Worst Horror Games #1 – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

worsthorrorlogohalloweenjekyll

★ 1 Star

Genre: Horror / Platformer
Platform: NES
Publisher: Bandai / Nintendo
Published: 1988

Summary – Basically the plot of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but extremely bastardized.

Overall Thoughts
Infamously considered one of the most garbage mainstream games ever made, what could have made for a fascinating moral concept in video games was wasted on this steaming, turd-crusted instrument of torture. I wouldn’t recommend this game for the most hardcore and merciless of masochists. Jekyll and Hyde would make the perfect Christmas gift for someone you loathed.

This is the floor of the barrel. Jekyll and Hyde is the only game on my “Worst” list that I have no semi-enjoyment of or positive feelings towards at all. All of the others are flawless masterpieces of game-making in comparison, no matter how picky I was about their faults. The cover art for this game is kind of neat, and that’s where the good qualities come to an abrupt stop.

While it’s true that you can’t expect as much from older games, especially older horror-themed games, as you can the newer ones, there’s nothing to like about Jekyll and Hyde for any reason. There’s not even a charming nostalgia factor. It rubs its butt, unashamed, over the complexities of Stevenson’s novel and over the eyes of the unfortunate player.
The graphics aren’t pretty, the gameplay is frustrating and devoid of all traces of fun, and the mechanic of switching between Jekyll and Hyde is not only wasted, but broken! Sometimes you will randomly die in mid-stride just for playing as Hyde! The entire mess sucks. It sucks objectively, it sucks subjectively, and it sucks eternally.

There’s a popular and hilarious episode of Angry Video Game Nerd, that you’ve likely heard of or seen, chronicling the horrors of what it’s like to play this dung heap in-depth, and if you have a little time to spare, I’d totally recommend looking it up on YouTube as well. I mean, it’s essential to get the full Jekyll and Hyde Experience™.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Seeing as it’s based off of a classic, yes, but not done this way! Please, anything but that!

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 1
Art and Design – 1.5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1
Fear Factor – 0
Music and Sound – 1.5
General Score – 1 out of 5

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Worst Horror Games #2 – Siren

worsthorrorlogohalloweensiren

★★ 2.5 Stars

Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sony
Published: 2003

Summary – Siren follows a large cast of characters who find themselves trapped in the remote, strange village of Hanuda, Japan, which has come under a mysterious curse causing it to be enveloped in darkness. The villagers, mutated and corrupted by the curse, have all become hostile zombies.

Overall Thoughts
Again, I want to point out that this list is not objective, but sorted by my personal preference. (It’s also leaked far past Halloween, sorry about that!) Some members of the team behind Silent Hill created Siren, so for that reason alone I hate to place it near the top of the “Worst”, but I really hated this game. It’s like they took the worst qualities that Silent Hill had and amplified them – weird controls, a hard-to-follow plot, invincible and incredibly annoying enemies, etc. If I had to summarize this game in two words, I would call it “mercilessly confusing”.

Siren feels hostile, and not in a good way like horror is supposed to, but more like it’s actively punishing you for not being psychic and already having figured out what to do. I got a similar feeling with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, if you’ve ever played that. Unlike this game, though, Majora’s Mask made up for its frustrating parts by being otherwise engaging and rewarding. You don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything playing Siren, but dug yourself deeper into frustration. There’s not any one part that I can use as an example, because it’s a lot of moments spread throughout.

The one thing I truly did like is Siren‘s concept and design, which uses themes of Japanese occultism and seems to be inspired by the works of Junji Ito, notably “Village of the Sirens”, one of his best short stories. The shibito, a village of cursed humans that serve as the main enemies, are incredibly creepy looking, and the fact that they relentlessly chase you down can be scary, at least until it becomes annoying. A unique mechanic is used to where you can peek through the eyes of the shibito in order to avoid them, which I thought was creative and bizarre. It’s not often you get to see through the eyes of the zombie that’s after you in games like these!

As good and creative as the design is, especially in regards to body horror, I hate to say that the game itself remains unfair, cruel and often incomprehensible. Silent Hill had its obscure moments, but there was a sense of logic and a natural path to its dreaminess that doesn’t exist here. Siren does have a fanbase who insist there’s something special about it, and maybe there is, but I don’t appreciate having my patience threshold constantly tested to find it. Will I give it another chance? Someday, maybe, but truthfully it is more interesting to read about than play.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
I honestly want to say “no”, but I suppose there’s potential. The themes of the story can be quite fascinating when dissected outside of the game, and do remind me a lot of Junji Ito or H.P. Lovecraft.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 2.5
Art and Design – 4
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1
Fear Factor – 2.5
Music and Sound – 3
General Score – 2.5 out of 5

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Worst Horror Games #3 – Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within

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★★ 2.5 Stars

Genre: Survival Horror / Puzzle
Platform: PlayStation
Publisher: Human Entertainment / Agetec
Published: 1998

SummaryAlso known as Clock Tower: Ghost Head, Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within follows a student named Alyssa Hale, who grapples with her split personality, an evil, murderous man named Bates. After Bates kills three of her classmates, Alyssa tries to uncover the reason why Bates exists in the first place, leading her deeper into the dark history of her biological family, whom she never knew.

Overall Thoughts
I have a soft spot for this game, despite its many blatant, glaring flaws. It is objectively poorly planned-out, unfair and confounding with its puzzles, and many things about the central plot make no sense. All three fans of the Clock Tower series agree that it’s the weakest entry, though it does have a few positive things to offer.

The “Jekyll and Hyde” mechanic switching between the good Alyssa and the evil Bates is extremely creative. Bates will commit necessary crimes that Alyssa won’t to move the plot along, while Alyssa is better at problem solving. The soundtrack is a surprising electro-horror gem, with several fun and tense tracks – particularly the villain themes, like “Shiver Zombie”. The voice acting is actually phenomenal, which surprised me even more. Older horror games, well… they aren’t known for their stellar voice acting.

Sadly, these are the two main draws of Clock Tower II. The plot is interesting, but dotted with holes and useless characters. The graphics are passable. Horror elements often come across as silly because of the blocky textures, but this is true of most 90s horror games. The puzzles literally require you to be psychic, or ridiculously persistent with trial-and-error, and you will die often, mostly due to unforeseen, seemingly random events that no one in their right mind could have predicted would happen. An infamous example is the samurai suit, an innocuous piece of furniture that if you make Alyssa examine, will trap your game in an early bad ending. The game does not hint to this whatsoever. There are multiple instances like this. Having Bates kick the crap out of a possessed little girl is pretty funny, though.

