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All Hallows Eve Ex-Spook-Aganza Retrospective 2013

31 Oct

AWROOOOOOOOO!

AAAAOOOOOOOOOOOO!

AAAAOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Hi kids! WELCOME TO YOUR DOOM!

It just wouldn’t be October without some scary movies, and as ever, I’m here to do the work you cowards won’t. Trust in my insight, and know that like Zefrank, I’m scratching away at my sanity – so you don’t have to.

This year’s edition should have been called Campfest 2013. I mean most of these were some seriously cheesy motion pictures. Writing these reviews in years past used to make October a very dark month indeed. This month, I laughed way more than I cowered. At this rate, I’ll be reviewing Halloween comedies! Next thing you know, I’ll be wearing a clown costume!

OH HOLY SHIT WAIT OK IT'S SCARY AGAIN

OH HOLY SHIT WAIT OK IT’S SCARY AGAIN

Now, my acolytes! Draw the arcane symbol upon the ground. Stand within its warm embrace! Drink the blood of the cup of death, and prepare! PREPARE FOR ANNIHILATION! Thrust your fist at the sky, and SING THE SONG THAT ENDS THE EARTH!

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

The title’s got all you need: Bodies get snatched. Snatches get invaded. There’s more to it than that, though – Donald Sutherland has a badass moustache and cooks a mean asian stir fry. Leonard Nimoy wears a turtleneck. The lead actress dresses like a nun the whole time, but she gets naked at the end! Jeff Goldblum even slaps his hand down on things when he gets angry! THIS MOVIE HAS EVERYTHING!

Including an inexplicable 2-second cameo of Robert Duvall as a Jesuit on a swingset.

Including an inexplicable 2-second cameo of Robert Duvall as a Jesuit on a swingset!

The pacing is slow, the music is creepy, the premise is classic sci-fi gold, and the performances are super entertaining. Despite the 70’s camp patina, Invasion (or Snatchers, actually, that’s a much better contraction – we’re going with that) sold me unreservedly on its story: alien plant goobers from Planet Whatever have drifted across the galaxy to Earth, where they’re replacing people’s bodies with organically-grown duplicates, who quickly dominate San Francisco’s infrastructure and prepare for total global indoctrination.

Here’s the thing about watching a “classic” for the first time: you get a heavy sense of “man, I’ve seen all this before”. But you gotta push that aside, and keep in mind that this is the genesis you’re watching. So many pieces of modern pop culture owe a huge debt of inspiration to Snatchers. It kind of feels sinful to have missed out until now. The “rising up against apathy and conformism” theme is as old as the Martian hills, but every generation needs its own reference point. Snatchers was before my time, so I missed it – but I can really see how the media I’ve loved has taken notes from this fine freaky flick.

Technically, it’s effective, yet subdued. You don’t see much of the alien plant birthing pods (or any evidence of extraterrestrial shenanigans, really) until well into the film, and when you do you just get shaky glimpses of stringy white fungus-hair, oozy clone fetus juice, and hissing pod sacs. By the time the filmmakers tip their hand with this stuff, you’ve already been treated to an hour of buildup – during which the camerawork becomes increasingly nauseating, and you’ve been assaulted by repetitive ticking clocks and other maddening sounds. Pacing? They got it.

There are one MILLION Justin Respect Points (JRPs) up for grabs if you guess what my favourite part was.

JEFF GOLDBLUM DUH. Trick question; too easy. It was just a test. You passed.

DUH. Trick question; too easy. It was just a test. You passed.

While not as outwardly scary or disgusting as some of my other selections this month, Snatchers was clearly essential viewing, and memorable enough that I’m going to be passing it on through my social circle like some feather-haired plague.

Slither (2006)

It’s Halloween riddle time: what has Nathan Fillion, goofy comedy, absurd gore, and an unhealthy obsession with The Thing?

No, not Dracula 2000, you idiot! Slither! I mean... it's right there in the title, just...y'know what. Nevermind. No, nevermind! Let's move on.

No, you idiot! Slither! I mean… it’s right there in the title! Just…y’know what. Nevermind. No, nevermind! Let’s move on.

The sleepy town of Wheelsy, South Carolina is hit by a meteorite, which takes a shining to a local redneck and blowdarts a parasite right into his gut. Local sheriff Bill Pardy – the ever-ebullient Nathan Fillion – must stop the parasite from taking over the town, and also stop himself from getting too close to his childhood crush, Starla, who’s married to the aforementioned redneck. All of those things go exactly as well as you’d imagine.

