One Hell of a Night: Evil Dead Review

Recycling old ideas has been a common thing in Hollywood recently with more and more big budget remakes/reboots of classics or sequels in established franchises sprouting up all over the place.  Sometimes it works, reintroducing a classic idea to a new audience with more modern themes and effects; sometimes it doesn’t with losing sight of what exactly it was that made the classic great.  Horror movies aren’t immune to this revisiting of existing properties and the latest horror reboot is this year’s Evil Dead.  A reenvisioning of Sam Raimi’s horror classic, this new Evil Dead eschews the camp and comedy of the original two films in favor of a pure, gritty, gory horror romp through evil infested woods.

The film starts out strong with a prologue that has a father trying to purge his daughter of the evil that possesses her.  From there, viewers are brought to a familiar cabin in the woods where a group of friends is gathered to help Mia (Jane Levy) through her detox.  The setup provides the promise of some emotional character depth, but it’s quickly lost after it becomes quickly apparent that the story only cares about Mia and her distanced brother David (Shiloh Fernandez).  It’s somewhat disappointing that all this promise is lost amidst horror movie clichés, but you soon forget about it when you realize just how well they did the tension and jump scares—it’s also impossible to deny just how fun all the over-the-top gore is.  In the end, though, the bit about the estranged brother and his recovering sister works out because those characters are the ones that stand out the most, so when something bad happens, you feel it—everyone else is fodder, so you’re really just waiting for them to die.

The script isn’t particularly strong, but it gets the job done.  The writers surely had a ball constructing this new vision, but it is somewhat weighted down by clichés.  Characters do ridiculously foolish things if only for the reason to put themselves in a situation where one of them has to die—but, as a viewer, you don’t really care because that’s really what you paid $8 to see.

It’s also worth noting that in spite of not being campy or over-the-top in its presentation of humor, this new Evil Dead has its own charms.  The humor isn’t quite as apparent as it’s much more tongue-in-cheek and morbid than the original films.  There’s one scene in particular that was brutally gruesome, but I couldn’t help but let out a solid laugh—a reaction I’m sure they were hoping for.

Evil Dead is built on the ideas of the classic films, but brings to the table several of its own.  There are scenes that feel incredibly familiar, but then you’re thrown a completely unexpected (and pleasantly gruesome) curveball that freshens up the formula.  This remake/reboot is a welcome entry in the franchise and the genre as a whole and, while it is more of a “pure” horror film, it does have moments that echo the charm of the originals.  Fans of The Evil Dead and horror in general will be more than pleased with what Evil Dead has to offer.

White Noise: A Tale of Horror Review

Proper horror games are few and far between these days, and they tend to creep up more on PC thanks to independent developers and distribution platforms like steam.  Since its introduction, Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) has been largely abused by a community of users determined to make their mark by releasing complete garbage or “me-too” knock offs.  There have been several solid releases in the XBLIG marketplace over the years, yes, but they’re constantly becoming harder and harder to find with each new day of unsolicited downloadable shovelware.  White Noise: A Tale of Horror is one of those shameless copycats… but it’s a very good one.

While I haven’t played Slender: The Eight Pages, I wasn’t completely ignorant to the fact that White Noise was a rip off; despite this, I felt starved for a good scare and decided to give White Noise a try… after all, it was only $1 (80 MSP).  I am pleased to say that it was a very worthwhile purchase.

Since I haven’t played Slender, I can’t draw comparisons between the two (though I have heard they are essentially identical games); instead, I will be reviewing White Noise based on its own merits.

White Noise is a simple game following a simple formula:  plop players in random locations in the middle of a creepy forest with nothing but a flashlight and the will to outrun a terrifying, shadowy creature set on making you dead.  Players are tasked with recovering eight tape recorders hidden throughout various creepy locations featuring run-down architecture and ominous noises.  There are few cues or hints as to where the recordings are located–static noises are used to indicate the player is close to an audio log, but the game doesn’t feature a HUD or any other markers indicating where the logs may be found.  It’s a bit of a cop-out to increase the game’s longevity by encouraging multiple playthroughs to acclimate one’s self to the game’s environment, but it’s surprisingly effective as the game rarely feels monotonous as the tension never seems to subside.

Being placed in random locations, it’s a challenge to get oriented from the beginning, and having the viewing area limited to only what the flashlight illuminates certainly doesn’t make things easier.  While it can be easy enough to get back on a familiar path, once players start picking up the audio logs, the shadowy figure begins making appearances, forcing players to run and (possibly) get lost again.  Audio-visual cues indicate when the creature is close (featuring snowy static around the border of the screen and fitting audio when the shadow figure is near), and a lot times it comes completely out of nowhere. White Noise is incredibly effective at the jump scare, and it manages to make that startling moment last with a sense of danger and tension after the initial startling revelation that there is a monster nearby.  There is no offense against the creature, players’ only option is to run away.  Running isn’t unlimited, either–and it’s certainly not fast.  I found myself tightly gripping the right trigger (used for sprinting) in desperation hoping that I could get away from the creature–it only worked sometimes.

Adding to the tension is the game’s beautifully rendered horror world.  Being mostly shrouded in darkness probably helps this game to be more visually appealing, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the best looking (if not the best looking) games on XBLIG.  The forest is genuinely creepy and the run down cemetery and crumbling monuments decorating the world help add to that feeling of uneasiness.

The sound design is equally effective.  The game’s score appropriately becomes more and more intense with each audio log the player recovers–adding to the heart pounding intensity as each note bursting through the speakers nearly shouts, “It’s coming to get you!”  The sounds of nature and other haunting noises are as misleading as they are cause for dread.

Story, on the other hand, is nearly non-existent.  The game begins with a text introduction before plopping players into the woods to gather audio logs they cannot listen to–they’re merely tokens of progress that can be used to unlock gameplay bonuses from the game’s menu.  I’m a sucker for horror as much as I am a fan of lore–that this game actually managed to frighten me and that it only cost a dollar are reason’s I’m willing to look the other way in regards to plot.  As much as I would have loved there to be an actual story, it could have also detracted from the experience if it were poorly written or thought out.

White Noise may not be a beacon of originality or the zenith of storytelling, but it’s a mighty fine horror experience.  The scares, as cheap as they may be, are genuine and lasting–this isn’t something that can be said about most of the AAA “horror” games out there now.  I’d love to see more horror content make its way to the Indie Games channel on Xbox Live and I think White Noise is a great first step in that direction.  If you are starved for a good horror experience, White Noise is well worth the dollar and time.

 

 

White Noise: A Horror Tale A Tale of Horror is currently available on XBLIG for 80 MSP.