Game Guide for Horror Fans

It’s probably heresy to admit on this site, but horror isn’t my favorite movie genre.  When it comes to video games, though, it’s by FAR my favorite; seven out of my ten favorite video games fall squarely into the horror genre.  (You could probably make a case for Heavy Rain as well, since some of the trials the protagonist goes through are very Saw-like in nature, but I’d place it more in the thriller/action/interactive movie category.  I cannot, however, manage to make any kind of argument for Odin Sphere or Persona 4!)

Anyway, I figured that during this holiday season, you might be wondering what video game to get for your favorite horror fan, or maybe you’ve been wanting something for yourself.  Fear not, for I’m here to help!  This is, of course, by no means an inclusive list, and it’s a very personal one.  Just because I didn’t much care for The Evil Within (which is a damn shame, seeing as it was created by Shinji Mikami, the same man behind the Resident Evil series) doesn’t mean you won’t love it, so take this article for what it is: a highly opinionated selection.

A few notes before I begin: this list doesn’t include any first person games because they give me such terrible simulator sickness that I throw up and/or get a migraine, so I can’t personally vouch for any of them.  Also, although I love the Resident Evil series and count three of them among my favorite video games of all time (4, 2, and Code Veronica), I haven’t included any of them here because I am feeling awfully petty towards the Resident Evil folks right about now.  Why?  Well, Resident Evil 7 comes out in January, and—you guessed it!—it’s FIRST PERSON.  This is especially galling to me because the few moments of gameplay I’ve been able to safely watch before the nausea kicked in show that they’ve gone in a bit of a Silent Hill direction, so I’m quite unhappy and will have to console myself in the furry arms of Dead Rising protagonist Frank West when the fourth game comes out this month.

Unfortunately, I had to leave a couple of favorite titles off this list because they will probably be impossible to find or extremely expensive to acquire, but if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to take a moment to fangirl over them anyway.

RULE OF ROSE:  This intensely creepy PS3 game was described by The A.V. Club as “Lord of the Flies in petticoats”, and that’s pretty dead on.  You play as Jennifer, a teenage girl trapped in an orphanage with odd impish creatures and a group of bullies who force Jennifer to find tributes for them and, just for variety’s sake, occasionally do things like tie her up in a bag and toss insects inside.  Fortunately, Jennifer has one loyal friend: a dog named Brown, who helps her find items and keep her sanity.

Prior to its release, the game was plagued by rumors that the point of the game was to rape and murder a child; despite the fact that this was not even remotely true, the game was cancelled in several countries, and considering the violence dealt out and aimed at children, as well as hints of lesbianism and sexual abuse, I’m still amazed it was released in the United States.  The combat is absolutely dreadful, but the musical score, the graphics (at least for the time), and the heartbreaking story made it well worth a play.  It sells for hundreds of dollars online, but if you have a friend who owns it and is willing to lend it to you (don’t be offended if they require a deposit!), check it out.  At the very least, watch the opening cinema on YouTube to get a good idea of its general feel.

ILLBLEED:  I bought a Dreamcast because they said Resident Evil: Code Veronica was going to be a Dreamcast exclusive, and although that turned out to be false, I wasn’t even mad because the Dreamcast had some awesomely quirky games:  Seaman (interactively raise a sarcastic fishman), D2 (fight aliens in the Canadian Rockies and shoot a supercomputer that looks like a metallic vagina and oh, by the way, is the protagonist’s mother; no, I’m not joking), and this bizarre gem.  Eriko and her friends are horror aficionados, so when they hear about a horror theme park offering a reward of $100 million to anyone who can reach the exit alive, they jump at the opportunity.  It’s not a particularly scary game, aside from one area where you’re being chased around a maze by a flamethrower-toting freak, but it’s great.  Like Rule of Rose, I’m astounded it was released in the United States.  It’s got farting rump roasts that leap off the supermarket shelf to attack you, a butt-shaped statue that craps on you, an evil doll named Bloody Mary, crash test dummies, some breathtakingly politically incorrect moments, a level inspired by Tremors, and a bonus round in which you fight…well, it’s a massive spoiler, but let’s just say it really isn’t someone you would want to fight while wearing nothing but a few scraps of rags and some strategically smeared mud, as Eriko does.

