New story out in Dead of Winter from @MightyQuillBks #Horror

Hey everyone! My story, “These Claws Dig Shallow Graves,” was picked up for the now-available Dead of Winter anthology, from Mighty Quill Books. Infinite love for those of you who pick up a copy, and double-infinite for anyone who leaves a review to talk us up! Click the pic to see its Amazon page.

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Weird crap I’ve said while playing #TheBindingofIsaac @edmundmcmillen

Hi everyone,

As you no doubt gathered from my last post, I’ve been playing lots of The Binding of Isaac lately. It’s a pretty weird game, but here are the weirdest things I’ve said or thought while playing (both alone and with friends).

Let’s take a ride.

  1. I’d prefer to start in the Burning Basement because I can make money off the fire.
  2. The Ocarina of Time has aptly prepared me to chuck a bomb in this tapeworm’s mouth.
  3. The power of flight has failed to protect me from tiny spiders.
  4. If I don’t cry on all this poop, I won’t have enough hearts to kill Mom.
  5. I’m not sure what that is, but I’m going to touch it. *Mortally wounded.* Oh. Note to self: That thing is “a bastard.”
  6. If you’re not using bombs to put out fire, you may not be doing it right. If you ARE using bombs, please direct me to the nearest bomb bag salesman, because I’m all out.
  7. I have more keys than God!
  8. The secret room was full of mushrooms, and the mushrooms were full of spiders. Again.
  9. The shopkeepers don’t mind if you blow them up. I mean, none of them complained afterward.
  10. Using a Devil Room is like gas station sushi. It might seem like a good idea, but if you’re not careful, you’ll regret it.
  11. Using a Devil Room is like choosing the holy grail. You’ll melt Nazi faces!
  12. Using a Devil Room is like insulting your mom during an argument. Sure, it might feel good, but you’re probably going to regret it.
  13. You can touch whatever you want, but don’t go crying about it if it hurts you.
  14. *Follow-up* Actually, since tears are your weapons, continue to cry.
  15. *As Samson* The best thing you can do for yourself is throw that boy on a spike pit.
  16. *As Samson* The redder you glow, the smoother your go!
  17. Remember kids: do all the drugs.
  18. I found a weaponized fetus in the basement. Good times.
  19. I haven’t been this excited for a quarter since the first World War!
  20. I haven’t been this excited for a quarter since S.H.I.E.L.D. dragged me out of the ice!
  21. I haven’t been this excited for a quarter since last week! …I’m really broke.
  22. Most games make you ask, “Why?” This one makes you ask, “What the fuck?”
  23. *As Eve* If you get attacked, your bird will eat people. It’s like Bioshock Infinite, except you’re more likely to accidentally kill yourself.
  24. *As Eve* Isn’t every night a terrible night to have a curse? I’m not less inconvenienced by the horns growing out of my head just because it’s Labor Day.
  25. *As ???, reincarnated via the Ankh* Am I cold, or just really dead?
  26. *As ???* Something stinks, and it’s probably me.
  27. *As plain old Isaac* I love how his first instinct upon finding any given object is to shove it through his head. KID. YOU’RE NOT A CLOSET, THERE SHOULD NOT BE HANGERS IN YOU.
  28. *Fighting Mom* Those calves are not meant for heels. Or going out in public.
  29. Satan can’t be killed by the Bible. Mom can, but not Satan. Why? Because he’s Satan, and you’re a child. He doesn’t have time for these games.
  30. I try to take pills whenever possible. Then I can show up to boss battles like LOOK HOW MANY SPIDERS ARE COMING OUT OF MY BODY.
  31. I’m not sure why that giant ball of crap is so yellow, but Conker’s Bad Fur Day prepared me for this. Now crank up the opera.
  32. This game has a great soundtrack, but it also syncs perfectly to Radio X from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
  33. Pro-tip: Blow up the slot machines. Also, I’m not allowed in AC anymore.
  34. The Devil Beggars are pretty chill dudes. I mean, they’re like Red Cross, but I get floating babies and damage boosters instead of fifty bucks and a cookie.
  35. There’s a fifty percent chance this game is just another set-up from Cabin in the Woods.
  36. Ultra Greed compared to every other boss is like having your girlfriend beat you to death compared to a quick kiss on the cheek.
  37. *Singin’* “’Cause I’m a gamblin’ boogey-man, although I don’t play fair!” *Dies*
  38. *Reading Isaac’s last will* How did I carry all this stuff? And when did I even find half this crap?
  39. This is by far one of the sickest, darkest games I’ve ever played. It should be a movie. I mean, everyone involved would get sued for making it, but it would have such a cult following.