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/clocktower/images/6/6f/BatesSparta.gif/revision/latest?cb=20160327011636

My nostalgia with Clock Tower II goes way back, so I can’t help but like it, even though it is pretty terrible. The American version of the cover has always fascinated me, for some reason. There’s something that drew me into this image as a kid, and I always wondered what it was about.

CT2 art

Clock Tower II does not know what it wants to be, and tried to mash up the subtle, occult tension of Clock Tower with the sci-fi horror of Resident Evil in the poorest, weirdest way it could have. I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you’re a collector.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
If the faults and holes in its plot were patched, then sure. The Clock Tower series as a whole has a lot of potential as a series of novels, especially as they remind me so much of the style of horror novels that was popular in the late 80s and early 90s, with female protagonists having to outwit a villain or stalker of some sort.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 3
Art and Design – 3
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1
Fear Factor – 1
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 2.5 out of 5

Thanks to the Clock Tower Wiki for the animation.
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Best Horror Games #5 – Haunting Ground

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★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Dark Fantasy / Survival Horror
Platform: Playstation 2
Publisher: Capcom
Published: 2006

SummaryHaunting Ground follows Fiona Belli, a young woman who finds herself locked in a sprawling castle after a car wreck which kills both of her parents. The castle has very few inhabitants, but they all seem to know her already. She soon learns that they are the last of her father’s estranged and deranged family members. Worse yet, they seem to have their own sinister intentions for her. With the help of the White Shepherd, Hewie, whom she rescues from the abuse of the groundskeeper, Fiona sets out to escape the castle.

Overall Thoughts
Haunting Ground deserved better than it got. There was essentially no publicity or critical love for this beauty of a game when it came out, leading to copies of it being rather rare. Oh, sure, you can get reproductions if you want to play it, but a real copy is hard to come by, despite there being a pretty big cult fandom for it (or perhaps because there is a fandom…)

I like that Fiona’s outcome becomes karmic by how well you treat her dog, Hewie. If you choose to be mean to him, you’re likely to receive a horrible ending, but if you treat him nicely, he’ll help you out. But like a real dog, Hewie is often stubborn and easily distracted, so it’s better not to rely on him too much. The gameplay is similar to Clock Tower, its spiritual successor, in which you are trying to avoid a series of “stalkers” who pursue you as you navigate a huge castle. It’s pretty simple and functional, so let’s talk about the design and characters, which is where Haunting Ground really shines.

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The design is intricate and savory to the eye all around. Though it does show the graphical flukes common of PS2 games, you won’t notice them unless they’re pointed out. The disconcerting soundtrack by Seiko Kobuchi adds a lot of tension to the atmosphere. I don’t know what genre you would label Haunting Ground’s soundtrack, as it’s like no music I’ve ever heard, exactly. The soundtrack is an unsettling hybrid of classical music, electronic dissonance and hellish horror noises, such as guttural groaning and inhuman voices. It is on YouTube, if you want to take a listen for yourself.

I want to talk about the story in detailed analysis at some point, because who doesn’t love a good analysis? But I’ll make it brief for now. If anyone ever questions whether video games in the traditional action-and-goal style can be considered “art”, you should show them Haunting Ground. Actually, you could show them any of the good ones I’ve discussed, but this one in particular is breathtaking, and the story is outright disturbing.

I feel like Haunting Ground is one of the few video games that requires a trigger warning for its take on sexuality. It’s not explicit, per se, or even a very violent game, but the themes of abuse, birth, stalking and image issues could be really unsettling, and there’s a creepy, erotic vibe to most of the characters. This is not a “scary” horror game, but it does its damnedest to make you uncomfortable. Depending on your personal sensitivities, this could actually make it scarier than your average horror game. Continue reading “Best Horror Games #5 – Haunting Ground”

Best Horror Games #6 – Layers of Fear

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★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Psychological Horror
Platform: PC, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Aspyr / Bloober Team
Published: 2016

Summary – Layers of Fear focuses on a painter who is determined to finish his Magnum Opus, no matter what. The painter walks throughout his enormous, deserted house collecting strange “ingredients” to add to his masterpiece, all the while tormented by the horrors within his own paintings.

Overall Thoughts
Behold, the devil’s art project! If you’ve always wanted to see the worst of a creative mind’s obsessive nature, this is the best way to do it without actually going insane.
I love classical art – impressionism, gothic art, surreal art – whatever its nature, I love beautiful art, and I’m sorry if I accidentally jump-scared anyone with the title image! She’s beautiful too, in her… um, decomposing, meaty, salmonella sort of way. This is a project focused on the dark, cruel side of classical art.

Developed by an indie team from Poland, every inch of Layers of Fear is hellish yet impossible to look away from simultaneously. It’s too appealing to the eye, and the dark secrets that you can find (or cause yourself) are too appealing to the mind. There’s so much to explore, and it seems like every corner hides some fresh derangement flourishing in the dark, or in bright, Argento-esque bursts of light, paint and blood. The hauntings and delusions are so realistic, too, that it could be a movie.

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Layers of Fear is a potent, actually scary experience that makes use of psychedelic horror effects and the unexpected to infiltrate your waking nightmares. It’s not like other horror “games”, in that there are no real enemies or game mechanics, it’s just you and your eyes trapped in the head of a mad painter who’s possibly a murderer, or even a serial killer. One of the most creative parts I found, was watching the “Magnum Opus” unfold as he collects the parts to make it (which are body parts, by the by). Depending on the route you take morally during the course of exploring the mansion, the Magnum Opus could appear grotesque, as it does above, or beautiful. It can even appear neither, but ordinary and with a scathing expression on the woman’s face.