CLOCK TOWER:  This game cribs so heavily from Phenomena (or, ugh, Creepers as it was known stateside) that it owes Dario Argento royalties, although it skips the ability to control bugs and the razor wielding chimpanzee (shame, that).  In this point-and-click scarefest, Jennifer (who looks exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, like Jennifer Connelly, the star of Phenomena) is undergoing treatment to recover from the trauma she underwent in the first game, which was never released outside of Japan.  After a string of brutal murders, Jennifer is afraid that Scissorman is back at it, so she and a motley crew of associates head back to Barrows Castle to see if they can end things once and for all.  The graphics are awful, and I’ve heard better voice acting in Cinemax After Dark movies, but man, is it frightening.  I will never forget clicking on a painting and Scissorman bursting through it; I screamed so loud I sent my cat tearing upstairs in a panic.

And now on to the games you don’t have to take out a loan or go on a scavenger hunt to play!  When a particular game has more than one installment, I’ve chosen my favorite.


WHY?  From its initial release in 1999, Silent Hill differentiated itself from the pack by emphasizing psychological terror over cheap jump scares, and I fell in love from the very first game and never looked back.  All of them are worth playing (even Origins, which I personally feel was extremely underrated, and Silent Hill 4: The Room, which suffered from some major issues but had enough good parts to even the score), but the crown jewel of the collection is Silent Hill 2.  Friends, if you can only play one Silent Hill game, make it Silent Hill 2.  Although playing the first game is helpful in that it gives you an idea of the town’s mythology, it’s not necessary; Silent Hill 2 works perfectly well by itself.  You play James Sunderland, a man who’s received a letter from his wife Mary, telling him she’s waiting in their “special place” in Silent Hill.  Well, that’s all well and good, except Mary is dead.  Understandably intrigued (and more than a little frightened), James goes to Silent Hill and is met by the usual monsters and bad guys, including the instantly iconic Pyramid Head.  (If you’ll allow me a side rant: Pyramid Head has appeared in other Silent Hill games, which CHEESES ME OFF.  Without going into spoilers, there’s a reason Pyramid Head is James’ personal tormentor.)  He also runs into a few other humans along the way:  psychotic Eddie, obnoxious little girl Laura, troubled soul Angela, and most notably, Maria, who looks like a tarted up version of James’ dead wife Mary.  Man, this game wrecked me in the best possible ways.  There are two scenes near the end that absolutely destroyed me; I had to put the controller down and pause the game so I could sit quietly with my thoughts for a moment.  It’s heartbreaking, terrifying, and my absolute favorite video game of all time.  A remastered, high definition version came out in 2012, and because it also includes the excellent Silent Hill 3, that’s definitely the one you’d want to pick up.



WHY?  In the first Dead Space game, you played as Isaac Clarke (please note the homage to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), a silent engineer fighting his way through the Ishimura, a mining starship overrun by alien creatures called necromorphs.  It’s fantastic, but the second one is even better, thanks to a stronger story, a deliriously horrifying segment set in a nursery, and a new enemy that made the skin crawl off the back of my neck and flee for safety.  These monsters look like huge plucked birds, only not nearly as funny as that may sound, and they like to play peek-a-boo around corners before running straight at you while making the most hideous sound I’ve ever heard in my life.  They rank only behind Silent Hill’s skinless children as the most terrifying enemy I’ve ever encountered in a video game, and it’s a much closer call than you might think.  This game is best experienced through headphones or with a great sound system; the sound design is perfection.


WHY?  If you like your horror liberally laced with humor, the Dead Rising series is the one for you.  Fight your way through thousands and thousands of zombies by any means necessary.  If you can pick an item up, it can be used as a weapon, from the obvious (assorted sharp objects, guns) to the unusual (food, fireworks, “personal massagers”).  And in Dead Rising 2, they added a new twist:  you can find blueprints that allow you to create a new combo weapon that is super deadly (a shotgun/pitchfork combo that allows you to pick up a zombie and systematically shoot each limb off), super funny (a teddy bear/machine gun hybrid that yells “RRRRAWR, COME GET SOME!”), or both.  Dead Rising 2 is my favorite because of this mechanic, plus protagonist Chuck Greene can GET it, but Dead Rising’s intrepid photojournalist Frank West has my heart forever.  Dead Rising 4 drops this month, and I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas gift.  (Hint hint, friends ‘n’ fam!)

