Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.8 “It’s A Good Life”


 

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Don’t think bad thoughts or Anthony Freemont will turn you into a giant jack in the box!

That’s lesson to be learned from tonight’s example of televised horror. In this classic episode of The Twilight Zone, the citizens of Peaksville always have to be happy or else they’ll be punished by the cruel monster that lives among them. The big twist, of course, is that the monster is just a little boy and sometimes, it’s difficult to predict what exactly is going to upset him.

It’s A Good Life was originally broadcast on November 3rd, 1961.

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Horror Review: Yahtzee Croshaw’s Chzo Mythos Part 1 – 5 Days a Stranger


maxresdefaultSome are not aware that Yahtzee Croshaw of The Escapist fame was somewhat famous as a developer before his venture into journalism. I myself am still a fan of his for his work making games instead of his deconstruction of them. And that’s mostly because of the Chzo Mythos Quadrilogy, a series that works as a homage to slasher horror films from the 70s and 80s, as well as an independent horror tale with firm Lovecraftian roots and damn good story.

In the first game, the more famous 5 Days a Stranger, you control Trilby, legendary gentleman thief named after a hat. Breaking into a mansion on top of a hill, a fine place to rob as horror tales go, Trilby finds that the window he entered through is inexplicably sealed. It is un-unlockable. It has become unbreakable. It is now thoroughly impassable. Even worse, he finds nothing of value, aside from four other prisoners of a strange house, equally confused with the situation.

Needless to say, people start getting murdered, it becomes a great deal of stress to the survivors as the mystery begins. Who is killing these people? How is this house so hermetically sealed? And we know why Trilby is there, but what about the others? Dream sequences start muddling into reality in-between the twists and reveals in this murder house. What they discover is strange enough to last for three other games.

5_Days_A_Stranger04Made with AGS (Adventure Game Studio) in 2003, 5 Days a Stranger is a refreshing attempt of rescuing the genre, popularized by Sierra and LucasArts with titles such as Leisure Suit Larry and Monkey Island. It’s an excelent adventure game in its own right, being by the time of its release Yahtzee’s most competent game in terms of art, and from a game design standpoint, very well thought, aside from a few pixel hunt sequences which can annoy its player into resorting to a walkthrough, though that was long common in adventure games anyway. 5 Days a Stranger went on to win several awards as an indie adventure game. This, in 2003, was quite an achievement

Inspired by eerie hentai visual novel Nocturnal Illusion (very horrorific in its own right, pornography aside) and classic horror movies like Friday the 13th, 5 Days a Stranger is part of what ascended Yahtzee into internet fame. And besides all that, eleven years ago, it was evidence of how adventure games, which had fallen so high, could still thrive. An amateur game that served as an influence to many others adventure titles released in the last few years. Also, it’s free to play. A gem of the internet, indeed.

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Stand Back For A George Romero Info-Dump In “Empire Of The Dead : Act Two” #2


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If you’ll recall, the second issue is when the wheels fell off a bit in act one of George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead Marvel Comics series, and it really took about another whole issue after that for the story to find its footing again.  I’m pleased to say the pattern doesn’t repeat itself here in the second story arc, but truth be told this book does have some rather hefty problems, and we’ll get to those in just a minute.

First, though, I gotta say my hat is off to Alexander Lozano for that kick-ass cover shown above. Sure, the painting of a zombie wearing what appears to be a pretty expensive watch and hurling a molotov cocktail — with the fire not doing jack shit to him, by the look of it — has nothing to do with the interior contents whatsoever, but it sure is cool-looking. Maybe my favorite cover yet, which is just as well since it’s the only one, with this issue being the first in the series to go out without any variants.I was kinda hoping that Francesco Francavilla, who did the variant last month, would stick around for a bit, but I’m not surprised that Marvel has finally scaled back to just one cover for this title, since — let’s face it — sales aren’t all that great, and it would be pretty unusual for them to keep doing two covers month in and month out on any book, much less one like this where most folks seem to be waiting for the trades rather than picking it up in singles, anyway.

