Horror Movie Roundup #5: Classics Edition (Suspiria, Halloween, The Omen)

As October draws to a close, so does my month of horror. Here is one final batch of mini-reviews to end the month. Happy Halloween!

Suspiria [1977]
Suspiria [1977]
I feel like my expectations may have been too high for this one. The plot is paper thin — an American transfers to a prestigious ballet academy in Germany, only to find out it is run by witches — and the film suffers from poorly dubbed dialogue and subpar acting. Taken on these merits, there isn’t much to Suspiria. However, as an audio/visual experience, this is unlike anything I have ever seen. Director Dario Argento uses a wide array of vivid colors to create vibrant imagery, and this is enhanced by progressive rock band Goblin’s screeching soundtrack. The music is a “hate it or love it” type deal. Sometimes the frightening music works masterfully with what’s happening on screen, while other times it feels forced and unnatural. While I’m a bit surprised to see the universal praise for this film, it is certainly a unique offering despite its flaws. 6/10

Halloween [1978]
Halloween [1978]
I hadn’t seen John Carpenter’s classic in many, many years, so I was more than due to give this another viewing. Halloween still holds up remarkably well today — the first person POV shots, the “Boogey Man” appearances of Michael Myers, the iconic score. Everything about this is top notch, which is especially intriguing given the simplicity of the plot. It’s also interesting to look back at this film that influenced so many slasher movie tropes, yet it’s one that has a relatively low amount of violence on screen. Even with several years perspective, Halloween remains startlingly effective without needing to do very much at all. 9/10

The Omen [1976]
The Omen [1976]
The Omen isn’t so much of a “scary” film as it is a well-told story. It moves along at its own pace, and it works more on building suspense rather than opting for cheap thrills. The story has seen all sorts of variations over the years — couple has a stillborn and replaces it with an adopted child that just so happens to be the Antichrist — but it’s still effective. I believe part of this is due to Gregory Peck playing the lead role. His presence gives the film additional dramatic chops, and he is a perfect fit for the role of U.S. Ambassador. My only complaints for the film come from a couple of cheap deaths, as they could have clearly been avoided with minimal effort on the part of the characters. Regardless, I have no qualms with calling The Omen a great film. 8/10

And that wraps up this month of horror. What do you think of these classics?

Video Game Review: Costume Quest [PS3, 2010]

Costume Quest [PS3, 2010]

Costume Quest
System: Playstation 3 (also on Xbox 360 and Steam)
Genre: RPG, Adventure
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release Date: October 19, 2010

So, it’s fall, folks. The leaves have changed color and are falling off the trees, the smell of pumpkin pie is in the air (if you’re lucky), and everyone is trying to figure out what they want to be for Halloween. Considering the season, Sony couldn’t have picked a better time to offer Costume Quest for free to Playstation Plus users.

This Halloween-themed RPG adventure places you in the role of either Reynold or Wren, a young brother/sister tandem who are sent out by their parents to trick-or-treat and make new friends in their suburban neighborhood. Unfortunately for them, as soon as they leave their house, one of the siblings is kidnapped by a monster. It is your goal to go forth and retrieve your sibling from the evildoers, as your parents wouldn’t exactly be keen on just one child returning home.

It’s a simple plot, but perfectly appropriate for what is ultimately a nostalgia-tinged “lite” RPG. Double Fine have taken a basic adventure and stripped it down to its core elements. In place of character classes, you collect costumes that can be worn for different abilities. Some, such as the knight and robot, are simply for attacking, while others like the Statue of Liberty can be used for healing purposes. The turn-based combat is about as bare-bones as you can get: when you choose to attack (either standard or special, the latter of which must be built up over turns) you are then given a button to press at an exact moment, which will yield an added boost if timed correctly. After your characters finish their attacks, the enemies do the same, and it’s lather-rinse-repeat. Outside of choosing different costumes pre-battle, little strategy is required.

Costume Quest [PS3, 2010]

There isn’t a whole lot of depth to the game, which some may find disappointing. However, even though the game is a brief 5-6 hours in length, it is highly enjoyable throughout. Double Fine’s trademark sense of humor — rife with amusing pop culture references — is always present, and the dialogue (all text-based) is often clever. It helps that the game uses a charming, easy-to-love cartoonish visual style, as well.

Costume Quest succeeds in creating a lite RPG that can appeal to all ages, kid to adult. Kids will love the game’s Halloween setting and easy-to-understand combat mechanics, whereas adults will be more into the nostalgia side of things and the sly writing style. There are some issues with combat getting a tad too repetitive near the end, and of course the game’s short length is a bit disconcerting for the $15 price tag, but overall Costume Quest is still a fun adventure that is perfect for the month of October. If you’re looking for a bite-sized adventure to play in between some of this season’s big guns, you can’t do much better than this.