'BONE TOMAHAWK' IS MY BONE DADDY

Whatever your doing right now probably isn't as important as watching this movie. It is customarily routine for me to keep a watchful eye on interesting films in some of my favorite genres: Horror and Westerns. I think we can all raise a guilty hand to being some form of genre fanboy or girl. Neglecting a shitty flick for a great set or setting- for the flavor of the story alone. But we need those bad movies don't we? They are just as important as the good ones because, of course, they elevate the great films and show us what 'good' is suppose to look like. 

You ever find something online so  perfect that you covet it and share it with your friends with your own 'trust me its awesome' seal of approval? Only to watch those friends turn around- claim it as theirs? Isn't it hard not to claim it as your own treasure? And doesn't it hurt a bit when your friends fail to acknowledge that it was you who found it in the first place? This is one of those treasures for me but im sharing it with yous guys in case you might have missed it.

 

It is what it looks like. Its a Western Horror movie. Two things I've unknowingly and unconsciously desired for quite some time. Probably ever since i saw Unforgiven as a kid and fell in love with the Western genre. Its well written, all the sentences are complete and courteous. With every syllable perfectly accounted for. Back in the good ole days when using slang was like saying 'CUNT' to your grandmother. 

IMDB is showing that the budget for the movie was $1.8 million. So virtually nothing. With all the great acting littering the story you can almost see Kurt Russell reading the script and calling all his friends to climb on board. Everyone is here because they fell in love with the script. Clearly they are not as interested in the money as they are with telling a unique story. It's original, oddly compelling and suspenseful. 

You will hear us talking about tension and suspense a lot, so your going to have to get use to that. It's an intriguing device in storytelling. It's cheap ( pretty much free) but rarely used effectively. But when it does- WHOAH BABY! Although the tense moment mean nothing without the payoff. Usually the payoffs ,in this case, look like somebody getting there head blown apart, point being the film doesn't chise out on you. Also the jaw bone tomahawks are magical and can cut anything in half. The action is very brutal and gave my wife a rough 'sleep.' The violence here felt like a rich meal -  something you can understand and fill up on with a few bites.

So the deal here is some drifter walks all over some cannibalistic native predator monsters 'sacred ground' and get chased into town. They kidnap sheriffs deputy and some hot chick doctor. Sheriff "old Kirtypants" heads out to recover them. Nice and simple, like a western should be.  The 'savages' are a cartoonish version of a 'Native' Its the furthest thing from human. Im glad they took the enemies to the extreme physically, it would have been awkward if they hadn't gone so monsterish. 

 

All told this was a well thought out surprise from, not a first time director, but someone getting the hang of things. Thanks Craig Zahler your bones are really sharp. 

EXPLHORROR 2

Welcome back to our second segment of Explhorror. Where we have been expl-goring the subtleties of interactive horror and what leaves us thirsty for more. This round is all about atmosphere, sound design and how the marriage of the two is of the two devices willlive happily ever after. These days maybe not, divorce is rampant after all, enjoy it while it lasts i say.

This badass collaboration by OGRE and Dallas does in fact kick balls! Just released today! Click  here  or the image above for some 80's inspired Halloween sound treats. 

This badass collaboration by OGRE and Dallas does in fact kick balls! Just released today! Click here or the image above for some 80's inspired Halloween sound treats. 

Stories  are ancient things, tattooed into every culture, transcending generations. If you spend enough time with one it could betray you, reveal mysteries or uncover personal insights. Essentially they are experiences as elaborate as we choose them to be and everyone has one of their own. They can find there way into places you didn't want to see them and alter themselves to fit anyones purposes. They attach themselves to every object we've ever had and every person we've ever met. A story is as powerful as the medium wielding it. Strangely, and for some reason the Horror videogame genre tends to spend its energy on all the devices surrounding a story and not the story itself.

