Horror, Op-Ed

Horror Movie Sequels That Don’t Suck

Overall I would say I am not a fan of the never ending horror sequel. A lot of decent movies are undercut by their sequels, or even decent franchises get bogged down in too many movies. Despite this every once in awhile a horror sequel comes along and is truly worth it. While they aren’t generally as good as the original, they do manage to get close enough to be worth a watch or two.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

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We are going to jump right over Nightmare 2 because it’s awful. Dream Warriors earns it’s spot not for being a great horror film, but rather for being a great comedy masquerading as a horror film. The first Nightmare movie had a strange balance of horror and making you laugh at situations that probably shouldn’t have been funny. 3 leans into that and leans hard. This is easily the funniest in the series, and does so unapologetically. It also manages to still be pretty brutal and horrifying at times.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Hellraiser quickly goes down as a series, in fact even this movie is pushing it. That being said Hellraiser is open ended enough that the sequel is nice. Kirsty’s entire family has been brutally murdered at the end of the first movie, and the Cenobites kind of leave, but in all honesty they still desperately want her. It’s sequel fodder to the max. Kirsty must once again fight against the Cenobites as well as the actual bad guys, people attempting to control them. This movie ramps up the gore, but doesn’t manage to have as solid of a story. It’s still creepy, and fairly horrifying. It’s also the only sequel in the series that I consider anything more than a joke that no one else is in on.

The Devil’s Rejects

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This movie gets the distinct honor of being much better than the first (in my opinion). The Devil’s Rejects is fairly stand alone, while it is a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, you can skip that movie. Where I felt House of 1000 Corpses was an unfocused gore fest, Devil’s Rejects is well, a focused gore fest. The movie is still in your face, brutal, and can be a bit too much. It’s also entertaining, and those of us that love messed up horror movies will have more than a few moments to enjoy.

Jaws 2

Continuing the trend of the second movie being the only passable sequel, we come to Jaws. Jaws was a very clever movie, with a lot of different intense moments. It ends with the humans being completely trapped with just the shark, and that intensity is what Jaws 2 hopes to replicate. Skipping a lot of the build up, Jaws 2 jumps straight into a group of humans being stranded in the water with the shark hunting them. It’s effective, though not as entertaining. In fact that is the bottom line with this movie, everything about it is close to what Jaws was, but falls just a bit short. It’s not a horrible sequel, and it’s certainly better than anything else in the series.

Scream 4

I debated between Scream 2 and Scream 4. Ultimately I decided on Scream 4 because it manages to capture the feel that Scream had almost completely. In fact Scream 4 is arguably not a sequel, and if anything it helps the movie. It’s desire to be something wholly unique, one part sequel, on part reboot, one part new movie, manages to work well for it. It honors the first while still pushing forward to be it’s own thing. At the end of the day Scream 4 is really just Scream next generation, and that is a good thing.

Dawn of the Dead

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I debated whether or not to include this, based solely on the fact that I don’t know that it really counts as a sequel. The “of the Dead” series are more like stand alone movies centered around zombies than an actual series of sequels. That being said if you go on the loosest definition of sequels it is one, and it’s a great one. The movie does what a lot of horror sequels do and boosts the horror, gore, and action. However, it manages to do so without losing much. It’s still a clever, horrific, well told zombie movie. It wouldn’t call it better than Night of the Living Dead, but it’s darn close.

Horror, Op-Ed

Point and Click Horror Games

Lately I have seen a number of articles and videos that include statements claiming that point and click is not a genre normally associated with horror. I won’t point them out because I don’t wish to bad mouth these people directly. In fairness if you do bring up point and click games a large number of gamers will go straight to LucasArts games or more comedic titles. That being said point and click and horror have gone hand and hand for a number of years. I thought it might be nice to discuss some of the best point and click horror games you can play.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

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Any chance that I have to talk about this underrated gem I take. I Have No Mouth is based on an older short story. The writer of the short story was the writer for the game (as well as a voice actor). The game does go pretty far from the story itself, but due to the writer being involved in both it keeps the same feeling, tone, and overall message intact. The game is dark, disturbing, and challenging. It’s not only the player that is being forced to deal with the horrific events, but the characters themselves can also be negatively impacted by what’s around them, thus changing the outcome of the game. It’s all at once horrific and beautiful.

Gabriel Knight

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You play as lead character Gabriel Knight (never saw that coming) who is an owner of a bookstore. He discovers that he is meant to be a Shadow Hunter. The series unfolds as mystery horror games. Each one shows different cases that Gabriel must solve. While going through the games Gabriel is haunted by a number of terrifying things. From nightmares to actual enemies. It’s a dark but well done series.

