Posts Tagged ‘Outlast’

My favorite films surrounding my remote control.

You know, this may not be the biggest issue in my life. And it may not be the meaningful thing I could write about on this blog. But you know, it’s something I find myself pondering from time to time. What do my Top 6 Favorite Horror Movies say about me and my interests?

(It used to be 7, but I realized while making my list that while I enjoyed the film, it wasn’t something I would gladly watch again and again and again, just say the word go. Also, my tastes change over time, so this list could look very different in ten or even five years, as well as grow or shrink.)

But what does it say about me that I enjoy these particular films? What about them draws me to them? I tried to figure it out by listing them and then listing what I liked about them. Here are the films in question:

Perfect Blue (1997)
Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directed by Satoshi Kon, Mima Kirigoe is a J-Pop idol who is forced by her agency to transition into acting. This and a violent stalker sends Mima into a violent psychological down-spiral, one which may very well claim her life.

  • One of the few good examples of anime horror I’ve come across in my life. The art style is also excellent, where characters and scenes are animated with a sense of realism rather than the usual anime exaggerations. This gives the horror a certain sense of realism that you wouldn’t normally find in anime.
  • The movie works to make you question, along with Mima, every moment of reality. What is real, what isn’t, what’s a dream, what’s part of Mima’s TV drama and what’s her actual life. It’s all up for debate throughout the movie, with the use of color, quiet scenes vs acting and dancing scenes, and repetition of events making you feel the disorientation Mima feels. All leading up to a final third with a horrific twist.

Color Out of Space (2020)
Starring Nicholas Cage and based on the novella by HP Lovecraft (one of my favorites by him, BTW), a meteor falls in a small West Virginia farm, giving off an odd color that can’t really be categorized. Soon after, strange events start happening on the farm, changing the plant life, the family, and reality itself. All leading to a devastating conclusion.

  • Ask most film critics, it’s one of the best HP Lovecraft/Lovecraftian horror adaptations ever made.
  • The film’s very misleading, at first playing up Cage’s penchant for odd acting and adding in plenty of comedy. Later on, however, Cage’s performance goes from funny to sinister, and the humor vanishes as the number of scary events occur and build, filling with you with dread.
  • The mix of practical effects and CGI is well done, with the latter only being employed as absolutely needed and the former being used enough to make fans of The Thing proud. This allows for the final scenes to be really horrifying, even when chock-full of CGI.
  • Just watch the cutting board and alpacas in the barn scenes. You’ll be scarred for life.

Overlord (2018)
During the D-Day invasion, a small troop of American soldiers sneak into a French town to take out the Nazi’s radio tower, preventing the Nazis from calling for help. What follows is a harrowing ride through hell as the team confronts not just Nazis and the horrors of war, but deadly experiments that may end up changing the tide of the war.

  • Despite being a “Nazi zombie” film, which is usually silly or played for laughs, this film plays it much more seriously. The zombies are almost a secondary feature of the film. The real emphasis is on how war scars and changes you, how horrible the drive to win can make a person, and how war brings out the depravity in all of us. When the zombies are on screen, they’re used sparingly, only to heighten the horror and the stakes.
  • During the scenes where the protagonist explores the laboratory, the emphasis on mood and atmosphere creates a powerful dread of what’s around every corner, under every sheet. If you’ve ever seen or played the game Outlast, it often feels like you’re in the middle of that game, and that is a terrifying thought to have.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
As a young girl, Angela sees her father and brother killed in an accident on a lake adjacent to Camp Arawak. Years later as a teen, Angela and her cousin Ricky go as campers, only for a strange series of deaths to ruin the summer fun. And in the center of it all, Angela seems to be a fixture.

Who else had their mind blown by this moment in the film?
  • This is a rather unique 80’s slasher. For one thing, the campers are all played by actual teens and tweens, rather than adults pretending to be teens. Coupled with the teens language and behavior, it often reminds me of my own camping days, except less Jewish and more murder-y.
  • There are also prolonged periods between (admittedly inventive) kills, which allows you to really get to know the characters and remind you that these are just kids. This makes each instance of death even more shocking and brutal than it would be if they were in your face one after the other.
  • The twist in this movie is rather famous and forces the viewer to recontextualize everything in a new light. I won’t say what happens, but ooh boy, it’s not the sort of thing you could do today. I’d be interested to see how a remake handles this twist and reworks it for a modern audience. Also, I wish there was a novelization for this movie, because it would be great.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
A medical student is filming a documentary about an older woman’s battle with dementia. While out at her country home, however, it becomes increasingly clear that this woman is dealing with something else besides dementia: a dark presence has come for Deborah Logan, and it’ll use her to accomplish its sinister goals.

