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Underrated Games: Prey (2017)

Prey was released in May of 2017 on all major platforms, developed by Arkane studios and published by Bethesda. Whilst generally well received, this mind-bending survival horror/first person combat game didn’t quite sell as well as it perhaps should have. I firmly believe it's worth picking up - here's why!

I will fully admit that I didn’t buy Prey upon release, therefore I am part of the problem! In fact, my fiancée ended up getting it for me on a whim. I went into it with an open mind, not really knowing what to expect other than what I’d already experienced with Dishonored, Arkane's other baby. I am now about 15 hours in and feel that I’m fully in a position to recommend this game especially at the price points you can pick it up for now (my PS4 copy cost five pounds, I mean come on). It offers much of the standard Arkane fare: you are a hero/heroine who can acquire some interesting abilities and can use said abilities to explore/progress/fight/puzzle your way through relatively open levels with some gorgeous environments and boy does Prey deliver on the environment part.

Without giving too much away, you begin Prey as a male or female (choice dependant) called Morgan Yu. The first few hours are extremely engrossing as you unravel a discomforting story that takes place aboard a sprawling space research station called Talos 1. Your ultimate goal to survive and find out exactly what the hell is happening is made difficult by the game's core enemies: aliens known as "Typhon". What separates this game from your typical alien bashing affair are the techniques that the aliens can employ to slow you down and stop you. Some of the enemies can “mimic” random objects throughout the game world - literally taking on the form of anything from a coffee cup to a trash can, all the way up to the consumables you use in game. There is little more startling than trying to pick up a med kit only to have it explode into its true form and try to stab you in the heart. Admittedly this novelty does 
eventually wear off but it’s such a cool concept that definitely deserves kudos.

Talos 1 is a beautifully realised and haunting environment. 

The environment of the space station is well crafted and littered with environmental story. You’ll learn about the inhabitants of the station and what befell them via neat little audio logs and terminals where you can sift through employees’ emails at will. The sensation of being stuck in space is very well realised and the sense of dread is complimented well by an excellently crafted explorable world. You can and will revisit areas regularly and can unlock skills that will allow you to access areas previous locked to you which is a great addition for those who wish to squeeze every drop of value from a game.

To start with you are given nothing but a trusty wrench (a la Bioshock) but very quickly come across other interesting weapons. From the more traditional pistols and shotguns to the more flamboyant weapons such as the Gloo Cannon, which is essentially a foam fire extinguisher on steroids which can be used to freeze enemies in place, put out fires or as another way to traverse the environments. Neuromods take the place of plasmids in this game and can be used as they are picked up. Think of them as instant skills points or currency that enables you to upgrade your character's speed, health or strength but also allows you to gain access to some of the wackier abilities, including (later in the game) the ability to “mimic” objects yourself! If you’ve ever wanted to play as a coffee cup, then Prey is the game for you.

The Gloo cannon is a novelty but it's very fun nonetheless! 

In summary, it is unfortunate that the game didn’t sell as well as expected. Arkane have crafted a robust, explorable, immersive and content filled experience with only a few minor bugbears. The value for money if you can get this on the cheap is insane, and I hope that the studio makes more games of this quality in the future. Now I’ve got to go - I could have sworn I just saw my desk fan move…

PSA: Believe it or Not, Anime has Genres

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are purely my own, and are based on my own personal experiences. Your experiences and views may differ from mine.

