Selfish: Space Edition

Selfish: Space Edition

Selfish: Space Edition from Ridley’s Games

Winning.

It’s why we play games, right?

Who cares about sportsmanship and fair play when you’ve got blood on your claws and the taste of victory in your mouth!

I can honestly say that once of the best things that’s happened to me whilst playing a board game was after executing a particularly cut-throat move while playing Food Chain Magnate, which is an absolute BASTARD of a game, my daughter said to me, ‘ how could you do that? I’m your daughter?!?’

I told her that as her father, my job is to teach lessons, and this one was ‘trust no one’.

A game set up and ready to play

We are pretty competitive in my house with board games, to the point that when my wife sits down to play a game, she doesn’t ask ‘how do we play?’, her first question is ‘how do I win?’ (which made for a hilarious rant when we played Fluxx). That’s not to say we don’t have fun playing co-op stuff, but as long as my wife is leading the charge, all is good.

This game, Selfish: Space Edition (there’s also Zombie, Star Wars and Disney Villains editions), from Ridley’s Games is a perfect game for a family who enjoy being a little bit ruthlessness!

This card game has a concept that is quite simple: you are an astronaut trapped in the darkness of space, and you need to move the six spaces it takes to get back to your ship, which would be fine, but you only have six canisters of oxygen and it takes two to move, AND you have to finish on the ship with at least one canister left, and if my maths is correct, that means you are already in an oxygen deficit.

Have no fear though, dear space person, what you do have is a bunch of horrible things you can do to other players like siphon their oxygen, or shoot them with a laser to send them back a space!

The cards even have threats on the back!

Gameplay is really simple: on your turn you draw a card, then, if you wish/ can, play as many action cards as you wish, which will make your opponents lives miserable unless they can reply with a ‘shield’ card, and then you have to make the decision on whether you stay where you are, costing one oxygen, or travelling one space, costing two oxygen.

Moving faces it’s own challenges though, as space is a treacherous place, and every time you move onto a new space space, you may face things like Cosmic Radiation, which steals an oxygen from you, a Solar Flare, which stops you from doing any actions while it is immediately behind you. It’s not all bad though, Useful Junk let’s you draw an extra card, potentially getting more oxygen, or Wormhole allows you to swap places with another player, potentially getting forward a little bit.

The threatening space cards

Each game only lasts about 20 minutes, but it’s SO easy to set up and play, that it even has a minimum age of 7 as it’s suggested age range. The art is simple, but still engaging and the ‘dead astronaut’ cards are both funny and kind of sad.

We have a lot of fun with this game, and I possibly will buy some of the others as there are minor changes depending on which game, for example, in the zombie one, the dead players return as the undead! I have little knowledge of the others so I can’t comment on them, but I could always do with more games!

If you are having a games night, this is a great entree game or wind down game. Simple to learn, fun to play, but it doesn’t have a great deal of substance… still, seeing someone one space away from winning and running out of oxygen is a guilty pleasure, especially if you have a spouse as focussed on winning as mine is!

Score: ***1/2

A game in full play!

Undead (2003)

Undead (2003)

The cover to Umbrella’s Beyond Genres release of Undead

Film: As far as horror is concerned, the early 2000s can be defined in two sub-genres: j-horror and zombie movies.

It was truly like someone had turned on the tap for wet-looking Japanese ghosts, blue filters and the undead… or in this case Undead.

The Americans and the English were all over the zombie sub-genre, and we got lots of stuff like Zach Snyder’s remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Romero’s second, less-successful zombie trilogy of Land, Diary and Survival, Paul W. S. Anderson’s movie version of the video game Resident Evil (and it’s sequels), Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool. Zombies became so popular that they were everywhere and in everything!

Our heroine, René (Felicity Mason)

The Australian writer/ director team, The Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael) came together to make a film based on their home movie trilogy Attack of the Undead, and what they gave us was quite revolutionary.

Undead tells the story of a small town in Australia that has meteors hit, and cause an outbreak of zombies in the town! A small group of people, including the local gun shop owner Marion (Mungo McKay), a former beauty queen, René (Felicity Mason), local cops Harrison (Dirk Hunter) and Molly (Emma Randall), current (and pregnant local beauty queen Sallyanne (Lisa Cunningham) and her boyfriend Wayne (Rob Jenkins), do their best to survive the night, but zombies don’t seem to be their only problem.

A giant steel wall has encased the town, rendering it inescapable, and a weird rain that causes them to smoke also starts descending… and what are those strange lights seemingly abducting people in the sky…

A little girl zombie well before The Walking Dead did it

Undead starts as a fairly familiar zombie story, but we are well and truly shown why the dead are returning to life. To top that off, is we are also presented with a solution that at first appears to not be that at all. It’s very clever and a nice complete story that doesn’t end with a continuing threat of an apocalyptic future, or the lead players all just getting killed by circumstances.

