Fireproof Games has hit a home run with their debut game for the iPad (version 2 and up). The reviews I have seen are generally praising it as original, and I suppose it must seem so in a market crowded with ports of popular board and arcade games, and different styles of puzzle games; but The Room reminds me of a great point and click puzzle game of yesteryear, Myst. Being an iPad game, it also takes advantage of controls like tilting, tapping, and gestures.
So, while it may not be altogether original to people over 40, The Room is nonetheless a remarkable game to experience. You play an unnamed protagonist investigating the disappearance of a scientist who has become obsessed with the idea of discovering a new element; one that may open a doorway to another world. He has hidden his findings in a series of puzzle-boxes, which you must decipher in order to read more of his findings. Each new puzzle box represents a level of the game; and each level is creepier and more sinister than the last, making very effective use of the game’s superior sound design and graphics. I felt like I had been immersed in an H.P. Lovecraft story as I played.
My only complaint about The Room is that I wish there had been more of it. Much like with Myst, the game is completely linear so there is not much replay potential once you know how to solve the puzzles. At $5.00, it costs a bit more than the average iOS game, but I certainly don’t begrudge the cost. At the game’s conclusion, the developers promise that there is more to come; hopefully that means more levels in a software update.
Ashley Greene takes the lead in a film that is somehow worse than Twilight. The Apparition is the humourless, horrorless tale of Kelly and Ben (Sebastian Stan), who are renting an “investment home” from her parents. When increasingly spooky stuff starts to happen in the house, Ben has to come clean: he and his college friend Patrick (Tom Felton) once tried to replicate a paranormal experiment where they focused and amplified their concentration on summoning a spirit. They succeeded – and Ben’s previous girlfriend paid the price. Patrick arrives with ghostbusting gear to try to reverse the process, to no avail.
This film was pretty dull, and the blame can be laid almost entirely on the script by freshman writer/director Todd Lincoln. The film is short, tips its hand at the beginning, and squanders the few opportunities it has for true suspense. It is like watching a remake of Poltergeist based on a script outline from someone who has only ever heard about Poltergeist.
There are ways to make compelling low-key horror films, as recently evidenced by The Innkeepers or Silent House. The filmmakers could also have gone way over the top, like Drag Me To Hell or The Cabin in the Woods. The Apparition is just bland, and a waste of time.
Elizabeth Olsen creeped me out in Martha Marcy May Marlene and she does so again in this remake of an Uruguayan film, “La Casa Muda,” that purports to be based on a true story from the 1940s – which makes it 1000 times creepier if so. Olsen stars as Laura, a young college student who is helping her father pack an old lake house that belongs to her family. Her uncle Peter, whose relationship with her father appears to be a little strained, is helping out. The only power in the house is supplied by a generator on the top floor; most of the rooms are dark, so they move around with lanterns and flashlights.
After Peter drives into town to look for an electrician, Laura and her father continue to pack and work in separate areas of the house. She keeps hearing strange noises and knocks and then finally a crash; she realizes that they are not alone in the house and soon finds her father’s unconscious body. As the film progresses we see her struggle to elude the intruder, while at the same time uncovering a mystery related to the house.
This is one of the best suspense/horror films I have seen in quite a while. Writer and co-director Laura Lau has created a very strong script, reminding me at times of Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre for its sheer creepiness. The camera work is superior, moving around and around Laura with the illusion of a single take, offering tantalizing glimpses of what is after her. Olsen does the heavy lifting with the camera almost constantly on her and makes it look easy, descending into terror without being shrill or repetitive. This film did not do well in theatres when it was released in April; too bad. I hope people have the sense to check it out on video.
I finally got around to watching this charming ghost story by writer/director Ti West, whose Cabin Fever 2 was a surprisingly good reframing of Eli Roth’s original. The Innkeepers is the story of Claire and Luke (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy), two young people in charge of an old small town inn on its last weekend of operation. The inn is vacant apart from a visiting actress (Kelly McGillis), a newly separated mother with her son, and a 19th century ghost that Luke swears to have seen once and is now trying to capture on audio. Claire offers to help, carrying his tape recorder and microphone through the deserted rooms while he sleeps during her part of the overnight shift.
Storywise, The Innkeepers is a straight-up traditional ghost story; the kind of thing they used to make all the time in the 1970s, possibly for television (I was reminded often of the original version of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark). West has a gift for creating suspense through camera movement, and the additional element of the audio recording helps. This is not a film for gore enthusiasts; most of the horror is generated in the viewer’s mind. I enjoyed it a lot, both for what it is and for what it reminds me of.
This is a creepy film starring Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, who runs away from a cult and takes shelter with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy). The relationship between Martha and Lucy has never been great and it is strained further by Martha’s increasingly paranoid and worrying behaviour as she processes the things that she saw and did in a cult that bears no small resemblance to the Manson family (headed brilliantly by character actor John Hawkes). Already under stress from his work, Ted begins to lose patience with Martha and eventually demands that she move into a home that would take care of her – which is not unlike how the cult sold itself.
Martha Marcy May Marlene is the story of a disintegrating personality, with a disturbing tone throughout and a lot of silent moments between characters that multiply the tension. The ending is mysterious, in a good way. The film reminded me frequently of the shitty horror film The Strangers, due to the Manson connection, but the resemblance ends there; The Strangers is boring by-the-numbers torture porn and MMMM is mesmerizing.