While it has a more vibrant, grotesque character than a lot of horror games I’ve seen before, it gets the psychological horror the medium is known for down to a T. Silent Hill 2 is known for its somber depiction of depression, and I think this one is comparable to like, the schizophrenia and ADHD spectrum.
I found some of the weirder imagery to be familiar, as intrusive thoughts (common with ADHD, anxiety and OCD, among other conditions) tend to have that horrible sort of flavour to them. I wouldn’t call it a relatable game, per se, like Silent Hill – unless of course, you prefer to paint with human blood! – but the comparison to mental illness is interesting to consider.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Yes. Layers of Fear seems to take heavy inspiration from classics, not solely paintings, but novels as well, notably The Picture of Dorian Gray, where a man’s self-portrait becomes grotesque and horrifying as he becomes a more horrible person.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 4.5
Art and Design – 5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 4.5
Fear Factor – 5
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 4.5 out of 5

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Worst Horror Games #4 – Alone in the Dark 2008

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★★★ 2.5 Stars

Genre: Survival Horror / Action
Platform: Playstation 2, Xbox, Wii, PC
Publisher: Atari
Published: 2008

SummaryAlone in the Dark (2008) follows paranormal investigator Edward Carnby, who awakens suffering from amnesia in a building that is gradually collapsing. After escaping the building, he finds that the entire city is in a destroyed, apocalyptic state due to strange, supernatural fissures forming through it.

Overall Thoughts
I’m going to make this brief, because to be honest, Alone in the Dark 2008 isn’t a godawful game. It has a significant fanbase, and I understand why, but I don’t personally enjoy it even remotely. This list is pretty subjective, so it only made the “Worst” list, like Silent Hill Homecoming, because it’s one of my least favourite horror games. I specifically only put mainstream console games on this list, because if I hadn’t, 99% of the “Worst” would be Steam or PC horror games, which are often made by tiny teams with no budget. I don’t feel it’s fair to count those.

Love it or hate it, Alone in the Dark 2008 was always destined to be plagued. It was a loose tie-in with a film that’s often called one of the worst movies ever, with a whopping 2.4 out of 10 on IMDB, which in turn was a loose adaptation of an early 90s cult classic horror game.
Now, I don’t have a vicious opinion of either the movie or this game. I don’t especially like either, but I don’t think they’re deserving of the sheer, seething, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred that’s thrown at both of them. At their worst, I think they hit at just below the threshold of “tolerable”.

Alone in the Dark 2008 did see an improved re-release, but as far as the original, I found it extraordinarily frustrating. For positives, the graphical design, soundtrack and puzzles are quite well-made and there are some great anxious, scary moments. I like the Lovecraftian themes and apocalyptic settings. Oh, and the monsters! The monsters are supremely creepy!

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/aloneinthedark/images/e/e0/Subway_Monster.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20180108035747

There’s a real sense of mass destruction and impending danger that could’ve made for a great experience, but the story wasn’t enough of a draw for me to force myself through the rapidly shifting, disorienting, and sometimes glitchy gameplay though. There was a function to skip chapters, which I found myself doing often enough that I completely lost track of what the plot was supposed to be.
In short, I wouldn’t call Alone in the Dark unbearable, but it is difficult and annoying to the point of not being fun. What differentiates a video game from a film or a book (and apparently this shouldn’t have been a film, either) is the interactivity, and if that’s no good, the positive qualities it might have all fall apart.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Maybe..? The Alone in the Dark series was inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos, so I suppose it could.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 2.5
Art and Design – 3.5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1.5
Fear Factor – 3.5
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 2.5 out of 5

Best Horror Games #7 – Luigi’s Mansion

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★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Horror / Adventure
Platform: Gamecube, Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Published: 2001 / 2018 (Re-Release)

Summary Luigi, of Super Mario Bros. fame, receives a mysterious letter telling him that he’s won a mansion. In reality, the mansion is not the beautiful one depicted in the letter, but a haunted, dilapidated mansion in the remote woods. According to a scientist who lives nearby, the mansion appeared there on its own several days ago, and the ghosts who inhabit it have kidnapped Luigi’s brother, Mario.

Overall Thoughts
Luigi’s Mansion is a perfect example of horror that could appeal to anyone. It’s not gory, so it’s alright for the kids, but is entertaining and offers enough challenge for adults as well. This game is nearly twenty years old, believe it or not, but it’s aged astoundingly well. The unusual, creative blend of cartoonish characters and elaborate, almost Victorian settings is still pleasing to the eye. I’ve played Luigi’s Mansion about a hundred times and never had any technical problems or glitches, either.

The aesthetic and gameplay reminds me an awful lot of a softer, more colourful version of the first Resident Evil, which also takes place in a massive, sprawling mansion full of hidden rooms and traps. There are no weapons at your disposal, though. It’s not like they’d work on a ghost anyhow, so it’s just Luigi and his Ghostbusters-style vacuum cleaner.

The story is kind of basic, like a lot of Super Mario Bros. games, but the fun comes from exploration and defeating ghosts rather than plot. One thing I love in particular is the bosses. Every now and then Luigi will encounter the ghost of a human, who are much tougher and smarter than the Boos and smaller, blobby ghosts that show up around the mansion. These ghosts have to be tricked somehow into revealing their weak point so they can be captured. Usually, it’s something that has to do with their personality, which you’re left to figure out for yourself through clues in the ghost’s room, as well as notes and even on occasion, a conversation with the ghost.

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As a kid, I always loved Big Boo’s Haunt on Super Mario 64 and thought it was the creepiest thing, so of course it’s great to have a full-length game based on that design. I would also consider the sequel, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon to be pretty great, but I don’t have enough experience with the sequel to make a separate post about it. Both are extremely fun games with a light survival horror feel to them.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
I don’t think so, actually. Some horror games would, but there’s not enough linear plot to work with here. I feel like Luigi’s Mansion would get pretty repetitive if you tried to translate it into a book. A graphic novel might be serviceable.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 4
Art and Design – 5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 4.5
Fear Factor – 3.5
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 4.5 out of 5

Worst Horror Games #5 – Silent Hill Homecoming

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★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Survival Horror / Action
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Konami
Published: 2008

Summary – Silent Hill Homecoming follows Alex Shepherd, a soldier who returns to his hometown of Shepherd’s Glen to discover his little brother has gone missing. Following a sinister link between his family and a religious cult, Alex goes to the town of Silent Hill to look for him.

Overall Thoughts
“In here is a tragedy. Art thou player, or audience?”

Truth be told, maybe it isn’t fair to put this game on the “Worst” list at all. I think Homecoming gets picked on a little too much. The circumstances behind this game are incredibly unlucky and fraught with poor and dubious decisions. A lot of its issues can be traced back, surprise surprise, to the publisher, Konami. A European development team was thrown the task of this title with little experience with the series and an unrealistic deadline, so it honestly surprises me that anything good was able to be eked out of the project at all. I won’t be too hard on it, but I will say that when compared with most other Silent Hill entries, this one leaves quite a lot to be desired. It’s essentially a watered-down Silent Hill 2 with more out-of-place fighting sequences.

