Alan Wake Review

Alan Wake (2010/2012)

The Premise

American horror author, Alan Wake has suffered from a two-year case of writer's block. Needing a break, he and his wife, Alice take a small vacation to the Washington town of Bright Falls. Soon into it, things go awry as Alice disappears right after a car accident. As Alan tries to figure out what is going on, he finds himself under attack from strange people and creatures originating from a manuscript he doesn't remember writing.

The First Stitches

This was a game that I happened upon during a very nice Steam sale. The trailers alone were enough to pique my attention and make me dive right in.

Mending the Seams

Plot: Alan Wake is a third person psychological horror game that plays out in a very linear fashion, much like...wait for it...a book. What keeps this entertaining, though, is the fact that there are a lot of strong points to it. A LOT. Right off the bat, there is a very strong storyline. The opening chapters are stirring and more than enough to get you going. I loved the dialogue within the game. When a character speaks, you listen. It's entrancing as our titular hero tears through the twists and turns of Bright Falls trying to unravel the secrets that belie him.

Characters: Another great part of the game is the characters. My favorite (besides Alan himself) would be his agent, Barry, especially during one of the extra episodes. His dialogue makes for some pretty good comic relief. Otherwise, there is some very engaging dialogue and depth to the cast. And for all of you out there who hate escort missions, there are technically a few in the game and for all intents and purposes, they are NOTHING like Ashley. Resident Evil fans know EXACTLY what I'm talking about (NSFW). And while we're speaking on the characters, controlling Alan is quite smooth and responsive. There is even a pretty cool (and non-intrusive) Bullet Time effect when you dodge enemy attacks at the right time, adding to the tension of combat.

Setting/Atmosphere: One of the things Washington is known for is its beautiful forests. You get more than an eyeful as you find yourself in darkened woods and mountains very frequently. Every corner you turn keeps you paranoid, especially during the night. The enemies you deal with help to keep the atmosphere with creepy, psychotic dialogue, demonic voices and a shadowy, wispy forms. To add to the already epic atmosphere , there are some nods and homages to classic horror and psychological thriller titles such as Stephen King's "The Shining" and Twin Peaks. You can also find televisions to interact with that play a Twilight Zone-like show called Night Springs.

Graphics: The graphics of Alan Wake are top notch. Without changing any settings, the game looked simply fantastic. The details put into the lighting and water effects as well as the general scenery were more than astonishing. As you move through the game, it even becomes blurry as violent winds pick up and you get closer to your next fight with the enemies tainted with the Darkness; the Taken. Graphically, the worst of it is actually summed up quite nicely in this article by David Wong of

Welcome to Bright Falls.

Music/Audio: To say the soundtrack to Alan Wake is brilliant is about as much of an understatement as saying "crack is whack"....or "wack". Whatever. Either way, the soundtrack is fucking awesome and is also downloadable when you purchase the game through Steam. The majority is composed by Petri Alanko, but a very welcome contribution was put forth by Finnish rockers, Poets of the Fall who provide not only music under their own name, but also they perform all music credited to The Old Gods of Asgard.

The Binding Stitch

Alan Wake is a game that any horror fan with a PC or XBox 360 should own. For a game so linear, it was actually fun to play through multiple times. Every scene is packed with so much tension it keeps you gripped to your seat, much in the same fashion as a good book or movie. There aren't many things to say bad about the game, except that it feels a bit short due to the battles going by relatively quickly, but realistically, the focus was on tension and atmosphere. Other than that, this is definitely a personal favorite and I would suggest everyone to give it a try.

And now, my Fray, I ask, are you afraid of the dark?

Senseless Review

Senseless (2008)
Starring: Jason Behr, Emma Catherwood, Joe Ferrara
Directed by: Simon Hynd

The Premise

An American businessman is kidnapped while overseas. In effigy of The United States and the anger it has caused the world, he is subjected to gruesome, dehumanizing tortures that one by one take away what is greatly taken for granted: the basic senses.

The First Stitches

There is a small percentage of people who will forever experience the abused Pavlov's Dog effect when they hear the word "Senseless". Unfortunately, I am part of that percentage. And now you are, too. You're welcome.

