Another week, another list of stuff I'm excited about. Read on and bask in the nerdiness.
Ghoul: Brian Keene's latest, Ghoul, finally hit mass market paperback last week. Naturally, I scored a copy and read that bad boy in about a day. Keene continues to impress, and while a lot of people clamor for more of his zombie novels (The Rising and City of the Dead), I like the direction he's gone in his last two releases, Terminal and Ghoul. Terminal was a very mature work that showcased Keene's ability to do more than simply be gross or write action-packed stories. It showed that when it came down to it, Keene could write a character-driven story wherein the people of the story's world were just as vital and richly drawn as the action around them. Ghoul ups the ante in just about every way imaginable. While reading it, I was sort of struck by the notion that this might be Keene's version of It. A sort of autobiographical monster story about coming of age in the '80s, it has a lot of similarities to King's last great novel. My only complaint is that It was roughly 1200 pages while Ghoul isn't quite 400. I really wish Brian would have had a larger canvas to paint his story, because I came away from it wanting to know a lot more about certain instances and events and the characters. Still, though, another example of why Brian's one of the most relevant horror writers working today. If you like this sort of stuff, you should be reading Keene. I'll quit beating that dead horse now.
The Wicksboro Incident: I have many passions in life, but a few of my absolute favorite things are horror flicks, documentaries, and conspiracy theories. So, when a film comes along that manages to mix all of these things together (well, it's a faux documentary—like The Blair Witch Project and The Last Broadcast), I'm usually first in line to see it. For some reason, though, I missed out on The Wicksboro Incident. This film, which came out in the wake of The Blair Witch phenomenon (and I still swear that BWP was a great movie), tells a story about an old man and two documentary filmmakers. The old man swears that Aliens are invading the Earth and that a town he once lived in—Wicksboro, Texas—was wiped off the map because of a project he and some fellow scientists were working on. Investigation soon leads our heroes to an abandoned field in the west Texas countryside—the place where Wicksboro supposedly once stood. There's nothing there—except a buried fallout shelter that served as the "laboratory" of the old man. When a cop finds them trespassing, all hell breaks loose. Government agents and maybe even extra-terrestrials masquerading as humans begin to hunt the trio down. Will they live? Will anyone ever see their footage?
While not without a lot of faults (and some plot logic holes—if this town disappeared back in the '50s, how come no one from the surrounding areas remembers it?), The Wicksboro Incident still manages to be entertaining. It has a slow start, but once it gets rolling I found myself genuinely sucked in to the fictional story the filmmakers had created. With a likable cast, the genuine look of a real documentary, and a wild story about Government cover-ups, The Wicksboro Incident will surely please fans of movies like Blair Witch and The Last Broadcast. It's rough around the edges, but it's still pretty fun.
Manhunt 2: One of my favorite videogames of last generation was Rockstar's Manhunt. In this wildly controversial title, you played James Earl Cash—a convicted mass murderer sentenced to death. Only, when your death sentence is carried out at the start of the game, you don't die. Turns out you've been rescued by a guy named Starkweather (the inimitable Brian Cox does the voice). Your newfound guardian angel isn't as cool as he seems though—Starkweather makes snuff films and you're his newest star. The director drops you in the wrong part of town and it's up to you to kill off the gangs he's hired to do you in. Subject matter aside (snuff films in mainstream videogames? I love it), most of the controversy this game spawned stemmed from it's ultraviolent and gory death scenes. Manhunt was a stealth game (like Metal Gear or Splinter Cell), only when you snuck up on an enemy you were treated to a close-up shot of you dispatching the bad guy (complete with grainy video camera-styled visual). Depending on a gauge, the closer you got before killing someone, the more gory the killing. Level three kills were just amazingly graphic and probably why I love this game so much…oh, that and Piggsy, a chainsaw-wielding maniac dressed up as a pig. He was too cool.
Anyway, Manhunt didn't sell particularly well, leaving fans to assume that we'd never see a sequel—until yesterday. I opened my inbox to find a press release from Rockstar saying Manhunt 2 will be released this summer. After thinking what the date was (April Fool's Day in the gaming industry can be particularly cruel), I got excited. We don't know much about the game at this point (there's a brief teaser trailer, but that's about it), and the trailer doesn't mention James Earl Cash at all (and if Cash isn't back, I'll be a bit disappointed), but I'm still looking forward to sneaking around in shadows and killing people in the most gruesome ways imaginable. Oh, and the coolest part? It's apparently being released on the PS2, the PSP, and the Wii. I can only imagine bashing someone's head in with a bat using the Wii remote…that's just too awesome.
And that's it for this week. Check back next week for more geeky goodness.
A film critic by trade, specializing in Euro-horror, cult exploitation, and Asian action cinema, Mike has written reviews for a diverse group of print and online publications. He covers horror news, movies, books, and games at TheHorrorGeek.com and Horrorsquad.com and spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture game show, Beat the Geeks.
Mike's childhood was spent playing videogames any time he got a chance. His parents had a Pong console and his grandmother had an Atari 2600, where Mike cultivated his skills by playing hour upon hour of games like Space Invaders, Berserk, and Asteroids. From those early experiences Mike learned one thing: he loved games.
In 1999, Mike became a staff reviewer at Cinescape Magazine's website where he spent a year learning the craft of game criticism. After internal changes led to Mike leaving Cinescape in late 2000, he joined up with RPGFan in 2001 and spent several years writing reviews for them. Happy, but looking for an opportunity to expound on a wider variety of titles, Mike joined GameCritics.com and hopes to help Chi, Dale, and the rest of the GC staff bring a higher level of respect to the field of game criticism.