There are good ideas present, including the melancholy soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka, and I think if you prefer action horror and enjoyed the Silent Hill film, you probably wouldn’t hate it. I don’t dislike it, but it is objectively bad. The controls and gameplay when you’re not exploring are pretty awful, and the weird focus on combat in a series that’s… never been known for that… erases the impact of much of the otherwise creepy and often rather pretty imagery in this game. I can understand why there are ardent fans of this game because it can be beautiful, visually disturbing and macabre, but there is no real threat or depth to back it up.

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Alex Shepherd and his dysfunctional family had a lot of potential, and some parts of the story are cool, but it doesn’t jibe with the established story of the series, and the psychological aspect could have been handled so much better. They basically drill into your head that Alex was “in the army”, when in reality… (spoiler) no, he never was. It’s kind of obvious. He’s just insane, I guess.

The characters are passable, for the most part. I love the designs of the monsters, but none of the human characters besides the protagonist stood out to me, and that’s the true shame. Silent Hill was never about the monsters of dreams, but the monsters within human nature. This is a common misunderstanding when people try to adapt the series, and I’ve never gotten it. How do you miss the point so much?
That’s basically all I have to say about it. If the developers had been given an inkling of time to develop Homecoming properly, it could’ve been fantastic, but as is, it’s just okay.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Maybe. There’s a lot of unexplored potential that could be toyed around with to make a decent book, if you were a skilled enough writer.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 3
Art and Design – 4
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 2
Fear Factor – 3
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 3.5 out of 5

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Best Horror Games #8 – Shadow Man

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★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Horror / Dark Fantasy
Platform: Nintendo 64, Playstation, PC
Publisher: Acclaim / Night Dive Studios
Published: 1999 / 2013 (Re-Release)

Summary Shadow Man follows Michael LeRoi, a man who has been chosen as the next “Shadow Man”, a warrior and voodoo priest who protects the living from the chaos and violence of the restless dead. The prophetic dream of a priestess, Mama Nettie, warns Michael of a demon, manifesting itself through the reanimated corpses of serial killers, who plans to create an army from the dead that Michael has to stop before it can begin.

Overall Thoughts
So, there are probably much better horror games I could’ve placed in this spot. I considered something like Yomawari or The Evil Within for this place, but Shadow Man is rather special to me. It’s terribly underrated and glossed over, and I have yet to meet another with the unique atmosphere of this game: a mashup of Western gothic, Faustian and Lovecraftian demonology. There’s a sinister, mythological vibe of black magic and irredeemable curses that’s kind of hard to describe, but Shadow Man doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Dark comedy abounds as well.

The characters and settings are by far the best part of this game. Believe it or not, Shadow Man was a partial inspiration for one of the shorts from my upcoming book, because I loved the over-the-top insanity of some of the villains. The settings use a lot of canyon scenery and abstract, otherworldly lighting, and the design in general reminds me heavily of Silent Hill. It looked pretty good for its time, anyway.

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Shadow Man is based off of the series of graphic novels by the same name (not to be confused with the Cody McFadyen novel, Shadow Man), though the game has taken some liberties, mostly positive. To date, it’s one of the extremely few mainline horror video games I’ve seen with black protagonists. Michael LeRoi and Nettie are fun and badass characters, too.
The villains are very memorable and bizarre, and hit this weird area between hilarious and disturbing. The main antagonist is Jack the Ripper, of all people, or at least Jack the Ripper as possessed by the demon Legion, who revives a number of serial killers (some ridiculous, some legitimately creepy) to serve as his minions.

You may have noticed this as a trend with horror games, but the actual part that distinguishes it as a game, the interactivity, is kind of wonky. The physics are prone to glitches, even in the better versions, and there is a hell of a lot of backtracking. I don’t know about you, but backtracking always makes me feel like a mule. Overall, I do enjoy the mix of action and adventure. There’s a lot to explore. Just… don’t get the PlayStation version, if you decide to try this game. The port was a special sort of disaster, littered with bugs and technical issues, so go for the N64 or the PC. Shadow Man was recently re-released for PC and Steam.

The soundtrack is creepy as death and amazing. It’s actually kind of a jam, to be honest, and it’s rather sad not more people recognize this game for its music. There are some beautiful, ethereal pieces like “King’s Hymn” or a rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, but also some terrifying pieces, like one song that uses the sounds of music boxes and drills going through bone to create this horrible, nightmarish atmosphere.

Would it Make a Good Novel?

Shadow Man is based on a pretty good comic series, so yes, it’s not much of a stretch to think it would translate to a good novel. American Gods and its sequel Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman have some similar shades, if you’ve read those, as does The Gunslinger series by Stephen King.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 4.5
Art and Design – 4
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 3.5
Fear Factor – 4
Music and Sound – 5
General Score – 4 out of 5

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Best Horror Games #9 – Little Nightmares

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★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Horror / Dark Fantasy
Platform: Playstation 4, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Published: 2017

Summary – Little Nightmares follows a little girl named Six, who wakes up trapped in a massive citadel called the Maw which floats on the sea. The Maw is inhabited by giant, grotesque, cannibalistic adults who have been imprisoning human children (and whoever else they can get their hands on) in order to eat them. Six sets out to escape the Maw before she starves to death or gets eaten by one of them.

Overall Thoughts
It’s like somebody made this game with me in mind. I flipping adore these dark themes of childhood, fairytale cannibalism, and the horrors of decadence. Artistically, it’s pretty much the best I’ve seen in recent years. It hits that sweet spot between delightful and disgusting. The villain characters range from vulgar, gluttonous beasts to giant things that don’t entirely seem human.

Obviously, they were going for a cinematic feel with this, and it succeeds. Little Nightmares is almost more of a movie than it is a game. The gameplay is interesting enough, but that part does seem lacking in something. The experience overall is quite short and simple, but the design is so creepy and Burton-esque that you likely won’t care. If you care about active gameplay or an intricate story only, you might not like it, but if you want something dark and ambient and closer to a silent animation, you will love it. (Most horror games are like that, though, really. If we’re being honest.)