Back around 2007, I first discovered anime properly. Yeah I'd seen Pokémon, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z and Tenchi Muyo as a kid back in the late 90s/early 2000s, but it wasn't until many years later that I discovered there was a whole world of Japanese animation goodness beyond those few series. During high school not a lot of people shared my love for anime and manga. The quite common response I'd receive when I was seen reading manga on my lunch break or when I'd bring anime up in conversation was one of misunderstanding. It was animation for geeks, virgins, weirdos, perverts (because everyone who likes anime enjoys hentai by default, apparently). While the initial manga boom of the early 2000s filled UK bookstores with hundreds of manga volumes, by the end of the decade, going into my local Waterstones and seeking out the manga section would reward me with nothing more than two tiny shelves tucked away in a dusty corner, with an inconsistent collection on offer. The seventh volume of something next to the third of something else, then a shit tonne of Shonen Jump books. Luckily my local library had an extensive archive of the best Tokyopop books, so I'd read them from there, but every time I'd walk into Waterstones and witness the decreasing size of the manga section, I realised it wasn't just the kids at school who didn't get it, it was the masses. It soon became apparent to me that Anime and manga was niché as hell. Nowadays, anime is huge. Ordinary people are watching Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online on Netflix at the weekend. Every other rapper has referenced Goku in at least one of their raps. Anime conventions are big events, with massive venues struggling to pack thousands into halls filled to the brim with anime merchandise. Kids these days don't know how lucky they are (God, I sound old).

While anime is more popular than ever, it seems to oddly retain that same niché quality about it. People growing up away from the exposure to this kind of thing (through comic shops, conventions close by) may find themselves out of the loop, and upon discovering it, will probably find that there's not many others in their circles who share or are willing to share their love for anime. I felt like this once, and I know more than anyone how great it is to finally find someone who shares or is willing to share your love for this exciting Japanese animation style. Problem is, people forget anime is exactly that, an animation style, and like any other type of cartoon, it isn't synonymous with a single genre. There's anime shows that focus on comedy, romance, horror and action. There are shows for kids, and shows for adults. You name your preference, and there's undoubtedly an anime for you. There's even shows for adults, if you know what I mean. This seems obvious, right? Problem is, I find that when discussing anime, people frequently talk about it as if it is one single genre: anime.

I for one don't consume anime like that. I like anime that focuses on romance, drama or comedy plots and not much else. I sometimes dip into the horror and thriller genres too, but I very rarely venture outside of my comfort zone because I've figured out what I like and I'm sticking to it. There are anime fans who like many different genres, and stretch their anime watching all across the board, which is awesome, but there are just as many who are close-minded to a wide amount of genres too. Years ago when I was at college, a friendship group I was part of formed an after-class anime club. We would all meet up in one of the classrooms after lessons to watch and discuss anime. One of the main problems we ran into however, was that the group was made up of people who were into completely different types of anime. The leader of the club had his personal tastes, while the members had theirs. Many shared tastes, but not everyone. When the leader of the club would put on something he recommended, half the room would be engaged, while the other half would be disinterested and just end up talking among themselves. One week I managed to convince them to play the first episode of the romance anime Air on the big screen, and the exact same thing occurred, the room's engagement was split down the middle. The leader seemed to take the lack of engagement from either side as a sign that his club sucked. Myself and some others eventually stopped caring about the club for many reasons, but one of my main reasons was because subjecting myself to watching anime I had no interest in just wasn't that fun.

While it's great to remain open-minded and love all anime regardless of its genre, for many people, categorising things is important. My Aunt absolutely hates horror. She wouldn't watch a horror movie no matter how much you try to convince her. When I tried to tell her that the 2017 remake of It was worth a watch, and that it is more of a character based piece than straight up horror, she wasn't even beginning to consider giving it a chance. But that's her preference, and she likes to watch what she likes to watch and knowing which genres movies fall under make her aware of what to avoid. Same with my Girlfriend, who is a fan of country and pop rock music. She doesn't care for Hip-Hop music. It does nothing for her. When we met I, a fan of hip-hop, didn't go "oh you like music? me too! Have you heard of Del the Funky Homosapien?" No. The first thing I asked her about music was "what type do you like?" The same thing would be asked if I was talking movies with a movie buff too, because a lot of them hate the kind of hipster rom coms I binge. While I enjoy discussing anime for the most part, I often find myself being recommended shows that I have no interest in due to them being in a completely different genres to the anime I prefer. The worst part is that people sometimes take it personally when you don't express at least some interest in something they're vocally passionate about. It's like the part of the conversation about genre gets left at the door when it comes to anime discussions, maybe due to the meeting of two anime fans seeming like such a rare, elusive occurrence. Also, while anime is popular, excessive love of anime still seems to be mocked quite a lot, with the word "weeb" being thrown around left, right and centre, so finding someone who also shares that excessive love for anime can feel like an absolute gift. But for the reasons I've discussed, it isn't as simple as just liking anime, as the scope of anime is much more huge and complex than it seems at first glance. While it's great for us anime fans to stick together, just stating the genres of the anime we like up front can go a long way and can even go as far as to help us bridge the gap between differing genres. Maybe you watched something in your preferred genre that somehow crosses over to another? Maybe you took a chance once and watched something out of your genre bubble, and it's been sat at the back of your mind, just waiting for someone into that same genre to come along so you could recommended it to them. You never know what might happen. Just remember that simply stating you like anime is not enough, because your tastes are exclusive to you. They are a testament to who you are as a person and tell people something about you, and what makes you an individual. Declare them proudly.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Movie Review)

