FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Mar 27, 2006

Don't...open...that-door!

Stay Alive, the flick I talked about yesterday, is about a sort-of cursed videogame. If your character dies in the game, the player dies in real life. The movie opens with several minutes of "in game" play, setting up the first casualty- a character moves about a big spooky mansion in near-darkness as lots of gorked-out demon baby things attack randomly. While the graphics of the "game" are, as Brennon Slattery pointed out, decidedly sub-par in comparison to actual games on the market today, it looked as if Stay Alive had the potential to be a sweet little horror game. Later, after the movie, I thought "Hey, that would make a sweet little horror game. Boy, I sure love horror-based videogames!" Then I thought about how much I love mint chocolate chip ice cream and I ate some.

I've been a videogame junkie since the days of the Atari 2600. I remember that Smitty was the first kid on the block to get one, and even though the only game he had was Combat all us neighborhood kids were clamoring to play. His mom would let one person at a time in their house to go head-to-head against Smitty in a triangle vs. almost-a-square deathmatch. Eventually my family got a 2600, then a Nintendo (the one with the light gun and the robot), and so on. In the mid-90s, I remember renting the first Resident Evil (for PlayStation) game from Blockbuster. I'd never heard of it, but the giant spider on the box looked wicked cool. I brought the game to my friend Jim's house and we started in on it- my god. The game was like a revelation- it was like playing a horror movie! Two of my favorite things in the whole world, horror movies and video games, got together, made sweet sweet love, and had a baby. We spent the entire weekend playing, and when it was time to bring the rental game back, we went out and purchased a copy so we could finish it. The memories are a bit fuzzy, but there's a good chance that I was so happy I ended up making out with the controller, the game box, the TV, and/or the PlayStation itself. While the roots of horror gaming can probably be traced back to the original Alone in the Dark, for me the genre was born when Jill Valentine (the Master of Unlocking) and Chris Redfield ("I hope this is not Chris's blood!") were chased into the Spencer Mansion by a pack of zombified Dobermans.

Since the days of the original Resident Evil, many a horror videogame has come a-followin' in its footsteps, and my love of the genre has made me try most of them on for size. Here's some of my favorite horror video games in no particular order.

ALIEN 3

I don't really understand all the hatred people seem to have for the movie Alien 3. I saw it at the theatre twice and while it's a strange place to go after Aliens, I dig it (the fourth film in the series, Alien Resurrection, is another matter entirely). The pixelated counterpart, Alien 3 for the Super Nintendo system, is an absolute blast. You've got to guide Ripley through a series of varying environments (tunnels, exteriors, factories, etc) and accomplish different goals to complete missions. On one mission, you'll rescue prisoners that are all gunked-up with alien goo, while on another you'll have to clean all the alien eggs out of a hallway and weld the doors shut, and so on. For a 16-bit game, the graphics are fantastic. The action is intense- there's nothing like a room full of face-huggers to get your heart racing.

DOOM 3

I'm not a huge fan of first-person shooters, but this game completely blew me away. The graphics are unbeatable and the plot is completely secondary to the action; something something space marines something portal to hell something demons coming, look out. When things go wrong in Doom 3, they really go wrong, and you've got to shoot, pummel, and chainsaw your way through hordes of demons and demonized space marines, often in the dark. During one part of this game, you're led through a labyrinthine area of a lab by a scientist. There's power fluctuations or surges or something and the lights are out. Eventually, the surges short out your flashlight as well...as the single beam of light fades, you see something leap out of the darkness and kill the scientist- then everything goes black. Absolutely terrifying.

