Why a Video Game Industry Crash Could be A Good Thing

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It seems like more and more often, I’m reading about the video game industry crashing again. My initial reaction to these reports was the shrug them off by pointing to the record profits, hardcore fanbase, and the apparently recession-proof nature of the medium. But lately, having thought about this more often, I’ve started to come around and realize that the current business model may no longer be viable and appears to be hanging on to remnants of the past while branching out in the wrong directions. But given these observations, would another industry apocalypse be a bad thing?

To those who may not be familiar with the history of the medium, the Crash of 1983 ended the first generation of video gaming in devastating fashion. The fledgling industry over saturated the market without regard for quality and brought about its own demise by overextending itself in a rush to maximize profits too fast and too soon. Nintendo single-handedly saved gaming with the NES a couple years later, but 1983 remains a warning that it could all come crashing down again if companies are not careful.

Over thirty years after the big crash, video games are taking over as a dominant entertainment medium. The biggest earners in any given year are typically gaming staples like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto and the culture that has risen up around gaming is a combination of massive and passionate that film, television, and literature fans can’t touch. We’ve reached a sweet spot where artistic interactive storytelling, astonishing visuals, excellent soundtracks, and genuine fun have all come together to make it a something for everyone catch-all entertainment behemoth.

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The bigger they are…

So why is it going to crash? Well hardware prices are going up, more companies are trying to throw their hats into the ring, budgets are becoming more and more inflated, companies are becoming less and less consumer friendly, and set price points for games coupled with tough economic times for the middle and lower classes are leading to more people buying used and pirating. Even with massive sales, companies are often losing money due to the immense budgets of their products.

This leads me to believe that Nintendo may actually have the leg up on Sony and Microsoft, in spite of appearances. For all of the mockery the Wii-U has endured for not being high-tech enough and not having enough awe-inspiring games, this conservative approach could be in anticipation of some economic calamity that they foresee. Nintendo is not dumb. For all intents and purposes, they built this house out of the rubble of the Atari age. And they may well be poised to clean up again after the Xbox and PlayStation brands implode under their own weight.

Which brings me to my next point: where will we as gamers be with our hardcore gaming brands out of commission? Well, there is no possibility of video games not making an immediate comeback. We may lose some of the biggest companies, but we will not lose the medium. It’s part of who we are as a generation now. There will always be interactive digital adventures to be had, with or without the Microsofts and EAs of the world.

But how, you crazy bastard, you say. How will we survive without a new Call of Duty and Madden every single year or a stack of unplayed games that we reflexively bought because they looked awesome but never got a chance to play because were too busy playing new Call of Duty and Madden every year?  Well, you know what they say: less is more. Part of the reason the industry may be dooming itself is because there is just too much out there. I know this is as First World problems as it gets, but there are literally too many games on any one console for any of us to hope to play.

game sales chartRemember when we used to get a game and play it for years unraveling every secret and replaying the same levels over and over just to get better for its own sake? I don’t know what that feels like anymore. Every time I fire up a new game, I’m already thinking about the next game I’m going to play. There are so many games that I don’t have time for that I feel like I have to rush through every game I play so I can hurry up and get to the next one and the one after that, hoping to get to them all before the next console generation where I start the process all over again while still lamenting the games I never got to play on the last gen.

Maybe my problem in life is that I want to experience too much. Perhaps this is the form of my impending mid-life crisis: to have so many things I want to see, read, watch, play, and do with no time for them all. Again, it’s a good problem to have as far as dilemmas go, but with so much out there and so many people with only so much time and money to go around, it seems like the entertainment industry can’t take much more expansion. Something is going to give and gaming seems to be the industry pushing itself the hardest.

But even if we lose all of the big three and even Valve, gamers will not want for distraction. One of the big stories of the several years has been indie games. From low tech nostalgia-style titles to story-based adventures told in installments, smaller companies are proving that you don’t need big budgets to deliver a good time. If the corporations crumble, these guys will be more than ready to fill their void, and with the extra attention they could potentially become the next generation of mainstream gaming and remake the industry with a completely new paradigm.