Dark Seed

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Dark Seed features a normal world and then a “dark” world that is directly base on work by H.R. Giger. When you start with “inspired by Giger” you can only go to truly dark, horrific, but oddly beautiful places. The story itself follows Mike Dawson as he attempts to stop the dark world from over taking the normal world. The challenge of the game is that the clock is often unforgiving. So the game is sort of in a limbo between being a great point and click game and an unforgiving one.

Clock Tower

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It’s hard to sum up the entire series into a nice description. Many of the games are directly related to one another, but the stories themselves are challenging and far reaching. It is an impressive series, and went on to make a number of great spin offs as well. They are challenging, fear inspiring, and down right horrific at times. The series has taken inspiration from a number of other figures in horror, including (but not limited to) Dario Argento. It’s a great series, and a rather popular one that people often forget is a sign of how well point and click works together.

Decay- The Mare

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Moving into more modern horror point and click we have Decay- The Mare. This is another often overlooked but surprisingly pleasing horror game. It manages to build a lot of suspense and tension, making gamers almost want to stop solving puzzles because of what they will be faced with. Once you reach the end of the game and discover the secrets behind the horror it also stands out as one of the more unique horror games I’ve ever played.

The Cat Lady

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This game is not always classified as point and click, but I feel it really does belong there. It is a hard game to play. I don’t mean in that it is challenging, but that it is emotionally draining, forces gamers to deal with a large number of difficult subjects, and is just… hard. Despite that it’s also terrifying, and terrifyingly beautiful. It has a unique art style, and will stand out as one of the best games I’ve played in recent years.

These are by no means the only point and click horror games out there, they aren’t even all the good ones. However, they do paint a rather large picture of the two genres’ relationship. While again it’s easy to go straight to mystery or humor with point and click, it has had a pretty strong relationship with horror in the past. The modern revival of the point and click genre has a strong leaning towards horror, especially with indie games. So get out there and explore, you’ll find some pretty incredible point and click horror games.

Horror, Op-Ed, Op-Ed, Video Games

Scariest Non-Horror Games

There are plenty of horror games that keep us on the edge of our seat. They thrill us, scare us, and bring us oh so much delight. Occasionally though games come along that bring us those same feelings despite the fact that they aren’t really horror games at all. Here are a few games that bring the scary without being in the horror genre.

Minecraft

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For a game that is all about getting supplies and building your world, Minecraft can get a little intense. The truth is what is “scary” about Minecraft is that death seems to be waiting for you around every corner. While gathering resources it’s hard to balance constantly going back to a safe place to store supplies and continue on your questing. The consequences for death is losing everything that you’ve gathered, and it carries a rather harsh sting with it. Add in that the enemies are fairly scary in their own right (creepers, zombies, endermen) and you have a game that brings an intense fear, despite not being horror at all. Eventually you get used to Minecraft though, the loss of supplies stops carrying such a heavy weight, and then they upgrade the game and something new comes along to bring a bit of fear.

Metal Gear Series

MGS has a few moments in the game that make it at the very least creepy. Psycho Mantis stands out as one of those. Perhaps over time his tricks don’t hold the fear they once had, but at launch it could really creep people out. Beyond this simple boss battle there are still other moments (like the death hall) that feel slightly misplaced and rather terrifying. Going further into the series you will still have these random moments, including more disturbing boss fights, and scenes that get player’s hearts racing. MGS also deserves a nod because the actual plot itself can be down right unnerving.

Red Dead Redemption

First I am going to say that this is not including the Undead Nightmare DLC which in it’s own right belongs in the horror genre. Taking just the base game there is one aspect that manages to bring jump scares more than once, the animals. Riding around and BAM cougar. Walking along to skin an animal and BAM snake. The animals are these background “enemies” for the most part and yet they manage to bring a fair number of jump scares and intense moments of “don’t die, don’t die”. It also doesn’t hurt that animals usually warn you when they are stalking you. Instead of thinking “oh I hear a cougar better move on” it’s more of a panic inducing moment.

Halo Series

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Halo gets it’s “scary” because of one thing, The Flood. Halo starts off as a fairly interesting but standard FPS game then going along and suddenly a new enemy. The Flood is basically zombie like beings that make their appearance in the Halo series and brings a little scariness to the sci-fi games. While they aren’t enough to really push the series into the horror genre The Flood brings many aspects from horror games. They are bloody, creepy, and usually have more than one jump scare along with them.

