Halloween Movie Night

Traditionally, Halloween night is a night when I get together with friends and watch awful horror movies and if that’s not possible, Halloween III (it’s an absolute classic – don’t you judge me).

This year that’s not proving possible, sadly, but over the last couple of nights I’ve been entertaining myself watching some classic films on the Netflix and Amazon Prime (now that I’ve discovered how to work Amazon Prime on the laptop). My plan for later tonight is to watch Eat Locals and possibly It (Part One) depending on when the last trick or treater turns up.

Although that said I might just watch Dog Soldiers again. It’s been about a month since last time I watched it. Decisions, decisions.

However, before I do that, here’s half-a-dozen recommendations for great (for a given value) movies that you might enjoy this Halloween evening. They’re all either on Netflix or available free with an Amazon Prime subscription because I am nothing if not cheap. They’re not explicitly Halloween movies – I watched “Tales of Halloween” last night to see if it would make the cut and it didn’t and that was the only explicitly Halloween themed movie on my watch list. It wasn’t bad incidentally, just not great. And this list has both Lifeforce and The Lair of the White Worm on it.

Damn now I feel bad for Tales of Halloween and want to add it back onto the list but I’m going to be strong. Watch it if you like – one or two of the stories are fun and there’s plenty of knowing nods to the genre but it’s not making the cut tonight so stop hassling me. God!

I’ve presented them in chronological order, because there’s no point doing a list in order of worst-to-best when all the entries are just great. Arguably.

TL:DR – watch Ghost Stories (2017) if you’re only watching one spooky movie this Halloween

The Monster Club (1981, Amazon Prime)

The Monster Club

Vincent Price plays Vincent Price better than anyone else.

Vampires sup, werewolves hunt, ghouls tear, shaddies lick, maddies yawn, mocks blow, but shadmocks only whistle.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for anthology movie horror. To be honest if I’d planned this better I’d just have watched anthology movies and called it a day. I was ambushed by this while looking for something else (Lair of the White Worm in fact) on Amazon Prime, and immediately watched it again.

It’s actually a pattern with the Monster Club. I have a memory of first watching this years and years ago on the television while looking for something else, and then finding the original collection of short stories it’s based on thirty years ago while browsing the library in Sunderland. It pops up unexpectedly, and cheers me up whenever it appears.

Wikipedia tells me the Monster Club flopped when it was released which is a crying shame. The last movie from Amicus (who made some absolute classics several of which I note are also on Amazon Prime), it’s a delight to watch.

It has three stories – the Shadmock which is sad and strange; the Vampire which is humorous and contains Donald Pleasance; and the Ghouls which is one of my hands-down favourite stories of the horror genre for… reasons.

In two of them the humans are arguably the real monsters. In the third one … not so much. In fact this theme – that humans are just as monstrous as vampires and werewolves – forms the coda at the end of the framing sequence which is set in the Monster Club itself. In a way it’s a little odd that the monsters in the third story are so unsympathetic given the previous stories but I suppose you could make an argument that the point of the Ghouls is that humans make accommodation with monsters while monsters act out of neccessity. Or something.

Regardless, it’s a short movie with some truly outrageous musical interludes and three fun and inventive horror tales. Give it a look why not.

Surprise Appearance: Patrick Magee. Although to be fair with this kind of movie it’d almost be a surprise if Patrick Magee wasn’t in it.

Pumpkin Rating: Four generous pinches of pumpkin spice. It’s only got three stories in – I’d give it the full five if it had one more tale in. Also I’m not a disco fan. Sue me.

Tangent: Honourable Mention

I also want to quickly mention three other anthology movies that I’ve enjoyed recently. Sadly none of them are on Netflix/Amazon Prime at the moment but they are bound to turn back up again eventually. All three are worth a squizz when they do if you haven’t seen them already.

Southbound – a grim sequence of nightmarish stories that follow on one from another full of unsettling imagery and sinisterness. There’s a lot of guilt here, and nobody gets out these stories unscathed – and nor do they deserve to.

XX – A classy anthology movie part of whose claim to fame is that it’s horror by female directors. The Box is very good and very dark; the Birthday Party is funny in a horrific sit-com sort of way that makes it feel a little like something that would happen to Hyacinth Bucket; the Fall is okay but suffers from having annoying young people in it; and Her Only Living Son is excellent and arguably moving. I’d watch it.

