Halloween II (1981) 35 Years Later - A Worthy Companion Piece to the Original or Not? Part 1 of 2: The Original - Dread Central
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Halloween II (1981) 35 Years Later – A Worthy Companion Piece to the Original or Not? Part 1 of 2: The Original

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John Carpenter’s original 1978 theatrical version of Halloween is best viewed as a singular work rather than part of the franchise it spawned. Beginning with Halloween II, that first film’s elements became more and more tainted as the series went on.

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As far back as I can remember, I have actually been watching both movies as a double bill every Halloween, but I find it is best to watch the extended cut of the original doing that. During the production of this sequel, Carpenter filmed 12 minutes of additional footage consisting of three new scenes. The intention of this extra material was to fill the 2-hour time slot for the domestic TV premiere of Halloween in October 1981.

Despite the filmmaker’s dislike of these newly inserted scenes, much like his dislike for this follow-up that he deemed unnecessary, he used this opportunity with the last two of these new scenes to bridge the original a bit closer to this companion piece depicting “More of the Night He Came Home.” This was in respect of its new narrative idea with the revelation that Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are in fact siblings and he has returned to Haddonfield to finish the job he started 15 years ago when he murdered his older sister, Judith.

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Watching John Carpenter’s definitive vision of the first film – the theatrical version – together with this sequel makes for a confused narrative experience…

This excerpt is taken from a BBC interview with Carpenter in 1999 for the 21st anniversary of the movie’s release conducted by critic Mark Kermode (you can watch the full interview below):

Kermode: “There is also a confusion in Halloween II in which there’s a relationship developed between Michael and Jamie Lee Curtis’s character which apparently justifies why he’s after her, but the point is there isn’t any reason why he’s after her.”

Carpenter: “Well you know, that was the sequel. I didn’t want to direct it and I got forced into writing it; and look, it was 2 o’clock in the morning, I had a six-pack of beer, and it was the only idea I could think of.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ormRhvmrIQ]

In a key scene of Halloween, Laurie goes to the empty Myers house on the way to school to drop off the keys for her estate agent father. She is accompanied by little Tommy Doyle, whom she meets along the way and is babysitting that night. Michael sees them from inside and fixates on Laurie… and Tommy. While it is feasible The Shape sees a resemblance of Judith in Laurie and he sees himself as a boy in Tommy, John Carpenter is establishing here that even the most mundane daily routines in our lives can land us in mortal danger. This is a frightening thing in itself.

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When one of Laurie’s friends, Annie, shouts out something rude to Michael Myers as he is stalking Laurie while driving the station wagon he escaped in from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, he mostly changes his focus towards Annie for the next half-hour of the runtime, except when stalking Laurie in the backyard of her home. At the start of the third act after murdering Annie when Laurie’s other friend Lynda and her boyfriend Bob turns up at the Wallaces’ house where Annie was babysitting, Michael turns his attention to them. Laurie is not attacked until she leaves the Doyles’ house to walk over to the Wallaces’ house to investigate after having a phone conversation with Lynda in which Laurie hears her being strangled and the contact is broken off.

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Just before Laurie is attacked, she discovers Annie’s body spread out on a bed in front of Judith Myers’ tombstone. If Laurie and Michael are siblings, then why did he not reserve for his younger sister the bed with the tombstone of his older sister? Instead, he chose one of Laurie’s friends who shouted at him calling him a jerk. Myers went over to the Wallaces’ house to kill Annie for this reason. It does not sound like the behavior of a psychopathic killer focused solely on murdering his remaining sibling when she is easily reachable for him just over at the opposite house; he knows where she is but he does not for once during the whole night go over to scope her out.

These are the acts of a deranged lunatic wanting to relive a previous crime over and over again by using whoever comes across him to serve his homicidal repetition. If Laurie had never gone over to the Wallaces’ house, she could well have been spared a knife attack by The Shape and he could have found another victim to stalk n’ slash on his homecoming night.

