Good new, everyone: horror games are back!
Good new, everyone: horror games are back!
Earlier in the year, when the US election was far over the horizon and hope still existed in the world, I blogged about E3 2016 and highlighted Resident Evil VII as one of the more interesting things to come out of the show. At the time, the game’s demo was only available on the PS4, but it’s now been released on the PC along with several updates that add new content, so I decided to check it out.
Before I talk about my impressions, I want to put RE7 in context for my non-gamer readers. A few years ago I delivered the definitive scholarly analysis of Silent Hill, the objectively best survival horror franchise in gaming history, which suffered a terminal decline after being badly mishandled by its publisher, and I briefly mentioned that the rival Resident Evil series went through a similar trajectory: instrumental in launching the genre, stagnated over the course of several samey sequels, made multiple attempts at re-inventing itself with wildly varying degrees of success.
Not quite as fantastic as the sum of its parts, but much more fantastic than expected.
Okay, get this: it’s a Syfy original show based on an internet meme.
And it’s awesome.
It’s been fascinating to watch the progress of Hollywood and the wider mainstream media’s commercialization of pop culture nostalgia over the last ten years. The trend has been broadly chronological, with film studios and TV executives thoroughly plumbing the depths of the 80s before moving onto untapped veins of things that only 90s kids will remember (see the upcoming Power Rangers movie), but there have been a handful of treasured childhood favourites that have been seemingly declared off-limits: we’ve gotten remakes and re-adaptations galore of properties like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that were designed to sell toys in the first place, but no one has directly touched those pre-digital classics deemed to have more artistic merit, chief among them the 80s output of Steven Spielberg.
Instead, we’ve gotten a small share of homages, such as the 2011 movie Super 8. The discourse surrounding that movie was interesting to me, because I’ve never seen most of the films by The Master that the movie was drawing on– I wasn’t even alive for most of them– and have absolutely zero nostalgia or affection for either those movies specifically, or that period of film-making in general. So while critics argued in endless circles over whether Super 8 was too much of a homage or not enough of a homage and to what extent it succeeded at doing what it set out to do, I approached it with no expectations and ended up liking it more than most people did.
Which brings us to Stranger Things, a similar attempt to tap into the atmosphere and trappings of a bygone era of childhood entertainment that I only dimly remember at best. Specifically, in drawing from old Stephen King novels like Firestarter and IT alongside the expected ET and Close Encounters, the series is aiming somewhere between the kind of adults-only horror movie that you watched on TV when your parents weren’t looking and that realm of kids movies that are just edgy and scary enough to bring them right up to the line of being too much for the intended audience to handle– the kinds of films that cranky pre-Millenials insist were once common staples of kid’s programming before the entire media landscape became wussified sometime in the 90s. Whether or not it succeeds as a pastiche of these things, I can’t say (and don’t care to begin with), but how does it hold up on its own merits?
It’s time once again to return to the harrowing realm of middle grade novel reviews with Knights of The Borrowed Dark, the debut from Irish author Dave Rudden that has just enough levels of spookiness to qualify for this year’s Halloween spook-a-thon. I bought it solely because it has a cool title. These are the kinds of carefree things you can do when you have a job.
In roughly 2003-ish I went over to a friend’s house at night. Some of his other acquaintances were already there, getting ready to kick back and watch a movie called The Ring. It had come out in cinemas the previous year, and the only thing I knew about it was that it involved a cursed video-tape that killed people who watched it, and that despite that rather goofy premise it had a reputation for being scary as all get out.
On a whim, I decided to stay and watch it with them. Two hours later it ended, and everyone in the room glanced around and laughed nervously. Someone got up and turned on the lights. No one was very enthusiastic about walking home. At the time I had a TV in my room; I turned it around to face the wall before lying in my bed with the lights on until the sun started to rise, a routine that I repeated for the next two nights.
I guess you could say the movie had a big effect on me.