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/littlenightmares/images/9/98/01-The-Maw.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20170517142348

The story itself is pretty vague, and leaves a lot up to your own personal interpretation. The only things that are set in stone are that there’s a little girl and some other tiny creatures getting chased by giant cannibals in a ship (of sorts), and their leader is possibly a witch? Nobody really has a strong “personality”, per se, but the way the characters and conveyed without words is executed extremely well.
Like I said, it feels like a cross between a Studio Ghibli animation and one of the classic Tim Burton films. The Nightmare Before Christmas, especially. The puppet-like chefs (pictured above) strongly resemble characters from that movie, as do other villains in this game.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Certainly. In fact, there exists a graphic novel adaptation that was published as a tie-in, though I’ve never read it and unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have great reviews. (Maybe it wouldn’t make a good novel, after all…)
In any case, Little Nightmares reminds me of aspects of my own work. I did mention it seemed specifically designed to cater to me. I do love and frequent toying with these tropes – cannibalism, mistrust of authority, and so on.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 4
Art and Design – 5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 4
Fear Factor – 4
Music and Sound – 3.5
General Score – 4 out of 5

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Worst Horror Games #6 – Rule of Rose

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★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Psychological Horror
Platform: Playstation 2
Publisher: Atlus
Published: 2006

SummaryRule of Rose, set in the remote countryside of 1930s England, follows a teenager named Jennifer, who becomes trapped in an orphanage, ruled by a cruel and ruthless group of young girls who call themselves the “Red Crayon Aristocrats”. She must appease them in order to escape, all the while forced to confront her own childhood at the orphanage.

Overall Thoughts
It physically pains me to start off the “Worst” list with Rule of Rose. The story and cast are so, so well-written. The setting, which even though it’s set in the 30s, still retains a sort of late Edwardian, melancholic feel to it, is phenomenal, and it borrows heavily from the dark tones of Grimm’s Fairytales. Story-wise, it is tragic, haunting and beautiful, and reminds me heavily of Lord of the Flies, but with mostly female characters.

I wish that this had been a movie or a book instead of a game, because the medium, in this case, does not do Rule of Rose any favours. The gameplay part just sucks. There’s no way around it. The developers weren’t given nearly enough time to perfect it, and it ends up ruining what is otherwise a great experience.

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From a technical standpoint, the graphics and design are nice. The soundtrack is spectacular – a romantic, gothic blend of 1930s swing and classical music of the Victorian era that’s addictive to listen to. You’d be better off listening to the soundtrack and watching the story segments on YouTube than you would be trying to find a copy of this game. Seriously. Take a listen to this.
Rule of Rose is exceedingly rare due to poor marketing, bad press and poor sales, and now goes for a whopping… $80-$200 USD, at the least, and that’s for a garbage used copy. You can buy reproductions, though, if you’re that curious, but the gameplay portion is honestly, very bad and unfinished. The difficulty is unfair, the controls are clunky, and there are long sections of hunting items with Jennifer’s dog that quickly become tedious.

Rule of Rose was met with controversy in Italy and England due to a false rumor that the game was about “murdering children”, part of the reason why it did not sell. Spoiler – it isn’t. Rule of Rose is a psychological exploration of childhood trauma, the differing and sometimes troubled relationships between girls and bullying. The entire plot occurs in Jennifer’s mind, and is her twisted memories of being forced to stand up to her peers, at the cost of more than one best friend. Like I said, it would be a stunningly beautiful experience if it had been anything other than a video game.
In short, if those idiots in Hollywood want to make an all-girl Lord of the Flies, they ought to just adapt Rule of Rose, and actually do this plot some justice.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Hell yes, it would! This could possibly be the best novel of the psychological horror genre. It also makes me think of the novel John Dollar by Marianne Wiggins, which has a vaguely similar premise.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 5
Art and Design – 4.5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 2
Fear Factor – 3.5
Music and Sound – 5
General Score – 3.5 out of 5

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Best Horror Games #10 – Clock Tower

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★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Survival Horror / Mystery
Platform: SNES, Super Famicom
Publisher: Human Entertainment
Published: 1995

Summary – Clock Tower follows an orphaned teenager, Jennifer Simpson, after her adoption by the Barrows family, along with several other girls. The Barrows’ enormous, labyrinthine mansion is terrorized by a killer, known as Scissorman, who starts to target the girls one by one, forcing Jennifer and the others to try to escape.

Overall Thoughts
Clock Tower is far from perfect, but it’s an innovator in the survival horror genre, and deserves respect for that. The series was inspired by the Italian horror film Phenomena, with the protagonist and plot bearing strong resemblances to those from the movie. To have what is essentially a video game version of a Dario Argento film is really cool in its own right, but Clock Tower also made extremely clever, disturbing and creative use of pixel art and storytelling choices.

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There are multiple endings one can get in the story, depending on the small decisions you make in the Barrows house, while all the while being stalked by a boy wielding a massive pair of scissors, and the deranged Barrows family themselves. If you like retro horror, you’ll love it. It’s not a difficult game, and is point-and-click, which takes some of the stress out of the action parts, if that’s not something you care for. The soundtrack is sparse, but pretty good whenever it’s there, especially for an older game.

This series, sadly, has been condemned to relative obscurity, and flopped outside of Japan. The upside is, you can get a fan-translated English version of this game made for the SNES, if you want. Despite never being “officially” published in English, the first and arguably best Clock Tower is surprisingly less rare than the parts of the series that were.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Definitely! Clock Tower has obvious shades of vintage horror novels from the late 80s and early 90s, when the “final girl” trope was at its peak popularity. This game reminds me so much of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street. It has the same sort of atmosphere, that’s creepy and entertaining without taking itself too seriously.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 4
Art and Design – 4.5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 4
Fear Factor – 3.5
Music and Sound – 3.5
General Score – 4 out of 5

Follow my reviews on Goodreads.

🎃Harvest of Horror 2019🎃

The month of Halloween, the only socially acceptable time to be creepy, in both demeanor and your cerebral interests. And yes, I said month. As if Halloween lasted only a day, are you kidding? Not in this household.
Since I felt that last Harvest of Horror was churned out rushed and somewhat lackluster, I’ve planned this one way ahead of time. I’m always busy in October for whatever reason, usually because I have something being submitted for publishing around this time, so I’m actually writing my Halloween posts from back in May and June and touching them up from the present in October. Confused? So am I, by this point.

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Anyway, all this means is there is no particular schedule like there was last Halloween. There will be something horror-related every day. I thought I’d be a bit different this year and branch out into other things besides books and writing, so there’s to be a miniseries on the best and worst (in my opinion) horror video games, some artwork for Inktober on DeviantArt, some reviews and poems scattered throughout as usual, amongst other uncanny novelties.

