Looking within…

Well this past week or so I have been playing The Evil Within.  This is Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s latest foray into the world of survival horror and marks a return to form for the genre following the poorly received Resident Evil 6 and the cut & paste Silent Hill reboots.  I am enjoying it a great deal and it really feels suitably freaky and gruesome.  Mikami is a master at videogame design and pacing and this has it in spades.


Atmosphere is superb and the story, for what it is … is fairly vague and trippy (the game jumps from one hallucination to the next and levels don’t follow a linear path as far as narrative is concerned).  There is a hub level where you save your game but this is also weird … a hospital or mental asylum where only a single (sort of attractive) nurse keeps you company and you go back and forth from the various levels by looking into a mirror.  You can also upgrade your abilities and weapons here by sitting in a chair that locks you in securely and clamps some sort of thing on your head … very Saw.  This game borrows heavily from various sources but has influences from Saw, Japanese horrors like The Ring and The Grudge and even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  It’s like a greatest hits of horror – and I am loving it.

Take a look at this gameplay demo for a good idea of this game’s tone:

The game is fairly lengthy also and I am in chapter 7 so far and know there are at least 11 chapters in total along with a new-game plus mode which I’m guessing lets you replay chapters with all your upgrades intact.  The game keeps to the Resident Evil formula with you having very limited ammo, getting weak from running, you can die very easily and you need to scavenge for supplies by opening boxes or breaking crates.  There are also a few basic puzzles to keep you occupied.  The main draw here though seems to be the boss battles, something Mikami is especially good at, and so far I’ve faced such creations as a chainsaw wielding psychopath, a freaky spider-lady and a rabid mutant dog … shudder, all brilliantly staged with plenty of clever foreshadowing (you get to creep past the dog’s massive cage in one sequence as it sleeps, leading up to a very tough encounter with the angry mutt).

If you’re after a game that’s a real throwback to the heyday of survival horror but with the big-budget stylings of Hostel or Saw … this has it.  It’s not easy, will challenge you but if you enjoy this style of game you’ll love every second.


Viewed – 11 August 2012  DVD

As followers of this blog will attest, I love horror movies.  I like how nothing is safe in a horror movie, and anything could happen.  I like the suspense, the atmosphere and the gore of a horror movie.  In recent years, the safety net has been dropped from horror and it seems (almost) anything is possible.  This Indonesian movie can be held up as one example of this new era – and oh my god, does it pack a punch.

In the grand tradition of cult favourite The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a group of twenty-something friends stumble upon a girl in the middle of the road after a night out on the town, and offer her a lift back to her secluded house in the woods (!), where they are invited by their freaky, forever young mother, to stay for a meal as a thankyou for their hospitality.  Yet soon the group are drugged and wake up in a cellar, tied up.  A night of unrelenting terror then follows.

This admittedly clichéd set-up is followed by a tour-de-force of violence, butchery and extreme blood-letting as the group fight for survival.  There really is nothing left to the imagination here, and viewers of a squeamish disposition should stop reading now – this is not your movie.  There are graphic scenes here of dismemberment that many a movie would shy away from – but this one had some cast-iron balls and for the most part my eyes were bulging and my jaw had hit the floor.  I would have liked more light shed on the background of the family and their motives, and some of the characters were rather annoying and lacked personality.  This movie however had the same tone and bold-execution as French masterworks Frontiers and Inside that although not doing anything particularly imaginative – delivered as an entertainingly brutal and unflinching experience.

Verdict:  3 /5

Friday The 13th

Viewed – 20 January 2012  Television

I have no problem with remakes, if that is they bring something new to the franchise / classic movie or at least show they are trying.  Good examples of recent worthwhile horror remakes include The Thing, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Revisiting one of the longest running horror movie series in memory however, is a different matter entirely.  Normally any horror fan has seen one of the Friday The 13th movies somewhere along the line, and everyone will have a favourite (mine is Part 4), so you would thing with such a wealth of material to take from, the makers of this would be able to come up with something new, fresh and relevant.  Did they buggery!

This treads the same old ground as many stalk and slash horrors over the years … sex mad teens, an isolated location, and a masked psychopath, picking them off one by one.   A ten or so minute opening pretty much wraps up the storyline to the first two movies, glossing over the most interesting aspect of the franchise (the killer’s mother) in a few seconds, and then its on to the pretty but personality-free cast as one man returns to camp crystal lake in search of his sister, who went missing months previous.  Now this could have been an interesting angle, but is overshadowed by the usual jock douche bags, bare breasted bimbos and dope-heads … all of which this viewer had no problem whatsoever seeing murdered.  Sadly killer nut job Jason Voorhees has lost much of his presence over the years, and now just ‘appears’ and kills without any particular imagination.  The murders are instantly forgettable, and what tension there could have been is lost in the fact the movie is almost pitch black dark most of the time, meaning its difficult to see exactly whats going on.  The epileptic camera work only makes this issue worse.

So it’s a real shame that a bit more thought or imagination couldn’t have been applied here … as at one time, Friday The 13th was good stuff, even if for me it was always the poor man’s Halloween.  What we have here is a badly made, imagination-free insult of a horror movie that nobody really needs to see – especially the fans.

Verdict:  1 /5

We Are What We Are

Viewed – 26 May 2011  Blu-ray

When first seeing that title, I thought it was a cheap cash in to reflect Let The Right One In’s clever, not obvious title.  Several months later and what the movie actually turns out to be is a realistic interpretation of the little explored cannibal sub-genre made famous by movies like Cannibal Holocaust and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  I went in with high expectations, expecting another foreign export that would push boundaries and raise eyebrows.  The reality?

The story follows a small family consisting of a father, mother, two sons and a daughter.  When the father dies unexpectedly in a shopping mall, coughing up blood, the family soon realise they have to fend for themselves.  This is when we discover that the family live on human meat, and their father used to kidnap prostitutes and bring them home for the family to feed on.  Now what surprised me was the fly on the wall style and real-world Mexico setting, where these people exist unnoticed within a bustling city.  What puzzled me however was upon the discovery of the father’s cannibalistic taste following an autopsy, the Police appear indifferent to the revelation like it’s an every day occurence.   Adding further to the confusion is how the family seem so incompetent, kidnapping hookers in plain sight and squabbling amongst themselves.  It doesn’t help that nothing is revealed on why these people are cannibals apart from a vague mention to a ritual, and although the family seem well realised as characters, they are given little to do other than pine for their next feed.

For what is basically a horror, this is not scary, and just a few gruesome sound effects and stomach churning silhouettes bring little to the (ahem) table.  On a plus, director Jorge Michel Grau certainly delivers a technically competent and stylish movie, with the Mexico backdrop used well and every shadow and eerie subway showcased admirably.  Just a shame that the material just couldn’t make this viewer care.

Verdict:  2 /5