Imagine a world without set $60 price points and day one DLC. No more paid corporate shill reviews flooding websites or overpriced special editions, no products rushed to market before their time, and no goddamn console wars either. Imagine all the people living for today. You may say I’m a dreamer, but…wait, what was I talking about?

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We don’t need no water…

Oh, right. Let it all burn, then. Thanks for the good times, corporate gaming overlords, but progress marches on.  Not that we should start picking out a catchy tombstone epitaph for EA just yet or anything, but given the direction that things appear to be going with new consoles failing to live up to expectations and general consumer malcontent becoming the norm, I could see a return to smaller PC titles in the future.

Whether it happens or not we’ll see, but with gaming cemented in the public’s collective consciousness as primo entertainment we don’t really have much to fear if it does. There’s plenty of talent out there to make sure that the industry will bounce back and chances are a reboot could end up being beneficial to consumers and give a lot of new blood and fresh ideas a chance without being gobbled up by the sharks. And to that I say, why the hell not. The last one cleared out the crap and gave us some of the most definitive years in gaming history. I’m definitely interested in what could be in store for the next cycle.

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Are Politics Ruining Gaming Culture?

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Gotta love the internet age. When I was younger, people had to take the time to at least listen to the radio or watch television before they pretended to indulge in half-baked politics. Sometimes I swear that the Internet is the greatest of mankind’s inventions. Everybody in the world can communicate anything now! Then I end up swearing that it’s the worst invention in human history. Everybody in the world can communicate ANYTHING now.

Like I said, back in the day you had to at least get the official line of bullshit regarding the goings-on in the world around you if you were too lazy to read a real book on the subject. That or you could listen to the ravings of homeless people and Christians with signs protesting devil worshiping outside of heavy metal concerts on the streets of major cities. If you wanted to publicly participate, you had to…you know…actually do stuff.

But now that we’ve got the internet, political education begins and ends with social networking posts that are derived entirely from other social networking posts that were made by people who don’t appear to ever leave their home and presumably have no practical interest in the outside world and politics anyways. At some point, this human centipede-like process of education based on tweets, message board posts, and status updates became the cornerstone of modern discourse in nerd culture.

What does this have to do with video games? Well, have you been on a video game message board in the last few years? One where everybody is an expert on human rights and hell-bent on bending the entire world to their will without leaving their keyboard? Every major game is now a political battleground between feminists with a massive checklist of demands that must be met lest they buy the game anyways but complain about it lots and misogynistic tools who may not even know themselves if they are trolling or not since online douchebaggery has become such a reflex at this point.

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I want to kick their asses SO HARD right now.

When I was little and my mother would throw me out of the house into the countryside to get me away from my Atari 2600 or NES for a few hours, I used to pass time in a little wooded area behind our house. I would pretend I was saving the world from something only I could defeat with my skills learned from watching Kung Fu Theater matinees: evil ninjas.

I’d spin kick and punch the air in all directions like a teenager hardcore dancing, convinced in my imagination that if I stopped, the world would be overrun by these ninjas that nobody else could see. It was good times, but thankfully (hopefully) nobody was around to see this immature maniac spastically lashing out in all directions at nothing. The thing is, as gamers we don’t play outside anymore and as citizens of the internet everybody can see us now. And too damn many of us are still fighting metaphorical invisible ninjas online.

It seems like every major game release comes standard with ridiculous manufactured controversy from the lunatic fringe these days. Grand Theft Auto has always had its share of controversy, but usually from people who are political idiots for a living. The last entry saw a series that has always been the very picture of over-the-top satirical misanthropy in hot water for making fun of female characters. Yeah, GTA. The satirical games known for juvenile humor where almost every character is an irredeemable piece of shit. I know. Try to contain your shock at this revelation.

When one reviewer pointed out this game-changing observation, it kicked off an epic torrent of hate from series supporters that blew up the internet. How do you make a single flame war between idiots in a community that is pretty much a lake of fire at this point actual gaming news? Well, if the article was written by a transgender individual it helps. Being an indefensible prick to a cisgender person is business as usual, but it sucks extra being transsexual and only widespread internet commenting can balance those scales.