The series on video games I think you’ll find especially interesting, since despite the cult following many of them have gotten, not many people discuss them in the same vein they would a book or film review. If you’re into games for the story aspect, or don’t know much about them and want to, you might like these. My recent trend of talking about video games probably won’t spill into the rest of the year, though, as I’ll likely be going back to a focus on writing and books when I can, but I feel like to be a writer-reader, it’s best to understand every medium.

I had considered doing a mini-series on the Fear Street saga by R.L. Stine, but I didn’t realize the later books were out of print, and quite expensive if you aren’t lucky enough to happen across them in a thrift shop. I certainly was not up to hunting them all down. I might talk about Fear Street and Goosebumps a bit, but no promises.
Anyway, enjoy the special, and have a horror-ific October!

Thoughts on the Silent Hill Films

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A recent debate, and by debate, I mean whiny, circular argument, when it comes to movies is the issue of swapping an established character’s gender without any real reason to. Is it ever a good idea? Well, in short, no. Except for the rare case where the character has no set gender – this sometimes happens in video games where the characters are androgynous or animals – it is never a good idea. Why? Because it’s almost always a lazy, cynical attempt to be “feminist”. Case in point, the first Silent Hill film.

I actually feel confident recommending the first Silent Hill movie to people. In my opinion, it’s the only good movie based off of a video game, and in its own right is a stylish, well-made horror movie. However, it takes some egregious liberties with the source material that make parts of frustrating if you’re familiar with the series. Probably the most obvious is swapping the protagonist Harry Mason’s gender, turning him into the female lead, Rose DaSilva.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the actress does a really good job. I have no issue with her or even the character. What I do take issue with is the reason for the change, which is pretty damn offensive. Why they changed Harry to Rose is that they didn’t think a father would go to such odds to save his adopted daughter, that her mother would be more likely to. Like, that is seriously their reasoning. Just… why!? Have they never met human beings? Did they not learn anything from this series at all? The whole point of Silent Hill, when it’s boiled down, was the insane limits Harry would go to to get his daughter back.

The first Silent Hill already had an almost all-female cast, with the exceptions of Harry and Dr. Kaufmann, who wasn’t included in the film. If they wanted to make a film with a strong female lead, there was already three to choose from in Cybil, Lisa, or even Alessa Gillespie, though she’s more of an anti-villain. They tried to shove in Rose DaSilva, and another Harry Mason-esque character in her husband, rather than just have Harry be the main character. Oh, and they also added this weird witch-burning woman named Christabella as one of the main antagonists. That character wasn’t a terrible add-in, but nonetheless gives me traumatic flashbacks to the Silent Hill comics.

Rant aside, it’s still one of my favourite adaptations. True, I think they probably could have done a more accurate adaptation, and if this were to be remade as a mini-series (hint, hint, any filmmakers reading this) I wouldn’t mind, but it’s clear that so much talent and love went into making this movie. The special effects are phenomenal, over a decade later, and a lot was actually hand-crafted. If you have the time, there’s a 30-minute documentary on the making of this film that you should watch. It’s on most of the DVD versions, probably on YouTube too. It is probably better to view the first film as an homage rather than a straight-up adaptation, because it does glomp together themes from other parts of the series, not that that’s a bad thing. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Silent Hill Films”

Thoughts on the Western Silent Hills

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This will be a lot briefer than yesterday’s post on the series, as to tell you the truth, I just don’t have as many personal feelings about the American and European Silent Hill series. Are they as good as the originals? Well… yes, and no. They’re all fun, and for the most part pretty, but if I had to complain about anything, they don’t take nearly enough inspiration from their parent series. The Western Silent Hills seem significantly more “video game-ish”, if that makes sense. The only one that is somewhat immersive is Shattered Memories, and ironically, it’s probably the biggest departure from the norm. Years later, people are still complaining about how these games are “too different” from the quartet, and I don’t think that’s fair. Considering how much the publisher loved to abuse this series, we’re really lucky that we got these at all. They’re not perfect, but they aren’t terrible, either. They’re like reading a well-written, plausible fanfiction.

Thoughts on Silent Hill 0rigins
If you’re in these for the literarary aspect, a large part of 0rigins is based off of Shakespeare plays, which is incredibly cool. This was supposed to be a prequel to the first one, but um… it doesn’t quite jibe, story-wise. Several aspects don’t quite make sense, and it’s interesting to watch someone try to tie it and the first one together, because they always get confused before they manage to. I love the design of this game (and the fact that the protagonist can, for whatever reason, carry twenty portable televisions in his pocket – which, true story, he can beat the god of death up with), and the shout-outs to its predecessors. However, despite the creators obviously being bibliophiles, it egregiously lacks the “interactive novel” kind of feeling that’s important to the series.
For some reason, physical copies of this game tend to be pretty expensive, or at least they were. So, probably better to research it in detail to make sure you’d want to buy it first, if the series interests you.

Thoughts on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Shattered Memories is incredible. I don’t care who says otherwise, it’s good. SH:SM reminds me so much of those “choose-your-own-adventure” books that were popular in like the 90s and early 00s, but surprisingly emotionally powerful. Unlike well, the entire rest of the series, SH:SM has no action element, it’s namely exploration and story. Is that for the better? In this case, probably. The action parts in 0rigins were cartoonish and difficult, so maybe it’s better that they left them out. I keep comparing them to novels, but this one seriously is novel-like, about the closest you could get and still keep a fully interactive element intact.

Thoughts on Homecoming and Downpour
I feel like these two get a bad rap, and are generally considered the two worst of the series. Homecoming is objectively bad, and spoiler alert, made my Harvest of Horror list for the worst horror games, but I can see where someone would love it, too. The characters are interesting enough, and oh man, the horror designs are beautiful. The main thing I would say about Homecoming is that it under-utilizes or overdoes everything – there is no good medium anywhere in it, which is tragic, because if the developers had been given more time to perfect it, it could’ve been so awesome with what it has to work with. It’s very similar, thematically, to the Silent Hill film, and I don’t think that was a bad decision in itself, because that movie’s absolutely gorgeous.