Trick ‘r Treat – We watched this as our Halloween movie years back with Prof Woody. Definitely watch it if you haven’t already. It’s full of familiar faces, and has a real EC Horror Comics vibe with slick visuals and loads of atmosphere. The fact that the stories are all taking place on the same night and gently bump up against one another adds just the right amount of pumpkin spice. It’s maybe a shame there’s never been a sequel although I imagine it’d be challenging to get the same degree of quality.

Lifeforce (1985, Netflix)

Lifeforce

A pretty uninformative poster that inexplicably plays up the science fiction rather than the naked space-vampries destroying London.

That remark is not for publication gentlemen – this is a D-Notice situation.

This is not a good movie. It’s a great movie! It’s like the weird lovechild of a pants 80s genre movie. A 70s Hammer movie, and a 60s Quatermass movie with added nudity!

It begins by quickly hand-waving the fact that this space shuttle has earth-like gravity because… science! It contains a scene in which a security guard tries to coax a naked woman with a sandwich, and one in which our hero slaps a nurse around because she is “…a masochist, an extreme masochist.” It culminates in sexy space-bat vampires destroying London.

It’s a movie that veers between excellent and terrible in the space of two lines of dialogue. To be honest it is at best a flawed movie and probably actively problematic. It’s … well it’s pretty 80s if I’m honest.

It’s textbook straight male gaze for example. I remember my sister back in the day complaining vociferously that there’s plenty of full-frontal nudity of the lady-space-vampire, but that the best you get to see on the men is the occasional bum. That said, I still laugh quietly every time the shot of the two male vampires appears where their tackle is tastefully concealed by the reflection of a light strip.

In a piece of trivia I found when reading up on this movie on Wikipedia, one of the male vampries is a younger brother of Mick Jagger, and the other was in both ‘Allo ‘Allo and the Dr Who story Silver Nemesis. Thank you wikipedia, font of all knowledge. I wish you’d been around 30 years ago when I was having a heated argument about whether the second male vampire was the guy from that advert. Wait no not that advert. This advert.

Anyway.

The story itself is a familiar one. Boy meets girl inside giant space ship hidden in Halley’s Comet. Boy loses girl during disaster on magic space shuttle. Girl destroys London. Boy finds girl again while energy vampire zombies run amok in the streets.

The tale of space vampires devastating London interweaves with the tale of an American astronaut with secrets and a dodgy British SAS fellow chasing a nurse around the Home Counties that is an almost classic example of the “get them out of the location on a wild goose chase so that it can all go wrong”.

Yet there’s more to it than that. For all its flaws, there’s something deeply satisfying about Lifeforce. It’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It doesn’t engage in too much exposition, and while there are a few obvious plot holes it’s easy to ignore them and focus on the dreadful special effects, the variable acting, the corny dialogue, and the occasionally naked underwear models tearing apart the capital.

The Prime Minister turns into an energy-vampire-zombie incidentally. Which I find prophetic.

Pumpkin Rating: Four slighty-past-their-best small pumpkins. Less excruciating nudity, less hilarious slapping of nurses/soft-core porn, and maybe a stronger actor in the lead would all earn it an additional half a star.

Surprise Appearance: Patrick Stewart. He has hair!

Lair of the White Worm (1988, Amazon Prime)

Whist lad had yer gob I’ll tell yers all an afful story

Lair of the White Worm

I wrote this entire piece without saying “I got your white worm right here” but in all fairness that is probably a bit too subtle for this movie.

This is the move I was looking for when I found the Monster Club and watched that instead. I caught up with it last night. It’s… I want to use the phrase “still an absolute classic” but I’ve become aware that not everyone things those words mean what I think they mean.

Its still an absolute classic though.

It’s a Ken Russell movie; this knowledge should cause you to brace yourself slightly before going in. Do not take it seriously, just relax and enjoy the foolishness.

I first watched it late one night on I think Channel Four and loved it; thank goodness my parents had gone to bed however. It’s not precisely subtle. Part of the tale is a retelling of the Lambton Worm (a story for which I have a definite soft spot), but shifted a couple of miles and altered to Dampton for some reason. There’s a song. The song is brilliant.

There are many dreadful things about this movie, from at least one unconvincing accent through a disturbing strap-on dildo, to a scene with nuns in (it’s a Ken Russel movie remember), and a climax with a white worm that is only slightly less shonky than the giant Dampton Worm puppet that appeared in the hilarious village fete sequence.

