runner.

Categories: Horror News

[DVD Review] The Essential Episodes Collection Is a Perfect Intro to “The Twilight Zone”

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 10:54

Rod Serling’s baby has influenced popular culture for decades, and has been the basis for items ranging from comic books to stage plays to even a pinball game. The series introduced viewers to the serious side of sci-fi, as well as influenced countless artists and actors. Even today, there’s talk of a third revival of the series and another film. In preparation for the series’ 55th anniversary (and another release of the complete series on Blu-Ray and DVD), CBS and Image Entertainment have cobbled together 17 of the series’ classic episodes into a two-disc set. While I won’t go through all the episodes, I’ll give highlights, since while all these episodes are definitely essential, you probably don’t want to be sitting there for hours.

Things start off with the fifth episode from the first season, “Walking Distance”. Gig Young stars as Martin Sloan, an overworked executive longing to get back to the carefree days of his childhood, stops to have his car serviced at a gas station. Martin discovers that his hometown of Homewood is within walking distance of the gas station. After walking into town, Martin sees that things haven’t changed since he was a boy, and that in fact it’s the year 1934. While not one of Rod Serling’s favorite episodes, the focus on nostalgia and the problems it holds makes for a compelling story. Coupled with Young’s performance, Serling’s beautiful dialogue (“You’ve been looking behind you, Martin. Try looking ahead.”), and Bernard Hermann’s masterful score, this starts the set off right.

“Time Enough At Last” is the eighth episode of the first season, and concerns Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis. Henry loves books, but the world he lives in prevents him from reading them. After an explosion that devastates his city and kills everyone save for him, Henry discovers that while he now is free to read his books, there are consequences to his wish. Exploring the theme of being careful what you wish for while also covering the difference between solitude and loneliness, Serling (basing the episode from a short story by Marilyn Venable) presents probably the most popular episode of the entire series. What makes it even scarier is the fact that in the present day of eBooks, the internet and the like, a story like this one is still very much (if not more) impactful.

In “The Eye Of The Beholder”, Maxine Stuart (and Donna Douglas) plays Janet Tyler, a societal outcast who has remained hospitalized in an effort to repair her hideously disfigured face. But after eleven operations (the maximum allowed under law), there has been no change. But just how disfigured is she? Putting a twist on the societal norms of what beauty is, the real star of this episode is the episode’s cinematography: Everyone, save for Stuart and Douglas, was filmed in shadow, heightening the suspense and making the eventual reveal of Janet Tyler’s face from under the bandages that much more striking. Director Douglas Heyes also helped things by casting the episode by having his back to the performers. The episode’s legacy is cemented with it being remade for the 2002-03 revival, as well as the numerous parodies that have ensued over the years since it’s broadcast.

Being a sucker for Orwellian stories, “The Obsolete Man” immediately hooked me. Burgess Meredith returns to the series as Romney Wordsworth, a former librarian, who is sentenced to death by the State for his obsolescence. After pleading his case to the Chancellor (Fritz Weaver) to no avail, Wordsworth requests that he be granted a personal assassin to whom he may privately disclose his preferred method of execution, as well as his death be televised. Coupled with Wordsworth’s comparisons of the Chancellor to Hitler and Stalin and the numerous themes that have become associated with totalitarian governments, the obvious message of the dangers of totalitarianism is plain to see. However, it would probably fall flat if the episode wasn’t backed by wonderful acting by Meredith and Weaver. Throw in another twist ending that is poetic and delightfully ironic, and you have another treat on your hands.

Then there’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, which was based on Richard Matheson’s short story of the same name, and directed by Richard Donner (yes, that Richard Donner), who went on to direct more episodes of the series. Starring William Shatner as Robert Wilson, this episode was remade for the Twilight Zone movie, and more recently, was parodied in The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror IV Halloween episode (one of my favorites). Anyhoo, the story is that Robert Wilson is flying home after six months in a sanitarium after experiencing a mental breakdown on a previous flight. While en route on this flight, he encounters a horror that has him trying to save the plane from crashing. Shatner carries this episode, doing quite well at being frightened. It’s his expressions of abject horror that help drive the panic Robert Wilson is feeling. With an excellent supporting cast including Christine White and Ed Kemmer, the only real flaw is in Nick Cravat’s gremlin makeup. This was thankfully corrected in the movie version.