The story has a lot of fun and comedic elements and easily one of my favourite lines from a movie comes from this film, spoken by Dirk Hunter in a scene where the survivors are defending Marion’s house from the undead… you’ll know it when you hear it… and situationally, some of the comedy is pretty funny too.

This is a part of Umbrella Entertainment’s Beyond Genres collection and has another amazing cover by Australian artist Simon Sherry.

I loved this film when it first came out, but unfortunately, it just hasn’t held up. It’s very Australian so the power of cultural cringe is high, but that honestly is part of the comedy of it, so it’s not why my opinion has changed. I think it may be because when I saw this film I had aspirations of making movies myself, and I was more impressed with their tenacity to get this film made. Now that I don’t have those aspirations I’m not as interested. It’s still a tribute to the brothers’ inventiveness, but I’m more interested in the actual story than the story behind it.

I do admit the triple barrelled shotgun is still really cool.

Score: **

The menu screen to the Bluray release of Unded

Extras: A great collection of extras that were previously available on the DVD release of several years ago, which include:

Audio commentary by directors Peter and Michael Spierig with cinematographer Andy Strahorn and it’s a good commentary for young independent filmmakers to watch to get the idea of how hard making films can be. A very interesting commentary indeed!

On the Set of Undead is literally just that; some behind the scenes footage of how the film was made, with an occasional bit of introduction by some of the cast and crew.

Attack of the Undead – a Short Film is the first from there indie trilogy which includes Attack, Rampage and Massacre of the Undead. It’s silly and dumb and exactly what you’d expect from young filmmakers.

The Making of Undead looks at the making of the film and where the Spierig’s inspiration came from, which as you expect, was from $1 horror hires from the local video shop.

Home Made Dolly Video is what independent filmmaking is all about. Ingenuity and desperation and making the most of your skill set for the result you desire. They show the design and process of how they built a dolly crane, and in a way that can only be described as ‘dinky-di’, how they welding it with no shirts on. Tough buggers.

Undead Camera and Make Up Tests looks at how the zombie make up and how it would look under various light sources and types.

Stills Gallery is photos… like in a book. Go buy a book instead of wasting your time watching this. Slideshows are boring: didn’t your grandparents holidays teach you anything?

Theatrical Trailer is exactly what it says on the box.

The Umbrella Beyond Genres release also comes with a copy of the soundtrack on CD and I love me a soundtrack!

Score: ****

WISIA: When this first came out it was a definite rewatcher for me, but it’s hasn’t aged well, so not anymore. This will probably be my last watch.

More dead people

This movie was provided by Umbrella Entertainment for review

The Sniper (1952)

The Sniper (1952)

The cover to The Sniper Bluray from Umbrella Entertainment

Film: I really love crime stories. As a kid, in between horror and sci-fi novels, I’d occasionally find an old crime novel and get stuck into that as well. I still like to read those sorts of novels and thankfully, the people at the Hard Case Crime book company issue some great stories both from classic authors like Ray Chandler, from better known authors like Steven King, and by other authors with… well, different backgrounds like Christa Faust.

I get my in-screen thills mainly from TV shows like CSI, NCIS, and Criminal Minds (a show watched so often at my house that the title score has both lyrics and a dance written and performed by my daughter and I) but I still don’t mind getting my movie crime drama on by watching an occasional noir flick, and thankfully, Umbrella Entertainment have this one available to buy now.

Eddie (Arthur Franz) lines up for a shot

The Sniper was written by Harry Brown, the screenplay writer of the original Oceans’ 11 from a story by Edna Anhalt, and directed by Edward Dmytryk, who gave us other noir films like Crossfire, Obsession and Cornered.

The Sniper tells of Edward Miller (Arthur Franz), an ex-convict who is having trouble adapting to life on the outside, and whose resentment towards happy couples, has escalated into full blown hatred of women, and his need to execute them with hid rifle.

When he kills musician Jean Darr (Marie Windsor), it starts a city wide investigation, spearheaded by Lt. Frank Kafka (Adolphe Menjou), and as the bodies of brunettes starts to pile up, the police work on a psychological profile of the killer, and start to close in.

Eddie in hot pursuit of singer Jean (Marie Windsor)

I really love this sort of movie, and several months ago I reviewed the Sharpshooter Trilogy from Something Weird Video, and after seeing this for the first time, I’ve come to realise that maybe those films were desperately trying to emulate this one, with less success.

The film is very progressive for its time, sure there are some unfortunate references to American indigenous people and a few sexist terms, but the discussions with what should be done with people suffering from violent psychological problems is so advanced.

There is solid acting throughout the piece, and truly the direction is above what you would be used to in this world of blockbusters, Marvels and Star Warses. There are two scenes in particular that stick out, such as the baseball scene, the ‘hand burn’ scene and the actually final moments.