Slither is a pastiche of so many other cheesy sci-fi horror films that it can’t accurately be said to be ripping off any one of them. I even saw some Animorphs in there, what with the slugs that control people by wrapping around their brains. What helps this blatant borrowing go down a bit easier is the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the film; if it had anything resembling a serious tone I doubt I’d have even heard of it. As it is, it’s very silly and very fun, and while some of the CGI grated on me, the practical effects (especially the big show-stopping monster at the end) were convincing and… wow. Just really, really gross.

slither-02

WHOA! Whoa there, easy, cowboy. Let’s holster those tentacles, huh?

There’s a nice balance between delivering exactly what you expect, and coming out of left field with something totally weird. I’ll give you an example: the infected redneck dude comes home to an amorous wife, who doesn’t notice anything’s wrong. Your initial reaction is, ewww! He’s gonna infect her with his peepee! But then, she goes to work like normal. Nothing is wrong. And later on, as part of the larger plot, the reason why becomes clear: he’s a slave to an alien parasite, yes, but that doesn’t stop him from loving his wife. A neat twist, and an example of how Slither elevates its otherwise trite material.

The characters have a propensity to vocalize exactly what the audience is thinking (mostly Nathan Fillion, who actually once says “Wow. That is some fucked-up shit.”). This gives the impression that the filmmakers are one step ahead of you, and it unbalances your expectations enough that you’re able to dismiss whatever flaws the movie might contain. The word that I think applies here is disarming. And with creative creature effects, a fun sense of self-referential humour, and some great supporting performances, Slither is a disarming charmer the whole way through.

El Orfanato (2007)

Less of the cheese, more of the “Oh my god, how sad.”

El Orfanato (or “The Orphanage”) snuck right up on me. It’s produced by Guillermo del Toro, and though he didn’t direct, his authorial stamp is all over this thing. It has the same storytelling panache and eye for excellent visual composition that show up in all his movies.

It tells the story of Laura, who raises her family in the orphanage in which she grew up, with her husband Carlos and her adopted son, Simón. Couldn’t ask for a more hackneyed setup, really, but El Orfanato doesn’t squander the chance to do something unique. The film unfolds into a tale of love, loss, and what it means to be “at home”, centered around powerful performances and eschewing cheap scares for a viscerally emotional connection with the audience.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 6.13.43 PM

The orphanage itself is finely crafted, shifting between comforting and airy, and claustrophobic and terrifying; and this is accomplished almost entirely through lighting and camera placement. It’s a wonderfully detailed set, and its geography is well-expressed in the movie. We’re always aware where the action is taking place, which rooms are around which corners, and we come to know it well enough to feel like it’s our own house – which makes it much more effective when things get scary. The thematic use of childhood games like hide-and-seek (which are played both indoors and out) not only inform the plot, but ground the film in a kind of childlike state. When the film scares us, we feel like children, rushing into the embrace of the heroine. It’s her passionate performance (the wonderful Spanish actress Belén Rueda) that carries us through the movie. Her wide and expressive eyes betray every tiny emotion that flickers through her, and we’re made to feel them too.

It’s kind of timeless; the film could have taken place in the 1940s instead of the present day and it wouldn’t have changed anything. It’s all about the characters, and the contrivances of the plot are simply there to take us to the next emotional payoff.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 6.14.17 PM

Del Toro strikes me as the kind of storyteller who wouldn’t hesitate to put a murder in a movie for children. He knows that darkness is a part of life, and it’s the function of all art to expose our own feelings about death, whether we want to face it or not. How can a filmmaker balance escapism so deftly with art? How can I, as an audience member, escape reality and face it at the same time?

I expected a horror movie set in an orphanage. What I got was a beautiful, haunting story that happened to be scary in some parts – much like life itself.

Noroi (The Curse) (2005)

My favourite scary movies tend to take innocuous, innocent things and make them frightening. By connecting an ordinary, everyday object (or person, or place, etc) with the supernatural, the strange, and the scary, these movies can extend their potential freak-out factor past the threshold of the theatre doors. What I’m saying is, thanks to Noroi, I’m now scared of pigeons. Like I needed that in my life.

