Horror

lovecraft_dark

Live action role playing has always been derided in the US, even in geek-centric communities. The idea of dressing up as a character, going out into the wilderness and hitting each other with swords has been considered too childish and goofy. I do find it funny that if you grow up as a geek, you almost always come up with the idea independently of LARP culture and try and get friends together to participate in a LARPish game.  Something along the way introduces shame and we become concerned what other think about our behavior.  

Full disclosure, I have been one of the people who considers LARPers to be lesser geeks. In the past couple of years we have been running role playing games for kids and teens and I have seen the sheer joy and camaraderie of kids playing together in a group without having to worry about what their non-geek peers think. The joy is infectious and the events attract all kinds of people including those who would not normally participate in group activities and those would would never publicly admit to waving a foam sword around with other kids.  Once again, kids are awesome and I was wrong.

When searching for ideas for these role-playing events we have come across several adult events that are amazing.  You can jump on Youtube to see things like The Bells of Newtown or The College of Wizardry to see of the sophisticated storytelling and play that people are putting together.

What really caught my eye yesterday was a Swedish group that took New England’s own H.P. Lovecraft’s work and wrote a story revolving around this mythos set in the 1920s.  We were looking at introducing Lovecraft elements into our stories already but to see the professionalism and commitment of this group is inspiring.  Check out the video below and let us know what you think.

ghostbusters_logo

Just getting back from vacation now, so I am still oiling my robot parts to talk about the geeky and/or obscure.  Ghostbusters isn’t obscure but it does inspire geek feelings even in the most starched, polo shirted of us and plenty of news and images have been rolling in.

This deserves a full blog post because we have all the women together at once in the new jumpsuits. It isn’t an official promo image so no posing or action shots, still I am thrilled with every bit of news I am seeing out of the production so far.  It feels like Ghostbusters with the bonus that it has been filming in Everett, MA. Take that New York, it’s our turn!

Ghostbusters is directed by Paul Feig, stars Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon and should be released next summer.

ghostbusters_together

silent_hills_red

This post is absolutely breaking my heart.

Last year we wrote about the astonishing PT trailer that appeared on the PS4.  It was revealed that it was a playable teaser for Silent Hills which was a collaboration between fabled game developer/producer Hideo Kojima, my favorite modern horror director Guillermo del Toro and starring fan favorite Norman Reedus.

In the past few weeks Kojima has been fired or has left Konami, publisher of the Silent Hill series. Over the weekend del Toro and Reedus have seemingly left the project and all we are left with is a teaser, and probably a while bunch of concept art and preliminary code lying on the floor of Konami.  

Konami says they will continue the Silent Hill series, but honestly I don’t want them to.  The last few games have shown that Konami doesn’t understand what makes the franchise great.  Silent Hill 2 was one of the greatest gaming experiences I have ever had and they needed this new talent to make it survive.  PT gave me hope that it could happen and now without the creative team behind PT I think it may be time to shutter Silent Hill in a small room in the basement.

If large gaming publishers have done anything well with venerated gaming franchises it has been to squeeze them of any value and make them tepid, sad sixty dollar paperweights.  Getting rid of this new team guarantees that the next Silent Hill will be terrible and I love this franchise too much to see another boring game that I will feel loyalty to sit through and yell at the screen.

Konami, do us a favor, bury the franchise in a shallow grave. With hope it will rise from the dead someday, but right now it just smells bad.

Guest post by James P. Burke

Cosplay is often the highlight of Anime Boston, as it really is a noticeable part of the convention experience for this event, moreso than (for example) PAX East. And I have to admit that the activity of people greeting each other over their creations generates more convention energy than all but the most outstanding panels and presentations.

This year I didn’t think there was a single standout cosplay category as often I have seen in other years (e.g. Homestuck trolls a couple of years back, or Attack on Titan last year). A lot of what you would have seen in previous years, and a lot of mashups including video games, movies, comics, and popular classic anime (One Piece, Evangelion, Naruto, etc.). The obscure character here and there is always special, and people appreciate a shout out from fellow fans. One thing I noted was a dearth of Frozen cosplay when last year it seemed poised for continuing popularity, even before it took off with the general public. One has to wonder whether some kinds of popularity and exposure do not get reflected in cosplay.