Fallout 3

Much like The Flood from Halo, Fallout bring zombie like enemies with Feral Ghouls. In most of the series they aren’t that bad, Fallout 3 deserves a special mention because of the Metros. The metro is extremely easy to get lost in, dark, creepy, and full of Feral Ghouls. While overall Fallout 3 is not worth calling a horror game… those damn metros.

Half Life 2

I am hard pressed to believe that this game isn’t actually classified as horror, but it seems to escape that according to most. First, there is Ravenholm, a truly nightmarish level that will leave the best of gamers more than a little scared. It is filled with headcrabs and zombies, and while you can race through, going off the beaten path will help you discover more but also give you more scares. Even outside Ravenholm though the game still brings the creepy. Zombies and other various enemies will still find you, and when you start to feel like you are out of the “horror” part of the game something will happen and you are right back in it.

Dragon Age Origins

There are a few points where this game crosses into down right creepy. The Deep Roads are probably where it goes full blown scary though. It has scary enemies, and if that isn’t enough the voice over of the poem will leave many quaking in their boots.

Hespith repeats this poem:

First day, they come and catch everyone.
Second day, they beat us and eat some for meat.
Third day, the men are all gnawed on again.
Fourth day, we wait and fear for our fate.
Fifth day, they return and it’s another girl’s turn.
Sixth day, her screams we hear in our dreams.
Seventh day, she grew as in her mouth they spew.
Eighth day, we hated as she is violated.
Ninth day, she grins and devours her kin.
Now she does feast, as she’s become the beast.
Now you lay and wait, for their screams will haunt you in your dreams.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

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The Legend of Zelda is a totally kid and adult friendly adventure game. Majora’s Mask seems to start getting more than a little twisted though. First and foremost the plot itself is creepy, and along the way there are some “super fun” enemies like the Gibdo (mummies), and Wallmaster. It’s creepy, has it’s fair share of jump scares, and more then a few intense moments. Majora’s Mask almost feels like kid friendly horror.

Batman Arkham Asylum

You can probably boil down most of the “horror” in this game to the morgue part specifically. During that time in the game you will be faced with Scarecrow and his many way’s of trying to get into Batman’s mind. However, I think the overall game carries with it a bit of a “horror” feel. It’s dark, the inmates having taken over the Asylum is rather unnerving, and once you leave the morgue you are never totally free of the after effects. Next to Half-Life 2 this game to me is the top contender on the list for maybe just being able to add horror as a sub genre.

Horror, Op-Ed

Horror Movie Remakes Need To Stop

Horror movies are constantly being made. It’s a great money making genre, and horror movie fans are pretty devoted. However, lately the trend has been fewer original horror movies and more reboots or remakes. It seems to have really kicked off with Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween (some did exist before then), and has continued to go from there. Now while there have been a few good ones, for the most part this has meant a market bogged down in mediocre or just plain bad horror movie remakes. Here is a list of reasons why it needs to stop.

WARNING THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS

The reboot/remake often forgets what makes the first so great in the first place: biggest offender Friday the 13th

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One of the problems with the remakes/reboots is that often ignore what made people love the orginal. A perfect example of this is Friday the 13th remake from 2009. What really made the original Friday the 13th stand out is the identity of the killer. Since the creation of the final girl horror movies we’ve seen tons of them. Friday the 13th series, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween… the list goes on. What Friday the 13th had was the fact that the masked killer was not in fact who you thought it was. It was not Jason, but rather Jason’s mother. It was surprising, clever, and actually made this movie stand out in it’s genre.

Along comes the remake and aside from being mediocre in every other way it decides to skip the grand reveal that the killer is Jason’s mom and just make it Jason. It’s boring, predictable, completely bypassed the one moment of “wow that’s pretty unique” that the original had. Maybe the excuse is we all know that Jason’s mom is the killer, but then again wasn’t this remake supposed to be for a new generation? Not only that, but even knowing that Jason’s mom is the killer doesn’t completely ruin the experience of the original Friday the 13th. The fact is the unique killer is arguably one of the most important things about Friday the 13th so why ignore that?

The changes to the killers are usually not successful: biggest offenders Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street

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Rob Zombie, as mentioned, really kicked off this trend with Halloween. He took a unique approach to his remake and really wanted to look at that character of Michael Meyers. I give Rob Zombie credit for thinking outside the box, but the end result is just not that good. Part of what made John Carpenter’s Halloween so brilliant was that Meyers was this unknown killer. He was some random kid that seemed to live a normal life until he killed his sister. He is then sent away and described as pure evil. Meyer’s doesn’t have much of a reason for stalking and killing the teens that night. The biggest connection he seems to have is that Laurie just happens to stroll up to his house while he’s in there. He kills because he can, it’s as simple as that.

