VGM Entry 60: Splatterhouse

VGM Entry 60: Splatterhouse
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

Today is October 1st, and Shattered Lens readers probably have a good idea of what that means.

Namco’s Splatterhouse series first emerged in the arcades in 1988. As the advertisement poster used in this music video suggests, it was one of the first video games that really possessed the graphical capacity for some good old fashion gore. You play as Rick Taylor, a run of the mill college student who takes refuge from a thunderstorm in an old rickety mansion and inevitably finds himself demonically possessed, hacking and slashing his way through all sorts of hellspawn and ultimately butchering his girlfriend before defeating the mansion’s demon fetus-spawning womb and escaping. Quality stuff.

The game is accompanied by quite an impressive soundtrack.

When not taken to weird, incoherent noises such as on “Poltergeist”, the game has a knack for some rather pretty tunes that are only disturbing when placed in context. (The theme for Jennifer is one such instance; let’s not forget that the scene results in you chopping her head off.) I am not sure whether Yoshinori Kawamoto or Katsuro Tajima composed Splatterhouse. The former name crops up slightly more often on vgm websites, but trusting the majority consensus has lead me astray plenty of times before. Unfortunately, Namco have featured so seldom in my gaming music compilation that I am not really in a position to take an educated guess.

Splatterhouse is probably not thought of by most gamers as an arcade series. The original 1988 Splatterhouse only found obscure ports–to the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 in 1990 and the Fujitsu FM Towns in 1992. Its sequels made a bigger splash, becoming staples of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Splatterhouse 2 and Splatterhouse 3 were released only seven months apart, in August 1992 and March 1993 respectively.

Both sequels were composed by Milky Eiko, and despite their wide acclaim, Milky’s rather outlandish pseudonym does not seem to have surfaced since. I could not find any other Eiko associated with Namco, and he must be regarded as both one of the last and one of the most famous game composers to be buried in complete anonymity, before composition credits became standard.

On an odd final note, there was actually another series game, Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti, released in 1989. It was an SD game, that is, super deformed, which generally refers in video games to over the top, excessively cute anime portrayals of familiar characters from earlier games. Released exclusively on the Famicom, Wanpaku Graffiti offered good clean serial murder for the whole family.

A Horror Quickie With Lisa Marie: The Curse of the Zodiac (dir. by Ulli Lommel)

(Before I left for vacation, I watched a handful of horror films that were available for free on Fearnet.  For the most part, I think I may have overpaid.  But, since I am dedicated to reviewing every film that I see, good or bad, I’ve decided to review these Fearnet films for Halloween here at the Shattered Lens!)

In the past, I have occasionally defended the German director Ulli Lommel against the oft-stated charge that he is the worst director of all time.

“Yes,” I’ll admit, “Lommel is kind of pretentious and a lot of his films can’t overcome the burdens of their low-budget origins.  And no, he can’t director actors.  But, his early films have a certain dream-like quality and The Boogeyman holds up fairly well for what it is.  Plus, consider these two words: Uwe Boll.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that even Uwe Boll could have directed a film as bad as Lommel’s 2007 straight-to-DVD film, The Curse of the Zodiac.

The Curse of the Zodiac is one of Lommel’s “true crime” films.  In these films, Lommel claims to tell the “true” stories of American serial killers like BTK, the Son of Sam, and Zodiac.  (In fact, Lommel has directed two unrelated films about the Zodiac killer.)  A while ago, I read an interview with Lommel in which he stated that his serial killer films are about revealing the hypocrisy of puritanical American society.  Maybe they are but they’re also pretty bad and The Curse of the Zodiac is one of the worst of them.

Taking place in the early 1970s (though you’d never guess it from the lack of period detail), The Curse of the Zodiac tells the story of the Zodiac Killer.  In real life, the Zodiac Killer is one of the most intriguing (and nightmare-inducing) serial killers in history.  In the film, he’s just a bald guy who wanders around San Francisco, kills a few random people, and spends almost the entire movie repeating the phrase, “Hey there, fat fuck.”  The fat fuck in question is a writer who is investigating the crime and who is kind of fat.  We never discover the writer’s name or who he is or why he’s investigating the Zodiac or why the Zodiac knows him or …. well, anything.  He’s just a character who shows up every few minutes.  Another character who shows up every few minutes is a psychic who has visions of the Zodiac committing his murders.  The Zodiac refers to her as “hippy chick.”  Neither the writer nor the psychic really do anything that a normal person would do when confronted with a serial killer but then again, Zodiac doesn’t really do anything that a normal serial killer would do when confronted by a writer and a psychic.

What can you really say about a film like The Curse of the Zodiac, beyond that fact that, in the course of 82 minutes, nothing really happens beyond watching three anonymous characters wander around San Francisco.  Lommel doesn’t get one good performance out of his tiny cast, though he does find a lot of excuses to show off some nausea-inducing hand-held camera work.

The best thing that I can say about The Curse of the Zodiac is that it deserves to be seen just as evidence of how bad a bad film can truly be.

Trailer: Cockneys vs. Zombies (Red Band)

What better way to kick-off Through the Shattered Lens’ tradition of the horror-themed month of October than a trailer that brings my favorite horror monster of all-time: the zombie horde.

Most zombie films try to be of the horrific and social-conscious variety. Let’s call this the Romero-effect. The grandfather of this horror subgenre was and is known to inject a dose (both subtle and heavy-handed) of social commentary to the scenes of apocalyptic gore and horror that others have tried to copy, mimic and emulate his style of varying degrees of success or failure. Then there are the zombie films that goes for the funny bone in addition to the usual gore and flesh-eating. This first started with the initial Return of the Living Dead film during the 80’s which spoofed the zombie genre without sacrificing the horror and gore. This type of zombie film is even more rare until the arrival of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead during themid-2000’s. Since then the success of this zombie-comedy there’s been more and more of this type of zombie film and most of them, to be honest, stinks to high heaven. It does make the adage that doing comedy is ultimately much harder to do than drama.

One such zombie-comedy that looks to be cashing in on the success of Wright’s film even now is another release from our cousins across the Pond with Cockneys vs. Zombies. It had made an appearance at this year’s Fantastic Fest and the reaction to the film has been quite positive and with this crowd of genre superfans with discerning taste this means just very good news for fans of the zombie genre looking for something new sink our teeth into.

While this is the type of film that never truly gets a wide release in the US I think it’ll be good for people to check it out once it comes out on video and On-Demand. I mean it has the geriatric and young bank robbers fighting zombies.