Fantastically, the film has pre-credit title cards that have mentions of the lack of laws for those with psychological issues, so it does feel like it’s somewhat of a message movie, and I guess it is.

This is not a high powered full of gunfire and death, but it is a well crafted piece of cinema that will sit with you for a bit. Anyone who has seen Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or Todd Phillips’ Joker will probably enjoy this need though it is not related to a comic character, so don’t make that mistake. This really is a very early example of what some may describe today as an ‘incel’ film

Highly recommended.

Score: ****1/2

The menu to the Bluray release

Extras: Only a small amount of extras but some good ones though.

Introduction by Martin Scorsese sees Mr. Scorsese talk about noir movies and their influences on modern cinema. Really, who else is there to talk about this type of film.

There’s a commentary on the film by author Eddie Muller is fascinating and well worth the listen too. Muller is the president of the Film Noir Foundation, which is all about restoring some of the amazing noir films of the 40s and 50s, and his expertise is a joy to listen to.

Noir trailers, including this film, Crossfire, The Big Sleep, Lady in the Lake, The Brasher Doubloon, The Maltese Falcon, and many more, literally over a 100 minutes of noir trailers. The quality is various but it’s a fascinating watch.

Score: ****

WISIA: Yes. 100%.

A young man accused of being the killer reveals there’s many young men like the killer

This Bluray was supplied by Umbrella Entertainment for review

Kraken Attack

Kraken Attack

Kraken Attack from Loki!

One of the great thing about having children is that you can mold them into being little versions of yourself. Being a horror fan is a difficult thing though, because you don’t want to say to your six year old ‘ok, sit down. It’s time you watched Human Centipede.’ The best way to develop your child into a monster kid is through stuff like Scooby Doo, and getting them to play games that have monster themes, like this one, Kraken Attack.

Kraken Attack is a co-operative game, which means the players work with each other against the game, and everyone plays a different pirate on a pirate ship getting attacked by a kraken. The pirates win if they injure the kraken three times, and the players are beaten if the kraken hits the ship four times.

The Kraken and it’s tentacles

The set up for the game is fairly simple. Each player (from one to four) picks a pirate and takes their accompanying deck of cards. The board is then set up with eight ship pieces put on the ‘ship’ part of the board, eight tentacle pieces put on eight side of the board in their starting rows, labeled with canons, guns or cutlasses and the kraken itself put into the it’s own board, separate to the main board, with some extra dice that will eventually pop up as the kraken wanders down the track that’s printed there…

… but more on that later.

Each player starts each turn with two cards from their deck face up in front of them. They roll the dice, one red and one blue, which have images of various sea creatures that represent rows that the Kraken’s tentacles are on, and move the respective tentacle along the row closer to the ship.

The cards!

Each column that the tentacles movie along are labelled with a canon, a gun and a sword, which are the weapons required to send it back to the beginning of the row. On each turn they can play the actions on their card which can be a combination of:

Hammer – repair the ship (after a tentacle attacks)

Boot – move in the deck

A cutlass, gun or canon – stop the tentacle on that row

The player can choose to do any or all of these actions, and depending on their character, can sometimes perform one of the actions more than once. If they are able to hit a tentacle on the row they are on, the tentacle goes back to the beginning of the row, ready to strike again at any chance.

The dice!

Also on each card is a porthole, and if that porthole has a funny face in it, the kraken gets angry, it moves along its personal board. Every time it hits a space with an extra dice in it, that dice is added to the dice pool so on every turn, more dice are rolled, activating more tentacles and making keeping the ship afloat more difficult.

This continues with each player taking their turns and trying to keep the tentacles away because if the ship gets hit four times and it isn’t repaired, the ship sinks and the kraken wins! Once the kraken gets to the end of its board it replaces one of the tentacles and starts attacking the ship personally, but if you wound it three times, the players win!

You may have noticed that I said the game plays from a minimum of one, which means it has a solo mode! You want your kid off the TV/ computer/ iPad but don’t have time to play a game with them yourself? Well this game has a solo mode that makes for a fun distraction for one bored child!

A 2 player game set-up and ready to play!

We love co-operative games in my house. I think it’s because we are all pretty good team players and are willing to take advice from others before playing our turn. This can occasionally cause something called ‘quarterbacking’, where one player tries to control the other’s actions, and because children are adorable little egotists, an older player might need to make an dictatorship game more of a democracy by making sure all the players get a chance to speak.

It’s great to play with children because it’s an all-win or all-lose situation, so none of them will feel singled out. The pieces are all wonderful looking toys that are inviting to play with. It’s simple to learn and really fun to play.

I honestly can’t talk this game up enough. I think Loki really outdid themselves with both the game and the components. It is a kids game, but my gaming group have found it’s just as good a game for adults who would like to play something co-operative, but don’t have the time for a game of something like Pandemic.