Fantastic Cash Grab: The Grime of Grindelbore

Since the debut of 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, many have been questioning the quality vs quantity ratio that these Harry Potter spin-off prequels will uphold. This has especially been the case since novel author and film writer, J.K. Rowling, confirmed that there is now to be five instalments instead of the previously stated three. Despite Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald containing some of the most magical effects the franchise has ever seen, along with a performance sure to resurrect Johnny Depp's career, the film is nothing but misadvertised franchise filler, being the worst to come out of the entire cinematic Harry Potter universe.

The film opens on what is arguably the film's second-best scene, where pre-Voldemort dark lord Gellert Grindelwald escapes his prison custody to start his standard quest of evil in taking over the world. Meanwhile, protagonist Newt Scamander, who is banned from international travel due to his mishaps in the last film, finds himself in Paris with his adorable nifflers, trying to find his previous love interest. On top of that, there's Credence, the super-powered wizard man who can explode now and again. He's on his own generic quest to discover his origins. On top of that, Jacob, the muggle baker, is trying to make up with his Witch girlfriend, Queenie, who is confusingly mad at him for an unimportant reason. Does all of that sound muddled to you? Well that's nothing. Determined to get anyone new to the series caught up to speed, the film throws scenes at you that are literally all exposition, trying to explain every little detail about the story and the world possible. As these segments of boring anchor down your excitement, not even Eddie Redmaine's adorable portrayal of Newt Schamander can lift your spirits back from the dull dread that is watching any scene with Credence. Taking up massive amounts of time, Credence is trying to find out who his birth parents are, after suffering with serious mummy issues in the last film. Not only does this arc become incredibly convoluted, but it's given far too much attention considering its significance within the story. It especially doesn't help that the character of Credence, played by Ezra Miller, has the personality and grace of an emotionally dull cabbage.

Even though it's named after the Johnny Depp-portrayed villain, Grindelwald's screentime makes him more like a side character given the film's length. This is the real tragedy as this is the best we've seen Depp in years. When he walks in, he steals the room. When he talks, you hang on his every word, almost feeling a chill down your spine. His charisma is the kind that gains followers out of loyalty instead of fear. It can only be imagined how effective his performance would've carried the rest of the film, with Grindelwald mainly being confined to the beginning and end.

Jude Law doesn't add anything new to the character of a younger Albus Dumbedore, but he successfully carries himself as a gentle yet charismatic reminder of why we love the future Hogwarts headmaster so much. As much as we adore DumbleLaw smiling and dashingly pulling off a grey waistcoat, his involvement in this story has also been misadvertised, with any of his scenes being mere teases for what's to come in revealing the past and furthering of things along. There are enough standard Harry Potter-isms and easter eggs to pull back the interest of franchise fans, immediately followed by losing it again when they've realised it's all for the sake of trying to distract from a mundane plot. All too many times you find yourself thinking something along the lines "hey, it's that thing I like from a much better film!". The most laugh-worthy example is Nagini, Voldemort's pet snake from the Harry Potter series. For some reason that nobody asked for, Rowling decided to rewrite the snake's origin by making Nagini a human woman that was afflicted with a blood curse, gradually making her reptile transformation permanent overtime. Being nothing to do with the actual plot for the rest of the film, we of course spend more time with this so-so actress (not even worth googling her name) playing a snake lady than the film's titular villain. 