It was great to see a number of couple and families with themed cosplay, and such coordinated efforts usually come along with a willingness to pose and emote in character. It just makes everything better.

There was a good deal of excitement on Saturday over the premier of the English dub of Sword Art Online 2. The lines were very long to get into Exhibit Hall E for that event, however the convention crew managed the hundreds of SOA fans very efficiently. The high-capacity hall nearly filled, but everyone was accommodated.

More on the crew. While it is inevitable that you encounter some overenthusiastic crew members who are yelling (and not always in helpful ways) the crew there were organized, prepared and efficient. The line at registration was nonexistent by 10AM on Saturday, which has not always been the case in previous years. The line to get into the Con and past bag check was long, but quick moving, diverting temporarily out into a protected outdoor area in the brisk and windy Boston daylight. The queue, which doubled back on itself, served as yet another way for convention goers to see others and be seen, with many opportunities to point out a favored character or particularly impressive costuming effort.

Back inside, the Exhibition Hall A had slightly less variety of vendors from years past, but the same volume. This con tends toward a lot of games, plushies, figurines, T-shirts, and art. A new addition was some impressive metalwork from vendors offering real aluminum masks. And others dealing in both metal and leather for steampunk paraphernalia that could literally be used to build an entire costume if you had the money to spend, including masks, goggles, holsters, chestplates, flask holders, hats, etc. The dice dealers of previous years were not in evidence this time around, but a new game seems to have risen in popularity. Betrayal at House on the Hill, which was obscure last year was on display at several game dealers. It has possibly gotten quite a boost from its exposure on Tabletop.

In summary, Anime Boston 2015 is a great experience provided by a clearly seasoned convention organization in a venue that provides ample space to an enormous crowd. I suggest cosplaying to get he full experience, and to engage with as many convention goers, inquiring about how they made their cosplays and congratulating them on their creativity and hard work.

A couple of tidbits in the new spot. We hear of Indominus Rex’s cannibalistic tendencies and chaos in the park, with one unfortunate park guest being flown off to be eaten by what I assume are pterodactyl hatchlings. I think I’ll choose Disney instead. Disney doesn’t have a “No guests eaten in X days” sign.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=yaWuNjHH2xA?w=640

fear_the_walking_dead

Fresh off of a season finale that Twitter and Facebook are still divided about, we have a quick little snippet from the newly named ‘Fear the Walking Dead’. It is not quite enough to satisfy until the new show premieres this summer, but you might need all of that time to decompress.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=unWdvWPmiPk?w=640

Krampus Toy

I know I am a couple of weeks early but sometimes the spirit of the season just takes over. Last year we introduced our friend the Krampus, one of the weirdest holiday traditions that I know of.  Since we last left our furry monstrosity he seems to have been gainfully employed and taken to Twitter, which is good because kidnapping poorly behaved children can’t be lucrative.

As you can see, Krampus is now working as a Mall Krampus, it doesn’t appear that he has changed any of his style though. He is still generally cantankerous and loathsome.

I guess that is all we can expect from him, and I suspect it is better that we know where he is rather than have him randomly patrolling our communities looking for mischief. He doesn’t really have the strongest social skills either, so he just speaks his mind without a lot of concern for others. I don’t know about you, but I plan on following his feed to see how this whole thing develops.

creepy_halloween_couple

 

Once again folks it is time for one of my favorite holidays.  Halloween is pretty unique, there are no strict rules about how to celebrate and the opportunity to pretend to be something other than you are in your day to day life is always welcome.

In the Giant Japanese Robot offices we are busy hot gluing, stitching and painting our costumes for a night on the town, so instead of putting together a comprehensive Halloween post I thought I would link to some of our spookier articles.  Apparently I write about scary things a lot.  Enjoy yourselves tonight!

Must See Horror Films: Part 1

Must See Horror Films: Part 2

Creature Double Feature: Monster Stuff

Creature Double Feature: Horror Stuff

Sesame Street: The Letter B – Harbinger of Doom

Watching: Hellraiser III

The Shining: Lloyd the Bartender, Dr. Eldon Tyrell and Room 237

annabelle_magic

I apologize if you are a James Wan fan. I desperately tried to give a man a chance. I do believe that inside Wan is a man of talent, that someday he could make a great film, but he is not that man yet.