Early images of Bioshock Infinite led to a public outcry over Elizabeth’s evil cleavage. A busty girl in a low cut top, you say? To arms!

  I can see your dirty pillows.

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When her bust size was decreased (which suited the character better, for the record), another outcry over feminism taking over the world resulted. When Bioshock Infinite actually came out, it was labeled “White Guilt: The Game”; presumably by people who either didn’t play it or were angry that the plot mussed their hair when it whooshed right over their heads like Rodan over Tokyo. How do you win?

It’s not all sexism, racism, and homophobia. That’s not First World problem enough to maintain middle class white rage over. Hating people based on that stuff is for edgy teens and FOX News viewers. Let’s talk BioWare. One of the most beloved video game companies in existence. At least they were. Then Electronic Arts bought them.

The torrent of Mass Effect 3 hate speaks for itself. BioWare has sold their soul! They’re the Machine, man! Day One DLC! Worst. Company. Evah. And that was all before they even got to the ending. The game itself: pretty much the same as the last one everybody loved to pieces. But why let things like whether or not it’s extremely fun and brilliant for dozens of hours up until the last few minutes influence you opinion on a video game? It’s EA!

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No, Shepherd. I am your father.

Here on Gamemoir, we have a smaller audience but a pretty high quality of clientele. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a comment or two on our articles, but zero threats of rape or questioning of sexual orientation or any of the other usual gamer talk. Maybe I’ll egg a few more comments out of somebody by arguing with them, but overall it’s pretty civil. Usually.

In one author’s legendary debut post, she reviewed Europa Universalis IV with part tongue-in-cheek humor and part delightful loopy and antagonistic political rantings over eurocentrism that translated roughly to “flamemeflamemeflameme”. To date, that one post has received nearly 130 comments, almost all different posters, almost universally negative. I’m not sure if the ones that got deleted once the discourse turned anti-Semitic (don’t ask) count on the total, but I think the word “shitstorm” is appropriate either way.

I kind of miss the days where controversy meant rich old people declaring that Mass Effect was hardcore pornography and Grand Theft Auto was a murder simulator. We had a good laugh together at these uneducated dimwits fighting battles against nonexistent problems, didn’t we?  It’s only been a few years, but in that time fighting the war against people who are wrong on the internet has somehow become more important than the entertainment culture we share and now we are the dimwits lashing out blindly at each other while accomplishing nothing aside from making ourselves look stupid.

Being pampered First World residents who can afford to spend all of our time playing video games and pretending to be all deep and stuff by typing about privilege on the internet until our fingers hurt while other people starve and freeze to death or dodge bullets and bombs in their neighborhoods doesn’t really show how socially aware we are so much as it highlights how unspeakably immune to irony we are to have nothing better to do with our time. And yes, I am doing it right now. You’re learning.

If making the world a better place was the goal, I suspect there are better ways to go about it than spreading politically-correct fascism or donating over $150,000 that could have been used to feed the hungry for the pleasure of watching a

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The Hiltons and Kardashians are currently in a bidding war to bottle her sweat for a new fragrance.

cartoonishly indulgent Youtuber who never played video games before list stuff that happened in video games where female characters aren’t the most awesomest.

Who knew that all that time I thought I was playing Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong in my youth because the games were fun, it was actually all part of a brainwashing conspiracy to make me hate women?  Well it didn’t work in the slightest, but Anita Sarkeesian appears to have made more inroads in that direction with a few videos than a thousand video games ever could for some people. Irony does not have to be our enemy, friends. A little self-awareness goes a long way.

In a world where somebody who rapes a 14-year old girl can get off with a misdemeanor child endangerment charge and the only way we find out is because a hacker collective spams the net with it, I’d say we have bigger fish to fry than video game characters’ fashion sense and internet trolls where misogynistic behavior is concerned.

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Just to be clear: this is utterly ridiculous.