FATAL FRAME

The Fatal Frame series is very, very Japanese, if you get my drift. Like your typical J-horror flick, it's long on atmosphere, longer on black hair, and short on a linear plot. Armed with a special ghost-capturing camera as your only weapon, you run around haunted houses trying to solve a mystery. If you're willing to give yourself over to the game, you'll likely get goosebumps on top of goosebumps- the game is that chilling. That Ray Parker, Jr thinks he's so big- I'd like to see him go up against a vengeful spirit in some dojo in the middle of the woods! My only gripe about these games is the battle system; the camera is very clever and very unique, but it's also clumsy. Maybe I'm just uncoordinated, but I found myself wasting film taking pictures of the ceiling or floor while ghosts were attacking me relentlessly. The scares more than make up for this complaint, however.

RESIDENT EVIL

I talked a little bit above about my metaphorical boner for Resident Evil, and I do love the series...probably more than is good for me. I've read the cheesy (way, way, way beyond cheesy, actually) books, I've got the toys, I've seen the movies...I bought a Sega DreamCast expressly so I could play Resident Evil: Code Veronica, at the time an exclusive game for that system. Yes, I loves me some Rezzies. Here I'm just going to focus on my two favorite games in the series: first up, the remake of the first entry in the series. The remake of the first Resident Evil was made as an exclusive for the Nintendo GameCube, and guess what? When it hit the streets, I traded in my DreamCast for the GameCube, and man, was it worth it. The graphics are simply amazing, from the little puffs of dirt that rise when you run over an old, dusty wooden floor to the little puffs of stinky zombie breath blown in your face, it's really a beautiful game to behold. The basic plot of the original game remains intact- members of S.T.A.R.S. are investigating a series of "cannibal murders" and end up in a dilapidated mansion in the woods, confronted by zombies and various other horrors- but there's new subplots and new material to give a Resident Evil veteran plenty fresh thrills. This game is downright scary, there's no doubt about it. The first time a zombie that I killed- I know I killed it 'cause the puddle of blood oozed out from under him!- jumped up and started running after me, I nearly crapped my pants. Then I made out with my GameCube.

My other favorite game in the saga is Resident Evil 4. Leon, the Raccoon City cop from the second game, is now working for the Secret Service. When the President's daughter is kidnapped, Leon heads to some vaguely Spanish rural village in search of her. He encounters hordes of evil villagers and cult members out to kill him, and that's just the beginning. Resident Evil 4 is a huge game- I don't even know how many hours I've spent playing it, and I loved every minute of it. The gameplay really cannot be beat- this is one of the best games I've played in any genre on any system. And hell, you know any game that's got a dude with a sack on his head wielding a chainsaw is A-OK by me.

I also really dig Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica...man, I just love 'em all.

SILENT HILL

What can I say about Silent Hill that I haven't said eight billion times? Not much. All I can tell you is that I like 2 and 3 the best, though it's hard for me to choose one over the other. Everytime I think "What about that part in 2 where Pyramid Head chases you down the long, twisty hall with that giant knife? I love 2 the best!", then I think "Yeah, but what about that room in 3 with the mirror? You know, the one where you're walking around, and the walls start to bleed and your reflection starts to bleed and then your reflection fucking stops and watches you...I love 3 the best!". I love the games like they're my own little shiny plastic children with holes in the middle. They scare me. But then you knew that.


THE TIFFANIES:

OK, so I just made up the term "Tiffany". What am I talking about? C'mon, I'm sure you're all big fans of the singer Tiffany, particularly that hit ballad she had...you know the one. I don't know the name of the song, but she sang so poignantly- "Coulda been so beautiful, coulda been so right..." That sentiment applies to so many movies and games I've seen or played! You know, like "close but no cigar", only more heartsring-tugging and less phallic. So, heretofore movies and the such that are really close to being good but ultimately aren't will be known as A Tiffany, so when I use the term I'll expect you all to know what I'm talking about. Here's a couple of horror videogame Tiffanies I've played-

CLOCK TOWER

I don't know why I keep buying Clock Tower games. I play them a bit, I get frustrated and/or get nowhere, I trade them in for something else. Oh wait, I know why- there's crazy dudes with big pointy things (by "things" I mean knives and scissors, ya perv) chasing you around. The best part about the game is the fact that you can actually hide from the crazy dudes- hiding in the broom closet while a crazy dude hunts for you, walking by slowly as his giant scissors go shhhhing! shhhhing! is an awesome experience. Actually playing Clock Tower, however, is not. The controls are clumsy, the crazy dudes can't be killed (or really even stopped for any length of time), and the "puzzles" are nonsensical and frustrating. That's it Clock Tower...like that mystery girl who made Michael Jackson cry, you're outta my life!


