The Top 5 Halloween Video Games

Ah, October is finally here. Tis the season of spookery where we can indulge in all manner of occult entertainment. Video Games have a unique quality of being able to immerse you in another world and this can be really effective in a scary setting. These games I’ve picked aren’t necessarily the scariest but I do think they embody the Halloween vibe and they’ll definitely get you in the October mood.

 

5. Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon (2013)

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS

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Mario’s not the only one who can tackle ghosts, ever since his first solo game in 2001 Luigi has been linked to the spirit world. While Mario would take on ghosts with a thundering “Yahoooo!” Luigi is more likely to run from spooks and possible cry hysterically.

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This is part of what makes the game so interesting. At times you feel like you’re forcing Luigi through this haunted house filled with ghouls of all shapes and sizes. He shivers and jumps whenever anything goes bump around him, the character animation is so expressive. Your task is to suck up all the ghosts using Luigi’s ghost vacuum the Poltergust 5000. Sometimes you’ll have to solve puzzles to reveal the ghosts or just check every draw until one pops out (much to his chagrin). Luigi’s Mansion is the video game equivalent of a fairground haunted house… Dare you enter?

 

4. Costume Quest (2010)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS

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Costume Quest is an underrated gem, it’s also one of the only games I can think of that’s entirely set on Halloween night. You and your friends are out trick or treating when all of a sudden these goblin guys come out and steal everyone’s candy! Even more unfortunate for your character your little brother/sister (depending on your gender choice) is kidnapped because they were dressed as a giant candy corn. So you’re forced on a quest to rescue your missing sibling before your parents find out. On your way you’ll have to fight your way through various goblin enemies but the great thing is that when you enter into battle all the kids transform into an exaggerated form of whatever costume you have on.

You start off in a cardboard box robot outfit but when you’re in battle you’re an anime style mech that shoots missiles, wear the Statue of Liberty costume and you can heal everyone with a blast from her torch and my personal favourite is the french fries costume which turns you into a Tim Burton-esque spider with fries for legs that can stun enemies with a shower of grease and salt.

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This game is just a fun time all round. It’s not especially hard so anyone could enjoy it and there are lots of goofy moments hidden around the areas so it really rewards exploration. It’s not a long game either and can probably be picked up cheap these days. It’s the definition of short and sweet… you know? like candy?…I’ll see myself out.

 

3. Mortal Kombat X (2015)

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC

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The Mortal Kombat series has always taken heavy influence from horror and action movies. In this latest instalment they ratcheted up the movie references and started adding some classic horror characters into their roster. By the time all of MKX’s DLC had been released you can play as Jason, Leatherface, Predator and the Alien Xenomorph.

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People have been debating for decades about “who would win in a fight…” regarding all of these characters and in MKX is the first time we got to test some of those theories. What makes it even better is that they’ve all been lovingly crafted to include lots of movie references in their abilities and moves. You also can’t forget about the Mortal Kombat cast of characters which includes many weird, wonderful and monstrous people. Put all this together and you’ve one hell of a hyper violent monster mash on your hands and on a dark Halloween night, what more could you ask for?

 

2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Platform(s): Xbox 360/One, PS3, PS1, PSP

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night practically oozes atmosphere from the moment you start the game. The opening sees you reenact the ending of the first NES game, facing off against Dracula himself within minutes of starting up. It’s a scripted fight that you can’t lose but it really feels good to blow up Dracula with a rocking guitar soundtrack as your backing.

After this flashback you’re given control of Alucard (the son of Dracula) after he senses a disturbance at the castle. There you’ll have to fight your way through all manner of creatures including wolves, zombies, skeletons, living suits of armor, bats, venomous plants, floating acid skulls, medusa heads, hunchbacks, creepy Lovecraftian horrors and even Death himself shows up. Drac’s castle has everything you need to throw the best Halloween party in the world.

This game is like a good horror movie. It has amazing visuals but some admittedly cheesy dialogue throughout (the intro conversation with Dracula being a highlight) but Castlevania’s hallways full of macabre hell spawn are definitely worth a visit for any intrepid vampire killers.