FOR FANS OF TWIN PEAKS:  Deadly Premonition

WHY?  Because this game basically IS Twin Peaks, to the point that the main character might as well be named Dale Cooper.  He’s actually named Francis York Morgan (“Call me York”), an FBI special agent sent to a small town in the Pacific Northwest to investigate the murder of a teenage girl.  Oh, and did I mention York loves coffee and pie?  Yep.  But about halfway through the game, it stops cribbing from Twin Peaks and turns into something more original.  Make no mistake; Deadly Premonition has many, many flaws, to the point that it even received a Guinness World Record for the most critically polarizing survival horror video game.  (Side note: that was a category they needed?)  The combat makes Rule of Rose look like Gears of War, and the graphics were terrible even for its time.  But it’s so quirky and different and fun that I found myself helpless to resist its charms.  As a bonus, creator Suehiro Hidetaka (also known as SWERY or Swery65) is one of the absolute nicest people on Twitter and loves interacting with his fans.  Be sure to pick up the director’s cut instead of the original version for additional content and improved graphics.


WHY?  This game is the most recent one on this list, and it’s definitely one of the best.  A group of friends has come to spend the weekend at a secluded mountain cabin owned by the parents of their friend Josh.  But exactly one year ago, Josh’s sisters Beth and Hannah disappeared, and now there’s a killer in their midst.  The group is snowed in and help can’t arrive until the storm dies down, so they have to survive until (you guessed it!) dawn.

If you’ve ever watched a horror movie and screamed with irritation at the stupid mistakes of its characters, this is your opportunity to make things right…or at least try to.  A clever “butterfly effect” mechanic means that sometimes you have literally seconds to make a decision which can either save you, doom someone else, or have unforeseen consequences up the road.  Any one of the characters can die, and the story will keep on going.  You’ve got the classic teen horror flick stock characters: the jock, the smartass, the pretty one, the awkward one, the lovelorn nerd, the horny couple just trying to find a place to bone in peace, and the most wretched bitch to ever whine her way through a video game.  (I actively tried to get Emily killed, but unfortunately, she survived in both of my playthroughs.)  The voice acting is great and includes established actors such as Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), Brett Dalton (Agents of SH.I.E.L.D.), and horror stalwart Larry Fessenden, who also cowrote the script.  It’s as close as video games have ever come to making a horror movie you can play.


WHY?:  Because this game is phenomenal.  How phenomenal?  Every once in a while, I seriously consider kicking Silent Hill 2 down to second place and crowning The Last of Us as my favorite video game of all time.  It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a strain of cordyceps (a fungus that infects its host and controls its behaviors; it’s an actual thing, but fortunately limits itself to insects in real life) has turned people into mutated, bloodthirsty monsters called clickers that look like something out of one of Hieronymous Bosch’s nightmares.  You play as Joel, a weary man who’s just struggling to get by.  He’s asked to escort a teenage girl named Ellie across the United States, because she was bitten by a clicker and remained miraculously infected, and a rebel group known as the Fireflies wants to study her in hopes of finding a cure.  Along the way, Joel not only has to fight clickers and newly infected humans (they haven’t fully mutated yet, but they’re twice as fast as clickers and just as deadly), but other people with bad intentions.  The script by Neil Druckmann is amazing, and as you’d expect from a Naughty Dog game, the graphics and the voice acting (possibly the best video game voice acting ever) are first rate.  Ellie is my favorite video game character of all time; she’s foulmouthed, smart, tough, and funny.  This game made me cry at least three times, and when it’s over, you will be thinking about it for a long, long time.  Be sure to also check out the DLC called “Left Behind”; it’s set before Ellie meets Joel, and it’s unmissable.

