In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Look Ma, No Wires!

I adore the 2004 French actioner District 13 and since its sequel is hopefully coming to our shores later this year, it is this month’s Non-Horror selection.

In 2010, the Parisian slum of District 13 has been walled in and left to fend for itself. When its inhabitants steal a bomb, the French government dispatch top cop Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli) to retrieve it. With reluctant guide and ex-resident Leito (David Belle) at his side, they have less than twenty-four hours before the bomb is set to explode.

Seemingly a backlash to the mainstream adoption of wire-fu in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix trilogy, down-and dirty martial arts flicks were set to make a comeback. Shortly after The Transporter and the emergence of Muay Thai sensation Tony Jaa (Ong Bak: Thai Warrior), District 13 burst onto the scene in 2004. At first glance, it may look like a throwaway actioner, but I can assure you it’s way more than that. The parkour-infused action in this is spectacular. I mean, take a look for yourself.

Although I can find no confirmation of this, it’s a pretty safe bet that the dazzling construction site chase at the beginning of 2006’s James Bond reboot Casino Royale was inspired by the above sequence. In addition to the incredible action bits, the chemistry between stars Belle – who is credited with basically inventing parkour as it is known today – and Raffaelli is great, as well. If you think you recognize the latter, it is because he also appeared in the 2001 Jet Li vehicle Kiss Of The Dragon and as the bothersome adversary of John McClane, Rand in Die Hard 4. If you add in actress Danny Verissimo, as Leito’s fiery sister Lola, you have yourself one hell of a team. I LOVE this chick and wish she were in more stuff. Like a lot of the action films Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Leon) has produced, District 13 is a high-energy affair with little story, but that was never an issue for me. This is a helluva fun time with awe-inspiring feats of strength and agility. A lot of people just remember it for the clip above, but watching it again recently I was reminded of the half dozen other equally awesome set pieces.

If you are at all into martial arts flicks, I can’t imagine you having not seen this one already, but if you haven’t, it’s time to do yourself a favour and track it down.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Shiver Me Timbers.

The subject of this installment of On The Shelf is the new Spanish horror Eskalofrío aka Shiver, which finally decided to send me after what seemed like eons.

Xeroderma afflicted Santi (Junio Valverde) and his mother move to a remote Spanish valley town to in order to better shield him from the sun. Soon after his arrival, people start turning up ripped to shreds. Is Santi responsible for these grisly murders, or is there something more sinister out there in the woods?

There is so much to like about Shiver. I thought the first act was absolutely stellar. We are introduced to a character with a condition that is rarely explored in film (2001’s The Others – another Spanish production coincidentally - is the only other example I can think of) and then weird things start happening around him. The setup and editing is so skillfully done, it had me on the edge of my seat. A great deal of Shiver seemed so fresh to me. I mean, there are some contrivances – night vision makes a brief appearance – but it always seems to bounce back quickly. Shiver is also strange in that it felt like three seperate movies. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it seemed like the film shifted focus a few times.

ummm... RUN?

Unfortunately, this brilliant setup proved to be somewhat anti-climactic when the antagonist was revealed. Director Isidro Ortiz does so many clever things to ratchet up the fear, but I could never shake the simple fact of what I was actually looking at. It was a fundamental thing that really prevented me from lifting this movie from good to great. It’s a call that everyone will have to make when they experience it, but it left me wanting. Shiver is a solid film that has several tense moments and is gorgeous to look at. It is also well acted, although Valverde (who we first saw in 2001's The Devil's Backbone as a boy also named Santi) does get a little too worked up at times. I also want to make special mention of the phenomenal sound mixing. What is it about forests that lends itself to surround sound? I remember the climactic scene in Ils (aka Them) also had my muscles tensed just like this one did. I’m not surprised the producers of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage got behind this production. There is a darkly fantastical quality to Shiver that falls right in with those sensibilities. If you are a fan of those aforementioned titles, then I would say that Shiver is required viewing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Lost Reviews

I have a little announcement today. As I’ve mentioned before, from 2001 to 2007 I was contributing to a movie website called

Most of the reviews I submitted were posted on the site, but every once in a while - and unfortunately this became the norm as the years went by - one would disappear in the Internet ether after I sent it. The webmaster Rob Paul and I had a good relationship and I think the lack of activity on the site had to do with him moving onto other things more than anything else. Much later, after I had created THS, I wanted to link to one of my old reviews on DVDWolf and found it wasn’t there. ‘That’s odd’ I thought. ‘I KNOW I wrote a piece on that.’ It was then I remembered about all those floating reviews. After some investigation, I found there was a sizable number that shared this fate. So, instead of just having them waste away on my hard drive, I figured I would post them here in their own special section called...