That’s all for now! Keep shining on, you crazy diamonds.

Some things @theevilwithin did right, and some it did very wrong #videogames #horror

I’ve been replaying The Evil Within on my PS4 and, as I did the first time, really enjoyed some of the gameplay. Since I’m a pretty critical gamer, I can’t help but praise it–and chastise its creators for some glaring oversights and easily avoidable flaws. Let’s check this out.

Good: Run for your Life

There aren’t a lot of games out there with quality chase sequences, but when done right, those games deserve a thumbs up. The Evil Within is one such game, offering several “Run or you’ll die” moments, many of which are complicated by traps, offering even more ways to get brutally torn into a thousand pieces.

Bad: PS2-Grade Controls

Between a white-knuckled grip on the shake-cam and controls that feel more at home in Silent Hill than a PS3/PS4 title, you’re likely to slam Detective Castellanos into so many walls you’ll wish he was locked in a padded cell so he didn’t keep hurting himself. I’m not suggesting it should’ve been an Assassin’s Creed-style “turn so fast your legs skitter out to the sides” sensitivity, but god damn, this guy turns slower than a cruise liner.

Good: Interesting Monsters

Between the variety of disfiguration the main enemies suffer, The Keeper, The Four-Armed Teleporting Kayako, and the grotesque bosses, there are quite a few baddies to look at while the Detective gets murdered.

Bad: The hell do they look like?

Between the aforementioned herky-jerk camera, intentionally grainy screen, and the background environments, there’s barely any time to actually see what you’re shooting, and when you do see it, it blends into the background. Fuzzy texturing and an over-emphasis on gritty world-building left the creatures feeling lack-luster.

Good: Atmospheric Tension

Some of the early environments do a great job of capturing that survival horror feel, especially if you’re low on green gel and haven’t bought many upgrades.

Bad: They Completely Forget About Tension Halfway Through

Call of Duty style shootouts and an increasing reliance on bosses or subbosses to keep the game challenging cause atmosphere to go right out the window. Bonus Bad: Survival horror ammo scarcity, massive shootouts, and a camera that shakes harder than a fault line during a volcanic eruption gets frustrating very fast.

Ugly: The Main Character is a Moron

I was pretty disappointed with Det. Castellanos’s character. He spends half the game asking obvious questions, and the other half making idle, unthinking remarks. At one point, he even refers to “that red liquid.” …That liquid is called blood, detective.

However, the acting is very well done, and kudos for bringing in Jennifer Carpenter for Nicole Kidman. As a huge fan of Dexter, there’s a certain appeal to having her in the game.

Ugly: Too much Resident Evil

I love Resident Evil, and I’m all for homage, but between Evil being in the name, the final boss getting blown away by a rocket launcher, and the fact that it uses the iconic “zombie hunkered over, eating someone, then turning around slowly while the lights flash” TWO TIMES, I found myself wondering why I didn’t just play RE.

Even the subbosses are copied straight out of RE4, including fighting two giant troll things at basically the same time (El Giganto), a water-dwelling beast that you can’t directly kill (El Lago), and a subordinate of a major boss that uses ground hazards and extreme physical power (Salazar’s Right Hand).

But, when the game actually tries to be its own experience, rather than a fan-service clone, it handles really well.