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One of the many great scary elements of the original film is the antagonist’s lack of motivation; there is very little backstory and exposition to Michael Myers. One Halloween night six-year-old Michael from a middle class suburban family decides for no reason whatsoever to stab to death his older sister. Fifteen years later, he comes out of his state of catatonia and escapes his incarceration in a mental hospital to return to his small hometown to relive his crime. That fateful day doing a simple everyday kind of favor for her father, Laurie became just one of Myers’ targets in trying to fulfill his obsessive goal of rekindling that one specific moment in his life that is his sole driving force. Laurie’s friends then come to his attention while he is stalking her, giving him the opportunity to relive his crime repeatedly.

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The aforementioned extended TV cut does a decent enough job trying to make the siblings revelation in Halloween II a bit more feasible. In the second of these three scenes after The Shape has escaped Smith’s Grove, his pursuing psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, visits his room to discover he has carved the word “SISTER” on the door. In the third scene inserted right after his stalking of Laurie in the backyard of her house, Lynda goes over there to borrow a blouse and tells Laurie how the guy in the station wagon has been following her. Laurie then tells her about how he was standing outside their high school staring at her right outside the window of the classroom she was in and that he was then in her backyard. When Lynda goes upstairs to get the blouse, the camera stays with Laurie. She looks outside to see if Michael Myers is there as she sings “I Wish I Had You All Alone.” She was singing this same song after dropping off the keys to the Myers house as Michael was standing outside staring at her as she walked away.

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While this is not a great a scene, where it is placed, the dialogue referencing the two times before Laurie saw The Shape staring at her, and the camera staying with her as she sings her song from that previous scene – Carpenter is emphasizing that Laurie is the main target here. Furthermore, in his screenplay for Halloween II he wrote a dream sequence for Laurie as she sleeps in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. These flashbacks of previously repressed memories depict Laurie was a little girl listening to her adopted mother telling her she is not her real mother and when Laurie meets Michael Myers as a young boy in Smith’s Grove when her real parents took her there to visit him.

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This idea for the sister revelation is so unnecessary though and there is no excuse for it even if John Carpenter was up to 2 o’clock in the morning with a six-pack of beer and it was the only idea he could think of because it is an idea he did not have to use at all. He does not do justice to his own creation. In a scene in Halloween II, Michael bumps into a teenager carrying a boombox on his shoulder and he hears on a news report that Laurie has been taken to the hospital. This is a good enough motivation – when Myers hears this, he goes to finish the job to kill the one who got away just because he wants to. Giving reasoning for the antagonist’s motivation goes against the first movie’s elements that make it so unique, and it makes The Shape seem less aloof, destroying the character’s mystique.

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Because of the franchise that grew from the original’s success, it is hard for many to separate it from the sequels. Due to these additional installments, it is easy for them to misinterpret its ingenious ambiguous ending that has been set up right from the outset. Over the course of the proceedings, the late, great genre veteran Donald Pleasence as the unhinged Loomis constantly warns the other characters of the extreme danger Michael Myers is. Smith’s Grove officials and Haddonfield’s Sheriff Brackett believe none of it. Given sublime dialogue, the actor delivers highly memorable monologues about how Michael is pure evil and the devil incarnate. Pleasence is strong in his conviction as Loomis, who believes Myers is something other than a man, and this serves as an effective narrative device to help turn him into more than just another maniac killer on the loose. This also perfectly supplements young Tommy Doyle believing the Boogeyman is coming for him this Halloween night as The Shape realizes his belief.

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To enhance all this is Dean Cundey’s superior cinematography. Carpenter has Cundey shoot Michael Myers on the fringes of the frame existing as an enigma. Is Laurie seeing him or not? We actually start to believe this unstoppable killing machine although born of the world is not part of it.