  • Both a found footage and a possession movie, the take on the latter is very unique, both in the victim of possession and who/what is doing the possessing. However, since this is a film about a woman with dementia, it misleads you at first so that you don’t know if what you’re experiencing is really supernatural at first. And when it becomes clear that something supernatural is happening, it becomes both terrifying and tragic.
  • Did I mention this film is terrifying? Not just for anyone whose relatives have experienced dementia (and I’ve heard from people that that’s a form of terror in and of itself), but just as a horror movie it is terrifying. From dark and claustrophobic scenes in an abandoned mine to strange happenings in the house and one bloody scene that freaked me the hell out, this is not a film you want to watch with the lights out.

Prince of Darkness (1987)
A Catholic priest discovers an ancient artifact in the basement of an abandoned church that points to the fulfillment of an obscure end-of-world prophecy. Needing to prove it to the world, the priest enlists the help of several prominent professors from a local university and their grad/PhD students to help quantify this strange, evil miracle. As you can guess, shit really hits the fan.

  • One of John Carpenter’s lesser known masterpieces (which I think is a damn shame), the film has a unique take on God and Satan that feels more at home in a UFO cult, but works really well here. It also has some interesting ideas and themes to explore, such as the nature of evil, the relationship between religion and science, and even an allegory for the AIDS epidemic, which was at a peak when this film was made.
  • Also, while not the scariest thing ever, it is pretty damn creepy and has some truly great moments of horror.

So, there you go. These are my favorite horror films right now. And I struggle to find a unifying theme about why I elevate them above all others. Half of them are from the last decade, two from the 1980s, and one from the 1990s. They all place a lot of emphasis on psychological horror, but how and how much varies from film to film. Only two of them are adaptations of anything. No similar genres, directors or writers, different themes are explored in each one, and I own copies of all of them on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Maybe it’s just that they stick in my head more than others, or that they impressed me in some way that other horror films haven’t. Perhaps they’re the kind of stories I wish I’d wrote, or I like thinking of what I’d do with the material. Wait, no, it’s not that. I think that with every horror film.

If nothing else, I’ll be able to discuss films like Perfect Blue and Prince of Darkness with more people.

Well, maybe you’ll help me find some insight. If nothing else, there’s a chance you’ll be curious enough to see these films if you haven’t watched them before, or give them another watch if you have. You may even notice something I don’t.

You may even make some of them part of your Halloween watchlist this year (63 days till Halloween at the time of this writing). And if you do, I also recommend adding Carnival of Souls (1962), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), As Above, So Below (2014), The Void (2017), both versions of The Fly (1958 and 1986), the 2013 remake of Carrie, It (2017), and Freaky (2020). All make great additions to your Halloween viewing lineup. Not to mention all the movies coming out starting next month. I’m getting chills just thinking about it!

Anyway, this has been a long post and it’s getting late. I’m going to end it here and call it a night. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

What are your thoughts on these films? Did you notice anything I didn’t? What are your favorite horror films that you recommend to everyone?

“It’s a movie about Nazi zombies.” From that description alone, you’d think you’d know Overlord inside and out. After all, this subject’s been done before, and it’s usually pretty silly, overly gory, and focuses on some buff action-hero types who cut through the zombies with guns and on as many cheesy deaths as possible. But then you hear JJ Abrams is involved. And that it’s gotten a 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes. And His Royal Scariness Stephen King praises it on Twitter, comparing it to the early work of Stephen Spielberg.

I went to go see it with my cousin today, expecting it to be just as predictable as the movies that came before. What we got instead, to our surprise and delight, was an above average and atmospheric horror film.