ALSO FOR FANS OF THE WALKING DEAD:  Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead

WHY?:  First of all, duh; secondly, it’s like playing a particularly great side story of The Walking Dead comics.  You play as Lee, a man who rescues a young girl named Clementine (who, though much sweeter than Ellie from The Last of Us, is just as endearing and wonderful), and together they navigate the zombie-filled world, meet up with other survivors, and try to find safety.  Like many of Telltale’s games, it’s done in a cel-shaded cartoon style that pays perfect tribute to its inspiration, and like all of Telltale’s games, it’s first rate.  If you play the first “season” and enjoy it, you’ll be thrilled to know that there’s also a second season out, a side story focusing on everyone’s favorite katana-wielding badass Michonne, and a third season being released soon.  It’s the perfect game to tide you over when the TV series goes on its midseason hiatus.


And there you have it!  I hope this list provides you with some gift giving inspiration, either for the horror fan in your life or as a treat for yourself.  Turn off the lights, do some pregaming wrist stretches, have your favorite beverage nearby, and enjoy.




Sairentohiru is an OG horror fan who still has fond memories of perusing the oversized VHS boxes in the horror section of her hometown video store. She’s a big fan of all aspects of the horror genre, but especially video games. She evens out the macabre aspects of her personality with an intense love of cats and candy. You can find her on Twitter at @sairentohiru.

The Walking Dead – S7:E1 “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

Sunday finally brought the long-awaited season 7 premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead. The season 6 finale gave fans the biggest bad of the series in Negan, but also delivered a cliff-hanger regarding the death of a major cast member. This play left a bad taste in the mouths of those who have stood by the show’s side through good and bad, as well as those who continue to hate-watch. Executive producers promised a satisfying payoff in the premiere.

By now, everyone knows we lost two beloved cast members. Surprising? Only if you live under a rock without access to the internet.

The premiere starts off after the big kill. That’s not exactly where we left off in April. Negan taunts Rick and tries to assert his power. Rick says very little and, although he feels the loss, he continues to be somewhat defiant. It isn’t until nearly 30 minutes in when we finally get what we came for.

The majority of the episode’s run time dealt with Negan trying to break Rick. A series of quick cut flashbacks slowly divulge the POV from the end of the season 6 finale. It was Abraham’s. Barrel chested and gutsy right to the end, he even gets one last signature Abraham verbal shot in at Negan, “Suck my nuts.” Then, just when we think we’ve seen the worst, Negan turns on his heel and kills the heart and soul of the show (yes, I said it), Glenn Rhee.

With Rick broken and two family members dead, the rest of the group tries to put the pieces back together as quickly as possible. Maggie, who has probably lost more than any other character, declares war on Negan and then sets to getting her husband home, with Rick, Carl and Aaron supporting her. Sasha and Rosita put aside their differences and come together over their love of Abraham.

The deaths, while gruesome and somewhat overwhelming, were not entirely unexpected. Abraham’s story had run its course and even actor Michael Cudlitz said he knew his character was on borrowed time. Glenn dies by the bat in the comic and he’s had so many close calls, not killing him would have been a cop out on the part of the creators.

Was this the satisfying conclusion fans were hoping for? The general consensus seems to be no. Could the episode still have had any shock factor if the audience knew who died at the end of the episode? Absolutely. Since there were two significant kills, with the least impactful being Abraham, why not show that death in the finale? That would actually make Glenn’s death in the premiere even more traumatic.

This is, perhaps, one of the most brutal episodes of the entire series and it’s been a hot-button topic since the episode ended, but let’s be honest, horror fans have seen far worse and viewers have the option of shutting it off or not watching at all.

With only a few days remaining before the second episode, people are still talking about it so whether you loved it or hated it, it certainly made an impact. Kind of like a bat to the face.

Final comments/questions:

  • We get it, Negan is a formidable foe, but the constant barrage of sardonic displays of power and the sexual euphemisms about Lucille will get old really quick. Tone that shit down.
  • Did everyone notice Abraham’s final declaration of love to Sasha? It was brief, but it melts your heart.
  • What is the significance of Glenn’s final statement to Maggie? Does this mean we’ll see Glenn again, maybe when the baby is born or when Rick has tough decisions to make?
  • Negan takes Daryl, knowing he’s valuable to Rick and Alexandria. Will Daryl submit or bide his time? This will probably be the most interesting development since Daryl doesn’t exist in the comics and we have no source to refer to.
  • Carl finally grew a pair and acted like the man he’s been claiming to be since second season.
  • Kudos to the entire cast for their performances, especially Andrew Lincoln.
  • Last season Glenn was looking at the Polaroids of bashed in skulls at the compound. At the end of the episode, you see a guy in the background taking a picture of the damage done to Glenn. The signs are always there.
  • The fuck with that Thanksgiving dinner scene?
  • Seriously, what is Dwight’s damage?

