The Brock Press is pleased to present its second annual Horror Week, where we try to put together as much scare-filled content as possible. We’ll be taking a look at horror video games, films and television shows. Who needs parties or social get-togethers? A real Halloween calls for hermitted binge watching of old and new Halloween favourites.
Though, let’s face it. The main reason anyone would put this article together is to be able to use as many Halloween puns as possible.
A very 90s Halloween
As great as going outside and interacting with the real world is, that’s not really what being a ‘90s kid is about. In fact, if you’re a ‘90s kid, your best memories of Halloween probably revolve around the television in some form or another. Because my main goal is to make you emphatically swoon in a frenzy of nostalgia, here are the some of the best Halloween specials from your childhood.
Hey Arnold! is one show from the 90s that doesn’t seem to be around in any form in this day and age. That being said, it’s definitely worth going back through your VHS archives to find it. While most things I read about Hey Arnold! revolve around the strange penile shapes on Arnold’s grandfather, the Halloween episode more-so is something that deserves our attention and nostalgia-tainted love.
Gerald and Arnold team up to pull an Orsen Wells-like prank on the town by broadcasting news of an alien invasion over the city’s radio station. To me, Hey Arnold! is the epoch of the Nickelodeon playlist and an essential show to the collective ‘90s consciousness. Watching even a clip will make you feel about as good as when you got that full-sized chocolate bar while trick-or-treating… yep, that good.
Fresh Prince of Bel-air
I am Legend, Pursuit of Happiness… errr, Hitch? It doesn’t really matter what Will Smith does. He is, and always will be the sideways hat-wearing, big-eared, wise-cracking star of the sitcom classic: The Fresh Prince of Bel-air.
The Banks family visits a psychic and hold a seance for Hilary to be able to speak to her fiancé Trevor who had passed away (sorry, but I’m pretty sure the need for courtesy spoiler alerts ended 19 years ago). If you got the chance to talk to the psychic that came to Isaac’s last week, this is the chance to relive your experience through ‘90s eyes. Though you may not even need a soothsayer, because all I see in your future is a lot of vying for a simpler time, when Fun Dips and Purple Ketchup were bountiful on IGA shelves and television shows lasted an unheard-of 24 minutes.
Why was this 1993 episode so great? Quite simply, because there was a lot of Carlton. Who could argue with the longstanding cultural relevance of Carlton Banks doing a Macaulay Culkin impression?
Remember that one movie that seemed to come on Family Channel every single night, every October? Did you also know it had three sequels? By the fourth film, Return to Halloweentown, the magic was totally drained from a made-for-television franchise. But that doesn’t mean that the original isn’t still special.
It’s like Harry Potter without the plot, depth or budget. A young girl discovers her family history of witchraft and is transported to a halloween-themed town called ‘Halloweentown’ (most of the budget went into deciding upon that detail). Of course, if you remember Halloweentown, you almost certainly remember Twitches. Both films had heaping helpings of corniness and cheese, and will thoroughly embarrass you for having been so unhealthily obsessed with them.
Hey, we don’t all have diabetes from those damned pixie sticks, and we’re not all avid smokers even after sucking back package after package of Popeye cigarette sticks (that taste more like chalk than candy) so, ‘90s kids must have done something right? What are your favourite childhood Halloween memories? Tweet @brockopinion with #horrorweek and let us know!
Raiding the Halloween bargain bin
The last few months as well as the greater part of 2014 have seen a lot of horror films released — frankly though, most of them seem to be average at best. The forgettably obscure names, the interchangeable covers, and budgets that would make Sharknado 2 look like a blockbuster film. But have no fear (pun very much intended), because our society’s greatest archeological site can help you: the Wal-Mart bargain DVD bin.
House at the End of the Street:
The film isn’t necessarily horror, but at its best, it provides plentiful thrills and action along with a disturbingly psychological story.
When a girl and her mother move into a country house, they discover that the neighbouring house was the scene of a double homicide — a mother and father murdered by their daughter. Still inhabited by the surviving son, Jennifer Lawrence’s character befriends him. Their creepy and oftentimes disturbing relationship is so oddly compelling, that it invests you in the story – which will make the suspense-filled twist in the finale all the more alluring.
I must declare a slight bias, since Shutter Island is my second favourite movie of all time (trailing just a step behind Muppet Treasure Island). Even if you have no connection to Leonardo DiCaprio or his marvellous face (and somewhat annoying Bostonian accent), this is a film you can truly fall in love with. It’s not often that the movie is better than the book, but this adaptation takes the suspense and thrills to a sublime level.
