By Tyler Hodg
Beloved video game series Ratchet and Clank has made its way to the big screen, and much to fans’ delight, embodies the unique attributes that turned the franchise into something of substance in the first place. While the CGI film is bumpy at times, it never feels like a forced project developed strictly for monetary reasons, and celebrates the classic story that many have grown up with.
“The Rondo awards, named after Rondo Hatton, an obscure B-movie villain of the 1940s, recognize the best in classic horror research, creativity and film preservation. This year’s e-mail vote, conducted by the Classic Horror Film Board, an 18-year old online community, drew a record of more than 3,400 votes as fans chose among 35 categories.”
Well done, Rue Morgue!
If you’re looking for some new music this week, might we suggest checking out Popshifter’s exclusive stream of Bloody Knives’ I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This, which dropped on April 15? It’s shoegaze, it’s goth, it’s got gorgeous vocals, and it’s loud as hell.
Also on the new music list is a live album from Professor Longhair recorded in 1976, the Nigerian music compilation Wake You Up! Volume 1, and eccentric pop singer Dinner’s Psychic Lovers. Meanwhile, on the Everything Is Scary blog, I discuss how Manchester duo Demdike Stare’s collages of sound and imagery provoke responses akin to nightmares.
Have you ever heard of Clela Rorex? She issued the first gay marriage license in Boulder, CO in 1975, thus helping to chip away at bigotry and homophobia.
Matt Keeley at Unicorn Booty discusses, in detail, how the recent trans episode of Powerpuff Girls is actually transphobic. But on the other hand, there’s also a heartwarming post about how Rihanna helped one of her gay fans come out. With all the news of homophobic celebs, it’s nice to read something positive.
In further TV news, Tyler Hodg has finished Season 10 of Trailer Park Boys on Netflix. Despite being mostly disappointed with this season, he thinks that the finale was excellent and might even make you cry, in addition to paving the way for an even better Season 11.
Laury Scarbro is equally smitten with the most recent episodes of Outsiders and Sachin Hingoo feels much the same about Broad City. Speaking of Broad City, Sachin has a preview of the upcoming mini-series Time Traveling Bong, starring Ilana Glazer and Paul W. Downs. Rue Morgue gives Tom Noonan, who stars in the SyFy TV version of 12 Monkeys, the “Sinister Seven” and Biff Bam Pop recaps the premiere episode of Season 4 of Orphan Black!
In the mood for gaming? Although Tim Ford at Everything As Scary thinks Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked is less scary than its predecessor, he still gives it a fair shake.
There is much to discuss on the movie front. The casting of Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming film adaptation of Japanese Manga Ghost in the Shell has many crying “whitewashing” (and for good reason). Jeffery X Martin looks at the Death Walks Twice Giallo box set from Arrow, I am gravely disappointed in new horror flick 13 Cameras, and Women and Hollywood has a list of women-centric films playing near you this week.
Finally, if you haven’t heard of Doreen Valiente, that should change. This VICE article points out that this mother of modern witchcraft was also a pro-choice spy.
By Tyler Hodg
Full disclosure: I have never been a fan of anime, nor have I actually fully played any Final Fantasy games.
Blasphemy, I know.
Let Haircut 100 make you happy.
Our tireless SXSW Film Festival correspondent Brad Henderson has returned to bring you reviews of all the genre films playing at this year’s SXSW. First up, is The Greasy Strangler, which is as gross and weird as its title suggests. Look for more SXSW movie reviews next week on Popshifter!
Everyone has been talking about 10 Cloverfield Lane and Jeffery braved the multiplex to bring you this non-spoilery yet mega-praiseworthy review.
Stepping outside of the horror genre for a moment, Jeffery also checked out the unexpected delights of the new Pee-wee Herman movie called Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. Joe Manganiello obviously needs to take on more comedy roles.
Another premiere on Netflix this week is the much-anticipated second season of Marvel’s Daredevil. I’ve got the scoop on the first seven episodes of the season over at Biff Bam Pop.
In some exciting and unexpected TV casting news, Andy Burns at Rue Morgue reports that Canadian punk rock and acting legend Hugh Dillon is going to be on the new season of Twin Peaks next year. Yet another reason to tune in, as if you needed any.
