Tag Archives: personal opinion

Horror Video Games Part 3: Resident Evil

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Resident Evil is one of my all time favorite video games series. I love abandoned places and zombies, puzzles and experiments gone terribly wrong. And the first several games in the series combine those elements well. There are a LOT of RE games and spin-offs/side games in the series, some of which I haven’t played or have even heard of before doing a little research for this post. So I’ll only talk about the first game since I could easily go on for hours.

Resident Evil/Resident Evil: Director’s Cut/ Resident Evil Archives

The first game of the series was released in 1996, but was rereleased as a director’s cut and later remade. Resident Evil Archives contains the same plot of the original but with added rooms and areas, the introduction of several new (non-playable) characters, one of whom is Lisa. Her story is a heartbreaking thread woven into the plot but she is also very, very scary.

There was an incident involving a series of cannibalistic murders in the area surrounding Raccoon City and the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactical And Rescue Team) Bravo team is sent in to investigate. After contact is lost with Bravo, the Alpha team is sent in. Set down, the team becomes separated as a pack of very strange dogs appear (if you’ve seen the movie, they look like those) and start chasing them. A handful of the members manage to make it to a mansion located nearby. Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton and Albert Wesker.

 

You can play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine. Both have their own special tool that is unique to them, although (if memory serves me right) either one of them can also pick up the other’s item but it takes up space in the item carrier. And believe you me that space is at a premium. Excess items can be stored in item boxes (they look like large, wooden trunks) scattered throughout the area. Any room with an item box is a safe room. You cannot and will not be attacked there. It’s a good place to heal; exchange items and save, using a typewriter.

 

 

The objective is to the explore the mansion and the surrounding grounds, gleaning information about what has happened on memos, reading journal entries and reports. One of my favorite entries to read is the groundskeeper’s journal (again if I remember correctly). The last page reads simply: “Itchy. Tasty.”

 

 

Foes range from zombies, which are encountered almost from the first to a giant, poisonous snake that you have to fight twice. Genetically engineered creatures also appear. The Hunters are large, almost gorilla-like animals that have a very annoying and startling screech. The first time I played this game, my brother was watching me play and we experienced the first encounter with a Hunter at the same time. There was a lot of screaming involved. They remain my least favorite foe. Sharks (Project Neptune, and thank you Umbrella for giving me another reason besides Jaws to be afraid to go into the water), crows, dogs, snakes (little ones), and large spiders also make an appearance because zombies just weren’t enough to scare you out of your pants, I guess.

 

 

As you explore, you move further and further into Umbrella’s secret facility. The mansion is only a front; the out buildings housed a laboratory, Project Neptune and a mutated plant. Beneath the courtyard, a series of tunnels lead to an underground facility. It’s here that all the pieces of the puzzle regarding the nature of Umbrella’s experiments come together to form a whole, and disturbing picture. It’s also where Tyrant is housed, and he’s the game’s last boss. Tyrant stands about seven or eight feet tall (my estimate) and is muscular. He is a single-minded, hunting/killing machine, and nerve-wracking to fight.

 

 

Resident Evil is the only game in the series to have multiple endings. They depend on decisions made at certain moments. The endings and the fact that you get a closet key make the game playable several times and always fun to return to.

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Horror Video Games Part 2: Dino Crisis

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Jurassic Park meets Resident Evil? There is probably a much better way of describing this game but this one works for me, since I love both RE and Jurassic Park. 😀

Made by Capcom and produced/directed by RE’s creator Shinji Mikami, Dino Crisis has a distinct Resident Evil aura. Both games have an almost claustrophobic feel to some of their environments (i.e. narrow hallways) and dark atmosphere, they also have puzzle solving elements, which I love in a game. Plus there is  science gone wrong.

Regina is the main character. She’s one member of a special forces team sent to a secret government facility to find Dr. Edward Kirk, who was thought to be dead. He was discovered during a recon mission by another SORT (Secret Operation Raid Team) member, Tom. Dr. Kirk was the head of a secret weapons team, creating something called Third Energy which ripped a hole in the fabric of time. Hence the dinosaurs and all the survival, run-for-your-life fun.