What's even more hurtful for fans of decent writing is when you hear teases of some of the most interesting Harry Potter lore, it gets immediately swept under the rug to be saved for the third instalment. In the novel of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the details of Dumbledore and Grindelwald's relationship were revealed, including the duel which occurred when the latter turned to the dark side, resulting in the accidental death of Dumbledore's sister, Ariana Dumbledore, which Dumbledore carries with him for the remainder of his life.
With this relationship of love and pain being so significant to this prequel series, you'd think this would be at the forefront, at least involving a first reunion confrontation between Dumbledore and his friend-turned-nemesis, but no, because this series needs to be three more films long. Whilst these exclusions could be excused with a believable reason in the writing, this is not the case in The Crimes of Grindelwald. A MacGuffin plot device, something that can solve a story's crisis with little to no narrative explanation, is carelessly thrown in to be a literal excuse as to why Dumbledore can have no interaction whatsoever with Grindlewald, obviously resolved at the end to be sure you reserve your seats for Fantastic Beasts 3. Well hey, who wants to see a naturally formed emotional climax of a film's two most interestingly complex characters when Credence can have some stale adventures with a snake lady instead? The answer is "everyone".

Final Thoughts

Fantastic Cash Grab is the cinematic equivalent of junk food, which is a generous way to put it. Instead of enriching this series with hearty, nutritionally lean story and well-earned character progression (good for strong bones), you're left bloated by the factory-grade filler that's supposed to keep you going for another two years, before you see the unfolding of the plot you actually paid to see. At least with junk food you regret it after you've finished, while with this film you'll regret it half way through. 
You'll see plenty of Tumblrites posting about how much they loved this film despite not actually knowing what was going on for two hours. But this is J.K Rowling's and Director David Yates strategy - if they throw enough references to Harry Potter lore at those kinds of viewers, they'll eventually desensitise them into enjoying what is effectively a cinematic lobotomy with a franchise label slapped on. But don't forget that these are the type of fans who see Suicide Squad's Harley Quinn as their role model. 

Rating: 4/10

Bohemian Rhapsody (Movie Review)

Bohemian Rhapsody is an exploration of the lives of one of music's greatest, most unique bands, Queen, with a particular focus on its lead performer: Freddie Mercury. While it's a fantastic showcase of hit Queen songs and what may be an iconic lead performance, the film itself is anything but unique, following the tired formula of every music biopic you've seen before.

Journeying from his humble beginnings working at Heathrow Airport in 1970 to his peak at 1984's Live Aid, the spotlight is on Freddie Mercury as he and the rest of Queen dominate the world of rock and roll. The film is approachable to Queen fans new and old - from never even hearing of Queen to having "We Will Rock You" tattooed on your elbow, anyone will be able to go into this and be thoroughly entertained... mostly because of actor Rami Malek's portrayal Mercury. 

While other members of the cast are great, including an unrecognisable Michael Myers in a small role, they all feel like place holders in comparison to Rami Malek. An actor's portrayal of a non-fictional character can often get lukewarm reception, coming off as more of an impression rather than embracing the figure they're pretending to be. Malek's is on the other end of the scale: literally becoming the character. Perfectly capturing Mercury's teeth-licking, eccentric flamboyancy isn't the only reason Rami Mercury is an Oscar-worthy performance, he also nails the larger-than-life personality that Mercury used to mask his inner turmoil. Rami's performance should be shown as an example to acting and film school students for years to come as a demonstration of how he raised the bar of what people should expect from a biopic lead.

