Ready Player One (2018)

I’ll start this, not with a long pretentious wordy diatribe. But with a quick snapshot of my thoughts from the time I sat down, to the time I left the cinema:

“I’m not gonna like this”

“Oh it’s about individual liberty, in a film made by a major studio and overseen by a group of people aiming to make sure it reaches as many people as possible. You suck, movie!”

“but it’s all fake! These characters need to live in reality”

“just adding references is not a good substitute for plotting and characters”

“I understand that reference”

“Okay that was pretty cool”

“Damn, that’s really well done”

“That guys performance has been really f*cking good”

“hah!”

“no! stupid tears, go back in my eyes”

*melts into a puddle of splooshy mess*

Trust me, I went into this deeply cynical and scathing. I was ready to tear this film a new asshole about how overly commercialised it is, about how it spent so much time trying to please the fanbase that it forgot to put a good story in. Yet as the film went on, I just couldn’t do it, it won me over. The director is REALLY good at what he does (I predict good things for this *checks details* Stephan Spolberg). It reminded me of when I watched The BFG and was just overcome by the pure joy and magic of cinema. Spielberg is amazing at that, he just doesn’t just tell stories, he creates honest-to-goodness art with what he does. Also, he really knows how to get the best out of Mark Rylance. This, Bridge Of Spies, The BFG, he’s played vastly different characters in all of them, and in not one of them did you think “hey, it’s that guy from that thing”, he encapsulated the characters so well that you were drawn in and lost in the performance.

The story is….well you’re not watching this for the plot tbh. There’s not a lot here that will surprise you (with the possible exception of one character revelation that is just superbly well done and makes sooooo much sense), it’s the usual “ragtag group of misfits do good, and the character finds true happiness is in vagina” along with the standard “a relative dies to inspire the main character, as does a step-relative who’s an asshole” (it’s nearly always aunts and uncles who look after the characters in these type of things, why is this?). But it doesn’t matter, because everything is so wonderful and beautiful and amazing that you’re sucked in anyway.

The biggest criticism I have of this is the real world doesn’t seem as fully fleshed out as it could. With the exception of the technology, you don’t really see the real world that much. It’s a shame as I feel there’s a lot of backstory to all the characters here, but it’s not fully explored. I don’t know if the book goes more into it but I’d hope so. It’s all okay though as the VR world is BRILLIANT. The Shining scene, in particular, stands out, not just as a highlight of the film, but possibly one of the best scenes of the year. It’s smart, funny, inventive, and is the perfect use of pop culture references. It actually handles pop culture references a lot better than I thought it would, all of them have reasons for existing. I mean it is odd that in 2045 everyone seems to only be obsessed with things from 80’s-2010’s but there’s really no way you could avoid that without the ability to see the future.

Look, if you’re kind of tempted to see, go see at the cinema, it not only deserves that, but that’s where it’s at it’s best. This film is magic, and deserves to be appreciated as such. It really won’t have the same effect if you sit there watching it alone on a tiny laptop screen, this is made for big screens. This, is, cinema.

Contemplations On Chucky: Day 2 (Child’s Play 2)

Director: John Lafia (The Blue Iguana, The Rats)