I don’t want to get too deeply into my distaste for his work. I’ve seen Saw, I’ve seen the Conjuring and I was honestly excited about both movies before I saw them. They both have elements that I am really attracted to in horror, great art direction, excellent characters (on paper) an intelligent killer, a spectral mystery etc.

I think what really bugs me about Wan is that he feels like a kid who grew up legitimately loving horror movies and in his head he had a Lego box of all these wonderful ideas and like a little kid he shook that Lego box as hard as he could, dumped all of those pieces on the floor and made a movie.

When you watch a movie produced, written or directed by Wan you can see all of these influences. I am a man who celebrates homages, but there is a fuzzy line that can be crossed like when an artist instead of free handing a drawing that pays tribute to someone who inspired them they drop a piece of tracing paper over a work and pass it off as their own.

Now that comparison to Wan’s work is a bit more brutal than reality, but I think you get my point. Wan has been given a lot of money, a lot of power in the movie world and I expect a lot out of the man. With all that influence and training he could be making some truly great things, but I have seen all his films before, in segments that are part of other movies.  They look great, they have all the right elements, but in the end there is nothing connecting the pieces together and it falls apart.  I’ll take Drag Me to Hell over The Conjuring any day of the week.

What you see above was the final straw for me.  The first time I saw Annabelle’s face I knew I had seen it before and it wasn’t long before I made the connection.  Magic, the 1978 film directed by Richard Attenborough (John Hammond from Jurassic Park) about a severely disturbed man or a possessed ventriloquist dummy depending on your point of view.

It is very clear that Annabelle owes a lot of the design to the dummy in Magic, even in the cropped poster above, pretty shameless as far as I am concerned, even if it doesn’t affect the box office receipts.  Worth noting though is that the dummy in Magic is clearly modeled after a young Anthony Hopkins and when they designed Annabelle’s features they transferred all of those features over.  Basically Annabelle is Anthony Hopkins in drag.

I’m not saying don’t go see Annabelle or that you are wrong to like James Wan’s work.  Lord knows that there are plenty of things that I love that other horror fans hold their noses over.  I personally like to understand influences in films and where they came from, usually they enhance my enjoyment of the film.  In this case it just results in me giving James Wan the side eye.

hpl_portrait

 

Above: H.P. Lovecraft portrait by Sean Phillips.  Sean’s work and art can be found HERE.

If I had more time and energy I would write a paragraph in Lovecraftian style prose about how I awoke in the wee hours of the morning and needed to calm my thoughts, so I binge read Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth until almost dawn.   I know that probably doesn’t make much sense, but little does between two and five A.M.

Lovecraft lived and worked near me through most of his life, visited the same places, knew the same sights and landmarks.  The difference was that his time was a little less than one hundred years before mine.  Despite the century gap between us the New England connection anchors his stories in my memories.  Reading his stories over and over again provide an odd comfort to me, and maybe they will for you, that or they will totally creep you out.

If you have neither the time or the energy to sit in dim light and read through his freely available stories you can check out this nifty audio version of this tale below.  If you start to feel a creeping dread and smell a strong odor of fish, you should probably run.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2-Pm1dfWhE

pt_balcony

If you haven’t played the P.T. demo for the PS4 be aware that there are SPOILERS that follow.  Proceed at your own risk.

I’m not going to go into great detail about what P.T. is or how it came to be. The short version is that P.T. most likely stands for ‘Playable Trailer’, with a half a dozen other theories bopping about including the scientific name for a certain species of tree.  If you can successfully play through the trailer (it isn’t easy) you will be rewarded with an additional trailer for the secret of the game.  SPOILER follows:
The game is a teaser for a new Silent Hill apparently named Silent Hills.

I’m a horror nut, I’ve watched hundreds of horror films in my forty years on this earth and I’m not planning on stopping any time soon.  Lately though I’ve had better horror experiences in video games compared to movies.  I’m not really sure how to explain this, it may be the immersion quality of games where I am actually participating in the plot.  In the movies you yell at someone to not enter the basement, in a video game this is something you actually control.