He goes from being determined to reach his potential, making his mark on the world, to struggling with figuring out who he is and wondering if he's satisfied with the answer. It's a story that goes surprisingly deeper into the darker side of Mercury than casual Queen fans may have expected, but I'm glad it did. It achieves what a lot of biopics aim to do: getting the audience to know the subject better, which in turn gives them the urge to research further after viewing and learn more about the things that the film couldn't show or didn't have the time to. However, this can be a double edged sword, as the film itself didn't go nearly as deep as it could have.

Although there's a big focus during the second act on Mercury struggling with his sexuality (especially during his tour in America), a lot of these instances are often brushed over, merely implying that he's been shagging a lot of guys, hurrying the plot along for the sake of a PG-13 rating. For a film that's expected to cover the pain a man has felt throughout his life, I'd have gladly taken a R-rated Freddy Mercury film with a rougher structure. One that really gets into the grit of being torn between two worlds. It would've given a much better essence of the conflict he felt through all those years.

Malik flaunting his talent throughout Bohemian Rhapsody's spanned 14 years is a gem that's of course only matched by the music. The film's best scenes are when the whole of Queen are on a session of song writing discovery or conflict, thinking of new ways to improve their music which turn out to be the origins of an iconic song. Whatever they're arguing about is thrown into the background when one realises something that might make their music better. It's impossible to not smile at these musicians having fun as they create new songs or play them in concert. Somebody to Love, We Will Rock You, Another One Bites The Dust, Fat Bottomed Girls: listening to takes of Mercury's original recordings, mixed with soundalike Marc Martel, added to Malek's passionate physicality with each performance made me feel like I was listening to these songs for the first time.

On the other hand, it's disappointing that they played it safe. The set list for the film is mostly made up of the same songs you've probably heard at every pub's "rock night" in the last fifteen years. They're great, yes, but a film based on a band that released over 150 songs could have at least thrown in some of the lesser known ones, giving casual audiences something they haven't heard before to really enhance the experience. Furthermore, most scenes featuring a concert performance are sped through in montages far too quickly. There's too many of these kind of moments, and they do nothing but make viewers think "I don't care about that manager story. Go back to singing and guitar riffing!".

What truly stops this diamond in the definition of rough from being a priceless jewel is the absolute drag that happens with the obligatory "falls from grace" part of the story. As a part of one of many rewrites of true events, Freddie gets too full of himself, at the influence of an outside party, and isolates himself from his friends, crashes and burns, before realising he needs the power of friendship before everything's back on track as it should be. This kind of story arc should sound familiar too you as it's basically featured in almost every aim-for-success film you've ever seen. Shifting history around a bit to make a biopic more streamlined and easier to watch is fair enough but when a rewrite still leaves the film at 134 minutes and still makes it feel even longer, it'll make anyone sigh as they're debating whether to even give Bohemian Rhapsody a rewatch.

Final Thoughts

Appropriate for the decades it's set in Bohemian Rhapsody is like two bumps of cocaine. You snort the first, feeling energised and revitalised by everything you're seeing, be it Rami Malek giving a career-best performance or one of the best playlists for a "get psyched" mix. Eventually the first instance of coke will make you crash hard, as does the end of the film's second act. You'll feel weary. Confused. Wondering how you got where you are. Just wanting to be alive again. Then you finally crawl over to that second bump. It gloriously charges through your nostrils. You are once again energy incarnate. You're doing mental backflips. The Queen Live Aid performance at the climax makes you feel the equivalent of riding a unicorn on a guitar-shaped road into the sunset.

Bohemian Rhapsody could've been one great high of love, pain, excitement and acceptance. Sadly, that sweet, Class-A powder got diluted with the hazardous chemical that is a messy reworking of history into a generic plot. If you get the chance to watch it again, fast forward when you realise it starts to drag. Go straight to the build up to Live Aid. Treat yourself to that one great high.

Rating: 7/10

Lost Games: Junji Ito's Uzumaki on Wonderswan

Foreword: 'Lost Games is a series of articles where I research and explore the games that we may never get a chance to play due to them never being released in English-speaking countries and having no available English translation, whether it be fan or official.'