It didn't use to be this way, Frankenstein was a thinking mans (or womans) macabre tale of creation, loss and expectation. These days it more like "Hey Sidney...what's you favorite scary movie?' A group of survivors are left stranded in the outskirts of Raccoon City and happen upon an old seemingly well kept,  mansion. A father visits a small foggy town with his daughter only to find her kidnapped moments after they arrive. An archeologist finds a strange and powerful object in a middle eastern cave and goes crazy. Even the discriptions share moody settings.The stories themselves are typically an after though to the visual and auditory spectacle that's attached to them. Usually its a 'find the person' or 'get out of the place' or 'find the object to find the person to get out of the place'

In a great Horror game the atmosphere itself takes its own character. The sound fills all the hollow spaces the mood cant account for and boom. You've just pood yourself in the dark and have no real tactical way to the bathroom. Suprise muthafucker!

Great game atmosphere had not really been that exciting at the time i was in film school 15 years ago. The fog in silent hill was the best example.It was during those idle days in Cinematography class that i really began to understand mood, atmosphere and how important it is to get it right. Mostly it was just pumping fog into the woods or wherever it is you happened to be shooting your next scene.  The fog would fill in all the dead spaces and soak up the light and diffuse it beautifully. Very effective. Good to know. Atmosphere= fog.

Metro 2033 should go down in the history books. This game has Snarf potential. Snarf is an uncommonly used verb (mostly by myself and maybe one other guy) used to describe any bodily discharge of any kind. If i said 'Metro made me Snarf all over my lap and mechanical keyboard' that could mean puke, pee, spit, poop or other. So i Snarfed many times during my play-through because it was so damn convincing. It could be assumed that graphical muscle has caught up to our imaginations. This game is incredible. I have friends who just say 'nope' to that game. They can't handle the oppressive atmosphere in tandem with the growling mutant sounds echoing down the tunnels. At this point the best thing to do here is just demonstrate. 

 

Another excellent example of great mood is the Resident Evil Remake for the Game Cube in 2002 and it will still blow your dick off. It looks marvellous.

 

Arguably the most important aspect of anything scary is the sound of the thing. When i'm reliving some terrifying moment  for the 12th time in a row i take off my headphones to concentrate. Its just pure nightmare fuel to have the failed moment be relived over and over until its beaten.  Its hard as hell  not to let the groaning, choffing, slimy noise distract me from the challenge itself. So my reaction is to disassociate with the moment in order to complete the task. Life lessons. Disassociate when times get tough. Being scared as fuck is also another technical term i might use here.

The best sound design should scare you. It should suggest badness is around the corner, it should use your own imagination against you then Snarf on it.  All the layered modulation, and distorted sounds are extremely necessary to achieve full immersion. The chainsaw man in Resident Evil 4 is tattooed into many gamers brains. When i hear a tree being cut down i cant help but think of the trauma the audio cue has caused me. The Ying Ying Ying revving of a saw motor behind me now jacks me up into overdrive. Fight or flight they say and in a game either is acceptable but not always available. 

Suprisingly many videogame sound designers create their own sounds from scratch for each game they work on. If a sound bite is required for a character digging up something they will do a sound recording for it. If it happens again weeks later for another game they will re-record a separate individual take of that sound again..

Happy Friday all. Here's a few more fantastic audio examples from Dead Space. My dog hates me right now.

EXPLHORROR

a terrifying photograph taken  at god knows when from god knows where. Spoiler alert, the family died. Just kidding, well the family is likely dead now but not because of an upside down flailing shadowmonster...i think.

a terrifying photograph taken  at god knows when from god knows where. Spoiler alert, the family died. Just kidding, well the family is likely dead now but not because of an upside down flailing shadowmonster...i think.

HAPPY HALLOWEEK Boils and Ghoulies! Our favorite time of year has arrived once again, if it hadn't then we'd be having a very different kind of conversation right now. Thankfully that's not the case and we can get on with our celebration of mental anguish. This week we will be exploring variety of horror themed topics mostly related to gaming, rather than one giant terrifying post we feel its best to slowly draw out the tension with scraps of viscera.