Regina and her fellow SORT team members (Cooper, Gail and Rick) parachute onto the island. During the decent, Cooper goes off course and becomes a T-Rex snack. His whereabouts remain a mystery to the others. Exploring the facility, several mangled and chewed bodies are discovered and the SORT agents are clueless as to what happened to the scientists until Regina encounters a dinosaur.

From that moment on, the game is all about surviving as you try to find a way off the island. Dinosaurs are everywhere, velociraptors roaming the hallways and a T-Rex that stalks you along outside passages and bursts through windows. Ammo and health items are key (as they are in RE), you run out of either and it could be the last mistake you make.

Four possible endings can be played out, depending on what is chosen at specific times. Each ending unlocks a new outfit for Regina, one of them a very cute, almost Pebbles Flintstone type dress complete with a bone gun. If you complete the game in under five hours, a mini game is unlocked (American version, only, I think) called Operation: Wipeout. This is a game with limited ammo in which the point is to bag a certain amount of dinosaurs during an allotted time.

Though short, Dino Crisis has just enough material to provide re-playability and has very tense moments. But it also has lighter moments, which gives it an excellent balance in my opinion. The characters are well done, each having their own personality. Gail is no nonsense, and tough as nails, Rick is more laid back and the team’s comedian while Regina is in the middle, sharing the best qualities of her teammates.

I think Dino Crisis might be a good game to start with if you’re interested in trying a survival horror game. It’s a little more panic inducing than outright scary but still an entertaining member of the genre.

 

Horror Video Games Part 1: Castlevania N64

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I am a gamer, have been since first playing games on the Atari system when I was a kid. My first horror game was Friday the 13th on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and I remember playing it with my heart in my throat. Jason, in all his pixelated glory, was a near unbeatable foe. I never could survive an encounter with him. But, I think it was Castlevania for the N64 that woke a deep love for horror games in me.

Castlevania

The opening of this game still excites me, a sweeping view of a grand castle and the strains of a haunting and melancholy tune played on a violin by Malus. There are two playable characters: Reinhardt Schneider and Carrie Fernandez. Each have their own special weapons. Reinhardt has a whip and a dagger, while Carrie has magic orbs that home in on targets and a set of rings.

They share the same adventure, trekking through the Forest of Silence, the Castle Wall and then the Villa but then diverges to separate levels unique to one character. Some levels can only be accessed through Carrie (i.e. the Underground Waterway) or Reinhardt (i.e. the Tunnels). Others are shared. There are also several different endings that can be unlocked. That makes this game have a great re-playability.

I love the atmosphere. Dark, tense and horrifying. Time slips from day to night, which is important to some aspects of the game. There is blood and implements of torture, supernatural foes and some very disturbing bosses. But there is also beauty to be found in Castlevania. One of my favorite levels is the Villa.

The Villa is reached after completing the Castle Wall area and fighting several Cerberuses. A timeworn cemetery greets you as you pass through the Villa gates, some of the tombstones still retain their epitaphs and are readable. Entering the Villa, you find yourself in a large foyer with a staircase. Exploring the house, a small indoor garden can be found. Red roses encircle the room. If the time is right, you’ll meet Rosa. She is the garden’s caretaker, responsible for the white roses. What white roses? There aren’t any but as the scene progresses, we learn the reason why. Rosa waters them with blood.

A maze lies behinds the Villa and it’s here that you meet Malus, a frightened boy that has lost his family. This part never fails to make my heart race. In order to help Malus, you must follow him through the maze while being chased by a large creature reminiscent of Frankenstein’s creature wielding a chainsaw and two hellhounds. I can still hear Malus’s scared “Help me!” and the revving of the chainsaw in my head.

As Reinhardt, one of the most memorable moments is entering the Tunnels, a labyrinth of seemingly endless pathways. Shortly after discovering a poisonous river, a scantily clad woman emerges from the murky depths, her arms chastely covering her chest. Walking toward Reinhardt, more of her is seen. Below her waist is the body of a spider. These spider women are the dominate foes of the level, gliding down from the Tunnel ceilings, skittering toward you from the shadows and spewing poison whenever they get the chance.