Sachin has two Lucha Underground recaps this week because last week’s episode, “Death Comes In Threes,” threw him for a loop, and not necessarily in an enjoyable way. The good news is that the show has recovered quickly with the excellent “Life After Death.”
Another show that had a stellar episode was Outsiders, which as Laury reports, finally got some serious character development and plot momentum with “Weapons.” And on The Walking Dead, we’re still in “The Same Boat” in terms of zombies, people dying, and not actually seeing Negan’s face.
So much music this week! Melissa has reviews of three of this week’s best releases: a spectacular album from Grant-Lee Phillips, the crazy Americana compilation Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music from Numero Group, and a brilliant reissue of the already-brilliant and woefully underappreciated Pelican West by Haircut 100. And from S. Elizabeth at Dirge Magazine, a gorgeous analysis of the equally-gorgeous Full Circle from HÆLOS.
More music news comes from Unicorn Booty’s NOW HEAR THIS! where you can find out about Michelle Obama’s new single (WHA?!), The Pet Shop Boys, and Malcolm McLaren’s annoying son.
Look for reviews of new releases from Dirty Sidewalks, Iggy Pop, and Lust For Youth soon on Popshifter.
In gaming news, you might be interested in this report about how one of the reps for Oculus Rift is a straight(-up) douchebag.
Fannibals got a hint of this in Hannibal’s second season (Achilles + Patrocles 4 LYFE), here’s more evidence that Greek mythology is way gayer than you thought.
What happened this week on Today In Pop Culture? Speaking of Greek mythology, we discuss Caligula, in addition to the Ides of March, St. Patrick, Wings, and Perry Como.
On March 3, Marvel Games launched its “Women of Power” event. This includes 25 new comic covers for some of Marvel’s more popular characters, as well as merchandise celebrating those characters, and will extend into various gaming platforms.
I really see no downside to their plan here. I suspect this is, at least in part, in recognition of the ever-growing female audience in the previously male-dominated worlds of gaming, comics, and all things geek related. It could be said that females, girls and women alike, are more openly taking an interest in these sorts of things than ever before, but the truth of the matter is, we’ve always been here. We might not have been so outward about it, but we’ve been here.
The best board games are the ones based on timeless concepts. Monopoly is based on greed and capitalism. Candy Land is all about sweet yummy things and matching colors, all essential parts of being a functioning pre-schooler. It should come as no surprise that one of the most popular and enduring board games is based on language.
On this date in 1955, Scrabble hit the shelves, eventually becoming one of the best-selling board games in history.
We’re entering the busiest time of year when it comes to the videogames industry, where publishers seek to cash in on holiday spending by releasing their biggest blockbusters. It’s both a great time and a terrible time to be a gamer. It’s great because there’s no shortage of amazing new titles to play, but it’s terrible because our budgets and free time are limited, so oftentimes most of us need to be extremely picky about the games we get now, and which games we feel we can wait a bit to get into (at least till they go on sale).
By Tyler Hodg
Video games aren’t typically associated with Hallowe’en the way movies and music are, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have the ability to make you shake in your boots. And that’s why I’ve compiled a short list of games that could also be a part of the scary season.
Before you start screaming in the comment section, I purposefully left out series such as Resident Evil, Dead Space, and Silent Hill. Those are givens, guys.
Climate change. Isis. The police. A growing feeling of insignificance. These are the monsters we live with every day of our increasingly fragile lives, and in 2014 it affected our art in a very pervasive way. If it can be said that pop culture is the dream of our society, an expression of our collective unconscious scribbled onto our paper and video discs and maybe—I don’t know—Netflix’s data centers, then it can also be said that we’re starting to have an increasingly monstrous societal nightmare.
Now, that cultural nightmare, while increasingly scary, is also becoming more beautiful and deftly created every year. With the emergence of horror genre television, the return of weird fiction, and just the general exploration of the more unthinkable aspects of life in all entertainment media, it is becoming clear that those of us who live life connected to the cultural sphere have a very close relationship to the things that would otherwise keep us up at night. It’s also a great time to be a fan of horror.
Here are my picks for most notable monsters that haunted our cultural dreams in 2014.