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1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC

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I don’t often see Batman come up when people discuss their Halloween viewing but he totally should be. The Bat’s rogues gallery is the stuff of Halloween nightmares. A killer clown, a human scarecrow, a crocodile man hybrid, a mad hatter, a roided pro wrestler and this game is all set in the insane asylum that they all call home.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an excellent game whether you’re a Batman fan or not. It can also be devilishly creepy when it wants to. You spend the entire game exploring the asylum after all the inmates have escaped. In between fighting thugs you spend most of your time investigating the tragic histories of famous batman villains. You never know what unsettling situation is round the corner but the game really knocks it up a notch when you meet The Scarecrow.

After taking a dose of his fear toxin Bats starts to hallucinate in some pretty creative and sometimes 4th wall breaking ways. Rooms start to repeat, Batman’s forced to relive the death of his parents and at one point the game resets and the intro sequence starts again making you think the game may be broken.

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You’ll never forget your first trip to Arkham Asylum, it’s masterfully crafted fun house of terror and what I think is the best game to get you in a creepy Halloween mood.

The Frankenstein Theory (2013) Review

I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m the modern Horror genre’s biggest fan but every so often I find myself scrolling through Netflix or NowTV’s selection to see if anything piques my interest. On my latest trip I came across The Frankenstein Theory and at first glance it ticked some of the boxes for me. I mentioned in my review of The Visit that I like the found footage genre but I also like a good monster movie and this touted both in the description. It also said on the poster it showed on NowTV that it was from the creators of The Last Exorcism which is actually one of my favourite horror movies of all time. However since watching it I’ve looked up both these movies and I can’t find any crossover members of the directing, producing, music or writing teams on the Wikipedia pages so I don’t know where that claim came from.

 

This review will contain full spoilers

 

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Thinking About Neck Bolts

Our story opens up in the office of Professor Jonathan Venkenheim who has hired a documentary crew lead by our main character Vicky for a secret adventure. The audience and the film crew both get the big reveal at the same time, Venkenheim is in search of a Frankenstein monster! He believes that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was actually a loose retelling of actual events and that his ancestor is the real Dr. Frankenstein. Unfortunately all the evidence of this was burned in a lab fire but he still holds out hope that the monster is still alive. Understandably the crew don’t believe a word of this but he’s paying good money so they go along with it. I really liked the comradery between the film crew, they are the grounded characters that act as the audience surrogate and mostly remark on how stupid and hopeless their situations are.

 

So apparently ol’ Frank is somewhere in the wilds of Canada at the moment so they pack up and set out on the road. Their first stop is with an eye witness they want to interview but it turns out this witness is a little bit of a meth head who holds them up at gunpoint when they mention he may have met Dr. F’s monster. So as you can expect from a horror movie it all goes downhill from here. Next they meet up with their guide Karl who can take them further into the wilderness, he’s your classic salty old hard-ass. They play him off to be a bit creepy at first as he tells them that out there you either listen to his orders or face an icy death. I really enjoyed this character though, his inclusion alleviates some of the tension once the gang gets to know him a bit over some drinks while they’re huddled in a yurt.

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Fright Night

Once nightfall comes is where things start to get a bit more weird. At first they all hear the baying of wolves which is unsettling but then they hear an almighty roar and some thrashing that freaks everyone out and silences the wolves. Come morning they find that their snowmobile is trashed leaving them a stranded. They also find some comically big footprints which Karl decides to follow so he can teach whoever did it a lesson. This starts off that good old horror movie cliche of everyone being picked off one by one. This is where the film lost me, you don’t see nearly enough of the monster and he seems to be able to appear out of nowhere considering he’s so huge. You’d also think he’d be more noticeable seeing as they’re surrounded by untouched white snow so anything approaching should stick out like a big green sore thumb.

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So even after all of this murdering Prof. Venkenheim still thinks he can reason with Big F using their shared family ties but he seems reluctant to go out there and put this to the test. He is eventually forced to once Frankie has Vicky and him trapped in the yurt. At this point we’re watching through a locked camera pointed at the door. We see him walk out then hear him try to reason with him and at first it seems to be working but then we hear what sounds like Venkenheim getting snapped in half.

 

I'm sad now

 

So it’s not until the very last scene that we get a decent look at the monster and he just looks like the giants from Game of Thrones but a bit more zombie like I guess. He comes into the room, bashes Vicky on the head and carries her off. We get to watch him stroll away into the distance through the open door as the credits roll and that’s it! I felt like this movie ended just as it was getting going. They could have at least let us see what life was like for Francesco and his new lady friend through handheld camera footage or something. It was seriously the most jarring and unsatisfying ending I’ve experienced in a long time. I would have really liked to see more hunting of the monster, he just shows up the first night they set up camp without any mystery at all. The main reason I watched this was because of the (now tenuous) links to The Last Exorcism but this was nowhere near as good so I would just recommend you watch that instead.

