Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: Poltergeist (2015)

Remakes can be very hit or miss. I was actually very excited when I heard this was getting modernized. I looked forward to seeing what they did with it. 

If you're unfamiliar with the original Poltergeist, the story centers around a family in their typical suburban home. Strange things start happening, until, finally, their little girl, Carol Anne, is sucked into her bedroom closet and disappears. Paranormal experts are brought in to investigate and do battle with the forces, to save the little girl.

Seems like kind of a cliche` storyline at this point, but keep in mind, the original Poltergeist came out in 1982. A lot of the things that we're used to, that have lost the ability to scare us, were brand new, or even unheard of back then. Still, the special effects and plot twists for the time were incredible and it was exciting to see what they did with the advances in technology and in society. 

I was really looking forward to seeing how awesome this guy would look.

Now, it may just be that all the original Poltergeist's tricks have become stereotypes and cliches, things we've all seen hundreds or even thousands of times with varying levels of detail and special effects. It could be we've since been spoiled by movies like The Exorcist, The Haunting, House on Haunted Hill, and on into the trend of 'found footage' movies. 

Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the new movie. 

The story is almost exactly the same. As one might expect with a remake. The problem is, a lot of the scares and tension-creating moments are the same as well. In a setting where the spirits can literally do almost anything within the confines of the house, I really think they could have stretched their imaginations a bit more, move into a little new territory with their scares. (Oh, and the guy above doesn't even show up.) 

Not to say the new Poltergeist is bad. Far from it. I think it is probably equal to the original. It just suffers from the advancements that have been made since the original was actually scary. When doing a remake of a classic movie, there's a fine line between staying faithful to the original, and being able to capture the imaginations of a new generation. I think the makers of the new Poltergeist stayed much too far on the side of staying faithful. 

Yeah, except the clown looks about ten times more sinister to start with. (Original is on the left)

The 2015 version of Poltergeist is NOT a bad movie. It is well worth seeing, it just suffers from the moving of the bar in reference to what we expect in a good ghost/horror movie. When the original came out, it was edgy, new, and terrifying. Now, all of that is just standard fare and the remake offers very little beyond that. 

I would say skip the theaters, but definitely pick up the dvd when it comes out or catch it on Netflix. 

~ Shaun

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Daylight

Daylight is a first-person survival-horror game from 2014, currently available on Stream and PSN.

The story to start is pretty simple. A young woman wakes up in an abandoned hospital with nothing but her cell phone for light and to map her progress. Many doors are locked, so she has to make her way through, constantly seeking a way out. Eventually, she comes across a mystic seal, that can only be undone with a specific key back somewhere in the maze.

Of course, you're not exactly alone in there either. The spirits of several witches stalk the corridors behind you, waiting to catch you in a dead end or isolated room to kill you. There's supposed to be only one way to survive, run like hell, or burn them with a flare. I found plowing into and straight over them tended to work pretty well too.

While the story isn't really original, the game does feature several innovations that set it apart.

This was one of the first games I've seen, outside of the Diablo series to feature randomly generated levels, which makes every playthrough different from the last. Given that the point of the game is just wandering until you find the exit, then wandering back until you find the key, while collecting seemingly random clippings of background though, it doesn't add as much to the game as you might think.


Of course, you learn more about the story as you progress. Well, honestly, not really. I have to admit I didn't pick up all the background clippings, but I never read anything which actually led me logically to the twist at the end of the story. Just being used to horror, I figured out half of the eventual twist almost right away, but there was nothing to suspect the true ending. Which made almost no sense. 

The part I figured out, was that you were one of the patients of the hospital before it closed. The part I didn't figure out, and that I saw no trace of coming, was that you were a witch. Yeah. All the witches chasing you around and trying to kill you? You're one of them. You are the 13th witch to complete their coven. Which just makes them trying to kill you throughout the game confusing, as opposed to any kind of closure to the game. 

As I said though, I didn't pick up all the background info, so I may have missed something which explains it all. I have to doubt that though. All the clippings I found were either cursed photos (which I only know because there's a trophy for collecting all of them.), reports from staff of strange things happening, and news clippings of deaths on the property. 

Overall though, this is a decent little game, especially for one that came out so close to the release of the PS4. You can get it pretty cheap too, so it's certainly worth a few hours of frightening fun. Don't expect it to be one of your favorites though.

~ Shaun

Monday, May 4, 2015

What's in a name?

A rose, by any other name, would still smell as sweet.

Not if you called them stench-blossoms.

Heh. Simpsons. It's certainly something to keep in mind, though. It would probably be a little awkward to tell your friends your boyfriend sent you a dozen stench-blossoms.

So you have your book. It's been revised, edited, re-revised, beta read, re-edited, and re-re-revised. You're getting closer to publishing and then you hit the one question you hadn't given much thought to yet.

What's the title?

Now, you may have figured that out from the very beginning. It might have popped up half-way through, or you may not have even considered that question until you realized you needed to start working on the cover.

The title is every bit as important as the cover, and it deserves as much thought. That being said, there aren't a lot of rules on what you should or shouldn't do with it. Most books use the direct approach, Condensing the entire story down to a single word or phrase. Stephen King is a great example of this. Cujo, for instance, which centers around the St. Bernard named, interestingly enough, Cujo.

It also goes without saying, you should probably aim for a shorter title, so you're not covering up too much of your cover with letters.

For an example, I'm going to look at my next book, "Hannah", which just went to the editor this week.

The idea for "Hannah" evolved out of an idea of a combination of Cujo + The Exorcist. In that vein, it only made sense to name the book after one of the main characters, a Standard Poodle named Jezebelle.

This thing ain't fitting in your purse.

Wait. What?

Yeah. That was the original name. Obviously, the story has some religious undertones, and I initially planned to reflect that in the names of the characters. Eli, Peter, Abigail, Jezebel. When I decided to take some time to consider the title of the book, though. I decided to try a little test. I went into and did a search for other books with that title.

There's a lot of books with either the title "Jezebel" or with Jezebel in it. And a lot that have been published in the last few years. Especially if you plan to self-publish, I suggest you take a stroll through the internet and see if any other books have previously been published with the same title you want to use. After looking around a bit more, I figured the best thing to do would be to change the animal's name from Jezebelle, to Hannah, and thus, the title.

Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use a title. But definitely be aware that your book may get lost in a search, especially if the majority of those titles are in other genres. Also, you probably want to avoid using the same name as books which are well known. Try to usurp the titles "Ender's Game", "Cujo", or "The Hobbit", and expect a massive backlash on your work.

You should also try to come up with something fairly unique. I wouldn't worry so much about trying to convey genre in the title. That's what the cover art and blurb are for. Sure, the title could help, but a lot of the ways to make it work that way are wholly unoriginal. I'll tell you right now, I've only ever bought one book with the title "The Haunting of _______" and there's a TON of them out there.

So, I've ended up rambling a bit, but here's my main points.

1. Keep your title short and relevant to the story.

2. Research your chosen title.

3. Unique is better.

4. Don't worry about a genre-specific title.

Of course, this is all just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

~ Shaun