Thursday, October 23, 2014

Now Screaming: "The American Scream" (Movie Review)

I put my wife and (now three) kids through a lot in pursuit of my creative passions.  Luckily, my writing here on Terrorphoria is nothing like the two and a half years I spent on the road pursuing stand-up comedy that left my poor spouse practically a single parent.  Like right now, I'm typing this up while my wife and daughters are carving pumpkins.  Although that isn't ideal, it's way better than when I would be hours away telling jokes in front of an uninterested crowd so that a bar could sell more chicken wings and draft beer.

The American Scream is a documentary about three families in Fairhaven, MA that put on elaborate home haunts for the local trick-or-treaters.  What I found absolutely captivating about it is that it really dove into this creative-pursuit, family tension in a way I haven't really seen in another documentary.  This coupled with the interesting culture of setting up a home haunt and the way the three different houses approached it made this a great watch and had me plotting what we could do in our own backyard.

One of three is an IT professional with a wife and two kids that dreams of putting on haunted houses professionally.  Although the other families are equally compelling television, especially when juxtaposed with the first (both approach it much more as a hobby with far different standards and ambitions), this family is what really drew in my interest.  I could just see my wife in his as she discussed how it would sure be nice if they had room for storage or the kids could have a swing set in the backyard.

The movie is extremely well done, directed by Michael Stephenson who's first film Best Worst Movie about Troll 2 (in which he starred as a young lad) was one of my favorite documentaries ever.  Sophomore film efforts are often terrible and that goes double for documentaries, but this was excellent.  As such, I'm more than a little impressed and excited for his forthcoming Horror/Comedy feature Destroy.

If you are at all a fan of the October scare season, I highly recommend this.  It's also a great watch if, like me, you love to view scary stuff (especially in October) but your wife can't stand it.  Heck, even my daughters enjoyed watching it (which is really weird for a documentary). Give it a watch and I bet you'll enjoy the heck out of it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PT/Silent Hills Trailer is Still Cool

I'm a huge Silent Hill fan.  I think the games (that is to say the early, good ones) really represent not only the best that interactive horror entertainment can offer, but what macabre storytelling should be: high suspense, only earned jump scares, and psychological character studies or societal examinations at the heart of the narrative.

And now, Silent Hill is wrapped up into my personal history in a way that I'll never forget.  Don't worry, I'll back up that statement.

By now, anyone that gives a crap about Silent Hill knows that a new game is coming.  In fact, fans are excited because we have hope that for the first time in a long while a new installment might actually be good.

See, after Silent Hill 4: The Room (a game that was originally supposed to be a new intellectual property but was forced into being another SH game) Team Silent made like The Pixies. The task of producing games in the franchise was then handed around to various developers who just didn't get it. What was once a franchise of ominous character studies and high tension devolved into cheap jump scares and Pyramid Head appearances handled with the sort of subtitle cameo setup you'd expect from Expendables.

Now in what feels like fantasy decision making that belongs buried in internet forums rather than reality, Silent Hills is being created as a joint venture between Hideo Kojima (a video game producer famous for his high production values in the Metal Gear series) and Guillermo del Toro (if I have to introduce him you're probably on the wrong website).  Further, the game will star the best part of the often underwhelming Walking Dead TV show, Norman Reedus.

This doesn't guarantee a quality product, and definitely doesn't mean that Silent Hills will be exactly the same tone and tenor of the Team Silent games.  However, for the first time in a long while, I won't be buying the new SH game pre-geared for disappointment like a long time fan buying a recent
Bon Jovi album.

It's 2014. That joke almost doesn't work because people don't buy albums anymore. Similarly, creating a true mystery in this jaded, savvy, internet culture is almost impossible.  However, during a pretty momentous week for me this past August, a free game called P.T. randomly appeared in the Playstation store.

It was late in the night when I noticed and downloaded it.  What was revealed was an Amnesia style first person horror game.  I wandered around a hallway a couple of times and got pretty spooked but thought, "I really ought to get to bed.  I'll play the rest of this tomorrow."

And then the next day my wife woke me up to say, "It's time," and we rushed to the hospital to have child number three.  The random game I found on the PS store was fairly low on the priority list and I was pretty shocked and excited a few weeks later when my buddy said, "Are you excited about that new Silent Hill game?"

The brilliance of this type of marketing (when done well) is that instead of mass-market trailers being shoved down our throats, all of us that downloaded P.T. had an organic introduction to a new game that we'd already be very excited about. I didn't trigger the Silent Hills trailer at the end of the P.T. that evening (to be fair most people didn't since the thing is set in the kind of convoluted way that only a hyper-curious internet community can solve), but now the new SH will always be something tied closely to my personal history, and that's a pretty cool thing.

