2010’s In Film Part Two (2012)

January – The Iron Lady

Not a part of the MCU, sadly. Completely different. Iron Man is about a rich merchant of death who’s arrogance leads to his initial downfall, but he eventually finds redemption before dying. This is about a woman who was the same, but didn’t bother with the redemption part.

February – Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

This film was HATED when it came out. Deemed as exploitative (it’s very 9/11-ey) and is essentially emotional blackmail, but badly done. Initially released just after the 10 year anniversary of the attacks, which just adds fuel the fire that it was done to exploit the terror. So yeah, very negatively reviewed, yet somehow got nominated for best picture at the Oscars. I’m still not entirely sure how that happened.

March – The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists

Damn this film is funny. All you need to know about this film is that it’s made by Aardman (the creators of Wallace And Gromit), has Hugh Grant in it, plus has characters called:

  • The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate
  • The Pirate Who Likes Sunsets And Kittens
  • The Pirate With Gout

That alone tells you what type of film it is.

April – Cabin In The Woods

Sooooooo much yes. I’m not sure how good this will be to people who aren’t familiar with horror movie tropes, but as someone who is a fan of the genre I love it. It potentially explains every single horror movie, connecting all of them under one umbrella. It has one plot issue that I dislike. It shows a bird flying into an invisible wall near a cave, being electrocuted and dying. This means that when someone tries to jump over the gap later on, you know it’s not going to work and that he’s going to hit the wall. If it came as a surprise then you would be in the same position as the characters and the shock would just kill your soul slightly. I highly recommend everybody see this film.

May – American Pie: Reunion

Is it weird that these films were really successful, people love them, and yet with a few exceptions, it made almost zero long term impact on popular culture. The actors in it had brief moments of being big but now the biggest one is probably Sean William Scott. It’s just weird that if you removed these films from history, not much would change.

June – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Still haven’t seen this, because apparently, it’s actually quite serious. That’s weird. I thought a film like this would be a comedy. I just can’t imagine taking an idea like this seriously. Thankfully the film I wanted turned out to exist and was Pride And Prejudice and Zombies.

July – The Dark Knight Rises

I actually like this movie, I think Tom Hardy was great as Bane. I’ll admit I’m still not sold on Bale as Batman, he’s an average Batman and not a great Bruce Wayne. I’m just kind of disappointed that this was the final film. There seemed to be a lot of missed opportunities and I would have liked to have seen more Batman villains in the franchise to see how he would have handled them.

August – A Few Best Men

Better films were released this month, of that I am certain. But this one needs love, it’s funny and very British. I love it.

September – Resident Evil 5

How are there this many films in the franchise? I’ve watched one of them and all I can remember is that the last line in the film, the line which is supposed to make you go “wow, that changes everything and is very important”, is also the tagline of the movie. Stupid.

October – Skyfall

The only Bond film I’ve ever seen. It’s alright. I’m just not a fan of Bond. I don’t know why, I like the video games, and the music is great. But the actual films leave me bored. I realise they’re technically great, but I just don’t actually care about them. I should probably watch more (live-blogging those would be one way for me to kill a month or two). Maybe that’s why I don’t care, because there’s so many of them already so I feel when I’m watching them I’m watching them from a point of few of someone who doesn’t know everything I should. I wouldn’t understand any references if any are made. So I feel I’d be watching it a lower level than other people.

November – Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir

2012 featured a documentary about Roman Polanksi, as well as one about Woody Allen. Fuck ’em.

December – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

This film franchise is weird. LOTR was HUGE, and so was the first Hobbit movie. Lots of people very excited about it, and the screening I was dragged to in York was packed out and full of fans. Yet this, and the next film, were so badly received that by the time the third one came out almost nobody was talking about them. The box office didn’t drop that much, so it’s almost like people went to watch them just out of completion anxiety, and they weren’t actually excited about them. It’s a shame as Martin Freeman is perfectly cast, it’s just a shame the film isn’t that great. I’m not that big a Tolkein fan so I can’t judge why, I’m guessing it’s the stretching out one small book into 3 big films that people don’t like, and the HEAVY CGI use which makes it look like a video game.