So, with all these classic episodes, are there any drawbacks? Well, anyone who has been keeping tabs on the series’ continued DVD and Blu-Ray releases, you’ll know that this is more or less a cash grab. The episodes, while presented intact, are just that and nothing more, leave you wanting to grab the full seasons. The individual seasons have been out on DVD for a good five years now, and the Blu-Ray versions have been out for only two years. Really, this set’s purpose is to hype the complete series boxset that’s already out, and to milk more money from the fans. If you’re a fan of the series and haven’t gotten any of sets, spring for the complete series boxset. You’ll get far more out of it rather than this sampler. If, however, you’ve never seen the Twilight Zone before, this two-disc set serves as a great (albeit barebones) introduction.

Video/Audio:
Presented in their original 4:3 full frame aspect ratio, the transfers look almost pristine. There are a few scratches, nicks and dirt, but the overall picture is clear and shows off some great detail, even for DVD.

Audio-wise, each episode is presented in its original mono track. Like the video transfer, the audio is top-notch, although given it’s origins, lacks the punch a stereo mix would have, but that’s okay. Dialogue is clear with no distortion, and music (notably Bernard Hermann’s) is also clear.

Extras:
Given that this is more or less a sampler set, there aren’t any extras.

Categories: Horror News

Hi-Res ‘The Guest’ Imagery Takes Aim!

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 10:25

In addition to yesterday’s 80′s inspired trailer, Picturehouse sent us a batch of hi-res images from the Sundance hit The Guest (read our review), from the visionary team behind You’re Next: director Adam Wingard, writer Simon Barrett and Snoot Entertainment’s Keith Calder and Jessica Calder. A September release is planned.

From the director and writer of V/H/S and V/H/S/2, “The film tells the story of a young soldier who arrives on the doorstep of the Peterson family, claiming to be a good friend of their beloved son who died in action. The Petersons welcome David into their home and into their lives, but when people start mysteriously dying in town, mayhem ensues as their teenage daughter Anna starts wondering if David is responsible.

The Guest stars Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey” fame, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, and Lance Reddick (“American Horror Story” and “Intelligence”).

Categories: Horror News

‘Dracula Untold’ Trailer Reveals a Revenge Story

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 10:04

It’s back, and there’s imagery as well!

Originally Dracula: Year Zero, Universal Pictures has given Bloody the official first trailer and stills for Dracula Untold, the Gary Shore-directed version of Bram Stoker’s novella, in theaters October 17, 2014. The trailer reveals a revenge story, where Luke Evans makes a deal with the Devil and uses the dark forces to battle even darker forces.

Starring Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Zach McGowan, Samantha Barks, Thor Kristjansson and Art Parkinson, the film was shot in Belfast last year.

In the film, “Luke Evans is starring as the most famous of vampires in an origin story that sees a Transylvanian prince risk eternal damnation in order to save his wife and son from a Turkish horde. Barks will play a figure in Eastern European folk tales known as a baba yaga, a beautiful young woman who turns into a savage witch. Kristjansson will play Bright Eyes, an Eastern European taken as a slave as a young boy and now a vicious assassin in the Ottoman Army. Parkinson will play Dracula’s son, named Ingeras.

Categories: Horror News

Here’s A Trailer for That ‘Fatal Frame’ Movie

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 10:00

Unfortunately, it’s entirely in Japanese. This Fatal Frame will release exclusively in Japan (For those keeping count, between this and Fatal Frame IV, that’s Japan – 2, Rest of the World – 0) and star Seventeen magazine models Nakajo Ayami and Morikawa Aoi.

The film is based on the novel adaptation of the original game — or an adaptation of an adaptation, also known as ‘Fatal Frame-ception’ BAAAWWW (that was my phonetic interpretation of the Inception trailer sound) — and will be set in a dormitory where students start going missing. I do believe there’s something supernatural afoot…

Before you get too bummed out about its Japan exclusivity, you should know that this is one of two upcoming Fatal Frame films. The second will release some time after the new game that was announced a few months back.

