Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

Danish haunted-house studies seek to reveal the seductive appeal of horror

February 13th, 2019
Visitors to a haunted house in Vejle, Denmark, respond differently to being confronted by "scare actors" depending on whether they are "adrenaline junkies" or "white-knucklers."

Enlarge / Visitors to a haunted house in Vejle, Denmark, respond differently to being confronted by "scare actors" depending on whether they are "adrenaline junkies" or "white-knucklers." (credit: Andrés Baldursson, Baldursson Photography)

It's no secret that many of us here at Ars are genuine fans of horror. As a child, I would compulsively devour horror short stories and watch classic movies on late-night TV, like Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) or I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). Then I'd lie awake at night in terror, convinced a werewolf was lurking just outside my bedroom window. (In reality, it was a trick of light and shadow against the curtains.) That's the central paradox of horror: we both fear the experience of watching a scary movie, or reading a terrifying book, and compulsively seek it out

According to Mathias Clasen of Aarhus University in Denmark, we seek out being afraid in controlled settings as a means of confronting our fears in a safe environment. Clasen specializes in studying our response to horror in books, film, video games, and other forms of entertainment, and he is the author of Why Horror Seduces. It's one way we can explore "issues of morality and evil and the contours of our own psychological landscape," he said. "We find and challenge our own limits. And we may even practice coping strategies. It does not make us fearless, but it does seem to make us better at regulating fear."

Like me, Clasen has a lifelong love of horror, even though as a child he was terrified of scary stories. "I would have nightmares and would sleep with the lights on," he admitted. That changed in his teenaged years. "What psychologists call a hedonic reversal took place," he said. "I started feeling this weird attraction [to horror] that I couldn't really understand." He devoured the writings of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft. While earning his various degrees in literature, he found a rich collection of dark gothic material in the English literature canon.

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Posted in culture, Gaming & Culture, horror, personality traits, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Not even the bathtub is safe in new trailer for The Curse of La Llorona

February 12th, 2019

A ghostly presence targets two young children in new trailer for New Line Cinema’s The Curse of La Llorona.

Fresh off the blockbuster success of Aquaman, director James Wan has produced a upcoming film that returns to his horror roots. And judging by the latest trailer, The Curse of La Llorona will offer chills aplenty in the same spirit as his Conjuring and Insidious franchises.

The titular ghost La Llorona (which translates as "The Weeping Woman") is based on Latin American folklore; there are many variants, but the film seems to be based on the Mexican version. A beautiful young woman named Maria marries into a wealthy family, and because her new in-laws disapprove of the match, the newlyweds build a home in her rural village. She bears her man two sons, but he eventually abandons her for a younger woman. A distraught Maria drowns the boys in a blind rage and then drowns herself.

For this crime, she is barred from the afterlife. She is condemned to spend eternity looking for her lost sons, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Her constant weeping is why she is called La Llorona, and legend has it that, if you her wailing, you will have bad fortune and possibly die. La Llorona also kidnaps children wandering alone at night, mistaking them for her dead sons, and she is said to drown those children, too, all while begging for forgiveness.

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Trailer for latest adaptation of Pet Sematary has some surprising twists

February 7th, 2019

Take it from the Creed family cat, Church: sometimes dead is better.

Stephen King published his bestselling novel, Pet Sematary, 35 years ago, and it has definitely stood the test of time. We think we know the story, but there will be some unexpected, horrifying twists in the new film adaptation, judging by the spooky latest trailer.

(Spoilers for original book and film below.)

Staunch King fans know the basic plot by now: a doctor named Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his family from the big city (Chicago in the book, Boston in the 2019 film) to a charming small town in Maine. The new house is right by a busy highway on one side and bumps up against a forest in back. So many local pets meet their demise on the highway that the children have set up a "Pet Sematary" in the forest to bury their beloved animals. Louis' daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) discovers the site while walking in the woods.

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, horror, Pet Sematary, stephen king, Trailers | Comments (0)

Video: Dead Space’s scariest moment almost dragged down the entire project

January 8th, 2019

Video directed by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript. Special thanks to Glen Schofield and Chris Stone for assistance gathering footage.

I need to get this out of the way right up front: the War Stories video crew here at Ars loves Dead Space. The game turned 10 years old this past October, and it's a near-perfect execution of the survival horror genre—the world, the sound design, and the mechanics are all spot-on, even after a decade. It's also one of the games we've had on our War Stories to-do list since the very beginning, and we're excited to finally have this video to share with you all.

Executive producer/creator Glen Schofield was fortunately just as excited to talk about the game as we are, and he invited us into his home to tell us the tale of how Isaac Clarke and the USG Ishimura came to be. Creating Dead Space required Schofield and team to create not just an entire original IP (complete with lore and world-building) but new game mechanisms and new ways to tell a story. The focus of putting the player directly into protagonist Isaac Clarke's somewhat clunky shoes affected every decision, and the resulting game managed to be refreshingly original while also paying respectful homage to other horror movies and games (most notably Event Horizon and Resident Evil, respectively.

