Yes, I've had a bit of a preoccupation with scary things as of late but can you blame me? Stores are already putting out Halloween decorations and there are trailers for horror films everywhere. Hey, if we're gonna start celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving then why not start celebrating Halloween now!
But seriously, I've gotten into the spirit of the season and lately there hasn't been a better way to bask in the spookiness then by listening to some music fit for the mood. No I'm not talking about One Direction (sorry, it was far too easy), I'm talking about soundtracks. Whereas most normal beings have popular music in their library, mine is filled with soundtracks from all manner of films, video games and television shows. It's not that I think all pop music is bad (though some of it REALLY is), but to me music is supposed to inspire and speak to you in a way that nothing else can. Soundtracks do the trick for me. I know I'm not the only one, everyone within my geek clique owns at the very least several soundtracks, all of which they highly recommend.
Today I'm going to recommend a soundtrack perfect for the Autumn season, one that you'll want to listen to with all the lights on: Silent Hill.
Or if you're a glutton for punishment, listen to it with headphones on in the dead of night.
Silent Hill is a PlayStation video game that came out in 1999. It was helmed by Konami Entertainment and created by Keiichiro Toyama who is also known for the 'Siren' series. Silent Hill is considered by many to be the father of all current survival horror games as it brought new and creative ideas to the horror genre. Rather than simply throwing monsters and scary locations at the player (though it certainly does that as well), SH gets under the players skin by playing with the psychological aspects of horror. We follow a widowed father named Harry Mason as he traverses the small town, 'Silent Hill', to find his daughter, Cheryl. As he explores the not-so-abandoned town he stumbles into an occult plan to bring about a terrifying deity that my have some connection to Cheryl.
The game masterfully makes the player on edge during each second of gameplay. I won't get too far into why the Silent Hill game or the series in general is so amazing, as I'll probably go over it closer to Halloween, but I will tell you why the soundtrack is a huge part of it's success.
A huge component of horror is atmosphere. If you can't convey a sense of dread or unease then it'll be harder to make others feel anything, let alone scared. Akira Yamaoka composes a soundtrack that perfectly conveys what SH is all about. The opening theme sets up the game perfectly, the urgent strumming of the mandolin at the beginning has a haunting, creeping melody to it which goes into a more 'rocky' portion of the song that, while catchy, feels vaguely sorrowful and hopeless. When listening to the soundtrack on it's own you'll discover that most of the songs can't quite be classified as, well, 'songs'.
It is cold, hard ambient music that barely contains a melody. They're constantly riding the line between music and noise. Yamaoka relied heavily on industrial music as the influence for his music. 'Beats' and 'melodies' are made from clanging metal, disembodied growls, crazy rapid drums, static, ghostly cries and even rasping breathing. Imagine running from monsters all while that plays incessantly in your ear. Don't get me started on the theme in the final battle; the high-pitched static feels like it's trying to grind you into submission. I nearly had a real life panic attack when I tried to soldier on and beat the final boss!
'Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God!' ~Me
However, like the opening theme, there are some normal songs scattered amongst the more terrifying tracks. The song 'Not Tomorrow' is a sad, guitar heavy melody that fits very well with the scene it's paired with. 'Killing Time' sounds like it should be in a grindhouse flick with a freaky as heck guitar. 'She' is a rather emotional ballad that reminds me of a certain famous folk rock song. While I swear that I've heard 'Silent Hill (Otherside)' in an episode of Twin Peaks.
All in all, the SH soundtrack is designed to make you feel distressed and paranoid and it does the job perfectly. I actually wouldn't suggest you listen to the soundtrack by itself too often, as it does it's job too well. You'll start seeing things out of the corner of your eye and swear on your grandmothers grave that someone or something is watching you from out the window. But for ambience at a Halloween party or even a haunted house? Definitely. Still, I encourage you to buy the album if only to appreciate the genius and importance this music had on a genre that's going strong to this day. If only the games they made today had this caliber of music...
Would you agree with my opinions on the game and it's soundtrack? Is there another soundtrack I should talk about? Let me know in the comments below! And please support these amazing artists by BUYING their songs and not downloading!
Last week in my post about underrated fantasy, I brought up a movie called The Witches so it should go without saying that I like media about the topic. In all the hoopla about vampires and zombies over the past few years, it seems like witches have been lost in mix and forgotten about. Back when I was growing up, witches were in almost everything and we had great TV shows like Sabrina The Teenage Witch, movies like The Craft and the Blair Witch Project and there was that whole Harry Potter thing.
But recently, it seems like media makers are ready to shine a spotlight on witches once again with shows like Salem, American Horror Story: Coven, and most recently, this new film simply titled, The Witch. The trailer was just released today.
I'm not only excited to see the movie because as you know I'm a horror nut, and it has witches, but also because it may signal a shift back to real horror movies and perhaps an end to the lazy Blumhouse-esque 'found footage' horror films which have become the reality TV of feature films.
After I saw the trailer, I read that this film was screened at Sundance earlier this year and earned rave reviews. Hopefully it does well and we can finally get back to real horror films.