Overlord¬†follows Ed Boyce, an African American soldier who is part of a special mission to facilitate the D-Day landings in France in WWII. His unit has to destroy a Nazi radio tower in a converted church in Normandy so the Germans can’t radio for support during the D-Day invasions. However, when they get to the town, they find something weird is happening there. Civilians are being dragged into the church, and those that do come out seem to be changed, and not for the better. Boyce and his unit soon realize they’ve discovered a dark plot that could change the course of the war. Unless they stop it.

As I said, this isn’t what you’d expect with a movie involving Nazi zombies. In fact, the zombies don’t feature as heavily as they might’ve in another film. Rather, director Julius Avery decided to focus more on the horrors of war and the creepy atmosphere, rather than sensationalized gore and violence. And it is effective. Everything, from the war-torn town to the blood and gore, look incredibly realistic. Very little CGI is used, which only makes things more authentic and visceral. I especially liked the Nazi base of operations underneath the church. It’s use of shadow, space and overabundance of creepy and bloody medical equipment reminded me of some of the scariest parts of the video game Outlast.* And as I said, there is an attention to the horrors and privations of war and atmosphere that you really do feel without the zombies being present.

And when the zombies do show up, God are they scary! They’re slimy and bloody, they move spasmodically and growl like animals. The fact that they aren’t overused especially helps.

I also found the cast very believable. True, I couldn’t help but think “It’s Fitz from Agents of SHIELD” every time Iain De Caestrecker’s character was on screen, flawless American accent or not. But other than that, you really do believe these actors are these characters. Jovan Adepo is especially good as Private Boyce, who is affected every time he sees someone die or has to kill someone. You believe this guy is going to be haunted for years to come.

One critique I do have for Overlord is that it does get a bit predictable at the end. I mean that’s fine, it’s a great finale, but you could still see where the film was going to go at that point.

All in all though, Overlord is a good horror film and a much better film than you’d expect. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.4. Unnerving and powerful, it’ll stay with you for a while after you’ve left the theater. Take a look and see for yourself.

*BTW, if you haven’t played or watch someone play Outlast, I highly recommend you try it. Just be careful though, because that game is enough to leave me shaking.

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.

I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but I’ve rewritten a number of stories, especially short stories, over the course of my writing career. It’s annoying to a certain degree, to have to start from scratch while writing the same story over and over again. It’s easier to just edit a single story, but when things need to be changed to such a degree that rewriting the story is either simpler or the same as editing the story.

I’ve rewritten What Happened Saturday Night more than once (especially the last third of it), still have to rewrite Evil Began in a Bar (as soon as I figure out how to go about it) and I’m in the process of doing a major revision of Miranda’s Tempest¬†that was inspired by one of my History of Witchcraft classes. Plus I plan to rewrite Laura Horn as soon as I have a moment. And you remember when I had to writ a new outline of Rose because the story was getting way too crazy for my advisor Manny (finally asked if I could name him here on my blog) and he told me to rethink where it was going? That was basically an outline rewrite. And it was after I had to rewrite the first four chapters because they were too light and campy for a horror novel.

Oy vey! That’s a lot of rewrites!

Still, as much as I hate having to do it, I know that a rewrite is ultimately beneficial. It makes the story much, much better. The difference between the first draft of What Happened Saturday Night, “Frauwolf” and the second draft was immense. And the third and fourth drafts showed even greater improvement. The Murderer’s Legacy improved a great deal once it became Miranda’s Tempest, though it still had its flaws. And now I’m doing another version of Miranda’s Tempest, though I’ve renamed it Strong’s Trial due to the new content and theme. It resembles Harry Potter a bit, though I think it’ll end up much removed from that. The rewrites of Rose have vastly improved it and I’m sure when I get to rewriting Laura Horn it’ll be much, much better.

And a lot of great works have been rewritten before publication. The Book Thief was apparently written 200 times before being published, and that’s a famous work. And I hear every script that gets turned into a movie in Hollywood goes through several rewrites before finally going into production. So perhaps my constant rewriting of my stories might make for a famous story someday. We’ll see someday.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m going to spend some time relaxing this evening before going to bed. I’ve done a lot of (re)writing today, so I’m going to take a break and try to relax. I’m setting up an account on my roommate’s PS4 and I’m going to play my first survival-horror game, Outlast. I’ve heard good things about it. Should be very exciting (and if I don’t like it, I’ll rewrite it!). Wish me luck!