It also contains the least subtle use of a red marker pen ever in the movies ever. And this is in a movie about a giant white snake that lives in a cave and has a taste for virgins.

In another life, this would have been a Call of Cthulhu scenario in White Dwarf. Or, with the careful removal of all the sex and violence, a pants BBC six-part paranormal thriller from the 80s. I say both of these as a good thing, obviously.

It has a surprisingly star-studded cast for a low-budget B-movie, and one of the high points for me is Amanda Donohoe as Lady Sylvia. There’s something about her performance that in my opinion drags the whole movie up a couple of notches. Maybe it’s the fact that she regularly expressed exasperation that the idiot Scooby Gang are blundering around and foiling her plans mostly be accident. It’s hard to put it into words – watch the film yourself and see what you think.

The scene with the boy scout is awful and problematic and also one that makes me laugh every time. Because I am fundamentally broken inside.

Pumpkin Rating: Four-and-a-half pumpkin themed sweets that are not good for you. It’s a guilty pleasure inasmuch as I ever feel guilty about enjoying dreadful things.

Surprise Appearance: Half the cast. Especially Peter Capaldi and Hugh Grant.

Cabin in the Woods (2012, Netflix)

How hard is it to kill a bunch of nine year olds?

Cabin in the Woods

Man is the real monster. As are the monsters; they’re also the real monsters. Monsters, is what I am getting at here.

I love this movie. The first time I saw it it immediately went into my constantly shifting favourite ten movies of all time and has stayed there ever since. It starts off in a pleasantly familiar fashion – a quintet of friends go to the titular cabin in a van, and discover a basement full of cursed horrors and then monsters and people die horribly.

Obviously there’s more going on than that, but I don’t really want to say too much for fear of spoiling it for people who haven’t seen it. Which means this is going to be a pretty short review.

If you enjoy horror movies, then it’s worth watching at least once. It’s clever, and slick, and wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve, and has some pretty damning things to say about the modern horror movie genre. To quote Whedon “… it’s a serious critique of what we love and what we don’t about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be all right but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don’t like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances.“

Can’t argue with that.

The dialogue is funny – Joss Whedon co-wrote it with Drew Goddard who might not be as instantly recognisable as Whedon but has some meaty writing chops. I struggled to find a specific line to stick at the top there’s so many (I nearly went with “I’m on speakerphone aren’t I?”).

The commentary is sharp. The “people do unspeakable things in the most banal fashion” dial is turned up to eleven. Heck, it’s aaaarguably a treatment of the Trolley Problem that could in theory raise some questions about the ethics of the ending in a way that Ms LeGuin and the people of Omelas might find familiar. Yeah! Literary references. Take that! Liberal elite represent!

Ahem.

In conclusion, I found it to be one of those dense movies that rewards a second viewing to catch some of the stuff you missed the first time round. But if you can, go in cold the first time and let the story unfold around you. It’s worth it. Probably.

Number of Hemsworths: One (Chris)

Pumpkin Rating: Five excellent glowering jack-o-lanterns. One of my favourite movies in this genre or otherwise.

Surprise Appearance: Sigourney Weaver is in it for about five minutes and is as always excellent.

The Rezort (2015, netflix)

The Rezort

It’s not really about the zombies

I’m a businesswoman in a world of new priorities, and you pay for it.

You like zombies? This movie got zombies. You like slightly heavy-handed social commentary? This movie got slighty heavy-handed social commentary. You like it when the humans are the real monsters? This movie got humans being the real monsters.

This isn’t a zombie apocalypse movie as such – although if I had had more wine I might talk about the idea of the zombie apocalypse in a small space which is kind of what happens here. Rather it’s a post-zombie apocalypse movie. The zompocalypse happened, then it ended, and now people have moved on with their lives.

Not all the zombies are gone, though. There’s one place on the planet apparently where they still remain – a private island which hosts the eponymous Rezort. People go there to shoot carefully herded and presented zombies. It’s Disneyland with post-human cannibal horrors and white wine spritzers and little cars right out of Jurassic Park. And like Jurassic Park, the Pirates of the Carribean ride comes alive and starts eating the tourists.

Although to be honest, like all the best zompocalypse fiction, it’s not really about the zombies.

Our hero is a woman coping with the trauma of the apocalypse for whom group therapy isn’t working out any more. She decides to try something different – shooting her trauma with a gun – and takes her boyfriend along with her. She meets a bunch of dreadful people also visiting the resort, and on their first day out the wheels come off with hilarious consequences.