The second live-action film is being handled by the fine folks in Hollywood, so we’ll eventually be getting our much-needed dose of spirit chicanery, we only need to be patient.

Between these two films, the upcoming game, and the new Zero manga, it seems as if the long-dormant Fatal Frame franchise will see a substantial resurgence in the very near future. Who’s excited?

Categories: Horror News

‘Nothing Bad Can Happen’ Clip: Don’t Piss Benno Off (Exclusive)

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 09:56

Drafthouse Films just shared with Bloody an exclusive clip from Nothing Bad Can Happen, the acclaimed dark thriller now in Los Angeles theaters with a NYC release set for July 3rd.

The film is said to be a brutal, unrelenting thriller from Germany, directed by Katrin Gebbe and based on a shocking true story. The clip shows you just how uncomfortable the film can be, with a kid being so terrifyingly afraid of his “surrogate father” that he prays for him not to get angry, which only makes him even more pissed off.

Inspired by atrocious true events, Nothing Bad Can Happen follows Tore, a young lost soul involved with an underground Christian punk movement who falls in with a dysfunctional family curious to test his seemingly unwavering faith. After a chance encounter helping Benno, a stranded driver, and managing to help start his car again in what appears to be a miracle, Tore is invited back to Benno’s home and becomes friendly with him, his wife and two kids. Before long, Tore moves in and gradually becomes part of the family. However, Benno can’t resist playing a cruel game, designed to challenge Tore’s beliefs. As his trials become more and more extreme, Tore finds his capacity for love and resilience pushed to its limits, and beyond.

Categories: Horror News

‘Night Of The Demons’ And ‘Witchboard’ Coming To Vinyl This Year

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 09:30

Player Two has entered the game! A new indie record label by the name of Lunaris Records has sprouted up and is already making waves by announcing the vinyl, CD, and cassette release of Night Of The Demons as well as a limited edition 7″ for Witchboard.

This news came from director Kevin Tenney’s Facebook page, which stated:

Hey, boys and girls. I can finally announce that Lunaris Records will be putting out a soundtrack CD of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS later this year, as well as good ol’ fashioned vinyl LPs and audio cassettes. In the meantime, they will be selling promo posters, Tee shirts, and post cards at Days Of The Dead Indy this weekend, as well as a special limited edition test pressing of the Witchboard soundtrack on a 7″ vinyl record, which has the opening theme and the end credit song on the A side, and a Witchboard design etched in the B side. What more could any horror fan want?

Lunaris will also be releasing the soundtrack to Street Trash. More information will be posted once it is announced.

Categories: Horror News

Survival Horror Is Alive and in No Need of a Savior

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 09:00

We’ve all heard it, likely more than once. Horror games are dead and buried, waiting for the cyclical nature of the video games industry to reanimate it so the genre can claw itself from the grave for a glorious return. The problem is, horror games aren’t dead. In fact, this genre is not only alive, it’s producing some of the most exciting and innovative games we’ve ever seen.

Now, I do realize that much of this “horror is dead” opinion is aimed at AAA horror, which has been lacking in terms of quantity lately.

When you look at the state of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Dead Space — three horror franchises that have defined this genre for years — it’s easy to get the impression that things are bad. The reality of it is sometimes publishers lose their way.

Capcom and EA wrongfully assumed we wanted more action, when it was actually the opposite, and with the gargantuan surge of interest in indie horror games like The Forest, Routine, and Among the Sleep, among a few dozen others, the industry’s major publishers are beginning to get the message.

That message is “Horror can make you lots of $$$.”

Granted, it’s not a great message, but it is one that these publishers are more likely to listen to than they have been the outcry of their communities. It’s a message that will inspire them to change their ways and produce the kinds of quality horror games that please both their fans and their shareholders.

This can be seen in a number of upcoming releases, including Dying Light, which aims to give us the Dead Island experience fans have been clamoring for since the first game’s fantastic debut trailer. There’s also The Order: 1886, which has some very strong genre influences, Doom 4 — set to be revealed next month — and the teen slasher-inspired Until Dawn, which Sony promises hasn’t been cancelled. We also can’t forget about the promised next entries in the Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Fatal Frame series.

