Posts Tagged ‘comic books’

Remember when we were all skeptical of a new Hellboy film without Ron Perlman? And then we saw early shots of David Harbour of Stranger Things as the titular character and were like, “This could go somewhere”?

Well, I just got back from the theater, and this was a fun little romp. And from the sound of things, I may be the only person saying that, but whatever. This is my blog, so you’re getting my opinion today.

Hellboy follows…Hellboy, a demon creature who was raised by a monster hunter to fight all the creepy-crawlies that go bump in the night. On a mission to England though, he finds himself discovering rather uncomfortable truths about his past and lineage, as well as struggling with whether he is as good a creature as his father wants him to be. All while a powerful witch named Nimue is resurrected with plans to spread a plague across the world and bring on the Apocalypse. Possibly with Hellboy at her side.

I have to say, this feels like a comic book movie. By which I mean, the plot feels lifted right from a comic book. There are tangents and flashbacks galore for exposition. And for the most part that works. It’s fun, fast-paced, and has some great action scenes with lots of movement and kicking of ass. And unlike Us, the sprinkling of jokes throughout the film works here, possibly because it’s a comic book movie (though Us is still a phenomenal film).

I also liked the characters. David Harbour as Hellboy and Sasha Lane as Alice Monaghan, a girl Hellboy once helped and who now works as a medium/apprentice ass-kicker are among my favorites from the film for their chemistry and humor. And for those who were worried about David Harbour as Hellboy, don’t be. Yeah, Ron Perlman will always be great, but Harbour’s essentially playing a different version of the character, one who’s still getting to know himself and figure things out. Thus he’s a lot rougher and has more issues than previous film versions. He also drinks a lot and doesn’t have a million cats throughout his home, so there’s that.

I also enjoyed Milla Jovovich’s performance as Nimue. The character is kind of one-dimensional, but the actress brings angry and on a mission to the role very well. And my God, she does not look a day past 28, and I’m falling in love with her just writing this.

That said, the many flashbacks, some of which are pretty long, can be kind of distracting and are used mainly for lots of info-dumping. I would’ve liked it if maybe some of the flashbacks were shortened so we could get more on Ben Daimio, who I felt needed a more fleshed-out emotional arc. It would make sense to do that rather than have a lengthy flashback about Hellboy’s “birth” with a superhero character named Lobster Johnson who doesn’t really contribute that much to the story. Actually, more than a few characters were in this film with no purpose. There was a witch character who I could not see the point of. She interacts with Nimue, talks to Hellboy, and then leaves. I mean, what the hey?

I get a feeling a lot of creative decisions were made in order to jumpstart a film series or even a cinematic universe, and thankfully there was less groundwork-laying for future films than there was in Batman vs. Superman or 2017’s The Mummy, neither of which I care for, but it could’ve been handled a lot more delicately in my opinion.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Hellboy a 3.2. It’s nothing that amazing, but it is a fun two hours of monsters, action and mayhem. If you’re just looking for a mindless comic book action film, you could do worse. As it is, this is good enough for me, and sometimes, that’s all I ask for.

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for advanced readers for Rose. The novel is a fantasy-horror story following a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is that you read it and consider posting a review online somewhere on or after the release date. If interested, please send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

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There’s a certain era of British history that writers write about maybe more than the medieval era. This era witnessed unprecedented growth and change for the British empire, as well as many of the greatest contributions to literature in the past three hundred years. Not to mention a whole lot of material for bodice rippers and horror stories.

I’m talking about the Victorian era. Named, rather obviously, after Queen Victoria, who sat on the British throne from June 1837 until January 1901. This has long been an era of interest to authors of a number of different genres, as well as among the general populace. Every year, hundreds of works of fiction come out set in that era: novels and short stories, movies, TV shows, comic books. We also have at least a couple of new books on any given topic of the era, and there are Victorian enthusiasts all over the world who research that age like crazy and even like to dress up as Victorians.

But what is it about the Victorian era that entrances people? Why do so many authors visit this age to write?* Well, I have a few guesses as to why that is:

  • The romance and glitz of the era. I think this is our first association with the Victorian age. I don’t know where or when this association popped up, but it’s the main reason. More than any other reason, there’s a romanticism to that age. Perhaps it might have something to do with the number of famous novels that came out during that era. A number of them have romance as an important plot or subplot. And as many of these books have endured the test of time, they’ve colored our associations of that age.
    Which brings me to the next point:

  • The literature. While I’m not the biggest fan of the Victorians’ writing style (racism aside, if he weren’t a halfway decent writer, I’d give up on Lovecraft for taking too much after them), it’s undeniable that many of the authors from that age left quite a mark on our modern literature. We still read Charles Dickens in classrooms across the world, and there are countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol out there. The Bronte sisters have all created works that have been held up as timeless romances for generations of readers. And as my good friend Angela Misri will tell you, no character has become more synonymous with the word “detective” than Sherlock Holmes. Truly the literature of the age has had an effect on our view of it.
  • An era of widespread change. Victorian Britain went through an amazing number of changes during Victoria’s reign. The most obvious, of course, was this was the age of the Industrial Revolution. Factories and manufacturing became the hub of the economy, and millions moved to the cities to find work. This change also contributed to a number of new work practices, as well as contributing to the overcrowding of cities and the widening gap between the rich and the poor that we still see today. This was also when Britain spread its empire across the world and into new territories, including parts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
    But there were other changes. For example, who was allowed to vote was widened, women gained many more rights, and education became available to the lower classes. And that’s just scratching the surface of the number of changes that occurred while Victoria was on the throne.

And of course, Jack the Ripper’s the perfect embodiment of the age’s dark side.

  • Victorian Britain had a dark and dirty underbelly. While most of us associate the era with glitz and romance, there’s a darker side to Queen Victoria’s age. Poverty was widespread, and many people struggled to make ends meet. Women often had to turn to prostitution just to get a bite to eat or a place to sleep for the night. Many turned to alcohol or opium to numb their troubles. This was the background that allowed Jack the Ripper to hunt down those prostitutes.
    On top of that, medicine, cosmetics, and foods were more likely to kill out of you than help you. Opium or arsenic in your gout cure, lead in your foundation, poor refrigeration and rat droppings in your meat. Hell, your clothes could choke you to death and the dyes could stain your skin for months. People bathed only once a week, and the rest of the time they used heavy perfumes to mask the smell. And if you lived in London, you could expect mud and shit to line the roads rather than bricks!
    And God help you if you had a mental illness. Or a woman who wanted anything more than being a dutiful wife and mother. You could get locked up and have cold water dumped on your head from great heights while doctors came up with all sorts of crazy reasons for why you were mad. Common reasons include not being religious enough, having faulty menstruation, or masturbating.
    Yeah, you laugh, but imagine having to live through it. Pretty nasty, right? It was even worse if you were Irish. The Irish potato famine was going on around this time, and let me tell you, the folks in Parliament could’ve done a lot more to help out with that.
  • It lends itself to many genres. This is probably the biggest reason of all: it’s adaptable to many stories. Historical fiction, obviously, but you’ll find the Victorians appearing in many different kinds of stories. Romances are often set in that world, but also science fiction (steampunk especially), horror stories (Gothic and ghost stories especially, and some cosmic horror too), fantasies (especially ones with fairies or little girls falling down rabbit holes) and of course, mysteries and thrillers.

All these and more are why the Victorians enjoy such staying power in our media. It’s a perfect storm of factors for making a time period not only endure in literature, but give it a special cast that makes it interesting to the writer and average person alike.

I actually first fell in love with the Victorians while in college. I read a manga set in Victorian England, and while it was heavy on the romance and glitz, it got me interested. I’ve kept reading since then, and found out quite a bit more. And seeing as during my research, I’ve come up with more than a few ideas for stories, all that research will definitely come in handy.

If you would like to dive into the Victorian world and learn a bit about it, here are my recommendations:

If you want a good intro to Victorian England, this might be a good gateway drug for it.

  • Emma by Kaoru Mori. In no way related to the novel by Jane Austen, this historical romance manga was my first real introduction to the Victorian period. Beautiful art and a simple yet engaging story.
  • Victorian Britain from The Great Courses. Narrated by Professor Allitt of Emory University, this series of lectures is a great overview of the period for the average visitor.
  • The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow. You want to know the most about the most notorious serial killer in history and cut through all the rumor and bullshit? This is the book for you.
  • How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. You want to know what the average life of a Victorian was like? From rich to poor, this is the book for you.
  • Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson. A friend from college sent this to me as a birthday present. It’s a rather eye-opening look at Queen Victoria’s life and reign.
  • Unmentionable by Therese O’Neill. Want to know all about Victorian bathroom habits, and the stuff they don’t talk about in the bodice rippers or polite society? You will laugh yourself silly with this one. Trust me, I just finished it yesterday, I would know.

Well, I’ve about talked your ear off on this age. But can you see why? It’s a fascinating era, and it’s one that’s going to continue to show up in fiction for years to come (especially if I can write a good story or two in it). And it’s amazing how just one woman’s reign, the first in centuries in her country that nearly never happened (seriously, read how she became heir to the throne. It’s insane!), has endured as much as it had. Whether romantic and shiny or dark and seedy, there’s a story in this era just for you.