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We now come to the first film’s final moments. After Loomis fires six shots into Michael, he falls from the balcony of the Doyles’ house, and we get a lingering long shot of his supposedly dead body laid out on the ground of the front lawn. Laurie then asks, “Was it the Boogeyman?” Loomis replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.” He then looks down to see Myers has disappeared and his expression is of shock but when he looks back up, his expression changes to an expected look as if he knew this was going to happen. The camera then goes to a montage of shots showing everywhere The Shape has been throughout the night, accompanied by the sound of his heavy breathing behind the mask, and the closing shot is of the Myers house. He is still out there and could be in any of these places.

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This is a representation of no matter what we do, we cannot kill evil and it keeps coming back. Michael Myers is the embodiment of this – the personification of evil that will not stay down. Michael’s mask itself represents pure evil. It is subtle in its image of evil as you read into it as to what it signifies and is much like how Loomis describes Myers “…blank, pale, emotionless.” This all contributes to a supernatural theme that The Shape is an ominous force of nature.

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This climax is left open-ended to leave it up to the audience to interpret what Michael Myers really is and is not the gateway for a sequel. However, moviemaking being a business and the purpose of business being to make money, we got one anyway…

NEXT – PART 2: THE COMPANION PIECE

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Event Coverage: Mark Patton and Kim Myers Talk Freddy’s Revenge in London

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Earlier this month Unicorn Nights organized a rare treat for horror fans, not only did we get to view the often under rated A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge but we were also honored to be in company with the two leading cast members. Mark Patton who played Jesse Walsh and Kim Myers who played his on screen girlfriend Lisa Webber were on hand for a Q & A session once the 1985 sequel had wrapped and Dread Central was in London for a full report.

Every horror fan has their own take on Freddy’s Revenge which has always felt like a standalone movie compared to the rest of the franchise. Speaking to fans at the infamous Prince Charles Cinema where the event was being shown they recalled moments that made the movie so special and separate from the other sequels. The bright yellow school bus, Jesse’s 20 inch tongue, Freddy bursting out of a Mark Patton plastic fantastic body, the exploding parrot, Jesse’s dance, Jesse’s fight, Jesse’s scream, the dog with a human head, the horrifyingly beautiful score by Christopher Stone, Hope Lange, Clu ‘fucking’ Gulager, the beautiful Kim Myers (who judging by tonight hasn’t aged) and of course the infamous line when Freddy tells Jesse,”you’ve got the body, I’ve got the brain”, before peeling back the skin on his head to reveal his pumping organ.

When the movie had wrapped Mark and Kim got down to business and answered fans long awaited questions. Myers confirmed that her audition had been grueling and that she had been asked back four times, but it was her read through with Patton that convinced the powers that be to cast her. “It was a dream come true to get the part and the opportunity of a lifetime”, confirmed Myers.

It was also interesting to learn that Robert Englund who of course would return as Freddy Krueger was the very last cast member to sign on for the sequel, and his participation was very much in the balance. Patton made everyone in the room laugh when he answered  a question from a fan who said ‘was his screaming really him?’ Patton confirmed it was, before revealing that the sound men were in fear of him. Of course Myers is the only actress to have kissed Freddy and she revealed that the peck was very slimy and disgusting , but it was all about saving the love of her life, and with that, both her and Patton, embraced in what had been a fantastic and memorable night for the fans that had turned up for this sold out showing.

ABOUT UNICORN NIGHTS:
Unicorn Nights is the LGBTQUAI strand of films at the Prince Charles Cinema. Looking at some of the best (and worst) films that appeal to a queer unicorn audience. From Classics like Dirk Bogarde’s Victim and Tilda Swinton’s Orlando to lesbian werewolf love stories Jack & Diane and coming out classic Get Real. Their goal is to not let forgotten films from gay film makers or covering gay subjects be forgotten about and give a safe space for unicorns (as they like to call their audience) to come and enjoy film in the beating heart of London’s film center.

If you are in the London area you can follow Unicorn’s latest events and keep up to date by clicking here!

Also check out news on Mark Patton’s new documentary, Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street.