All of the above is worth getting excited for, but it’s Alien: Isolation and Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within that have the most to prove right now. If those games are successful, it could mark the beginning of a ridiculously exciting era for AAA horror. Things are already pretty great, but there’s always room for improvement.

Thankfully, we don’t have too long of a wait (Isolation on Oct 7, The Evil Within on Oct 21) to see what kind of impact, if any, that these two games will have on the genre.

Speaking of which, in case you haven’t heard, there are a lot of those to look forward to right now. Indie horror is where it’s at, currently, and my list of anticipated indies grows every day.

Besides the quality of the releases we’re seeing — a few of which have sped past ‘impressive’ in favor of something closer to ‘mind-blowing’ — some of these games are tackling themes that are dark and personal, themes that can make you uncomfortable, but not in the sick, gross-out way.

Remember when Silent Hill did that? When that series was known not just for its disturbing imagery, but for its mature storytelling? Suicide, incest, rape, infanticide — Silent Hill used to be a beacon of hope for anyone looking for a horror game for adults that didn’t involve buckets of gore or cheap jump scares.

My favorite example of this is Matt Gilgenbach’s Neverending Nightmares, a psychological horror game that was inspired by Matt’s life-long struggle with mental illness, including depression and OCD. Even Among the Sleep touched on a deeply personal topic that will very likely resonate with certain people, including myself, though I’ll refrain from shedding too much light on it, as that will almost definitely ruin the ending. And we can’t forget about Fran Bow, which may be the first game in some time to offer a less stereotypical approach to institutionalized mental illness.

We’re seeing a bit of this in bigger budget horror games too, such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead. If you haven’t played it yet, that series is an emotional roller coaster ride.

All I’m saying is horror is here, it’s stronger than ever, and it’ll only get better as we go deeper into this new and exciting generation of consoles. The next time someone tells you horror is on its way out, I invite you to give them a gentleman’s slap across their ignorant face before you bid them farewell, because who needs that kind of negativity in their life?

No one, that’s who.

(Oh, and since I’ll almost definitely get chewed out for not mentioning one of any number of equally anticipated horror games we have on the way, here are a few more that prove horror is kicking hordes of zombie ass right now (and so no one attempts to kick mine): Dead Island 2, Frogware’s Call of Cthulhu reboot, Left 4 Dead 3 — it’ll happen, just be patient — SOMA, Monstrum, Killing Floor 2, HUNT: Horrors of the Gilded Age, Bloodborne, H1Z1, White Night, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and so many more)

Categories: Horror News

Kan Wakan’s “Like I Need You” Video Has A Rather Fishy Twist

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 07:46

This is definitely not the normal style of music we cover on BD but the visuals certainly have a connection to the site, which is why this is going into The Further. Coming from rising indie group Kan Wakan, which has some similar stylings to Adele, Amy Winehouse, and similar, is their video for “Like I Need You”, which was directed by Young Replicant (Lorde, The XX).

The story takes place over a single night and follows a drug deal, a forbidden romance, and an execution that doesn’t end up the way it was supposed to. Check it out below and make sure to snag the group’s album Moving On via iTunes.

Categories: Horror News

Steam Summer Sale Day 8: I’ve Been ‘Left 4 Dead’

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 21:41

Have any money left? I don’t. I ran out days ago, and now I’m sitting here, unable to take further advantage of the deadly Steam Summer sale. It would probably be a good thing if I wasn’t feeling the shakes and sweats — both telltale signs of Steam Summer Sale withdrawl, which tends to follow Steam Summer Sale Fever. I’m in the late stages now, so it’s too late for me. But you, there’s hope for you yet.

In case you missed its sale the first time around, Resident Evil 4 has again been discounted to $11.99 (40% off), and if you’re one of the five remaining people on this planet who don’t own a copy of Left 4 Dead 2, that’s been discounted to $4.99 (75% off).

Other noteworthy non-horror deals include Dishonored for $4.99 (75% off) and Alice: Madness Returns for $4.99 (75% off).

