Exclusive Interview: Devin Shatsky Talks Silent Hill: Downpour, Shattered Memories and HD Collection - Dread Central
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Exclusive Interview: Devin Shatsky Talks Silent Hill: Downpour, Shattered Memories and HD Collection

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Silent Hill is one of the most beloved gaming franchises ever, and March 2012 will see the release of three different Silent Hill games in one month! It’s almost too much for fans to handle, but we’re going to go ahead and give you even more goodness!

Dread Central recently sat down with Producer Devin Shatsky for an interview about some of the upcoming and newly released games in the Silent Hill series.

Devin Shatsky has been in the video game industry for over 15 years, and he has lent his talent to well over 25 different titles during that span. Just a few of the titles Devin has worked on include The Suffering, Area 51, Silent Hill Shattered Memories and, of course, Silent Hill Downpour (review here). He was also an important part in the recreation of the Silent Hill HD Collection which is scheduled to release on March 20, 2012.

AMANDA: First off, we have to ask you about your new game Silent Hill Downpour. The game stars a new protagonist named Murphy Pendleton. What ultimately made the team choose to go in this direction for the game’s main character, and was Murphy inspired by any other character in gaming or another form of media?

DEVIN: From the onset of preproduction on Downpour, we knew we wanted to create a character type that was new to the Silent Hill franchise. In the past games, you typically had a protagonist that seemed like an “everyman” (or woman) who the player would naturally assume is a decent person. Even if they found out the complete opposite by the end of the game (such as in SH2) that the character’s done something very despicable in their past… for most of the game, players are sympathetic to him. With Murphy (in Downpour) we decided upon a prison inmate. We want the player to be changing their opinion of Murphy frequently as they play the game, and really struggling… do I like this person? Or is he a bad guy? This creates a new kind of uncertainty.

AMANDA: Silent Hill Downpour strays from many gameplay mechanics the game has relied on over the years. What ultimately made the team attempt a more action oriented game with a limited arsenal of weapons?

DEVIN: With our combat and weapons system, we wanted to lean toward a more realistic approach with Downpour. This would allow us to play upon a more natural sense of dread, by disempowering the player. It always bothered me in games when the protagonist has a “magic pocket” where they can carry a massive arsenal of weaponry. So with Downpour, we decided that Murphy should only be able to arm himself with what he can carry in his hands. With the exception of firearms, which Murphy can hold one in his waistband, while simultaneously carrying a melee weapon in his hands. Firearms and ammo are precious in Downpour, there isn’t a whole lot of guns just laying around the environments, so when the player stumbles across one they should hold onto it. As far as “a more action oriented approach”, Downpour is actually paced to a much slower burn than say Homecoming for example, so I would definitely not qualify Downpour as more action oriented than past SH games. We focused a lot of energy on atmosphere, and the feeling of isolation, as opposed to combat and action.

AMANDA: In the game, Murphy occasionally has to quickly escape the dreaded Otherworld before being consumed by a deadly ball of energy. Where did the inspiration for the Otherworld come from?

DEVIN: It came from Shattered Memories, as you know that game had no actual combat as all the enemies were invincible. Instead we relied on playing upon the players fears of being chased and killed, with nightmare sequences where they would have to run away or hide from creatures. Fans really enjoyed that experience, but we quickly found out that a good majority of them still wanted combat as well. So with Downpour, we wanted to give them elements of both.

AMANDA: Well, the Silent Hill series is well known for its inclusion of ingenious puzzle design. How difficult is it to create so many unique puzzles for each game? How does puzzle design rank in difficulty when compared to designing other parts of the game?

DEVIN: It’s very difficult, we utilized focus testing for many of our puzzle designs to find out which were too hard, too easy, unintuitive, etc. So ultimately we decided upon implementing the classic difficulty level option that fans were familiar with from the original Silent Hill games. This was received very well by the core fans and mainstream as well. Those who want to delve into more difficult puzzles and use their brain more during gameplay can select the hard difficulty setting, or those who want a less cerebral experience have the option of easy or normal puzzles.

AMANDA: Silent Hill Downpour will be the eighth major installment to the Silent Hill series. So when it is all said and done, what do you hope will be the lasting impact that Silent Hill Downpour leaves on the series?