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Posted in Ars Technica Videos, console gaming, Dead Space, Dead Space 2, Features, Gaming & Culture, Glen Schofield, horror, PC gaming, videos, war stories | Comments (0)

Review: Changeling mixes the best parts of podcasts and horror novels into one

January 1st, 2019

(credit: Simon & Schuster UK)

True crime has taken over entertainment. Regardless of what that says about our society, observe the fruits of this trend has been fascinating. It's a pick-your-poison landscape now, filled with riveting podcasts, multi-part streaming series, and other mediums exploring (or exploiting, depending on your view) our interest in the horrible things that happen to others. Amidst the plethora of experiments, one stands out as a refreshing take on the trend: turning the true-crime podcast format into a fictional book.

At its core, podcasting is just another way to tell stories, and British author Matt Wesolowski took that idea and translated it into book form. Changeling, the latest installment in Wesolowski's Six Stories series, successfully implants the tale of a boy's disappearance into your head vividly enough that you can almost hear it being told to you.

For those unaware, the Six Stories book series uses a podcast format to "rake over old graves" of fictional crimes. Journalist Scott King hosts the fictitious Six Stories podcast, in which he explores past crimes by interviewing those associated with them—witnesses, bystanders, and perpetrators alike. Each book in Weslowski's series features six stories and six different accounts of the same crime, written as podcast transcripts. Reading each book mimics "listening" to one season of the Six Stories podcast, with King as your narrator and guide to dissecting the events that led to and made up the horrible (and typically mysterious) crime at hand.

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Posted in book, changeling, Gaming & Culture, horror, matt wesolowski, podcast, podcasting, six stories, True Crime | Comments (0)

A time loop meets the multiverse in Happy Death Day 2U’s first trailer

December 1st, 2018
Theresa "Tree" Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is back and stuck in a murderous time loop again, this time along with her friends.

Enlarge / Theresa "Tree" Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is back and stuck in a murderous time loop again, this time along with her friends. (credit: Blumhouse Productions)

There's nothing better than a clever take on the classic sci-fi time-loop trope—and that's what we got in last year's darkly comic slasher movie, Happy Death Day. We clearly weren't the only ones who wanted more of the film's take on deja vu, as evidenced by this week's brand-new trailer for its sequel, Happy Death Day 2U.

(Spoilers for the first film below.)

If you haven't seen the first Happy Death Day and want to avoid spoilers, you may want to skip the trailer, since it opens with a recap of the source material. So the sequel should require little to no watching of the first film (though, again, we suggest you do just that).

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, Happy Death Day, horror, sequels, Trailers | Comments (0)

Latest adaptation of Haunting of Hill House will haunt your dreams

October 22nd, 2018
Literature's most famous haunted house is back for the best adaptation yet.

Enlarge / Literature's most famous haunted house is back for the best adaptation yet. (credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix)

The quintessential ghost story is back to haunt your dreams with the recent debut of The Haunting of Hill House, Netflix's new miniseries adaptation of Shirley Jackson's classic 1959 gothic horror novel. Frankly, it's less an adaptation than a bold reimagining that still remains true to the rich metaphorical depths of the titular source material.

No less an authority than Stephen King cited the original Haunting of Hill House as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century in his nonfiction overview of the genre, Danse Macabre. His 2002 miniseries Rose Red was an homage of sorts. Jackson's novel has already been adapted twice for the big screen: once in 1963 and again in 1999. The former film is considered a classic. The less said about the overwrought 1999 adaptation, the better, despite a stellar cast that included Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, and Lili Taylor.

This latest version is the best by far. Even though it veers sharply from the original storyline, there are sufficient nods to the novel throughout to keep the staunchest fan happy. The Haunting of Hill House offers up plenty of bone-chilling horror, but like all the best ghost stories, that horror is rooted in the complexities of the human psyche. At its heart, this is a story of family trauma and dysfunction, turning Jackson's psychological subtext into text.

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Posted in Entertainment, Gaming & Culture, ghost stories, Haunting of Hill House, horror, Netflix, Shirley Jackson, Television | Comments (0)

Disney’s Gravity Falls is weird Americana meets Lovecraft for kids

February 20th, 2016

Warning: this review contains spoilers, but also effusive praise.

Gravity Falls is a clever, clever show.

And by that, I’m talking about how it succeeds at introducing cosmic horror in a format palatable to Disney audiences, while simultaneously keeping all of its teeth intact. At a glance, it’s an extremely safe production. The characters are clearly cartoonish, designed without a single thought towards realism. Proportions are off, expressions are goofy, and while everything is of high quality, Gravity Falls is unmistakably a thing for kids.

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Posted in Disney, gravity falls, horror, lovecraft, The Multiverse, TV | Comments (0)