A Call Of Cthulhu scenario in movie form

“The Void” delivers a big budget experience on a shoestring IndieGogo budget

topSome years back, Guillermo Del Toro – the man behind visually stunning movies like “Pan’s Labyrinth” – revealed he was gearing up to create a big budget adaptation of Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains Of Madness.”

It seemed like it was time for “Dagon” to lose its placed as the best Lovecraft film adaptation. Fans were split on the casting however, with many upset about Hollywood heartthrob Tom Cruise taking the role of doomed researcher Danforth.

Personally, I think the casting was spot on because A) Cruise is already insane so it wouldn’t be acting and B) his beliefs as a high level Scientologist about humanity’s origins actually aren’t significantly different from what Danforth discovers about how the species started in “At The Mountains Of Madness.”

Sadly it wasn’t meant to be, because some moron studio executive decided putting money into a hard-R horror flick wasn’t going to net a return (although now that hard-R super hero flicks are a thing, maybe that decision will change). For now, the indie film makers will have to tackle the more disturbing elements of horror, and perhaps that’s how it should be.

That leads us to “The Void,” which is now taking the place of the best, most effects-laden Lovecraftian movie of the age, even thought it doesn’t draw from a specific Lovecraft tale and instead is simply suffused with Cthulhu Mythos elements.

A crowd funding success story, “The Void” is brought to us by a small team of film makers with a passion for practical effects over computer generated ones, and it really shows. They manage to do a whole lot with so little in mostly one location.

sideI’d been following the movie’s progress for years now, since before even the crowd funding campaign, so as we got closer to VOD release a certain unease started to grow as I wondered if perhaps I’d overhyped this for myself. Were we about to witness a gigantic flop that just had a good trailer?

Thankfully no, this is the real deal, and of particular note is the level of acting for such a small budget flick. For the most part, the leads are on par with or even exceeding what you get with indie classics like “Grave Encounters,” “Willow Creek,” “Creep,” “Absentia,” etc.

There are a ton of Mythos references throughout the movie (the main character’s name is Carter for instance), including some that are going to delight tabletop RPG fans who dig the Call Of Cthulu roleplaying game. During the movies opening moments there’s a curious lack of sound quality as some odd events occur. The sound evens out shortly after, but then later as the main characters are all gathered in a hospital fleeing cultists, suddenly the sound becomes grainy, static-laden, and distorted yet again.

At first I thought this was just a side effect of the movie’s low-budget nature, but then it dawned on me: we were literally hearing when the investigators are losing sanity. When a stabilizing force comes in, like when an officer takes control of the situation or a horrible thing from beyond is defeated, sound returns to normal as sanity is regained. My interest in the movie immediately shot up even more as I realized we were watching a Call Of Cthulhu scenario in film form.

side2From there you’ll notice a lot of CoC scenario staples, like stumbling upon Polaroids of terrible things and a cache of eldritch tomes filled with unspeakable knowledge when the investigators figure out the identity of the real antagonist. The crew behind the movie clearly has a love for all things horror though, as it’s not just cosmic horror of the Lovecraftian variety on hand.

The last third of the film takes a hard left turn into “Hellraiser,” complete with a skinless man and walls recessing to access the abyss. Those familiar with Italian horror will note the final frame of the movie is 100% homage to Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond,” another harrowing tale of hell unleashed on earth.

Simply put: “The Void” delivers on the effects, the story, the scares, and the acting. It’s one of the best horror flicks I’ve seen in recent memory, and its blessedly not a remake, reboot, prequel, or sequel. It easily beats out the low budget competition and even manages to create a better experience than most of the big budget schlock coming out of the horror genre these days.

This team needs to be given access to bigger budgets and more stories, and hopefully we’ll see another IndieGogo campaign in the not-too-distant future!

As in real life, sometimes evil wins

Obsidian Entertainment’s new classic RPG throws morals out the window

tyrann2The classic era of RPGs with the likes of Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment has always been my favorite time in gaming history, so it was much delight I witnessed the crowd funding revolution give birth to a classic renaissance with games like Pillars Of Eternity and Wasteland 2.

Taking that same style from Pillars, Obsidian Entertainment decided to do something RPGs have needed for a long time: totally shift the morality from black/white to an ugly, murky gray.

Much like with the Midnight tabletop RPG, Tyranny starts with the premise that the evil god won, and now the world is subjugated by an overlord that brooks no dissent and brutally puts down any resistance.

The entire standard RPG paradigm is thrown on its head, and there’s a lot here that authors and horror fans in particular should find interesting across the many choices present as you decide how to enforce the will of Overlord Kyros. I had the pleasure of covering the game extensively on release, and you can read my full write up of the mechanics and story choices at GameSkinny here.


The Hellraiser we should have gotten…

Random Turkish indie movie outdoes all competitors without meaning to!

b2The selection of Netflix streaming movies has noticeably dropped off from what it was a few years back, so for the annual 31 days of terror in October our family has gone back to good old reliable DVDs.