Notable Monsters: Vampires, a werewolf, Dr. Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s monster, Dorian Grey, plague, heartbreak, the entity inside Vanessa Ives, probably a mummy
Primary Fear: We fear the monster inside of us.
Obligatory Best Of Classification: Most Exciting New TV Series
Penny Dreadful, which is my bid for most exciting new TV series of the year, is a pulpy gothic literature mashup in which the protagonists are plagued by the monsters within themselves. It’s an internal conflict that for some characters is explicit and obvious (a woman possessed by a demon, a werewolf), while for others it is poetic (Dorian Gray, Victor Frankenstein), and for a few it’s particularly nuanced (a cholera patient, a father haunted by the death of his son and the abduction of his daughter).
In Penny Dreadful the primary struggle involves a group of allies, each suppressing an inner monster, who wage war on the dark forces invading its fictional Victorian London. The most heroic action that can be taken in the show’s world is to acknowledge that you are a monster and then choose to fight monstrosity. As a viewer, this is an empowering and freeing message.
2014 was filled with myriad reasons to stand up and fight for what’s right, but for certain white, straight, and male demographics, the first step in most of those struggles was understanding one’s role in perpetuating the problem. Penny Dreadful acts as a pulp parable in this regard, showing us heroes that are well intentioned yet plagued by the fact that they contain within them some of the same evil that they are fighting.
Notable Monsters: Petyr, Nick, Vladislav, Deacon, Viago (vampire roommates); Anton and his pack of werewolves
Primary Fear: It’s tough being a monster these days.
Obligatory Best Of Classification: Best Movie
The New Zealand vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, despite having very few human characters, is a variation on the same theme as Penny Dreadful, albeit more optimistic (it is a comedy). Each monster character, from the vampire roommates to the werewolf pack lead by Anton (Rhys Darby’s micromanaging alpha male), is a piece of monster history trying to live and love in modern day Wellington.
I’m including What We Do In The Shadows here not because of its ability to illustrate a major fear, but because of what it says about all the other dark and despairing feelings on this list (also it was my favorite movie of 2014). Shadows avoids taking any sort of moral stance on monsters, electing instead to say, “OK, we get it, we’re monsters. But we still have to pay rent, right?”
Notable Monsters: Area X
Primary Fear: A world that is indifferent to us.
Obligatory Best Of Classification: Best Novel(s)
Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach trilogy of novels were all released this year, causing many readers and critics to declare the return of H.P. Lovecraft-style weird fiction. The books are an excellent experiment in narrative framing, each one changing format to keep the right things hidden to produce a premium sense of the uncanny and sublime. That said, the most remarkable aspect of VanderMeer’s trilogy is its central monster: Area X.
The Southern Reach books deal with an enemy that is difficult to comprehend. Cordoned off somewhere on the East Coast of the United States (I think), Area X is probably best described as a topographical anomaly which is creating a pristine wilderness out of our human world. It just does what it does, and if you are unlucky enough to bear the curiosity that might bring you close to Area X, it’ll do what it does to you, too. Area X would still create its perfect geography without humans, and it probably will continue to once it assimilates us all.
True to weird genre form, all three books do an excellent job of painting a picture of the unknowable. There are no answers in Area X, because answers are human. The Southern Reach trilogy uses horror and Jeff VanderMeer’s confidence to defy a reader’s lust for answers. Like a hurricane, flood, melting ice cap, or rogue asteroid, the terror of Area X is that it doesn’t require our definition to be hostile. The conflict is on a planetary scale, and we’re too small to matter. Area X will just change us and that’s something we have to accept.
Notable Monsters: Lisa (ghost); talking foetus in a sink; yourself
Primary Fear: There is no escape from this nightmare we’ve created for ourselves.
Obligatory Best Of Classification: Best Video Game
The playable teaser for the upcoming video game Silent Hills, known officially as P.T., was the best video game I played all year. It’s legitimately unsettling like no game has felt, potentially ever; it tells a heartbreaking story completely through simple gameplay; and it subverts the survival horror genre in a very upsetting way. That is to say, in P.T. you have no choice but to survive.