Hello, dear readers! Under normal circumstances I would be reviewing a film, which came out in theaters recently that's certainly of the 'geeky' persuasion. But that's not going to happen. If you haven't been to any entertainment websites lately or tuned out when your comic book fan of a friend started ranting about some movie they went to see this past weekend then I'll give you the low down. Fantastic Four (2015) sucked. I've never come out of a theater feeling underwhelmed, disappointed and angry all at once before now. Thank God my friend Lisa hooked me up with free tickets and I didn't have to actually pay for that drivel! But that's still time I will never get back.
How come The Thing has no... 'thing?'
The tragedy that is the Fantastic Four franchise on film has been going on since the early 2000s and I could go on and on about it, but not right now. Not while I'm still reeling from the most recent and tremendous failure.
I'd like to try and focus on happier things for today's post, things that don't make me want to send an airstrike to 20th Century Fox Studios. So... here's some of the most underrated fantasy films you need to go watch.
Smoothest transition ever.
The fantasy genre has always held a special place in my heart. As a kid, I practically drowned myself in countless worlds that housed mythical creatures and lands of magic whether they existed in books or on film. It was, and still is, a way to transport myself from our world to one where seemingly anything is possible. Somewhere where my student loan DOESN'T need to be paid off and big name studios don't make stupid-nope! Not talking about that anymore!
Anyway, because of my unquenchable thirst for everything fantasy related, I've had the pleasure of seeing many titles most of my friends have never heard of, to my surprise. Absolute classics from my childhood have faded into obscurity and I can't have that! Because all of these films are so special to me, they're not being presented in any particular order. One is not better than the other, nor is any more underrated than the others. We'll start off with:
Based on a book by Roald Dahl, 'The Witches' is about an orphaned boy who goes to a seaside hotel in England with his grandmother, as she's recovering from illness. While there, he accidentally stumbles upon a convention of witches from all over England. Whatever just popped into your head when I said the word 'witch' doesn't come close to comparing to the creepiness and creativity that you actually see on screen. In this universe, witches vehemently hate children and frequently display that hate, whether that means trapping children in paintings for the entirety of their lives or outright trying to kill babies. Then they turn our protagonist, the boy I mentioned earlier, into a mouse. Once again, whatever you just pictured in your head isn't creepy or traumatizing enough compared to what I saw as a kid. You'd face a ton of opposition in today's day and age if you tried to market a film with a scene like that to kids.
So why would you want to see it, then? Well, it doesn't flinch away from the evil apparent in the story. Too many things aimed at kids today are so bright and colorful, treating them all like they're made of glass. If I came away from watching this as a kid and not only liked it but wanted to watch it again, than surely kids today can do the same. There's a lot of speculation over what the story inherently is trying to say, but in it's simplest form, The Witches teaches kids not to trust someone based on looks alone. While we have many stories that tell of beauty underneath what we perceive as ugliness, there are too few that talk about the ugly, dark, and terrifying things that can hide behind physical beauty.
Flight of Dragons
This is a gem from way back in 1982 and was produced by the legendary Rankin/Bass company. As you've probably guessed, it's an animated film. Though the animation is definitely dated, you can't deny that the style still looks just as gorgeous as it did when it was released.
I won't try and give you much of a synopsis because there's a LOT happening in this film and lots of names to put to lots of faces. Basically, there are wizards who need to create a realm of magic since science has become prevalent in our world. But of course, there's one wizard who wants to take over everything for himself and the rest of the wizards have to stop him, only there's a rule that wizards can't fight each other. So they use their own dragons and summon a polymath scientist from our world to help. Sounds crazy, I know, but you really got to check out the film before you judge. The most interesting aspect of the film, by far, is the constant dichotomy of magic and science. There is never really any questioning of which is better or right, just that they both exist simultaneously. If there is any film that I can point to for my becoming a nerd later in life, it's this one for sure.
The Secret Of NIMH
Don Bluth animated films rarely get the attention they deserve and The Secret Of NIMH is no exception. We follow a widow, Mrs. Brisby, raising her children one of whom is ill with pneumonia. Oh, and they're all field mice. They need to leave the field they live in before a farmer plows it, but her child can't leave the house while sick or else they will die. When she seeks council from the Great Owl he tells her to see the 'Rats of NIMH'. Once there she learns from the rat's mystical leader, Nicodemus, that her own husband, along with the Rats, were once used in medical experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that somehow boosted their intelligence and lifespan. Because of her late husband they were all able to escape so Nicodemus grants her an amulet and the promise of help from the rats to move her home. But another rat intent on gaining power won't make things easy for them and his threat along with the loss of time threatens the life of Mrs. Brisby's entire family.
While this film can be dark and has many bittersweet moments, it has so much heart and intrigue that I couldn't help but get sucked into it as a kid. The animation is, once again, beautiful and the voice acting is on par and makes you feel slightly foolish for caring so much for a bunch of genetically modified rodents. If Disney films have taught us anything, it's that people love talking, endearing mice. That being said, it's a mystery to me why so few people know about it.