Do you enjoy or write about Victorian England? Why? Why do you think it’s so popular?

What media do you recommend for anyone wanting to learn about the era?

*I’m not suggesting, by the by, that this age is visited more than any other. One needs only look at the breadth of literature to see that storytellers are drawing from all of known history and even from dark prehistory to tell stories. I just chose Victoria’s reign because that one has special importance to me, as you can tell.

Today I wanted to talk about something that is becoming much more common in fiction these days, and that’s the twist villain. If you’re unfamiliar, a twist villain is when one character in a story seems to be the villain, but later on it’s revealed that another character, usually a character we thought was a good guy, is actually the villain. This twist villain is supposed to be a surprise, something you didn’t see coming while reading the story. Hence the name “twist villain.” The problem is, the twist villain is becoming such a common trope these days. In the past couple years, we’ve seen it in Disney films like Zootopia and Frozen; popular novels like Gone Girl and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; a couple of recent superhero films; and more than I can possibly name in this blog post. And when so many works of fiction are using the twist villain, we become used to not only seeing the trope but also the signs that a twist villain is going to be used (and trust me, there are signs), and then when we see the twist villain, we’re not very surprised. Heck, sometimes we even predict who the villain is well before it’s revealed.

Why is this trope becoming so popular? Simple: people want a good story. Good stories produce good memories and good profits. As standard stories of good vs. evil have been done to death, creators need to think of new stories and story elements to keep consumers interested in their work. One way to do that is a third-act twist, which when done right can really enhance a story. And a twist villain can be a very good third-act twist, if you’re careful with it.

Sadly, I find that a lot of creators aren’t careful with their twist villains, making the twist ineffective when it happens. Which is sad, because I love the idea of a twist villain. Heck, it’s one I might use in the future, if I haven’t used it already. A good twist villain can make your mind reel, make you look back trough a story to see if there were any clues and make you marvel at the genius of the creators for setting up that twist so well.

A bad twist villain, on the other hand, just leaves you feeling neutral at best (my reaction during Zootopia) and disappointed at worst (my reaction looking back on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed). Which is why I’ve come up with a few tips for writing an effective twist villain. With any luck, these tips will help other authors (and myself) avoid making a bad twist villain.

1. Does your story really need a twist villain? Any time you want to include something in a story, ask yourself if it’s really needed. I swear, so many stories just add in elements that aren’t needed (*cough* lots of stuff from BvS *cough*). Ask yourself if your story can stand on its own without any of the extra elements. If it doesn’t, DON’T FORCE IT IN! Especially with twist villains.

2. If you’re going to leave clues behind, don’t make them obvious. You can have a twist villain without leaving a trail (Hans from Frozen, for example), but with twist villains, creators often like to leave little hints of who the real villain is. I think this is narcissism on our part; we like to show how clever we are. But that leads to us leaving some rather obvious clues, which our readers/viewers will pick up on and deduce the twist long before the twist occurs. Take Scooby-Doo 2: it was so obvious that the reporter was the villain! Why else would they include a reporter with poor ethical practices unless she was at least in league with the villains?

3. Have a good herring villain. A herring villain is just that: a herring to keep us off the real villain. In Frozen, the herring villain was the Duke of Weselton. He had obvious malicious goals, is willing to kill Elsa, and he was over-the-top, which felt right for a villain in this movie. Imagine our surprise when we find out he’s not the true villain, but Hans, who had no trail leading to him and was such a nice guy up till that reveal! A good herring villain will often lead to a great twist villain reveal.

Compare that to Zootopia or Wonder Woman: the former doesn’t give us a herring villain, which causes us to consider each character and eventually land on Ms. Bellwether, who has said some interesting things and has actually benefited from these events. The latter gives us a herring villain, but it’s a comic book movie, and the General doesn’t do a thing to make us think he’s a famous DC villain we’re very sure will make an appearance.

In short, have a herring villain, and make sure they’re set up in a way where people will actually consider them as the main villain, so the twist will actually be effective. To do that, be aware of what sort of story you’re writing. Often the story will have certain requirements for villains (motive, opportunity, etc), so make it seem like the herring villain has those. You’ll find your herring villain much more effective.

4. Do the reveal earlier than the third act. A lot of twist villains reveal themselves in the third act. Nothing wrong with this, but it’d also work if the reveal was done earlier. For example, Hydra was revealed as the villain in Captain America: Winter Soldier in the second act, and that was a really interesting twist, as we hadn’t expected it. If they’d done it later in the story, we might have actually figured it out by then, or there wouldn’t be enough time for exposition mixed with a great climax. So consider doing the reveal elsewhere.