It might be a sign of just how bad most cover photos are for horror movies, that when I saw this 1972 movie in the bargain bin, I had thought it just came out. Although relatively well-received at the time of its release (those people in the ‘70s would watching anything, after all) the film is dated to say the least. The story is convoluted, the sexual undertones are strong and will seem incredibly out of place to modern audiences.
Even with a $5 price tag, this movie would be hard to justify.
Television review: The Simpson’s Treehouse Horror XXV
An annual Halloween tradition in my house is to watch the yearly black comedy-themed episodes of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. This year’s episode marked the 25th anniversary of the specials and provided a mixed bag of gags with varying successes.
It’s no secret that The Simpsons isn’t quite what it used to be. In its recent attempts to be current, and the pure length of time that the show’s been running, the well of ideas is dryer than an Amish liquor cabinet.
The episode consisted of three segments: the first, entitled “School is Hell” sees Bart and Lisa sent to Hell after reading an Aramaic spell carved into a school desk; the second, “A Clockwork Yellow” is a parody of A Clock work Orange featuring Moe, Homer, Lenny and Carl as a gang of thugs, and finally, “The Others”, which is a cleverly named parody of — you guessed it — The Others.
“School is Hell” is easily the best of the three, while it is based loosely off the work of Neil Gaiman, it does not feel as restricted and clunky as the other direct parodies. It would be unfair — but not untruthful — to say that this was the first time in the last three seasons I’ve really laughed. Honestly, what’s better than seeing a conjoined Hell-monster with the heads of Principal Skinner and Super-“Nintendo” Chalmers?
“A Clockwork Yellow” attempts to parody two of Stanley Kubrick’s works: both A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut. It seems short and rushed, but if you’re a Kubrick fan, there’s not too much out there for you at the moment, so just take what you can get.
Finally, “The Others” parody of the 2001 film with the same name could have been a parody of literally any other film in which ‘the house is haunted’. You don’t need to know a single thing about the original film, it’s just a silly idea and with fairly well executed gags. After all, since it is the 25th anniversary, it was nice to see them bring back a far more jagged version of the Simpsons family from a different time.
Overall, it might not have been an episode worthy of the 25 year milestone, but I’m sure there’ll be another season and hopefully they provide a better homage to the long history of Treehouse of Horror. Even then, I’m sure the show’s got plenty more years to try. Who needs to end on a high note — or at all, for that matter?
Video game review: The Evil Within
It’s like Resident Evil 4, but not as good; that seems to be the sentiments discussed by most gamers on the message boards. But, to simply dismiss the title as a ‘redo’ would be overlooking a great game with fantastic merit in itself. Although it does have the same producer as Resident Evil, Devil May Cry and other classic Capcom titles, The Evil Within is a distinct and interesting entry into the action horror genre.
Not surprisingly, the game seems to maintain a distinctly Japanese style, even from the opening cutscene. The crime melodrama that is established in the game’s beginning is quickly dismissed for a focus on the psychological connotations of waking up in this nightmarish world.
The game stars detective Sebastian Castellanos who, while investigating a murder scene in an aptly spooky mansion, finds himself restrained and hung in a meat locker by a blood-covered, undead villain.
It’s a world beyond understanding. Even basic scenes that seem familiar are twisted and perverted, exploiting your expectations and fears in order to make you sweat. The game’s greatest accomplishment are its authentic thrills: from the first time you hear an enemies’ chain saw start up, to running from a Grudge-like spider girl, the game is terrifying. You feel weak, death comes often, and that’s a good thing. Good luck finding ammunition or health packs — because the game keeps you systematically weak through a lack of resources, and continual onslaughts of horrifying beasts.
The game can at times feel clunky, and the intense difficulty might detract from your addiction and enjoyment, but overall it is an incredibly satisfying experience.
Furthermore, in comparison to games like Dead Space, The Evil Within doesn’t mind taking you out of the dark, narrow passages that horror games rely on for scares and thrills. It still manages to terrify, even when the game’s environment opens up to a sweeping landscape.
Ultimately, The Evil Within has its errors. It’s not free of the tropes and limitations of the genre, but it will certainwly terrify in a way that most horror movies don’t seem to anymore.
The Evil Within is available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, as well as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.