Fiction is almost by definition a place where we can get away from real life for a while. We can be someone and somewhere else and experience things we can’t normally experience and do things virtually that we have no real interest in doing in real life like pay hookers for car sex and then running them over and taking the money back to kick off a citywide mayhem spree that ends with being blown up by tanks. In other words, it’s not real life. Not even comparable.

Fantasy entertainment is a place where we can indulge our id to its utmost without any consequence in a society that has become so super-ego driven and unaware of itself that it’s practically a satire. By choosing to ignore the real world and transplanting its problems into fantasy fiction, we are doing both a disservice and shitting where we eat.

Will the invisible ninjas we call political differences ever go away? Nope. Idiots gotta idiot and jerks gotta jerk. There is no controlling this. As long as humans have been able to communicate, they’ve been able to miscommunicate and the internet has made worldwide distribution of brain vomit as effortless and simple as the thought processes that spew it. There is no changing our fellow humans.

Remember the last time your political arguments were so convincing that the opposition bowed down and told you how right and smart and superior you were and would you please teach them to be so knowledgeable?   Exactly. There is no mission to accomplish here; just a lot of delusions of the other side taking over the world if we don’t stop them using the letters on our keyboards and social media-driven education to right their grievous wrongs.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of this stuff is worth discussing. But there is a time, a place, and a balance. Spending all day looking for a gaming journalist who made a faux pas so you can gather the troops and bully them for using a word you have collectively decided you do not like or some other nonsense adds to the community about as much as an 11-year-old on Xbox Live screaming racial and sexual slurs.

If we can all just agree to be responsible for our own behavior, I think it’d make our little community a lot more livable. When we accept the fact that we can’t change other people and that many of those other people enjoy saying and doing things we may not like to say or do, we’ll understand the actual meaning of tolerance. Until then, feel free to try and beat Gamemoir’s flaming record telling me how dumb I am. 130 comments is your goal. Alternately, you could use this handy guide to gauge your own personal rage level.

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The Virtues of Accepting a Work on its Own Merits

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“Oh HELL no, you’re not trolling us with Sucker Punch, Verboon!” shout the indignant Unreality readers in unison. Would I do such a thing? I might. Hell, you know I would. With relish. But hear me out anyways. What’s all this nonsense about accepting something on its own merit? Well, this could take a minute to explain. Perhaps an entire article’s worth.

What I’m saying basically is that we are conditioned by various external factors in our life that we’ve internalized to be predisposed to like and not like certain things. Don’t panic, this is normal. For example, when I see Justin Beiber’s face, I am filled with a need to punch kittens. But let’s say the little bastard grows up to star in some of the greatest films ever made. How many of us would either refuse to watch it or actively talk shit about it without having given it a fair shake?

Political values, cultural differences, and other prejudices are often a defining factor in what we decide is the best thing ever and what we will fight to the death to defame. But it doesn’t have to be that way, friends. We can go to the movies or read books or play video games to have a good time and let go of all the hate. Well, most of it.

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Beleib dat!

We need not diss Django Unchained because it’s about killing whitey and Tarantino’s face is stupid, nor despise James Bond as a cartoonish chauvinistic male fantasy. We need not dismiss Ender’s Game because the author is a hate-filled bigot, or claim Sucker Punch is the worst thing ever because anime is for losers, and we sure as hell don’t need to gauge the quality of a film by our ability to ferret out unimportant plot holes.

Speaking of hate-filled bigots, I’d hate to think that a world would exist where I never read the works of H.P. Lovecraft. His tales of supernatural horror were largely a function of one thing: intense xenophobia. Dude was terrified of immigrants and convinced that they were plotting against us with their strange, foreign ways. In fact, they may well be worshipping some tentacle-faced monstrosity and attempting to awaken it to hold dominion over the world!

Can a man with no fears write great horror? Probably not. Should you hold Lovecraft’s racism against his body of work? Only if you want to deprive yourself of some of the best and most imaginative horror fiction ever written. His own fear-filled imagination actually kind of serves as an interesting comparison to modern anti-fandoms in that he took that irrational hatred and twisted it into something unique and creative whereas most of us just act like pompous jerks when we don’t like stuff.