Obviously the party of tourists and their guide get stranded, and then die one by one in gory fashion. So far so standard. It even has the semi-traditional “ticking clock” in the form of a Brimstone Protocol – a grand name for when the authorities unleash fuel-air explosives into an infected area to cauterise the outbreak before it can get out of control.

For all that it is a bit by-the-numbers, to my mind The Rezort manages to be a cut above the usual straight-to-Netflix zombie movies. The production values are higher for a start. Dougray Scott is in it, and is as dour and mysterious as he has ever been. There’s a mystery in the background that slowly unravels in a manner Chekov would be proud of.

There’s two things that set this apart specifically for me.

One is that the thing I took to be a plot hole in the first ten minutes is not a plot hole and indeed raises some grim questions about the post-zompocalypse world.

The other is a bit more specific and may not apply to anyone else, and it is the presence of Jassa Ahluwalia as one part of an e-sports-winning duo with Lawrence “chocolate fireguard” Walker. Jassa played Rocky in the underrated BBC Three comedy series Some Girls which I quite enjoyed back in the day. As is my wont, I like to imagine that this movie is a sequel to Some Girls and that the series took a distinctly dark turn once the zombies started eating people. I told you it was specific.

Pumpkin Rating: Four plump pumpkins. It’s not rocket surgery, it’s not Shakespeare, but it’s an enjoyably sincere zombie survival horror movie which always at the back of my mind is reminding me of a turn-of-the-century survival horror game.

Surprise Appearance: Nobody specific leaps to mind. I imagine Dougray Scott took all their surprise actor budget.

Ghost Stories (2017, Netflix)

GhostStories

In some ways this is the most Halloween movie movie on this list. If you only watch one tonight, watch this one.

We have to be very careful what we choose to believe.

It’s scary. It’s dark. It’s grim.

It’s brilliant. It’s about a man who dedicates his life to debunking the supernatural and… well that’s about all I’m going to say.

It’s Andy Nyman for whom I have had a soft spot ever since Severance and Dead Set and Campus. He’s great in everything he’s in. It’s Jeremy Dyson, the one from League of Gentlemen that nobody ever remembers because he just wrote stuff. It’s adapted by them from their stage play – which I’ve not seen but I understand is quite good.

As with Cabin in the Woods, I’m not going to say too much about it. It’s beautiful to look at, and builds an almost suffocating air of menace and dread that makes the actual horror when it happens almost a relief. Particular gold star for use of “someone with their back to you” which is a trope guaranteed to get the hair on the back of my neck to pack its bags and move to Iceland.

While it’s based on a stage play but I didn’t find it especially stagy. The acting is top notch, the special effects are wonderful, and it pulls the rug out from under you with style and aplomb.

I watched it in the cinema the first time, and spent a lot of time pressed back in my seat making the occasional yelping noise especially during the first sequence with Paul Whitehouse.

I think it’s very good indeed, is what you should take away from this.

Pumpkin Rating: Five great big haunted pumpkins. A great anthology story, that isn’t really an anthology story, and provides genuine scares. Watch it with the lights out.

Surprise Appearance: Martin Freeman.

Six-and-a-Half Days to Die

SevenDaysCover

Despite the telltale Telltale logo in the bottom right its not a Telltale game as far as I can tell.

It being nearly Hallowe’en, I spent a pleasant evening playing zombie-horror survival game 7 Days to Die courtesy of Matt Heath and his spare Humble Bundle codes. I’m nothing if not late to the party given the game launched in 2013. Still, I never let a game being six years past its sell-by date put me off.

The Game

The game is pretty straightforward first-person survive-em-up. You start naked in a random spot – in my case on the default map which is Navezgane apparently based on real-world Arizona – and then survive. There doesn’t seem to be anything more than that going on and to be honest I’m not that fussed. I’ve played hundreds of hours of Skyrim, for example, and never once finished the main quest because I’m not a main quest kinda guy. Having an entire game where there’s no main quest suits me down to the ground.

It’s also a building/crafting game – basically Minecraft with lots and lots of zombies and a slightly less blocky graphics style – which is a genre I’m enjoying quite a lot at the moment. It’s a long way from My Time At Portia (which is what I’d been playing previously), to put it mildly. It’s also a lot less polished.