Score: ****

The Suicide Squad (2021)

The Suicide Squad 4K Steelbook

Film: Suicide Squad (2016) was said to be the movie we deserved as movie-goers, and I totally agree with it. As action movies get dumber and dumber, and superhero movies attempt, over the ridiculous premise that superheroes are real, to legitimise their stories, society has fallen into their trap, seeing the flick, buying the merch and wearing the t-shirt.

(I’ll point out here that I am a big comic book fan, and have such a large collection I’ve been interviewed both by an Australian Newspaper, and more recently, appeared on a podcast about collecting.)

The pure hatred against Suicide Squad surprised me, to the point that I was shocked to hear a sequel was being proposed, especially after the Justice League fiasco, which I won’t go into here. I think the decision to acquire James Gunn as director and writer may have been VERY deliberate. It seemed to be a slap in Disney’s face for their firing of Guardians of the Galaxy director over a comment made on Twitter years earlier, which from a social media marketing point-of-view, made sense. Taking an ex-Troma director and putting him on Batman or Superman would be a waste, but a wacky premise like Suicide Squad fits into his range perfectly.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

The premise of both the comic and the movies is fantastic. All the bad guys from the DC comics universe who have been captured and imprisoned have an opportunity to reduce their sentences by going on undercover missions for the U.S. government. This group, called Task Force X are basically put in unwinnable situations, that usually result in their demise, hence the nickname ‘Suicide Squad’. What makes these missions even more risky is that each villain has a bomb planted in their necks, so if they waver from the mission… KABOOM!

In this film, The Suicide Squad (note the ‘The’, that’s the difference) we see Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) organise a crack team, consisting of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), Weasel (Sean Gunn), Savant (Michael Rooker), Javelin (Flula Borg), Mongal (Mayling Ng), Blackguard (Pete Davidson) and T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion) to infiltrate the small nation of Corto Maltese, with the intention of destroying Jötunheim, an impressive building that contains something called ‘Project Starfish’.

What this team don’t realise is that they are the B team, and the actual team consisting of Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), The Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and King Shark (a digital character voiced by Sylvester Stallone) are on another part of the island, ready to actually perform the mission.

Peter Capaldi as the Thinker

It’s quickly revealed that Blackguard is a traitor and when the B team is all but decimated due to his duplicitous behaviour, the other team have their mission revised to find Flagg and save Quinn, before gaining entry to Jötunheim, via the Project’s manager, Thinker (Peter Capaldi).

Once they gain entry to the facility, they find that Project Starfish is much bigger, and preposterous, than they ever could have imagined…

What a wonderful thing this film is: to give the director of things like Super and Slither an opportunity to take a ridiculous concept like Suicide Squad, and then to not sanitise his work like we saw in his output of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, is brilliant. This film doesn’t just adapt the comics, it turns them into a 70s styled, gory, sexy and raucous beast that has something to watch all the time. The choice of character that he’s been allowed to use really gives fans of DC comics a lot of Easter eggs to look for, and the story is told in the wonderfully staggered, time-hoping manner which makes the unfolding story a thrill to watch as well.

The casting is pure brilliance as well. Gunn does tend to have a gang that return, like Fillion and his brother Sean, but building on the cast of the original was obviously a great deal of fun. The best thing about a film like this it works best if the cast DON’T have any real synergy, and it really makes it a fun watch, like someone else’s unpleasant family Christmas Dinner. The performance add to this as well. Elba and Cena have one of the most wonderfully antagonistic relationships I’ve ever seen, and Melchior and Stallone’s starts off bad, but develops fantastically.

As usual, Robbie’s Harley Quinn steals almost every scene she’s in, and even though a large subplot and several of the big gun battle scenes star her, she still somehow feels a little underused.

The story is totally comic booky, and it proves that Gunn, who also wrote the film, knows his stuff and appreciates both how silly some of the power sets of comic super characters are, and how that can be capitalised on for a film. He, of course, did this previously with the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy by making a walking tree a deadly weapon of both violence and marketing, and a raccoon wonderful comic relief, but here? Well, a polka-dot suited man becomes a flesh-melting powerhouse, and a shark with legs and a child-like mentality becomes a gory source of amusement.

Gunn obviously had a lot of fun with the scene changes too, there’s truly some magnificent design choices using text hidden in plain site telling when the time stamp of the scene is. Sure it’s been done before in films, but Gunn’s creativity really shows off with some of the choices.

I do have to give a special shout out to a particular scene of medical atrocities that reminded me so much of those performed in Dawn of the Dead by Doctor Logan that it doubled down my enjoyment of the gore of it.

So, as someone who champions the much-maligned Suicide Squad film, how do I feel about this? I think it is a suitable follow up that exceeds the original, mainly due to its construction, effects and it feels more complete.

Score: ****

The menu screen for the Australian release

Extras: No extras on the 4K disc, but the accompanying Bluray has MUCHO extras.