So if you have some cash that’s burning a hole in your wallet, you can always let Steam hold onto it!

Categories: Horror News

‘Pacific Rim 2′ Officially Announced!

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 20:44

Despite a soft box office take in the US, we are officially getting a sequel to the super fun Pacific Rim (you can thank the film’s worldwide take of $400 Million and probably some decent ancillaries for this good news). The last we heard Pacific Rim 2 was just a glimmer in Guillermo del Toro and Travis Beacham’s eye – they were informally developing the sequel back in October – but now things are official.

The Legendary production is switching studios from Warner Bros. to Universal, per Variety. Zak Penn (The Avengers) taking over scripting duties from Beacham. Del Toro will of course direct. This isn’t the first Del Toro sequel to switch homes, Hellboy 2 moved from Sony to Universal back in 2008.

Universal has even announced a release date! April 7th 2017! Seems legit!

Categories: Horror News

‘As Above, So Below’ Takes ‘Loft’s’ Slot

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 20:43

From the filmmakers behind The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Quarantine and Devils, Universal and Legendary Pictures’s As Above, So Below, an upcoming found-footage thriller film directed by John Erick Dowdle that he co-wrote with his brother Drew, will now arrive on August 29.

The film is taking the slot of Joel Silver’s long delayed The Loft, about five friends who share a loft for their extramarital affairs begin to question one another after the murdered body of an unknown young woman is found in the property. Loft was completely pulled off the calendar.

In As Above, So Below, “Miles of twisting catacombs lie beneath the streets of Paris, the eternal home to countless souls. When a team of explorers ventures into the uncharted maze of bones, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead. A journey into madness and terror, “As Above, So Below” reaches deep into the human psyche to reveal the personal demons that come back to haunt us all.

Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman and Edwin Hodge star.

Categories: Horror News

The Sudden Appearance of ‘The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 20:30

Written by T. Blake Braddy, @blakebraddy

Adrian Chmielarz is most renowned for creating intense, frenetic shooters. While at People Can Fly, Chmielarz designed games like Bulletstorm, Gears of War: Judgment, and the Painkiller series, known more for their tight controls and shooting mechanics than their narrative arcs.

Which is perhaps one of the reasons he decided to depart the company. Along with Andrew Poznanski and Michal Kosieradzki, he founded The Astronauts, the studio behind the weird fiction horror title The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Set just after the turn of the century, this adventure game is about the bizarre circumstances surrounding a young boy’s kidnapping. The main character is an aging detective whose keen ability to visualize crime scenes makes him perhaps the only person who can save the boy from a horrific fate.

Mr. Chmielarz was kind enough to answer some questions about the mysterious, potentially unsettling world surrounding The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, which is set to be released later this year.

BD: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter seems to be a departure from your previous work with People Can Fly, like the Painkiller series and BulletStorm. Talk a little bit about what inspired you to make this game, specifically.

Two things inspired us. First, the wish to be a part of the evolution of games, specifically the branch focused on narrative experiences. We can either complain about the state of games – their stale, tired formulas and cardboard characters – or we can do or at least try to do something about it. Second, this is in a way a return for us to what we were doing before Painkiller.

My personal roots are in adventure games, and I was always very interested in games as a powerful storytelling medium. We had this fun and exciting ten year long episode with shooters, but we felt it’s time to call back our first love, games that dig a little deeper into the player’s psyche.

BD: You describe the story as inspired by weird fiction of the early 20th century. What are some of your favorite weird tales, and how do they inform your approach to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter?

Weird fiction is one of the hardest things to translate to a video game because the written word works much better for your imagination than any, well, image. To this day we don’t really have a great, spotless Lovecraftian movie, right? Dagon was good, and At the Mountains of Madness was good, but nothing was mind-blowing.

And have you ever seen a really convincing, madness-inducing painting of Cthulhu? Luckily for us, weird fiction is not limited to Lovecraft, and if you check the writers like Blackwood or Grabinski, suddenly all kinds of possibilities open up. Not that we do not reach for Lovecraft in our game, it’s just that weird fiction is much broader than underwater temples, blasphemous rituals and sleeping gods. And that’s exactly what I love about weird fiction, where nothing is what it seems, and yet nothing is surreal. I think it’s a great foundation for a video game.