It’s familiar stuff – punch trees and grass to get basic materials, turn them into tools to let you gather materials more efficiently and then make clothes and armour and walls and tools and bicycles. All while dodging (or shooting in the head) zombies, zombie vultures, and zombie dogs.

There seem to be a variety of zombies, in that some of them are clearly tougher than others. Some of them wear helmets which in my opinion is cheating. I know somewhere out there there’s some that spit goo because of course there is.

The main game loop is based around the fact that during the day zombies are slow and sluggish but at night they are fast and nasty. You scavenge during the day, and you hide at night. Or at least that’s what you do it you’re me.

The Goal

Having played six previous games of varying success, I decided to go all-out for my eight-more-days-to-Hallowe’en (siilver shamrock) play through and try to do what it said on the tiny – survive until day seven.

If you’ve read the title of this rambling post you’ll already have an idea how well that went.

Character Sheet

This is my oh-so-moody looking character. He’s got a second hand t-shirt, a duster he found in a car boot, a hat he found in a duffel bag in the middle of nowhere, some big chunky boots, and a pair of trousers he wove out of grass because apparently there are no trousers in the zombie wilderness. Come to think of it I’ve not seen any sports bras either. Hmmmm.

Day One : The Tale of Tree Puncher

Things got off to an inauspicious start. The game plonks you in a random location (naked apart from tasteful long boxers) and this time round it had plonked me in the desert. I nearly started over immediately, but I knew if I did I’d feel like a cheat so I decided to go with it.

The “tutorial” basically consists of a set of straightforward missions that get you to build a series of basic items – bedroll, stone axe, wooden club, My-First-Longbow, that kind of thing. That’s about all the handholding it does. You can do these quests in about three minutes. They give you some bonus skill points (the game has a large number of perks which, following my usual strategy in this kind of scenario, I mostly spent on being able to carry more stuff. You can never carry enough stuff in this kind of game).

The last quest sends you off to the nearest trader, but I decided to ignore that for the time being. I spent the first day running around punching and hacking at trees, and getting a feel for the lay of the land. Spotted a house by the lake and made a mental note to explore that once I’d build a basic panic room in the upstairs of a nearby derelict house.

Then night fell.

Night One : All Walls Must Apparently Fall

If the game has a flaw its the night cycle. Because I had an adequate panic room (or so I thought) I just planned to hunker down in a corner and make some stone arrows and maybe cook some roadkill. Unfortunately, I managed to attract the attention of some of the nearby walking dead who invaded the house, and knocked down my door.

I fought them off – having stupidly not left myself an escape route out of the panic room that wasn’t through the zombies breaking into it – and then discovered I’d not got the wood to replace the damaged door. Or the wall. The fighting attracted more zombies who came in through the wall which was less than helpful. What even are walls for if they don’t stop zombies smashing through them?

So I had to dash out and get some more wood, at night, while zombies shambled quickly towards me. It was a bit hectic. Then I discovered I’d blocked the stairs efficiently enough to stop me getting up them, but not efficiently enough to stop zombies getting up them. Its a long story.

I had to quickly build a ladder and break into my own house through a random window, then repair all the damage, then hunker down for the last few hours.

Night in the game lasts officially from ten until four in the morning. It’s both a strong part of the game, and a weak part. It’s strong because its atmospheric and drives a lot of the survival elements. You sit there straining to hear zombies, or the sound of them breaking things. Otherwise it’s silent apart from the odd bit of mood music that helps up the tension a little.

It’s weak because it seems to last about ten minutes during which – at least in the early stages and if you are me – you just sit in total silence, in the dark, doing nothing because your stealth is not very good and if you make too much noise there is a good chance a passing zombie will hear you, smash through your wall, and kill you. In the dark.

The games atmospheric, at least. Assuming you’re a wuss, obviously.

Day Two : The Lakehouse

The Lakehouse

The Lakehouse. It’s a bit cooler inside. Also darker. It’s actually a bit prettier than this but the excessive desert heat appears to be making it hard for me to focus.

I survived the night. I built a lock box, and slapped it down next to my sleeping bag in my slightly-more-secure panic room.

Sleeping bags, incidentally, are where you respawn if you die. You reappear next to the last sleeping bag you put down. Naked. This can be less than ideal for reasons I will come to later.

Being a desert, water was at a premium but luckily I’d spawned near a lake and already spotted an interesting house on the far side of it. Locking all my spare junk in the lock box, I set off for the lake to fill up some tin cans I’d found in a toilet (don’t ask) with lovely dysentry-flavoured lake water.