Deleted and Extended Scenes are, as usual, superfluous and the film is better off without them… that’s not to say there isn’t some fun gore in them though… and a scene that shows the wackiness of Harley which I possibly would have left in.

Unlike the more recent Marvel movies, here is a gag reel that’s actually occasionally funny, especially showing off the comedy stylings of Pete Davidson, John Cena and Flula Borg, and perhaps acts as a warning that props don’t always do what they are supposed to do.

Bringing King Shark to Life looks at the physical and vocal acting that make this character, and the CGI the completes the whole thing.

Gotta Love the Squad looks at the comic on which the movie is based, the characters and the actors who play them… also in and around that, the costume designer and Gunn himself talk about the character design.

The Way of the Gunn is an old school ego-stroke, but if I consider that I like every movie he had made except one (Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is such a load of crap… even worse is the first is BRILLIANT so it hurts even more) I’d probably agree that the stroking is warranted.

Scene Breakdowns looks at the design of 4 scenes, from the set design to the stunts, and is exceptionally fascinating!

Starro: It’s a Freakin’ Kaiju! talks about the brilliant decision to make the big bad thing a giant starfish that is traditionally a Justice League villain. The decision to not ‘adapt’ it but to instead make it just as dumb as comics are was a brilliant one and is discussed here.

Retro Trailers: War, Horror and Buddy-Cop are just amazing! These are trailers for the film but making them look like a 70s war film, an 80s horror and a late 80s cop film: these sit right in Gunn’s love of cinema and his sense of humour! It’s also nice that they highlight different characters too: the horror film highlights Ratcatcher 2 more than anyone else, and the buddy-cop trailer is all about Cena and Elba.

Commentary with Director/ Writer James Gunn is a lesson in filmmaking and a fascinating look at his creative process.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s very funny and very gory and occasionally sexy… ticks the ‘watch again’ boxes!

The artist formally known as Blackguard (Pete Davidson)

Pitchstorm Party Game

Pitchstorm

The game Pitchstorm from Skybound Games

There’s one thing that every single person whose ever watched a movie have in common: they have suggested a different angle or ending to a scene, or to the whole movie itself. Movie goers are all potential movie writers or directors. Seriously, every time you see an interview with a modern filmmaker they talk about how they were influenced by *insert name here*, and that’s exactly the mentality that this game preys upon.

Sure it is easy to come up with a better ending, but how easy is it to come up with a pitch for a film on the spot? If a movie producer came to you and said,’ I hear you’ve been talking smack about my films, YOU come up with a better idea!’, could you do it, or would you just blather on and watch them and their multimillion dollar investment walk away…

Pitchstorm is a party game that gives you that opportunity… well, without financial offer anyway.

An example of the Character Cards

The rules for Pitchstorm come in two different ways, one for 3 to 5 players, and the other for 6 to 12, so as a party game, it can be suitable for a small table or a large gathering of people. The rules are only slightly different as the second offering makes it a team based game.

The concept is very simple. Each player (or team) have to pitch an idea to the player acting as ‘the executive’, who then picks the best pitch and that player (or team) received a point.

An example of the Plot Cards

At the beginning of the game (for a 3 to 5 player game), one player as picked as the executive, and they get to draw three cards from the ‘Notes’ pile. Next all the players get to draw three cards from either the Character or the Plot pile. Each player, in turn has to pick one card from the deck they DIDN’T pick from initially, for example, if a player drew three plot cards, they now pick one character card.

After they have their single card, they have to pick one of the three cards in their hand and have 90 seconds to pitch their movie to the executive. However, and the 60 second mark, the executive picks one of their notes and tells the pitching player that this has to be added to the pitch. The executive picks the movie they liked the most and that player keeps their ‘note’ card as an indicator of one point. This goes around the table until everyone has had a turn, and the winner is the one with the highest amount of note cards.

An example of the executives notes

In a larger game, teams of two, each team player either takes three character or plot cards and place them at the same time for the concept of their film. During the 60 second pitch, performed by both players, the executive team, who have note cards each, will place their note cards so the players have to adjust their pitches twice with the new information. The scoring is the same as above except for the team.

The final goal for this game is variable, as you can play it as long as you want but just as long as each player/ team has had an opportunity of being the executive.

NB.: there is a Pitchstorm timer app available on the App Store.

Pitchstorm is a fun game for a big group, but only if every one is compliant with the concept. Like bigger games like Dungeons and Dragons, if a person is not INTO playing the game, they won’t just have a bad time, they will drag the entire game down. It is, essentially, a storytelling game and that story/ joke telling skill set is one necessary for a fun time. This is a game for people who love to be creative and loud and funny.

Not reviewed but available are 7 expansions: Pitchstorm NC-17, Pitchstorm Date Night, Pitchstorm Superheroes, Pitchstorm Animation, Pitchstorm Creature Features, Pitchstorm So Bad It’s Good and Awards Season. Most of these are simply entertaining the tropes that the name suggests, but Awards Season also adds Award Cards, which give bonus points.