Noroi is a unique creature in that it combines the tropes of its fellow Asian horror films with a mockumentary-style presentation. I personally feel that the whole “found footage” subgenre is pretty played-out, but when fused here with the creeping atmosphere and dread of films like Ringu and Ju-on it gained a whole new kind of vitality. The film opens by telling you, through voiceover, that a paranormal investigator named Kobayashi made a documentary about his experience tracking down the source of a “curse”. Shortly after the documentary’s release, Kobayashi’s house burned to the ground. His body was never found, and he was never seen again. The screen zooms in on a TV, and the rest of the film is Kobayashi’s documentary itself.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 3.53.55 PM

Most of which consists of dumbfounded reaction shots, like this.

Kobayashi – a portly, inoffensive, scholarly journalist – investigates instances of paranormal activity all over Japan, beginning with a woman who hears strange noises coming from the house next door, and an actress who was allegedly assaulted by a spirit during the filming of a TV show. There’s also a subplot revolving around a girl with latent psychic ability who goes missing, because, you know – wouldn’t be an Asian horror movie without some creepy-ass kids in it.

I was surprised by the inclusion of a character named Mori, who wears tinfoil all over his body, wallpapers his waste-filled house with scratchy drawings and symbols, and is clearly schizophrenic. Kobayashi consults him because of his apparent psychic ability, and he becomes a major player in the story from that point on. His character got me thinking, though: are the visions that wrack his body and mind truly the byproduct of proximity to evil spirits, or is he just crazy? What does it actually mean to be “insane”?

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 3.54.39 PM

It’s strange how we view these things – what if the bag lady you see babbling on the street corner was a normal person once, until she came into contact with a certain book, or video tape, or shrine? It smacks of Lovecraft; the sort of thing that comes from learning “what man was never meant to know”. What if these people, whom we so readily dismiss as insane, are the sole bearers of horrifying truth, and the rest of us are simply biding our time in ignorance? What terrible secrets lie waiting in their heads? There aren’t many people who ask such questions, and even fewer who seek to find the answers – but Kobayashi is one of them.

Which brings me to the deepest impression left upon me by Noroi: that I will never, ever, EVER become a paranormal investigator, and if I do, I would hope to be a third as courageous as Kobayashi. You know how in slasher films, the cheerleader will be holding a flashlight as she opens the door to the woodshed, going “Hello?” and you’re like “JESUS, DON’T GO IN THERE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? STOP!” The reason that that doesn’t feel unnatural is because the cheerleader character is supposed to be an idiot. Yes, you’re supposed to sympathize with them, but only to an extent; the filmmakers also want to plant a seed of contempt in your mind, so that there’s a certain satisfaction in watching the killer rip them open. Kobayashi, however, is not an idiot. He knows full well what dangers lurk in the woodshed. But he fucking goes in anyway. He’s gotta get his answers!

Well, congratulations, sir. You got ’em. And you succeeded in reminding me that the bravest and most admirable heroes don’t always look like bronze gods. Sometimes, they look like the fat Asian kid at the cafeteria. And for showing such unexpected sensitivity to those we often dismiss or look down upon (in addition to scaring the bejeezus out of me), Noroi gets a hearty recommendation.

Re-Animator (1985)

I laughed the whole way through this movie. If the filmmakers watched me while I watched Re-Animator, I’m sure there were parts where they would high-five – and parts where they’d be pretty pissed. What I’m saying is, in Re-Animator there are elements designed specifically to elicit laughter from the audience, and elements designed to be serious but which elicit laughter anyway. Add Re-Animator to a room full of people with drinks in their hands and it makes for a right rowdy time. Do you enjoy shouting questions at a TV screen in incredulity? Do you enjoy nudity, shocking gore, and comical leaps in logic? Then grab a seat and roll up yer sleeve, son: I got jest the thing.

It’s the charming tale of two bright young scientists, both of whom serve as the protagonist. One is like the first evolution level of Bob Saget, and one is a waxen-faced psycho genius who injects dead things with glowing green crap and brings them back to shambling, bloody-eyed life. The latter convinces the former to help him with a string of experiments, beginning with the girlfriend’s cat and culminating in one (1) megalomaniacal sex-crazed severed head and a truly shocking record of morgue misconduct. Fun for the whole family!

LAFFS, GAFFS, AND UNSCRUPULOUS DERANGED-GENIUS HOSPITAL STAFF!

LAFFS, GAFFS, AND UNSCRUPULOUS DERANGED-GENIUS HOSPITAL STAFF!