Feel free to check them out by going here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Alma Is Coming... And She Is Pissed!

I got my hands on F.E.A.R.2: Project Origin recently and played the hell out of it all last week.

F.E.A.R.2 is a big bag o’ fun. After my ultimately disappointing experience with Resistance 2, F2 reminded me of what I love about first-person-shooters. It is a wonderfully designed game with mad helpings of stuff that goes boom. The two things that stand out right away are the weaponry and the artificial intelligence. The weapons themselves are pretty standard, but it is the weight of them that is instantly apparent and even more enhanced by the Dualshock functionality. And what is it about bullet time that never gets old? I must have cut down hundreds of replica soldiers in slow motion and every time was as fulfilling as the first. I didn’t get into Fallout 3 because all the video footage I’d seen was basically “I see enemy/stop time/95% headshot/cut scene of head exploding/rinse and repeat” which made me think ‘wouldn’t that get boring?’ After my experience with F2, the answer is clearly no. The addition of the drivable ‘mechs’ was a stroke of genius. You can literally SHRED through waves of enemies with one of these things. I would have a played a whole game of that! F2 also builds on the already impressive AI from the first game to make it something truly remarkable. Enemies are constantly moving, interacting with their environment and actually work as a squad to flank and flush you out of hiding.

And F2 doesn’t skimp on the scares. There are plenty to be had and they know what buttons to push. In addition to the ubiquitous Alma, you encounter several other supernatural baddies, as well. A highlight is when your flashlight stops working inside an abandoned school filled with swiftly moving spirits that are basically just wisps of smoke with angry eyes. Let’s just say the combat shotgun was my best friend during that level. One thing that surprised me was the kinship I felt for my squad. I’m not sure how to quantify this. It’s not like there was a lot time spent getting to know them, but for some reason I actually felt like part of a team. Maybe it was the realistic character models or constant communication (or both) that contributed to that.

The story is pretty convoluted, but I did like how it was conveyed throughout the campaign. Instead of the voicemail messaging of the original game, you collect pieces of Intel scattered throughout the levels. The more you find the more the craziness around you starts to make some kind of sense. I think the only thing I was unhappy with – apart from the glitchy tacked-on multiplayer that should be avoided at all costs – was the ending, or rather the lack of one. It was so open-ended I felt like this game should have been called F.E.A.R.2 Vol. 1. Although, I can’t complain too much as this just means there is more to look forward to.

F.E.A.R.2: Project Origin is an excellent single player experience that is definitely worth a rent. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it fully delivers on everything I want in a FPS.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger VI

Okay, I've got a lot of stuff to get to today, so let's get right to it.

13: Fear Is Real-ity Televison

The reality show from Ghosthouse (Sam Raimi's production company) wrapped up this week. The premise of 13:FIR was basically thirteen people competing in horror-themed challenged in different locations of a Lousiana bayou for $66,666 - probably the lowest amount ever in the history of reality television. The first episode was so ghetto, it was tough to watch. The faceless antagonist named The Mastermind was such a thinly disguised rip-off of the Jigsaw character, I was surprised they didn't throw in a creepy talking doll for good measure. The horror challenges were pretty cool (and I should say probably the most dangerous - or at least the illusion of danger - I've seen in a reality show) but often seemed like they were also from a Saw movie. In fact, one challenge was basically the foot-cuffed puzzle from the original installment. It wasn't all bad though. There was an extra variable added to the game called the Death Box, which could enable the carrier to kill off his fellow players if they got them alone. This seemed of no importance to a large number of contestants who seemed to make it a priority to go wandering off on their own. Honestly, the amount of stupid people playing this game was uncanny. The Death Box was a good idea though on the part of the creators to get rid of those contestants who obviously weren't going to be 'spooked' by anything that could be thrown at them and worked best in the last episode when the final three contestants were all stalking each other in the swamp at night.