All Photos: David Bronstein

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2017: The Digital Rebirth of the Midnight Movie

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This year’s Sundance audience had no idea what they had signed up for when they entered the Egyptian Theatre on January 21st, the midnight premiere of Kuso. While Flying Lotus has established a well-earned legacy through his music, feature films are a fresh venture for him – and his first effort was transgressive enough to be dubbed one of the grossest films ever made. In spite of this film’s instant infamy, however, it didn’t have a theatrical run. Its grotesque pleasures must be sought almost exclusively online. Only some (lucky or unlucky) cinephiles have been able to experience this creation as it, and much of its ilk, should be – in the darkness of a theater.

The midnight movie phenomenon truly broke into the mainstream during the late ‘60s, amidst the academically-deemed Golden Age of American cinema. Now-famous directors like John Waters, David Lynch, and Alejandro Jodorowsky earned notoriety with these works – made infamous by their grotesque natures, sure, but also because they broke cinematic rules in such effective ways. There is something cathartic about watching a film that shows you something impossible, surrounded by others who are just as shocked and moved. This is an experience that audiences can’t truly replicate outside of a theater, at any time before nightfall.

Since the rise of the multiplex and big-chain theaters, independent cinemas have had a more difficult time competing. Why settle for one screen, anyway, when you can have twenty? With blockbusters and a series of misfires (lookin’ at you, Heaven’s Gate) putting an end to the revolutionary Golden Age, there wasn’t a space for midnight movies. Perhaps this was because they defy classification. Their ultimate effect may be disgust or discomfort, but a midnight movie isn’t necessarily horror, or comedy or sci-fi, for that matter. Without a category, they’re impossible to sell – or sell easily.

Film festivals have become the salvation of these less accessible offerings. Kuso was one of eight midnight selections at Sundance this year, amongst the equally harrowing (albeit less gooey) Bitch, the oddly touching The Little Hours, and entertaining anthology XX, to name a few. Big players like South by Southwest, TIFF, Tribeca and AFI sport midnight sections as well, which have premiered recent smashes like Turkish hellfest Baskin or monstrous love poem Spring – while the equally important Fantastic Fest and Sitges Film Festival have focused solely on genre films for years. Fest favorites still rely on distribution to find a broad audience, though, and often the weirdest ones get left behind.

So, where do modern audiences find these films when they don’t get a traditional release? They have to go online. Netflix’s horror section is notoriously uneven, though its acquisition of IFC Midnight’s lineup has improved it immensely. One of the most consistent platforms for weird cinema is far more niche – AMC’s hidden gem, Shudder. It’s advertised as Netflix for horror, but its curators have shown a specific focus on all things strange, regardless of category. This year, they’ve acquired more standard genre fare, like the heinously clever Better Watch Out and the powerful, agonizing Revenge; but arguably their most famous grab is Kuso, which draws an entirely different audience. Fresh acquisitions like Prevenge and We Are the Flesh, along with hard-to-find classics such as Death Bed: the Bed that Eats and The Devils, prove the site’s attention to exposing new audiences to bizarre, world-changing content.

It isn’t to say that weird movies haven’t been made in the decades between these periods; but we seem to have entered an age in which they’re becoming easily accessible again. Prestige talent has begun crossing into weird movies too; see Anne Hathaway in the genre-destroying Colossal or Jennifer Lawrence enduring all sorts of abuse in mother!, remarkable if only for the fact that Paramount released it with no questions asked. Stylish directors like Ben Wheatley and Ana Lily Amirpour broke into the mainstream with their own no-budget visions of strangeness, A Field in England and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, respectively.

Presenting a new generation with films that challenge, provoke, disgust and distort is essential; we live in a time of upheaval and anxiety, so why not explore movies that show the world in all its chaotic glory? Even so, that connection of a dark theater is missed – and fans can hope that somehow, the system will change again, allowing for a fresh cycle of movies that only play at night.

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12 Spooky Video Game Farms To Celebrate Your Thanksgiving

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Happy pre-Christmas, everybody! It’s once again that magical time of the year, where all the department stores get out their light up Santas and tinsel to celebrate the birth of capitalism. The Spooky Month is gone, all praise be to the glorious Coca-Cola Company. Oh, and there’s also something about turkeys and stuffing your face with enough pie to temporarily shut down your brain’s ability to recognize your in-laws as the enemy.