Downpour is actually good to me. I love Downpour. It suffers from, again, the developers not being given nearly enough time to clean it up. If they just could’ve touched it up, Downpour would have been one of the best, but as it is, it’s still far from the worst. It returns to similar literary influences – Hansel & Gretel, classic American horror novels, and so on. I wouldn’t call it scary, for sure, but I think it’s a worthwhile experience. Something of a shame that nothing has come of the series since, though.

Thoughts on the Silent Hill Quartet

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The first four entries in the Silent Hill series, which I usually call the “quartet” for convenience, were developed from 1999 to 2004 by Team Silent, a bunch of incredibly talented literature and American horror movie fanatics who were essentially given free reign to develop a horror series for the PlayStation. I think the publisher and everyone else expected what they made to be a rip-off of Resident Evil, but fortunately for us all, they ended up making this fantastically beautiful quartet of lore-rich, tragic and terrifying games. Unfortunately, Team Silent was split up by Konami shortly after the fourth one came out – the first of many extremely questionable choices made by the publisher. I won’t get into that, you can probably look that up if you want to see the whole laundry list. It’s a shame to think what could have been had the team had been allowed to continue their own series, but we’ll always have the quartet.

The series was shipped off to several different developers afterwards. Whether this was for better or for worse is highly subjective, as every single Silent Hill entry, including even the books and movies, has an atmosphere that is entirely unique to that piece. The first one, for example, feels almost nothing like the second one, but they do have in common that surreal, interactive-novel vibe that is the series’ signature. Silent Hill is, in my opinion, an underappreciated influence on the psychological horror as a whole.

I owe this series my will to start writing. I mean, I’ve always wanted to write, but the Silent Hill quartet invigorated me to actually go through with it. I recommend the living heck out of it for writers and would-be writers.
Hold on a minute. You’re like, Emm, I don’t even like video games. That’s fine, I understand that. I’m not the biggest expert on them myself, but if you want to go into horror, especially ambient or psychological horror, you owe it to yourself to at least research it. The price on actual copies tends to go up and down, seemingly at random, but like I said yesterday, you can always use YouTube or the Wiki. (Or a reproduction game. Not as good as the real thing, but we take what we can get, yeah?)

Anyway, I’m probably never going to do a full-out review of any of these, as it would take video equipment I don’t have and likely weeks of effort to do them justice in a review. These are just some loose thoughts I had on each entry. Tomorrow I’ll cover the Western-made ones, which are certainly their own animal. If you’ve played any of these, let me know what you think!

Thoughts On the First Silent Hill
It will never cease to surprise me that this series ever became mainstream in America. There’s so much occultism, and even though the first Silent Hill has a far less realistic tone than the later ones, still has some pretty frank depictions of religious abuse. Not to mention, the main antagonistic force who underlines the entire series is a demonic god of blood and suffering. That’s damn dark for a major video game made in the 90s. I wouldn’t call the series as a whole extremely “violent”. It can be violent, if you choose, which gives it an ongoing theme of moral choice, but as a default, it’s not.
The first Silent Hill is admittedly, an acquired taste. It’s more action-based than exploration, and therefore slightly less to my personal preferences, and the story can be confusing. The protagonist, Harry Mason, can be a bit of a tactless doofus, too. (I made a comic about that, in fact.) The monster and character designs are really good, especially for the time, but I find myself coming back to it the least. You could say its predecessors did all of the horror tropes it introduced better – distortion of reality, human and inhuman evil, so on. Fun fact, that the Gillespie family, the main (human) villains, are based off of Carrie and her mother from Stephen King’s Carrie.
Continue reading “Thoughts on the Silent Hill Quartet”

The Silence of the Hills – Pre-Halloween Special

Happy Pre-Harvest of Horror! Not that that’s going to become a thing. We are rolling into Halloween, which I was going to save this for, but decided to post it a bit early, just because I wanted to. And also, my Halloween schedule is clogged, and I won’t have time to post it then.
Silent Hill is a psychological horror franchise that began in the medium of video games with Silent Hill for the PlayStation in 1999, which was rather unorthodox for its genre and methods of storytelling at the time. It has since branched out to two feature films, multiple albums worth of music and a smattering of novels, comics and artworks. Silent Hill is acknowledged as one of the forerunners of the survival horror genre, along with its different-yet-alike sister series, Resident Evil and Clock Tower.

Though it continues to have an active fanbase, and recently was cited as one of the inspirations behind the popular Netflix show, Stranger Things, sadly, as of writing this, Silent Hill itself is no longer being developed. After several… dubious decisions made by the publisher, Konami, the latest entry in the series was canceled and it was shelved indefinitely for future projects.

While the series itself is largely based on literature, it’s had its own unique, powerful effect on the psychological horror genre as a whole. Silent Hill was one of the first video game series to break into the mainstream that used the supposed “limitations” of the medium to tell realistically dark, atmospheric and emotionally complex horror stories, the likes of which had never really been seen that often in video games beforehand, outside of maybe certain RPGs, making Silent Hill more like a fully interactive novel or art piece.

If you’ve been following my little blog for awhile, you’ll know how much I love, love, love this series, even the parts that are flawed. It’s the perfect video game for a bibliophile, as well. This series has introduced me to not only one of my favourite authors, but a multitude of excellent stand-alone novels that I likely wouldn’t have had an interest in or even heard of otherwise. More importantly, it’s one of the key factors that inspired me to become a writer.
For this not quite Halloween special, I’ll be doing a rundown of almost every piece of the series – the original quartet, the Western video games, the books, the movies – pretty much the whole shebang. Mostly, I wanted to share what I love about it, but you might discover something awesome from this, too.

Obviously, I recommend the Silent Hill video games, even if you don’t care for video games. Like, I mean this. If you like this kind of horror at all, you’re doing yourself a grand disfavor by avoiding them because of them being games. If you don’t like the thought of hunting them down solely on my recommendation, there’s always the Wiki and YouTube to get some of the experience. None of the series is “rare”, per se, but some pieces can be difficult to track down physical copies of, namely Origins, the first one, and for some reason, the graphic novels, but we’ll get to that, and why those might be somewhat more rare. Here is the upcoming schedule for what I’ll be talking about or reviewing! It’s in no particular order, just like the plot!

It should be noted that I won’t be covering either Book of Memories, the Play Novel, that HD Collection that supposedly sucked, or the Japanese novels, because I have no experience with any of them, and therefore nothing to talk about.