For the most part 13:FIR was extremely cheesy and contrived, but still watchable in a low-rent reality show kind of way. And if you guys do decide to do a sequel, make sure you don't kill off the hottest chicks first this time.

Trailers Galore

A huge batch of trailers hit the tubes this week. Check them out below.

The really real teaser for REC 2 (not that fan made imposter from several weeks back) dropped this week. It looks like it picks up right where the last one left off. Sweet!

Lesbian Vampire Killers looks like a lot of fun. It got a great reception at the EFM (despite being enigmatically listed in the programme guide as LVK) so hopefully it'll make its way around the festivals here this fall.

You should only have to watch a few seconds of this teaser for the live-action adaptation of Blood: The Last Vampire to know I am fully committed.

Finally, a full trailer for Mason and Boyes new project Blood River has surfaced. It looks a lot like Wolf Creek to me, but I know from seeing The Devil's Chair that Andrew Howard makes a really convincing psychopath. Bring it on!

I've been having a problem embedding vids from Twitch recently, so click here to see it.

Gooey and Chilly

Last March I posted a trailer for an low budget indie called Bioslime. Recently, some stills popped up online courtesy of Undead Backbrain.

All's I can say is it certainly looks like it lives up to its name. Click here for the rest of the pics. Also, new info has surfaced on Bloody Disgusting about Adam Green's new project Frozen. It is about three friends who gets stranded on a ski resort chairlift. You know it's funny. I watched an obscure Korean film called Spider Forest recently and it had a scene where two characters got momentarily stranded on a ski lift. I thought to myself 'why has no one done an entire movie about this?' Well, it looks like Green had that same thought. Green begins filming in Utah this week, so you can follow his progress on the shoot by going here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Nobody's Afraid Of The Mailman."

Last night I trekked out to the Bloor to take in a little movie called Dark Night Of The Scarecrow. Having been a made-for-television movie from the early eighties, this was the first time it had ever been played on the big screen. The format was a newly restored version that will be released on DVD later this year. I had never seen this movie before, but its reputation preceded it. You don’t have to go very far into the horror blogosphere to find someone who speaks of this film fondly. It clearly affected a great deal of people during its initial broadcast and later on VHS. I have a question. Why is the scarecrow such an untapped icon of fright? They are frickin’ creepy man, yet you can probably count the number of movies featuring our straw-filled fiends on one hand. After a vintage 16mm trailer for The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (awesome, awesome, awesome!), the Scarecrow was unleashed!

After a simple-minded man named Bubba (Larry Drake) is mistakenly gunned down by a lynch mob headed by local mailman Otis Hazelrigg (Charles Durning), they start being haunted by a lone scarecrow. Initially, they think someone is having fun with them, until the first of the group meets a grisly end. Does someone in town know their secret, or has Bubba come back from the grave for revenge?

Dark Night Of The Scarecrow appears fairly dated now, but that works as much in its favour as it does against it. You might assume that the Spartan nature of the production was to fit into a teleplay mold, but it was actually originally written as a feature and not much, if anything, was changed for its transition to the small screen. It is standard fare, but there is something oddly watchable about it. The story is fairly predictable as I found myself on several occasions to be one or two steps ahead of the narrative – though the ending IS pretty cool – and yet again I was still engaged. It also helps that the piercing score, very indicative of that time period, enhances the movie immensely. Durning excels as the town’s slime ball mailman. He strides around the movie with an air of self-importance that the rest of the townspeople seem to half-tolerate and half-fear.