Now if you’re like me and your family is an impossible five whole hours away from you, you might be spending Thanksgiving alone. No shame in that, just a single adult man alone in his room on a day meant for loved ones. But that doesn’t mean that we very-much-not-lonely-and-totally-content-with-our-life-choices individuals can’t have some fun! So this year, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving by remembering the American heartland that made this all possible. The noble farmer, tilling the soil from dusk till dawn until automation made his job mostly just pushing buttons. So join me if you will, with my list of 12 Spooky Video Game Farms to Celebrate Your Thanksgiving!

12) All is Dust

O HAI!

All is Dust is pretty much the reason that this is a list of “Spooky Video Game Farms,” and not “Top Spooky Video Game Farms.” This is a game that I once used to kick off a series of negative reviews I called “Bottom of the Bargain Bin,” you can go ahead and read my rambling review if you are so inclined. For the rest of you, I’ll recap by saying that All is Dust is bad. None of that wishy-washy some redeeming nuggets that you can see through the rest of the turd. It’s just plain bad. But what it does have going for it is that, A) it is 100% free, B) it 100% takes place on a farm, and C) it’s so bad that it sticks in my brain as being entertaining. Play if you’re very bored or truly deranged.

11) Farm for your Life

Although not really living up to the “Spooky” part of the “Spooky Video Game Farms” list, I’d be remiss to leave it out. Taking place after the zombie apocalypse, you must do your best to raise livestock and run your restaurant by day, and defend it from waves of zombies by night. It’s part tower defence, part Harvest Moon, part Cooking Mama, part Diner Dash, and part Minecraft. For only $10, it’s definitely worth checking out just for the unique premise and adorable zombies.

10) Monster Rancher

Whereas Pokémon was about a small child going forth into nature to enslave its creatures and force them to fight in the ultimate bloodsport, Monster Rancher was about setting up the ideal monster sex palace. Okay, you still make them fight. This is a monster raising (or, if you will, monster ranching) simulator after all, it would be pretty bleak of the ultimate goal was to just chop them up and sell off the best bits. It never did as well as Pokémon, but I always found something charming about Monster Rancher’s take on raising your monsters. Rather than just fighting to get bigger and stronger, you could raise their individual stats by making them do chores like tidying up or running laps. I got much more of a sense of attachment to my individual monsters when I felt like I was their dad, making them mow the lawn for their own good. Then, later as their pimp, I forced them to mate and produce supermonsters.

9) Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green

Somewhere out there some, search optimization program must be whirring its little algorithms in confusion as this is the first time anyone has mentioned Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green in a decade. A tie-in to the equally unloved Land of the Dead, it actually serves as a direct prequel. You play as Jack, a farmer who on the night of the zombie outbreak finds his farm besieged by… well you know the drill. Road to Fiddler’s Green gets bonus points for not only partially taking place on a farm, but for starring an authentic American heartland stereotype farmer. Now let me be clear, this game is pretty bad. But it’s even more so that endearingly simple kind of bad, where the zombies are so easily avoided it’s like the scene from Dawn of the Dead where the bikers are basically just having an orgy around them. I have no idea where you’d get your hands on it, but give it a play if you want some good ol’ fashioned bad game.

8) Dead Secret

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This monkey could not possibly get any eviler.

This is the part where if this were a “Top” list, it would begin in earnest. Like a Jigsaw victim tasked with beating Five Nights at Freddy’s, this is a game that surprised me. I’m not really keen on the whole fixed point VR thing, as it tends to only lend itself to jump scares, but Dead Secret won me over with some thrilling chases and overall creepy atmosphere. The bizarre plot contains oni-masked demon spirit guides, magic slugs, dream machines, and the phases of the moon. It’s definitely something worth checking out, and is available on all major VR headsets. Even without one, I found the game enjoyable.