P.T. will not let you die. In previous Silent Hill entries, I always had a sense that the characters would be better off dead than be made to face their custom-tailored punishment. Character death always felt like a sort of emotional escape hatch, even if it was only ever just a frustrating illusion (obviously death is not an option in a narrative that has your character come to the end of the game).
In P.T. there is no “game over” screen. If you are murdered by the abused-to-death ghost of your wife Lisa, you wake up trapped in the same hall. All the doors are locked, even the morbid metaphorical doors, so the only choice (other than standing still) is to keep descending those spiral hallways haunted by the sins of your past.
Notable Monsters: @thereallisaching
Primary Fear: All meaning is created. Nothing matters.
Obligatory Best Of Classification: Best New Comedy
Review with Forrest MacNeil is the funniest new show of 2014 and a great example of how elements of horror are even invading half-hour comedies. The titular character has taken on the ambitious task of reviewing life itself on an item-by-item basis. After reviewing some of the more difficult parts of life—cocaine addiction, eating 15 pancakes, divorce, eating 30 pancakes—Forrest is confronted with the horror of reviewing the unknown.
A Twitter user named @TheRealLisaChing submitted a request that Forrest review bubble baths, but thanks to a computer glitch the intrepid critic is sent on an odyssey to the end of human meaning.
Forrest is driven temporarily insane on his quest to decipher the meaning of “There All Is Aching” (a broken up version of Lisa’s Twitter handle submitted by the non-existent @bubblebaths). It’s not long before Forrest is being treated to shock therapy, ingesting boatloads of prescription medication, and plotting an asylum escape plan with fellow inmate Emo Philips.
The positive way to look at There All Is Aching is how Forrest reviews it, before the reveal that he should have been soaking in warm, bubbly water instead of being electrically and chemically lobotomized: There All is Aching is a symbol of the struggle of our need to find meaning in randomness. When the glitch is revealed to him, though, it’s clear that no matter what we tell ourselves after experiencing the horrible chaos of the universe and surviving, it can only ever add up to, at most, a three-star experience.
Notable Monsters: Hannibal Lecter
Primary Fear: We are weak and don’t know what to do.
Obligatory Best Of Classification: Best. Just The Best.
So, if the world is terrible randomness and absurdly horrific, what are we to do? If you’re Abigail Hobbs in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, you do what Dr. Lecter tells you.
The second season of Hannibal is the best piece of 2014’s media I consumed all year. It’s beautiful to behold, intricately written, and does perfect justice to the modern king of monsters, Hannibal Lecter. Beauty and craftsmanship aside, the show’s second season strikes such a heartbreaking chord with its bloody climax that you feel terrifyingly weak as a human.
The entire series is a nightmare love story, and Hannibal Lecter, though not necessarily the main character, is the dark sun around which all the action orbits. He is both the prime mover and the perceived object of every main character. Whether they want revenge, like Will Graham; justice like Jack Crawford; fulfillment like Alana Bloom; or some kind of perverse vindication like Mason Verger, they all need Hannibal to tell them how to get it as the high-functioning psychopath dangles their greatest desire just out of reach.
Lecter is an anti-god, not motivated by the sadistic, but out of active curiosity and pride. Hannibal is an effective representation of our need for some sort of higher being and the fear that the one we put our faith in might be more interested in our mutilation, humiliation, and wine pairing than our actual well being.
We are all living scary lives, and the monsters we love to watch help us know our fears. Hannibal Lecter is an example of how those fears can be at once beautiful and paralyzing.
Peter Counter is a freelance pop culture and technology writer. He writes about TV and video games for Dork Shelf.
Every year I post my top five games of the year onto Twitter or Facebook, with little in the way of explanation. This year, I need to change that. The year itself has been a strange one: the titles I expected to be writing about such as Arkham Knight, Evolve, and next year’s obvious game of the year, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, all faced delays. It was a pattern across the industry, with more time needed for polish, and the titles that did manage to sneak out in time for the Christmas season have suffered major issues with performance, online play, or glitches. In fact, only Nintendo have seemed to have avoided this fate, although CEO Satoru Iwata’s mantra of “more time needed: please understand,” was one even the house of Mario couldn’t avoid, and several titles promised at an exciting E3 linger in the ether of 2015.