Best ever Game intros – No.1 – Silent Hill (1999)

After Capcoms monumental success with ‘Resident Evil’, several companies followed up with their own take on the ‘survival horror’
genre. Konami produced a game that turned into a franchise, also incorporating a Hollywood film (released in 2006)and an arcade game (2007). Silent Hill tells the story of Harry, who following a car crash, ends up in the seemingly deserted town of the title, looking for his daughter, missing since the accident. The town soon becomes a waking, living nightmare, with grotesques trying to stop Harry from finding his daughter.

The game employs similair mechanics to Resident Evil, with an ‘over the shoulder’ controlling view of your character. While the focus on puzzle solving and fighting is similair to the Capcom classic, there is more of a focus on building an air of tension in this game. Surrounded by fog, you walk through deserted streets with the static hiss of Harrys radio breaking the silence. If enemies are approaching, although you cannot see them, you can hear them as the radio static gets louder. It is very effective at maintaining an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty. It eschews the frantic action of Resident Evil for something a little more slow-burning, and as a result, something that leaves you feeling far more unsettled than any other game I have played (though Fatal Frame for the Xbox has a similairly disturbing undercurrent.

Although the intro is just a collection of the ingame ‘movies’ that are employed to move the plot/game along, the way they are edited into the intro, propelled by the magnificent Silent Hill Theme by Akira Yamaoka, makes this a cut above the usual game intros of the PS1 era. If it was a trailer for a film, it would make me go to the cinema to watch that film. There are one or two other intros that also stand out (I loved Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Final Fantasy VII and Tekken 3) but this remains my favourite.

Click here for more information on this stunning game.

Review of the game from Gamespot here

IGN rated the game as one of its top 15 PS games of all time in 2000 (by which time the PS was reaching the end of its term as the dominant Console).

For more information on the superb soundtrack to Silent Hill (the game), then click here. While we are on the subject of the soundtrack, I think this is also one of the best ever album covers;

and why do I think this is one of the great album covers? Mainly because it encapsulates all that is superb about the game – the cover is a snapshot of happiness, but once you begin to enter the world of Silent Hill (in this case, the music), you know that there is something not right, in fact, something terrible, evil, is occuring.

You can listen to the soundtrack here.

The Last Stand

Being a fan of all things Zombie, I am delighted to have come across a free game online called ‘The Last Stand’. Set in what I assume to a be a post-zombie apocalypse, you man the barricades to defeat the oncoming zombie hordes throughout the night. During the day you manage your time to search for weapons, survivors and to repair the damage sustained to the barricades during the previous night. Simple but addictive fun, and free.

Play the game here and at freeonlinegames.com

More instore games promo videos (1986)

More instore promo videos for independent computer games circa 1986. Includes a game I talked about a while back, Who Dares Wins II. You can probably track all these down on emulation now, but would you want to bother?

Games featured in this first clip;

Christmas Card (Virgin)
Wild West (Ariolasoft)
Rasputin (Firebird)
Superman (Beyond)
Spitfire 40 (Mirrorsoft)
Arc of Yesod (Thor)
Who Dares Wins II (Alligata)
The Young Ones (Orpheus)
Biggles (Mirrorsoft)

Video cover art of the 80s (plus FORMAT WARS!) and some videos too

Bit rambling this (nothing new), and its a sort of continuation from the article I did on Ruggero Deodatas ‘Cannibal Holocaust’. The cover art, as I showed, was brutal, and did justice to the brutality of the film;

which got me thinking about all the other fantastic video cover art of that era. In the past, when writing about post-apocalypse films of the early 80’s, I have commented that the cover art on the video was usually far more spectacular than anything the film itself offered (as the majority of the films put out on video in that period was generally low budget – major films could take months to come to video).

A classic example of great cover, BAD film;

and here is a review of the film;

Beardy Freak Review of ‘Mardi Gras Massacre’

Two of the most notorious covers (alongside Cannibal Holocaust) are here;

SS Experiment Camp

Review of SS Experiment Camp

Snuff

Review of Snuff from StompTokyo

Here is an example of a cover that sums up the film nicely – the stark, creepy cover to the brilliant Texas Chainsaw Massacre, prior to its removal off the shelves in 1984 under the Video Recordings Act;

There are a few sites out there that dedicate themselves to archiving these treasures of the recent past;

Video Cover Art of the 80s

pre-certificate video art

Killer Covers

Ade collection of cover scans from the nasties era

That got me reminiscing of the video shops of 25 years ago – something some other people were doing on this forum;

forum thread about old video shops

I love the fact that someone on that forum mentions he collected video posters – so did I, including The Alchemist, Demons Of Ludlow, Ice Pirates, Frightmare, and my most treasured, The New Barbarians, all plastered over the bedroom…..

