Archive for Film

Evilspeak (1981)

IMDb: “A military cadet who happens to be a social outcast taps into a way to summon demons and cast spells on his tormentors through his computer.”

Please tell me someone, anyone, has seen this movie.

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Get Lamp now shipping on DVD

Get Lamp is a documentary about text adventure games. It has been in the works for a long time. You can order it on DVD. It comes with a coin. Filmmaker Jason Scott promises that the documentary is “spoiler-free.” The region-free, two-disc set includes featurettes on other subjects, too, including a history of Infocom. It is very dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

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FMV: when games weren’t very scary or suspenseful

I have never played 1996’s PC full-motion video nightmare Ripper, but I totally would have, had I only known Scott Cohen from the “10th Kingdom” television miniseries stars in the game! (Also: Karen Allen and John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Walken, the late Ossie Davis, Burgess Meredith in his final fucking role, serial creep David Patrick Kelly, and of course, Paul Giamatti. What?)

Speaking of Toonstruck—I know we actually weren’t, I’m just changing the subject—I love that, beginning in 1993, Tim Curry and Mark Hamill apparently both decided to each try outdoing the other at Being in the Most Video Games Ever.

Anyway. Rumor has it Ripper is pretty OK, and God knows I love Gabriel Knight II, along with everybody. So now I am trying to think of other suspense/horror FMV PC games. There’s Tim Curry’s Frankenstein, the Phantasmagoria games (the sequel is supposedly SO AMAZING and trashy), and… And… How many games am I forgetting?

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Classic Gaming Expo DVD finally coming

For fans of retro games, the Classic Gaming Expo holds a certain allure. Ever since its founding in 1997 as the World of Atari expo, CGE has attracted guests from varying eras of the video game industry, including Steve Wozniak, Al Alcorn, Ralph Baer, and Rob Fulop. Collectors, exhibitors (who have ranged from Konami to Retro Zone), and video game enthusiasts the world over annually congregate for the event. Unfortunately, the 2008 show was canceled due to the inability of its organizers—Joe Santulli, Sean Kelly, and John Hardie—to find a venue, and it looks as if the 2009 show, too, has been canceled for as-yet-undisclosed reasons.

Therefore anyone curious about the expo might also be interested in the CGE 2007 DVD box set, which is finally available for preorder after spending roughly a year in editing. As someone who was there in 2007 (and in 2004), I can honestly say it was one of the most entertaining conventions I’ve ever been to. Standing around chatting with Keith Robinson from Intellivision about a Burgertime movie a few of my friends made, to playing actual Pong and Computer Space arcade machines, to visiting the museum: it was just an excellent time. This DVD box set may well be the closest anyone gets to recreating that feeling, at least for a while!


The art and science of the Immersion Project

Recently, the Telegraph published an interesting article about Immersion, photojournalist Robbie Cooper’s artful anthropological project in which his preadolescent subjects are filmed as they play violent videogames.

The children are filmed from the neck up, straight-on and unwaveringly. The effect is startling: the children seem to stare right through you (there is a camera inside the television screen, the Telegraph explains), and you, in turn, are able to search the children’s faces in a distinctly creepy, voyeuristic way.

Some children are hauntingly dead-eyed, while others are more animated and emotive. And then there are the gigglers, those splendid sickos who can’t let themselves witness a head being blown off without tee-heeing to themselves.

It’s no understatement to say that what Cooper has committed to film is altogether disturbing. Cooper himself notes his fascination with people’s “absorption” of the “unreal,” and even at this early stage, his own footage is appropriately engaging and uncanny.

But I was quickly reminded of something I read in Everything Bad Is Good For You, about the horror of seeing your child sitting, slack-jawed and apparently unresponsive, in the television screen’s horrible glow. But what parents or critics are quick to misconstrue as the face of vegetative hypnosis, Steven Johnson countered, is actually the face of fierce concentration, of deliberate and active thought.