BD: What made you choose Wisconsin for the game’s setting?

Proximity to New England, the land of the weird, and (cough) some silly practical reasons. We did not want the game to take place in any particular location, we wanted it to happen everywhere and nowhere in particular. But then we realized we have a boy named Ethan Carter in the title, so no, the game could not take place in Poland or Spain. And since we use real Polish locations as visual inspiration, we looked for an area in US that is similar to our country: full four seasons, similar vegetation, etc. And Wisconsin turned out to be just right.

BD: The world looks incredible. How big will the world be, and how much control will players have over where they can go? How linear or open is it?

I think our game offers unexpectedly open environment. We’re not forcing to go down just one path, you have a whole valley to explore. This comes at a cost – there are areas in the game where literally nothing happens – but from a different angle it’s actually a gain, as the world is much more believable this way. That non-linearity is not limited to just the environment. We ran a playtest the other day and were surprised by how many people were dropping one area in the middle of an activity only to go sample another one and come back later.

They had a lot of fun this way, they felt like they were the makers of their own destiny, and played on their own terms. Which is absolutely perfect, that’s what we’re aiming for. That freedom might be overwhelming to players used to objective markers and task checklists, but I think that at the end of the day this was the right way to go for this particular game. I don’t think you can really have a game about exploration and discovery if you’re guided and don’t really need to explore in order to discover.

BD: What gameplay mechanics are integrated into investigating crime scenes? o In what ways will players interact with the world? Will there be combat of any kind, or does the gameplay extend entirely from the investigative aspects of exploration?

You play as Paul Prospero, an occult detective, and you have this one advantage over any other detective that you can communicate with the dead and see through the veil of any dark forces’ lies. So even though there are elements of regular investigation in the game, stuff like finding and analyzing evidence, there are also supernatural elements like being able to mentally sync with the deceased and see their final moments. “Sync” or “evidence” sounds a bit cold and technical, but the game is nothing like that. There’s a slightly oneiric mood to it all, and I think we’ve managed to make every element of the investigation natural and organic. There’s zero combat in the game. The darkness is after your mind, not your flesh. There are some surprises when it comes to meeting evil entities, but I should probably keep quiet about those.

BD: How difficult is it to balance the importance of mood and environment as immersive narrative elements with the outside pressure of making a more traditional sort horror experience?

There was this pressure for a while, as the most successful horror games cater nicely to YouTube screamers. We thought about integrating jump scares and evil entities bent on killing you into our game, but it would corrupt the core idea, so after some consideration we have decided to risk it and make a different type of horror, well aware that it would probably cost us some points with people expecting heart attack inducing events. But I am also hoping that people will get that horror has many faces, and just as a bloodied chainsaw is horror, so can be a misty forest full of unsettling whispers.

BD: You released a prequel comic online. Are you planning on following up with any other tie-ins like that?

Probably not, as the game is a self-contained story with an actual ending. This is not a beginning of a franchise, and there are no side stories to tell. You buy a game, and it’s all there. Personally I love transmedia, I read all Dead Space books and comics, for example, but it’s just not something that would fit The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

BD: How long do you anticipate the game will be?

Three hours? Five hours? I have no idea, honestly. We have tested 25% of it and it took people one hour on average to finish it. But will the rest take them less time, or more time, I don’t know that yet. We have a lot of custom stuff in the game, and solving one murder may take you half an hour, and another is fifteen minutes. Other things you do in the game have varied playtime, too. But the truth is that after we realized and made sure that the game offered a good value for money we stopped caring about the gameplay length. We’re only focusing on the quality of the experience and remove everything that’s in the way. There are no filler activities in the game.

BD: The team has been very active on the site, openly providing extensive coverage of the game’s development, including insight into the variety of public opinions that accompany showing early versions and playtesting. How has this process of being so open affected your approach to developing the game? It seems like this kind of forthrightness and openness will be the standard in the future. Do you see it as a net positive for the process of making games?