Budget: $13million

Box Office: $32-35million

  • I understand they want to restart the Good Guy toyline but do they have to use the decapitated head of the one that was accused of murder? Just build a new one, doll’s heads aren’t exactly hard to come by. I used to have some on my BBQ.
  • “every tabloid is running a story on Andy Barclay and his killer doll” In America maybe, over here we were talking about Jamie Bulger and Suzanne Capper. Well, after Child’s Play 3 anyway but none of the other films talk about press reaction to murder so I’m going to have to use this opportunity to segue into a little rant here. Both of the aforementioned cases were terrible incidents which shouldn’t have happened and the people involved deserve whatever happens to them after death, whether it be an eternity of torment or blank nothingness. But the press took advantage of these murders to launch a campaign against “video nasties” and called for horror films to be more heavily regulated. Now, ignoring the fact that the newspapers that were calling for this most heavily are the ones who are now decrying a regulatory body and saying that any calls for press accuracy are “censorship” (I could write an entire essay on how ridiculous the notion is that deliberate fiction is more dangerous than disguised half-truths). The Suzanne Capper one had a somewhat tenuous link to the films as the dickholes torturing her played audio clips from the film whilst torturing her. Although it later turned out that they didn’t take these clips from the film, they took them from a popular song out at the time that was being played on Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio. A newspaper at the time reported that “21,000 4-9 year olds watched Child’s Play 3 when it was transmitted”, it later turned out that the figure was an extrapolation of people who were asked and applied that figure to the population as a whole, the actual number was two, and the margin of error applied to it means that it could have been just one. As David Elstein said at the time “but why spoil a good story by asking what the figure’s mean”, which is a damn funny thing for him to say and I commend him highly. Now the Jamie Bulger thing is a lot more tenuous. Even today people blame the films for the murders, but what evidence was there that the two were linked? One of the murderer’s dads, might have rented the film once, months before. If this is what the newspapers use as evidence I’m glad they don’t run the courts. Basically, fuck the tabloids.
  • “we rebuilt it head to toe”, but why?
  • A tricky thing with horror sequels is explaining how the killer came back. This one just goes for “his soul never died”, simple but kind of effective.
  • “what do you want me to do with the doll?” “stick it up your ass” I don’t think it’s that kind of toy.
  • Hey, it’s Jenny Agutter. I’d have assumed she’s too good for stuff like this.
  • “possessed by the soul of Charles Lee Ray” “who?” Would the world forget that quickly?
  • “what’s your favourite thing in the whole wide world?” “chocolate”. Me too kid, me too.
  • “besides chocolate” there’s other food besides chocolate? Lies and slander!
  • That house is so weirdly painted it reminds of The Shining.
  • “First rule, don’t touch the old stuff” I his wife won’t touch the old stuff anymore, that’s why he’s so angry.
  • “What do you think?” “Oh I’ll get used to him”. That’s the closest a foster parent can get to saying “I hate him he’s a little shit”
  • Christine Elise as Kyle, I always found her a really underrated actress, okay this is the only thing I saw her in but her performance is charming and likeable.
  • Jenny Agutter gets annoyed at Kyle for working too much, yeah, those damn rebellious kids, always working and obeying the rules. I bet she keeps tidying up behind herself too, she’s out of control I tell you!
  • “I bet blue is your favourite colour”. That’s sexist!
  • Andy is impressed by wooden toys, despite having a working electric car in his old house.
  • This family keeps a Good Guy doll in the house then get annoyed that Andy is scared. Those damn kids and their post traumatic stress disorder.
  • Why is he taking Chucky home? Why not just throw it in the bin or something? I’m assuming that workplace has bins.
  • “that’s a gold card, it’s just as good as cash”, really? Can you roll it up and use it to snort cocaine?
  • “you have to admit he’s a troubled boy, he may need more attention than we can give him” The father threatens to kick Andy out of the home and send him back to the orphanage and a life of neglect and suffering, because of a broken china statue. What a dick.
  • “Hi, I’m…….Tommy” that genuinely made me laugh.
  • Chucky’s eyes widen when there’s a risk of the other dead doll being uncovered. They’re really doing a lot to make the doll a character this time around, giving him unexpressed thoughts and worries, it really helps sell him as a character.
  • Andy gets tied up and gagged with a sock, Kyle sneaks in and blames him, how did he think she did it to himself? He’s way too young to be into that kind of sado-masochistic sex games.
  • “Andy, how did you tie yourself up last night?” I think she’s looking for tips. Now she’s definitely old enough to be into that kind of sadomaso-I’m going to stop there.
