Peter Dijkstra (right) and Jeroen Van Hasselt, two of the devs of creepy arena game, The Flock. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — When I went to meet Peter Dijkstra, the business guy at Dutch game developer Vogelsap, I had to wait in line to see the small, indie team’s new horror game, The Flock. I wasn’t too upset, though, as the guy in front of my was none other than famed Doom and Quake developer, John Romero.
Dijkstra’s The Flock is an upcoming horror multiplayer game that takes place in one of three different arenas. Playing the game with three other people Monday at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco brought back memories of those long-ago sessions of Quake Arena, as well as more modern examples of asymmetric multiplayer like Left 4 Dead and Evolve.
This is an older picture. So old, in fact, that half of the characters in it are dead now. Just cross them out, I guess. Photo: AMC
AMC’s mega-popular show The Walking Dead has returned for the second half of its fifth season, and if you are as excited about it as my Twitter feed is, you’re probably looking for something gory to hold you over between episodes.
But don’t worry — we have you covered. Here are some more undead-themed shows and movies that will satisfy your need for fake blood while you’re waiting to make sure Daryl Dixon’s zombie-proof vest made of “fan favorite” is still holding up.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Say what you want about this 1992 version of the infamous proto-vampire, there’s a lot to like here. Directed by auteur-extraordinaire Francis Ford Coppola, it also starred Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins. In this film, Dracula comes to England an old man, growing younger by the minute, and turning into a monster in the process. It’s a lush, operatic film with some serious eroticism to it. Coppola uses old-school film tricks like reversing the film, multiple exposures and varying shutter speed to create a visually stunning movie about the seriously overplayed vampire king that tries to re-create the original novel via its multiple points of view. While it’s frequently campy, this big budget film is worth a re-watch.
The Exorcist: William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel about demonic possession and exorcism was based on an actual 1949 case that the author heard about while attending Georgetown University in Washington, DC, leading him to set his book there. The 1973 movie, directed by William Friedkin and written by Blatty himself, is a faithful re-telling of the horrifying story about a young girl’s rapid transformation into a vomit-spitting, head-rotating demon from hell, scaring the crap out of everyone who went to see it in theaters. It stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, and Linda Blair, The Exorcist is an exercise in tight, creepy horror storytelling with solid practical special effects that still look convincing today.
Frankenstein: The original film based on the original novel by Mary Shelly, 1931’s Frankenstein, stars Boris Karloff in the tale of the proto-mad scientist who creates life in his lab from an assembled collection of body parts gathered from corpses. What makes this film still worth the watch is both the superb make-up effects and the inherent loneliness of Karloff’s portrayal of the monster. When it happens upon the young girl at the pond and exchanges the flower, you’ll be hard pressed not to empathize with the creature, even as he tosses the child into the pond.
Let the Right One In: If you like atmospheric genre films, you’ll love this 2008 film from Sweden, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of the book its based on. The acting is subdued and the two young leads are absolutely mesmerizing as the human and vampire protagonists. Oskar is a 12-year-old pacifist of a boy who’s constantly bullied in school. Beautiful 12-year-old Eli moves in next to him at the same time a series of gory deaths and attacks start to happen around town. It’s a beautiful meditation on friendship, loneliness, and adolescence that also happens to be an incredibly scary movie. Be sure to have someone with you when you view it, so you can hold hands and scream together in fear.
The Legend of Hell House: This 1973 horror film was produced in the UK and directed by John Hough. Starring Roddy McDowell and Pamela Franklin, it’s based on the 1971 novel Hell House by Richard Matheson, the same guy who wrote I Am Legend; he also wrote the screenplay. A group of both physicists and parapsychologists spend a week in a English manor house that they’ve been told is haunted, and at which previous researchers were horribly murdered. It’s a haunted house movie done right, with plenty of over-the-top acting and sweaty ‘70s actors, and I mean that in a good way.
The Wicker Man: This 2006 re-do of the 1973 classic horror film stars Nicolas Cage as a sheriff investigating the disappearance of a young girl on a small island. He finds out there’s a bigger mystery to be solved, though, among the secretive neo-pagan islnd community. It sounds like a ton of fun, right, but ends up detouring into a crazy, barely comprehensible mess of a plot with enough misogynous activity from Nic Cage in a bear suit than you can handle. When you set out to remake a classic of the genre, you need to bring more to the table than director Neil LaBute (In The Company of Men) was able to.