In 2019, the indie horror adventure World Of Horror will be released on the PS4, Switch and Steam. Many (including myself) are really excited to play it due to its retro 1-bit Macintosh style aesthetics and an art style that pays tribute to the twisted manga comics of Junji Ito. While it is undoubtedly the definitive Junji Ito (style) horror game, believe it or not, it isn't the first. There were actually some officially licensed adaptions of Ito's iconic Uzumaki comic released for a handheld console called the Wonderswan. Produced by Bandai and developed by Game Boy designer Gunpei Yokoi, it was only ever released in Japan, meaning it is an unlimited source for lost gaming. While gamers in the west have been able to play some of its library without the need for translations, the vast majority is gated off to those who cannot speak Japanese. It's a fitting console for two games based on a niché Japanese horror manga to end up on really. A big shout out to user Opipeuter at MobyGames, without him, not much would be known at all about these games.

Uzumaki: Denshi Kaikihen

This one is nothing too exciting, effectively just being an interactive version of the manga. Played vertically (something that the Wonderswan could do), the game displays images, with text appearing over the top, telling the story. The interactive bit comes into play when the player is provided with opportunities to decide the choices that main character Kirie takes as she investigates the spiral curse of Kurôzu-Cho (see the second screenshot below for an example of a choice screen). As the game was released for the original Wonderswan with its monochromatic screen (colour versions of the console did come later), it plays in black and white. While at the time (2000) a lack of colour might have been a reason for Japanese players to choose another handheld console over the Wonderswan, I personally believe this game is a rare example where a lack of colour actually works in its favour. While the images on screen don't perfectly re-create Junji Ito's incredibly detailed artwork due to graphical limitations, the game still does a fair job of capturing the grim creepy atmosphere of the original, with its lack of colour matching the original manga and further exemplifying how unknown everything we're witnessing really is.

Uzumaki: Noroi Simulation

Released just a month after the previous game, Uzumaki: Noroi Simulation is the real interesting game of the duo. While the first game had players take on the role of Kirie as she investigates Kurôzu-Cho's spiral curse, in this game you are the spiral curse. 
At the beginning of the game, Uzumaki Sen'nin or "the spiral master" explains your role, then you are presented with a map of the town (pictured below), with your aim being to torment as many people as possible with the curse, including Kirie.
You spread the curse by travelling to various locations on the map and talking with the townspeople, as well as getting hold of important items. Items are used to make the curse more potent in specific areas, as well as interacting with specific people. The more havoc you wreak, the more areas open up.
Despite its sadistic premise, Uzumaki: Noroi Simulation provides a really clever take on the Uzumaki property. Whoever at the development HQ pitched this idea, I hope they got a pay rise for such a bat shit crazy, yet absolutely brilliant idea. It'd be like a SimCity game where you play as the natural disasters. While I'm not missing out too much on Uzumaki: Denshi Kaikihen (I can just read the Uzumaki manga) it really does suck that we never got this one. While Junji Ito's creations have gained quite the reputation over time, this game is still unknown enough to be overlooked when it comes to fan translations.


So, have you ever played a Wonderswan? Are you reading some Junji Ito horror this Halloween? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, or by leaving a comment below.

Movies to Watch and Avoid This Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, and this year my colleagues and I decided to do something a little different. Instead of compiling another list of games we recommend, we decided to pick the best – and worst – horror films we’ve seen this year and tell you about them. To give the team more freedom, we decided not to focus on films released in the past year, but ones we’ve seen for the first time whether they’re old or new. The following entries were written by each member of our team, so beware of any spoilers – and watch these films (or not) at your own risk!

