My first experience with H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was not the Victorian novel itself but the Jeff Wayne concept album, which my parents have on vinyl, and must have had on tape as well because I have a distinct and deeply-lodged memory of listening to it on a long car trip and lying in bed that night gripped by the terror that tentacley aliens were going to ooze through the ceiling vent and eat me. It was… with some trepidation and assurances to my eight-year-old self that it couldn’t be that bad, we’ve moved past this by now, come on, that I picked up the original book to read for a class on genre fiction.
I was wrong. To both the credit of Wells’ story and my eight-year-old self, this crap is terrifying.
The War of the Worlds is the grandfather of the modern alien invasion story as we know it today, or at least, carries all the hallmarks that the alien invasion story as we know it today loves. Being more familiar with the Men From Mars!! plotline as it appears in (parodies of) pulp 50s and 60s sci-fi and its later, grittier incarnations like Independence Day, it was a little odd to see it transplanted so naturally into 19th century England. There are still horses and carts trundling around, steam power is in its heyday, and the lush, quaint landscape of a country town and its quiet heath forms the stage for the beginning of a terrifying alien conquest that will make mankind question everything it knows about itself. Continue reading
Say what you will about the dodgy character work of Until Dawn, but the game has succeeded in one thing: it gave us a genuinely unsympathetic, unlikeable female character. Emily is almost universally disliked from the reactions I’ve seen outside my own friend group, with bloggers confessing they made certain decisions to deliberately put her at a disadvantage, playthrough-makers announcing they don’t really care if she dies and that they’d rather focus on saving her trodden-down boyfriend Matt, whom she’s horrible to, and everyone—including me, I regret to say—calling her a bitch at least once.
Listen, though: Emily is a bitch. She is basically packaged to be what society defines that as: she’s angry, petty, domineering, manipulative and self-serving, and is a vain young woman to top it off. Compared to other female characters in the game like the heroic Sam and the emotive, submissive (comparatively, anyway) Ashley, there’s very little incentive for the player to warm up to her. It’s Until Dawn’s lack of character depth and development, obviously, which leaves her only as the archetypal Bitch™ with no more layers to her (aside from a cryptic mention from Dr Hill that “an abundance in confidence can often mask a lack in confidence”) and contributes to so much hate and name-calling. But it could also be that nothing about Emily’s stubbornness, assertive attitude or anger is packaged in a way that’s appealing. There’s nothing cute about her anger, nothing about it that’s moulded into an attractive archetype… she’s just a terrible person. And I love that about her. Continue reading
When a character in The Sims 2 dies, whether because they’ve reached old age or their pool ladder has mysteriously disappeared, the Grim Reaper comes to collect them, makes some notes, mumbles in a deep and gloomy voice, then disappears in a shaft of light. The dead Sim becomes either a little grey urn, or, if you move the object outside, a headstone, and the house that pot or grave marker sits in will henceforth be haunted by a disgruntled ghost of the appropriate colour (red for death by fire, blue for drowning—who also leave infuriating puddles all over the place). This was, in a weird but real way, my first exposure to the funerary process. I mean, minus the colour-coded ghosts, dead people do magically turn into either urns or headstones, right? Continue reading
There are few things more fun than a (well done) villain to hero story, whether it’s a redemptive arc like Zuko’s or a heartfelt rebellion like Finn at the start of The Force Awakens. A surefire way to switch up alliances is to throw brainwashing into the mix, a la Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes or Princess Twilight from the current wholesome and unstressful light of my life Go! Princess Precure. Just un-brainwash ‘em and you have a perfect new member of your main cast of good guys, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as a villain-to-hero story is often more complex, especially when it deals with the kind of trauma and guilt that comes from being the enemy’s human weapon… which, interestingly enough, I’d argue that the kids’ anime about magic princesses does much, much better than the blockbuster superhero series. Continue reading
If there’s one thing that’s going to make a high school melodrama about two straight kids stand out and grab my attention, it’s a supernatural element. Plus, I’m always intrigued by time travel and its more mundane, personally-motivated (you know, travelling back in time to help your friend, as opposed to travelling back in time to kill Hitler) uses in stories. 9 Seconds – Eternal Time seemed to push all these buttons as it promised me the story of two young loners bonding when they find a camera that has the power to pause time. Continue reading
A beefy, black-clad, gel-haired, sometimes-badly-tanned man stands dramatically in the middle of a desert. He did not believe in ghosts, he tells you, in a deep and strangely jarring monotone. Until he came face to face with one. What follows are high-contrast images of creeping shadows, sped-up footage of anonymous scary-looking women in white dresses, someone with what I assume is meant to be blood but looks more like lipstick gone wrong around their mouth, and flickering grayscale images of frightened-looking or conspicuously-posing members of the cast. The strange fusion of jock, nerd and theatre kid stereotypes is Zak Bagans, the other guys are his paranormal investigation crew, and these are their Ghost Adventures. And you can already tell you’re in for a wild ride of reality television.
Currently with twelve seasons and still going strong, Ghost Adventures follows Zak and his team as they travel to reputably haunted locations and lock themselves in for a night to try and capture evidence of ghosts. Along the way, expect shoddy re-enactments of the local ghost stories, over-dramatic narration, and the three investigators inevitably screaming “BRO! HOLY [BLEEP] BRO! DID YOU SEE THAT DUDE? [BLEEP], DUDE” and/or “I can really feel an energy in here man. Holy [bleep].”
It is ridiculous. And it is the best reality TV show I have ever watched. Continue reading
After being so pleasantly neutral about The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and His Ex, it’s sort of morbidly satisfying to have the next obscure novel plucked from the sales shelf be one that I’m so baffled and outraged by.
Hey, it sounded fun—after all, what could be more ripe for comedy than the quirky, white-lit, commercial world of a home shopping channel? There’s something intriguing about that alien landscape and the glittering hosts who rule over it, whether they’re joyfully explaining what this particular powder makeup can do to clear your skin and improve your life or playing out entertaining fabricated loops of domestic bliss vs greyscale footage of clumsy terror in infomercials.
For some people, existing and thriving in this weird world of advertising is their job and their life. Sellevision asks “what must it be like behind the scenes?” in… what I assume was meant to be a satirical way.
Where do I even start with this? Continue reading