Guest Post: Three Video Games to Give You a Fright!

Today post is written by Josephine B., my younger sister. Enjoy!

Hey dudes! Halloween is almost upon us, so here are some spooky games to play!

1. Five Nights at Freddy’s

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In the game you work as a security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The animatronics are allowed to wander at night, so you sit in the security office and watch the animatronics on cameras. The objective is to keep them out of the room and to survive the night.

One of the best things about the game is that your only defense, if one of the animatronics appears too close, is to close the door. Just waiting for something to appear creates a sense of dread.

There are multiple jump scares, but the scariest one is when the animatronic Foxy can be seen running down the hall. The other animatronics can’t move on camera but are still creepy because they just lurk in the other rooms, and it’s quite terrifying when one appears right outside the door.

Based on the characters and gameplay, I rate it 5 out of 5.

2. Left 4 Dead 2

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This is a first person shooter game where a group of survivors have to battle zombies to get to a safe place. You have to fight not only zombies but also awesome mutated infected known as “specials.” There are different campaigns you can play and they all have an awesome choice of melee weapons, such as a machete, a katana, or an axe.

The specials are cool because they each have their own different attacks. The Smoker, for example, grabs you with his tongue. The witch is pretty deadly if you startle her, so beware every time you hearing crying.

The game has multiplayer which is awesome because you have to work together to get to the end. It’s also fun playing with other people and competing to see who get the most kills!

Because of multiplayer and zombies, I rate it 4 out of 5.

3. Dead Space

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In this game you answer a distress call on a spaceship. When you arrive, you find all the people are missing and the creatures, called “necromorphs,” attack. You get separated from your teammates so you have to find your way back to them and escape the ship. Now you have to go around fixing things and killing necromorphs.

The reason I like this one a lot is because it’s set in space and being in space is pretty terrifying. The scariest thing about the game are the sounds that the creatures make and how creepy they are (check out the Guardian necromorph at 3:00 in this video.) The like to scare you by jumping out of vents! You get to buy really cool weapons like a flamethrower and a saw.

Based on the creatures, I rate it 4 out of 5.

TFW Your Jewelry is CURSED: The Amulet by Michael McDowell

Meet The Amulet, the most travelin’ piece of jewelry around. It passes from heir to heir to heir and when it clasps  around your neck, you find yourself with an unquenchable thirst to kill. The only catch (though the catch on the necklace is invisible and unbreakable) is once you kill, your turn comes shortly and gruesomely thereafter.

It saves the taxpayers quite a bit on trials and such.

Welcome to Pine Cone, Alabama, where the wives are all haranguing, and the husbands much harangued. It’s a mean little town kept alive only by the Pine Cone Munitions factory, and it’s about to be a whole less alive once The Amulet is done wreaking its bloody havoc.

Poor Sarah Howell finds herself suddenly caring for her comatose husband, Dean, whose bandaged face hides the damage done by an exploding rifle before he can be sent off to fight in Vietnam. Her hateful mother-in-law Jo Howell blames the entire town for Dean’s injuries; she makes a gift of The Amulet and chaos descends.

McDowell’s sense of location is on point, all dirty southern heat and dusty southern roads. His inventive deaths are gruesome predecessors to the death-porn franchises of Final Destination and Saw. Even though events grow more and more ludicrous as the Amulet passes from person to person (there’s a ceiling fan scene that quite defies belief), it’s too late. You’ve picked up the Amulet and it won’t let go until you pay the final price.

*Applesauce and Lye

  • Jo Howell joins McDowell’s memorable matriarchs alongside Big Barbara (The Elementals) and Hannah Slape (Katie.) She is a particular breed of nasty. Listen when she denies to Sarah that the amulet is some kind of cursed: “A amulet don’t work, Sarah, it just sits there. It’s got no moving parts, it’s not like a watch. What can it do? You saw the thing. It was just a piece of metal with a chain on it. Got it from Montgomery Ward.” Sick burn, Jo!
  • JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!
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    Published 1979, 5th printing, Avon Books

    I love cheesy 80’s horror covers. See the amulet in the corner? I imagined it a little different. I also couldn’t figure out if those people were just randos or supposed to be characters. Look! They’re all tangled up in the chain! And there’s blood! Trigger warning: This is “A NOVEL OF PURE TERROR.”