Zombie takes the time to really go into Meyer’s past. Shows him as an abused and troubled boy that doesn’t just snap, but snaps because of all the hardship he faces. The thing is the numerous Halloween sequels that came before this remake already tried that. They desperately tried to give a connection between Meyers and Laurie. It wasn’t needed then, and it’s not needed now. Zombie simply repeats what has already been done, he desperately tries to make Meyers into a complex character. Meyers was never more scary than when he was just a faceless killer with no motivation. Just like the sequels seemed to miss that, Zombie did too. I give Zombie credit for trying, but the end result is rather dull.

Wes Craven was a pro at bringing a macabre sense of humor to his movies. Freddy is the perfect example of that. He is a scary villain, one that was horrible in life, and can now channel the power of dreams to torture in death. Yet despite all this Freddy is really rather hilarious. He is one bad pun after another which really challenges the viewer to laugh while watching something horrific. It’s more than a little twisted, but it’s ultimately successful. It keeps the Nightmare on Elm Street series from being the same as the other slasher flicks.

The remake once again suffers from the desperate need for more backstory and character development for Freddy. You get a closer look at what makes Freddy, Freddy, but in the process the charm of the original character is completely lost. Freddy as a villain might be a little more twisted, but then he’s just as forgettable as the next guy because he’s been done before. The movie totally ignored what made Freddy popular, I mean the new guy makes all of one pun. Honestly Freddy’s new development is forgettable, and I find myself just wanting the old Freddy.

They think more gore is really the solution: biggest offenders, pretty much all of them

The true problem with many of the remakes is how lazy they seem. Little effort is put into making it something that still honors the classic but has it’s own voice. It’s not like remakes like The Thing (1982) where the overall theme is used but a new and wonderful plot is brought to it. No, instead they find the basic plot and then just cover it in more gore. The Hills Have Eyes focused a lot less on the emotional trauma to the characters, but had a lot more gore. Carrie doesn’t really look into the emotional break down of this girl with a slow build up to a climax, but there is a lot more gore. The Last House on the Left lost all the complex reflection but…, well you get the point.

It’s a system built on being able to make a lot of the movies quickly, and easily. Friday the 13th is the final girl movie on a lake, killer with a hockey mask, buckets of blood. Replace lake with suburbia, and the mask and you have Halloween. The fact of the matter is though gore does not make a movie scary it makes it gory. But making a movie gory with jump scares is a lot easier than really trying to work out the plot. At the end of the day it’s a sad system that just leaves classics covered in fake blood.

One of the best possible reboots wasn’t really a reboot, and others that have tried the same have failed

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As I mentioned in the introduction I won’t say that all remakes are bad. In fact one of the best exists in a world of remake/reboot/sequel, and that is shockingly Scream 4. The confused nature of what this movie is probably lends itself to the success. Instead of being a straight up reboot it’s kind of a sequel that follows reboot rules. Doing this keeps it close enough to the original while still giving it room to breath. It manages to do what Scream did all those years before. It breaks down the rules of horror (now changed for the new generation), has an interesting cast of characters, and the killer reveal that is a little shocking. The movie works so well because it hangs between a sequel and reboot, pull out the sequel aspects and it would have been a failure. It would have been a boring remake of a movie that we didn’t need.

This sort of blend between sequel and reboot was attempted with Texas Chainsaw 3D. It fails because it’s less of a sequel and more of a lazy reboot. First while being a pretty much direct sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or so it claims) the amount of time that has gone by completely breaks the timeline. More than 20 years have actually gone by, and yet the movie tries to make you believe it’s just been a few. Aside from that horrible oversight the whole plot is turned on it’s head. Leatherface is not the abused killer from a messed up family. No, the people outside the family were really the bad guys and Leatherface is a hero of sorts? I mean there is more to it than that, but it’s not worth analyzing. It attempts to find the success of blending sequel and reboot, but fails. When attempting to mimic the success of other movies it’s important to pay attention to all the aspects that created that success.

Bottomline:

At the end of the day we get a few gems of remakes/reboots. We even have a few passable ones. With the world so bogged down with so many remakes however it’s hard to sort through them to find the ones worth watching. So unless a movie is going to really actually try to honor the source material but still find it’s own voice, it just needs to not happen.