Tag Archives: horror

From Back In The Day, Episode 1: Sweet Home (Famicom) vs. Sweet Home (1989)

Okay, so when I said that my first From Back In The Day would be about Star Ocean: Til The End of Time, I lied. But this subject is far more interesting, I think and may just awaken you to things you had no idea existed. So instead, you get this.

In the distant year of 1989, in January, a new horror movie was released in Japan entitled スウィートホーム (1989), also known as Sweet Home (1989).

 

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The English caption at the top of the poster there actually has nothing at all to do with the film.

It was graphic, gory, and involved shadows that melt people. But at its most basic, it was just a haunted house movie. It was certainly enjoyable, and the make-up, special effects, and puppets were all pretty impressive.

Later that same year, in December, and also only in Japan, a video game was released on the Famicom by Capcom. This game could really only be classified as a survival horror RPG, and is, in fact considered not only the first survival horror game, but is indeed a precursor to Capcom’s many Resident Evil games. It was challenging, filled with puzzles, surprisingly atmospheric, tense, and creepy despite its 8-bit limitations, and brutal and violent to look at. Unfortunately, because it was so visually violent, it would not see an international release.

Luckily for me, some enterprising internet dweller decided to translate it and release it for emulation online, so I got to play it. This video game is entitled スウィートホーム, also known as Sweet Home. Coincidence?

No. The film and the game share the same title, because they tell the same story. The Famicom game is a remake of sorts. In fact, it’s said that the film’s director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, was deeply involved in the development of the game.

So, having experienced both the film and the game, I thought it would be an interesting venture to compare the two.

Like I mentioned, they share the same plot. A group of people enter the ruined mansion of Ichiro Mamiya, a famous fresco artist, in order to recover and document a lost painting (or paintings in the game). While there, shit goes down and people melt.

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It’s sad that we never got to see this majesty on our American NES. Oh, but seeing Hitler’s head exploding in Bionic Commando is fine!

Both the film and the game are, in their own ways, grind-fests. The film is pretty damn slow at the beginning, but picks up nicely by the end. And the game, being a turn-based RPG, requires a lot of level grinding, even moreso than many other RPGs considering that if one of your five characters dies, they’re gone for good, healing items are so rare, and each character can only carry two items at a time.

Normally, I would really hate such a limited inventory, but in this case, not only does it work, but it really works. It does wonders to add to your sense of desperation, having to decide which items you need to bring with you at what time. It makes you really think about the survival aspect of this survival-horror game.

As much as I wish Capcom would have taken the random encounters and all of those other JRPG elements out, with the limitations of the Famicom, it’s hard to imagine what else they could have done to keep the horrific and tense nature of the game at the same level.

Visually, both the film and the game are done remarkably well. Though it almost seems like a joke to compare the two. The filmmakers had a great deal more resources at their disposal than gamemakers for the Famicom. But both did very well with what they had. Though, the overworld perspective in the game is a bit off. They use the same character sprite no matter which direction you face, so it always kind of looks like the characters are laying on their backs. It’s weird.

Where the game kills it though, is in the soundtrack. The overworld themes do a great job of making you feel uneasy throughout, and the battle theme is frantic, giving you the feeling that every battle is a desperate struggle, even when it really isn’t. I rarely remember the soundtracks to movies, mostly because the soundtracks to movies are rarely a point of focus to filmmakers. And I can’t remember a single tune from the film.

But there is one deciding factor here when it comes to determining which version of the story I enjoyed more. And that is how the story is told.

Now, without giving the plot away, I can say that it is not bad, especially for what boils down to a haunted house story. It’s disturbing and just plausible enough to work.

In the film, the story is pretty much a mystery until a character, which had only been in the movie briefly until this point, just kind of comes out and explains everything… and then he melts.

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Did I mention the melting?

And you know what, that’s acceptable. They only have so much time to tell a story and cultivate a sense of mystery, a sense of horror, and a body count. And at least he was in the movie for a short time before just appearing to tell us everything that we were wondering.

But the game goes above and beyond here. The story is told mainly through journal entries of the owner of the mansion, through hidden messages in his frescoes, and through corpses that talk to you. And though the character mentioned above is in the game, and does shed some light on your situation, he’s only a small part of it. For the most part, you discover what happened and why by yourself, through your own investigation. And that’s just brilliant. It makes the entire game multitudes more immersive. And that puts it over the top. You discover the clues, you uncover the horrific reasons behind this haunting, and you put it all to rest or die trying. Some guy didn’t just come out and tell you what happened.

And it is that factor that makes Sweet Home for the Famicom superior to Sweet Home the film. As strange as it might be to think that a mass of 8-bit pixels and noises can be superior to a film with real-life actors and special effects. But it’s all in how the story is told, and the way the game did it kept the pacing even and the atmosphere tense and dreadful. And though the movie is pretty good, that one factor makes the game more successful in the endeavor of telling this particular story.

Now, if anyone who happens to see this post wants me to do a full review of either the film or the video game, let me know. But if not, this is all you get on the subject of Sweet Home, and I hope you enjoyed it.