5. Try a variation on the trope. The twist villain, like most tropes, has a standard formula: something happens, one character seems like the villain, but another character is revealed at the third act to be the villain and why. Oh, and it’s usually not the protagonist.

Variations on common tropes have proven to be very effective in storytelling, so try something a little different with the twist villain, like these examples below:

  • It’s a villain, but which one? In Doctor Who series 8, we’re introduced to a character named Missy, who seems likely to be a villain, but we’re not sure what her deal is if she is. In the second-to-last episode, she explains that Missy is short for Mistress, making her a female regeneration of the Master, a well-known DW villain. A lot of minds were blown that day, believe me. The idea is you can introduce a seemingly new character into a long-running story, and then link them back to a previously-established character. Trust me, it works.
  • Everyone’s the villain! Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express ends with every suspect actually having some sort of hand in the murder. It made the novel a sensation back in the day, because it was a seemingly impossible idea, but it worked. So try something impossible and make it possible: everyone’s a villain, no ones’ the villain, or even two very good suspects with alibis both committed the murder. It could work.
  • The hero? American Horror Story: Hotel is my favorite season of the series, and this twist is one reason why. The protagonist, a police detective, is on the hunt for a serial killer, only to find out in the second half of the season that he’s the killer! Trust me, I did not see that coming until the reveal episode, and only by a few minutes! So making a hero or a character who nobody thinks of as a possible villain the villain can work very well.

And these are just some examples of variations that have worked in the past.

Twist villains are a trope that won’t go away anytime soon, but as long as we have them, we should write them as well as we write any other type of character or trope. Because if we’re not going to give people our best, then what are we actually giving them?

What are your thoughts on twist villains? What are some good tips for writing them well?

(The following post may contain spoilers for certain TV shows and movies. Be warned before going in)

It’s that time of year again. I’m counting down the Top 10 villains that have seriously impressed me over the past year. I’ve been doing this for the past three years, and now I’m on the fourth year, so I’m very excited. Anyway, this year I had a hard time choosing villains for this list. Not because there were so many great villains (though there are plenty of those), but mostly because the villains felt slightly lackluster this year. Only a few really stood out this year for me. Not sure why, but it is what it is. Maybe this coming year, we’ll see some much better villains (especially with some creepy horror games coming out this year and all that).

So without further ado, let’s jump into the first half of these villains. Remember, I’m not including any villains of my own creation (that’s cheating) or any real-life people. These are fictional villains, and they’re the cream of the crop.

Also make sure to check out the lists from 2015 (Parts 1 & 2), 2014 (1 & 2), and 2013 (1 & 2) and see which villains made the list those years.

Let’s begin.

10. Lex Luthor Jr. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

A lot of people had some mixed feelings about this movie, and more than a few hated this rendition of Superman’s arch-nemesis, played by Jesse Eisenberg. However, I personally enjoyed this film, and I enjoyed watching Eisenberg play this version of Luthor. For me, he felt like a villain I would create: rich, intelligent, but psychotic and willing to go to great lengths to reach his goals, including creating great and terrifying monsters. Perhaps this villain being Lex Luthor might not have been Zack Snyder’s best choice, and perhaps his goals were a little convoluted, but he was still fun for me, and I feel he should be on this list.

9. The Pale Man/Edgar Mullens (Haunter)

This movie came out in 2013, but I only saw it this past month, and IT SCARED ME! And the villain, the Pale Man/Edgar Mullens, played by Stephen McHattie of Pontypool fame, was a big part of it. A serial killer who died in old age and continues to kill in the afterlife, he enjoys keeping the souls of his victims trapped and repeating their final days on this Earth until he kills him. His soft, silky confident voice and that chilling but pleasant smile, that casual manner he shows at nearly every moment, make him so terrifying to be watch. And when you find out the full extent of his crimes, it’ even worse.

Haunter‘s definitely worth a viewing, and this guy’s definitely worth hiding behind the couch from.

8. Jim Jacobs (The Veil)

Based on Jim Jones of Jonestown infamy, Jim Jacobs and his ghostly followers are the antagonists of Netflix’s horrifying creation The Veil. A preacher who believed it was possible to free oneself from the cycle of life and death, he had a very radical interpretation of theology that actually turned out to be true, but before he and his followers could free themselves, the local authorities interfered, leading to the deaths of everyone involved. Now their ghosts wait, and watch, and hope for the day when they can finish their work.

What’s even freakier about this guy is not only is he able to deliver on his promises (that’s a first), but that you actually like him! Yeah, even as he scares you, you find yourself liking him. Not hard to imagine why though: he looks like John Lennon, has a pleasant voice with a Southern accent, and he makes it sound like everything will be alright, even if everything you’re watching is horrifying!