I’d say the biggest weakness of the film is the conspicuous lack of the title character. There are very few shots of the scarecrow itself, which is a shame because there was huge potential to be capitalized on there. The last shot of the scarecrow at the end of the movie is super creepy and I just wish there had been more of it. I understand that the filmmakers were subscribing to the ‘less is more’ theory, but there’s ‘less’ and then there's ‘too little’. And when I say ‘too little’, I’m not referring to the lack of violence either. Even as much of a gorehound as I am, I certainly don’t NEED the sticky stuff to have a good time. As for the transfer, it looks superb. They certainly took great care (‘they’ presumably being Image Entertainment) in cleaning it up and fans looking to reacquaint themselves will be very pleased.

J.D. Feigelson, the writer of DNOTS was in attendance and stuck around after the screening for a Q&A. He spoke about being unaware there was even a following for this movie until encountering all the kind words online. The most surprising thing about the movie is how close to the script the end product was. According to Feigelson, you could literally read along with the original script, which, let’s face it, is unheard of these days. He also pointed out that he is in no way threatened by the idea of a remake, saying that the original would always be locked in and whether another take on it turns out to be better or worse is completely irrelevant.

Writer J.D. Feigelson

Though I don’t think Dark Night Of The Scarecrow is anything to write home about, there is something to be said for straightforward storytelling done well. With everything in your face these days, it is nice to go back and see how filmmakers told stories back in simpler times.

Time Flies

It's hard to believe that the Suspect fire was one year ago today.

Fortunately, Eyesore Cinema has risen from its ashes (in a location a little further west than its original site) and is now fully established. They are now my go-to source for all things obscure. Here's to many more years on the fringe!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Red Stuff

Blood. Nothing reminds us more of our own mortality than seeing that dark crimson fluid - or anything else that is supposed to be on the inside for that matter - flow out of us. In horror, blood is an almost ubiquitous component, whether it is dripping out slowly...

or spraying out gloriously!

Is it any wonder red is my favourite colour? My video store was a little short on the infamous gore titles like Maniac and Cannibal Holocaust, so I'll make this week's bloody edition of Coverbox Wednesday a bit more literal. Just the word 'blood' grabs your attention and instantly conjures up all sorts of grisly images in your mind. Is it any surprise then, that horror filmmakers have honed in on this to market their product?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Slasher

I just saw this today. Priceless!

100 Per Cent Rad!

I just wanted to throw a shoutout to the guys at The Totally Rad Show.

Congratulations on one-hundred fantastic episodes! The all-things-rad podcast featuring Diggnation's Alex Albrecht, Jeff Cannata and Dan Trachtenberg (and soon-to-be-leaving-man-with-the-plan Steve Koncelik) first hit the web on March 27, 2007. My friend Phil & I look forward to each weekly episode as much as anything on traditional television.

Keep up the great work guys. Here's to one-hundred more!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Trash Revisited

A trip out to Trash Palace was in order last Friday. They were playing a print of an old 1976 British thriller called Schizo. The last time they showed this was in 2007, the same week I first heard about Stacey Case’s cinema shrine and I’d been waiting for almost two years for him to play it again. Coming through the door, a few familiar faces met me, as a friend’s birthday party was happening there that night. Facebook had alerted me earlier in the day that it was her birthday, but I had no idea that Trash Palace was the location she had decided to celebrate it. That was a nice added bonus because having people to talk with during reel changes is always nice. There was even cake!

It’s the camera flash reflecting off the icing that caused that weird negative effect in the picture. Stacey, the curator of Trash Palace, introduced the movie and served up some vintage Roger Ramjet cartoons before the main feature spooled onto the screen.

When ex-con William Haskin (Jack Watson) reads in the paper that famous ice skater Samantha (Lynne Frederick) is getting married, he packs up his belongings – which include a very large knife – and travels south to intercept at her wedding.

I’ve heard Schizo referred to as a slasher, but that’s not accurate. Considering the slasher genre really hadn’t been established yet in 1976 (slasher mold-maker Halloween was still two years away) it maybe jumping the gun a bit on giving it that label. I would rather tag Schizo as the Brit’s ‘stab’ at the Italian giallo genre, which is basically what the modern slasher evolved from. All the ingredients of the giallo are there, the gruesome set pieces, the black-gloved killer, a smattering of nudity and a mystery that is revealed in the last reel.