The Last Unicorn
Based on a book that was one of my childhood favorites, 'Unicorn' is everything you'd expect from the fantasy genre. Unicorns in themselves are an embodiment of all things fantastical. It's that symbolism that, in my opinion, makes this film so powerful. In this world, unicorns guard forests and help them thrive, one unicorn in particular hears that she is the last and must go out into the world and away from her forest to find out what happened to her kind. Along the way she runs into some unlikely allies through harrowing and sometimes humorous circumstances who eventually help her get to the seaside, where the unicorns were supposedly last seen.
Much to my delight, I've noticed many more people taking an interest in this film as well as the book it's based off of (as they should). The style of the animation is unlike anything I've seen since and is still breath taking. Don't even get me started on the voice acting! Acting greats like Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin and the legend Christopher Lee (R.I.P.) lend their voices to unforgettable characters. Out of all the films I've talked about so far, this is the one that still makes me cry every freaking time! It's so ingrained in that child-like part of me that I can't help but feel whimsical and carefree whenever I watch it. I guarantee you'll find a bit of that whimsy yourself if you give it a watch.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec
This is actually a newer film as it came out in 2010. I happened upon it while perusing the foreign film section at my library and was happily surprised to find that it was pretty damn good. Adele is a resourceful, witty, and courageous heroine that was refreshing to watch in an adventure fantasy film. She's a famous explorer and author who is looking to find a way to cure her brain dead little sister by way of ancient Egyptian mysticism and after she retrieves the mummy of a famous physician from ancient times she goes to a scientist who has somehow found a way to bring old relics and beings back to life, including a pterodactyl featured in a nearby museum. But bumbling policeman, hunters, and a great number of other things continue to get in the way. By the way, she gets the mummy in an Indiana Jones-esque scene filled with action all while wearing a dress and heeled boots. Badass.
As you may have been able to guess, this is a French film, and their films tend to have a quality that most American audiences would see as...well, strange? Not that that's a bad thing, but it can throw some people for a loop. For instance, there are quite a few elements to this film that would seem aimed for kids in their silliness and whimsy, but then you get a random nude scene of Adele in the bath. It's brief and there's nothing sexual about it at all, it's just there. Many moments like that are strewn throughout the movie but that just makes it stand out even more to me, in a good way. If nothing else, you can watch the censored version with your kids so they can watch entertainment that's a bit more posh and refined than what's crammed down their throats in America.
Well, I feel much better now! There are tons more where that came from, but I've been rambling too long anyways. Oh well, guess I'll have to make this one a multi-parter. Have any suggestions for my next post on Underrated Fantasy Films? Tell me in the comments below!
Deadpool is also about to loose his mind.
Yesterday saw the release of the much-anticipated Deadpool trailer both in regular and extra violent editions and everyone lost their minds. In case you've been under a rock...
Over the last decade this D-List character from the 90s has gained massive popularity. Heck, at this point, he is to fangirls what Harley Quinn is to fanboys. Personally, I'm not really a Deadpool fangirl and may be the only one but I am familiar with the character as he has popped up in almost every Marvel comic book series at this point cracking jokes, killing, or talking to the audience. I see him as Howard the Duck 2.0 and think the character is better in small doses.
Howard the Deadpool.
Anyways, almost all the customers at the comic book shop today were all excited about the trailer and kept telling me how great is was gonna be and how Marvel is finally "doing it right this time" by giving us fans an "R" rated superhero movie.
That's when I had to stop them and remind them that there has been other Marvel movies with "R" rated Marvel movies. One, the Blade Trilogy and The Punisher & Punisher: War Zone. How quickly people forget...
I think the reason people have forgotten is that Marvel/Whoever Has The Rights, haven't done an "R" movie since 2008 and to today's 'now generation,' 7 years is like 700. While the Blade and Punisher movies were quite successful, the more popular characters that played in the PG-13 space constantly overshadowed them so studios invested in those characters.
But now, with the oversaturation of spandex clad superheroes, movie companies, including Marvel, are now having to look at new ways to make their movies appealing to ever harder-to-please audiences. With the release of this new hard edge Deadpool movie I think we may be on the horizon of more "R" rated superhero movies and it makes sense.
Here's why. The kids that grew up in during the rise of the super hero movies (including myself) in the early 2000s are now adults and are still hungry for super hero stories, but that are more 'mature.' While they have gotten "R" rated comic book movies like Kingsmen and Kickass, they really want to see characters they love from the pages of the books on screen like the Joker, Magneto, Lobo, or Hulk.
You don't even want to know how many times a month I hear from my comic shop customers how "flipping awesome" an "R" rated Wolverine would be and I agree although, I think that one in particular is still a longshot.
See what I did there.
So while I may not be 100% excited for the Deadpool movie, I am excited to see Marvel/Fox take a chance with such a popular character and give their audiences what they have been clamoring for, a more violent, swear word filled version of the 'merc with a mouth' and hopefully, this will lead to more movies "R" rated movies featuring popular characters from other companies, because as they say "variety is the spice of life."
What comic book characters do you think deserve an "R" rated movie? Leave a comment below.