SIREN

The skies rain blood and everyone in town goes homicidal cuckoo-nutso. You, however, are still quite normal and you have to escape. The evil townies want you to die and do everything they can to kill you: they'll stab you, they'll shoot you, they'll throw things at you. They're just plain mean! Mean and crazy! This game is pretty spooky, and you've got the ability to "sight-jack" in your arsenal. This means for short periods of time you can see things through the eyes of the evil townies. A cool gimmick, but not just a gimmick- this is your only means of locating the evil townies in their proximity to you- and your only real means of escape is the use of stealth. I wanted this game to be awesome. I really, really did. But sweet jebus, it was difficult- or I found it to be difficult, anyway. I'm really bad at being stealthy when games require it. Some jerk would hear a leaf rustle under my foot and shoot me from a rooftop, or I'd come around the corner and get stabbed in the face. Ultimately, the difficulty level (or my stupid, noisy, lumbering self) got in the way of my enjoyment and Siren went bye-bye.

Horror videogames...two great tastes that something something.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

What? No Zombie's ate my neighbor on the list? j/k. I'd have to agree with you on RE and Silent Hill as being the best horror games out there. I grew up laughing at The Exorcist but when the dogs jumped through the mirrors in RE... I jumped straight out of my chair with a hearty "WTF is THAT!?!" and promptly fell in love. When my roommate left w/ his PS I went out and bought one just so I could replay RE and show fam and friends how great it was. Silent Hill.... uhhh... My man parts don't want to talk about that game. It is a truly creepy game that even outdoes RE's creepy atmosphere. The sense of isolation was disturbing, only being surpassed when you thought something WAS there. I might have to go out and replace them now that you reminded me how good they were. Thanks! My thereapist thanks you too ;)

C

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I know game recommendations of total strangers, but I think you would like the really really atmospheric, sometimes downright scary "Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth"

-mycroft

Stacie Ponder said...

I love Zombies Ate My Neighbors! That game is so much fun! I love the giant baby most of all.

Another great game with a b-movie feel is Destroy All Humans...I just got it and I'm hooked. Hooked bad, I tells ya!

Don't worry, C...Silent Hill reduces us all to quivering piles of jelly.

Thanks for the suggestion, mycroft- I'm always open to hearing about new games and movies. I've read about the Cthulu game, now I've gotta check it out.

The Retropolitan said...

I loved Alien3! And of course Zombies Ate My Neighbors, although it gets bloody difficult. Makes me want to pull out my emulator and find Fester's Quest again.

Another game I found particularly scary was the first Aliens V. Predator game for the PC -- man, playing as a marine is tough on the nerves. Just when you think you've made it all the way upstairs to the generator, used up most of your ammo, all of your grenades... you have to get your ass back to the exhaust fan. I just stood in the corner of the room for about ten minutes pondering if it was even worth attempting.

And I screamed aloud when the facehugger first got me.

Anonymous said...

I live for Horror games. FEAR, The Suffering and Painkiller are some the best.
There is nothing like sitting in a dark room, all alone, waiting for something to jump out at you. And sometimes when it does, you jump too.
Goose

B.A. Slattery said...

I absolutely loved Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Why hasn't that game transported to next-generation consoles?

Resident Evil 4 definitely sapped my time as well. When I beat it (finally) I went back and bought the Chicago Typewriter and took care of those nasty-ass zombies good ... but then the game lost its fun. Too easy at that point. I need to play it on professional mode and ... my Lord! I've totally nerded out to your post! Flaming cock shit!