As far as giallos go, Schizo isn’t a particularly good example of the genre. It is clumsy in parts and I had a pretty good handle on where it was going fairly early on. That’s not to say that I didn’t have a great time watching it though. The assembled Palace crowd (about fifty strong) was hooting and hollering during the movie in true MST3K fashion. However, we were laughing with the movie, not at it. Or at least I think we were. Leading lady Lynne Frederick is quite striking (that should be no surprise to anyone who watches giallos on a regular basis) and is surrounded by an eclectic bunch of characters. Her womanizing friend/psychiatrist Leonard seems strangely effeminate, her female psychic bears an unfortunate resemblance to Ozzy Osbourne and the antagonist, the lumbering old codger Haskin, looks like a pissed off James Cromwell. You throw in some inspired death sequences and you have yourself a rip-roaring time. And this time I actually remembered to take some decent pictures of this old space.

I don’t spend nearly enough time at Trash Place, but fortunately next month I hope to be there twice more, for screenings of the killer-ant flick Phase IV (coincidentally also featuring Frederick) and a second helping of Canadian giant rat opus Deadly Eyes. That, my friends, is a big butter-soaked tub of awesome!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger V

News From Berlin

Last week was the European Film Market, where all sorts of goodies come out of the shadows. The most exciting of which is the new French zombie flick The Horde. This sounds like balls-out action-oriented horror involving cops, gangsters and flesheaters in a ménage à trois of gore. For more info, click here.

Laid To Rest

In a recent interview with AV Club, Bruce Campbell finally gave a final answer on the subject of Evil Dead 4. And that answer was NO. Here is what he had to say on the subject.

"No. I think there should be an end to everything. I mean, did anyone really want Indiana Jones 4? The answer is no. I’ve taken a poll in about seven theaters now. Of 300 people, three hands go up. You are bound to disappoint. I would rather disappoint with a brand new original movie. People worship Army Of Darkness,and God bless them for it. It’s a beautiful thing. The movie bombed when it came out, and not many people are aware of that. Twenty years later, the thing has picked up speed, and it’s on American Movie Classics now. That was a long time ago, and whatever we do next will always be compared to Army Of Darkness, and I don’t see how we can win. You make that movie, and I can tell you the quote right now, “Oh, it’s not quite as good as Army Of Darkness.” Then we would have gone through immense physical pain and anguish to bring something out that ultimately disappointed. That’s really not what I’m into these days."

The man makes some excellent points. I am extremely happy that he has finally decided to speak out on it definitively, if only for the fact that I don't have to hear someone ask about it when I see him at Q&A's. If we were still in the nineties, a fourth Evil Dead would be an entertainable idea, but those days are long gone. Let the Evil Dead series lie and be remembered as it should be, one of the greatest movie trilogies ever put to film.

More Voorhees

Here's a couple of cool fan-created Jason pickies. I found the first one online this week and the second (by Danomight) I've had on my hard drive for quite some time. Pretty cool stuff! For an enlarged version of the second pic, click here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's - Firth Style.

He's such a romantic.

His Name Was Jason.

Since I won’t be doing a review for Platinum Dunes’ new incarnation of Friday the 13th, I figured I’d sound off on the OTHER new Friday the 13th release.