  • Reading Tunes Recs: Bottom of the River by Delta Rae, Southern Gothic playlist by Spotify

 

Steampunk Frankenstein: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

Steampunk Frankenstein!

Or to be obnoxious about it, Steampunk Frankenstein’s Monster.

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee reimagines the Frankenstein myth in a steampunk Victorian era, where men and women with clockwork body parts tick through the streets of Europe. These gear-driven people are viewed as less than human by many, distasteful at best, abominations at worst. And isolated in an abandoned castle on the edges of Geneva lives a man called Oliver, made alive again thanks to cogs and gears and the ingenuity of his younger brother, Alasdair.

As a “shadow-boy,” someone who illegally provides clockwork limbs to those without, Alasdair and his family live in fear of discovery and capture. Alasdair suffers the additional fear of keeping his brother’s reanimation a secret. When an anonymously published book titled Frankenstein, appears, mysteriously paralleling the lives of Alasdair and Oliver, it only serves to increase the paranoia and distrust of “clockwork men.”

The story is fair, the setting rendered somewhat flatly despite it’s potential; the grimy world of Steampunk has always seemed to impress more with aesthetics than actual mechanical ingenuity.

The book illustrates several fascinating points, however. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, while a bit of a slog to actually read through, is still relevant today. In an afterword, author Mackenzi Lee describes Frankenstein as a “science creation myth,” reflecting the anxieties of the day as reason began to do a serious bid with religion. Tell me that doesn’t resonate with the fears of cloning and genetic engineering that pervade our modern worries. What does it mean when you can choose your baby’s sex or their eye color? How do we cope with the idea that one day, we might not even need bodies to make new humans?

Lee chose to tell her story reflecting industrial anxieties and how these people with mechanical pieces were somehow seen as less than human. These days, augmentations like pacemakers to animatronic limbs barely cause us to bat an eye. But these parts merely replace something lost, or keep us alive when our heart is wont to prematurely fail. What about when we start upgrading?

In Homo Deus, author Yuval Noah Harari suggests that humans may one day attain the ability to become amortal, meaning that our bodies can be made to last much longer than our natural lifespan. It doesn’t mean a good old separation of head and body, or other physical trauma, wouldn’t kill us, only that the things that typically do kill us–heart disease and cancer–will be conquered and new technologies will allow us to live on, provided we avoid I-5 in rush hour and stay off ladders.

The ethical implications are enormous. This technology inevitably will start out very expensive, meaning that very few will be able to afford it. Does life then become measured by your bank account (as though it isn’t already)? And then if people start living doubly long, how in the hell are we going to house and feed them all?

Of course, it may just happen that our technological wonders will become sentient and enslave us anyway and then we won’t have to worry about any of that.

*spare parts

  • I got tricked again into reading another YA book!
  • JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!:

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    Library binding, published 2015, first edition.

    Hmm, not very steampunk-y. I see zero gears, cogs, or goggles. I do see the clock tower mentioned in the book, being rude and trying to take out the “M.” There’s some random lightning, which may be an homage to Shelley, but since the narrative doesn’t involve any reanimating bolts, maybe just inaccurate? I don’t know if the guy is supposed to be Alasdair or Oliver. He’s blurry so I can’t make out any non-organic parts.

  • Scott Westerfeld is a YA author who writes about teenagers and stuff, but knows how a steampunk cover should look:
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    Now that’s steampunk!

A Werewolf’s Purpose: The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon

“What is the lycanthrope, in the eye of God?”

I don’t have much experience with werewolf literature. The unfortunate examples of recent memory extends to the lame The Wolfen by Whitley Streiber and the even lamer portrayal in Stefanie Meyers’ Twilight series. Much of recent werewolf material relegates the werewolf to sidekick/nemesis status, markedly inferior to their (usually) vampire frenemies (True Blood, Underworld.) 

There are a few examples of the werewolf receiving the treatment it deserves, from classics like Werewolf of London (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), and An American Werewolf in London (1981), but when we look at the pantheon of literature, there is little room for the werewolf alongside the Draculas and Frankensteins of world.

The werewolf is often depicted as a lonely, hunted creature. In Robert McCammon’s The Wolf’s Hour, the “wolf” in question also happens to be a nazi-fighting hero as well, using his powers to serve the Allies in WWII. As Michael Gallatin questions his purpose in the world, he tries to find it in fighting against the forces of brutality and evil.