While it’s certainly a positive thing to be able to comprehend the themes and allegories that make up any quality work of art and it’s always good to be aware of the artist’s intentions, I’d argue that whether or not you agree with any of them should not be the deciding factor in how you rate the work. Art is meant to explore and express the thoughts and feelings of an artist. If a work does that effectively, who are you to apply your own personal preferences to assess objective quality?

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            “Those reviews aren’t half bad.”             “Nope, they’re ALL bad!”

Take one of my favorite Asian films, Zhang Yimou’s Hero; a film full of brilliant action, poignant emotions, and intense beauty. It also promotes the value of fascism. Now, if you stacked up all of the things in the world into a pile with things I love at the top and things I hate on the bottom, fascism is at the Earth’s core. Nonetheless, I feel Yimou captured the theoretical idealism that shows the appeal of fascism and in particular the Chinese peoples’ acceptance of it as part of their culture. Rather than allow my personal preferences to dictate my feelings, I accepted the film on its own standards and found it to be one of the most memorable theatrical experiences of my life.

What seems to be the thing is that people project their personal preferences into a work and become blinded when the work isn’t about them in particular. I once read a review of Juno that was pretty much a tearful rant from a woman defending her personal choice to have an abortion and railing against a quirky, whimsical indie comedy for not mirroring her own life experiences. It was a pretty disturbing overshare, but when you think about it a lot of the hate any given work actually kind of resembles a less forthright version of that.

The game Bioshock Infinite ruffled a lot of feathers on both sides of the political aisle with its too close for comfort portrayal of the institutionalized racial oppression that constitutes a large chunk of American history and its subsequent depiction of a bloody uprising that saw the oppressed turn the tables and the revolutionary leader acting in self-interest. Because that has never, ever happened in human history, right? Most revolutions are won with stern words and the new government always turns out to be a flawless rainbow-filled altruistic utopia, right?

It upset conservatives for daring to portray aspects of our culture that they’d rather ignore, and it upset liberals for suggesting that the world is not the perfect place they imagine even after they overthrow the Man. I would say upsetting both extremes makes you the voice of reason- an exceptional feat for any work of art, much less a mere video game- but for many people it was just a reason to write it off.

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So racist it could almost be an old Superman comic book cover.

And then there’s satire (pictured above), which is essentially an ironic mean-spirited joke that people with no sense of humor will not realize is a joke, thus making it even funnier. Can I explain why taking stupid ideas and following through on them to their illogical extreme to illustrate their stupidity brings me amusement? I suppose I can’t, but I do know that a significant portion of the population not comprehending the concept fills message boards and comment sections on the net daily.

So basically, whether or not something conforms to our own preconceived notions of how things ought to be is often how we intellectually assess its quality. Except that intellectuality is defined by objective analysis and therefore not subject to the pettiness of our own wishful thinking. So if you think elves are lame, homosexuality is an abomination, and we should abort ALL the babies perhaps you could sit out serious discussions about Lord of the Rings, Brokeback Mountain, and Juno maybe? Just spitballing here.

So this brings us back to Sucker Punch. The hate just keeps coming and coming for that one, but I’m not sure I’ve ever read a legitimate reason at so why it’s so unwatchable other than the fashion choices. After it was announced that Wonder Woman would be appearing in the Batman/Superman film, I read an article in which the writer began voicing their concerns about whether the macho-leaning Zack Snyder was the right director to bring the Amazon princess to the big screen.

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In 300 nobody got shirts so I can actually see this working.

It didn’t take much for the article to devolve into a Sucker Punch-based rant that utilized the phrase “anime hookers” repeatedly. This is not how you critique a film. That is how you spray cringe-inducing personal prejudices and hang-ups onto a computer screen for other people to uncomfortably read. Anime style may be a mere subculture in the West, but in Japan it’s practically a way of life.