While there, I nipped over to have a look at the lake house and it was as I’d hoped reasonably intact with a fortifiable lower level and a lootable upper level. Only the second morning and I’d already mentally abandoned the panic room that had served me so ineffectively the night before. I spent the next bit of the day piling things in front of windows, boiling the dysentery out of the water, and dismantling some tables.

I also found a locked door. It intrigued me but as night was coming on I decided not to spend the time smashing it in to see what was on the other side. Plus I’ve seen enough zombie movies to know that what was on the other side might well have been zombies.

Second night was spent sitting in the dark. I managed to attract some zombies – again – because I hadn’t realised opening and closing lock boxes made noise. I fought them off, but not before they’d smacked two very inconvenient gaping holes in the side of my second panic room.

I spent four hours squatting in a corner, my bow trained on first one then the other opening, staying very still indeed while the occasional zombie horror wandered past. It was reasonably chilling.

Day Three : Making It Work

As soon as the zombie cock crowed, I dashed out and chopped some precious, precious trees down. The desert has a lot of cacti but not a lot of trees (perhaps unsurprisingly) so wood was a valuable resource. I used the wood to barricade up all the holes my unexpected guests had made, then put a load of spikes around to inconvenience them.

Remember those spikes. They’ll be mentioned again soon.

With the new base somewhat more secure, I nipped over and grabbed my stuff from the first even less secure panic room because I cannot help myself. There was nothing there of any real value but the fact I had crafting resources in the wrong place where I couldn’t easily get to them niggled at me.

These resources were heavy. I staggered back across the desert to the lakehouse at half speed because even with all my initial points going towards caryring mroe stuff… you can never have enough carrying capacity.

During the third day I also got more practice in with My-First-Longbow. I’m a big believer in stealth in this kind of game – my default Skyrim character is sneaky with a bow and his cousin “Fallout Guy” is sneaky with a rifle. They both tend to have charisma too, but the zombies have demonstrated no real interest in witty repartee so I imagine that won’t carry over to this game very well.

Night Three involved hiding in the new lair and this time nobody broke in. Triumph!

Fates Motel

The Fates Motel. I got a bit closer. Then I ran away again because there were zombies inside. I’m a sucker for sad stuff like this in games. Like that Mordiggian shrine in Fallout 3.

Day Four : Exploration

First thing in the morning, I smashed in the locked door. I was both pleased (and disappointed) to discover there were in fact no zombies behind it, but instead a locked gun cabinet. Which resisted all my attempts to smash it open. Apparently I needed lockpicks.

Oh well. I never like guns if I can fire arrows anyway. The ammunition is too hard to make. And also there’s all the noise.

Having proved that Lakehouse Base was secure as long as you didn’t run around slamming doors or whatever, I set off to do some actual exploring. I’d spotted a few buildings in the vicinity while out and about – as well as what looked a lot like an apartment complex tower that I’d already made a mental note to give a wide berth to.

The one that had intrigued me was a kind of gothic mansion on a hill. So loaded up with arrows, a cowboy hat, and a leather duster I’d found in a car boot, I explored more closely.

It turned out the house overlooked a little motel. The Fates Motel, in fact. Which was full of zombies and zombie dogs.

This made me chuckle a little. One of the things I like about this kind of game is exploring locations with character and this one had some character. It’s the best part of any Skyrim or Fallout game – sneaking into a dangerous location, surviving the monsters, and looting everything in sight before shambling slowly back to base because you’re overloaded.

The Fates Motel was quite nicely done. Because I’m into that whole immersion thing, breaking into each apartment in the motel in turn was full of sudden jump scares, sniping at sneaky zombies lying behind things, and generally running around having a whale of a time.

Then, in one of the bathrooms, I found a portrait. I’d not seen a portrait in any other bathrooms. So I smacked it, and low-and-behold it smashed to reveal a hole leading into the apartment next door that I had previously been unable to get into.

Thank you Norman Bates.

The next door apartment turned out to have a ladder leading down into the cellar. With some coffins. And a tunnel that blatantly lead toward the house. And some zombie cheerleaders.

So I had a little dungeon delve, and sure enough three zombie cheerleaders later we came up in the cellar of the Fates House. I didn’t get much further than this because while dispatching Norman Fates’ overweight uncle (or whatever) I manged to make enough noise to attract what sounded like half a dozen flesh-crazed monsters and there was no way I was fighting them in an enclosed space. So I ran away back down the tunnel.