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I’m usually a little reticent to accept stories involving Nazis. Instead of building a villain from ground up, it’s easy to *insert Nazi here* and have a ready-made, instantly evocative force of evil.  McCammon labors, though, to show you just how brutal and heartless these Nazis (and their sympathizers) are, and with the current climate threatening a resurgency of white supremacy, it’s never a bad idea to remind ourselves of the dangerous extremes brought about by ideas of racial superiority and eugenics.

At times, The Wolf’s Hour seems little more than a WWII spy novel whose hero also happens to be a werewolf. But the flashbacks that detail Gallatin’s early life, how he came to be a werewolf and lived with a pack in an isolated Russian forest, bring life and depth to a brooding hero who muses on the nature of his being while cracking skulls and crunching noses. The full horror of Nazi atrocity is on display, from the lewd cruelty that serves as entertainment for upper crust SS officers to the despairs and torments of a Nazi concentration camp. When one Nazi officer meets his end in a pit of murdered prisoners, the image is as befitting as it is horrifying.

As in Swan Song, McCammon’s apocalyptic epic, The Wolf’s Hour is impressive in its breadth of vision. But it is the peculiar paradox of werewolf Michael Gallatin that leaves the biggest impression. Often, the man turned werewolf serves to illustrate humanity’s “bestial” nature, or what we would be capable of if our humanness did not keep this primitive side in check. But as a wolf, though Michael Gallatin may serve his instincts by killing and eating prey, serving the circle of life, he never reaches the heights of cruelty attained by the Nazi machine. Indeed, the wolf is capable of seeing a world that is out of reach our of dull human senses, and appreciating that beauty in a way we could never understand.

I am reminded by a quote from Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov:

People speak sometimes about the ‘bestial’ cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.” 

The werewolf is never as much a wolf as it is the reflection of our darker natures, the face lurking just behind the deceptive mask of humanity.

*full moons

  • In 2011, McCammon published a collection of novellas that continue the adventures of Gallatin the Werewolf, called The Hunter in the WoodsI haven’t read it yet, but wouldn’t mind spending more time with the green-eyed werewolf.
  • McCammon’s artwork has an interesting continuity to it. Somebody’s always watching!

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Just a Girl and Her Hammer: Katie by Michael McDowell

Katie Slape likes her hammer. She also knows when your pockets are brimming with cash. She’s pretty good at convincing you to part with that cash, and pretty handy with that hammer.

Michael McDowell’s 1982 novel about a psychic psychopath and her nasty predilection for murder is punchy and brimming with gore. Not for the delicate of stomachs, there’s some pretty memorable imagery, including some involving stomachs, exploding and worm-ridden and the like.

The title is somewhat misleading, as the novel revolves the plight of our heroine, Philo, a determined young woman whose impoverished life becomes a litany of insanity and tragedy thanks to Katie, her conniving stepmother, and brutish father.

Set in 19th century, post-war America, the novel’s setting is grimy and grimly alive, a character in its own right. McDowell’s talent for creating memorable spaces for his characters shines again, from the dusty streets of a New Jersey village to the sparkling sidewalks of Saratoga, to the smoky hell of a train wreck in a dark forest.

It’s the kind of novel that necessitates a long, hot shower afterwards; stomach-churning and bluntly told. The setting and time evokes echoes of Lizzie Borden and her suspected crime. Trade a hatchet for a hammer and a middle-aged spinster for a teenage telepath, and the rhyme could just as easily go…Katie Slape took a hammer…

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That hammer looks a bit like a hatchet…hmm

Valuable lessons abound: Sandbags may leave less marks but are not quite suitable for efficient kills. Large sums of cash should be left at home. Always be wary of teenagers. Dog karma is strong.

The big questions go unanswered, if they’re even important. The cracks out of which this vile family oozed remain undiscovered. Sometimes the only explanation for evil is evil, and nothing more.

*bits of gore

  • For more excellent horror by McDowell, check out The Elementals, a southern gothic ghost story set on an isolated spit of land that harbors more than just sand.
  • Damn, but dogs always get short shrift in horror stories. What does it say about me that I can handle all matter of exploding eyeballs and spattering brains but start weeping if a dog so much as sneezes?
  • There’s a pretty fantastically described train wreck that reminds me of a real train crash that occurred in 1867. For some real-life horror, read about that in The Angola Horror by Charity Vogel.