Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

Video: Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s horror relied on a bit of cheating

April 16th, 2019

Video shot and edited by Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.

2010 video game Amnesia: The Dark Descent is an obvious candidate for our eventual "best games of the '10s" list, owing to its revolutionary take on interactive horror. The indie game ushered in a new era of horror gaming, thanks in part to its brief, focused scope and its utter lack of weapons or combat. But how did the designers at Swedish game studio Frictional Games pull off Amnesia's scariest stuff?

The mouth of madness

In our video interview, Grip talks about how Amnesia came about after the completion of a creepy puzzle-platformer series called Penumbra. That series was built upon a physics system that let players pick up, stack, and contend with objects in the world in order to proceed, and Friction wanted to follow those games with a "good horror" experience, inspired in part by Konami's Silent Hill series.

The studio's original thinking for Amnesia revolved around forcing players to survive with a very old-school system of a life bar, but play-testing revealed that this focus either annoyed players or didn't scare them. The above interview delves a little more into experiments with things like a light-and-dark hiding system and how the game's "sanity" meter originally worked like a traditional "hit points" counter.

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I Like Scary Movies interactive horror exhibit is art for the Instagram era

April 6th, 2019
"Look dead. No, more dead." Ars writer in a horror playground inspired by 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King's <em>It</em>.

Enlarge / "Look dead. No, more dead." Ars writer in a horror playground inspired by 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King's It. (credit: Rachael Porter)

Horror movie fans are known for their love of immersive "haunts": special exhibits of events that pay tribute to their favorite films while letting the fans in on a bit of the scary action. That's the thinking behind I Love Scary Movies, a pop-up interactive art installation that just opened in Los Angeles.

I Love Scary Movies is the brainchild of "experiential" artist Maximillian Castillo (who goes by Maximillian), well-known for his interactive immersive creations, like a Snakes on Plane installation or a Pirates of the Caribbean walk-through for San Diego Comic-Con. He's also a horror movie buff, and the current exhibit—housed in the historic art deco building The Desmond, along LA's Miracle Mile—draws inspiration from five films in particular: The Shining, It, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Beetlejuice, and The Lost Boys.

"I wanted to do something that was more like an interactive art installation, something that isn’t your standard Halloween scare maze, which I love, but I feel like we can celebrate and interpret these movies over and over again," Castillo said in an interview. "Other than going through a walk-through maze once a year during Halloween, there’s really no other way to really enjoy these movies and dive deeper into the content of these films and these worlds."

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Posted in art, art of horror, film, Gaming & Culture, horror, horror films, interactive exhibits | Comments (0)

Terrifying trailer for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will give you mega-chills

March 29th, 2019

It's 1968 in the small town of Mill Valley, home to a haunted mansion and a mysterious book, in Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.

All those frightening tales kids tell around the campfires to spook their friends come to terrifying life in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a new film from producer Guillermo del Toro. It's based on a series of children's books from the 1980s by Alvin Schwartz, who drew upon common folklore and popular urban legends for his scary stories.

Remember that classic campfire ditty, "the worms crawl in the worms crawl out/the worms play pinochle on your snout"? So does Schwartz. It's the basis for his scary story "The Hearse Song." You'll also find variations on the killer with a hook for a hand who preys on couples necking in parked cars. So too the hapless babysitter who discovers the call is coming from inside the house, along with plenty of other frightening fare. (The 2018 documentary Scary Stories delves more deeply into Schwartz's source material.)

While the books are technically aimed at kids, the material is pretty dark, which is why the series has often been listed among the most challenged books by the American Library Association. People have objected to the violence in Scary Stories series—and illustrator Stephen Gammell's genuinely disturbing, surreal images only add to the potential nightmares. In fact, publisher Harper Collins released a new 30th-anniversary edition in 2011 that didn't include Gammell's original illustrations, causing an uproar among longtime fans.

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Jordan Peele’s Us should cement his status as a master of modern horror

March 22nd, 2019
Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, whose family encounters their own evil <em>doppelgängers</em> in Jordan Peele's new horror film, <em>Us</em>.

Enlarge / Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, whose family encounters their own evil doppelgängers in Jordan Peele's new horror film, Us. (credit: Universal)

A family is terrorized by their own doppelgängers while vacationing in Santa Cruz in Jordan Peele's new film, Us. With its spot-on writing and pacing and fantastic performances from its ensemble cast, the film should cement Peele's status as a master of modern horror.

(Mildest of spoilers below, because anything more would spoil the fun.)

Us is the much-anticipated follow-up to Get Out, Peele's surprise box office hit that earned more than $250 million and snagged Peele an Oscar for best original screenplay—the first time the award has gone to a black recipient. Get Out is a subtle exploration of racial tensions that quietly builds to reveal its horrifying premise and inevitably bloody conclusion. In Us, the theme isn't so much racial tension—it's exploring, in Peele's words, the myriad ways in which "we are our own worst enemies."

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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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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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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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