A modern day format war is now all but over, with Blu-Ray beat HD-DVD as the next format for films & games. Bit like the video wars of the early 80’s, when there was a 3 way tussle for the main prize of being the dominant format at the time competed for space in the rental shops (only the rich could afford to buy Video Cassette films, they cost upwards of £50 per film at the time). Betamax, Video2000 and VHS all challenged, with VHS winning out. There’s an overview here;

A History of the Video Format Wars

A brief history of Video mentioning the format wars

A brief history of the VCR

Finally on this whistle stop tour of video culture in the early 80s, here are trailers or opening sequences for some of the films that were staples of early 80s video shop rentals….

1990: The Bronx Warriors

Basket Case at the IMDB

Bronx Warriors at the IMDB

Creepshow at the IMDB

The Deadly Spawn at the IMDB

Flash Gordon at the IMDB

Hawk The Slayer at the IMDB

Cannibal Holocaust, Riz Ortolini, Exploitation & Video Nasties

One of the (if not the) most notorious exploitation films of all time, Cannibal Holcaust (directed by Ruggero Deodata) was banned in several countries upon its theatrical and subsequent video releases. The splendidly named Deodata was arrested in his homeland of Italy and charged with obscenity of making a ‘snuff’ film, a situation he brought upon himself by allowing viewers to believe that the film was actually a documentary on a tragic Jungle expedition.

Wiki has a rather good article on the film, and here is some of it;

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is a controversial exploitation film directed by Ruggero Deodato and is based on a screenplay written by Gianfranco Clerici and Giorgio Stegani. Filmed in the Amazon Rainforest, it focuses on a team of four documentarians who head deep into the jungle to make a documentary on the primitive native tribes that live there. After two months and no word from the team, a famous anthropologist is sent on a rescue mission in hopes of finding the team alive. The film stars Robert Kerman as the anthropologist Harold Monroe, Carl Gabriel Yorke as director Alan Yates, Francesca Ciardi as Alan’s girlfriend Faye, Perry Pirkanen as the cameraman Jack Anders, and Luca Barbareschi as fellow cameraman Mark Tomaso.

Cannibal Holocaust is one of the best known exploitation films due to the controversy it caused upon its release. After premiering in Italy, the film was seized by the local Magistrate and Deodato was arrested for obscenity. He was later accused of making a snuff film based on circulating rumors that the film’s actors were slain for the camera. Though Deodato would be cleared of these charges, the film was banned in Italy, the UK, Australia, and several other countries for graphic gore, sexual violence, and for the genuine slayings of six animals featured in the film. While many nations have revoked the ban, it is still banned to this day in other countries around the world. Despite this notoriety, Cannibal Holocaust is seen by some critics as a social commentary on civilized society.“

When VHS top-loading videos were the thing to have in the early 80s, we were lucky enough to get one (rented, from Granda Rentals, because they cost about £500 to buy in 1982). The scene was set, one Friday evening in October, for my mother to go to the local Video Rental shop ‘Replay’ in Fazeley, and rent out a couple of videos (after paying the £25 joining fee, which entitled you to the first 2 rentals for free, as I recall – after that, rentals were £2.50 each). Their was palapable excitement as we waited for my mum to reveal what she had rented. She produced 2 brick sized VHS cases, with blank blue covers. On the spines were typed

Clash of the Titans (A)
Cannibal Holocaust (X)

This was in the days of the old ‘U’, ‘A’, ‘AA’ and ‘X’ film ceritifications – see the link;
Film certification 1970-1982

so we (me, brother, sister) knew we were going to watch Clash of the Titans, and that was it. As a 12 year old at the time, I wasnt going to get to watch an X rated film. I dont really know what made Cannibal Holocaust appeal to my mother (she seems such an innocent soul);

Anyway, that cover used to haunt me as I went around the aisles and viewed the display cabinets at ‘Replay’ and the several other Video rental shops (and one video rental van) in and around Tamworth, Staffs in the early to mid eighties. My mum said that she couldnt watch the film because it wasn’t ‘what she had expected’ (???). That just added to the intrigue. When, in 1984, the Video Recordings Act took Cannibal Holocaust (and many other ‘Video Nasties’) from the rental shops, it only made its murky glamour ever more appealing.

I finally got to watch the film in 1998, when, at a car boot sale in Buckinghamshire, I chanced upon a man selling reasonable bootlegs of all the Video Nasties, with the original cover art (in washed out photocopy colour). I purchased Cannibal Holocaust and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and got a typed-up list of all the goodies he sold, a list over several pages long. He did mail order, £5 per film. I got a couple more videos via the post, including a grainy copy of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but then he never got back to me when I requested Clockwork Orange and The Beyond. Never found out what happened to him. It is amazing to think that only 10 years ago this was how you had to go about obtaining a relatively gory horror film. It seems like it could be than 50 years ago when you look at how the internet has revolutionised how you obtain films, either through the likes of play.com and amazon, through to torrent sites and youtube and other video hosting sites.