But what really clinches the deal is how he closes out the movie. I won’t give it away here, but he has this really triumphant moment, talking about how his people will now usher in a new era in humanity’s history, and then in the same tone of voice, remarks on the day’s weather! And it closes out the film so well.

If you’re at home and you want a good scare, join Jim Jacobs for a service. You will become a believer!

7. The Nightcomers (Penny Dreadful)

When is the third season hitting Netflix? Anyway, second season’s villains, the Nightcomers, are freaky to behold. Witches who are in league with the devil, they are a family coven who are out to do harm to the show’s protagonist, Vanessa Ives. They are led by Evelyn Poole, a woman who sold her soul simply to be beautiful (you know, that old chestnut), and her daughter Hecate, who has her own agenda in this Apocalypse-bringing cult.

What’s scariest about them though is not just their magic and their allegiance to the devil, but their true forms: hairless women with big, gaping holes in their bodies, like a monster slashed them wide open but didn’t kill them. I would not want to meet them in a back alley, no matter what era it was.

6. Piper Shaw (Scream TV Series)

I don’t know how many of you have watched the TV series reboot of the 1996 slasher cult classic, but Scream is a very solid TV series (loving Season 2, by the way), and has done better than anyone ever expected (even me, who thought the first episode was completely silly the first time I saw it). And the woman behind the mask in the first season, Piper Shaw, is a force to be reckoned with.

A reporter for a true-crime podcast, she arrives in town to cover the murders taking place, and befriends a few of the main characters, including protagonist Emma Duvall. However, it’s revealed in the last episode that she’s the killer, which I did not see coming, and that she has a very good reason for becoming a serial killer (not that there’s ever a good reason, but you get my point). What makes her a great villain though, is how she manages to insinuate into the characters’ lives, become someone they can count on as an ally, and then when she reveals herself in the last episode, it is such a shock.

I don’t know how the rest of the series will do, but Piper Shaw is part of why the first season was such a success, and I encourage you to check out the show if you haven’t already.

 

That’s all for now. I’ll post #5-1 when I get the chance. Until then, what do you think of the villains on the list this year so far? Any you would have included? Let’s discuss, Followers of Fear.

I’m taking a break from posting Video Rage updates and #FirstLineFridays (though I hope you’re reading those with the same enthusiasm and interest you read the blog posts of others) to talk about something that’s become a bit of an interest for me. Now, I don’t play video games. I don’t have a console, nor do I have the time, patience, or drive to play them. But I love watching others play them. Specifically, I watch gamers play games and post the footage of the games and of themselves playing the games on YouTube. They’re called Let’s Play videos, and they are one of the most popular genres of video on YouTube.

And I’ve become quite the fan of them. Especially videos of horror games. And I’ve found that horror games, like movies and books, can run the gamut from excellent to “we didn’t put that much effort into this game and we’re merely taking advantage of people who are hoping to find a gem among a pile of crap.” Yet from a writer’s standpoint, I’ve found that even bad or average games can lead to great ideas for stories.

Beyond the basic elements of a scary story–the monster or evil the character/player has to face–the developers often, especially in the good games, put a lot of emphasis on visuals and audio. They’ll work with lighting, placement of objects, and, best of all, the antagonists of the game to create the creepiest effect. They also use sound effects and music as effectively as any composer and sound mixer to heighten tension and signal to players what sort of scene in the story they’ve come across. Add in great story that can be told over longer periods than movies and even some books, well-timed jumpscares, and objectives in the game that usually involve getting near a monster, and you’ve got a recipe not only for a scary game, but a great vehicle that can put the creative player or viewer in the right state of mind to come up with scary story ideas of their own.

And you know what else? Some of those ideas can be pretty spectacular. I know, I know, what constitutes a good idea is often about perception, and the execution of those ideas in turning them into a story is also up to the author’s individual skill, but I just want to say, they are often very good ideas. Not too long ago, I had an idea for a novel that was inspired by a game. And it sounds like a very strange and creepy idea for a story. I think I state all this because despite the fact that the gaming industry has grown over the years, with thousands of professional and indie developers, and millions of players around the world, a lot of people still see gaming as a thing for kids and are surprised that gaming, and people who watch gamers play, is such a serious thing among adults and kids. Heck, even late night host Jimmy Kimmel made incredulous jokes about the phenomenon at one point, though he later came to realize that he may have been a little hasty in judgment and talked to Let’s Play gamers to get their side of it.