 

So yeah, that’s 2012, not the end of the world as it turned out. Actually it was soon after this that I started paying more attention to film and seeing A LOT more at cinema.

Guest Review by Conor Amos: Silent Hill 2

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by horror and all its isolating and macabre brilliance. Slasher flicks and psychological thrillers from the `70s and `80s were the earliest iterations of horror that I was subjected to. From Stanley Kubrick’s disorientating and beautifully crafted The Shining to John Carpenter’s dark, suspenseful Halloween. 

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Along came the Playstation: a beast of a console that would quickly revolutionise 3D gaming as we knew it. My only gaming experiences up ‘till that point were playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Sega Mega Drive or Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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Suffice to say, I was used to playing video games that were fairly innocuous collect-’em-ups with bright colours and somewhat childish imagery (I still love those games, so don’t misconstrue what I say) and so when my older brother eventually bought Resident Evil about three years after it was released, I was naturally as aroused as an eight year-old can possibly be at the prospect of playing a horror game.

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I don’t need to say much about Resident Evil, since you’ve doubtless played it already or at least caught glimpses of the clunky, polygonal exercise in macabre from behind a tightly gripped pillow. However, I will say that it opened up a whole new world of gaming for me. Its gritty visuals, haunting soundtrack and claustrophobic locales and camera angles shook me up something fierce; giving me nightmares for weeks afterwards, yet a thirst for more.

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Now that I’ve given you a somewhat verbose and unnecessarily lengthy introduction to my love for horror, I’ll get to the meat of this piece:Silent Hill.

Silent Hill was released in 1999 by Konami; the same year I had first ever played Resident Evil and this was what is considered by many a momentous occasion for survival horror gaming in general. Although Resident Evil and its sequels were chilling in their own way, they also became more Westernised and formulaic as far as horror and storytelling is concerned. Silent Hill was an entirely different game and Team Silent had the ball in their court (for want of a less flimsy sport analogy).

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At first glance, it’s ostensibly a story about a guy looking for his lost daughter in a town inhabited by supernatural ghoulies looking to nibble on his testicles, but it is so much more beneath the surface. The town of Silent Hill is essentially a playground for a cavalcade of intense psychological distress and torture for its unfortunate visitors. The idea that the town itself is the protagonist’s and indeed, player’s worst enemy, gripped me instantly.

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Silent Hill’s story, upon further inspection seems to be more of a benchmark for Konami’s future investment in the series and is greatly dwarfed by its sequels. It features some interesting imagery, is absolutely terrifying and deals with some very adult themes, but falls flat in many areas – with the introduction of a Satanic cult and attempting to give some semblance of meaning to the town’s ambiguity. However, it did the job in suppressing my appetite for terror as a child and I hoped for more.

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Apparently she’s only 45….Silent Hill cult, not once.

Of course, there were more games, but I didn’t play Silent Hill 2 for many years after it came out. Regrettably, I must say, as it was the one game that changed my entire perspective on video games as a creative medium and their artistic merit within our culture. As a phenomenon perpetuated by a society obsessed with stimulation and expressing ideas, video games are the perfect medium for such, since they are interactive and invest the player’s time and emotions into the story, subtext and characters presented to us.

ARTAlso, I wasn’t intellectually mature enough to understand what the whole thing was about. What the symbolism truly represented and how the choices made by the developers were unanimously integral to creating a world and a story so tragic, so frightening and so human that even the most jaded of pricks would be moved by it.
The enemies in Silent Hill 2 were created with a thematic purpose; an underlying motive behind their behaviours and superficial characteristics. As humans, we fear greatly what is alien to us. Inadvertently: what is considered alien to us, in fact reflects our subconscious in subtle ways. Disfigurements and warped, exaggerated human forms are what Silent Hill 2’s creatures essentially are. They encapsulate an intrinsically human blend of the tangible and intangible, with microscopic attention to detail in its cerebral imagery.