DEVIN: Ultimately , I hope that Silent Hill Downpour can just be appreciated on it’s own merits, and not held against the ultimate nostalgic comparisons to the original SH games. As you mentioned, it’s the 8th installment, so we’re in a bit of a catch 22 where if we branch out too far and make something totally unique (ala Shattered Memories), some of the more vocal diehard fans complain that “this isn’t Silent Hill!”. On the flipside, if we try to emulate the experience of the original games too closely, we get dinged for being antiquated, or not innovative enough for the mainstream fans. We know we can never please everyone, but hopefully with Downpour we can please a good amount of old and new fans alike.

AMANDA: This month will see three different Silent Hill releases in consecutive weeks in a wonderful marketing campaign designed by Konami. How long were these releases planned in this fashion, and was there any pressure to finish you games in time? Also, have you ever been involved in a more important promotion than this one in your career?

DEVIN: Hahaha, “pressure”? No never, of course not… there’s never any pressure in software development, not sure where you would get that idea. Truth be told, this marketing campaign was derived out of the unfortunate slippage of Downpour’s original release date , which was originally supposed to be October of 2011. I think it could potentially be a blessing in disguise though, as there were some extremely heavy hitters that shipped during that original launch window, so it’s nice that we have a chance to shine in a much less crowded space. I’ve been producing games for over a decade now, and I can say I’ve never experienced a fanbase as vocal and rabid as the Silent Hill fans, so the importance level is extremely high. As I mentioned above, there’s no way we’ll ever please everyone, but I think the more open-minded fans will be very happy with Downpour.

AMANDA: You’ve been a major contributor to the gaming industry for a long time even dating back to your time with Midway in the late 1990s early 2000s. What would you say was your favorite project to be a part of during your career and why?

DEVIN: This may not be the most politically correct answer, but my favorite project I ever worked on was the NHL Hitz series. Along with the horror genre, I’ve always been a big fan of sports games as well. And while I’m not a seriously die-hard Hockey fan, I think the sport lends itself very well to an over-the-top, arcade style, video game such as NHL Hitz. I mean who wouldn’t love checking someone over the boards and through the plexiglass, shattering it into the crowd. Not to mention, it was my first foray into production, and not only did I learn a lot, but it was also really fun to work on. As a developer, I also got to have my own character implemented into one of the secret teams. So to this day, I still have the occasional random person come up to me at E3 (or other events) and say they remember me in NHL Hitz.

Silent Hill Downpour definitely comes in at a close second though. It’s been a very interesting experience dealing first hand with the Silent Hill fanbase, and while it’s been filled with challenges, I’ve really enjoyed working on this title a lot.

AMANDA: There is always plenty of interesting new things to talk about in the gaming universe. This year alone will see the release of two major consoles in the Playstation Vita and Wii U. Of course, there is always complaints, murmurs and rumors to go along with the good news. In your opinion, what is the state of the gaming world?

DEVIN: It’s a very interesting time in the industry right now. With the influx of social gaming, there seems to be a significant branching of strategic direction by many companies. Many of which are taking great lengths to solidify themselves within the social space, while a few others continue to push forward in the console market and are having great success with less competition. As a whole, there seems to be a much more careful approach to console game publishing now, with fewer (but bigger budget) titles being released. I think ultimately that is a good thing for the consumer, because it provides a greater emphasis on quality vs. quantity. Whereas in the social space, it seems to be the opposite. There are a ton of companies trying to find that next “Farmville” and cash in on the more mainstream audience with less costly game development budgets. It should be really interesting to see how the game industry evolves over the next few years with the next generation of consoles on the horizon, and the introduction of the Apple TV.

AMANDA: I’m going to go ahead and assume that the Silent Hill series is your favorite gaming franchise, but I want you to tell me what games you’re currently playing in your free time that are not named Silent Hill. Also, what are some of your favorite non-Silent Hill games of all-time?

DEVIN: I think my favorite non-Silent Hill game of all time is Red Dead Redemption. I’m a sucker for Westerns, and Red Dead hit the mark on the open world game design, the beautiful art style, and the magnificent audio. I’m currently playing NBA 2K12, Batman Arkham City, Gears of War 3, and I’ve got Mass Effect 3 at the top of my ‘next game’ list, once I get the time to fully throw myself into it.