It’s based on a short story by HP Lovecraft called “Herbert West – Reanimator” (considered one of his weakest efforts) and the film does an exacting job of transplanting West’s character from page to screen. He’s amoral, twitchy, unnerving, and ambitious in both incarnations. The rest of the film swerves away from the source material like a drunk driver trying to dodge a dozy deer. But then, I’m obviously a sucker for Lovecraft’s elegant prose, even though he himself had considered this particular story an artless cash-grab. Re-Animator fulfill’s the story’s potential and then some.

The performances are great, especially the actor who plays West. It seems like he’s the bad guy at first – motherfucker’s sense of ethics is seriously dodgy – but then a new, much more hilarious antagonist soon takes over. He’s played refreshingly straight the whole way through, despite the absurd subject matter. My friends and I spent almost the whole time talking about the female lead, though. Allow me to speak for everyone who’s seen Re-Animator: Thank you, Barbara Crampton. Thank you for what you’ve given to the world. And by “what you’ve given to the world”, I mean being naked all the time I MEAN EXCUSE ME your inimitable, timeless performance. Ahem! Bravo, truly.

The Halloween moviegoer expects at least one criteria to be met: that they get scared. Re-Animator checks two boxes, providing scares and laughs in equal heaping helpings. What’s not to love?
 
*
 
Well, that does it for this year. Happy Halloween, everybody! Thanks for knocking on my door, kids, but sorry – no candy this year. ONLY TERROR.
 
BWA HAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!
 
(And Monica, I promise I’ll do Hausu next year. I couldn’t get anybody to watch it with me. Philistines.)
 
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Summer Madness; Or, XTREME Nostalgia

21 May

Note: “Summer Madness” by Kool & The Gang is both an inspiration for the above title and an excellent partner to the following essay. Please feel free to enjoy the song and the essay in concert, as they complement one another beautifully. If I do say so myself. Which I do.

Around this time last year, I wrote a video game review in which I mentioned the Pavlovian way my summer season usually starts. Permit me a short self-quotation:

“…And to me, it ain’t summer until several things happen: I pop on my shorts for the first time, I listen to N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton straight through, I crack the season’s first icy smooth Arizona Green Tea, and – a more recent addition to the ever-growing list – I slip Red Dead Redemption into my Xbox.”

Obviously, I need certain criteria to be met before I’m willing to acknowledge the change in seasons. But what I failed to mention last time were the ways that a sun-kissed breeze can flip it around on me, and trigger unexpected urges. I’m talking, of course, about the 1980s.

Stay with me here.

So many of my favourite things came out of the ’80s, myself included. And I don’t know how the connection was forged, but sunlight on my skin, the smell of fresh-cut grass, beads of sweat on my neck, warm air through the car window, ice cream and sandals and barbecue and beer – they all conspire to make me feel like I’ve been transported back to 1989. Maybe a lot of the ’80s movies I love take place in hot settings? The jungles of Predator, the neon sunsets of Scarface, the sun-and-surf shopping malls of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure…I don’t know what it is, but that unconscious bridge in my mind is rock-solid. And as I slurp on that sweet Arizona tallcan, summer apparently decides that it’s about time I watched The Terminator again.

title

I recently finished “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, which did much to reinforce this self-inflicted zeitgeist. It’s a gritty, collars-up, Asian-infused sci-fi neo-noir, coining both the term “cyberspace” and the genre of cyberpunk in one fell swoop. Deeply atmospheric and intimately paranoid, it’s like breathing a plume of cigarette smoke through a shaft of holographic light. It imagines a future similar to many sci-fi dystopias, in which the miraculous advance of technology and medicine does little for the lowlifes who scratch out a living in the belly of an unfriendly metropolis. I’ve run with street samurai, vibrated to Zion dub in zero-G, philosophized with AIs, and stared at a sky the colour of static. It’s a tactile book; it evokes more than it narrates. A lot of show and not much tell. It can be frustrating when you’re unsure of what’s happening in the plot (even when you’re acutely aware of minute details in the setting), but as a purely sensory experience it is transportive and overwhelming. It’s like living in Blade Runner.

Which reminds me: Blade Runner! As The Matrix owes its existence to Neuromancer, so does Neuromancer owe itself to Ridley Scott’s broody masterpiece. All it takes is a blood-orange sunset in late May to trigger this one; I catch a glimpse of that gorgeous colour palette and my mind’s eye paints it onto the industrial Aztec steel of the Tyrell pyramid. My ears fill with angelic synth and I get a craving for street-made ramen. It’s a feast of ’80s texture, and it only makes me hungry for more.