Ugly: Troped-up Female

There are only two women in the game. Kidman plays the damsel in distress and the femme fatal, while Ruvik’s sister, aka Four-Armed Kayako, is the woman-as-monster. There’s no redeeming element here, and I’ve knocked a full point off its score for that.

Do I recommend this game? Yes. I wouldn’t say I love it, but I definitely enjoy playing, and have bought it twice. It’s not perfect–six and a half out of ten, at best–and it won’t give any seasoned horror fans nightmares, but it’s worth a few playthroughs. If you haven’t tried it, and you’ve got a little spare time/money, give it a look.

@HoltonsHorror reviews #CaptainAmericaCivilWar @Marvel

Okay, so this movie isn’t horror, but who would I be if I didn’t devote a blog post to the heroes I’ve come to know and love?

For those of you that are new to this planet, Captain America: Civil War is about The Avengers coming to a disagreement over the Sokovia Accords, a UN-ratified document that would only allow the team to intervene if and when a UN committee deems intervention necessary. This doesn’t fly with a lot of the members, but it really doesn’t with ole Cap’n A, whose compulsion to act when he sees injustice–and his experiences in WWII–seriously clash with this “Let’s put the good guys on a leash” philosophy.

Now, how did this movie do? Let’s delve in (Or scroll down for a TL;DR).

(SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD)

It was a pretty good adaptation, all things considered. There was no way they were going to be able to bring in every hero in the Marvel Universe, so considering that they introduce Black Panther and Spiderman while also expanding on the day-to-day relationships of the other Avengers was really something.

Paul Rudd! How was I not going to start with him? He was phenomenal, like he’d walked right off Ant Man and into CA:CW, ultimately using his Ant suit in a way that will please those familiar with the comics and surprise those who aren’t (and extra props to his comically deep laugh during such a big scene).

Black Panther! While his character arc was predictable, it was still well executed, the costume/stunts were great, and Chadwick Boseman was a perfect choice.

Spiderman! Tom Holland was another spot-on casting, and since Spidey wasn’t part of the driving action, he got to really immerse himself in the role. He’s really only present for the big fight scene, yet stands out by delivering a constant barrage of jokes while actively fighting, just like in the comics.

Love! One of my favorite hobbies is imagining what these superhumans do during their down time. What bank does Natasha Romanoff use? What does Tony Stark eat for breakfast? Has Steve Rogers ever played a video game? (This is a great exercise for writers, BTW).

But, one of my favorite scenes in CA:CW comes from Vision and Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) casually hanging out at The Avengers compound, the buds of romance clearly blooming. I especially liked how the Mind Stone fails him when it comes to cooking. They’re endearing and amusing scenes that provide a respite from the heavy tone of the movie, and frankly, I could’ve done with another one of those scenes (despite the 2.5 hr run time).

But how was the plot?

I was really surprised at how integral Bucky was. I knew he’d be involved, but The Winter Soldier wound up being one of the main characters, and though his personal trials were, again, nothing too unique, the initial twist involving Hydra’s Winter Soldier program was surprising. Then when they showed how Bucky was involved with ole’ Tony Stark, things got REALLY surprising, and basically turned the plot inside out.

The tensions run high between the teammates throughout, and we see many instances of team allegiance being challenged by personal relationship. The poignancy, most notably when Captain America attends a particular funeral, was profound and welcomed.

There are, of course, some pitfalls. As with any Marvel movie, there’s about ten to twenty minutes devoted to explaining or setting up for new heroes/villains later on, including the second after credits scene (all I’ll say is that it’s about Spidey). To the writers’/director’s credit, they do humorously skip past Spiderman’s origin (Holland says, “When what happened happened, my senses were turned up to eleven”), which got a lot of laughs from the seasoned viewers.