Truth be told, video games are a lot like comic books: what was originally seen as something meant for kids yet possibly bad for their minds has become something that adults can appreciate and serve as the basis for several successful movies, TV shows, and so much more. They’re continuously evolving, changing as new fans and creators join the community, inviting discussions and debates, new takes on old characters and stories and encouraging people to exercise their creativity and skills in the name of fun. It’s no surprise that games can also be enjoyed by both playing and watching, and allow creators to come up with their own fun and unique stories.

Though I do agree that certain games are best left out of the hands of children until they reach a certain maturity. Seriously, if you think it’s okay to let your five-year-old play a Grand Theft Auto game, I worry about your parenting skills.

But enough of that tangent. I’ve been talking about how horror games can serve as great creative juice for horror writers (and other creative types). So I’m going to list some of the best horror games I feel can give you inspiration, whether you decide to play them or just watch others do it. Each game has plenty going for it, so you can really learn a lot from it and get plenty of ideas. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Slender: The Eight Pages

I would be remiss if I did not list this one. This game set the standard for what constitutes a successful indie horror game. Based on the Slenderman character I’ve mentioned more than a few times on this blog, the game tasks the player trying to find eight notes scattered around a forest that pertain to the Slender Man, all while trying to avoid the creepster himself. While Slendy was popular on the Internet prior to the game, the game really caused him to explode as a phenomenon, and really hit home to people that indie horror games can be creative and cool, too.

Since Slender came out, the creators have put out a number of sequels, some of which are really great, and he’s appeared in other games as well. However, this is the game that started it all, and you should definitely give it a try, if only to set the bar for what a horror indie game can be.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

If Slender set the standard, then Five Nights at Freddy’s, which I’ve talked about on this blog as well, took the bar and threw it into the upper atmosphere. Created by programmer Scott Cawthon, Five Nights at Freddy’s (often abbreviated as FNAF) follows a security guard tasked with the night shift at a pizzeria with a checkered history while killer animatronics roam the halls trying to get into your office. The game combines simple gameplay, terrifying visuals, and strong jumpscares to create a powerful gaming experience, spawning three sequels, one kid-friendly spin-off, a novel that I’ve read and reviewed, and a movie I’ve made no secret that I’m excited about, as well as thousands of tribute and knock-off games inspired by or trying to capitalize on the popularity of the game.

Another reason this game is so popular is because the game has a huge mythology, but no one’s been able to make sense of it or put the events in order. You go online, you’ll find tons of people putting forth their theories about this haunted pizzeria and why the animatronics are trying to kill you. You should check out the games for that mystery alone, but for all the reasons I’ve listed, you cannot miss this game.

PT

You can’t actually get this game anymore as far as I’m aware, but you can find plenty of people who played it. PT stands for “playable teaser,” and was originally just that: a teaser for an upcoming game you could play. Specifically, PT was teasing a new Silent Hill game which filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was to be part of, until that project fell through. Still, PT was a great game on its own, despite the final two stages of the game considered to be confusing and requiring special knowledge to make it through them. Its eerie story, the strange unreality of the house setting, and other factors led to PT becoming a popular free mini-game.

Speaking of which, a short film based on PT was released online recently by YouTube channel Oddest of the Odd, and it really captures the game’s spirit and eeriness. Check it out here, and have a great time.

Until Dawn

Imagine a game version of Cabin in the Woods that’s trying to be serious horror instead of satirical horror comedy, and you’ll start to approach what Until Dawn is. A year after two sisters disappear at a mountain cabin, their brother and friends head back to the cabin to remember the girls and have fun, only to have or or several somethings stalk them. At times creepy or terrifying, at times silly or fun, Until Dawn features a cast of well-known actors including Brett Dalton, Hayden Panettiere, and the awesomely named Rami Malek.

I can’t reveal much more about this game without giving away a ton of surprises, which are more fun to discover by experiencing the game itself. I will tell you though that the game relies a lot on the “choice” mechanic, which means that you get special choices throughout playing the game, and those choices influence how the game turns out. Info revealed, who lives and who dies, all rely on the player’s choices, and this is reflected in the game’s emphasis on the Butterfly effect. Play it or watch it, you’re likely to get a very interesting film influenced by 80’s slasher films, mystery/thrillers, and some Native American mythology.

However, it’s only available on the PS4, so you’ll have to buy that if you want to get Until Dawn. Sucks, right?

Emily Wants to Play

Holy crap, this is a tough but fun game. A pizza delivery guy is lured into a house and finds that the ghost of an evil little girl and her sentient dolls have trapped him in the house, determined to have him play a game that could cost him his life. Creepy in both tone and characters, this is a game that is as scary as it is challenging. However, if you have the fortitude to play, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. People with doll phobias should not play this game though. You’ll be unable to sleep afterwards though.