Score: ***

Night Killer (1990)

Night Killer (1990)

The cover to Severin;s release of Night Killer

Film: By the time the 80s had ended, there was a big problem with horror movies. Very few big movies were made as that one shot scare film because studios wanted not quality cinema, but that dreaded word that is banded around in this world of Marvels and Star Warses: ‘the franchise’.

It was our fault! We fell so in love with the big characters of the time: Freddy, Michael, Jason, Norman, Leatherface and others that the problem was one WE created, and as expected, every studio, instead of trying to be trailblazers, decided to take the weaker path of least resistance and they all just tried to come up with another franchise character.

The want of a franchise wasn’t just an American thing either, it existed in some countries, like Italy, where they would occasionally just bash a film together, and then whack a sequel used title on it to market it as one of those franchises, and why not? If we, the movie watchers were silly enough to spend our hard-earned on it, why not live the motto ‘a fool and his money are easily parted’.

That manipulation of moviegoers has been going on for years, and the retitling of films to expand its release opportunities was rife all over, and for much longer than in the 80s, and this film, Night Killer, also known as Non Aprite Quella Porta 3, which means Don’t Open the Door 3, shows that even entering the 90s, it was still happening, especially considering that name suggested it was a part of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, called ’Don’t Open the Door’ there.

The plot clearly has nothing to do with the TCM series, as it’s tells of a masked killer (described erroneously in various online media as ‘a Freddy Krueger’ mask – it’s definitely not) who is killing women in the city, but one, Melanie (Tara Buckman) has survived and may be the secret to solving the case.

After the attack, of which she has no memory, she becomes self-destructive and wishes to commit suicide, but a total bullying douchebag of a man who tried to pick her up, Axel (Peter Hooten), witnesses her attempt and saves her, only to keep her imprisoned in his house himself.

Described everywhere as ‘ a Freddy mask’… have they SEEN Nightmare on Elm Street?

Meanwhile, the killer , full of bravado, continues his killing spree,but will Melanie’s memories come back and help with the investigation, and what is Axel’s secret… is he really what he appears to be?

The director, Claudio Fragrasso wanted to make a film that mixed the slasher and giallo sub genres of horror together but wanted it to be less a girl film and more a thriller. This, as is the old story, was not what the producers wanted so they hired Bruno Mattai to drop in some gore inserts and then instead of using Fragrasso title of Night Killer, they attempted to incorporate it into the TCM series, as I stated earlier.

The cops shakedown a scumbag motel owner

I don’t think the gore scene are out of sorts within the film though, what is a problem is the absolutely shocking performances by the leads. There is only seven cast listed and I imagine it might be because the rest were embarrassed to allow their name to be attached to it.

The plot is mostly nonsense, and I’m not saying that I necessarily thought that a slasher from the 90s was going to be a plot driven masterpiece, but this is a mess that feels like the writer wanted to do a film version of Steven King’s Misery/ Gerald’s Game in a fairly sub-standard giallo-esque film, all the while attempting some kind of psychological hoo-ha about guilt, suicide, amnesia and maybe even Stockholm Syndrome.

I mean, I’m no psychologist myself, but it all appears to be surface level, unresearched bollocks.

Amongst of all that it wasn’t such a bad watch. It probably says more about me than I want it to, but amongst the gore and the misogyny and even the bad acting and stupid mask, I can honestly see this becoming a part of my regular rotation, even though it does have an even dumber, Brian DePalma Carrie ending that should have been cast into the ‘ideas that are stupid’ bin.

Score: **1/2

The menu screen to the Severin Bluray release

Extras: Only three extras on this Severin release, and the titles of them all tell exactly what the contents of the extra are. The first two extras, The Virginia Claw Massacre – Interview with Director Claudio Fragrasso and Mindfuck – Interview with Screenwriter Rossella Drudi each discuss the various production and behind the scenes tales of the film.

There is also the trailer for the film.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It’s just weirdly bizarre enough for me to watch it again. Yeah, it will get rewatched.

A little something for the beefcake fandom

Stupid Deaths: The Frightfully Funny Game

Stupid Deaths: The Frightfully Funny Game

Stupid Deaths from University Games

Once, there was a movie starring future all-round-adorable-guy Keanu Reeves, and in that film was a character called Socrates, who once said:’ Death may be the greatest of all human blessings”.

He was possibly right, and I suppose we’ll all find out eventually, except for those who end up suffering Stupid Deaths, who may find out sooner than they would like… and for our amusement.

Stupid Deaths is a 2 to 6 player game that FEELS like a trivia game, but isn’t.

In Stupid Deaths, the board has 24 spaces set in a circle, and at one end of the board is a green space, where you, the player, will lay your coloured token, and opposite is a red space, where Death awaits, hungry for your life.