Despite the lack of content from times past, there’s still some very solid horror to be found on Netflix, including some surprisingly good indie and foreign films. One in particular worth seeing we stumbled upon was Baskin, which is somehow insanely lowly rated, bringing up the issue of how two people can watch something and come away with completely different opinions.

That’s certainly not unique to film, and is on full display in literature as well, where a book (even my own) can have on reviewer raving and another thinking it was the worst thing they’d ever read.

In this instance, I think the reviewers over at Netflix all got it wrong, as Baskin is a horror flick you’ll never forget, and I’d say it rivals iconic films like the original Martyrs in terms of gore and leaving a lasting impression.

The second half in particular is just completely off the rails, and something anyone who considers themselves a horror connoisseur must see. Without actually having anything to do with that mythology, it ended up being exactly what any given grade-Z reboot / sequel of Hellraiser should have been.

It’s not without flaws – the ending was a cliched horror trope added for no reason – but the movie as a whole is highly recommended for any horror fan who thinks they’ve seen it all.

Ramping up the dread

Outlast 2 demo offers everything I want to see in the upcoming horror sequel

out2wI’ve just been all about the horror video games lately!

A little while back you might remember me mentioning a game called Outlast, which was incredibly effective by removing your ability to fight back against any of the horrors met in an asylum.

The sequel was supposed to drop in time for Halloween, but is now slated for a 1st quarter of 2017 release to work out some of the kinks. Fans of the first game got a surprise taste of what’s to come though when a demo unexpectedly became available this week.

Delivering on the promise from the first teaser trailer, there’s loads of religious elements on display, from travelling back in time to a Catholic school to some clear themes of something terrible and bloody being born in a manger. In what is always a plus for me, there’s also some cosmic horror going on with a little tentacle action.

Best of all, the gameplay seems to have been tweaked to increase the horror factor while decreasing the frustration of playing the same segment over and over. If you don’t mind spoilers, you can read my full run down of the demo at GameSkinny here.

There’s even more Outlast to experience before the game drops though. Developer Red Barrels has also released an online comic series bridging the gap between the first and second games, which take place in completely different locations with different characters.

Anybody want to boycott my book?

If only I had a character as hated by parents as Captain Underpants…

bannedThe yearly celebration of banned books just ended, which is always marked by my local library and schools with a bunch of fun events.

I sure wish somebody would ban my book – it would certainly do wonders for sales!

Course, I don’t have nearly as compelling a character as Captain Underpants for concerned parents to get all upset about. Anybody want to get a religious group all riled up to protest “Empty?” 

In all seriousness though, go piss off some people who hate the 1st Amendment and read a banned book this week.

Fall’s here – pull out the horror games!

13 essential titles for Halloween gaming

untitledOctober’s rapidly approaching, and for our family that means 31 days of sheer terror – we only watch / read / play the scary stuff all month long.

Not too long ago in another post about how video games have become a legitimate vehicle for the horror genre I mentioned the upcoming Outlast 2, which sadly will not  arrive in time for Halloween this year.

What’s a horror lover to do in September and October? Turns out there’s plenty of horror games both from the past and present worth playing, including some real classics that have been overlooked.

untitled2Over at GameSkinny I rounded up 13 essential games you should be checking out – 12 on the scary side, and 1 that’s adorable.

I skipped many of the usual suspects (Fatal Frame, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc.) and went for ones with more interesting premises or aren’t as well known today. Check it out right here.


Into the void we go

Practical effects make a resurgence thanks to crowd funding

In that chat I had with The Horrific Network awhile back, we discussed how crowd funding is allowing creative folks with a promising vision to cut out the middle man and release boundary-pushing content that publishers and distribution companies might not be willing to take a chance on.

From artists with a vision for a terrifying graphic novel series to authors seeking to release that zombie apocalypse anthology and even onto indie directors with a dream of horror fame, sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo are helping the little guy get a leg up.

While some of the greatest horror movies don’t focus on the gore at all, those that do go the blood and guts route are always best served by dialing back (or entirely eliminating) the computer effects and going completely practical. Consider the effects from “The Thing” versus its inferior prequel, for instance, or any cringe-inducing CG effect from any given SyFy flick.

Practical effects are sadly lacking in most horror films these days – which brings us back to crowd funding and a very promising upcoming flick titled “The Void.” This impending indie excursion into the unknown raised $82,000 through an IndieGogo campaign, largely off the strength of a proof-of-concept trailer showing what this team can do (check it out below).

Besides the clearly cosmic horror-inspired story with all sort of tentacled monstrosities, the draw here is the emphasis on primarily practical effects, which is long overdue for a comeback.

“The Void” will have its world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin Texas at the end of the week, and I’m hoping we’ll hear good things from those who get this advance peek before the first real trailers for the finished product land online!