The genie is out of the bottle, and it's hard to really recommend P.T. (which just stands for "playable teaser").  It was meant as more of a marketing tool than a game, and like a bottle rocket its inertia is spent.  That said, the first half of it is some of the best survival horror gameplay I've seen on a console in a really long time and it looks absolutely stunning.  If you have a PS4, my recommendation is to check it out but YouTube the ending if your fun erodes to frustration.  In the meantime, I'll be crossing my fingers that when Silent Hills finally comes out it won't be full of cheesy jump scares and Pyramid Head working at Happy Burger.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

'Time of Death: Induction' (Book Review)

Time of Death:Induction is a zombie apocalypse novel by author Shana Festa. It follows a nursing student named Emma Rossi who finds herself in the epicenter of a zombie outbreak in Florida. Young Emma must find a way to escape God's Waiting Room along with her husband Jake and purse-dog Daphne before it's totally overrun by the walking dead (not THAT walking dead.)

I'll tell you what I enjoyed about Time of Death:Induction first. It's a well written, well edited piece of horror fiction that doesn't pull any punches in the action or gore departments. There is plenty of guts and splatter, along with a briskly paced story that never really drags. It's the type of book that will appeal to zombie enthusiasts looking for a new book they can get through in a weekend.

Time of Death isn't without its flaws however. My main issue is that the story arc is somewhat predictable, and certain telegraphed events that have been used in various zombie media before. That said, it's REALLY hard to write something original about zombies these days. It seems like it's all been done before simply due to sheer volume of media. Induction did have a few surprising moments and those unique moments served to step up the story overall.

There is some awkward dialogue (generally coming from Emma) that just seems a little out of place for someone who should theoretically be mortified by the events unfolding around her. I see where the author was going with her to create a strong heroine lead, but sometimes the "sass factor" gets dialed up a little too high and feels forced. This happens sporadically amongst other characters as well throughout. 

Induction is a solid first attempt on Festa's part at writing a novel, especially in such an overcrowded sub-genre. Minor complaints aside, it's a competent zombie apocalypse romp that serves as the foundation for a full series. I'm interested to see where the author takes the characters next and hopefully can improve on making Time of Death a standout series for undead lovers!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why We Love Horror (Guest Post)

(Today's post is from guest blogger Christina Bergling. You can and should find more of her writing over on her blog Fiery Pen and Like her on Facebook for some more serious fare then you'll find around these parts. Show her some love down in the comments and let us know why you love the horror genre!)

As young as I can remember, Halloween was always my favorite holiday. I loved the costumes, the candy, and, most importantly, things that were scary. I read Goosebumps books through my childhood for the same reason: because they scared me. I was not introduced to horror movies until later in my adolescence (after my parents’ divorce when TV restrictions lifted at one house), but once I saw my first horror movie (Scream), I was irrevocably hooked.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Horror Movie Survival Kit - Sponsored by Man Crates!

The fine folks at MAN CRATES who create epic gift packages you need to pry open with a crowbar, asked us to put together a list of what Terrorphoria would stock in a "must have" horror movie survival kit. We said "we love lists, and STUFF!" so without further ado here is our  

"Terrorphoria Slasher Movie Survival Crate"

There’s a few items I wouldn’t be caught dead (literally!) without in a slasher film. To avoid becoming a statistic everyone was talking about in homeroom or around the campfire the next day, here is what I’d bring.

1.     A multi-tool: How many times has someone been trying to escape and the door/window/panel/grate is either locked, jammed, or screwed shut? A multi-tool could really help, plus it comes with a knife to defend yourself or cut any ropes you might get tied up with. Oh, and a toothpick in case something gets caught in your teeth.

2.     Kinectic flashlight:  Flashlights in horror movies must all be bought at the dollar store, because they are CONSTANTLY giving out at the worst possible time. That’s why I’d bring one of those cool flashlights that you power by shaking or turning a crank. That way you don’t need to worry about batteries running out when you’re sneaking through that dark hallway.

3.    Jumper Battery Pack: Just in case that car decides it doesn’t want to start, even though I’ve been driving it around fine all day and just took it for an oil change last week.

4.    Plastic whistle: Everybody’s always trying to scream and get attention for help. One of those plastic emergency whistles could mean the difference between hanging in there, or hanging in there on a MEAT HOOK.

5.    Blow Up Doll: Seriously, bear with me. So at some point, you’re gonna have to go down that dark staircase into the basement. You know the one I mean! A rubber doll makes a great decoy to throw down first. That way when the killer leaps out from under the stairs and you hear a loud POP you know there is trouble. Also, much easier to carry around than a mannequin or crash-test dummy!

6.    Poncho: Seriously, it’s ALWAYS raining in slasher movies. Even in California! A simple fold up poncho would keep you from getting soaked, slipping around, and sneezing from wet clothes to give away your hiding spot!

7.    Disposable camera: Chances are your cell phone is dead because horror movies so you need SOMETHING to snap a pic of the killers true identity. Otherwise, how else can you convince the bumbling local police department that there’s a crazed murderer on the loose?

8.    Tire Iron: A tire iron can be a lot of things to a lot of people. Flat fixer, door jammer, self-defense implement. A good old TI is a must have!

9.    Spray Paint: Is there anything better to blind a murderer AND scrawl a frightening “HELP” message on the inside of a window in the same can? Not for my money.

10.  Zippo: Inevitably, you’re going to be in a stand off, and there might be something explosive nearby. You NEED a reliable lighter that you can potentially throw while saying a one liner like “Hot enough for you?”

Now we want to hear from you guys. What would you pack into your horror movie survival kit? Let us know down in the comments!