Sucker Punch utilized some visual imagery associated with anime as part of its tribute to hardcore geek culture and the power of the nerd cocktail of video games, sci-fi, and fantasy as an escape from the often depressing and terrifying realities of the real world. The ladies’ outfits were typical of Japanese characters and clearly meant to bring that culture to mind. Wouldn’t that suggest the biggest problem with the movie is the viewer’s own cultural intolerance? Maybe they should consider creating their own horror universe like Lovecraft to turn that tiresomeness into awesome sauce. I can see it now: The Weeaboo Mythos®.

Poor fashion sense or not, Snyder definitely didn’t do himself any favors by putting the word out that his nerdy wet dream was a female empowerment story and then making it so steeped in metaphor and symbolism that most people weren’t going to understand it beyond the prostitution and miniskirts. That was just inviting disaster. He made a geek-flavored acid trip, and that’s all Sucker Punch was; a unique and stylish action film with psychological themes in an ocean of same ol’ same ol’.

But regardless of Snyder’s lack of feministic awareness, is it really worthwhile to expend energy passing judgment on a film that you simply do not understand? A lot of commentary I’ve read on Sucker Punch strongly implies that the commentators either did not watch the film (as its earnings indicate) or didn’t comprehend anything about it beyond the way the characters were dressed.

Personally, if I don’t “get” something, I’m more likely to either put more thought into it, watch/read it again, and possibly research it in an attempt to understand where it is coming from or leave it alone altogether than I am to insist on foisting an uninformed opinion onto the masses in a rush to…I don’t really know. What is the point, exactly?

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Everyone wants to be part of the magic, I guess.

At this point, it appears that prejudice is part of our genetic makeup. Now that it’s not socially acceptable to be abusive to one another based on the color of people’s skin, sexual preference, or gender we have turned to fiction as a scapegoat to work out our personal hang-ups.  We’re so uncomfortable with those hang-ups that we constantly search for them in pop culture to point them out and feel better about ourselves. And if we can’t find them, projection is always an option.

On the other hand, there is no blind eye we will not turn when it comes to something we enjoy. We’ll proudly cite a plot hole as a reason why one film is horrible and instantly dismiss one just as big in a personal favorite. Michael Bay’s Amos and Andy reboot bots from Transformers 2? Indubitably racist, but not the reason the film was garbage. Otherwise, Star Wars and numerous other classics would be right there with it. And don’t even mention Disney.

So yeah, it’s probably time to admit that everything is horrible and racist and sexist and riddled with errors, and once we get over that fact we can be free to enjoy and ignore what we please instead of chucking double standards all over the place in futile attempts to distract other people from the unwatchable crap we enjoy ourselves. Everybody has something ridiculous that they enjoy, be it mindlessly saccharine rom-coms, grindhouse boob and bloodbaths, cartoons about giant ninja robots piloted by Japanese schoolgirls, mind-numbingly existential  arthouse fare, or anything involving Justin Beiber. But seriously, f**k that guy.

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Sign iiiiiiiiiiit…..

Obviously, all of that stuff is up for discussion but a little tolerance could go a long way when it comes to other peoples’ taste (or lack thereof). Just because the internet allows any jackass to post any thought that pops into their head the second it pops into their head doesn’t mean you have to be that jackass. Just like in real life, any kind of love is better than every kind of hate. If something is clearly not your thing, there’s nothing to be gained by harassing the people who enjoy it. Unless, of course, those people are Twi-hards. Their tears of emo rage are both delicious and nutritious.

(Editor’s note: Nick has been fired for liking Sucker Punch and claiming it has merit, in any form)

Five Horror Films that Shocked the Unshockable

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I’ve watched what most people would consider an excessive number of horror films in my life, beginning with Universal monsters as a child and kicking into overdrive by the time I was in college away from parental supervision renting Faces of Death videos and working my way through my roommate’s prodigious Stephen King VHS collection.

By the time DVD was a thing, I believed I’d exhausted most options in horror cinema. Then the internet came along and I saw how very wrong I was. There was a whole world of underground cinema past and present so hardcore it hardly saw the light of day until the advent of digital media. I had work to do. Even today, old cult classics come out of the woodwork and independent filmmakers are pushing the genre towards further extremes. It’s a good time to be a horror fan.