I had an absolute blast watching this DVD. What a nostalgic trip down memory lane! This disc is PACKED with great stuff, first and foremost being the main documentary His Name Was Jason: 30 Years Of Friday The 13th. The wraparound vignettes – which feature Tom Savini spewing out groaners while walking around Universal Studio’s Camp Blood attraction – are pretty hokey, but can be forgiven in the face of the overwhelming amount of people they got onboard for this project. Seriously, the parade of actors and crew that appear in this documentary is incredible. It was like looking through an old high school yearbook. I wouldn’t be able to name off all the lovely ladies from the series that appear, but some notables for me were Amy Steel, Elizabeth Kaitan, Lar Park Lincoln and Judie Aronson. Those interviewed cover the stories we’ve all heard before, like the story behind the scare at the end of the original and the origin of Jason’s iconic hockey mask, but there’s also a lot of new stuff covered like Aronson’s bout with hypothermia, and Tiffany Helm’s (Violet from Part 5) reshot death scene. I have to say that I’m okay with the latter because I remember having a real soft spot for Vi and her original exit may have blown my eleven-year-old mind. In addition to the cast and crew, many others chime in with their thoughts. Web journalists Ryan Rotten and Brad Miska (from Shocktillyoudrop & Bloody Disgusting, respectively) appear, as well as upcoming horror filmmakers like Adam Green & Joe Lynch. I think the only glaring omissions to the line-up of talking heads would be Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover and of course, Kevin Bacon. A lot of time is spent showing how pervasive the character of Jason has become in pop culture, covering the copious amounts of merchandising and references in other media. Probably the best thing about the doc, is that they have assembled every single person who ever played Jason Voorhees. The Men Behind The Mask featurette has extended interviews with all eleven men, including the newest, Derek Mears. He seems very sincere in wanting to do a good job. Seeing him speak so passionately about it reminded me of talking to Andrew Bryniarski about playing Leatherface in 2003. I had a good hour of his time at the ‘04 Festival Of Fear and was really struck by his commitment. It didn’t make me like the remake anymore, but I did respect him a great deal for how seriously he took the role. Aside from the main documentary, there is so much stuff on this two-disc set that it actually took me three sittings to get through it all. The Final Cuts feature has extended interviews with each part’s director. There are some great stories to be told here, including Joseph Zito talking about how his earlier work on The Prowler got him the job on Part 4 and Rob Hedden showing off the actual guitar that caved in J.J.’s head in Part 8. I’m still not buying Sean Cunningham’s assertion that Bay of Blood had no influence on Friday the 13th Part 2 though. The featurette From Script to Screen speaks with the many screenwriters that have worked on Friday and Dragged From The Lake showcases about a dozen random stories from within the productions. Also included on the disc are a bunch of fan films, the funniest of which is the Angry Video Game Nerd reviewing the vintage Nintendo game Friday The 13th. There are also a few location visits as well as tons of other stuff I will let you discover for yourself.

So, while the wraparound stuff in the doc is on the cheesy side, there is no denying the sheer volume of interesting info in this set. His Name Was Jason is a must-watch for any Friday the 13th fan.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Big F!

So, Jason? What are your thoughts on Platinum Dunes' back catalogue?

Yeah, me too. Happy Friday The 13th everyone!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Full Moon Fever

It was a full moon on Monday (no, not a new moon), so this seems like as good a time as any to do a certain Coverbox Wednesday I’ve been waiting to do for a while. At my video store, we had no shortage of titles from Charlie Band’s company Full Moon Entertainment. I think they must have had a deal with Ballbuster or something because whatever stuff they were peddling, we were buying. I used to eat up their horror catalogue after being indoctrinated into their world with Puppet Master II in 1991. I had actually seen some of their earlier offerings like Shadowzone and Creepozoids before that, but didn’t realize they were Full Moon until much later. I used to love the Puppet Master movies. If I might just nerd out (more than usual?) for a second, I have to confess that the only fan letter (besides X-Files fan club correspondence) I ever wrote was to Full Moon, more specifically an actress named Charlie Spradling, who appeared in PM2, Meridian and also hosted several episodes of VideoZone, which was a little featurette that appeared at the end of almost every Full Moon release. Ah... mammaries--I mean memories! Anyway, let’s back on track, shall we? I have documented the franchises of Full Moon like Puppet Master and Subspecies here before, so this time around I am going to concentrate on some of the other outrageous genre titles that hit our shelves in the early nineties. Enjoy!

This one featured a young Seth Green, but I know you are more interested in the "Virtual Reality Special Effects!" Apparently, The Lawnmower Man was a real trend setter.

Stuart Gordon directed this one, which should make it no surprise that P&TP is one of the better titles Full Moon has to offer.

This one was about voodoo and featured a stone hand that flew around turning people into chickens. The even crazier thing could be that I remember liking it.