So, naturally, I hunt for more. I’ll give Akira a spin and live in Neo-Tokyo for a night. I’ll clack open the NES and give StarTropics a go, bathing in the glorious 8-bit bleeps and bloops. I’ll bust out the GTA: Vice City soundtrack (which has proved to be a truly bountiful investment) and Run (So Far Away). The soundtrack to my life will suddenly bounce with Michael Jackson and Blondie, to the bafflement of those foolish enough to let me near the sound system.

All of this, inevitably, leads me to Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.

far-cry-3-blood-dragon_1_pac_m_130412160904

I am this game’s exact target audience. All it requires for maximum enjoyment is an intimate, encyclopedic, unhealthy knowledge of 1980s action movie and video game culture. Even if, for some goddamn reason, you’re not as well-equipped as me? You’ll still find it ridiculous enough to laugh at – and that’s exactly the point.

You play as Mark IV Cyber Commando Sgt. Rex “Power” Colt as he sweeps his special brand of gravelly-voiced justice over a retro-futuristic island of ’80s satire. He’s voiced by Michael Biehn, who was the star of many of the movies which are gleefully sent up in the game, from The Terminator to Aliens. It has cyborgs, futuristic weapons, one-liners, mutants, explosions, a soundtrack full of synth, and giant lizards that fire lasers out of their eyes. It’s stupid, frankly; but I absolutely love it. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything make fun of itself so violently. Even the loading screens are jokes, providing helpful hints like “Grenades explode” and “Enemies can knock you down. They’re dicks like that”. The tongue is so far in cheek that it’s punctured the flesh and flown clear across the room.

And if the clever, self-referential humour and blindingly neon ’80s aesthetic weren’t worth the price of admission, then the gameplay sure is. The island is essentially a collection of enemy strongholds to liberate with story missions strung in between, and you’re given a set of tools and abilities and set loose to wreak havoc. It’s seriously fun that you can approach the game any way you want: truck in guns-blazing and Rambo the place clean, or infiltrate with cyber-stealth and kill everyone before the last robot guard has finished taking a pee. With great controls, balance, sound, graphics, and collectibles, it’s as tight as Arnold’s tuchus (and just as addictive). It was a tad light on difficulty – I played through on Hard and found it to be a juicy challenge, but nowhere near as brutal as the Reagan-era veneer would suggest. Excuse me, Cyber-Reagan. Anyway, it was a very satisfying gaming experience, and it fed my nostalgia fix in an epic way.

I really can’t trace the genesis of this phenomenon. It’s unknowable, like the philosophical difference between an android and a human. Summer simply makes me feel like it’s the ’80s. And if all it takes to live in that decade again is a DVD player, an NES, and a trip down memory lane, then I’ll see you at the arcade, space cowboy.

Bring quarters.

Resident Upheaval: The Grim Future of Survival Horror

23 Apr

The survival horror genre is broken.

Time was, I would open a kitchen cabinet and half expect something dead to fall moaning on my neck. I’d see leafless branches in my backyard, stretched out against an autumn sky, and swear I could hear a chainsaw. Survival horror video games, especially those in the Resident Evil series, had an insidious way of creeping into my subconscious. Innocent shadows took on sinister shapes, and the dash up the basement stairs was a desperate bid for safety.

They don’t do that anymore. And it’s not just that I’ve grown up in the interim – something has happened to the genre. Controllers aren’t quaking in the hands of kids these days, and if they are, I think it has more to do with irresponsible parents not knowing what an M-rating is, and less to do with solid game design. So, it’s broken. And the creator of the Resident Evil series, Shinji Mikami, is promising to fix it. The question is: can he?

The first Resident Evil was an exercise in frustration. I never, ever felt that I had enough ammo to face whatever lay beyond the next door. I sweated over spending every single ink ribbon. I hated the way the controls made me feel useless when I stumbled into a deadly situation. And the beautiful thing about the game is that all of those “faults” are actually strengths; every time the developers crippled me as a player, they made the game more frightening. Resident Evil 2 upped the ante in terms of scope, but it was essentially the same game, with a more apocalyptic setting. It was bigger and bolder, and scary in a different way.