7) Minecraft

Hisssssssss…..

First of all, if you don’t find Minecraft scary, fuck you. You’ve obviously never played it. I do not care how blocky the graphics or adorable the sheep are. You try to listening to the zombies moaning softly in the distance as you huddle in your makeshift hovel and pray the night to be over. How about you place the last block on your new swimming pool, only to hear the telltale hiss of a creeper just behind you. Then you can come back and tell me that Minecraft isn’t horror. And don’t tell me it’s not a farm, either. All you do in Minecraft IS farm. It’s a game about building things to eventually grow more things so you no longer have to go out of your way to collect things. That is the literal transition from hunter/gatherer to farming.

6) Slender: The Arrival

Now that it’s been 4 years since its official release and the hype/controversy has died down, I’m free to say nice things about Slender: The Arrival without sounding like a pandering YouTube twat. In retrospect, the part of Slender that I really didn’t like (other than the community) was the first randomly generated section. The whole 11 or so interchangeable environments with 8 pages scattered between them just felt unnatural, a cheap way to lengthen gameplay at the cost of a cohesive world. However, I found the game to be pretty good when it got to the more linear scripted areas. One such level was titled “Homestead,” and takes place on a spooky farm complete with grain silo and quaint little hilltop church. It’s a pretty solid little piece of horror, and definitely worth watching someone overreact to on YouTube.

5) Resident Evil 4

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The game very quickly demands that you stop sucking.

Resident Evil 4 is not a game wanting for memorable locations. It’s got a spooky castle, a spooky military base, a spooky mine, a spooky… ancient ruins? I mean hell, this is a game with an underground lava fortress and a minecart ride! That being said, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t immediately associate Resident Evil 4 with the first pitched siege battle in the farming village. Many of the game’s most memorable moments come from these first few chapters in the decaying rural town, including the enduring introduction of Mr. Chainsaw-McSackface. That alone deserves a spot on this list.

4) Dying Light: The Following

When I gave Dying Light: The Following a five-star tongue bath awhile back, much of that was due to my own personal disappointment with DLC releases. You really have to give props to a DLC pack that is at the same time affordable, lengthy, and adds something genuinely new to the title. For The Following’s case, that came in the form of lengthy rural sections you had to get across in your sick customizable buggy. It was unique compared to the previously cramped and vertical spaces of the main campaign, adding even more freedom to a game about freerunning.

3) The Walking Dead

To be clear, I’m talking about this farm

Back in the day, Telltale Games was that cute little indie company putting out new Sam and Max games and the CSI tie-ins. That all changed in 2012 when The Walking Dead put them on the map. Before then, no one expected that a game you could play on your iPhone would make you cry. Of all the heartbreaking and shocking moments, perhaps the most is the dinner at the St. Johns’ farm. Clementine will remember that…and so will I.

2) Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Welcome to the family.

The last two additions on this list basically write themselves. I’m choosing to give Resident Evil 7: Biohazard the second slot because it’s just way less recognizable as once having been a plantation. As someone who doesn’t find country bumpkins scary, the crazed hillbilly trope of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or House of 1000 Corpses never really got to me. The Baker family? These people scare me.

1) Outlast 2

Outlast 2

Of course the top spot on this list goes to Outlast 2. If you Google “horror games on farms,” it’s the first result. And there’s good reason for that. Outlast 2 takes everything unsettling about rural Americana and cranks it up to 11. You’ve got slaughterhouses filled with people, rotting cattle, a syphilitic cult leader, pits filled with dead babies… the list goes on and on. It’s genuinely terrifying. I’m not even someone who likes the weaponless approach to horror, but with Outlast 2 it’s as much about the setting as it is the jump scares. Definitely check it out.

Well, there you have it horror fans. A nice sampling of 12 Spooky Video Game Farms to Celebrate Your Thanksgiving. I tried to include a little bit of everything for everyone here, but let me know if I missed your favorite heartland horror! Happy pre-Christmas to all, and to all a good… fright?

…I’ll see myself out.

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