As cheesy as this Jeffrey Combs/Brian Thompson vehicle appears, there actually is a cool stop-motion animation sequence involving two battling dinosaur skeletons.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Scary Game For Scary People.

Before role-playing games were made with ones and zeros, they were made with pen, paper, curiously shaped dice and, of course, your imagination. That’s not to say that tabletop RPG’s, like the iconic Dungeons & Dragons don’t still exist today, but they certainly never became as pervasive as the current rash of MMORPG’s have over the last few years. I played my share of D&D when I was younger, but I also sampled some of the other universes that were out there. Back in its heyday, every genre had its own RPG. There was Top Secret, which explored the world of spies and secret agents, a Star Wars RPG (which I once played as a red & green-striped-Mandalorian-armored bounty hunter named Neddy) and even a Marvel Superheroes one that I sampled a time or two - dibs on Wolverine! A few weeks ago, my friend Darryl lent me a reference book on an RPG I had never even heard of called Chill.

It is a horror role-playing game, which immediately peaked my interest. Mayfair Games published Chill in the early-nineties, after purchasing it from Pacesetter Inc. It is not the only horror RPG to exist, as I know Call Of Cthulhu has a pretty big following and Vampire: The Masquerade also had its moment in the sun (though I guess that’s a poor choice of words), but I never got into either of those. Basically, Chill is a world where you play as a member of a secret organization called SAVE, which is an acronym for a Latin phrase meaning ‘The Eternal Society Of The Silver Way’. SAVE is charged with protecting the Earth from evil forces, which are collectively referred to as The Unknown. The scenarios you play are investigations, which usually lead to encounters with minions of The Unknown, such as spirits, vampires and every other creature that is not supposed to exist. In a lot of ways, Chill is similar to D&D, with the use of dice, though it only uses two ten-sided dice as opposed to the sack full needed for the latter. The game is mediated by one person, designated the Chill Master - I know, original eh? Your character has abilities like Strength, Stamina and Dexterity, as well was Perception and Willpower. Also, being an agent of SAVE, your character will be somewhat versed in The Art, which is the ability to perceive The Unknown.

Fear is a large factor in the game, as whenever you are confronted with The Unknown, there is always a chance your character will turn tail and run. I read through the introductory scenario ‘Caulfield Place: Rest In Peace’, where players try to rid a haunted house of its incumbent evil spirits, by deciphering a mystery hidden within its history. The combat seemed very complicated to me, but that could just be because I’m used to the D&D way of doing things. I’m sure that if I actually played through a round, I’d pick it up pretty quickly. The world of Chill is certainly a strange one, but also rather involved. The whole history of SAVE is documented in the book I read. It includes a timeline going back hundreds of years. SAVE was founded by an Irish man named Charles O’ Boylan in 1844, who was later killed in Egypt by animated mummies.

1989: The Central Archives fire in Dublin, Ireland.

Perhaps even more fascinating are the minions of The Unknown, all laid out in the back section of the book. In addition to the usual ghouls, ghosts and creatures of the night, there are also some more reality-based oddities. The most insidious of these may be the ‘Mean Old Neighbour Lady’. Everybody knew one of these growing up. She lived in an old house and was often accompanied by a large and menacing dog. Whenever your ball went over her fence, you knew it was lost and the neighbourhood kids would dare each other to ring her doorbell. In our world, they are just ordinary seniors who want to be left alone, but in the realm of Chill, they are pure evil. The Mean Old Neighbour Lady will single out a child and lure him/her into her house with treats and then lock them in her cellar. She will then go about starving and brainwashing said child in darkness until eventually, he/she transforms into a ‘Gamin’. They are then sent out to cause even more mayhem. Gamins are beings that appear to us as malnourished children and insinuate themselves into healthy families by befriending one of its younger members. They then go about playing their favourite game of ‘murder’. Once the family is completely destroyed, always killing the child that befriended it last, it moves onto another one. So, as you can see, danger in the world of Chill lurks everywhere. It is pretty odious stuff. I love it!

Even though The Horror Section is first and foremost a blog about horror films, I love to cover all different facets of the genre and Chill is certainly an intriguing example. For more info on Chill, check out their website here.