I don’t know. I think we bit a bit more than we could chew. The marketing is important, but going all the way like we did is just too much work for a small team like ours. And I don’t think, for example, that my daily blogging on Tumblr gave us that much advantage compared to the cost of it. I like to finish what I start, so we’ll keep it this way until the day of release, but in the future we have to be a bit smarter about it.

Please note that the marketing is especially difficult for a game like ours. On one hand, there are thousand things I’d love to tell people about, and at the same time everything feels like a spoiler. And we don’t want to spoil the game in order to generate more hype before release. So it’s a really hard work to blog and tweet daily when you don’t really want to say too much about your game.

BD: Since it is a narrative-based game, do you plan on offering playable demos before the game’s actual release?

No, but that’s mainly because of the way the game is structured. I mean, how do you do a demo of GTA? Of course we’re not GTA, but the game is non-linear and with a fairly small, but open world. I guess time-limited demo is an option, something that To the Moon did: you get a full game but there’s a paywall after an hour or whatever. But not only that would be an immersion killer, but also it would not necessarily translate to a better experience, just larger reach.

It’s basic psychology, you don’t give any game you get for free the same amount of care and attention as to the one you paid for. It’s a controversial subject and probably too long for this interview, but, in short, not only is making a demo much harder than anyone suspects, but the demo as such is not necessarily a good thing for the players themselves. I think that in times of online reviews from both gamers and journalists and in times of YouTube you can really understand if you want to purchase a game or not without having a playable demo.

BD: Do you have anything to add or announce?

It’s a race against time for us, to release the game before the autumn insanity. Just today I got a document with every spoken line in the game and we’re ready to finally record all voice-overs. We will hit alpha in a few weeks. Fingers crossed then for Ethan’s release in the third quarter of this year.

Categories: Horror News

Ripley Could Really Use a Friend in This New ‘Alien: Isolation’ Video

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 20:11

SEGA has released a new accolades trailer for Creative Assembly’s upcoming survival horror take on the Aliens franchise with Alien: Isolation. So far, the game has seen an impressive 40+ awards and nominations follows its E3 showing. If we had an E3 award here at Bloody Disgusting, it would’ve likely taken home another, but instead, I asked you which horror game you think won the Best of Show, and Isolation was beaten only by Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within.

Alien: Isolation is slated to arrive on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on October 7.

Categories: Horror News

[Review] ‘Beneath’ Fails to Embellish Its Horrific Premise

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 19:20

Being trapped in a collapsed coal mine sounds like it would be pretty damn horrible. I could think of a thousand other places I would rather be than trapped in a mine (the hospital, the proctologist, Florida). Throw in some ambiguous subterranean evil forces and a collapsed mine is certainly the least desirable place on the planet.

That’s just where the characters of the new survival thriller Beneath wind up, pitted against wickedness and their own paranoia hundreds of feet below the surface in a crumbling mine. It’s a nice mix of real-life horrors such as depleting oxygen in a claustrophobic environment and ambivalent supernatural elements. The premise itself is interesting and a guaranteed recipe for terror, but sadly Ben Ketai’s film fails to really run with it. The result is a fairly ordinary suspense film with moments of terror sprinkled throughout.

That’s not to say Beneath is a bad movie – it’s just routine. Luckily it has a strong cast, headed up by Jeff Fahey (The Lawnmower Man) and featuring Brent Briscoe (Mulholland Drive) and Joey Kern (Cabin Fever). Newcomer Lauren Gores plays Fahey’s daughter, an environmental lawyer who’s allowed to go down into the mines with them for one day so she can see what her dad has been doing at work for the past 35 years. The possible insurance liability nightmare of allowing an untrained person go down into a coal mine turns out to be the least of their problems.

Things are going smoothly and Fahey’s daughter is proving she’s got the stones to do mine work, then a cave-in traps all of them in a small area. Luckily it’s the area where there’s an emergency bunker complete with oxygen tanks and what look like pamphlets from the mine company. I hope they’re pamphlets explaining their life insurance policies, that would be nice. Fahey manages to contact the rescue team, who tells them it’ll be 72 hours until they can reach them. As long as they can hunker down in the bunker and not kill each other, everything will be cool.