Next week we hook back up with the Oscar and Felix of the zombie apocalypse, Carol and Morgan, as they enter The Kingdom.

Fear The Walking Dead: Pilot


Finally!  Zombies to hold us over until more zombies arrive!  I mean, I guess you could always watch Night of the Living Dead during the summer or something, but that probably doesn’t happen in most households.  It’s okay.  We can still be friends.  As long as you don’t love Survival of the Dead.  Then we might have a problem.

Remember how the first episode of The Walking Dead kicked off with about 10 minutes of Rick being a sheriff and getting shot, then waking up from a coma to find the world had gone to hell?  Take that 10 minutes of nothing, stretch it out over 65 minutes, and you have the first episode of Fear The Walking Dead.  I’m not saying it was a total waste of time, but I am saying that it looks like we’re going to have to be patient if we want any action.  We did get a bit of payoff at the end, so perhaps that’s a sign of better things to come.

This entire episode hinges on whether or not you connect with the family.  I did not.  I liked Madison pretty well, but I can’t tell if I actually liked her character or if I just really liked her on Deadwood.  Probably the latter.  Travis was fine, if a bit bland.  Alicia is the perfect, boring, too-good-for-this-place-I-need-to-get-out daughter, while Nick fills the role of the family screw-up, who manages to have the best abs of any heroin addict I have ever seen.  Nick gets a lot of face time in this episode and is asked to carry some pretty dramatic scenes, but he just can’t quite pull it off.  Every time he started talking about his life, my eyes glazed over.

Heroin dens are great places to do stomach crunches.
Heroin dens are great places to do stomach crunches.

And then there is Tobias, who is clearly a 30 year old high school student.  He’s the first one who knows that something is amiss.  He says “zombies” without actually saying it.  And what does he do?  Why, he shows up at high school – a high school with a metal detector at the entrance – with a paring knife.  A paring knife.  What was the plan there?  The best case scenario is exactly what happened: a concerned teacher pulls you aside, confiscates the knife and releases you into the school.  So now you’re knifeless in the school while a zombie threat shambles ever closer.  The worst case scenario is that the knife is confiscated and you are either arrested or released into the world, sans knife.  Now you’re out in the open with no weapons and a zombie horde on the horizon.  It’s a lose-lose situation.  If he knew zombies were coming, he would have grabbed a baseball bat, crowbar, machete and a bunch of canned food and run for the hills (or whatever).  Get out of L.A.  Don’t walk into school with a tiny knife.  The only person that benefits from that is the zombie, who will laugh his terrible laugh as your knife doesn’t come closer to penetrating the skull.

"I have to go now and do my taxes...I mean, study school things? Yes. Study school things."
“I have to go now and do my taxes…I mean, study school things? Yes. Study school things.”

Let’s talk zombie outbreak for a second.  I figure the entire first episode covers a minimum of two days.  During that time, we know that the zombies are among us.  We know a couple zombies escaped from the church.  We also know – both from The Walking Dead and from Calvin at the end of this episode – that everyone is infected.  If you die, you come back as a zombie.
Now that we’ve got that established…
The population of Los Angeles currently sits a little below 4 million people.  On an average day, roughly 170 people die.  That’s 340 over two days (not factoring in the fact that zombies would cause more deaths than that).  Congratulations!  You now have 340 zombies that no one knows about.  Once the apocalypse starts, it will roll over a big city like a tidal wave.  The fact that we know there are at least a few zombies on the loose means it’s not confined to just one part of the city.  I have a hard time believing that there are just a couple random attacks, only one of which has been filmed so far.  Large portions of the city would likely already be thrown into chaos.  (According to a simulation run on Zombietown USA, Los Angeles would be more or less overrun within 48 hours.)
For the record, the reason Rick was able to wake up alive is because the population of Cynthiana, KY is only a little over 6,000.  The fewer people in a town, the fewer zombies there are.  Come to Kentucky. Survive the zombie apocalypse.  But not too many of you.  I don’t need you blowing up my spot.