Howl (2015) – Picked by Harrison Fleming

Harrison: I discovered our first film in HMV's horror section just three weeks ago. Howl is an independent, British horror directed by Paul Hyett (the special effects designer for The Descent and The Woman in Black) and starring Ed Speelers as harried ticket collector Joe. On the last train out of London on a stormy night, Joe has to deal with rude, condescending passengers. Suddenly, the train grinds to a halt and the driver vanishes trying to investigate the cause. Joe and his remaining colleague, a stewardess (played by Holly Weston), are left alone to protect the passengers from the driver’s killers: a pack of hungry werewolves. I enjoyed Howl far more than I expected to for two reasons. First, the characters feel less like your typical horror cast and more like living, breathing people. You'll hate them at first for treating Joe like dirt, but later you learn things about the characters that really flesh them out. The second reason’s the werewolves, which are different from the more wolf-like breeds we see nowadays. Imagine the Wolf Man crossed with an Uruk-hai and the result would look something like Howl's beasts. Better yet, they're brought to life through good ol’ practical effects making them all the more fearsome. Critics on the DVD cover call it “the greatest werewolf film since An American Werewolf in London”, and for all intents and purposes it lives up to the hype.

The Pyramid (2015) - Picked by Harrison Fleming

Harrison: Last year, I saw the Film 4 premiere of Gregory Levasseur's The Pyramid. Produced by Alexandra Aja (director of 2005's version of The Hills Have Eyes), the film follows a team of archaeologists into a newly-unearthed pyramid in Egypt. As you might expect, things soon go wrong as the team are trapped and forced to survive deadly obstacles and hellish creatures. Sadly, the film's setting isn't the only thing that should've stayed buried. The Pyramid styles itself as an Egyptian take on Blair Witch, but it constantly breaks from its found-footage format to follow the cast from a third-person view. Worse still, the threats leave a lot to be desired - although there aren't any mummies for once, the CGI traps and creatures are underwhelming. Worse still is the film's ending: a run-of-the-mill jump scare that caps the film off far too soon. If you ever find it on TV, or in the shops, stay well clear of this one.

Hereditary (2018) - Picked by Ben Williams

Ben: 2018’s definition of “what the hell was that?”. When a family matriarch (mentally disturbed old lady) dies, members of her family become haunted, leading to a story of unravelling mystery and scenes that will leave your mouth agape. These scenes are not of a random monster popping out of the corner at the last second of a silent moment like every other horror, mind you, as Hereditary takes the principle of “expect the unexpected” and flips it on its head before dunking it into a cocktail of horror, drama and thriller, creating a true sense of fear and unease.
Hereditary takes the tropes that have come to be expected from the horror genre and uses them to trick you. As the story progresses, you expect outcomes to situations to be the worst possible imaginable, before being slapped with something that is even more disturbing than you possibly could’ve imagined. Whilst you would normally anticipate a dark corner of the screen to be the entrance for a screaming demon, there may only be a subtle movement, only for the sole purpose of it putting you into eerie discomfort. The indescribable anticipating dread you’ll feel throughout the watch is what will make you come back again and again. You won’t stop thinking about it for days, wanting to know more as to how a film could make you feel this way. It’s truly an example of what horror should be.
When a filmmaker has their directorial debut, it’s expected to be mid-tier blockbuster padding, filling the cinematic voids that pop up between the big budget releases. Horrors are usually the biggest culprits, being jumpscare-fests that lack in substance with mediocre box office returns. With his first full feature, Ari Aster manages to lay the foundations for redefining the horror genre. 

You’ll meet the closing credits with either a sense of confusion or wide-eyed emotional trauma.

Paranormal Activity (2009) - Picked by Ben Williams

Ben: Despite cementing a new love for the found-footage genre, the only good thing about Paranormal Activity is its shroud of surprise that immediately gets pulled off after watching it for the first time. After the removal, trying to rewatch the home movie of two bad actors with spooky noises is as mind-numbing as listening to your co-worker talk about their latest session of “drinks wid da gurlies”.
Newcomers to jump scares in 2007 may have got something new out of Paranormal Activity if they were under the age of 15 at the time, however, having to sit through scenes of nothing in order to build up to even the slightest thump in the night gives me goosebumps in thinking of the immense boredom that could await me.
Being the best out of a six-film franchise, it’s an example of how horror gradually became regarded as the movie genre equivalent of processed meat, the quantity vastly exceeding the quality.

