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In-Depth Look Behind the Scenes of Dead Space

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Dead Space (click to see it bigger!)Dead Space isn’t as surprising now as it was when it was first revealed. A game coming from a creatively rejuvenated EA games, that sits amongst a slate of other promising looking, brand new ideas.

It wasn’t incredibly surprising when it was first unveiled either. But you have to think back to how we used to look at EA games a couple of years back.

They were the big dog. They were the evil empire. Throwing out sequel after sequel year on year to their sports and racing games. Over working their teams. Throwing out licensed game after licensed game.

And right in the middle of it all Glen Schofield was going crazy because he’d had these ideas in his head he wanted to turn into a game, and all he’d been getting to do was make games based on other people’s ideas.

The Simpson’s Game. The Lord of the Rings games. The Godfather. From Russia With Love. These were the kind of games that Glen and the other people that would come to make up the Dead Space team had been working on. It wasn’t that they weren’t enjoying their work, or proud of their work, it just didn’t feel entirely theirs.

So while finishing up things on From Russia with Love, Glen went and pitched his ideas for a dark, gritty, sci-fi horror game to the EA top brass.

They gave him a handful of developers, and a handful of weeks, to try and convince them that his ideas were something worth banking on.

It wasn’t difficult finding people eager to work on the project. Glen didn’t want to be an auteur and impress his ideas on everyone else. He wanted to find people into the same kind of horror and sci-fi he was and to let creative people be creative.

When Ben Wanat came onboard to design the creatures, the game was just a wall of concept art. The first thing he did was take down all the pictures of creepy Japanese children.

Dead Space (click to see it bigger!)It was decided pretty early on, that instead of just putting together a design document and a bunch of concept art, that they would make a ‘vertical slice’; a ten to twenty minute section of the game that could actually be played.

This ambitious pitch worked, and Dead Space finally got the green light, and a full team of developers.

Violent and scary, it was so different to what EA had been making lately, it was a game that some people fought to work on.

Rich Briggs had been a project manager. Overseeing a large number of projects from the PR/marketing side of things, when Rich caught wind of Dead Space, he knew he wanted to dedicate his time 100% to the title, and switched over to development for the first time in his life to handle the motion capturing and production of all the in game audio, video and text story elements, as well as producing the scripted sequences.

Everyone I met from the team, seemed incredibly proud and enthusiastic about the title. You could tell that it was a refreshing change for these guys to be able to work on something and make it their own.

While the team did study a lot of great works of horror and science fiction in trying to understand the two genres and while there are nods here and there, such as the name of your character, Isaac Clarke, drawn from Asimov and Arthur C. respectively, effort was put into not being something identifiable, and to give the game it’s own look.

Glen Schofield cited Blade Runner, Star Wars, Star Trek and Alien as looks they wanted to avoid. Art director Ian Milham put it a bit more directly saying Sci-Fi had two main looks: Aliens and Terminator. Aliens is black and wet. Terminator is blue and shiny. Ian instead went to the work of David Fincher to draw examples of the kind of look the environments in the game should have… also drawing heavily from elements of Gothic architecture.

Ribbing. Visible supports. Fine detailing. These elements would also influence the design of the main character Isaac Clarke’s outfit to find a look they felt they could call their own.

Dead Space (click to see it bigger!)The monsters would need to be distinct too. Ben Wanat explained in some detail. If you make something look too alien it isn’t relateble. It can be too alien, and that isn’t so scary. If they look too human, it’s not something unique.

The game designers knew what kind of monsters they wanted for the game play in terms of what they could and couldn’t do, but finding a look that tied all those ideas together in a cool and scary way required literally thousands of concepts before something was found that everyone liked.

Monsters made from decaying human parts, in many cases repurposed human parts being used in ways they weren’t meant to be used. So you’d recognize a hand, or a head, in the middle of some more complex alien horror and know that people died for this thing to come into existence.

The desire to build a combat system around dismemberment helped to further influence the designs. They would need limbs and tentacles as obvious spots to attack, but not so many as to make it difficult for the player to know what to attack and what effect that would have on the ‘necromorphs’.

Dismemberment as a central gameplay mechanic was something the team wanted to do right from the beginning. Given the chance to make a bloody horror title, what better way then to literally let you take apart the enemies piece by piece? Well, to make you need to take them apart piece by piece, and to make sure you do it in the correct fashion was the ‘better way’ they came up with.

Of course a story was needed too, and they didn’t want the story to be some last minute addition. They wanted the story to dictate where you would go, what the environment would be like. They wanted everything to have a history, and as such they worked with a number of creative people. Warren Ellis helped in creating the story. Wes Craven, Eli Roth, James Wan were consulted about horror (and Wan ended up cutting a trailer for them because he wanted to be more involved).

Glen Schofield had always loved big ideas like those of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. The idea of a resource hungry future needing to go out to other planets to mine them, lead to the idea of giant spaceships, ‘planet crackers’, that would literally tear planets apart to drag huge chunks of them back for mining.

Dead Space (click to see it bigger!)What if there was something inside one of those planets waiting to get out?

Who was the company that built these ships? Who was the player? What was this world like? Huge amounts of effort was put into developing the world, so much so that putting together a comic book series detailing some of the history leading up to the events of the game seemed like a natural move.

Unusually the team was given final say on all aspects of the marketing and spin-offs.

They wanted the comic to stand by itself, so they were able to prevent any EA branding from appearing on the comics. They had final say on the script for the comics, and are incredibly happy with the final result.

The comic didn’t cover the fall of the Ishimura though, just the start of the horror down on the planet’s surface. When Starz Entertainment wanted to get involved, telling that story seemed like the way to go.

For someone like Starz Entertainment to want to make an animated movie leading into the events of the game before the game was even out, when it was a whole new property was a huge risk, one that the team are very aware of, but very encouraged by.

When I got to play the game and meet the team last week, the game was in beta, just a few weeks away from finishing. The team were in full on crunch mode, pulling 10+ hour days ensuring that any remaining bugs were smoothed over, and yet they seemed still as enthusiastic as ever.

Dead Space (click to see it bigger!)For example, when they took the game to comic-con last month, they came along with a guy cos-playing as Isaac. The R.I.G. he wears wasn’t paid for by EA marketing and done professionally like you might expect, but was the work of one of the team, who put it together in his spare time when he wasn’t working on the game.

When you’re working 60 hours a week on a game, and then go home and spend most of your spare time making a costume based on that game, you’ve got to be pretty damn excited and motivated by what you are doing.

Based on what I played, you can see the result of that dedication in the game they’ve made. They’ve definitely made something to be proud of and I’m pretty confidant that when everyone gets a chance to play the final game this October they’ll get all the recognition and plaudits they deserve.

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Fearsome Facts

Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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