But I assume L.A. will soon be overrun, so we can all be thankful for that.

I'm really looking forward to Fear The Benny & Joon.
I’m really looking forward to Fear The Benny & Joon.

Random thoughts:

– Loved the blood on the piano in the opening scene.  Seemed like something Neko Case would write a beautiful song on.

– The “I just threw up in my mouth a little,” joke has run its course.  The delivery here was particularly painful.

– “If there’s a problem, we would know about it.  The authorities would tell us.”  We all know that authorities would give the zombie outbreak an unfamiliar disease name (like, say, SARS) and cover it up as quickly as possible.

– I admire Travis’ bravery in going into a dark heroin den by himself, but I condemn his stupidity.  He took no weapons.  He yelled, “Is anyone there,” after he already saw blood.  Tense scene, but driven by the bad decisions of a character.  (I don’t really admire his bravery.)

– “[Jack] London tries to teach us how not to die.”  It’s like someone slapping you in the face.  “Survival.  Get it?!  Cuz zombies?!  And literature?!  It’s smart.  We’re smart.”

"Did you get it?  That guy got it."
“Did you get it? That guy got it.”

– There is not a chance in hell that a nurse would ever untie a patient’s restraint.  “Well, he said he had to pee really bad and I felt bad for him.  It’s not like I thought he could actually free his other hand in the process.  How would I know that?”

The Walking Dead S5E8, “Coda”

Season 5 Poster

I totally missed writing up last week’s episode and I’m ridiculously late with this one.  Sorry guys.  Other responsibilities took me away from this one.

We’re now at the midseason break.  Can we talk about how obnoxious that is?  I feel like we just got going, and now we have to wait until February for new episodes.  For their part, I understand it.  It breaks up the shooting schedule, and also allows them to double-up on a TV writer’s favorite activity: cliffhangers!  Oh man, they love cliffhangers.  Instead of just getting one at the end of a season, you can now get two!  It’s like having two Christmases!  Before long, shows will be broken up into 4 episode runs with a cliffhanger at the end of each one.  TV shows will run constantly: a month on, a month off, and they will run all year.  I’m tired just thinking about it.
There will be no escape from our new TV overlords.  Oh sure, we can try to get away, but, in the end, we’ll have our back broken by a car and get our heads blown off while the undead watch.  There are certainly worse ways to die, but that’s not exactly a noble death.

1. Nothing came of it, but Rick jumping in the police car and not checking the backseat seemed foolish.  I kept waiting for something – a zombie, another cop, etc. – to pop out at him.  Zombies and murderous people are everywhere.  Check the backseat, fella.  Stuttering Brad Dourif isn’t around to warn you, so you’ll just have to remember to do it all by yourself.

2. Sure, Maggie was happy when she found out Beth was still alive.  But where has that emotion been?  She hasn’t acknowledged the Beth even existed since she went missing.  I suppose this is the result of losing so many people; you’re just numb to death after a while.  What point is there in hoping that your missing family member will be found, when it’s much more likely that they’re zombie food?  I get it, but I also find it odd that Maggie never even mentioned her sister.  With her breakdown at the end of this episode, I guess we know we can prepare ourselves for a lot more of the Maggie Questions Her Faith subplot that ran throughout this season.

3. Why do people with guns always stand so close to those without guns?  “Hey.  You.  Guy in the hallway questioning my authority.  I’m going to point this gun at you, but allow you to get within an arm’s length of me, because I trust you won’t knock the gun out of my hand.  Deal?”  It’s not just this show: it’s all shows and movies.  Add this to my list of gun-related pet peeves.

4. All the talk between Tyreese and Sasha about not being the same as they were when they were kids.  That was a long conversation, and it meant absolutely nothing.  A lot of dialogue-driven shows have these scenes: the conversations that sound deep, but are really just inane chatter.  It’s faux philosophy, and it drives me crazy.