Having grown up with monsters and actively sought out every fright I could find since, I would have thought that there was nothing left that could shock me. Sure, I could get creeped out, startled, and even a little scared if a film was really effective; that’s why I love the genre. But after the credits rolled I was over it. To literally make me lose sleep or upset me on a level that it affects me even after the film is over and done with? That is almost impossible. Nonetheless, it’s been done. Here are five films that left me shocked and disturbed after viewing them.

 

The Children

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Prior to watching this one, I always read the title in my head using the late Isaac Hayes’ voice. Doesn’t really inspire fear. But if you are looking for a new way to be psychologically terrified by watching a fairly tame horror film, won’t somebody please think of The Children?

Here’s a thing you maybe don’t hear very often: being a parent is TERRIFYING. Being responsible for something so helpless that absorbs every ounce of your love and adoration means you are biologically and psychologically compelled to worry around the clock about what terrible things could happen to your family’s bundles of joy. Nothing in the world is more upsetting in human nature than the thought of something truly horrible befalling your children.

That said, flip that fear around. What parents never think about is what if our child was the truly horrible thing befalling us. The Children captures the dynamic of an extended family vacationing together with the requisite tribe of young cousins playing together and being completely out of control. Just how out of control do they get? You don’t want to know.

This is somewhat of a reimagining of the 1976 Spanish film Who Can Kill a Child? But while that one took place in a very 70’s horror movie atmosphere with a childless couple in a remote village, this 2008 film goes straight for the jugular by making family the focus. Even seeing a child harm somebody else and advance on you, could you look into those little puppy dog eyes and do something about it? Even if it was your child? And even if you could, would anybody believe your story? Humans just aren’t wired that way, and I can even go so far as to say I’d rather be hacked to bits my son, nieces, and nephews then harm any of them in self-defense and that is why The Children upset me so much. What if?

 

Inside

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France has an undeserved reputation in America as a country of stuck-up wimps. The people who believe that have probably never watched French horror films. They don’t dick around. One of the most unpleasant is 2007’s Inside.  It’s arguably the best home-invasion film ever made, and considering that is a well-worn classic horror subgenre, that’s a good title to have. It beats most in terms of sheer intensity and brutality, but that’s not why it disturbed me as much as it did.

The protagonist in this film is a pregnant woman whose husband is recently deceased. A mysterious woman appears on her doorstep one night and unlike most idiots in horror films, our heroine plays it pretty smart, being suspicious and even phoning the cops. But what can they do when the cops show up and nobody else is there?

Who is this strange woman so desperate to get into the protagaonist’s house? What does she even want? Inside is particularly effective due to the added stress of the woman being pregnant. The fragile life in a woman’s belly inspires both additional feelings of vulnerability in the expectant mother and frustratingly impotent protectiveness in the audience.

The intensity and stress of the situation and one of the most extreme climaxes I’ve ever witnessed left me shell-shocked by the end. There are multiple meanings to the film’s title, and one of them is that it definitely got inside my head.

 

Cannibal Holocaust

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While I’ve heard that there are more extreme Italian cannibal films out there, I can honestly say I have no desire to see them. Ever. Cannibal Holocaust kept me up at night after watching it. It made me wonder what the f**k I was even doing with my life seeking something like that out. It disgusted me and impressed me at the same time.

If you thought that the genesis of the found footage film was The Blair Witch Project, you would be wrong. This film had the format down pat back in 1980. Normally a story this effective with such a fresh idea would kick off a frenzy of imitators.  But in this case, most people who saw it would rather forget Cannibal Holocaust ever happened.

The DVD release began with a disclaimer informing you that they only released it as a documentation of the kind of film that should never be made again. It was banned almost worldwide for years. Why? Well, let me put it this way: the films creators were actually brought to court and charged with making a snuff film. They had to produce the entire cast in public to clear the allegations. That’s how graphic it is.