Today is all about watching vs participating.

Official Maniac soundtrack by Rob.  Please enjoy while you read.

Us gamers are a special kind of fucked up. There exists within us a strange desire to simulate fear and anyone who plays games has most likely played something scary on purpose. Mulling over the trailers, watching lets plays and chin scratching over which title has the best scare: cost ratio. It takes a certain kind of someone to actively seek out horror just for the thrill and excitement fear can bring us. Of course we are not in any real, tangible danger so we convince ourselves its safe. We all saw our share of horror on screen at a young tender age and assumed we were equipped to handle any slimy monster, or red painted-whatever came at us.....

Friday the 13th pt.7 the flying twinkie.

Friday the 13th pt.7 the flying twinkie.

But watching vs participating is a very different thing. The first example of this was my personal experience with Resident Evil in the summer of 1996. I was 14 years old and was a big slasher horror fan, presumably like most boys my age. Thus far Mario, Sonic, Crash Bandicoot, Zelda: a link to the past were a few examples of my early gaming career. At the time horror, for me, was having one life left before a game over. Watching Jason Voorhees dashing innocent campers against a tree was shocking, but i didn't loose any sleep over it. 

We spent all our allowance on renting the game for the weekend, bus tickets to get to Blockbuster video and slurpees with bags of candy to get us through the night. So our budget was stressed already and the guy at Blockbuster was really pushing us to get a memory card!? What the hell is a memory card? I can't save the game on the disk? We had a quick huddle about it and resolved that we would not require a Memory card. Mistake. We had inadvertently created a Roguelike and just amped the tension to 11 with that choice. Which in hindsight was a big moment in my obsession with horror.

When we booted the game up we had a good laugh. Even then, the intro was hilarious. But then we started playing the game. The slow loading screens were done so well that many of us gave up the controller before the next rooms door opened out of hopeless anticipation. The audio cues of slow footsteps would send us reeling. What pussies i thought, then i would play. Enter a room, and the now famous dog scene from the game really screwed me up. When the dog smashed through the window nobody in the room knew what to do, including myself. Normally someone in the room would have something to say, albeit not helpful or constructive, but something. This time, no. I popped off a few rounds at the carpet and ran away. A reasonable response. I was sweating, short of breath. My Heart was throbbing bad. I realized that i had just experienced that moment with my whole body and not just my mind. 

Watching lets plays is popular because your waiting for a reaction from the player with nothing really to invest in. All the best lets plays are from horror games. Watching someone freak out is, and always will be, fucking funny. If you were the one playing you probably would have reacted in a similar way which adds to the funny (flailing all about and screaming like a baby) But you will certainly never forget it. 

When you play the role of the character everything changes. Your invested --- spending time and money on something you expect to stimulate some sort of emotion. We expect this now because, usually, the games deliver and treat us to something special. In a film nothing is at stake. Awful things happen to innocent people. Killer lives or dies. THE END. You might remember an especially brutal kill or the sexy lead character, maybe the killers mask. For me, i remember much more about a gaming experience because, if done well, iv'e tricked my mind to believe that i was there. Rarely do i ever feel like the character i`m playing. Mostly i put myself into the shoes of the protagonist. Much more frightening that way. Occasionally i find myself recalling a certain memory of myself reading a morbid letter with faint scratching sounds coming from the wall beside me in a dark, smokey room and distinctly remember feeling nervous. Turns out it was a sequence from Metro; 2033. Has that ever happened to you?

Fear is a fascinating and powerful thing. Its a visceral emotion with the potential to overcome ones entire life if not tended to properly. It must be constantly analyzed, assessed and controlled in order to be an effective measuring device of outside threats. Some believe it to be an exaggerated leftover self preservation response from our primeval days hiding from predators. Still effective today and absolutely necessary for our survival. Something i feel we can all agree on is that we have felt it in at least one of its many forms, routinely.

Tomorrow is the efficacy of atmosphere and sound in Horror games. Tune in kiddies and happy HALLOWEEK.