AMANDA: I know you’re a busy man, but what do you when you’re not creating or playing video games? Do you have any other projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to tell us about?

DEVIN: When I’m not working, I’m spending time with my family. I’m also an avid reader; I love to read horror and sci-fi novels. I try to play golf at least once a month, and I’m a huge fan of Yoga. Currently at work, I’m focused solely on wrapping up Silent Hill Book of Memories for the Playstation Vita, and doing interviews for SH Downpour and HD Collection. That pretty much consumes all of my time.

Dread Central would like to thank Devin Shatsky and Konami for their time and attention in bringing you this great interview.

Silent Hill Downpour was released on March 13, 2012, as the first game in Konami’s promotion featuring three consecutive weeks of great games. The game follows new protagonist Murphy Pendleton as a strange series of events lands him in the cursed town of Silent Hill. The game will feature many firsts for the series, as the teams behind the game are constantly working hard to bring the fans a new and entertaining experience every time they pick up a new Silent Hill game.

For more information on all of these great games, check out the official Silent Hill website.
Also, make sure you check out Kenny King’s review of Silent Hill: Downpour.

Devin Shatsky Talks Silent Hill: Downpour, Shattered Memories and HD Collection

Devin Shatsky Talks Silent Hill: Downpour, Shattered Memories and HD Collection

Devin Shatsky Talks Silent Hill: Downpour, Shattered Memories and HD Collection

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Exclusive: Director Dennis Bartok and Lead Shauna MacDonald Talk Nails

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With writer and director Dennis Bartok’s feature film Nails having bowed Friday on VOD via Dark Sky Films, here’s a bit of our interview with the flick’s filmmaker, Cinelicious Pics Head of Distribution and General Manager of the American Cinematheque Bartok (he wears many hats), as well as the film’s star, Shauna MacDonald (of The Descent series).

Nails revolves around “…track star Dana Milgrom (MacDonald), who, having survived a near-death car accident, finds herself almost completely paralyzed and trapped inside her own body, and while recovering, she becomes convinced that some evil presence exists inside her hospital room and is intent on killing her,” and was executive produced by Joseph Kaufman (Assault on Precinct 13) and produced by Brendan McCarthy (Cherry Tree, The Hallow).

Bartok, who previously wrote and produced the 2006 feature anthology film Trapped Ashes, said of his approach to the narrative of Nails, “It’s very ‘anti-flight.’ Most horror movies are built around the idea that you are running away from something. The Halloween and Friday the 13th movies, there’s a mysterious creature that’s trying to track you down, or conversely you are walking into some horrible haunted house that nobody in their right mind would ever go into, for example, The Woman in Black, which is a really terrifying film. But from the very first moment Daniel Radcliffe’s character goes up to the front of that house, the audience says, ‘Turn around! Get the hell out of there! You are going to die!’ And of course he walks in. So I was really fascinated by a narrative in which the lead character was physically trapped in one space, and actually trapped in her own body. So I thought a lot about narratives like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Sea Inside and Hitchcock’s Rear Window, where the protagonist is physically handicapped and forced to confront that, so both as a writer and as a filmmaker and for Shauna it was a huge challenge, in that how do you make that (type of story) kinetic and compelling, and how do you build suspense when the lead character is trapped in the bed for eighty percent of the story?”

MacDonald said of the script’s appeal, which is a departure in ways from the action-packed The Descent films for which she’s most known, “Oddly, I don’t want to be labeled a horror girl, although the older I get, the cooler I think that sounds. Certainly in the UK they like to fit you in the box of low-budget horror films, and every year after The Descent (films) I get scripts to read, and some of them would say, ‘OK, the lead actress is tied to a stained mattress in her underwear,’ and I would be like, ‘Next!’ and for me, I knew it would be a massive acting challenge to play the lead (as it was written) in Nails, someone who is bed-ridden and paranoid and can’t speak. Her physical journey and her emotional journey is what attracted me to the role.”

“I think it’s important also that she has self-doubt,” MacDonald continues of her role, “and that she thinks she may be having a mental breakdown. No one else is seeing the things she is seeing or experiencing what she is experiencing, so I thought upon that a lot, and also I thought, as a mother of three girls myself, that the character’s connection with her daughter in the script was really heart-wrenching, and I love mother/daughter stories.”