Queen of the Damned: While Interview with a Vampire was a low point for both Tom Cruise and Anne Rice fans, the second movie to come from her novels is an utter travesty. Starring Aaliyah, the young R&B singer who was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2001, the film plays more as a goth-club flavored TV movie with Rice’s famous vampire Lestat taking up much of the overwrought screen time. The soundtrack is awful, the special effects questionable at best, and the dialogue super melodramatic and cheesy. Stay away from this one.
Dreamcatcher: Even the acting chops of Morgan Freeman and Demian Lewis combined with the directing talent of Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and a screenplay by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) can’t save this awful adaptation of one of Stephen King’s worst books, Dreamcatcher. The original novel is about a young man with mental retardation who becomes a group of boys’ unofficial mascot. When the men reunite for a hunting trip decades later, they discover an…alien invasion. Yeah, it’s that disjointed. USA Today called it “A moviegoer's nightmare,” writing that “the story is incoherent, inane and interminable.” Honestly, there’s no need to watch this one.
30 Days of Night: As someone who lives in Alaska and has visited Barrow, where this horror flick about zombies in the coldest, darkest place in the US, is supposed to be set, I found it to be utterly unrealistic. Sure, I can handle supernatural killers who lurk in the dark to eat human beings during the longest night of the year during the winter, but — seriously — Barrow isn’t a frontier town anymore with Western movie-style saloons and such. I could probably even forgive that horrifying oversight if this 2007 movie based on a fantastic graphic novel (written by Steve Niles, illustrated by Ben Templesmith, and published by IDW Publishing) itself wasn’t a long slog through a lot of half-hearted attempts and jump scares and tons of “shredding and gurgling,” as Entertainment Weekly calls it, saying, “30 Days of Night is relentless, but it's also relentlessly one-note.” Pass.
Pet Sematary: I really wanted to like this movie, since I enjoyed the heck out of the 1983 Stephen King novel of the same name. The 1989 movie was directed by Mary Lambert, whose resume includes 1992’s Pet Sematary II and 2005’s Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, so you know how she rolls. Add to that a screenplay by the master himself (have you seen Maximum Overdrive? It's awful) and a set of actors that no one knew, and you’ve got yourself a pretty horrible movie. King’s novels are so successful because they give readers a sense of the inner fear of their characters, something we can all relate to. Translating that to the screen is hard, as evidenced by the incredible hit or miss quality of the cinema adaptations of King’s work. This one? Don’t bother.
If you watch Netflix on your iOS device or game console, you know that the browsing function on those apps is a pain to use. And unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, it can be annoying to find something new.
So as a service, we’re going to recommend some things you can watch on Netflix right now. This time around, we have three fascinating documentaries about the horror genre. But even if you’re not a fan of scary monsters and super creeps, they still have plenty to offer.
Your Ouya just got a little creepier thanks to the developer of creepy platforming game, Whispering Willows. The trailer (below) shows protagonist Elena as she searches for her missing father through innovative environmental puzzles and supernatural obstacles.
“[Elena] must harness the powers of her heritage,” writes developer David Logan on the Kickstarter page, “utilizing astral projection and other ethereal abilities to find her father before he, too becomes lost to the hopeless morass of the Willows estate.”
If that (and the trailer below) doesn’t have you dusting off your tiny Android-powered gaming cube, we don’t know what will.
Text-to-speech is great. But have you ever wished that it could be a little more creepy? As in, child’s-voice-coming-out-of-your-computer creepy? Well, you’re in luck. Thanks to a service designed to help kids to communicate, you too can make your iPad talk in the voice of a little girl or boy. Shiver.
Haunting Melissa is a horror "movie" which is dripped into your real, everyday life by your iPad or your iPhone. Instead of sitting down for an hour and a half and watching the story unfold, the story comes in episodes.
The twist is that the snippets are delivered at unexpected times, and you’re told about them through push notifications sent to your iDevice.
2012 Mobile Game of the Year, The Dark Meadow, received a pretty major update on iOS today. Aside from all of the new features, the game has also gone freemium. The freemium version, entitled Dark Meadow: The Pact is a separate download on the App Store and as far as I can tell is exactly the same as the original paid version. The decision to go freemium may benefit the developers over the long term and is the reasoning for the jump. Although it is only available on iOS at the moment, it is scheduled to hit Android next month.