Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY GEORGE DANIEL LEA
RPG Maker is the most unlikely tool when it comes to horror video games; originally designed to allow developers to create their own late-era NES/early SNES style role-playing games, it has instead found itself at the heart of a burgeoning and endlessly creative independent horror renaissance that has proved so significant (largely thanks to the exposure provided by YouTube “Let's Players” such as Markpiler et al), it has begun to influence mainstream markets.
Limited by technological restraint, lack of budget and simple time, many RPG horror titles seek to distinguish themselves via clever mechanics or high invention; by dint of their art design, stories or atmosphere. Titles such as Yume Nikki, The Witch's House, Undertale and The Crooked Man have all seen some measure of cult success, Undertale and Yume Nikki in particular courting attention far beyond mere cult or artistic circles; becoming significant titles in their own rights.
The turning point for the modern Mexican horror genre occurred in 1993, when a certain Guillermo Del Toro burst onto the scene with his inventive and brilliantly creepy film Cronos. Del Toro, along with the likes of Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro G Iñárritu, went on to carve out careers in Hollywood, the latter two directing acclaimed Oscar-winning films The Revenant and Gravity, and pushed open the doors for a new wave of young Mexican directors. Cuarón and Iñárritu, no less, have given plaudits We are the Flesh , the extraordinary and unsettling debut film from Emiliano Rocha Minter.
It’s about a young brother and sister in an apocalyptic city, who take refuge in the dilapidated lair of a strange hermit. Welcoming at first, it soon becomes apparent he is on a curious mission, and lures the pair on a sexually-charged, nightmarish journey into an other-worldy dimension. Minter’s film is intense, erotic, outrageously explicit and deeply disturbing. Here are half a dozen equally weird and wonderful Mexican new wave terrors that have put Mexico at the cutting edge of the horror genre…
WE ARE THE FLESH (18) is released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 13, by Arrow Video
Read our review of We are the Flesh here
BY TOM DEADY
In 1986, Stephen King released his self-proclaimed “final exam” on horror: IT. The story features a recurring evil that visits the small town of Derry, Maine every twenty-seven years. IT preys on people’s fear, especially fear in children, calling it “akin to salting the meat.” The creature is, among other things, a shape-shifter. In many cases, IT appears in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. King’s Pennywise is one of horror’s greatest and most terrifying villains.
BY GEORGE DANIEL LEA
I'm aware that this is somewhat breaking the theme of previous articles in this series; for the most part, the toy lines I've explored have been notable for ther targetting of child markets, yet consisting of profoundly graphic or horrific subjects.
This particular range was technically never marketed to children, though I will provide some anectdotal evidence that it certainly shared shelf-space with those that were: I recall first coming across these figures as an adolescent-verging-on-teenager, while I was still an enthusiastic collector of the likes of Transformers and various other toy franchises: they began to pop up along with a number of other Todd McFarlane-produced ranges in local toy stores (including the incredible Dragons range), as well as a number of video-game inspired figures aimed at older children and teenage markets.
The “interactive video board game” was a short lived phenomena in the mid to late 1990s. At a time when boardgames were struggling to compete with the burgeoning (but already pervasive) video game market, many turned to incorporating televisual technology as a means of making themselves more relevant to younger audiences.
For the most part, such products consisted of fairly traditional boardgames leant added flare and flavour by a video “host,” who would provide instructions and tasks throughout the game.
Arguably the most significant (and certaily most iconic) examples is the video boardgame, Atmosfear (known as Nightmare outside of Europe, where it was renamed so as not to be confused with the children's TV show, Knightmare).
I'm endlessly fascinated by that work which likely should have struck a chord during the era it occurred, but for reasons outside of my understanding, never did.
The toyline Skeleton Warriors hit toy shelves during the mid to lte 1990s, during an era when boy's toys were highly inventive but also competing with the likes of video games consoles for shelf space and market attention.
From the film franchises of the 1980s and 1990s that children probably shouldn't have watched (but which we did. Often over and over again.) to video games that children probably shouldn't have played (though we did. Over and over again.):
It's somewhat difficult to talk about Resident Evil without descending into cliché; so much has been written and said concerning this franchise; it has been dissected down to the finest molecules, its atoms separated one by one and dispersed on the taciturn gales of media criticism....
Monsters and mythology were significant in the child culture of late 1980s UK. Though the likes of Dungeons and Dragons never became quite the cultural phenomenon it was in its parent US, a recent resurgence in J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, not to mention the swathe of swords and sorcery, RPG and action video games on systems such as the Sinclair Spectrum and Commodore Amiga, meant that mtyhological and fantastical subjects were our bread and butter; an entire generation raised on Ray Harryhausen special effects extravaganzas and monster circuses such as Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, The Seven Voyages of Sinbad etc.
So, then. 2016...
You know what? Let's not. There are going to be entire books written about this dumpster fire of a year, which seems to have been ground zero for every terrible idea of history and crass coincidence, and I have no desire to depress myself or you further.
Especially because this here is supposed to be a celebration: a reflection on all the great material I've read this year, a chance to take stock and say 'here's what was good'.
And it turns out, a lot was very good indeed. So, the normal rules apply; these are the best things I read this year, even if they didn't come out this year. I appreciate that makes things a little idiosyncratic, but a) there's plenty of 'proper' 2016 lists out there, so feel free to fill yer boots and b) this is my damn list. Also, it won't all be horror – I read pretty widely.
Also also, this isn't a 'best of'' list – this is a 'Kit's favorites' list. I don't claim to have a powerful subjective measure for discerning the quality of a story – I just know what I like and why. With that in mind, here are the works I enjoyed reading the most in 2016. The line between my favorites and the honorable mentions is both thin and wobbly – if you like the sound of any of the below, my strong advice is to check it out. It wouldn't be here if I didn't love it.
Let's talk about the good stuff.
A children's toy line based on a comic whose back mythology involves a Faustian pact with a demon from Hell, political corruption, questions on the morality of military service and the notion of moral violence, serial killers, a sub-plot involving a child abuser and murderer of children, a demonic clown that has more than a hint of John Wayne Gacey about him...