I worried, then, that the ultimate goal of Immersion could be one of fearmongering. So it seems valuable to note, for context’s sake, that Cooper identifies himself as a gamer. Maybe more surprisingly, though, the Telegraph article—which I myself read only after watching the video, twice—gets it right.

The Immersion Project is far from over. For the next 18 months, reports the Telegraph, kids’ facial responses to news footage, web videos, and movies will also be filmed and compared. It’s an interesting idea: how will children react, videotaped in the passive act of viewership, to simulated violence, or to news reports of real violence? In a culture of media supersaturation, in which we cope by emotionally disconnecting ‘reality’ from ‘the screen,’ what will our own faces tell?

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Professor Layton: The Movie in 2010

Granted, “Facebook” isn’t the timeliest way to get up-to-the-minute news, but Ray Barnholt left a “link” on my “wall” about the upcoming animated Professor Layton movie, to be released in 2010. The president of Level5, Akihiro Hino, is currently writing the screenplay.

But that’s not all! According to the news article, a live-action film version is also in the works. Whaa??! No other details were provided, but the mere mention has worked me into a giddy panic.

Have a very happy holiday, everybody.

Anime News Network – Professor Layton: The Movie Set for January 2010


Technophobia: 10 Cautionary Tales for Gamers

Your mother was right: those games will rot your brain.

Here are ten (?!) horror movies for gamers. Thanks to the combined efforts of reader comments and my own loathsome late-night cable TV habit, catalogued below are, count ‘em, ten—not seven—horrific parables about videogames and those who have the misfortune to play them.

Note: To everyone who linked to TV episodes, those were also great.

These movies are, almost uniformly and without rival, the absolute shittiest the horror genre has to offer. Enjoy.

How to Make a Monster, 2001

A made-for-TV movie based, however loosely, on the 1958 horror flick of the same name. In it, a team of game developers are pulling all-nighters, attempting to finish their next survival horror title. But when lightning strikes an AI chip…

Yeah, I can’t really recommend this movie. At all.

Verdict: No.

“Bishop of Battle,” Nightmares, 1983

Emilio Estevez stars as a teenaged arcade rat whose game obsession results in inevitable, supernatural comeuppance. This is pretty much the greatest, most archetypical videogame horror story ever written, set in that remote era back when Berzerk could kill a man.

Verdict: Perfection, crammed into 26 perfect minutes.

Stay Alive, 2006

For a movie that nobody watched, Stay Alive is weirdly watchable. And although the movie title is supposed to sound ominous, I’ve always been reminded instead of a popular disco tune.

Anyway, the plot. A bunch of twentysomethings get a preview copy of a PS2 game. Then they start dying. Honestly? I remember being surprised by how much I liked the cinematographer’s use of color.

Verdict: It isn’t Shakespeare, but it might be free on cable.

St. John’s Wort (Otogiriso), 2001

A videogame artist (J-horror staple Megumi Okina) and her producer decide, inexplicably, to explore a creepy old mansion. The plot unfolds like a survival horror adventure game—think Silent Hill or Fatal Frame—but without the scares.

In short, it’s the Japanese version of Stay Alive.

Verdict: A stylized clunker with a weird, tacked-on twist ending, but one that I own on DVD anyway.

Brainscan, 1994

Recommended by Chris Person, SpatulaOfDoom

“The ultimate experience in interactive terror!”

Just when you thought it was safe for CD-ROM gaming to finally take off, Eddie Furlong and his post-grunge bowl-cut go on a murder spree from inside the game. And this was well before anyone ever thought to call videogames “murder simulators”!

My favorite part of the trailer is when the puddle of computer-generated blood pools into the shape of a compact disc.

Verdict: Rad.

Ghost in the Machine, 1993

Recommended by SpatulaOfDoom, carpboy

“And then there’s the movie Ghost in the Machine, once again from the the early 90’s, and starring Karen Allen. Brainscan and Ghost in the Machine are at least watchable.” —SpatulaOfDoom

I just realized this entry isn’t technically about gaming, but because of its thematic strength I’ll give it a pass.