The aspect I most appreciated, though, was that this was clearly written for people who’d seen the other movies. The Falcon and Ant Man refer to their brawl in Ant Man several times; Falcon and Bucky clearly haven’t forgotten each other and are still sore over The Winter Soldier; Stark and Pepper Pots have a development in their relationship that might be lost on those who didn’t see the Iron Man films. This not only saved time and delivered constant, fresh writing, but it made me feel a little more validated for having spent so much money seeing all those movies.

Some Dull Bits

The negative aspects are few and far between. The music, for example, is performed and written very well, but isn’t distinguishable from the scores in other Marvel movies. Some scenery and backgrounds look the same (how different can one destroyed city block be from another), though this is balanced by some very interesting arenas, namely an airport and a Hydra compound. There are some would-be significant characters who, due to limited screentime, are criminally underdeveloped (like Marissa Tomei’s Aunt May).

And, of course, Hawk Eye comes back, and is about as effective as he’s ever been. Sure, he’s still clearly a clever tactician, but his role seems more to showcase the other character’s abilities, like when he tries to help Scarlet Witch, gets overpowered by Vision, and has to have her rescue him.

…Although, it’s kind of nice to see a guy in a typical “damsel who tries to help and needs to be saved” position.

The Summary (TL;DR)

See this movie. Just go see it. Right now, in IMAX 3D, like I did. It’s by far one of the best Marvel films to date, so much so that I’m glad Thor and The Hulk weren’t in it, because it would’ve demanded changing a fairly fantastic group dynamic.

The combat is stylish, dynamically-shot, and still manages to be new despite almost a dozen of these comic adaptation movies (not even counting DC!). This feels more like watching people in conflict rather than mere characters, a huge step in the right direction for a franchise that was starting to lack emotional depth, beyond the usual “I don’t want to fight my family” or “I don’t want to lose my love interest” plots.

I was worried about Joss Whedon taking his hands off these movies, even though this wasn’t really an Avengers film, but am glad to say that the Russo brothers nailed it. I give it a 9/10, with half a point lost for the soundtrack, and .1 stars lost for every time I’ve had to hear someone complain about Stark’s ego. Otherwise and overall, fantastic.

I broke the cycle! …Almost. #LayersofFear @blooberteam

Ye gods, that was grueling. Another three times I walked that house before I finally got a conclusion that definitively ended my eleven-run Layers of Fear campaign.

The solution, ironically, was probably a simple one. In the hallway where the piano is yanked back toward a blacked-out hallway, I stopped long enough to realize there was another door there, at the end. This may have been patched up in the most recent update, but I don’t care.

I got the Wife and Child ending, which *SPOILERS* ends with the artist lighting all his paintings on fire and burning himself alive. *END SPOILERS*

Here’s what I did:

–I looked at baby/family related things by zooming in (the zoom is important!)

–I played with the globes and other objects.

–I read pretty much everything I could, esp. the note in the little box in the piano-yank hallway and the document in the dresser in the phone-call-in-reverse hallway.

–I got killed at every possible situation, but did NOT jump to my death in the library. I DID jump down the hole with his paintings, WITHOUT bringing them up, and pulled the chain in the chain-or-crank room to listen to him scream.

–I walked toward the horrible sentient baby doll creature in the red hallway of baby madness.

–After the piano-yank hallway, I looked out the window at the flashing light, prompting The Wife to appear behind me. I also lit the candelabra in the hall after the anniversary calendar room, then looked at her rippling shadow on the wall and turned as if to meet her.

–I gathered all spoken words and rat pictures, and re-examined those I’d collected in earlier playthroughs (the final rat picture + one memento reset with each run).

–I stopped to listen to piano music, when it played (this wasn’t intentionally for the ending, I just found the soundtrack beautiful).

What did I learn, after all this? Absolutely nothing.

Because there’s still one more ending.

I want to see it.

Part of me needs to see it–for real, in person, on my PS4.

…Here we go again.