Mending the Seams

Plot: Right from the beginning, Senseless throws you into the fray by almost immediately kidnapping the main character, Eliot Gast (Jason Behr). After that, it's a sort of emotional cat and mouse waiting game as you wait in between "sessions" to see what will happen to him next. There is a decent amount of exposition during this time that helps to put you into the mind of his captors as well as Eliot, himself.

Characters: Easily, the most predominate character in the movie is Eliot. Every single thing in the film revolves around this character, be it real time, flash back or otherwise. The only two specific characters we see are his immediate captor, Blackbeard (Joe Ferrara) and Nim (Emma Catherwood), whose role was probably the most interesting. I can't say much about that without spoiling some things.

Setting/Atmosphere: For the most part, Senseless begins visually sterile -- white walls, a barely furnished room -- very clean. This changes dramatically as the movie transpires, mirroring Eliot's mental state as his pure humanistic nature is tarnished more and more.

Special Effects: The movie effects are all practical and very well done.  While not excessively gory, Senseless is not a movie for the squeamish. Two words: cheese grater. gonna hurt.
Music/Audio: The soundtrack does well to pump perpetual terror into the atmosphere of the film. Each scene is underlayed with a subtle, yet grim instrumental that pierces at the just right moments.

The Binding Stitch

Senseless is dark. It's real dark. And it's also very good. There's good tension and suspense, a good amount of gore and an interesting story that keep the little hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. I suggest this movie as a purchase or at least check it out on Netflix or what have you.

And now, my Fray, I ask if you lost all but one of your senses to horrific torture, what sense would you keep?

Dead Girl Review

Dead Girl (2008)
Starring: Noah Segan, Shiloh Fernandez and Candice Accola
Directed by: Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel

The Premise

Two high school teens cut class only to discover a bound and gagged woman sealed and hidden in the bowels of an abandoned psychiatric hospital.

The First Stitches

Adding to my recent run of high school based titles, we have a movie that appealed, strangely enough, to my sense of nostalgia as well as sheer morbid curiosity. You see, one of the stars of this film, Noah Segan, was a voice on a show I used to watch during my younger years--KABLAM! So, since it's kinda the thing these days, I figured it'd be interesting to see how bad this movie would rape my childhood memories.

"Like, in the butt?"

Mending the Seams

Plot: If horror movies have taught me anything, it's that you can never keep a secret between two people. Dead Girl is no exception to that rule as most of the plot revolves around  friends, JT (Noah Segan) and Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) initially discovering the seemingly immortal institution captive and then, in the spirit of a forced sex Fight Club, swearing to not tell a soul. I'm sure you can guess how that turns out.

Characters: I liked the characters in Dead Girl. My favorite would be JT, simply because his character was more interesting. In a way, you wanna hate the guy, but at the same time, there's that psychotic charisma that makes him almost likeable, as sick as he is. A big nod goes to Shiloh Fernandez, though, as I did like Rickie as well. I felt kinda bad for the dead girl (Jenny Spain), though, as she...well, look down and you tell me where you think I'm going with this.

Setting/Atmosphere: The majority of the movie takes place in the basement of the mental hospital, which I feel was to be expected. The bright side, though, is that the scenes in this area definitely give the movie a "dungeon slave" feel, which is essentially what the dead girl is while she is strapped to the hospital gurney. The consistent rape and abuse of this character as well as JT's ever devolving mental state help to keep the overall atmosphere dark and dismal.

Special Effects: There were a lot of things I liked about the effects in this movie. The majority of which is comprised of simple face scratches and minor contusions, but branches out to some decent gore that is sure to appeal to any fan of the sick and nasty.

Music/Audio: The soundtrack to Dead Girl is honestly nothing particularly special, but is at least appropriate to the movie. I did like the quality of the various effects, though. Some of the better gore scenes are perfectly accompanied by just the right squish or scream.

The Binding Stitch

Dead Girl is a fun, albeit sick movie and I enjoyed every minute of it. What sets it apart from most other captivity/ torture porn horrors is the juxtaposition of the monster of the film. As you watch you wonder if this non-dying girl is really the beast that should be feared or her newfound captors. Needless to say, this is one I suggest checking out as it's a little different from the normal zombie-type subgenre. Your childhood memories are safe here.

And now, my Fray, I ask what is your favorite high school horror movie?