And by run I mean “staggered and spent a lot of time leaning on walls catching my breath” because obviously I was overloaded.

Having cleared the motel section I nipped up to have a look at the house – which had clearly been the site of someone’s last stand. I smashed a few windows and snuck a look inside but there were zombie noises and my well-honed “don’t go into the house full of zombies” instincts took over.

On the way home I stopped in to see the trader and sold him some feathers. He gave me a quest. I ignored it.

Night Four passed like Night Five – huddled in the dark. I risked making a few arrows, but didn’t turn the fire on because light attracts zombies. So I sat in the dark shivering.

Day Five : Running Around Like A Headless Chicken With Sunstroke

Having had some success I did a quick dash round adding some extra reinforcement to the Lakehouse – blocking up the windows so I could stop hiding in the cupboard under the stairs and maybe expand out into the whole downstairs.

That done. I decided to take a look at some other nearby locations. A car showroom with a load of derelict cars in the lot yielded some loot. I weighted up the pros and cons of breaking into the actual showroom and decided against it because basically I’m a coward.

While I was looting the last sedan on the forecourt, I heard a very odd noise and to my surprise a plane went over… and dropped a parachuted-and-smoke-equipped crate into the nearby hills. Excellent! Supply drops! Probably a shotgun!

Unfortunately, I got distracted by zombie birds and missed exactly where the fucking thing landed. While trying to find it however I found a massive hotel, complete with swimming pool. I spent a few minutes poking around and even went into one of the hotel rooms… before exiting through the window pursued by a ravening horde of flesh-hungry Butlins staff.

You may have noticed that there’s a pattern here. Shut up.

This is where I got cocky, unfortunately, and decided that I might as well try out the trader’s fetch quest for some easy loot and experience points I could use to increase my carrying capacity. So instead of returning to base I followed the road up and round looking for a bridge to cross the river (and also additional loot).

I ended up having to establish a couple of supply caches in the boots of abandoned cars because there is only so much random scrap iron and bottles one man can carry.

There was a brief adventure with an army camp in which we discovered that the zombies who can smash through brick walls don’t find it any more difficult to smash their way through green canvas tents. That was a bit hairy, as I was taken a bit by surprise. But! I escaped valiantly from the army camp!

Unfortunately, this left me in the middle of nowhere with night drawing in. I pegged it along the road a bit further – and again I mean I shambled at the kind of speed that would make a three-legged tortoise embarrassed – and found a bridge and a gas station.

But it was getting dark. The last thing I wanted to do was to spend the time breaking into the gas station because it might well turn out not to be defensible or to be full of zombie cheerleaders.

Shack Interior

Interior: Shack. You can just about make out the escape ladder that leads up through the hole in the roof. It’s basically a glorified packing crate. I spent ten minutes sat in pitch blackness listening to zombies snuffle around outside.

Working desperately, I built a shack. If you’ve played Minecraft or Terraria you know what it looks like. Four blocks by four blocks three blocks high with a roof. It’s quite quick to build stuff in this game – thank goodness. I only had to stop halfway through and dash off and cut a tree down (and kill a zombie who’d been attracted by all the hammering) twice. I got the door on just as the sun set and then – because I had learned at least one lesson – I left a hole in the roof with a ladder leading up to it. If the worst came to the worst I could dash up the ladder, jump off the makeshift roof, and peg it into the night.

With that in mind I very carefully put all my spare stuff into a box. Then sat in complete silence for ten minutes, facing the ladder, while a bunch of zombies wandered around outside moaning.

Luckily, they were zombies and didn’t notice that someone had built an ugly wooden shack where there had previously been no shack.

Sunrise

Sunrise! Never has the light seemed so sweet etc etc I left the shack in place as I planned to expand it as a secondary base in the north with easy access to scavenging sites and tasty fresh dysentery. Oh, how Fate laughs at our plans.

Day Six : Pride Goeth etc etc

Another night survived! In a glorified crate! I celebrated by exploring the gas station which was quite fun if a bit nerve wracking. In the process I picked up a load of petrol for making molotov cocktails with. Hurrah!

Roof Camp

The roof camp. It’s a little thing but this kind of straightforward storytelling by location makes me happy. It made the broken-in door I’d found downstairs make more sense as well. Not shown: zombie Thelma and Louise who ate my face a bit before I clubbed them to death while swearing and trying not to fall off the roof.