  • “especially new students who’s main concern should be getting on my good side” I’d have thought his main concern would be learning, since it is, you know, a school.
  • Shouldn’t she be easily able to tell that that’s not the handwriting of a child?
  • She locks him in a classroom. Isn’t that like, majorly illegal? What if he needed to go a toilet? Would she prefer he piss/defecate himself?
  • Chucky stabs her, with an air pump? Okay then.
  • “you’ve been very naughty Miss Kettlewell”, he says whilst brandishing a ruler, and the S&M continues.
  • “his teacher called”, did nobody phone home and tell the parents that the teacher is now dead? Did no cleaners or other teachers go in the room?
  • “what are you suggesting we do, send him back? “you don’t have to make it sound so horrible”, but it is horrible. You can’t take in a child you know is damaged and cry and complain that he’s not the right sort of damaged. Do your job as a parent and help.
  • Andy grabs a carving knife and goes to the basement to kill Chucky. I like that, it shows character development. He’s not sitting around as a victim waiting to be hunted, he’s hunting the hunter. It flips the dynamic slightly and is good to see, especially since he is just a child, but he’s a child who’s done this before.
  • What is it with Chucky and biting?
  • Phil dies via broken neck. Quite a good method of death actually, looks impulsive enough that a child could have accidentally done it.
  • Jenny Agutter and Christine Elise share an emotional scene which is far better than this film deserves.
  • The scene with the social worker collecting him whilst Kyle stands there has a really weird low angle which makes the space behind them seem massive and Andy seem tiny, very well created shot. Actually this film has a had a lot of moments like that, the cinematographer from this film also worked on Ed Wood, and was the DOP on Edward Scissorhands.
  • Ah man Jenny Agutter’s dead and she died off screen. Actually this scene is really good, the music, the look, everything just works to build tension until the reveal of the body, and then the slow rise of Chucky under the bedsheets behind Kyle, classic horror movie technique but very effective.
  • “That’s a Good Guy isn’t it? I love those things” really? The doll only came out two years prior to this, you’re at least in your late 40’s. It’s weird for you to like it that much.
  • “You know how some dolls pee, this one bleeds?” Hah! I would happily watch a Kyle/Chucky roadtrip sitcom.
  • “you goddamn women drivers”, ah, casual misogyny, although he is a mass murdering psychopath so I really shouldn’t be shocked that he’s not a very nice person. “yes, he killed hundreds, but he always said please and thank you”
  • Chucky sets off a fire alarm and Kyle gets the blame. Not that important a scene but the make-up on Kyle looks amazing, she looks thoroughly beaten and scared.
  • It turns out Chucky has been in the body for too long to get transported out. I guess that’s the end of this film series.
  • Wasn’t the implication earlier that the Chucky case caused a lot of bad publicity for the company and they were risking going out of business? That’s a very big production line for a product range that’s going under.
  • “Andy hurry up he’s right behind you” Why do you think he screamed?
  • Chucky’s hand gets trapped and he kind of 127 Hours his way out of it, literally just rips his own hand off.
  • “don’t be afraid” yeah, it’s just a piece of machinery that could probably kill you immediately, nothing to worry about.
  • Chucky shoves a blade into his stump, groovy.
  • Security guard/engineer notices a build up of dolls on the production line. So he didn’t notice the screaming etc before that? He also didn’t notice the two people running around the factory. He sucks at his job.
  • He puts his head directly under the mechanism of the machine whilst fixing it. He’s an idiot.
  • An unholy mess comes out of a machine, it’s 5 dolls fused together. Very Cronenberg.
  • More so as Chucky is shoved into a machine and all you can hear is agonised screaming, acidic burning, and mechanical whirring.
  • Chucky is dragging himself along the floor, at this point it would mainly be a mercy killing.
  • Andy pours molten wax over Chucky, because there’s no kill like overkill.
  • Molten wax Chucky is genuinely disturbing as hell. An air hose gets put in his mouth and he explodes in a mass of blood and plastic.
  • Film ends with a shot of a smiling Good Guy sign waving. I like it, very genteel way to end a violent movie.

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. 

Halloween

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.

SONY DSC

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.

TSuHwmW

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.

silent hill town

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.

DahliaBalkanChurch
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.

Silent-Hill-2-Monsters

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.

charcters

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.

maria

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