I’m not going to get too much into the content because even describing would be unpleasant, but the story is composed of documentary footage filmed by a group of people who went into the jungle to study indigenous tribes and never came back. The things they did on camera were…unscrupulous. Pretty much everything you see happen on camera looks very much like what is was meant to look like: a documentary.

Italy is the all-time heavyweight king of convincing horror film gore and Cannibal Holocaust is exhibit A. But apparently the 100% convincing fake brutality against their fellow humans didn’t cut it so they turned to gleefully butchering live animals on-camera (legal there at the time) on several occasions during filming. Anything for the audience.

Cannibal Holocaust is simply the most vile thing I have ever sat through. You’ve been warned. Gore hounds refer to it as “The Caust”, rejoice at its mention, and scoff at those opposed so if you think you’re hardcore enough, feel free to give it a try, but do yourself a favor and watch it by yourself before you allow anybody you care about to view it.

 

The Girl Next Door

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No, this is not the 2004 B-grade sex comedy about the kid who has a porn star move in next to him. This one is a 2007 adaptation of of Jack Ketchum’s novel based on actual events and represents one of the most difficult reviews I ever had to write (I was coerced into it).

I say it was difficult because I had no idea how to rate a move like this. Did I enjoy it? Not in the least. Do I give it points for portraying horrific realities of human nature or for one of the most skin-crawling onscreen villains ever? It was based on a true story so do I slam it for an ending that was utterly devoid of any narrative cathartic release and vindication or applaud it for sticking to its guns and being one of the most depressing things ever? Does achieving that aim successfully cancel out the sheer unpleasantness of that aim? I argue about these things with myself to this day.

The story follows an adolescent boy whose neighbors take in two young sisters after their parents are killed in a car crash. They probably should have been in the car as well. The Girl Next Door captures the helplessness of youth in contrast with the cruelty of adulthood and explores the fearful fact that children are at the mercy of their elders until the second they are able to strike out on their own.

That terrifying realization that some children have no place else to go and nobody to stand up for them coupled with the fact that children witnessing cruelty without being subject to it themselves can be taught to derive pleasure from suffering and even be eager to participate made this a really difficult one to forget after I shut it off. The premise is psychologically sound. If art is the lie that helps us realize the truth, The Girl Next Door undeniably succeeded on that front, but as entertainment…no, thank you.

 

I Spit on Your Grave

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Now here’s a flick we’ve probably all at least heard of. It even got a remake a few years ago, which baffles me. In 1972 Wes Craven released Last House on the Left (also recently remade), which was a nasty story with graphic rape scenes followed by equally graphic vengeance. Six years later, somebody thought “I can do that better!” and the Day of the Woman came. The title was eventually changed to something a little more grindhousey and a cult classic was born.

The inspiration for this film actually came from real life when the director happened across a nearly-dead rape victim in New York crawling naked through some brush. After delivering her to the hospital, he noted that the police gave exactly zero shits about what the woman had been through and made I Spit On Your Grave to express his thoughts of street justice in a society that just didn’t care about violence against women.

This was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve ever had watching a film. Craven’s disturbing debut had nothing on this. NOTHING. The film is 110 minutes and about 45 of those minutes is graphic rape. It never seemed to end. Just when you thought it was over and you couldn’t possibly be subjected to more, it starts all over again.

Even the impressively brutal revenge spree (including the most effective castration I’ve ever seen)  that closes the movie is robbed of some of its bloody satisfaction by the fact that one of the rapists is mentally retarded. Yeah, it goes there. Like a true work of art, I Spit on Your Grave doesn’t even make justice cut and dry.

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Say what you want about The Simpsons, but they will awesomely mock ANYTHING.

The horror genre often fails to live up to its name. The word is defined as “an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust” but how often do we really feel that when Jason and Michael Myers are stalking their next victim? Do we not actively seek out and even applaud their rampages on some level? Shouldn’t true horror make us want to run out of the room screaming?

If you’re a casual horror movie fan up for some next level shit, you’ve got your assignments. The underground has been coming on strong for years and it has served up some sick and twisted stuff. When something pushes a hardcore horror fan to the edge of his own sanity, even if just for a minute, you know it’s good.