Mike’s Horror Blog: Penumbra

http://monstervine.com

From the makers of Amnesia comes the Penumbra series, another horror series that lets the player’s imagination do most of the work. The story follows Philip, a thirty-year-old physician that received a letter from his supposedly dead father, prompting him to follow a series of clues that leads him to northern Greenland. The harsh cold forces him into an abandoned mine, where he discovers that something unusual has occurred, which includes the fauna growing to dangerously large proportions.

Like Amnesia, the game relies on the atmosphere and the player’s mind to create the scares – it’s a fine game, although a big drawback is the combat system: it’s not needed. Besides being clunky, being able to fight your enemies immediately takes away the feeling of powerlessness. Granted, you can’t defeat the majority of the monsters, but the fact that it’s there means a lot of players are going to try, which is going to lead to frustration.

Still, if you’re a horror game aficionado like me, this is a worthy addition to your collection.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: Amnesia

http://wikipedia.org

I love horror games, but the problem with many of them is that they aren’t scary – they may have some shocking moments, but few can conjure up the feelings of fear and dread. Most seem content to throw a bunch of gore at the screen and call it a day. This is not so with Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Taking place in 1839, the plot centers around Daniel, a young man from London, awakening in the Prussian Brennenburg Castle, with no memory of his past or why he’s there – the only clue is a note he wrote to himself, which states he deliberately erased memory and he must kill the Baron of the castle, Alexander. Complicating matters is that Alex is being hunted by a shadowy mass that threatens to devour the entire castle.

Where Amnesia gets it right is by having the player’s mind create the illusion of danger – most of the time the player is safe, but unless you’ve played the game, you don’t know that, so you’re going to jump at every noise and movement, whether imagined or not. The atmosphere is crushing – the darkness and ambient soundtrack will have you inching forward all the time. There were many moments where I thought, “Do I really want to open this door?” or “Do I really want to see what’s around this corner?” Of course, if you want to see the end of the game you have to do these things, but it’s that doubt that makes the experience seem real.

There’s going to be a sequel called A Machine for Pigs coming out next year, and I’ll be playing it right away.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog

http://en.wikipedia.org

I’ve just finished The Walking Dead, a video game based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman. It was a harrowing, emotional journey, and I’m glad I took it. The premise, as hinted by the title, involves a zombie apocalypse taking place in the United States, with the story on Lee Everett, a convict from Macon, Georgia. After getting in an accident on his way to prison, Lee discovers most of the population has been turned into zombies. He finds a young girl named Clementine, who is looking for her parents, last heard from in Savannah. The two decide to try and find help, or at least find a way to survive.

The best aspect of the game is Lee’s role as a father figure to Clementine, and how it makes the player want to protect her. You’ll be doing your damnedest to make sure she doesn’t get hurt in any way. While you’ll meet other characters and form connections with them, your primary concern is going to be Clementine.

This being a game about a zombie apocalypse, there will be times where you‘ll have to put survival over morality – it was surprising how difficult some of the choices could be, and there are some moments where you’ll be heartbroken, but it’s still worth playing. I wish more games had this sort of effort put into them.

— Michael Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog

http://collider.com

Here’s another entry in the Library of Lovecraft: “At the Mountains of Madness.” This one is important because it introduces some of the more infamous alien beings in his work. Geologist William Dyer goes on an expedition of Antarctica, where a previous team had discovered the
preserved remains of strange creatures, totally unlike anything on Earth.

Through exploration, Dyer discovers a huge stone city that was once inhabited by these creatures, dubbed “Elder Things.” Examination of some hieroglyphics reveals that the Elder Things were responsible for the creation of life on Earth, as well as the history of other races like the Elder Things, including the “Shoggoths,” amorphous blobs that helped shape the Elder Things’ cities. As Dyer goes deeper into the city, he realizes that the Shoggoths and Elder Things aren’t quite as dead as it
seems.

The best aspect of the story is the bizarre appearance and nature of the Elder Things, in addition to the other races mentioned – they are so alien and in opposition to known science that simply reading descriptions of them will make your eyes cross. Supposedly, Lovecraft based his alien races on creatures of the ocean, which is appropriate since the ocean is one of the few unexplored areas of Earth left, plus there are some very weird-looking things living in the depths.

Check it out.

– Michael Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog

http://justmegawatt.com

I’d like to talk about a story called “The Enigma of Amigara Fault,” a manga (basically, a comic book made in Japan) by Junji Ito. It centers on a pair of hikers that go to Amigara Mountain to investigate a strange occurrence: a recent earthquake has split the mountain, revealing thousands of human-shaped holes that lead deep into the mountain. Scientists are baffled – the holes weren’t made naturally, and they have no idea where they came from. The strangest thing is the effect the holes have on people – many seem to go insane, climbing into certain holes that are shaped like them, disappearing into the mountain.