A Horror Movie With Just a Dash Of Whedon: The Cabin in the Woods

I’m somewhat of a horror movie buff. At least, I was. In recent years, I’ve been considerably less inclined to see any movies, horror movies even less so. And that’s kind of sad, really. I have some vivid and very pleasant memories of going to see just about every horror movie that came out with my dad, from being awed by 28 Days Later (2002) to walking out of FeardotCom (2002) to seeing the remake of The Omen (2006) on the night that I graduated high school to laughing my ass off when Paris Hilton got impaled through the head with a pipe in House of Wax (2005). Hell, I pretty much grew up with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise (Freddy Krueger is still my favorite slasher villain of all time). So, the horror genre will always have a very special place in my heart.

But lately, I’ve found it very difficult to get excited about new horror movies, partly because my dad and I live in different states now, but mostly because it’s become near impossible to find a new horror movie with even a drop of creativity to it. Everything that comes out only seems to be a remake or just drivel. When the best horror movie that you’ve seen in the last, let’s say five years, is Scream 4 (2011), there’s clearly a problem. Perhaps I’ll review Scream 4 at a later date. But anyway, it seems the well has run dry for this particular genre.

Recently, however, I went to visit my father, and during that time, we decided to see a couple movies. One was Lockout (2012), and you already know my thoughts on that pile of creative fecal matter. The other was, if you haven’t guessed by the title of this review, was The Cabin in the Woods.

I remember not hearing too much about this film before seeing it, only that Joss Whedon was involved in some way (he was one of the writers). But that was enough to get me curious enough to see it in theaters (in case you didn’t notice in my Avengers review, I think rather highly of Mr. Whedon).

“My silly ginger beard gets more action than any of you.” – Joss Whedon

Even had I not known that Joss Whedon was involved, my dad and I had looked up some reviews before deciding to go, and they were all around pretty good. Four and five stars and 8s and 9s pretty much across the board. After seeing that, there was pretty much no way that we were going to miss it.

The film starts out like pretty much any horror movie ever, complete with Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth playing the stereotypical jock character. There’s also a stoner, a slut, a virgin, and a black guy. You know, the makings of every great horror movie. They all decide to take a road trip out to a creepy cabin in the woods (hey, that’s the name of the movie!) where horrible things are destined to happen to them. Seeing this, I was already disappointed. Joss Whedon is usually pretty good about avoiding the clichés. But there was something different and interesting going on behind the horror fodder. Richard Jenkins (the father from Step Brothers (2008)), and Bradley Whitford (the villain from Billy Madison (1998)) are working in some kind of studio where they seem to be influencing the environment around our favorite victims.  That alone made it different enough for me to continue watching.

And it turns out, I made a good choice there. For the first long while, The Cabin in the Woods continues like your general horror flick with a couple gruesome and comical deaths, all while the people in the studio are abuzz with activity, keeping up with the action. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on back there until they come out and explain it, but it was fun trying to come up with my own theories.

It was a good time. It had been awhile since I had just sat down with the old man and enjoyed a cliché horror film.

But then, near the end of the movie, the whole thing decides to just go bat shit insane! They reveal the big plot twist and the movie just loses its fucking mind. And that’s when the movie goes from good to great. You can tell that, during this part, every single person involved in the production of the movie was just having a blast. And I had a blast as a result. It’s so much fun and filled with all sorts of violence and ridiculousness and ridiculous violence and explosions and Richard Jenkins. Ah, it was a breath of fresh, gore and satisfaction-filled air.

Sadly though, the ending is kind of ehhhh. I don’t know. When it came around, the movie just kind of lost all of the momentum that it had built up over the last ten or so minutes and left a sour taste in my metaphorical mouth (while the Sour Patch Kids left a sour taste in my literal mouth. Ba-dum chh… Nothing? Aw, you’re no fun). It wasn’t a horrible ending, and it didn’t retroactively ruin the rest of the film or anything like that. And I’m not even sure how they could have ended it in a more satisfying way. But still, I have to subtract a point there.

As for the technical stuff, there’s nothing truly noteworthy to say. The acting was satisfactory, with a couple notable performances, mostly by Richard Jenkins and the stoner guy. But none of it was bad.

“My male-pattern baldness gets more action than any of you.” – Joss Whedon impersonating Richard Jenkins

The same can be said for the effects. The make-up was good and the CG was passable. And the average CG did kind of give it a cartoony kind of charm, even if it wasn’t great.

All-in-all, The Cabin in the Woods is a pretty wonderful movie experience, even if its score isn’t the highest that I’ve ever given. While the acting and cinematics are maybe just a little above average with some standout points, the plot and the psychotic episode the film suffers at the end make it absolutely nothing but enjoyable. Give it a watch some time, I say.

Story: 8/10

Acting: 7/10

Cinematics6/10

Total: 7/10: In my head, this movie got a higher score, but the math don’t lie.

Note to Hollywood: More Richard Jenkins!