Wick

For some reason, this game isn’t as well known as others, which is sad because it is SO GOOD! Armed with matches and candles only, you have to spend the night in a wood that was once the home of a family whose parents died in a fire and whose children went missing. Along with finding new candles and collecting objects related to the children, you have to avoid the ghosts of the children that haunt the woods. From the dark woods to the freaky nature of the ghosts, Wick is a game that will remind you of campfire stories that kept you up at night as a child.

Boogeyman

Using a similar mechanic to FNAF (and possibly inspired by it), Boogeyman follows a young boy who moves into a house that has a history of children disappearing from it. Learning from the tapes of a previous resident about the creatures that live in the house’s walls, you have to fight through several nights with mainly a flashlight and keep the Boogeyman from coming into your room and tearing you apart. From the distraction-filled room to the design of the Boogeyman himself, this is definitely a game to make you want to check under the bed and in the closet before you go to sleep.

Sophie’s Curse

You get a job to stay by an old man’s side and watch his house through the night while he sleeps. Sounds easy enough…until you find out that the house is haunted and that the only way to keep away the creepy little girl ghost is to make sure a series of devices set up throughout the house are powered and functioning. Such is Sophie’s Curse, which is a really dark game. Literally: there is more shadow than light in this game. And it works, because the sources of light are the same machines that protect your life. And when Sophie’s nearby or she’s trying to mess with the machines in the house, you really get scared. Play the game, and see if you survive. After playing this game, you cannot get inspired by it.

Outlast

I’ve saved the best for last. Outlast was developed by Red Barrels, a company composed of gaming professionals who came together from a variety of companies to make a badass horror game. And boy, did they succeed: from the moment it came out, this game quickly climbed up horror game lists and has continued to terrify us ever since, as has its DLC prequel/side-story Whistleblower and as I’m sure its sequel will do this fall.

The game follows Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist who gets tipped off to some weird things going on at the isolated Mount Massive Asylum in the California mountains. He arrives there armed with only a notebook and a video camera, only to find that the criminally insane inmates–who have been subjected to horrifying experiments–have gotten loose and are causing havoc in the asylum. You have to try and get out while also unraveling the mystery of Mount Massive, and of the experiments that go on there. It’s TERRIFYING! Visuals, audio, storytelling, tension and creep factor, everything is as close to perfect as possible. I’ve tried playing it, and I had to stop because everytime I did, I left shaking and worried about my heart.

So if you want a long and really scary movie experience, I suggest watching a Let’s Play of Outlast.

What do you think of horror games? Do you have a favorite?

Let’s discuss.

[Writer’s Note: The following post does contain some slight spoilers about the new Avengers movie, but it’s all very minor stuff, nothing that would ruin your viewing of the film if you plan to go and see it. Just wanted to let you know.]

So last night I went with a friend of mine to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was fantastic, great action scenes, some really dark moments of character development, and plenty of that humor we’ve come to enjoy from the MCU films. If I were to give this film a rating, I’d probably put it between a 4 and a 5.

However, there were some things that bothered me, and I want to talk about them here. One of those things, as said by Maria Hill during that party (which we’ve known about for months, so it’s not a spoiler): “Where are all the women?” Yes indeed, where all the women? If you think about it, while there are plenty of women in these movies who hold their own against the men, the women are still underrepresented in the MCU. Black Widow has shown up in four films so far and set to appear in the next Captain America film, but a solo film isn’t even in the works (though a treatment apparently has been written) and she’s only got 24 action figures compared to over a hundred various Iron Man toys.

It’s even more sad when you consider how she’s such a great, well-rounded character who can be a great role model for girls, and Scarlett Joahnnson’s costars make fun of her and call the character “a slut” and “a whore”. Yeah, they did that. Women are so much more than their sexuality and gender, and yet these guys reduce a character to being sexually promiscuous just because she’s comfortable around a bunch of testosterone-high males. Seriously, half or more of the audiences of these films happen to be female, as I understand. At least half the people in the theater with me last night were women, and I don’t think they were there just for Captain America and Thor’s good looks. You’d think the people making these films would remember that more often before saying something so hurtful and wrong.

Seriously, where’s her time? Where’s her solo film?

 

Now, there is a Ms. Marvel film in the works, Agent Carter was a real hit when it came out as a TV miniseries earlier this year and AKA Jessica Jones is being made into a series on Netflix, but the Ms. Marvel film isn’t due out until late 2018, a full year after DC plans to release a Wonder Woman film. Really Marvel? You’ve been doing this for way longer than the other studios, and you’re going to let DC get a superheroine flick out before you? I’m ashamed. You could’ve at least put more priority on getting more female characters out there.