The biggest draw of the story is the mystery – what is the purpose of these holes? Why are they there? While there’s a dream sequence that hints at the reason why the holes are created, there aren’t any definitive answers. There’s also the dread the reader feels at what lies at the other end of the holes, and what happens to the people who enter them. The thought of being trapped in a dark, claustrophobic space will unnerve more than a few readers. We do find out what happens to the people, and it’s something that will stick in your mind for a while. Highly recommended.

— Michael Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog

http://cine-apocalypse.com

It’s hard to do horror-comedy correctly. Most of the time you end up with a film that is neither funny nor scary, or a film that can do one, but not another. Sometimes, you can find a gem that does both, like Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, a 1985 film based off the Lovecraft story “Herbert West – Re-Animator.” The film is considered a cult classic due to the combination of gore and slapstick and the performance of Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West.

The story centers around West creating a reagent that manages to bring the dead back to life, albeit as crazed, superhuman zombies. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, he has to deal with an army of zombies led by a megalomaniacal (and headless) doctor. Combs plays the character more as an antihero – West is motivated primarily by his research and doesn’t care about the cost.

That said, he’s still a sympathetic character because of his passion and the missteps he makes. The film manages to blend horror and comedy quite well, so I recommend it.

— Mike Malan, Blogger.

Mike’s Horror Blog

http://imdb.com

Paranormal Activity 4

I really liked the original Paranormal Activity. While subsequent viewings diminish the tension and scares, it has a certain style and atmosphere that’s hard to duplicate. The escalation of the haunting keeps the audience on its toes, and you can be sure that whenever Katie and Micah go to bed, something bad is about to happen. The series has gone downhill in the sequels, with Paranormal Activity 4 being the bottom of the barrel, so far.

While I thought Paranormal Activity 2 was good and number 3 was okay, Paranormal Activity 4 is just predictable and dull. It relies too much on jump scares and has characters being dumb for the sake of the plot, not to mention the implausible things the audience is expected to swallow. (Why does this family have five laptops? How and why does the main character’s boyfriend record hours of her sleeping?) There is a connection to the previous films, but it’s so convoluted that I still don’t understand it. In a way, I’m not surprised that the series has taken a nosedive – you can cover the same thing only so many times before it becomes stale.

— Michael Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog

http://filmsite.org

Why I Like Horror

Sometimes I wonder why I am drawn to the genre of horror. There’s something primal and raw about it, something that bypasses the façade of respectability and sanity, thrusting into the dark underbelly of human behavior and emotion. Not that sci-fi and fantasy can’t do so, but horror is designed to terrify and unnerve the audience, to prey on our fears and aversion to the unknown. There are many things to be afraid of, even though our fears may be irrational, like birds or mayonnaise. Still, a talented writer could make mayonnaise frightening, sort of like what Stephen King did with “The Mangler.”

Maybe it’s because there were a lot of terrifying experiences in my formative years and I latched onto horror because it was familiar. Maybe it’s because I like to acknowledge my dark side once in a while. Maybe it’s because I read a lot of horror fiction growing up. Maybe it’s because the world is a horrifying place and reading horror makes it less so.

— Michael Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Horror Blog: Videodrome

http://tvtropes.org

I’d like to talk about one of my favorite horror films: Videodrome, directed by David Cronenberg. The plot centers on Max Renn (James Woods), the president of a UHF station that specializes in lurid programming. Dissatisfied with the current lineup, Max goes looking for something new, and discovers Videodrome, a show depicting the torture and murder of random victims. Intrigued, Max goes looking for the origin of the show, where he learns that Videodrome is more than a television program – it’s designed to take over the minds of everyone in North America.

Besides the great effects and superb acting, the main reason I love this film is because it predicted how technology would blur the line between virtual reality and actual reality. One of the philosophies espoused in the movie is that television will supplant reality as being more “real.” Looking at the deluge of reality shows and the ways technology has advanced to allow us to keep in touch with the virtual world, it’s hard to disagree. With the hours we spend on the computer, texting, chatting, watching TV, it makes one wonder if we spend more time outside of the real world than in it.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: Call of Cthulhu

http://en.wikipedia.org

“The Call of Cthulhu” is one of the texts that H. P. Lovecraft is famous for, and the one that started the Cthulhu Mythos, which other authors would expand upon in their writings. The tale is divided into three chapters, the first two concerning the protagonist’s grand-uncle, the third dealing with the protagonist’s investigations into the “Cthulhu Cult.” The plot centers around an ancient, god-like creature called Cthulhu, which sleeps in the underwater city of R’lyeh – the aforementioned cult is attempting to awaken him so he and the rest of his kind (known as the “Great Old Ones”) can rule the earth as they did before the advent of mankind.

The story is interesting, although not one of Lovecraft’s best: his insistence on using language that was archaic even in 1926 can turn parts into a slog, and the framing can be confusing at times. The harrowing encounter with Cthulhu isn’t even experienced by the protagonist, but a late sailor that recounts the event in a manuscript. Still, it’s interesting to read about one of Lovecraft’s most famous creatures.

— Michael Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.