Resident Evil 4 walked a narrow tightrope between horror and action, balancing moody atmosphere with savage combat. Every new weapon the game placed in protagonist Leon Kennedy’s hands was an empowerment to the player, and thus a step backwards for the genre, but I excused that because of how wonderful an experience those design choices made. Every spin-kick to a Spaniard’s jaw was an act of desperation, and I could put aside the crazy body count, ludicrous setpieces, and hammy voice acting because the game still scared me. Its pacing was brilliant, providing moments of somber calm between each life-and-death encounter. Never once did I feel truly safe.

Resident Evil 5 tipped the scale. A heavy focus on gunplay, a constant supply of ammunition and health items, a non-optional co-op mode, and a scarcity of atmosphere robbed the game of any horror heft. The few sequences that may otherwise have been frightening – mutants chasing you through air vents, or tribal cannibals bent on pagan sacrifice – were manageable, even effortless thanks to your AI or split-screen partner, even on harder difficulty settings. It was okay, but not very memorable, and certainly not Resident Evil. It was hard not to play it and feel a pang of longing for the original. Survival, yes – technically. Horror? No.

Resident Evil 6 was the final nail in the coffin, and a black mark on Capcom’s résumé. For a game so stuffed full of content (there are four separate campaigns at about 10 hours each, thousands of collectibles, and a myriad of alternate modes), it is utterly devoid of anything this series fan actually wants, perpetuating a litany of poor design choices that threaten to become the only legacy I will remember.

It seems I’m not the only one, as Capcom has commented on disappointing sales and an apparent inability to develop game mechanics that “sufficiently appeal to users”. Shinji Mikami knows this, and he claims to want to fix it. He wants “to bring back survival horror to where it was”. I’m so on board with that! But the pitch for his latest game, The Evil Within, does a pretty poor job of selling me. Mikami claims that it will blend old with new, but it looks like they’re either continuing to make the same mistakes that have castrated the genre, or to paraphrase Ian Malcolm, they’re making all-new ones.

The IGN exclusive first-look article points out that the “ideals” we held so sacred at the genesis of the survival horror genre were sketchy at best, and that’s spot-on; the genre was born during that Wild West era of the 1990s when game developers weren’t bound by rules or convention, only by the limitations of the hardware. IGN admits that at this early stage, The Evil Within doesn’t seem to pour smoothly into that “ideal” mould. But, honestly, if one tenet of survival horror is sacred, it’s that it should scare you – right?

Well, I think we can all agree that there’s nothing more terrifying than the unknown. Unfortunately, The Evil Within appears to be resting on a solid foundation of the known: You play as a grizzled, brown-haired, nondescript action hero. It’s set in a mental hospital. There is uncertainty as to the reality of what you’re seeing and doing as you’re plagued by hallucinations and spooky apparitions. There’s a big masked dude with a chainsaw. It will have a distinctly cinematic feel, with gameplay occasionally stepping aside to allow for a cutscene or scripted event. There’s a blend of stealth and combat action. I mean, I wonder if you’ll correspond with allies via radio, or collect medkits to restore health! What other shocking innovations will lie in store?!

In the article, Mikami makes a fuss about breaking the mould, and shaking things up, and showing people something they’ve never seen before. But when you put that pitch next to IGN’s description of the gameplay, it sounds a lot like he’s just telling us what we want to hear.

It’s now independently-developed games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slender that are satisfying the die-hards of the horror genre, with simplistic gameplay (born of low-budget necessity) and a finger to the pulse of what makes a game truly scary: the player’s imagination. These developers understand that it’s what we can’t see that scares us, not what jumps out and goes boogly-woogly. They know that no twisted creature their artists can dream up will ever be as frightening as what our own minds will conjure. And when Mikami talks about immersing the player using detailed character textures, I hear his words in George Lucas’s voice. To me, that is more terrifying than anything.

“You don’t require the player to use their imagination as much as you had to in the past. You’re able to show things on a much more granular level. A much finer level of detail. And make things feel that much more visceral to the player. You’re able to impart a much greater sense of space and able to use lighting to your advantage much more than you were able to in the past.”

That says it all, doesn’t it? The original Resident Evil’s scares were kind of a happy accident, a perfect storm of meagre hardware and ambitious design. We live in a world where there are no happy accidents anymore, because nothing is left to chance. Or, for that matter, to the imagination.

I hope first impressions don’t count, because Shinji Mikami doesn’t seem to be fixing survival horror – he seems to be making it worse.