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Sunday, 31 October 2010


It's Halloween! Yippee! Let's start proceedings with a naff metal song:

Now that's out the way, make yourself comfortable whilst I bombard you with film and game recommendations for this most spooky of days. BOMBARD!!!

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1995) is brilliant. WHY? OH GOD WHY? you scream. The premise is ripped right out of the Twilight Zone but filled with enough ideas and style to make it more, oh so much more: Top-selling horror writer Sutter Cane has disappeared. Insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) is called in to find him and make sure it's not all some sort of hoax. Unfortunately for Trent, and the rest of the world, Cane has found a way to alter reality via his writing.

Although Cane's editor and publishing house make a big deal about how he outsells Stephen King (making King the reference point for Cane's brand of literary horror), I think this film is best summed-up by the notion that it's "the best story H.P. Lovecraft never wrote" (as stated by a critic, but I can't remember who). You get people turning into monsters, stories that can send the reader insane, ancient monstrous gods, the strong suggestion that what's unfolding can not be stopped...it's all solid horror gold.

Sam Neill turns in one of the best performances of his career (but to be fair I can't remember the last film I saw him in where I thought he was rubbish) and most of the supporting actors are also decent. Jurgen Prochnow plays Cane with a streak of blasé arrogance, with just a touch of pity for those who can't appreciate how powerful he is. Julie Carmen isn't bad as Linda Styles, Cane's editor, even though there's a section where it's difficult to tell if she's acting weird because she's being affected by Cane, or if she can't actually act in the manner she's supposed to be acting, if that makes any sense. And you've got Charlton Heston as the boss of the publishing house, who doesn't really do much but then he doesn't need to - he's Charlton Heston!

There's so much to love about IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS that I can't even tell you. And almost all the samples used on the Hard Wired album by industrial band FrontLine Assembly came from this film, which is also pretty cool. "Giving me the power to make it all real" indeed!

TRICK R TREAT is a more recent film (in regards to appearing on DVD - it was actually made in 2007) and follows the citizens of a small American town one Halloween night as their individual stories and paths cross: a family man has a killer secret; a reclusive old man meets a relentless trick or treater; a college girl is apprehensive about her 'first time'; some kids play a mean prank and get their just desserts.

Some of the stories are a little obvious, in that you can guess where they're going before they get there, and there's the feeling that a couple of segue scenes are missing, but other than that TRICK R TREAT is a solid and entertaining horror film with a surprisingly stellar cast. And a cute (and deadly?) main character called Sam (the kid on the poster), who pops up in most of the stories, or hovers on the periphery of them. Which leads me nicely onto my next film:

SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER (2004) tells the darkly humorous story of a young lad, Dougie, who unwittingly teams up with a serial killer who's dressed like his favourite videogame character. Well, I say "unwittingly", but when it becomes apparent how sinister 'Satan Man' is, Dougie's own mental stability is called in to question...

SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER is a really fun film, that relies on black comedy more than gore for it's thrills, and is quite a nice change of pace from a lot of other Halloween-themed horror films. There, that was nice and succinct. What's next?

How about some honourable mentions? --> MORTUARY (2005) is a Lovecraft-tinged film set around...well, a mortuary. It's got it all: creepy black mould, zombies (well, near-enough), an ancient monster, excellent set-design and decent lead actors (let's ignore the sleazy laughing man who ruins the film every time he appears on screen. Seriously, Tobe Hooper, what were you thinking letting this guy act like this?!).

MAN-THING (also 2005): I don't care about all the remarks that this is Marvel's "Swamp-Thing rip-off", or that the blurb on the DVD case has bugger-all to do with the film itself, it's still awesome. When a dodgy oil company starts drilling in the 'dark heart' of a swamp, it awakens Man-Thing, a humanoid plant monster with burning red eyes and a habit of killing people by growing trees out of them. I mean literally growing trees out of their bodies. One of the rare examples where the CGI is handled well (particularly in the Man-Thing 'birth' scene).

That's enough films for now. How about video games? You crazy kids like to play your video games, don't you? Of course you do, it's all kids do nowadays. That, or go to a park and get drunk on cheap cider.

RED DEAD REDEMPTION: UNDEAD NIGHTMARE - just in time for Halloween, it's a sexy zombie add-on for the rootin- tootin' RDR! Saddle up on your undead steed and find out why the Wild West is being overrun with flesh-eating ghouls and partially-rotted animals (not to mention various mythical beasts). The zombies can only be killed by a headshot, which is easy enough when there are only one or two after you, but once they start to swarm...I don't mind telling you that, as with any decent zombie film, that's when things get pretty hairy. Luckily they can't climb ladders so get to a high spot and shoot their bastard heads off. Do it!

DEAD RISING 2 - I'm going to tell you everything you need to know about this incredible zombie game in one gloriously ridiculous sentence: Motocross celebrity Chuck Greene needs to uncover the reason for a zombie outbreak in the Vegas-like Fortune City (and find anti-zombie drugs for his infected daughter), and he can do this whilst wearing a dress and bunny slippers and headbutting zombies to death with a lego head topped by a lawnmower blade.

LIMBO - for a more sedate change of pace, but in a manner that's no less horrific, you could do worse than give this side-scrolling puzzler a go. You're an unnamed boy, wandering a mist-shrouded, monochrome world, looking for his sister. The game looks beautiful, and the sound design (almost no music, practically all ambient fx) is top-notch.

I've yet to complete it, but so far I've wandered through a creepy forest, an industrial zone and a desolate town, all of which merge seamlessly into one another, and all of which contain new ways in which you can die. And you will die - a LOT. There are hazards and enemies just waiting to impale, eviscerate, decapitate or drown you. Plus, some of the deaths can be caused in a brilliantly sadistic manner, in that the thing that crushes you is supposed to be the thing that helps you continue on...if only you'd stepped to the left a little quicker...But every time you restart a short distance away, so that you can learn from your mistake and carry on.

But, is this possible because you're playing a videogame, or because the world the boy is in allows him to suffer violent death over and over again? Exactly where is he? Early on, you'll encounter other people, and there's a disturbing suggestion they're also children...but these are followed by worms that stick to your head and force you to walk like a zombie in one direction, and giant spiders that stalk and creep towards you at a deceptively fast pace. None of the puzzles are mind-bending, but they will tax your noodle a bit. Interestingly, quite a few can be 'solved' via physical manipulation, eg running from one side of a beam to another so that it rocks high enough for you to jump off and onto another beam.

I get the distinct feeling that I'm not going to like it when I reach the end and find out where the boy is, but this is precisely why I want to get to the end. Is this how the game really tortures the player? I think so.

Phew! What a massive post! I think I'll go downstairs and see if my housemate wants a hand getting things ready for tonight. Happy Halloween, scumbags!


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