Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Monster Special: Assorted Monsters

Some of the scariest monsters are the ones that are the most plausible. While I don’t actively worry about werewolves munching on me, I do worry that some random psychopath is going to snap and kill me for no good reason. (This isn’t to mention the psychopaths I have given a reason to kill me.) Which is why I’ve kind of grown out of slasher movies, because I use movies to help me escape from the horrors of the real world, not remind me of them.

That said, I have to recommend a very plausible and completely horrifying (and totally entertaining) movie, Funny Games. It stars Naomi Watts and Michael Pitt and is best described as The Strangers meets A Clockwork Orange. In Funny Games, Paul (Michael Pitt) and his cohort Peter (Brady Corbet) terrorize a family (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Devon Gearhart) over the course of a night. What makes the terror so horrifying is the genteel, almost refined, nature of it. Paul and Peter are normal-seeming, clean cut young men, which is exactly why the family allows them into their home in the first place. It’s also interesting that it’s an upper class, well-reared family that is attacked, and that the family’s adherence to social conventions and good manners seemingly prevents them from doing what those of us born-in-a-barn types might have done (kicked the perps in the nuts and ran screaming from the house). The movie makes nice use of breaking the fourth wall a few times, allowing Paul to communicate directly to the audience. It’s a technique that is tricky and needs to be handled perfectly, and Funny Games does handle it perfectly.

On the other end of the genteel scale is one of my favorites, Wrong Turn. Wrong Turn is your basic “inbred cannibal hillbillies” story, and yes, that’s actually a genre. And because I was raised in New Jersey and lived in New York City and this have the snobby northern attitude and fear of the non-urban, I’m pretty much open to the idea that hidden in the Deep South are pockets of untouched-by-civilization cannibal breeding grounds. If you like this genre of movie, you can’t go wrong with Wrong Turn. It’s got imaginative deaths, good acting, and plenty of fright.

When I was young, we’d always play Bloody Mary at sleepovers. As a result, even though it’s probably been sixteen years since I last played and I know better because time and logic are on my side, I still get a little creeped out when I walk past a mirror in the dark. So it’s no surprise that Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh scared the crap out of me. Yes, the first movie was good, too, but Candyman 2 has a better story and makes wonderful use of its New Orleans setting. Candyman modifies the old Bloody Mary legend, with the same basic premise (chanting a name in front of a mirror) attached to a new ghoulie (Candyman). It’s a nice enlivening of a creaky premise.

Finally, there’s Silent Hill. I’m not too into video games, I lack the attention span necessary to sit glued to the couch hacking away at monsters for hours on end to be any good at them. But last year I got a cheap used Xbox to check out the Buffy the Vampire Slayer games. A friend who knows I’m a horror movie freak suggested I check out the Silent Hill series, claiming it was pretty much like steering your way through a particularly awesome horror movie. I hadn’t been too impressed by the movie when I’d seen it a while back (“Too much like a video game, too little like a movie” were my exact words, actually), but I gave the second game, Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams, a shot since a used version was available for cheap on Amazon. It took me a while to get into it, but I totally got sucked in by the mythology and creepy atmosphere. This game will absolutely impede your ability to sleep, and not just ‘cause of the flickering graphics. I went on to play Silent Hill 3 and loved it as well. And then I played Silent Hill 4: The Room for, like, an hour and hated it and put it aside in favor of re-playing Silent Hill 2. And then I played Silent Hill: 0rigins, a prequel to the series and a port from Playstation Portable, and I hated it even more and kept dying, so I put it aside for a re-play of Silent Hill 3. So the series isn’t fool proof. (There’s also the first game, which is similar in plot to the movie and which I haven't played, and a fifth game that just came out but, alas for me, is only on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.) But the second and third installments are highly recommended for gamers and non-gamers alike. Both feature great stories and unbelievably creepy images and sounds. The sounds alone are a huge selling point – the sound effects are chilling, and the music, by Akira Yamaoka, is good enough to inspire soundtracks for each game. They’re perfect mood music for a creepy Halloween party. If you’re a horror movie fan, you should definitely pick up a cheap used Xbox of PS2 and get these games. They’ll keep even an attention-span-lacking non-gamer glued to the screen, frantically trying not to die, not unlike a protagonist in a horror movie.


Sex Mahoney for President said...

Even if you don't like video games, back in the early aughts, someone built an mod pack for GTA: Vice City called Perfect Dark, or Perfect Midnight, something along those lines. It changed the game into a post apocalyptic, zombie infested nightmare and added a few zombie related missions. The last mission ends with your hideout being overrun by zombies and everyone but you dies. From that point, you are kicked into a game world where there are no save points and nothing but an endless stream of zombies running at you.

Once you're bitten, you slowly turn into one and die.

There is no way to win.

It's the best video game I've ever played; plus, it's available for the PC and free.

My sister is a big fan of the Silent Hill series. This is the second endorsement I've heard for the game. I'll have to check that one out.

Sex Mahoney for President

smd said...

Oh man, that GTA thing sounds fun. I actually like driving games. I'm about as skilled at them as I am driving in real life (which is to say not very), but my used XBox came with a Midnight Club disc stuck inside and I have fun zooming around from time to time. I'll definitely have to check that out.

And clearly your sister has great taste. Seriously, you won't regret checking out Silent Hill. I'd suggest starting with the second game, it has a great storyline with a lot of subtle psychological twists, plus it stands alone. The third game is a direct sequel to the first, and while you can enjoy it without playing the first, you probably need to read a summary of the first game to understand what's happening. But any of the first three games are worth trying, and they've all been out for a while so it shouldn't be hard to find a cheap used copy.