Monday, April 30, 2012

Film Review: The Cabin in the Woods

I finally got around to watching The Cabin in the Woods a few nights ago. It’s a hard film to talk about without spoiling things, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to wait until you have before reading the rest of this.

Let’s start with the first obvious thing: The Cabin in the Woods is not a horror film.

Yes, there’s plenty of ketchup splattering the walls (especially near the end) and people die, but it’s a film that’s more likely to set the audience laughing than gripping the armrests in white-knuckle terror.

And the second obvious thing: The Cabin in the Woods is bloody brilliant.

I really liked the film. It’s inventive and highly entertaining. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud lines. It also has perhaps one of the finest Oh Crap moments ever set to film (If you’ve seen it, you’ll know the one I mean). As entertainment, it’s perfect.

And the final obvious thing: Entertainment is not what most people will talk about when discussing The Cabin in the Woods.

Yep, it’s the meta, baby. It’s all about the subverting, deconstructing and bending of common horror tropes while tipping a knowing wink to the audience. It’s not a new concept for horror. Scream revitalised the jaded slasher sub-genre by including self-aware characters and playing around with the obvious clich├ęs. Feast replaced Twenty Minutes With Jerks with freeze-frame captions and then plays merry hell with the usual horror death tropes. Michael Haneke’s original Funny Games (a deliberately uncomfortable film to watch) makes the audience complicit in the carnage.

Cabin is a lighter, fluffier version of Funny Games in that the entities behind everything can be seen as proxies for the audience. The main characters start off as relatively normal human beings, and are then manipulated into becoming the tired stereotypes of the films Cabin is lampooning. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard do a good job of introducing the slasher bait and making them seem like likable human beings. This is a vast improvement over Goddard’s last film, Cloverfield, where the vacuous obnoxiousness of the leads dragged down an interesting concept.

There was potential here for Whedon and Goddard to take the film down a much more visceral, nastier path by juxtaposing the early humour with the grim realities of the character’s fates, but by rejecting the torture porn ethos of recent horror they also reject the chance of taking the film out of the other horror ghetto of Played for Laughs. Horror doesn’t need more smirking, self-aware films; it needs films that sock the viewer in the guts. In that respect Cabin isn’t a game-changer. For me, a game-changer would be a film that delivers genuine scares, has well-rounded characters worth giving a damn about, and just about stays within the line of entertainment. Sounds so simple, but I can’t see Hollywood making it until they remember how to make horror films for adults, rather than fifteen-year-old boys.

In summary, The Cabin in the Woods is great fun to watch, but if you’re expecting to be shocked out of your socks, you’re going to go home disappointed. I wanted to see a sexy witch...

It’s also given me an idea for a little writing project (as if I haven’t got enough of those on the go already!). More on that later…maybe…

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Time Out's 100 Best Horror Films

Here's some inspiration for films to watch in the dead hours of night:

Time Out's 100 Best Horror Films.

That's a distinguished cabal of horror experts they've polled there. Unsurprisingly, they've come up with an extremely solid list.

I'm not sure what my top 10 would be. Hellraiser, The Thing and Ring would be certain inclusions. Probably Night of the Demon as well (brilliant black and white horror film). After them...well it's lists, it's always impossible to include everything. Just about everything on that list is excellent, so rather than more nods to The Exorcist, Evil Dead II, etc., here are some horror films I like that aren't there:

In the Mouth of Madness
Carpenter does Lovecraft from first principles.

Unfairly maligned for kickstarting the torture porn thing. Unusually for horror franchises, the sequel is good as well.

The Host
Superb Korean monster movie.

The first half of Jeepers Creepers
Horror films are easy to make but so hard to do well. The thirty or forty minutes of this are brilliant...then it plummets off a cliff into mediocrity.

The Quatermass Xperiment
This shouldn't really be here. They butchered Nigel Kneale's original story and replaced a humanist ending with Kill It With Electricity! but I have a soft spot for the film as it scared the pants off me as a child.

A stretch for a horror list I know, but the whole film is a masterclass on how to make a monster B-movie and populate it with living, breathing characters.

I'm still waiting for someone to make the quintessential succubus film.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Hentai Game Badness: Pretty Warrior May Cry

Pretty Warrior May Cry is a game I stumbled on in the dlsite store while looking for the link to the Violated Hero game I reviewed last week. It already comes with an English translation and there are two versions. The Enhanced Edition has more scenes (but not more monster types) and a custom scenario editor, but personally I think the original 3D graphics are better than the 2D-ised graphics of the enhanced version.

Rather than a parody of the Capcom classic Devil May Cry as the name suggests, Pretty Warrior May Cry is a fun (and filthy) little Dungeon Keeper clone. If you can remember that far back, you’ll remember Dungeon Keeper was an old PC game with a great concept—you’re the bad guy building a Deathtrap Dungeon to fend off hordes of invading heroes. My enthusiasm for the original waned after the first couple of levels when it strayed from that concept and morphed into a Real Time Strategy clickfest (a genre I don’t have much truck with unless it involves mowing down enemies in a buggy to Emperor’s "Thus Spake The Nightspirit"). Pretty Warrior May Cry sticks closer to the original idea. You play an evil (persecuted) wizard on the run. The goal is to dig out a labyrinth to hide in and populate it with monsters to slow down and take out those pesky pursuing heroes.