On the roof, I got distracted by zombie vultures and while gutting one very nearly died due to an ambush by two actual zombies who had been hiding behind the air conditioner unit. I managed to survive, and found another one of those little story things. Someone else had been camping on the roof – I know because I found their  camp and their bloody partially-eaten skeleton.

After observing a moment of silence for the poor fallen survivor, I looted everything they had and jumped off the roof and ran off again leaving the zombies attracted by all the fighting and swearing to eat my dust.

One of the things I’d looted was some sunglasses – which was just as well as the heat was getting a bit much thanks to all that “desert” stuff. I put them on cockily, and reached the village where the goods the trader had sent me to collect were.

Huzzah! This was going to be a piece of piss! Find the stash, loot it, lock the doors and block up some windows, sit quietly while zombies rampaged outside, then fuck off back south with my ill gotten gains, deliver them to the questgiver, and do a celebratory dance!

Zombie Town Arizona

Pick up the stash, investigate that gas station, kill Phil, and fuck off down the Winchester and wait for all this to blow over. Bosch.

You can see where this is going.

So far, the only creatures that had really given me much hassle were the zombie dobermans. Breaking into the abandoned safehouse to get the stashed goods required navigating a tunnel and fighting past one of these fuckers that left me on even lower health than my earlier run-in with Thelma and Lousie and their vulture buddies. Still, I was confident I could handle whatever came next.

What came next was a ladder. A scary ladder leading up into the house.

I briefly wondered if I should just go back and attempt an entrance through one of the windows or – my usual modus operandus – the roof. But no! I had a cowboy hat, hobnailed boots, and some sunglasses! When man in a cowboy hat, hobnail boots, and some sunglasses finds a tunnel, he uses the tunnel!

Long story short there was another dog at the top of the ladder. I fell down the ladder trying to get away from it – My-First-Longbow is a lot less useful when trying to fight a creature that is already chewing your leg – and then the dog followed me down and ate my spleen.

Day Six-and-a-Half : Remember the Spikes?

I respawned, naked, back in the Lakehouse. All my gear was in the tunnels under the compromised safe house being guarded by an undead doberman fuck knuckle.

Still, I did not despair.

Okay I despaired a little bit – I’d screwed my self-imposed survive-seven-days challenge. But! I could come back from this! All I needed to do was grab the spare junk I’d stored in the Lakehouse, and get back north ASAP to reclaim my lost stuff and show zombie cujo who was boss.

Unfortunately… remember I’d blocked up all the windows to make the downstairs more secure before setting out on my ill-fated fetch quest? Well it turns out that what stops light getting out also stops light getting in… and my only light source was currently being used as a chew toy by Clifford the Big Black Zombie Dog.

Still, I managed to find the chest by carefully rotating the camera in pitch black, got some gear out, and left the cupboard under the stairs…

… forgetting I’d put spikes everywhere. I walked straight into them in the dark, panicked, run into some more, bashed off a door, ran out into the sunlight… straight into some more spikes and also a zombie surfer and died again.

Respawning inside. In the dark. With the spikes.

At this point, I guessed the Gods of Computer Game Karma were sending me a message and bowed my head and accepted defeat.

Conclusion : I’d Only Have Wasted The Time Anyway

It’s a fun enough game. It’s not exactly polished. It’s got at least some story built into its locations. It’s got zombies. It’s got the bit I like most in Fallout – exploring a wasteland at your own pace with the only gentle nudging being the need to eat and drink and not be killed by zombies rather than a bunch of quest markers.

I was engrossed enough I kept forgetting to take screenshots, although I am easily pleased, which may have some bearing on my enjoyment.

It’s technically a multiplayer game – one of those “you and a bunch of people spawn on a map and can cooperate or kill each other or whatever” and I suspect that element might be fun. Its about twenty quid on Steam at the moment, however, and fun as it is that feels a bit steep for a six-year-old game with blocky graphics. Hopefully the upcoming Hallowe’en sale will knock the price right down and I can convince some of my mates they want to break into some zombie-filled hotels and stab up the residents in their lunch hour.

Raff’s Score: 7/10

an enjoyable romp with some nuggets of story and plenty of scope for emergent narrative if you’re that kind of person. It probably helps if you’re easily pleased, like survival crafting open world horror and making your own entertainment, and are a massive wuss who gets spooked by tinny electronic groaning noises, mind.

Halloween