A litany of bizarre things start to happen. At first it seems like just the group being paranoid, but the story gradually builds up to straight-up supernatural elements. These parts are most effective when less-is-more. For instance, one guy gets a pick-axe to the belly and we see his guts strewn everywhere. But more potent is the miner left behind in the bunker, who swears people were banging on the door. We never see who it is, or what it is. This works better for me than gore, especially in a mine where it’s impossible to see more than six feet in front of you.

The source of the evil is never fully developed, though there is a reference to another group of miners who were trapped and died nearby back in the 1920s. The lack of development and failure to embellish its plot may be Beneath‘s biggest problems, as it builds up to an end without throwing any surprises in. The premise alone is enough to evoke anxiety for the miners, but the filmmakers fail to exploit the situation and put their own unique spin on it.

Beneath hits VOD June 27.

Categories: Horror News

‘The Order: 1886′ Trailer Details the “Half-Breeds”

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 19:11

Developer Ready at Dawn’s upcoming PS4 exclusive The Order: 1886 follows an ancient war between an order of elite warriors and Lycan “half-breeds.” In the latest trailer for the game, we’re given the chance to get real familiar with these monsters, their motivations, and how they came to be. If you’d like to see more of these baddies, you may want to check out the gameplay demo that was shown off at E3 earlier this month.

The Order: 1886 is scheduled to arrive on the PS4 in 2015.

Categories: Horror News

Exclusive Images From Upcoming Horror Short ‘Kadence’!

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 16:25

We’ve got a couple of really cool exclusive images from an upcoming horror short called Kadence which will be written and directed by Marvel visual artist Jacob Johnston (he’s worked on Avengers 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Solider, Thor).

In the short, “Still reeling from the loss of his mother, a damaging and complex relationship with his father and a relentless battle with his own inner demons, Kadin’s [17] grip on reality is loosening by the day. Amid this struggle comes an enigmatic and brazen new neighbor, Marissa [19], who, along with the promise of a budding new friendship gives Kadin an ancient voodoo doll. Her reassurance is seductive and the promise of a brighter future leads Kadin to make a sinister choice.” The impending project will be produced by Rachel Kiri Walker, Nicole Hendrix and Jason Rostovsky.

Kadence will star Alyson Stoner (Step Up, Cheaper By The Dozen), Bailey Chase (Longmire, Saving Grace, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Zane Holtz (From Dusk Till Dawn, The Perks of Being a Wallflower). The cast was assembled by Wallace/Gallagher Casting (Sara Wallace, Jaime Gallagher), who recently cast Red Wing with Bill Paxton and Frances Fisher and several of Caliber Media’s recent films, including the slasher Some Kind of Hate. Gallagher also produces “Ain’t It Cool with Harry Knowles”, which will debut it’s second season on PBS in Austin later this year.

Our exclusive pics were designed by Marvel senior concept illustrators Jackson Sze and Anthony Francisco. Shooting will take place in Los Angeles mid July. Head below to check them out and hit up the short’s Facebook and Kickstarter pages (the latter of which seems to be doing pretty well).

Categories: Horror News

[Video Interview] Edgar Ramirez is the Priest Who Will ‘Deliver Us From Evil’!

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 15:00

Writer/director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) sees his new, ambitious horror film Deliver Us From Evil hit theaters on July 2nd. We’ll be running interviews on this bold new film all this week, and today we’re serving up a bit of Edgar Ramirez (The Counselor).

He didn’t happen to be shooting on the say of my set visit, but he’s an integral part of the film. His character, Mendoza, represents one half of the dialogue that the film is ultimately about and there’s a lot in his performance that embodies the film’s spirit.

Check out the interview below!

Categories: Horror News

‘Apes’ Don’t Want War, Turn Back On Humans (Clip)

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 14:57

Damn, a fourth Dawn of the Planet of the Apes clip has just arrives, and in it the humans have their backs turned to them by the apes. They don’t want war – but damned if we can’t leave ‘em alone.

In theaters July 11, Matt Reeves directs with Andy Serkis, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Judy Greer and Jocko Sims starring.

In the sequel to the prequel, “A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.

Categories: Horror News