5. Beth finding herself with a brief opening to attack Dawn, and using it to stab Dawn in the chest.  Dawn was wearing a vest.  Go for the neck. Beth.  Maybe she didn’t want to kill Dawn, but she had to assume that stabbing Dawn – whether the others liked/respected her or not – would not end well.  If you’re going to attack in that situation, make it count.

6. This is not a problem with the episode, but rather someone from AMC thinking it was a good idea to post this photo a mere seconds after the east coast feed ended:

RIP Beth

The caption was “RIP Beth” and everything, just in case you thought Daryl was carrying her body across the threshold.

1. The return of Michonne’s zombie head chopping.  It feels like it has been a long time.  Welcome back.

2. There were a lot of great zombie kills in this episode, so it’s hard to pick a definitive favorite.  But I think I’m going to go with the zombie who fell on the machete and cut his head in half.  I couldn’t help but think of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

Friday the 13th Jason Death

3. The scene of Rick negotiating with the cops.  It looked like a scene out of a Western.  I kept waiting for the Ennio Morricone score to kick in.
He was all calm, cool and collected, too.
“Where are your people?”
[Sniper immediately shoots a zombie.]
“They’re close.”

4. The exchange scene in the hospital hallway.  For starters, there was no music.  I love music, but I feel like it’s easy to go overboard.  “Things should be tense.  Crank the music!  The people need to know!”  The lack of music made this scene extremely tense.  You could hear every footstep.  Time seemed to crawl.
The camera angle was terrific.  It was crooked, like something wasn’t quite right.  It was like a picture hanging askew on the wall.  I wanted to reach out and straighten the screen.  The camera is used like this at the end of The Bride of Frankenstein, and I always loved that scene.  It’s clear that something is wrong, even if you’re not quite sure what that something is yet.
In a documentary on the Pixies, PJ Harvey describes Joey Santiago’s guitar playing style by saying that it feels the notes are bending in such a way that you need to bend your body to hear it correctly (paraphrasing, of course).  That’s how I feel about these kinds of scenes.  I feel like I need to bend my body to be able to see what is going on.  It’s an odd feeling, and it worked perfectly here.
It’s amazing what a lack of music and a crooked camera angle can add to the tension of a scene.

5. I loved the scene of Beth standing in front of Dawn.  The way the camera was, it looked like Beth was hulking over Dawn.  If it wasn’t clear before, it was made perfectly clear in that moment: Beth was strong and Dawn was the coward.
Strong?  Coward?  In the end, it doesn’t really matter.  The only thing that matters in this world is who is holding the gun.

6. The final shot was terrific.

Coda Final Image

7. Morgan still slowly following the group.  I love that actor and am really looking forward to seeing what they do with his character.  Here’s to hoping that storyline kicks in when the show returns in February.

Final thoughts:
I was on the verge of giving up on this show, but these last 8 episodes drew me back in.  They weren’t without their faults, but they had an energy to them that had been lacking.  It was also consistently good, which is something the show has struggled with from the very beginning.  I’m already looking forward to seeing what they do next.
I’d also like to say that I’m going to miss Beth.  Not a lot, but a little.  More often than not, Emily Kinney did a good job with the material she was given.  Also, I know that it was a pretty widely mocked, but I liked her singing.  I like that they worked in Tom Waits and Waxahatchee songs into a show about the zombie apocalypse.  Her death didn’t devastate me, but I am a little sad that she’s gone.  RIP Beth.  May your strength and your songbird spirit be passed on to another weary traveler.

The Walking Dead S5E6, “Consumed”

Season 5 Poster

Another week down, another week late.  Sorry everyone.  I’ve been slacking pretty hard lately.  And during a good season, too.  I’m going to try to get back on track for the remaining episodes.  Can’t be falling too far behind with such a short amount of time left in the season.

1. I realize that Daryl and Carol were driving their car with the lights off, but I find it hard to believe the lead car wouldn’t have seen a car following them.  They drove a long way and there was no one else on the road.  Daryl stayed back a little ways, but not that far.  I feel like they would have been noticed.