Another thing that gets my goat (and again, this won’t ruin your experience of the movie, so don’t bite my head off), is that while Nick Fury, James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine and Sam Wilson/Falcon make appearances, the latter two’s involvement in this film is minimal at best. War Machine shows up near the very end but ends up contributing very little. And Falcon is maybe in the film for a little over forty seconds, making me wonder why he was in the film at all if they weren’t going to really use him.

Really? Look, by 2050 minorities are going to be the majority in this country, and shows like Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder and movies like the Fast & Furious franchise are popular partially because of their extremely diverse casting. People like seeing characters like them that they can look up to in these stories, and these franchises and shows give that to so many people who have been shut out of the entertainment industry for years. Yet the most diverse casting so far in these films is the group from Guardians of the Galaxy. And I think with so many different non-white heroes in the Marvel universe, the filmmakers are making a big mistake by not trying to have more diverse casts in their movies.

Then again, there is room for hope. A Black Panther film is in the works with Chadwick Boseman as the character, there are rumors that the new Spider-Man might be black or Latino*, and hints from Age of Ultron that the next couple of movies will feature more diverse casts, which I can only say is a good thing. And with Marvel planning on putting out more of these films at least through 2028 as long as people are still willing to see them (my God, this franchise will never end!), so there’s still opportunity to make sure the women of the MCU get their chance in the spotlight as well.

They’ve got plenty of time, so I hope thy use that to put out a few films with more diverse casts.

 

We just have to hope that Kevin Feige and the folks producing these films take the hints their audiences are sending them.

What’s your take on this? Is it a big problem, or are critics taking this issue way too seriously?

Which character would you like to see given a solo film?

*I’m sorry, I’m going to take the end of this post to rant a little and blow some steam. I kind of liked the Marc Webb Spider-Man films with Andrew Garfield. He was funny, they were clearly setting up a cinematic universe of their own, and I liked the characters very much. But Rise of Electro makes less than $750 million at the box office and what does Sony do? Cancel all immediate plans for a sequel and sell out to Marvel so that Spidey can join the Avengers! I mean really! Why even bother making the films in the first place? I just hope Spidey 3.0 is funny and engaging, otherwise one of my childhood heroes is going to be ruined for me.

It’s been a while since I reviewed anything. What was the last thing I reviewed? Oh my God, it was American Horror Story: Coven! That was back in January. It’s been a while. Well, no time like the present. Let’s get started.

Well, Captain America is one of my favorite Avengers (the other is Iron Man), and I was really hoping that this movie would be a lot better than Thor 2 (that one sucked). I got my wish: Captain America 2 was awesome! The story starts out with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finishing up a morning run and making a new friend before heading off on a rescue mission. Or so he thinks: events on the mission take a turn for the dark, and from there things just get worse. Before we know it, Rogers is running for his life with Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) and they discover a plot that will not only threaten to destroy SHIELD, but possibly destroy the free world as we know it.

Although I’m of the camp that wants less franchises spanning several movies and more original films that bring new ideas and concepts to the screen, I have to say this is Marvel Cinematic Universe at its best. There’s not only action and explosions, but an actual plot where we see character growth and themes that reflect our modern world. The actors were stunning, the story kept you guessing, and the ending made you wish for more (unfortunately, Age of Ultron isn’t due out till next year, and I don’t think Guardians of the Galaxy will have that many connections to the other films in the series). Oh, and near the end of the film, there’s one moment that’ll remind you of another one from Man of Steel. Even Marvel can do that better than DC. Yes, Marvel beat you at your own scene, one you used in advertisements but one Marvel didn’t include in a single ad. Must be sad to know your biggest success in the movie industry ended because the director wanted a perfect ending and decided against a spin-off, doesn’t it?

And if you do go see the film, stay through the credits. There will be two special bonus scenes that’ll contain hints of what is to come in possible future films. Don’t miss it.

Overall, I’m giving Captain America 2 a 5 out of 5. Yes, it’s that good a movie. And if it makes you want more, it deserves that score. I just hope they end the movies in 2028, which is how far they’re apparently planning this franchise. After a while, things tend to get repetitive and boring. God knows it’s just sad to see a franchise that should’ve ended long ago still putting out movies that nobody wants to see (*cough cough* Transformers 4, Jurassic Park 4, Indiana Jones 5, Harry Potter spin-offs *cough cough*).

Now if you need me, I’ll be writing. For some reason, NBC is having trouble broadcasting SNL, so that’s out for tonight. Too bad, too. It was starting to get fun before the broadcast started getting f***ed up.