Filmmaker Bartok added, “I thought very much about the bond between a mother and her daughter while writing it, and the sacrifice a parent would make in order to protect their child, and that was one of the main themes from the very beginning. When I set out to make the film I knew that there were two things that I needed to make it work. One was that I needed to make it scary, and to really unnerve people, and to build that suspense and a rising tension throughout, and the second thing was, that I’d really need someone amazing to play the character of Dana, because she’s in nearly every scene of the film, and we experience the story entirely through her perception. And if we hadn’t cast someone with Shauna’s acting gifts, the film would have fallen flat.”

In regards to casting the film’s antagonist, the gaunt, towering and ghostly figure of ‘Nails,’ Bartok states of actor British Richard Foster-King, of which he’d been introduced to via an audition tape for an entirely different movie, “Richard had done these beautiful movements (in that tape), as if he was swimming in the air and elongating his arms, and I think he had even crawled along the floor at one point. And as soon as I saw that tape, I said, ‘That’s it. That’s Eric Nillson. That’s Nails!’ And the producers, because they wanted to keep the budget as low as possible, had wanted to hire local actors out of Dublin, and I would look at those tapes, and they were OK, but I felt we really needed to get Richard. So bit by bit I kept saying, ‘No,’ to these other suggestions, and finally I was able to convince them to bring Richard in from London.”

As for the evolution of the character, which itself possesses some of the nuanced tragedy of Universal’s classic monsters, Bartok stated, “It was really fascinating because we had reached out to several gothic, surreal artists who had been recommended to me by various friends, and asked them to submit concept designs, and the one that we liked the best, and they were all actually excellent, was by a French photographic artist named Nihil, who takes photographs and then manipulates them digitally. So Nihil did an amazingly creepy concept, which provided the blueprint as to how we approached the character’s design. There were several steps in getting it onto the screen, though. Maybe seventy-five percent of it came from Richard’s physicality and his on screen presence, and the rest could only be achieved digitally, and we brought in an incredibly gifted visual effects artist named Eli Dorsey, who had worked on Ted Geoghegan’s film We Are Still Here. And Eli created the milky white eyes, and the dentures which kind of sit outside the palate, and the ghostly pallor. But primarily, I think its Richard’s performance which makes the character, an evil tormenting character who is also tormented, so very haunting.”

Nails also stars Ross Noble, Steve Wall, and Charlotte Bradley. You can watch the film on iTunes.

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Exclusive: studioADI and 20th Century Fox Unveil Stunning Alien 3 and Resurrection Art Collection

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Today, Yahoo! Movies have announced that studioADI, who we’ve seen this year in IT and will see next year in The Predator and in 2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and 20th Century Fox Consumer Products have launched The studioADI Collection, a new initiative that will see the award-winning FX studio create art inspired by Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. The pieces that will come from this collection are not to be confused as collectible figures but should rather be seen as high-quality works of art as each one will be hand-crafted based on original molds and they will then be individually painted. Prices will range from $250 to $4,000 and they will go on sale beginning December 1st through Big Cartel.

StudioADI’s Alec Gillis states, “The studioADI collection is our tribute to the films that have been an important part of our legacy as artists. Each piece of art reflects the same detail and passion we poured into the characters when we created the original Alien films.

Tom Woodruff Jr. adds, “This is the collection designed for fans of these entries into the Alien franchise as well as aficionados of the art of creatures and monsters of iconic pedigree.

The studioADI Collection will include the following seven pieces:
Queen Alien Embryo from Alien³
Newborn Alien Design Maquette Bust from Alien: Resurrection
Newborn Alien Full Body Design Maquette from Alien: Resurrection
Swimming Alien Study Model from Alien: Resurrection
1:1 Alien Warrior Half Head from Alien: Resurrection
1:1 Newborn Alien Head from Alien: Resurrection
1:3 Scale Queen Alien Head from Alien: Resurrection

These are descriptions of two of these items:
“The Newborn” from Alien: Resurrection was the terrifying mix of human and Alien DNA gone wrong. This Full-Scale Bust is cast from hand-laid translucent polyester resin from ADI’s original production molds and is painted to the same exacting specifications by ADI’s painter who painted the character for the original film. The piece measures 30″x20″x40″

“The Queen Alien Embryo” was seen in David Fincher’s Alien³ was nestled next to the beating heart of Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver. Cast in translucent urethane and hand painted by the same ADI artists who created the piece for the film in 1991.
At 7″ x 9″ this piece of art is perfect for desktop display.