The Castle Center provides a harrowing challenge. To release the seal and fight the boss, two ingredients are needed. One is mandrake, the other magical nitro and it’s with the nitro that comes all the fun. One jump, one slip from an edge or a hit from the traps or enemies and you explode. Playing through this, my hands shake every time. Once the seal is broken, a massive bull awakens. As you battle him, his flesh falls from his body, leaving only a gigantic skeleton until you defeat him.

Castlevania has left a lasting impression on me. From entering the Forest of Silence to fighting the incarnations of Dracula, it has held endless fascination and frustration. At times creepy and beautiful to downright scary (there’s a statue in the Castle Center that weeps blood which then becomes a monster), it is a game I return to again and again.

 

 

 

 

7 Nights of Darkness: A Low Budget Horror Movie

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7 Nights of Darkness is one of my favorite horror movies, though those of you who are familiar with it might think I’m a little crazy. It is a low budget movie made in 2011 by Allen Kellogg who also stars as Carter (one of my favorite characters, by the way). The special effects are a little crappy (and I say that with complete love of the movie), but still effective, except for the part where Lina (strapped into the lobotomy chair) is being taunted by Randy and her face turns into a computerized greenish sort of screaming expression which I think is supposed to be the ghost possessing her. Still, I did scream at that part the first time I watched this movie.

The movie is about 6 people doing a reality show. They must spend 7 nights in an abandoned asylum and complete the given tasks in order to split the 1 million dollar prize money. It sort of reminds me of that old MTV show (I think it was on MTV) Fear, where people took cameras and ghost-hunting equipment into empty hospitals, prisons and asylums. Anyway, back to the movie.

Odd things start to happen, a bucket comes flying out of nowhere, a baby is heard crying in the middle of the night in an empty bassinette, maggots appear on pizza, and these occurrences wear on the nerves of the contestants. The above mentioned possession of Lina scares the hell out of Randy, and he tries convincing the others to leave with him. When that fails, he asks them to at least help him get Lina (once more catatonic after the brief screaming incident) out. They agree but when they enter Randy and Lina’s room, they find the lobotomy chair empty. Lina is gone. One by one, the contestants disappear until only Carter and Brooke remain.

I think the reasons why this movie is a favorite and effectively scary is that it uses several tried and true horror movie elements. Jump scares, atmosphere, tension-building and disturbing (okay, maybe unnerving is a better word) scenes. It also employs several elements that can be found in other horror movies, namely The Ring, The Grudge, with just a dash of House on Haunted Hill thrown in for good measure.

If you are a fan of straight-to-DVD movies, (or creepy ghost girls and dolls) I recommend that you check out 7 Nights of Darkness. I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed. And make sure you watch through the credits, there a bit of a surreal bonus scene that’s worth watching.

What low budget movies are your favorites?

 

Love Stories Part 3: Sayuri, Nobu and the Chairman

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Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautifully written novel by Arthur Golden which was made into a visually stunning movie directed by Rob Marshall. I enjoyed both versions immensely.

Chiyo and her sister, Satsu, are sold by their father as it becomes apparent that their mother’s health is rapidly deteriorating. He is not a young man, either, and while this might seem to be a callous thing to do, I believe he hoped to give them a better life. However, it doesn’t work out for Satsu as well as it does for Chiyo. The sisters are split, Satsu fated for a brothel and Chiyo handed over to Mother, head of the Nitta okiya.

It’s not an easy life for Chiyo. She agrees to become an apprentice geisha, attending school with her friend, Pumpkin. From the first moment they met, Hatsumomo dislikes Chiyo, perhaps sensing the girl as a future rival. As the leading geisha, making the most money, Hatsumomo is in a position of power and she makes it her mission to make life hell for Chiyo, especially after Chiyo catches Hatsumomo in a clandestine affair with someone beneath the geisha’s status. Chiyo confesses to Mother about discovering the affair and Hatsumomo is forbidden from seeing Koichi, her lover, ever again. Unable to endure Hatsumomo’s cruelty, Chiyo plans to runaway with Satsu. However, the night she was to meet Satsu, Chiyo falls from the roof of the okiya in her attempt to escape, incurring Mother’s anger and even more debt that must be worked off. Chiyo is also no longer allowed to be trained as a geisha.