2. All the talk about starting over.  We get it.  Blank slate and all that.  Roughly half the dialogue in this episode seemed to deal with this.  We get it.  There was no need to hammer it as hard as they did.  Daryl’s “The reason I said we’ve got to start over is because we gotta,” line was particularly eye-roll worthy.  You know what I don’t want any more of?  Vague, faux-philosophical talk about starting over or how little anyone can know anyone else.  It all just feels like empty, space-filling talk.

3. Carol being a smart survivor, yet using her three remaining bullets against zombies in close quarters.  That is not a good use of resources.

4. I loved the silence of the falling van, but watching it land on its wheels was laughable.  I know, I know.  “It’s a show about zombies, how can you expect realism?”  Because I do.  It may be a show about zombies, but it’s set in our world.  The normal rules of our world still apply.  And in our world, a van that falls nose-first off a bypass does not do a complete flip and land on its wheels.
It was a cool scene and the raining zombies (hallelujah) were cool, but watching that van land on its wheels was ludicrous.

1. When the car headed north on I-85, I loved that the northern route was clear, while I-85 south was jam-packed with cars.

It led to this question: in the event of a zombie uprising, where would you go?  Would you go south where the weather is warmer, or would you go north, where the zombies would freeze in the cold?  Surviving in the cold would be harder, but you know you wouldn’t have to deal with zombies for roughly 30% of the year.
For the record, I already have a place picked out, but I’m not telling anyone here.  Don’t want it to be too crowded, you see.

2. The scene in the shelter was terrific.  My heart broke a little when we saw the shadow of the child behind the door.  I loved Daryl taking care of both zombies and burning them while Carol was asleep.  This entire episode showed the depth of their friendship, but this scene really stood out.
Carol’s face when she saw Daryl burning the bodies was terrific.  Just a subtle change in her expression.  Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus did great work in this episode.  Reedus is normally pretty one-note, so he doesn’t usually impress me too much, but McBride is consistently one of the best parts of the show.

3. Every time I see a pillar of smoke, I can’t help but think about The Darkness Out of Carthage.  It’s a terrific visual that always gives off a feeling of dread.  (Also, you should buy The Darkness Out of Carthage, because it’s amazing.)

4. I’m a big fan of the “throw the burning notebook to distract the zombies” trick.  For a minute, I thought that notebook contained all of Daryl’s poetry.
Speaking of Daryl and his love of the arts…
“Looks like a dog sat in paint and wiped his ass all over the place,” was the perfect way to describe that painting.  I think Daryl missed his calling as an art critic.

5. Seeing the Georgia Dome in the background of a couple shots.  Haven’t seen that much destruction come to that building since the 2010 NFL playoffs.

6. A zombie getting a machete in his face.  It looked like something out of Zombi.  The head looked like it had the consistency of a rotted pumpkin.  A rotted, blood-spurting pumpkin.  When the skin starts rotting, does the skull start rotting also?

7. Back in my recap of the first episode, I made mention of Carol’s face looking much cleaner after the group caught up with her.  “How did she get her face all clean?” I asked.  They showed her wiping her face off with her poncho in this episode.  Well played, writers.  I still don’t think she could have wiped her face clean with clothes stained in zombie blood, but I like that they showed this.  It made me smile a little.

8.  In the scene where Daryl and Carol are waiting in the car and a hand bangs on the window, I thought it was telling that they sighed with relief when they found out that it was “just a zombie”.  Zombies are vile creatures that can kill you with a single bite.  And yet that zombie was way less of a threat than the people in the car they were following.  It’s a common theme of all post-apocalyptic stories: more often than not, the true threat is our fellow man.  No matter what is banging on our window, we’re the real monsters.

Final thoughts:
There were some moments I didn’t care for, but, overall, I really liked this episode.  I love the rapport – often non-verbal – that Daryl and Carol have.  (If you want to read a great take on the nature of their relationship, you really need to read Lisa’s recap of this episode.  She’s a terrific writer, and she absolutely knocks this out of the park.)
I really like the way this episode has gone.  Yes, we have spent a lot of time away from Rick and company, but I like that.  I prefer these episodes where we focus on another group the entire time, rather than spending 10 minutes per episode getting caught up with non-Rick characters.