Sept. 23 – Thoughts on the Silent Hill Quartet
Sept. 24 – Thoughts on the Western Silent Hills
Sept. 25 – The Books Behind the Series
Sept. 26 – Thoughts on the Films
(*Edit* – The comics reviews have been moved to a later date, due to time.)
Sept. 28 – The Silent Hill Comics, Pt. 1 (Reviews Revisited)
Sept. 29 – The Silent Hill Comics, Pt. 2 (Reviews Revisited)

Book Review – The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry

★★★★ 4 Stars

Series: Resident Evil
Genre: Horror / Mystery
Publication Date: October 1st, 1998
Publisher: Pocket Books

Resident Evil is the sole survivor, pun intended, of the clash of survival horror series that began in the late 90s. It’s pretty much the only one of its genre still thriving, like a green-veined heart thumping in a jar of chemicals.
You have to appreciate its longevity, and also the fact that a novel based on a video game with near-diabolical writing is actually pretty solid. I like Resident Evil as much as anyone, but the first game did have the worst dialogue ever, no contest. To the point where it’s more or less a mansion-sized meme. Really.

Thankfully, Perry realized this and toned it down. The characters and plot are decent. The writing is straightforward but intriguing and captures the anxiety of being hunted down that the games execute so well. That panicked mystery of never knowing what you would find behind any door is what made the games scary, even before their imagery had become realistic and terrifying in later entries. I love to picture this feeling in a horror novel, and the way the puzzles in the game are incorporated into the narrative are interesting. Continue reading “Book Review – The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry”

Silent Hill 20th Anniversary – An Overview

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Harry Mason has been looking for his daughter at the mercy of someone else’s demons for twenty solid years today. This was foretold by gyromancy!
Being my favourite disturbing influence, I had to do a mini-special for Silent Hill‘s landmark birthday on the good parts, the bad parts, the books that it brought me to and influence on my own work. Which is more than Konami will do for their own series today, I promise you that.

I know it’s a series that ended rather unceremoniously some time ago, but its impact makes it the only one I will draw something specifically for for its anniversary.
What’s scarier, Silent Hill or the fact that 1999 was twenty years ago? Yeah, pretty much nobody born in the 90’s is in school anymore. That’s… bamboozling for some reason, and I didn’t really get to experience the 90’s save for the tail-end.

Anyway. I don’t want to go into a boring essay – there have been dissections upon discussions upon dissertations on the series and its symbolism for years. The series is old enough to buy cigarettes on its own now, so there ought to be by this point! So don’t worry, this won’t be that. Just an almost-short dedication to a really phenomenal series with a handful of recommendations.

The Books
Silent Hill is based heavily around literature, both English and Japanese, as well as a couple of darker films like Jacob’s Ladder. There are numerous references to Shakespeare, Stephen King, and contemporary writers like Richard Matheson and Andrew Vachss. One creepy creature that stands out from the series is based off of Caliban from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, a man who is half-human and half-beast.

SH brought me to the discovery of my current favourite author a couple of years ago when I got into the series. The entire insane plotline of the fourth SH, which revolves around a serial killer obsessed with his mother and a hermit who finds himself in the killer’s mind, is based on the novel Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami.

The similarities aren’t… incredibly apparent, other than both are based around two men who are close through isolation but end up taking opposing paths, though both paths lead to bad places.
In the novel, they are brothers who have an obsessive hatred for their mothers who abandoned them to die at birth – one becomes a criminal and murderer while the other loses his mind after feeling alone all of his life, even after he becomes a famous musician. In the game, they are a man abused as a child by a religious cult who becomes a fanatic and murderer, and a recluse who may be beginning to lose his mind being trapped in isolation for so long with this murderer.
I recommend the living crap out of the novel, and the game too if it’s your thing. Continue reading “Silent Hill 20th Anniversary – An Overview”

Top 10 Songs from Silent Hill

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I don’t normally do music posts and don’t plan to start writing them regularly, but this is a rare occasion. On the threshold of the 20th birthday of my favourite series, which is tomorrow, I was surprisingly befuddled on what to analyse and dissect and ramble on about.

Silent Hill, for the uninitiated, is a psychological horror video game series that behaves strangely like artsy cinematic novels, and centers around a tourist town with a bad history. The town harbors a demonic entity that calls broken and vulnerable people to it and creates a delusional world out of the fears it senses in them. It was THE psychological horror series and still holds that place today, despite being indefinitely killed off by its own publishers. There are novels, comics and two films based off of it. I don’t recommend most of those, save for the 2006 film, which is how I discovered the series in the first place, and some of the later comics such as Past Life.

I decided that I should start with a short piece on a part of the Silent Hill series I could recommend to anybody and would be fun to talk about, regardless of the interest they might have in the series itself – the music. If you absolutely hate, hate, hate horror, it would still be unlikely that you’d dislike these soundtracks entirely.

Akira Yamaoka’s compositions for Silent Hill are legendary. They are pretty much the god of soundtracks, and other soundtracks have to earn their blessings before they’re even allowed to exist.
I exaggerate… but not by that much. These are innovative, multi-genre albums that make creative use of more traditional alt-rock, electronica and metal, ambient noise, discordant industrial sounds and even classical music to breed a new genre that’s unique to Silent Hill.
Despite there being some truly disturbing songs, like the infamous “Prayer” from the third game, which sounds like an actual replication of Hell, more often the soundtracks are introspective and mellow rather than scary. “Prayer” itself is quite beautiful in its own demonic way, and I’d love to know how something like it was even made.

I’ve boiled my personal favourites down to ten. Shaving them to this tiny number was no small feat, as including cut material and remixes, the first four entries in the series alone amass 300+ tracks of music with a plethora of different moods within those. Silent Hill‘s vocal themes with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn are pretty popular, but this list is solely for Yamaoka’s instrumentals. They’re really a monster of their own.

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This list is in no particular order, and I’ve given the YouTube link to ones I especially like so you can give them a listen. You can find most of the soundtracks, save the fan-made OSTs of cut and salvaged material, on other music sites as well. There are much, much more than just these. If you’re already familiar with SH, feel free to leave your own faves in a comment!

10 – “Theme of Laura” and “Theme of Laura (Reprise)” from Silent Hill 2
“Theme of Laura” is the series’ theme song by this point. I guarantee if you’re into soundtrack music or have browsed for ‘relaxing’ instrumentals, you have run into the reprise at some point. I guarantee it. Continue reading “Top 10 Songs from Silent Hill”