Get Out (2017) - Picked by Lewis Cox

Lewis: A movie that came out of nowhere and received rave reviews across the board,
Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya playing the character of Chris, a black man concerned about how the parents of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) will react to him because of his race when he goes to visit them. Feeling like an alternative take on the Stepford Wives formula, Get Out hides a sickeningly dark premise behind what seems to be nothing more than a hunky dory setting filled with people who just seem a bit ignorant, if not slightly behind. While Stepford Wives' talking point was gender, Get Out's is race. Get Out manages to go much deeper than the average horror movie, balancing elements of suspense, mystery, thriller, and even satirical comedy within its 103 minute run time, but it does so with such impressive control, whilst providing a thought-provoking social commentary that is sadly more relevant now than it's ever been. Get Out will provide you with a heavy dose of creepiness this Halloween, whilst leaving you with a message that you'll be thinking about way past November.

The Forest (2016) - Picked by Lewis Cox

Lewis: The (sadly) infamous "suicide forest" of Aokigahara in Japan seems like the kind of morbid location that a horror movie would thrive in, and for the most part this 2016 movie manages to utilise the mystery and intense despair of such a setting well. Starring Game of Thrones sweetheart Natalie Dormer, The Forest details the story of a concerned American woman going into the suicide forest to find her twin sister (also played by Dormer) who was last seen entering it.
The film takes a long time to set up, but it still kept me interested. The location was intriguing and the atmosphere was constantly foreboding. Even the set up of Dormer's character and her relationship with her sister seemed surprisingly genuine for a horror movie. I was gripped to find out what scares awaited. The problem is, by the time the spooky stuff actually happens, it not only feels incredibly underwhelming, but it's also over way too fast. We spend nearly two hours watching a pretty decent set up only for the movie to go from zero to one hundred in the last ten minutes before finally finishing on a really gimmicky, unsatisfying twist ending. This one definitely had potential to be quite memorable, but its pacing is completely off, and its scares are a sad case of too little, too late.

Carrie (2013) - Picked by Liv Gamble

Liv: Perhaps it’s no surprise that my horror movie recommendation is based on a novel by the master of horror himself; Stephen King. It’s the second remake but is, by far, the best of the three versions. This one is set in the modern day rather than the late seventies and, despite such a change, the inclusion of today’s technology, trends and culture really works – especially when we consider how stark, suffocating and almost medieval Carrie White’s own life is, in contrast to the regular, modern lives of her schoolmates.
Naturally, Chloe Grace Moretz is a great fit for the role of Carrie – quiet, unassuming, and plain. Julianne Moore plays Carrie’s mother, Margaret White, and her performance will have you convinced that she really is a full-time religious fanatic. Everything in this film is an improvement from the original movies and only compliments the novel, from the memorable first scene in the locker room showers, to the bloody and violent finale. This is definitely one to see.

Gerald’s Game (2017) - Picked by Liv Gamble

Liv: Another horror movie (this one a Netflix original) based on a novel by the King, but one that I wouldn’t personally recommend. While the movie tries so hard and could be considered halfway decent, it simply misses the mark. Much of the novel’s plot relies heavily on suspense, which can’t always be reliably translated onto the silver screen. The same goes for one of the story’s villains, the ‘Moonlight Man’ – reading about him conjured up an image that terrified me, but seeing him brought to life was more of a disappointment than a thrill.
There’s also the added issue of the traumatic childhood memories that Jessie must relive while trapped. For me, these flashback scenes fell flat – the acting was a little wooden, the characters didn’t seem true to the novel, and something key to the story had been changed. In short, it felt like a lot of the novel’s original spirit was lost through this adaptation, and scares were in very short order.

What movies are you watching (or avoiding) this Halloween? Let us know via the official Alt:Mag Facebook or Twitter pages, or by leaving a comment below. We're always looking for new movies to spook us!

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