Verdict: Thanks to its comparatively high recommendations, this might be one to add to the ol’ Netflix queue.

Arcade, 1993

Recommended by SpatulaOfDoom

“There was a movie in the early 90’s called Arcade. It starred A Christmas Story’s Peter Billingsley.

Arcade looks about as childish as Spy Kids [3-D], but it did have enough violence and language to earn an R rating. It’s an awful fucking movie nonetheless. David S. Goyer (Dark City, Blade, Batman Begins) wrote the abomination.” —SpatulaOfDoom

In spite of Spatula’s derision, this movie trailer is, for me, pretty effective—probably because I am still infatuated with the VR machine they had in the mall movie theater in 1993.

Verdict: Peter Billingsley…!

HALLOWEEN BONUS: Thanks to Zort in the comments, as well as three belated recommendations from Chris Person, I am adding three more movies to the list—bringing the list from its initial seven to a nice, round TEN.

Which brings me to a brief editorial note: in our collective strain to think of ten whole movies, the genre definition of ‘horror,’ at this juncture, becomes rather lenient. Does sci-fi/dark fantasy/suspense/action/thriller count as Halloween horror? Sure!

eXistenZ, 1999

Recommended by Zort and Chris Person

Does eXistenZ count as straight-up horror? It sure counts as bizarre.

I actually don’t remember this movie very well, but here’s what I can type from memory: Jude Law is in it. Christopher Eccleston is in it. Cronenberg directed it. And, uh, to play the game inside the collective dream, they put their hands into an alien vagina. That’s how it went, right?

Just seeing the trailer makes me want to go screaming to a psychotherapist.

Verdict: Yep, it’s horrific.

The Dungeonmaster, 1985

Recommended by Chris Person

Notoriously bad fantasy flick with a cult following. In it, a computer gamer with muscular legs wakes up to find himself… See? You don’t even need me to continue.

In keeping with the established format of this blog, I should really post a trailer. But this pebble-in-the-rough is so obscure, it doesn’t seem to have a trailer. So, in lieu of a grainy VHS dub, here is crisp footage of a young man earnestly synopsizing The Dungeonmaster instead:

Verdict: Why do people love this movie so much? So you don’t have to.

Game Box 1.0, 2004

Recommended by Chris Person

Game Box 1.0 is styled after some of the earlier entries on this list, and it is a glorious mess. In it, a heroic game tester (the guy from “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”) fights to avenge his dead girlfriend (the girl from “Boy Meets World”). Um. Here’s a trailer.

Verdict: Brain Scan 2.0.

There you have it: seven cautionary tales for gamers and three honorable mentions, each a story about the game becoming real; every one, a misguided masterpiece.

If you think of any more (and I’ll be pretty annoyed if you do), leave ‘em in the comments.

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It’s news to me! Adult films about video games


It is summer, and the evenings are becoming longer. Scott Sharkey and his pal, J. Frank, are struggling down the sidewalk with two six-packs of beer.

I read this really funny blarticle—did I tell you I coined a new word? ‘Blarticle.’

Oh, god.

But, uh, so there’s this pretty funny blarticle at 61 Frames Per Second about, uh, it’s a Top 5 article, right?

All right.

Top five, uh, porn titles… based on video game titles.

Is one of them Super Hornio Bros?

Wow. Um, yes. It’s number five.

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2006 Blip Festival

Man, we wish we were in NYC sometimes. For fans of Chip Music and glitch electronica, the 2006 Blip Festival is a must-do. It runs for four days, beginning November 30. And Mark DeNardo—whom we remember fondly from our Chicago days as a tremendous electrofolk talent, a zealous chipmusic teacher, and a nice guy—is one of the featured musicians.

In addition to magical lo-fi music, the Blip Festival will also screen the film 8 Bit.

Blip Festival [via]


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