Years pass. Chiyo’s life is one of a servant, she runs errands and does chores while Pumpkin continues her education. One day, Chiyo meets a business man, known as the Chairman, who cheers her up by purchasing shaved ice and gives her a handkerchief with money in it. From that moment on, Chiyo vows to become a geisha in order to be in the Chairman’s life. Filled with purpose, Chiyo donates the money to a shrine and prays. She keeps the handkerchief as a memento.

Not long after, in what seems to be an act of fate, Chiyo becomes an apprentice to the popular geisha, Mameha, and her training begins once more. With the transition of becoming a geisha, Chiyo is given the name Sayuri, and she is introduced into geisha society and customers. Her heart soars when, after so many years, she once more meets the Chairman. Sayuri feels that finally she will be with the man she loves. As Sayuri starts making her rounds to teahouses and accompanying Mameha to events, she catches the eye of several men, one being the Chairman’s friend, Nobu.

In order not to spoil this novel for those of you who haven’t read it, I won’t venture into detail but I do want to say that as the novel progresses, a triangle between Nobu, Sayuri and the Chairman forms, one that really tore at my heart. I rooted for one, wanting Sayuri to find the happiness that she deserved but there came a part, near the end where I was sure she was making the wrong choice. I was so involved that I yelled at the book and tossed it onto my nightstand where I glared at it for several minutes before picking it and continued reading. I will also state that I was very happy with the end.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautiful novel, feeling like a fairytale and a true memoir. Arthur Golden created a truly captivating story, one not easy to put down and I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t done so already.

This concludes my Love Stories series, I hope you all have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and sharing my favorite fictional love stories with you. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.

Love Stories Part 2: Severus and Lily

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Okay, I’m a bit of a Potterhead.  I own and I have read the whole series several times, I have the movies and there was the one time that I crocheted a Gryffindor scarf. There has been a little bit of an uproar lately about the romance between Ron and Hermione after J.K. Rowling admitted that she regrets the characters becoming a couple. But I’m not going to discuss that romance, although it is one that divides the fans of the series. I’m going to talk about the relationship of Severus Snape and Lily Potter.

It’s there, hidden beneath the plots and subplots of the series, behind everything Snape does. He has an almost tangible dislike for Harry since the very first moment they meet. Harry looks very much like his father, Snape’s childhood nemesis and tormentor, but as is so often said he has his mother’s eyes. And, as it’s discovered in the final book of the series, Snape was very much in love with Lily, although a friendship between the two is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

The story of the relationship unfolds in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, after Harry finds Snape dying. He collects his memories in a flask and gives them to Harry. In chapter 33, Harry discovers by way of the pensieve used to view Snape’s memories everything Severus has done, from the first meeting between Lily Evans (Potter) and Severus Snape to the moment he departs to aid Harry, Hermione and Ron. And what is told in that chapter really blew my mind when I first read it, gone was the villain that had been painted and a silent hero emerged. I cried.

On Pinterest, I have come across pins centered on this love story. Here’s a couple.

Taken from my Happy Geekery board

 

This is one of my favorite love stories despite the fact that it is an unhappy one. Even after all the years, Severus loved only Lily Potter and as any Potter fan worth their salt can attest, his patronus is a remembrance of her.

 

 

 

 

Horror Movies – Part 1

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I watch horror movies all year long but there isn’t another time when I totally indulge in a sort of month long marathon. And while I am not claiming to have seen them all (impossible to do, I’m sure) I will claim to have seen a variety ranging from styles, decades and subjects. I would like to share some of my favorites with you and feel free to do the same.

