The Last of Us (PS3 – 2013)

The Last of Us (PS3 - 2013)

It’s twenty years after a zombie-like pandemic broke out across the globe. As Joel, a survivor living in a Boston-area quarantine camp, you have experienced the loss of everything you know and loved in your past life. As a survivor, you’re in a constant struggle for resources and when your dealings land you with an opportunity to smuggle a young girl, who may have the key within her to saving humanity to a band of freedom fighters calling themselves the Fireflies,  you find yourself in a dangerous and intense quest across the continent as you evade roving bands of human scavengers intent on murdering you and taking your possessions and also evading the clickers….humans who’ve been infected with the spores that have turned them into zombie-like creatures which use sonar to hunt their prey.

The opening of this game packs a punch like no other I’ve seen in recent memory. The writing is superb, the graphics are great, the gameplay is seamless most of the time and moves back and forth between gameplay and cutscenes effortlessly.

The enemies are cunning and terrifying. Not since I originally played Fatal Frame or Silent Hill have I been this unsettled within the atmosphere of a video game.

Play this, play this, play this. It’s like The Road mixed with Resident Evil.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

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American Horror Story: Season 1 (2011)

American Horror Story: Season 1 (2011)

American Horror Story is in an anthology format, with the first season focusing on a haunted house while later seasons are focused on an asylum and then a witch coven.

The Harmon family, a father-mother-daughter combo, moves from Boston to Los Angeles on the heels of a family scandal. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) has cheated on his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton) and they hope to reconcile things by moving to a new house in a new part of the country. However, things are not what they seem at their new home – it is a dark place full of tragedies and past murders and lurid secrets, and the Harmons soon discover that they may not have the house all to themselves.

The show has an interesting format. I didn’t expect there to be a different focus for each season, which is a nice touch. I thought for sure that they couldn’t go on with the same premise for more than one season so I’m glad of the focus switch. It really allows for some flexibility with later seasons.

The show is sexy, violent and pretty terrifying at times and seems to blend all of the urban legends and horror stories we’ve all heard over the years into a compelling drama.

Sometimes, it can be a bit over-dramatic and somewhat like a soap opera, so I had to look past that at times but overall it was really enjoyable. The acting was solid, especially from veterans like Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy. Some of the characters are likable but most are pretty damaged and only likable because of their quirks as opposed to any humanity they might have.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: April 5, 2013
Director: Fede Alvarez

Five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods to help one among them, Mia (Jane Levy) overcome her addiction to drugs, figuring that being away from the city will enable her to purge her system. With the help of her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) she thinks that she’ll pull through this time. However, one of the friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), discovers a book and unwittingly unleashes a supernatural horror upon them all. Will any of them survive?

When I first heard that there was going to be an Evil Dead reboot, I was pretty angry. You don’t just go and mess around with the Evil Dead. C’mon, now.

However, when I heard that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were not only endorsing the film, but also producing, I was a little more accepting. THEN, when I saw the trailer…I was excited.

First off, don’t make the mistake of going to a movie theater that lets you order food while you watch the movie, because that’s what I did and let me tell you right now…it was really hard to use the ketchup and eat my rare hamburger with all the blood flying around on screen.

Blood. Sharp stabby things. Skin tears. Broken bones. Puke. Pus. Power tools. Blood. Broken Glass. Nails. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood.

At times, it looked like Mr. Kool-Aid burst through the wall, yelling “OOHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” but he was full of blood instead of Kool-Aid and exploded everywhere.

A little bit of the movie is far-fetched, but as with all horror movies, this happens. If it were “realistic” there would be no supernatural horror, according to logic. There has to be a suspension of disbelief when folks are cutting their own limbs off.

As far as the casting goes, I think most of the actors did their jobs well. Some parts seemed TOO superfluous, and in my opinion, I would have cut out about five minutes of the movie at the beginning (though it opens with a great camera angle very reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining).

Overall, I think this was a good update to the original, although I will prefer to think of it as a separate entity from the original Evil Dead film. Go see it if you’re a horror fan or even if you think you might hate it. It could surprise you.

About the only thing the film lacked was likable characters. I didn’t mind most of them, but some I didn’t care about and even the main characters weren’t really as exciting as Ash was in the original Evil Dead series. We’ll have to see if they work on that with a sequel (if they make one) but as it stood, I felt that most of them were annoying and frustrating.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Evil Dead

The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Original Theatrical Release: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) become the winter caretakers of a massive seasonal hotel in the mountains. At first, everything is ideal. Jack has all the space he needs in order to write his next novel while Wendy enjoys the beautiful scenery and time with their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who seems to have a form of autism. However, it’s not long before the Torrance family discovers that maybe they’re not alone in that big hotel, and that maybe it has dark secrets. The family begins to unravel and soon it becomes a fight for survival.

The Shining is scary even by today’s standards because it not only has the supernatural element of the haunted hotel ( who doesn’t think a massive old hotel is creepy in the first place?) but also a writer haunted by his own demons; alcoholism and anger among them. Seeing a family slowly unravel is scary enough but when there’s a little kid involved, most of us become extra-invested. Children are often defenseless against an adult in real life, let alone ghosts, and when your parents don’t believe that ghosts exist? Well, then, you’re outta’ luck, kid.

Jack Nicholson’s performance is right up there for me among the best I’ve witnessed because I’ve SEEN Jack Torrance before. I KNOW guys like that, who get drunk and take out their frustrations on the world around them. I immediately identify and sympathize with the kiddo and his mom. On top of that, we have Stephen King at his best writing the story that the screenplay was adapted from…and you have Stanley Kubrick, an amazing director with all those long, ominous shots (who doesn’t remember the camera going over the car as it’s winding through the mountain roads? Or the long shot of the hallway as Danny rides his Big-Wheel in hesitant fear?) It’s a horror masterpiece, where lots of amazing talent converged. None of the remakes have touched on its original terror.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Shining