That screenshot for Siren looks very J-horror and intriguing. Too bad it's not a good game.

Here's to Resident Evil 5 on the PS3!

Michelle said...

Man, I kept looking at Siren and wanting to buy it but kept talking myself out of it. I guess I'm glad I did. I own enough games that I don't play often enough.

I did hear somewhere that someone is making a movie adaptation of it.

Josh said...

I never had a Super Nintendo, and I've always wanted to get in on some Alien 3 video game action.

What about Maniac Mansion? Or even Splatterhouse, with everyone's favorite Vorhees stand in?

Steve said...

Josh,

Good call. I wasted many a sunny summer afternoon playing Maniac Mansion. And Zombies Ate My Neighbors is almost what I called my blog I liked that game so much. Running through the hedges while a chainsaw wielding psycho runs after you, what else could anyone want?

Parasite Eve was a decent Tiffany. There were times where I'd be freaked out, especially the Hospital level, and not even want to play, but alas, it just didn't quite make me love it.

Anonymous said...

Maniac Mansion - one of the greatest NES games ever made. I named my guitar after Weird Ed. :)

If we're going that far back, though, what about Uninvited? Anyone else ever even hear of this underappreciated gem? Man, the first time that ghost chick in the hallway ate me...damn.

And I always wanted to try Splatterhouse, but never quite got around to finding anyone I knew with a TurboGrafix-16. Sad. That game was really ahead of its time.

Stacie Ponder said...

Michelle- Siren is definitely worth a rental, or if you find a copy wicked cheap pick it up. I paid full price for it and I sucked so bad at it that it wasn't worth the dough. It's pretty damn spooky, though, and it would make a GREAT movie. Well, it might- you never know what you're gonna get on the screen.

Never played Splatterhouse and...gasp...never played Maniac Mansion! Damn.

I'd forgotten about Parasite Eve completely- I played 1 and 2 and thought they were pretty decent.

Another game that was pretty good, if a little slow and clunky, was D. Anyone try that one?

Anonymous said...

Wow! I knew Zombies ate my neighbors was good but I didnt' think you guys would pour out this much love for it! I think I played Splatterhouse (I thought it was on the SNES?) or some other hack everything in sight platformer. I didn't want to pull out the flintlocks but you brought up Uninvited... 13th Guest, more of a Tif but so's Nosferatu: Symphony of the Damned. It all has to start somewhere!

C aka Chop-a-holic (I just can't get it to log in as a blogger >_< )


*note: While several frames of The Hunchback are still around that predate Nosferatu, it's still the oldest surviving (2 court orders for every copies destruction!!!!) horror film despite Stoker's widow's best efforts.

Chris Hopper said...

Personally, I lover Alien vs. Predator. It is really a pretty scary game. When a face grabber gets you it is kind of freaky. You can also play as a marine, alien or a predator. I always prefered predator. I also fell in love with Half Life 2. That game is really cool. I have to agree with you about Doom 3, Stacie, It is pretty amazing.

cattleworks said...

OMG... that was some pretty entertaining reading! Post and comments both!
"Tiffanies"
"Flaming cock shit!"
"I didn't want to pull out the flintlocks..."
"... more of a Tif..." you just COINED this term and it's already evolving in the language... that's so interesting!

... more vicarious living on my part, but this wasn't so much envy as it was just fascinating reading as an outsider...

Kitty LeClaw said...

I've never been much for video gamery, but I have vivid memories of playing Friday the 13th on the original NES (and never seeing anyone be able to do much more than flounder around). Was it even possible to beat this game? I suspect is was all just a ploy to rob arcade kids of their hard-earned quarters.

Bonez said...

Has anyone tried System Shock 2? A space survival horror game with alien pipe wielding zombies. The second game to ever give me nightmares. (After RE2, which was the first of the series I played.)