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The creatures are psychological representations of protagonist James’ subconscious. From the faceless nurses with their tumescent breasts and exaggerated curvy forms that represent James’ sexual repression and how he would have viewed the nurses during his wife’s hospitalisation, to the well-known Pyramid Head creature that slightly resembles an executioner and how he sexually tortures other monsters when he’s not toying with James.

Despite the horrific nature of the town’s ‘inhabitants’, it is ultimately the town itself that feels like the real enemy. There is an overwhelming sense of isolation throughout and each disorienting locale feels like a cleverly-designed maze built by Silent Hill to tap into James’ repressed, damning psyche.

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James encounters four equally important characters on his journey. There’s Angela: an ostensibly young, socially awkward girl who always looks uncomfortable around James; Eddie: an overweight twenty-something with a lazy eye and repugnant characteristics (the first time you see him, he is vomiting violently into a toilet and rambling about how he shot a dog); Laura: a temperamental, bratty child that has no qualms about vilifying James and his actions, and finally: Maria.

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Maria is quite possibly the most important character in the game and certainly the most ambiguous. She resembles James’ late wife Mary, who has been dead for three years. He received a letter from Mary claiming that she’s waiting for him in their ‘special place’ in Silent Hill. His grief is what brings him to Silent Hill, despite the idea of receiving a letter from a dead person being totally preposterous (it’s crazy what love can do). Maria is the exact polygonal structure of Mary and is played by the same voice and motion-capture actress. She’s more sexually alluring and is often quite condescending to James, but can sometimes be sweet and in those moments resembles Mary even more. Her presence is the driving force of the plot and she practically strips James down to his core; revealing his idiosyncrasies, his motivations and the conflicting emotions that plague his mind (so elegantly portrayed by the game’s horrific imagery and symbolism).

No game is without a polished sound design and Silent Hill 2 is an example of perfection (no hyperbole here). Akira Yamaoka (the series’ ex-composer) understood the importance of melody, nuance and indeed, silence when painting a picture of horror. His blend of industrial percussion and reverb-drenched blues guitar is ingenious and evocative. From nothing but the echoes of footfall down a dark, narrow corridor in the apartments, to the swing drums and twangy guitar melody in the bowling alley – it all creates a feeling of disconnection between the reality of the town and what James is actually going through.

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The environments and the music evoke a sense of time and place: namely nineteen fifties America soaked in horrific dissonance antithetical to that supposed utopia. It was presumably a tranquil and beautiful town decades earlier and we get to taste that in the soundtrack and the simplistic, modest architecture that the town is rife with.

DEAD

Unfortunately, the series’ popularity unceremoniously dissolved with the split of Team Silent and given Konami’s bullshit business practices of late, the future looks grim for Silent Hill. However, Silent Hill 2 will go down in history as one of the greatest examples of horror storytelling in video games and entertainment in general. It is and always will be my go-to game for intense psychological terror and an immensely tragic love story.

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This is only scratching the surface of what Silent Hill 2 really means to people: it has a huge cult following and the fans can talk about the game for hours on end; weaving a web of archives and discussion forums that keep this ship afloat.

It’s an obsession, and one I can definitely identify with.

Written by Conor Amos
Pictures by Mark Tonkin

Why we love…Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

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Lets talk about Silent Hill (and by that I mean I talk, you read).
Not about Konami and their fucknutarry. But about the games we do have, the good and the bad.

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BURN KONAMI BURN!

As I mentioned in my Session 9 post, Silent Hill is deeply rooted in my childhood (okay teenhood), since I got the second game for Christmas when I was 13, then spend the rest of that day and days after playing it. I mean what else could get you out of the Christmas spirit better.

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But Silent Hill is special to a lot of people going back much further than me. At a time where horror games were more intone with creature features, or just puzzles with jump scares, your Resident Evils and Alone in the Darks- not to faults those series as they did they own part in progressing the genre, but Silent Hill came in with something more mature. Less violence, but more atmosphere and story building, where you don’t play as a gun toting bad ass, but as a normal guy.