What can I say, though? I’m fully aware that it’s not the economical way to go, but when I know there’s a Romero fix to be had, I need it quick, and by and large this series has been one that reads pretty well in individual installments, so I’ll keep going like I have been with it — even though, as I said before, this particular issue does have some problems.

So, hey,  let’s talk about those, shall we? It’s been hinted for some time that the vampires in the “Romeroverse” operate by a different set of rules (yes, folks, we’ve got “Romero Rules” for vampires) than we’re accustomed to, and with the main focus of the story this time around being on the patient being treated by Dr. Penny Jones who’s been bitten and, in equal portion, a young prostitute named Sarah who’s undergoing “the change” voluntarily, those rules are finally spelled out explicitly. It’s interesting reading and all, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more than a bit clunky, and doesn’t exactly flow with the rest of the proceedings. It’s more like an almost-overly-expository side-step than anything else, and there probably could — and should — have been a way to get all this information across by dint of actions taking place within the main body of the plot itself. This is stuff we need to know, without question, but we don’t need it to be spoon-fed to us this clumsily.

And speaking of clumsy — the aforementioned Dr. Jones and “zombie wrangler” Paul Barnum appear to finally be making some romantic headway this time out, but their not-quite-love scene is almost painfully awkward and clunky to read. Sorry, George, but people just don’t talk that way.

Those quibbles aside, though, there is definitely plenty to like in George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead : Act Two  #2, including the further rapid “humanization” of SWAT-officer-turned-zombie Xavier, a more complete layout of the plan to sell out Billy Chandrake and still bring down his uncle’s reign as mayor at the same time (and yeah, this part admittedly gets pretty heavily expository as well, but at least it reads better), and the emergence of a new champion in the “slaughterbowl” ring at the expense of a character who’s been with us since the beginning. All in all, then, some fairly interesting and significant plot developments do take place here, but be prepared for some complete breaks in the action that send us down info-dump avenue along the way.

On the art front, Dalibor Talajic seems to be growing into the job and I like his work here a lot better than I did last month, but damn — I still miss Alex Maleev. Talajic’s style is just fine for the conversational, “wordy” scenes, but when it comes to the bloodier zombie carnage we all love, he’s still got a ways to go to even come close to the heights his distinguished predecessor achieved. Here’s hoping he gets there at some point.

As for the ending this time around, well — that confused me, I admit. Last issue got us all good and primed for the aerial blimp assault on New York from the forces formerly aligned with southern rebel-rouser Dixie Peach, and this time they go into action — but apparently they’ve decided to stage a trial raid on Secaucus, New Jersey first. Don’t ask me what that’s all about. Hopefully next issue will reveal the method behind this particular bout of madness, because right now it just plain doesn’t make any sense. This is a series that has rewarded its reader’s patience on a few occasions before, though, so I’m optimistic that trend will continue.

Horror on The Lens: Plan 9 From Outer Space (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


Plan_9_Alternative_posterWatching Plan 9 From Outer Space is a bit of a Halloween tradition around the Shattered Lens Bunker and, if you know anything about me, you know that I’m all about tradition!

First released back in 1959 and directed by the infamous Ed Wood, Plan 9 From Outer Space is often described as being one of the worst films ever made.  Well, every year, I take it upon myself to defend Plan 9 From Outer Space by pointing out that 1) as opposed to a truly terrible film like Man Of Steel, Plan 9 From Outer Space was made with next to no money, 2) Gregory Walcott does a fairly good job in the lead role, and 3) the film, at the very least, does seem to be sincere in its attempt to promote world peace.  Add to that, the film is way too much fun to watch for it to be truly the worst film ever made.

So, seriously, can we at least give Ed Wood the amount of respect that we usually give to Tommy Wiseau?

Enjoy Plan 9 From Outer Space!  And remember — can you prove it didn’t happen?