Anyway, I watched the film. Some parts were pretty repulsive (the animal death and cruelty scenes are horrendous, and Deodata has since admitted in an interview (that was bundled as an extra on a DVD release of the film) that he regrets including these scenes. Apart from that, the film is brutal, exciting and very gory. There is an atmosphere of dread and desperation within the film, and inevitability as the cast meet their fates.

Critical response to the film is mixed;

Critics remain split on their stances of Cannibal Holocaust. Supporters of the film cite it as serious and well-made social commentary on the modern world. Mike Bracken called it one of the greatest horror movies ever filmed, and also stated, “Viewers looking for a film that’s powerful, visceral, and disturbing have a new title to add to their must-see list.” Sean Axmaker praised the structure and set up of the film, saying, “It’s a weird movie with an awkward narrative, which Deodato makes all the more effective with his grimy sheen of documentary realism, while Riz Ortolani’s unsettlingly lovely, elegiac score provides a weird undercurrent.”Jason Buchanan of All Movie Guide said, “…while it’s hard to defend the director for some of the truly repugnant images with which he has chosen to convey his message, there is indeed an underlying point to the film, if one is able to look beyond the sometimes unwatchable images that assault the viewer.”

Detractors, however, counter with the genuine animal slayings, questionable acting, and hypocrisy that the film presents. Nick Schager criticized the brutality of the film, saying, “As clearly elucidated by its shocking gruesomeness — as well as its unabashedly racist portrait of indigenous folks it purports to sympathize with — the actual savages involved with Cannibal Holocaust are the ones behind the camera.” Schager’s racism argument is supported by the fact that the real indigenous peoples in Brazil whose names were used in the movie — the Yanomamo and Shamatari — are not fierce enemies as portrayed in the movie, nor is either tribe truly cannibalistic (although the Yanomamo do partake in a form of post-mortem ritual cannibalism).

Robert Firsching of All Movie Guide made similar criticisms of the film’s content and claimed that the “…pie-faced attempts at socially conscious moralizing make it rather distasteful morally as well. The fact that the film’s sole spokesperson for the anti-exploitation perspective is played by porno star Richard Bolla should give an indication of where its sympathies lie.” Slant Magazine’s Eric Henderson said it is “…artful enough to demand serious critical consideration, yet foul enough to christen you a pervert for even bothering.”

Cannibal Holocaust currently has a 57% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 4.7.[20] The film came 8th on IGN’s Top 10 Grindhouse films.“

(taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibal_Holocaust#Critical_response)

The mention of Riz Ortalinis “unsettlingly lovely, elegiac score” brings me onto that very thing – the theme tune for the film. Ortalini is an Italian film composer, whose work includes the soundtrack for Mondo Cane (a documentary film that consists of a series of travelogue-vignettes that provide (the intended) Western audience with a shocking glimpse into cultural practices around the world). In some respects, it could be said that Mondo Cane was an influence on Deodata and his making of Cannibal Holocaust. His work has also been used by Tarantino, in the excellent Soundtracks for Kill Bill.

Here it is, in all its unsettling loveliness;

Cannibal Holocaust Main Theme – Riz Ortalini

and here is the trailer for the film;

Links

Full Wiki entry on the film

Riz Ortolani info

Mondo Cane info

A few years ago David Kerekes (of Headpress) and David Slater produced a book that explores the history of death on film, and there is a section on Cannibal Holocaust in there. It’s fascinating and well worth tracking down – amazon have it;

By the way – do snuff films actually exist?

Finally, if you are at all interested in the curious witch hunt that got Britain in a state about some (mainly bland or bad) horror films, you should check out John Martins’ book, “The Seduction of the Gullible: Curious History of the British “Video Nasties””. Its been reprinted twice, but is currently out of print, but you can find copies out on ebay or amazon. He also released a sequel, but the book I have mentioned remains definitive.

There are also some good resources on the internet for this curious slice of British History;

Wiki entry for Video Nasties

Critical Film analysis

The Video Nasties furore detailed

The brilliant Melon Farmers site gives an account of the Video Nasties saga

and absolutley it seems as if even now, in 2008, when we are hardened to the graphic ‘torture porn’ of the likes of ‘Saw’, ‘Hostel’, ‘Vacancy’ and ‘Paradise Lost’, someone has not forgotten about the good old days….

The video nasty debate rears its ugly head again