 

★★☆☆☆

The Visit (2015) Review

I love the found footage genre of horror films. In the days where we are constantly filming everything it gives these movies an unsettling and familiar visual style. But when done badly they can be utterly confusing barf fests that just leave people annoyed at the end of it. Luckily star director M. Night Shyamalan and the producers of Paranormal Activity have made something better than your standard Blair Witch knock off.

 

This review will contain some mild spoilers about plot moments

 

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We start the movie being introduced to our main characters, the brother and sister team Becca and Tyler who will be our camera operators for most of the movie. One thing that struck me straight away was that these characters are impossibly quirky for real people. They do have some believable personal moments throughout but a lot of their dialogue just doesn’t seem right for their age. The basic premise is that they are going to stay with their grandparents for a week that they’ve never met before because their mother left home on very bad terms with them.

 

Becca is an aspiring filmmaker and wants to make a documentary so she can finally get the real story on why the family is estranged. She also hopes she can get some closure for her mother and maybe mend some bridges along the way. We get some fun moments during their train journey but we also get the first instance of the movie’s most cringey recurring joke, Tyler’s amateur rapping. I’m all for moments of comedy in horror films, it can provide much needed levity when things get tough to watch but this white kid’s rapping sucks. M. Night clearly thought this was hilarious for some reason because it’s revisited about 4 times.

 

So anyway the kids are greeted at the train station by their grandparents, referred to as Nana and Pop Pop for the rest of the movie. There is a general air of uneasiness at first but the kids put it down to everyone meeting each other for the first time. The kids bake cookies with Nana, get a tour of the house with Pop Pop and eventually settle in for the night. This is when Pop Pop tells the kids the one house rule “Bedtime here is 9:30. It’s probably best if you two shouldn’t come out of your room after that. See you in the morning”.

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What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse

About an hour later Becca decides she can probably sneak down to get some more cookies without disturbing anyone so sets out with her camera. As she starts going downstairs Nana walks into frame and starts projectile vomiting, understandably Becca freaks out and gets the hell out of there. Next morning she speaks to Pop Pop about it who explains is away as a 24 hour stomach bug. This is pretty much the format of the movie, it’s a lot like Paranormal Activity in that way. Each new day there’s a title card so you know how many days the kids have left to endure and most of the scary stuff happens at night. I like this day/night format because I can get all anxious and excited for what crazy stuff is going to happen that night, then you are relieved when you see it’s daytime again.

 

As you can imagine things escalate every night. Nana is extremely creepy, she runs around the house at night naked scratching at the walls and banging doors. I think at first you’re supposed to think she’s possessed but again Pop Pop explains this away as sundowning, which is a form of heightened dementia that sets in once the sun goes down. Deanna Dunagan who plays Nana is really impressive, the way she crawls around and growls with her hair over her face is horrifying and she’s scarily nimble for a 76 year old. It’s the kind of character that you don’t even want to look at but you can’t tear your eyes away because you want to know she’s going to do next.

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What a Twist!

Knowing that this is an M. Night Shyamalan horror movie most people will be on the lookout for a plot twist. Disappointingly I did guess part of the twist while I was watching but it didn’t invalidate the rest of the movie for me, I still wanted to see how it all turned out.

 

This felt like a pretty personal project for M. Night, it has a really small cast of characters and I felt like Becca represented the young filmmaker in him. It also a much smaller movie than he’d been making recently and it has an incredible short cast list. I liked this aspect of it because you got to spend a lot of time with the important people and it gave him more time to linger on interpersonal moments when the movie needed it.

 

This movie really preyed on my fears of old people, it had some genuinely scary and unsettling moments. There were also some fairly disturbing moments involving an adult diaper which I’d like to forget. In contrast to the horror it also had some pretty effective moments of heart and introspection from the kids which work surprisingly well. I liked The Visit way more that I thought I would and while parts of it may have been formulaic I came away satisfied with the ending… until they had Tyler rap again over the credits!

★★★★☆

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Tyler’s Rapping: ☆☆☆☆☆