In addition to your player piece, you are also offered an extra life token, and two coffin shaped cards, one with ‘TRUE’ written on it, and the other with ‘FALSE’.

The VERY thematic true/ false cards

The gameplay is really simple! On each turn, one player draws one of the three hundred cards, and reads the horribly stupid death that some poor soul has endured. The other players decide, using their true/ false cards, where their belief of the text lies. If they are correct, they get to move one space, if they are incorrect, Death moves one space towards them. If every player chooses incorrectly, the person asking the question gets to move two spaces. Play continues with the card reader going around the table so each player gets to do it.

An example of the stories on the cards

If the Death token reaches or passes a player, that player has been ‘touched by Death’ and is out of the game UNLESS they have an extra life token… remember, the one you got at the beginning of the game… in which case, that player get to go one space in front of death, given an opportunity to stay in the game.

The winner of the game is either the first to reach the red space, or is the last one standing after everyone else has had Death surpass them.

I always have an issue with games that are not on-point with their theme, and I have to say that this game looks does match its theme. It has a stark aesthetic that works perfectly, with skulls and coffins all over the place, and a predominantly black board, and a pretty cute little Death standee. All of this is packaged in a pretty cool gravestone shaped box.

A game ready to be played

NB: there is a cheaper version of the game with the same name that comes in a coffin shaped tin, but it has no board or pieces and only 90 cards. It can be played by itself, or the cards can be added to this version for more deaths to choose from.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s not. To its credit, Stupid Deaths does know it has a limited lifespan, as regular gamers will start to remember the cards and that reduces the competitiveness of the game, but it’s not very expensive, so if you aren’t too worried about world wide resources, I guess it’s ok value? Seriously though, you might get 8 games out of it before it starts to get a little samey.

The other thing is the mechanic of player elimination. Once a player has had both their lives lost, they don’t get to play the game anymore. I understand that the game shouldn’t run much longer than 20 or 30 minutes, but who wants to sit on their hands during a board game night. Player elimination is the opposite of fun.

Also, the box suggests 2 to 6 players: at 2 players this game is absolutely terrible; you would honestly be better watching 30 minutes of Fail Army on Youtube, which would garner the same ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as the stories on these cards will.

Whilst the cards a funny and the black humour is suitably dark, it’s not much of a game. It feels like someone watched a Darwin Awards video and went ‘ I could make a game of that.’

Score: *

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

The cover to the Australian Blu-ray release of Jennifer’s Body

In the town of Devil’s Kettle live a couple of girls who have been friends their whole lives: superhot Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and bookish Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried). Needy has always been the foil of Jennifer’s whims, and more or less does everything she wants her to. Our story sees the two girls, under Jennifer’s instruction going to a local dive bar to see a band from the city, Low Shoulder, led by the quirky Nikolai (Adam Brody). After a fire burns the bar to the ground, a slightly in shock Jennifer takes up Nikolai’s offer of a ride in his band’s van. Needy does NOT take him up on the offer.

Jennifer (Megan Fox).

Later that night, Needy is at home when Jennifer turns up, covered in blood, and clearly in a worse state of shock that she was after the fire. Of course Needy immediately thinks that something horrible has happened to her, but what HAS happened is a lot worse than anything Needy could have imagined.

Jennifer is no longer the same girl as what she used to be: no, Jennifer is now a succubus, needing the flesh of men to sustain her beauty, and when she doesn’t consume, she starts to, well, go off. Unfortunately for Needy, their lifelong friendship has given them somewhat of a connection, and the burden of Jennifer’s secret plays on Needy’s conscience… especially when Jennifer’s deadly affections turn to Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons).

What will she do? How did Jennifer get like this? Can any of them be saved?

A stressed looking Needy (Amanda Seyfried)

Diablo Cody, writer of indie smash hit film Juno, is responsible for the script for this film (and has a cameo as a bartender) and whilst her story and dialogue in that film was a pleasure, this feels a little forced, whether that is the fault of the performances or the script I am not sure, but it really feels like the script is deliberately trying to ‘speak’ to the youth of the time. I found that the script for Jennifer’s Body affected me the same way that Kevin Smith’s and Joss Whedon’s body of work did: at first I found them to be a breath of fresh air, but eventually found that someone had dropped an egg fart in my breathing space.

The director, Karyn Kusama, who previously directed Aeon Flux and Girlfight, has a wonderful eye. Visually this film is of a high standard:  the images of the waterfall, called Devil’s Kettle Falls, of which the town gets its name, which empties into in a glacial pothole in Judge C. R. Magney State Park in Minnesota, USA are as off-putting as they are amazing.  The whole film is a pleasure to look at, and not just because of Fox and Seyfried. Kusama has set some scenes whose colors should never work together, and yet somehow do.

