It being Halloween tomorrow (and finding myself with some spare time) I thought I'd compile a quick list of the scariest media and characters I've been enjoying over the last week of Halloween. Please note this is not a best of, a top ten list (kinda hard seeing as there is only four topics) or a full review, although several of these things could appear on lists or reviews in the future. Rather its just a recap of how I wasted my time this Halloween.
Scariest Horror Film (of Halloween 2010)
The Thing (1982)
Wait What? Hold On A Sec...
The premise for John Carpenter's The Thing is simple. An alien creature that kills and takes the form of its victims. A small research team in the Antarctic cut off from the rest of the world by seasonal bad weather. Some of the most disgusting creature designs ever. Stevie Wonder. (Well, very briefly on a radio anyhow)
This film simply refuses to let up, demanding the audience to try work out for themselves which member of the crew is the alien. Typically it only becomes clear when the creature begins one of its stomach churning transformations. The tension grows unbearably heavy in scenes where the human characters come closer and closer to killing each other out of panic, all while, safe in its disguise, The Thing slowly picks them off and replaces them...
Kurt Finds The Hidden Hitchcock Cameo
The Thing reveals itself by ripping out of the form it is currently taking and assimilating the next creature it wishes to become. This leads to some very brutal transformation scenes, gory highlights including a scene where a guy's head sprouts insect legs to escape fire (which is done entirely with puppets, latex and old fashioned cinema magic). Add in Ennio Morricone's utterly haunting, desolate soundtrack (Sparse and electronic, unlike anything he has done before or since), powerhouse performances by Kurt Russell and Keith David and effects that noted film critic Roger Ebert called "among the most elaborate, nauseating, and horrifying sights yet achieved by Hollywood’s current generation of visual magicians", The Thing is without a doubt one of the greatest horror films of all time.
Scariest Horror Game (of Halloween 2010)
Silent Hill 4 - The Room (2004, PS2)
Even Chained Up, The Sneezing Door Was A Menace
Lets get one thing straight right now, this is not my favourite Silent Hill game, not by a long shot. That would be Silent Hill 2, a game I have already raved about at length on my old site. But even Silent Hill 2 has to try very hard to be as creepy as its little brother here. Also I haven't played Silent Hill 2 this Halloween. So there.
Anyhow, in Silent Hill 4 - The Room you play as Henry Townshend, an average guy in his late 20's who has been trapped in his apartment for the last five days with no one seemingly able to hear or see his struggle to get out, be it though window, door or telephone. Also a mysterious hole has appeared in Henry's bathroom, which seems to be some kind of portal to various locations where Henry witnesses horrific murders and is attacked by disturbing protagonists. So far doesn't sound unlike the other games in the franchise.
What makes this one stand out is its focus on running away and your characters relative inability to protect himself, even by Silent Hill standards. Unlike many survival games there are almost no guns and very few weapons, all of which are quite weak. Running is generally the only option, but how do you escape from enemies that can pass through walls to find you and are already dead...? Even the enemies that are corporeal are also terrifying, as every enemy is a representation of one of the 21 murders the game is based around, from elderly men to baby twins.
"Here You, Pull My Finger"
Worst of all is your apartment itself, which gradually starts to become haunted by ghosts too. Opening the fridge for some milk only to find a cats head on a plate? Looking through the peep-hole of the door only to see shredded bodies outside? Faces forming and disappearing in the wall? All this in-between actual levels of the game. Creepy, atmospheric and damn difficult in parts, Silent Hill 4 - The Room is a game designed to make you keep the lights on and company close-by when you play it.
Scariest Film Character (of Halloween 2010)
Pennywise The Dancing Clown (IT,1990)
Awww... It's A Sad Clown! Maybe He Needs A Hug?
Or A Visit To The Dentist?
Do I even need to explain this? I mean did you see that picture? Thats not just bad dental hygiene. Pennywise the dancing clown (the greatest performance of actor Tim Curry's career easily) is a creature of nightmares that eats children. He (or indeed IT) takes the form of whatever scares children most then kills and eats them, but first drives them half mad with fear. Everything about the character, from his outfit to his sadistic taunting of the other characters to his incredibly unsettling laugh is designed to make you never trust a strange clown in a drain pipe again. If only Georgie had known...
This character is scary to both kids and adults. As a kid, Pennywise will make you never want to visit the circus again. As an adult, the undertones of pedophilia and the sadistic way Pennywise tortures rather then straight up kills his victims is very unsettling, especially for a TV-movie. Pennywise is every nightmare you have every dreamed of, your worst dreams come through.
Scariest Game Character (of Halloween 2010)
Giygas (MOTHER 2, Earthbound. SNES.1995)
(Although I Played It On An Emulator)
I'd Make A Joke Right Now, But I Just Shit Myself
A game with a largely very innocent and child-like tone, sprinkled with some very clever humour for adults (think of it as a computer game made by Pixar) MOTHER 2, Earthbound was a great RPG. It centers on a group of psychic children who must stop an evil psychic alien called Giygas, who is influencing people around Earth to turn evil (and blue). As the game progresses it becomes increasingly clear that Giygas is too powerful to be stopped in the present, as his powers have grown so much his mind and body have been destroyed and he is slowly being reborn as a god in a device called 'the devil's machine'. Thus your characters travel to the past to kill Giygas inside this incubator before he is fully formed. Terminating a new life before its formed, suppose thats not a bad plan right?
Wait that sounds kind of like abortion...
On The Left Is The Devil Vagin... I Mean Machine. The Right Is Giygas's Constantly Swirling Form Taking Baby Shape. Rated E For Everyone!!
Aside from the implied abortion this game wishes you to commit, the whole last hour or so of the game goes from a bouncy and almost silly tone to unbelievably dark and twisted. The music used is so frightening its almost hard to listen to, with my personal soundtrack spine-chillers being the tracks 'Cave of the Past' and 'Giygas Wounded'. The sound has a huge effect on the last sections of the game, using very odd effects and distortion to create tremendous unease and a sense of something terribly wrong. The darker, colder colours also change the games feel considerably, as does the final path to Giygas, which increasingly resembles a fleshy tube...
During the first stage of the boss battle your characters face appears in Giygas's 'devil machine' in what is one of the games stranger moments, almost like Giygas is trying to communicate in some way. Once the machine Giygas is incubating in is switched off and he is let loose, your party is eloped in a swirling red mist, a haze of shifting madness that looks like a howling face, an ultra-scan of a baby and even, as the image gets hazier and more static-like, blood flowing through your tv screen. All during the fight Giygas screams gibberish such as "I'm H a p p y", "It's not right it's not right" and "Ness Ness Ness It Hurts Ness Ness It Hurts Ness". The fight ends with a rush of static and your screen abruptly going black, apparently leading some to think their tv's had broken first time round.
Oh and most of this is happening against Giygas's will, as he no longer has control of his power or even his manner of rebirth. Many see this as a rape allegory, especially when the game creator Shigesato Itoi stated that his inspiration for Giygas' speech in MOTHER 2, He also admitted this heavily influenced his art for this section of the game, as he wished to create a tone of complete and total evil and wrongness with this character.
While not all the story will make sense unless you play the game and the implied tone may seem hard to grasp if you are not a fan of Japanese games, suffice to say even based on this brief description alone Giygas has rightly earned the moniker of most disturbing game boss ever. For more evidence, check the video above. And keep in mind, this is primarily a game aimed at kids.
Anyhow, hope you all have an amazing Halloween, and enjoy the one time of year where taking sweets from strangers is not just ok, its the whole point. Oh and remember...
Oh And How!
Til next time!