Ghosts: Sinister Shades

The Ring (2002). One of the scariest movies I have ever seen. I can still remember seeing it on video when it first came out and just watching a video about a video that kills was scary but then when someone called while I was watching the movie I was reluctant to answer the phone, dreading the words “Seven days”. The images were disturbing alone, intense, nonsensical until you’ve watched the whole movie, and then everything makes a sort of sense. The DVD has an Easter egg at the main menu. Press the cursor up twice until the select icon disappears and then press enter for a disturbing treat, the entire “video” that Samara made. You’ll see what the characters in the movie had seen before they receive the terrible phone call. I found this out when I read Jack Flacco’s blog  in his Women Who Wow Wednesday series.

The Woman in Black (2012). Okay if there are any fans of really scary ghost films out there haven’t seen this movie, I recommend checking it out. It scared the sh@# out of me. Like most ghost films, it centers around an vengeful ghost, and the power she has is horrifying. It’s tantalizingly atmospheric (a huge house that becomes cut off during the high tide), the locals behave strangely and the characters are very interesting. There is no slash appeal here, this is a good old fashioned slow scare. This movie works on many levels besides the scare factor. It’s the humanity of the characters. I once heard that effective horror contains characters you care about, it makes what happens that more scarier. And seeing this movie has made me want to read the novel. If any of you have read it, I’d really like to hear your opinions.

The Others (2001). This was a sucker punch movie. I love those! If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it for you. Again we have great atmosphere, sinister secondary characters and strange happenings. The children are sure it’s ghosts haunting them, while their mother (played by Nicole Kidman) doesn’t believe them. There are several really awesome scenes in this movie. One that I had to re-watch was the one where Anne and Nicholas are in bed and Anne is telling Nicholas about the kid that is bothering her. He keeps opening the curtains. Nicholas is scared but is sure that his sister is just being a brat. Anyway, there is the part where Nicholas is touched by Victor, the ghost boy. The first time I saw this movie, I was thinking much like Nicholas. His sister was a brat and it was a horrible prank to play but by carefully watching, I noticed that there was evidence of Victor.

House on Haunted Hill (1999). Still one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. This one is gorier though compared (with the exception of The Ring but only for the disturbing images) to the above mentioned movies. Certain scenes are very effective, and downright creepy. I enjoyed the nod to Vincent Price (who starred in the original HoHH) by naming the main character in the remake Stephen Price. There are actual ghosts in this version whereas there were none (sorry for spoiling the original) in the 1959 version. There is still the hatred between the couple who invite greedy guests to this haunted house which is found in both movies. I recommend (if you don’t mind b&w films and old fashioned special effects) seeing the original too. One of my favorite scenes is where Sara (Ali Larter) is flailing around in a vat of blood because she thinks Eddie (Taye Diggs) has leapt into it. Oh, and if you have this on DVD but get like me and shut it off as soon as the credits start to roll, next time sit through the credits or fast forward them. There is some really creepy bonus material afterward.

The Grudge (2004). Another Japanese inspired American remake. I like the style of both The Ring and The Grudge. Subtly scary at first, and both contain horrific events that had plagued the ghosts in their former lives. Secrets abound and as the movie progresses, all is revealed. This movie also has several interwoven subplots that some might find jarring but like pieces of a puzzle, all are necessary to create the whole picture. The sort of rattling, moan/groan of the ghost is terrifying, just that sound alone can make my skin crawl. Also, one of my favorite actors (Ted Raimi) has a brief part in this movie (I am also a huge Xena: Warrior Princess fan). And it is very interesting (maybe just to me) that Amber Tamblyn was in The Grudge 2 and The Ring.

The other ghost movies I enjoy are:

Poltergiest

The Haunting

The Sixth Sense

The Innkeepers

Stir of Echoes

These films listed are just in my top ten. There are other really awesome ghost themed movies out there, some don’t really fit neatly in the horror genre. For example: Betelgeuse, High Spirits, The Corpse Bride, Haunted Mansion (which can be categorized as a somewhat scary movie for those of a certain age, I guess), and Ghost Town.