Of course, as it’s a hentai game, your monsters are going to do more than just attack the heroes…

An effective way to keep a marauding knight "occupied"

Whenever a monster comes across a hero of the opposite sex it will attempt to rape them, triggering a sex scene in the right hand panel. You have a faithful little demonic eye creature-thing that allows you to toggle between various molested heroes.

Sadly, aside from some corrupted and converted heroines, Lilith above is the only actual monster girl in the game. The rest of the game is hardcore ryona, which means using your monsters to inflict as much rape, degredation and abuse onto the hapless female wizard and swordswoman characters as possible (and even poor Lilith, if you leave her in a room with a giant). And I mean a lot of abuse. We’re talking tentacles, devil dogs and even girls being held down and buggered up the ass by enormous dragons in some extremely graphic scenes.

That kind of stuff isn’t really my cup of tea, but the actual game is well put together and surprisingly playable. My main disappointment was the lack of female monsters. There isn’t really anything past the Liliths you start with.

Trust me. The other ways of taking out the female warriors are far worse...

It’s always a difficult choice for any kind of ‘kink’ erotic game. Do you throw in lots of different kinks to attract different audiences and risk pleasing no one, or focus on one particular kink to guarantee an audience? In this case the developers, 7th dream, have set their sights on the ryona crowd. Succubus fans need only bother with the trial version.

I like the concept though. I would love to see a similar game done with more of a monster girl focus. Given the success of Monster Girl Quest, there might even be a big enough audience to make it worth doing. If 7th Dream are out there listening, or maybe other developers, I might have a few ideas I can contribute… ;)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Another Monster Girl Hentai Game: Violated Hero

A while back I mentioned another Monster Girl game. I think. It might have been one of those blog posts I was going to make and never got around to for one reason or another. I know I was intending to review at some point and got side-tracked. Might as well slip it in now.

Violated Hero – I wanted to chivalrously save the world is a hentai game with a similar premise to Monster Girl Quest in that it features a well-meaning but pathetically inept hero thrown to the vagina dentata (not literally, there’s no vore in this game) of various nymphomaniac monster girls. The hapless (lucky) hero also has to contend with various “allies” he picks up along the way as all of them will attempt to force him to have sex with them.

There’s no real story. It’s a straightforward dungeon bash with the evil (hot, sexy) dragon girl at the bottom of the dungeon. The dungeon layout is reminiscent of Dungeon Master (or Lightning Warrior Raidy if you aren’t quite as ancient as me) but without all the sneaky switch puzzles and hidden walls. Encounters are random and are with conventional (i.e. non-sexy, non-girl) monsters displayed as silhouettes. Come across a dead end and it will trigger a special encounter where you’ll either have to fight one of the boss monster girls, or pick up an ally who’ll follow you on a sub-quest for a while before getting frisky and attempting to jump your bones.

This is the bad ending?

The mechanics are extremely rudimentary—hit one of three different attack buttons until monsters fall over, rinse and repeat until character is strong enough to take down harder monsters.

It’s not really fair to compare this with Monster Girl Quest as Toro Toro Resistance is obviously a perfectionist loony prepared to go way beyond what anyone would expect from a hentai game (10 girls? Ha, I have 300!). On the plus side, the hentai scenes in Violated Hero are gorgeously drawn and all fully voiced. Unfortunately, the rest of the artwork is an odd mix, with the monster girls displayed as 8-bit parody sprites in the actual battles.

Best described as a collection of really good hentai scenes in search of a game. Still, it’s good to see more developers catering to this niche. It can be bought from here and an English translation can be found here, although I can’t vouch for its veracity as I played the game with AGTH + Translation Aggregator.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Monster Girl Quest Part 2: Full English Translation Out

It’s been three months since Monster Girl Quest part 2 came out and, right on schedule, RogueTranslator has finished translating the final third of the game. You can get the full English patch here.

Who says blondes have all the fun...

Give that man a round of applause. This continues the story right up to the demon castle and Luka’s battles against the four Heavenly Knights.

Wisely, Toro Toro Resistance hasn’t given a release date for the final part after his poor artists got harassed over delays the last time around. A sensible attitude (says someone also a bit laggardly at getting an anticipated piece of work out - *cough* Succubus Summoning 201 *cough*). His site is showing some of the new monster girl artwork and it appears the angels are just as perverted and sex-mad as every other creature in poor Luka’s world.

The new strategy to get people to go to Sunday School...

I'll finish with the obligatory plug for my own stuff: If you really like the game, you'll probably also like my stories.

(Sees how many times MGQ2 has been downloaded... I really need to find some artists and make a game...)