Out of my top three horror video games of all time Silent Hill 2 ranks really close to the top.  The second installment is almost a perfect combination of suspense, atmosphere, music and resource management.  Criticism would be poor English voice acting, some confusing elements and too much walking from place to place.  The game is starting to age, even though I still pick it up and play a bit from time to time.  It is thirteen years old at this point, which is relatively ancient in video game terms, so it gets a lot of grace from me.

I fell in love with Silent Hill 2 many years ago and stuck with the franchise even when the franchise didn’t love me back.  I came at the P.T. demo backwards, finding out that it was a Silent Hill teaser before I played the game.  This was an accident, but with all the info being spread around about it I probably would have been spoiled before I got the chance to actually play no matter what.

When I finally sat down and was able to play P.T. something really interesting happened, I had to stop playing.  I stopped playing for the most embarrassing of reasons, I was too scared.  Now I am a grizzled horror veteran, and while my tastes run more towards creeping dread and suspense rather than splatter I have seen my share of the icky stuff.  I generally know how to read horror films so I get a bit of a telegraph before something happens.  P.T. was completely disorienting, difficult to read and played on my fears in a slow building way where I was terrified before I even realized it.  By the time an inevitable jump scare came I was not prepared and I lost it.

The last time something like that happened was in Dead Space, and before that it was Silent Hill 2.

If you make it all the way to the end and watch the final trailer it is revealed to be a Silent Hill game with participation from Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame and my favorite modern director, Guillermo del Toro, a surprise bonus for me that means I will be paying close attention to the development of this game.

If you don’t have a PS4 and/or have no intention of playing you can get a partial experience by watching the video below.

 

FCD454_Inferno_DVD_Slip.indd

Movie Posters of Yore

Look at that movie poster.  Don’t you wish that you would see these beautiful painted posters again instead of the giant floating head Photoshop posters we get now?  I’m not an ‘everything new is bad’ sort of guy but there are some luxuries of the past that I wish we had more of.

The Giallo

Dario Argento films in the Giallo genre are not for the faint of heart, but they have a special quality to them that is unique to Italian cinema. Phenomena is an especially odd film with some disjointed logic and a young girl who can telepathically communicate with insects.  It is Jennifer Connelly’s first film, has an excellent early score by Goblin and a wheelchair bound Donald Pleasence playing a Scotsman. Something for everyone.

Trailer

Here is a long form possibly fan made trailer for the film. A bit melancholy, but I think it captures the mood of the film nicely.

Bonus Round

Phenomena inspired the 1995 Japanese point and click adventure game Clock Tower, even going so far as to copy Jennifer Connelly’s likeness plus scenes and plot lines directly from other Italian horror films.  Check it out below.

the_gorgon

The Gorgon is a quiet film in comparison to the rest of the Hammer Horror canon.  It feels a bit like they ran out of monsters from the Universal collection and were reaching for some new things to exploit.  Unfortunately the Gorgon is not exactly terrifying as the legends suggest and looks a bit like someone in curlers.

Even so, it is always a pleasure to watch Cushing and Lee and as a bonus we have Barbara Shelley of my favorite Quatermass and the Pit and Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor Who) as the local police captain.

Worth watching for Hammer completists but not essential for the casual fan.

horror_express

 

Anything with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in it is watchable.  Add Telly Savalas and you have a worthwhile evening of cinema.

I feel like I have seen multiple cuts of this film and the version I am watching now from Hulu feels like a VHS transfer.  Muddy and borderline unwatchable.  I expect I would be a lot more tolerant if I hadn’t seen it before.

Poking around I see that there is a recent Blu Ray transfer that I will need to check out.  Some of the edits are really amateurish, but despite that the production values seem fairly high and Lee and Cushing are always professionals regardless  of the subject matter they are involved in.

evil_of_frankenstein

 

[liveblog] 

alien_cast

Watching Alien for the umpteenth time and notice that my perspective has changed a little. There is some spoilers here, but honestly if you haven’t seen Alien yet then you shouldn’t be reading anyway.

Normally Ash is pegged as the villain but honestly he/it was just following orders.  After repeated viewings I am going to say that our intrepid captain of the USCSS NostromoDallas Koblenz Arthur is the man that caused all the deaths on the ship.