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There were no end of the world conspiracy plots- well 1&3 kinda do- but were character driven and about real day to day fears that could actually happen, e.g. losing a loved one, marriages breaking up, guilt over the bad things you’ve done, ect. (Again I reference back to my Session 9 post). They became an alternative to people who didn’t want to kill the things that scare them, but think about why they do.

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Now despite the series to this date having eight full installments, it’s as far back as 3 that people say the series lost it and has been in a never ending downward spiral it has yet to- and Konami has made sure it won’t- recover from. But I disagree.
My favorite Silent Hill games remain, Silent Hill 2 (which really doesn’t need any more talking about), Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (the subject of this post), and Silent Hill 4 (the cult one). But these choices come from a gamer that cares much more for story than gameplay. I’ll put up with the worst fucking mechanics if the story grips me.

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And that brings me to, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories; an odd duck in the series. A reimaging of the classic first game, that shockingly is actually a fucking reimagining and not just a remake for the money- like 90% of all horror movie remakes. It takes the classic story of Harry Mason searching for his daughter in the spooky town, blends it up and turns it into a snow cone; Shattered Memories: Silent Hill 1 on ice. Removing the silly occult plot but keeping the father daughter drama, it embraces the pure psychological stuff- a great move in my opinion. I don’t hate the occult laden stories of Silent Hill, but I’ve always found they make better back-stories for the town, than when they take centre stage.

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Beyond its well done recrafting of the story (which I won’t spoil) the game’s other best feature is its great use of the psychology, not always subtle, but great. This takes the form of Dr Kaufmann, here your passive aggressive psychiatrist. The story of SM is framed round a FPV of you answering questions with your therapist. An idea a lot of people will recognise from this year’s Until Dawn, but is far better executed and worked into the plot than there (though it does lack the awesome Peter Stormare chewing scenery by the fistful).

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I don’t think he was given any direction. He just kinda went with it.

As instead of just picking and choosing between stock fears that will inevitably show up, it actually does try to psychologically analyse you. Staying away from most yes or no, A or B questions , it gives you a lot of variety to personalise; like colour this family picture, who looks dead or sleeping, match the couples, ect. Now a lot of it is blatant; you talk about sex, the monsters and other characters are erotic. You like to drink, you end up in bars instead of diners (I know I’m using that as an example of blatancy, but I still find that so cool).

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There’s at least three versions of every major character. And even up to nine of Harry.

But for all the point A to point B outcomes, there are just as many subtle touches to affect how it plays. If you colour in the family quick and slapdash, then Harry is impatient and rude in the next scene, but if you take your time to be neat, then he’s calmer and nice. Or if you are honest about how much you drink, then what would be soda cans littered around, are beer cans. Small but affective.

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And from the writer who would go onto create Her Story, its no surprise such effort would go into such small details. It is those little touches, used to dive deeper into the characters and story, that has made SM such a lasting game for me, and anyone who has taken the time to play it (though really it’s like a 5 hour game if you don’t rush).

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It’s scary the first few times, suspenseful the next few, then just tedious the rest. But it’s more than worth it to uncover the story.

Now a common complaint of SM is that it just isn’t very scary and for a horror game that’s a big fault. And I won’t disagree, beyond some jump-scares and damn creepy moments and locations; it’s more oppressive than scary. But was it ever really trying to be? I mean there are definite moments of horror and suspense, mainly the very frustrating otherworld chase sequences, but as I said; Silent Hill deals with relatable fears, and SM does this more than any.

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I feel this poster really captures the true heart and feel of the game.

Not dealing with murder or child abuse, but with simple divorce. Love ripped apart and the effect it has on all involved, from parents to child. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a horror by default, but drama by choice. And in a time where Gone Home, Life is Strange, and every Telltale game is so beloved, what’s wrong with that.