 Every shot of the cast is amazing as well. Kusama has created this lush portraiture style that really shots the cast off well, and when you consider that cinema can potentially have a person’s face on a screen roughly 30 foot buy 70 foot, that’s brave because there is no hiding any imperfections one might have, and when you consider that for most actors their face is their fortune… wow!

The director has left some fun and occasionally clever visual cues here and there as well, such as a character playing a pinball machine called ‘Fire’ just before a fire breaks out, and the fact that the school is performing ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’, another tale of sisterly murder and betrayal. There are others, but I’ll let you find them.

Megan Fox deserves a lot of credit for the efforts she went to in this performance. She lost weight for the role, so when the succubus needs to look hungry, the make up applied makes Fox looks really sick and emaciated. It is a brave decision for a then young actress to allow herself to look repulsive when you consider that her acting ability may NOT be the reason for her popularity.

Also keep your eyes open for some interesting cameos, including everyone’s favorite artificial human Lance Henrickson, and J. K. Simmons sporting the ultimate hair-don’t!

I did enjoy this film, but essentially it was nothing more than a distraction with an OK story helped by Seyfried and Fox’s characters unusual connection. It seems to be a metaphor for when one grows out of their friends, and sometimes we do. Diablo Cody’s writing showed some real promise with Juno but feels a bit lackluster here: the direction and cinematography is a highpoint.

Score: **1/2

The menu to Jennifer’s Body

Extras:

There is a series of deleted scenes, titled Dead Boys, Jennifer Check is Gross, Needy Confronts Jennifer, Who’s Cindy Crawford, Needy Faces the Band and Ass, Gas or Grass. As expected, these scenes are superfluous and the film is better off without them.

We also have quite possibly one of the worst gag reels ever. Normally I get a bit of a laugh from these things, but nothing at all with these ones.

Score: **

WISIA: I think Fox and Seyfried are charming enough to make this a re-watcher, but not a regular one… honestly, this is probably the first time I’ve watched it in ten years.

Jennifer loves a yummy boy!

This review was done with the Australian bluray release of the film.

Top Trumps: Unofficial Guide to 30 Scary Flix

Top Trumps: Unofficial Guide to 30 Scary Flix

The cover to Top Trumps Unofficial Guide to Scary Flix

I don’t know where they came from, but I always seem to have had copies of the card game Top Trumps in my house. Maybe they came from overseas relatives along with my Beano annuals, or maybe friends bought them for me, but either way, I became the Top Trumps guy. I liked collecting tradings cards, and Top Trumps was like getting a full set all in one go.

I rediscovered them in the early 2000s when my daughter became of that discovering games age, also it was pretty cool to revisit the collection, and buy some new decks, and we started getting titles like Top Gear, DC superheroes and all the Doctor Who ones… yeah, ‘HER’ collection!

(NB: one of those Doctor Who decks has one of the most interesting cards in all of my 520 board and card games… Hitler! Yikes!)

Obviously, Amazon knows what I buy and has seen, over the years, my consumption of many decks of sets of Top Trumps, in combination with my massive horror consumption, led the algorithm to suggest this to me: Top Trumps Unofficial Guide to 30 Scary Flix.

There’s only 30 cards so the game isn’t too taxing on the brain

The rules to Top Trumps are quite simple. The aim of the game is to have all of the cards in your hand, but how do we do that in Top Trumps?

The cards are dealt evenly amongst all the players and each player holds their personal deck so they can only see the top card. Each card has a series of stats on them, in this case Budget (in millions of $), Survival Rate, Sequels & Prequels, Cult Status, Soundtrack and Fear Factor, and the first player reads out a stat of their choice. All the players compare that stat, and the one with the highest score wins all the other players cards, and places them on the bottom of their personal deck. The winner then gets to choose the next stat

If two cards have the same value, all those cards go into a pool and the same stat is picked for the next card, the winner gets all the cards including the ones in the pool.

The game is a very simple kids game, made mature by its choice of subject matter. It’s not going to tax ones brain, but occasionally a game can take so long that it may tax one’s patience. Like Monopoly, this isn’t really a game people play anymore, but collect due to the variety of geographical or pop culture themes added to it.

The plastic packaging is sturdy, and the cards are of a fairly robust nature, but there are a couple of problems. Some of the card images from the films aren’t very interesting, like the 28 Days Later card which just has an image of Cillian Murphy on a bridge. I think perhaps the movies posters may have been a better idea. There is also the grand idea of having a fun little Top Trumps File which has a little blurb about the movie… and I mean little. Like 64 words in a 3cm by 2 cm box little. Horror is so much scarier without eye strain!

A closer look at the card faces

The choices of movies are quite broad though. You would expect Nightmare on Elm St or Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but surprises like Ginger Snaps, Ringu and The Babadook are great to see.

This isn’t a game that an adult would play because it’s fun, but if, like me, you are curating a horror board and card game collection, it’s a good addition!

Score: *