5 Reasons Why #DMC 2 Needs to Happen–and be Open World @capcom_unity @ninjatheory

It’s a mixed bag, isn’t it? The DMC: Devil May Cry reaction, I mean. Some people loved the game. Some hated it. Some made disparaging comments about Dante’s new look and behaviors, comparing him to the original, claiming he was an “angsty teen who got pissed that they raised the price of Camel Lights.”

I said the above quote, and I long since came around on the self-destructive nephilim. I’ve even forged my way through Dante Must Die mode (and all the DLC modes). Let’s take a look at why DMC 2 would be a sick open world experience.

1: Secret Missions EVERYWHERE

Secret missions have long been  a staple of the Devil May Cry universe. Sure, they were easy to find in DMC, and damn near impossible to find in the four original games, but what better a way to celebrate a game’s expansion than by utilizing the pull/grab/boost/enemy step movement system to make us really work for it? Put a door somewhere that’s easy to see, but so hard to get to that players say, “I’ll beat the game first. Maybe I’ll find new traversal skills, then come back.”

Add in the chaos of limbo-meets-the-human-world and you’ve got one hell of a landscape to explore.

2: Demons Fighting Literally Everything

If Sparda was any indication, the demons aren’t always in agreement. With Mundus gone and some punk-ass halfling nephilim leading the pack, it seems likely some demons will want to fight Virgil. Some will continue Mundus’s mission and fight Dante. Some will invariably attack humans. Some may attack each other.

In short, this was a recipe for chaos that could invite TONS of side missions and plot points, especially since Dante declared himself mankind’s protector against Virgil and the demons.

3: Human Rebellion

If Dante really wants to be mankind’s protector, he’ll have to work with the humans at some point, a la Lady from Dante’s Awakening. Given his propensity for angry lonership, only mildly dampened by Kat’s influence, it would be interesting to see how he handles a situation where people want to be around him.

In DMC, his only associations were for one night stands and with The Order–and even then, he only spoke to his twin brother and Kat. How will the Son of Sparda deal with this mounting sense of responsibility, and would working for/with/against mankind alter the ending?

4: Who is Kat?

It’s made clear in-game that Dante and Virgil only can defeat the demons because they’re nephilim. This rare and elevated status grants them the power to slay the supernatural.

…So how did Kat kill her foster father?

She mentions that he was a demon who used to abuse her, and that she killed him. Is it possible that she’s a nephilim too, or at least a being of otherwordly power, rather than just a spellcaster? Granted, she says she did it “with Virgil’s help,” and we don’t know how much he helped (give her advice? cut off his head?), AND she may have only killed his human form, but there is far more to her story.

Plus, the concept art shows her as a violinist, and I kinda want to see Dante complain about her musical taste.

5: Dante’s Destiny

The art, story, and general set-up of the main campaign and DLC make it clear that Virgil is going to lead the demons, but they also show Dante leading the angels. No Devil May Cry game (to my knowledge) has featured angels. The closest they’ve come is vicariously, through Bayonetta.

There’s so much room to expand here that I don’t know where to begin. What would they look like? Could you summon them into battle, or would they just appear when the plot demands it? Would they disapprove of you using Devil Trigger? Will Dante get an Angel Trigger? Are they all goody-two-shoes, or are some sultry, booze-swilling sinners, like the strippers Dante (probably) keeps on retainer?

The fact is, Capcom believes DMC: Devil May Cry didn’t sell well enough and wasn’t popular enough to merit a sequel. Who knows–maybe that’s true. I’m no expert, and I haven’t seen any sales figures. all I know is that if it DOES happen, and I maintain it SHOULD happen, then these are some of the points we should get to explore.

Fight the low sales with a whole new direction! Break the linear mold and show us what happens when a half-demon half-angel hybrid gets to romp his way across the twisted remnants of two smashed-together worlds! Give me more of Kat’s backstory! Use the open world form to fully explore these characters and show them as the complex, dynamic figures we know they can be, and I bet DMC 2: Demonic Boogaloo will fly off the shelves.