Tom Chick and Chris Hornbostel

Make Games Scare Again: zigging instead of zagging

What number are we on for Resident Evil games? How many Friday the Thirteenths are there? The thrill of a good scare is something we intellectually know can’t be repeated, even though we never stop going back to the well. But the scares we know too well aren’t scares anymore. They’re horror comfort food. We can almost guess which crew member is the first to be Xenomorph meal. We know which couple gets the chainsaw first. We know the monster is going to be some CG boondoggle. We know when the refrigerator or medicine cabinet closes, something will be there. Ah, yes, it played out exactly like it was supposed to. Next!

After the jump, what if someone adjusts the formula? Continue reading →

Make Games Scare Again: ghosts of games past

In October, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone’s “best horror games of all time” list. So that’s not this. Instead, this week we’re running a list of recommendations for recent horror games we really like and think you should play, but might have skipped or even not thought of them as horror. If you can come up with a snappy way to stick that at the top of a list, let us know. In the meantime, we’ll roll out two a day. Today we recommend a couple of games for how they put us in mind of older games.

After the jump, ghosts of games past Continue reading →

The Secret World: building a better character

Tom: Secret World is not an easy game to jump into, especially after you’ve been away for a while. You only ever have a few skills slotted, but the array of skills and how they fit together is incredibly meticulous. This is a tinkerer’s game. Or a game where you just load one of the preset templates and mash the buttons. But who wants to do that?

After the jump, let’s get meticulous. Continue reading →

The Secret World: calling in reinforcements

Tom: While Secret World is uniquely suited to solitaire play — at least at a thematic level — it doesn’t always work out that way in terms of gameplay. The scenarios, for instance. But even in the wider world, it’s nice to have a sidekick. Or be a sidekick. It depends on which one of us you ask. Personally, I think Hornbostel (pictured, left) is trying a little too hard with the eye patch. That’s like something a sidekick would do.

Chris: The eyepatch makes me look tougher! Plus I’d just gotten it as a drop and it matches my outfit. The hell is that burqa ninja getup you’re wearing, anyway?

Tom: I’m a nun. A bad-ass nun. Or maybe a chick jedi. I haven’t quite decided, but either one of those is better than a transgender Snake Plissken.

After the jump, me and one-eyed Jane. Continue reading →

Thirty years of horror: Angel Heart (1987)

Chris: In a clear and steady hand, Harry Angel writes the name and adds a question mark. He underlines it twice. Shortly after, Angel meets the man who belongs to the name. A lawyer pronounces the man’s name clearly, twice even. There’s no mistaking the cadence of the first and last name, and we’ll hear it again before long. The man has a strange appearance. There’s a familiar symbol on his ring. He speaks bemusedly of contracts and collateral. “I have a feeling we’ve met before.” Within 10 minutes we’ve figured out who the man is and we have a good idea of who the detective might be, and what their relationship to one another is.

After the jump, Mephistopheles is such a mouthful in Manhattan. Continue reading →

Thirty years of horror: Poltergeist (1982)

Chris: It’s all here, really. In 30 minutes, Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist script creates the archetype for anyone wanting to follow him along with making horror films in suburban settings for the modern age. He establishes the normal familiarity of the setting, the relatability of the characters, and the mundanity that’s part and parcel of a middle-class suburban family and neighborhood. And then like a little kid making sandcastles on the beach, he gleefully, almost joyfully kicks it all over by introducing menacing evil spirits from beyond the grave.

But, after the jump, just how menacing are they? Continue reading →

Thirty years of horror: The Thing (1982)

Tom: The Thing was the pinnacle of horror special effects before CG came along. Even if your latter days eyes can’t see past the latex and syrup, there’s no denying the imagination that went into these effects. I’ve seen things in The Thing that I have never seen before or since, except for when they’re aping The Thing. Never were the words “you have got to be fucking kidding” so appropriate.

After the jump, John Carpenter is not kidding. Continue reading →

Thirty years of horror: Q (1982)

Tom: This is goofball Larry Cohen’s early New York guerrilla filmmaking at his best (i.e. it’s better than God Told Me To). Not to say Q is good filmmaking. It’s not. I can’t help but guffaw at the wings drawn over the helicopter shadow as this movie’s excuse for special effect. But Q has something unique. It has an absolutely fascinating performance by Michael Moriarity, who demonstrates that when an actor is really invested in a role, he can transcend writing, direction, and claymation. I would love to adapt Q as a stage play. I promise I am not joking about that, because at the heart of this movie is the stuff of good drama: a character making decisions. All it needs is an actor as talented and committed as Moriarty.

After the jump, that’s one hell of an omelet. Continue reading →

Thirty years of horror: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Tom: Could this be the last great werewolf movie? Or even the last non-awful werewolf movie? Because since then, I can’t think of any decent werewolf movies. I can, however, think of some real howlers (get it?). Jack Nicholson peeing on James Spader’s shoes in Mike Nichols’ Wolf. CG Anthony Hopkins dog vs. CG Benecio del Toro dog in a CG burning building at the end of The Wolfman. Lichens in the Underworld series. Taylor Lautner.

Chris: It’s literally been 20 years since I’ve seen it, but isn’t there some sort of widespread underground affection for The Howling? I saw that before I was old enough to really appreciate anything other than the coolness of werewolves ripping people up. Does that movie pre-date this? I’m having trouble thinking of any werewolf movies before or after this one I’d rather see. I think this could be the only great werewolf movie.

After the jump, have you ever talked to a corpse before? Continue reading →

Thirty years of horror: The Changeling (1980)

Chris: The late 1970s and early 1980s gave us a slew of what I call, for lack of a better term, lunkheaded ghost movies. The most famous example is The Amityville Horror (which was based in turn on a lunkheaded ghost book), but there were others. The Changeling falls squarely into that category, but has ambition to transcend it. It probably doesn’t. As an effectively creepy haunted house movie it succeeds, but don’t spend too much time analyzing it. It is the Citizen Kane (or at least How Green Was My Valley) of lunkheaded ghost movies.

After the jump, rosebud was a medallion! Continue reading →

Thirty years of horror: The Shining (1980)

Tom: Well this was an unexpected delight. Unexpected because I haven’t seen The Shining in probably over ten years. Probably more. Not since I was old enough to appreciate it. And a delight not because I think it’s a good movie. I kind of don’t. It’s just as stilted and occasionally overblown (“Here’s Johnny!”) as I remembered. But it was a delight because I had no recollection that The Shining is about what it’s about. I feel like I’ve discovered something thrilling that was there all along, like finding a twenty dollar bill in a pair of jeans you’ve put through the wash.

After the jump, I’m not going to hurt you, Wendy. Continue reading →