Here are images of some of these pieces:

We got our hands on three exclusive images from this collection that add a glorious vision of how detailed and intricate these pieces are going to get.

The first image is of the back of the 1:3 scale Queen Alien Head from Alien: Resurrection. You can see that every square inch of the design is tended to and that no stone is left unturned when it comes to the mold and paint.

The second image shows the Newborn Alien Full Body Design Maquette from Alien: Resurrection from a wide, almost full-front angle. You can really see the spindly, almost delicate structure to its body while also being intimately aware of the grotesque yet hypnotizing physique.

Lastly, the third image is a closeup of the Queen Alien Embryo from Alien³. Here you can see just how detailed the mold is, each wrinkle and crease in the Xenomorph’s body etched finely and with precision.

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Whatever Happened to Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving?

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Back in April of 2007, we all sat in our local darkened theater and watched as Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s exploitation double feature Grindhouse (review) blew the roof off the place for 3 hours straight.

Well, it’s ten years later, and I think we are all asking ourselves the same question: Where the hell is Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving?

Like every other human out there, I enjoyed both Tarantino and Rodriguez’s films – along with the fake trailers by Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright – but the big takeaway was Eli Roth’s faux trailer for the greatest 80’s slasher that never was.

So what happened to the feature?

Well, Roth was originally working on the feature back in 2007 after finishing his work helming Hostel: Part II, telling Cinema Blend:

“I’ve been working on the script with my co-writer, Jeff Rendell, who plays the pilgrim in the trailer,” Roth told the site. “And it’s me imitating Jeff’s voice [for the narration]. But Jeff has been working. I said that his deal is he has to work on the script while I’m promoting The Last Exorcism, and as soon as I’m done in mid-September he’s going to fly to California, we’re going to sit down, and bang out the script.”

But then the planned film died out as Grindhouse flopped at the box-office. Following the film’s underperformance, all talks surrounding Edgar Wright and Eli Roth’s Grindhouse double feature spin-off were silenced in a single weekend.

In fact, the last update we received on the possible standalone Thanksgiving film was last year when Roth did a Reddit AMA, and said this about the film’s current development:

“Have a draft not totally happy with. I want to put some more work into it so the film lives up to the trailer. We have the story and mythology cracked so now it’s about getting the kills right.”

Nice. Seemed like the film was making some headway. Nothing to do but gut the T’s and cut the heads off the I’s. But then nothing happened. At all. No updates. No nothing.

With that in mind, we here at Dread Central decided to reach out to Roth personally and see if there were any new happenings in regards to the film. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach him so I guess we’ll all just have to keep wondering and waiting.

Maybe it’s the pressure he no doubt feels making the much loved faux trailer into a feature. After all, he did say this back in 2007: “No matter how many movies I make my whole life, that two-and-a-half minute trailer is what I’ll be remembered for: ‘Eli Roth — he had a guy fucking a turkey with a decapitated head on it.’”

Or maybe the rights to the film were just tied up with the now infamous Weinstein company. But with that company finally going under (thank God) maybe now the rights could be sold off to new producers and finally, we’ll see not only Thanksgiving but features based on Don’t and possibly even Werewolf Women of the S.S.

But I dream…

Until we get the full-length feature flick of Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, we can always look back on the comments he made to Rolling Stone way back in April of 2007, in which he talked a bit about the Pilgrim’s backstory.

“My friend Jeff… we had the whole movie worked out,” Roth told the magazine. “A kid who’s in love with a turkey and then his father killed it and then he killed his family and went away to a mental institution and came back and took revenge on the town.”

Jesus, please us. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the f*cking perfect setup/backstory for an 80’s slasher throwback flick set on Thanksgiving.

So ten years later, let me be the one to come right out and say it: Please, Eli Roth, make Thanksgiving. Please. Every horror fan in the world would thank you. Forever.

Sigh…

We’ll make sure to update this article in another ten years.

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