Evidence of bad decisions:

  • Dallas went down with the landing party probably against regulations…
  • …which caused him to be emotionally compromised when a friend needed help.
  • Dallas then blatantly broke regulations when Ripley calmly reminded him of procedure giving Ash an opening to execute his agenda.
  • On transporting the face hugger Ripley tried to get Dallas to blow it out the airlock, wary of what it could do, even when dead. Ash used this opportunity to convince him that the Weyland-Yutani needed to run tests.
  • At this point Dallas gave up completely and delegated all responsibility to Ash being the science officer and argued.
  • When Gilbert Kane awoke, Ash did not bother to rescan his body probably knowing what was going on.  Having been given full authority by Dallas no one questioned it.

By this point in the movie it was already too late.  Dallas then had the gall to go ahead and get killed early on so he didn’t have to deal with the rest of the movie.  Remember that Ash was under no obligation to make accurate tracking equipment, so he may have been the literal cause of Dallas’ death, but the ultimate responsibility relies with Dallas’ actions.

Granted with the company telling Ash ‘all other priorities are rescinded’ the dairy blooded automaton may have figured out a way get an egg on the ship and bring it home anyway, but it may not have happened with the same amount of short term carnage that occurs in the two hour running time.  What happens is basically a really gooey version of ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie’.

curse_of_mummys_tomb

Winding down the evening with some Hammer Horror.  Trying to ignore all the brown body paint to create faux Egyptians.  If I’ve seen this it has been a long time.  Hair and set design on this is pretty fantastic and someone gave them access to a boatload of props.  I am just in the beginning, but I get the sense that everyone dies from the greed of a single brash American.  Funny to be on the laughing end of a stereotype.

These films were a staple of Creature Double Feature in these parts during the seventies. They bring a warm comfort to me on cold winter nights.

I have a lot of early memories of Sesame Street.  Sadly I don’t remember this clip starring Kermit and the Beautiful Day Monster.  I should be thankful, because if I saw this in my wee years I may not have recovered.  Not sure what Jim Henson was thinking here, but his estate probably owes families some pain and suffering compensation as a result.

NOTE: I originally found this clip on Kindertrauma when it was posted in 2008.

BONUS: This Sesame Street clip did actually cause me to run screaming from the room every time I saw it.  Still gives me chills today.

tiny_tots_aglow

 

My holiday contribution

krampus-broom

 

Every where I go, it is Happy Holidays this, Happy Holidays that.  People have forgotten one of the true meanings of Christmas, avoiding bad deeds so you are not stolen and devoured by a hooved, furry goat person.

Tonight is Krampusnacht and there is not a single mention of the Krampus in any major metropolitan newspaper, I consider this a conspiracy of the highest order!  We must rally together to fight this war on what we must hold dear.

Just in case you are one of the few people who are not familiar with the cherished tradition of the Krampus you can familiarize yourself with him HERE.

The Krampus is sort of an anti-Claus.  One of Santa’s helpers who punishes and steals bad children and something that is sorely missing from our Christmas narrative.  Kids these days when they get coal in their stockings are like “BAH, who cares! coal is no deterrent!  I will continue to behave poorly and then use this archaic fuel source to burn for warmth.”  I guarantee that these same children will quickly change their minds about how they act when faced with the prospect of being stolen and eaten by an eight foot, odoriferous Christmas monster.

So, just like the Christmas pickle ornament or Elf on the Shelf I encourage everyone to include the Krampus in their holiday celebrations.  Think of the character enrichment and fond memories of young ones whimpering in fear at the prospect of the pitter patter of bipedal hooves above their heads.

Here are some pictures of the Krampus to help you prepare for your celebration.

Look how happy the Krampus is!
Look how happy the Krampus is!
Children jump for joy at the thought of a visit.
Children jump for joy at the thought of a visit.
Krampus come in many varieties, including 'fluffy'.
Krampus come in many varieties, including ‘fluffy’.
Children wait in line for a chance to see him.
Children wait in line for a chance to see him.
Little girl is obviously overwhelmed by joy at the chance to see this beloved holiday tradition.
Little girl is obviously overwhelmed by joy at the chance to see this beloved holiday tradition.