Developed by From Software
Available exclusively on PS4
Rated M for Mature
Every once in a while, I am reminded of my hubris. Having reviewed Bloodborne (review), beaten it twice, played through the NG+, and delved into the higher level chalice dungeons, I figured myself well prepared for the DLC. Perhaps I was, level 170 with maxed out gear and months of experience. I was quick to find that as a freshly made level 30 with a Threaded Cane+3, I was not so well prepared.
I made the decision to experience The Old Hunters fresh after learning it could be accessed after the 4th boss. As this is a DLC review, I am going to assume that those reading this are familiar with the game, so I’ll only spend a little time clarifying things. After defeating Vicar Amelia and turning the game into the second lunar cycle, you can return to The Hunter’s Dream and receive the Eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter. Item in hand, wait in the spot at the side of the Oedon Chapel in Cathedral Ward where the Amygdala grabs you. Instead of killing you, you are transported to The Hunter’s Nightmare, where the DLC begins.
If that was all gibberish to you, I can give you a brief idea of what that means to us well versed in the series. Bloodborne is a largely non-linear game, with only certain key fights being required to complete the game. Only 7 of the game’s 17 bosses are required to win, with Vicar Amelia being the second mandatory boss. She is for most players the 4th boss that you will encounter, with the two optional bosses before her being significantly easier stepping stones. At this point, you’re only through about 15-20% of the game, as the subsequent bosses are increasingly more challenging to reach. At this point, players will likely have only unlocked a few weapons, the ability to upgrade, and maybe the additional power of the rune slots. Placing the DLC at this point would imply that it is geared for this level of player.
That is not the case. I rushed through the first 4 bosses in about 4 hours, which is slow for me. I generally go Strength, but decided to use a mix of Skill and Bloodtinge to try something new. The build had a slower start, but after some investment was powerful enough to at least carry me through Rom (roughly the game’s 2/3 point). Wanting to jump into things right away (and not wanting to trudge through the Forbidden Woods), I sacrificed myself to the Amygdala, and was off to converse with The Old Hunters. Upon arriving, I was promptly oneshot by a humanoid enemy wielding an extending chain death-cock.
I spent about 30 minutes learning the attack pattern, figuring out the parry frames, and whittling it down. I figured that this was probably just a boss enemy, here to give me a proper beatdown to remind me that this is a Souls game. The Artorius of the Abyss DLC in Dark Souls similarly opened with a challenging boss fight, so there is precedent. I was soon dispatched, this time in two hits, by the second humanoid enemy, this time wearing a bladed glove that punched holes in me faster than Kenshiro. Ah, so that first enemy wasn’t a boss. Those are just the enemies.
The content is plausibly beatable around level 50-60 for experienced players and 80-90 for scrubs. It is the hardest Bloodborne content by far, with the scant exception of a few optional semi-secret fights and those bullshit frenzy brain things. Given that the DLC is in no way connected to the main game, they could have placed it anywhere. Opening it up when they do doesn’t make sense, and will likely only confuse and infuriate new players. I get that this is a Souls game and things are hard, but even this series has always had a reasonable difficulty curve. Previous titles added DLC that fit the pace naturally, so it is unclear why they chose not to do so this time.
That single criticism is all the bad I have to say about The Old Hunters. This is easily one of the most robust and interesting DLC packages out there. In a market flooded with microtransactions, costume packs, and cut content that should have been a part of the main game, The Old Hunters is a shining example of what DLC should be.
For $20, you get 4 massive new zones, 5 new bosses, and 16 new weapons. One of my scant few complaints about Bloodborne was the limited arsenal, which totaled only 24 unique items (technically 26, but the torch and shield don’t count). The DLC almost doubles the options, but more importantly does so without feeling like padding. The weaponry in Bloodborne was complex even for a Souls game, giving an intimate feel to each weapon’s unique style and moveset. The Old Hunters takes this a step further, expanding the available functions of weapons without breaking the game. It offers compelling new options over straight power buffs, proving itself to be a legitimate piece of compelling content over a cash grab designed to force players to buy it for the strongest gear.
My personal favorite new item is Simon’s Bowblade, which swaps between a sword and greatbow. It’s a good skirmish weapon, and appeals to my cowardly nature and caffeine fueled twitch reflexes. I wish I had taken my old Arcane/Strength build into the DLC, because the Kos Parasite is a barrel of multi-tentacle extra-dimensional monkeys fun. Bonus points for making a weapon so slimy and gross that it even makes your PVP opponent uncomfortable. There are no “regular” weapons, with even the most standard Boom Hammer and Beasthunter Saif providing such variety that they would be the star attraction of any other action-RPG. Now more than ever, Bloodborne truly has something for everyone.
As far as DLC is concerned, I generally expect new items, bosses, spells, bells, whistles, hats, and of course guns. I don’t expect the world to be lifted up to new heights thematically. While Bloodborne felt like a mad world falling to pieces, The Old Hunters is a hellscape completely collapsed. It starts in the heavily distorted familiar settings of Yharnam and Cathedral Ward, and evolves into a nightmare world where madness is truly king. The vague logic that held sway over the hunters and denizens of Bloodborne is gone, replaced with a perverse unquenchable desire for blood. Enemies are numerous, but lines are blurred as foe frequently fight foe. It offers unique gameplay opportunity to pit your enemies against each other, picking the winner off after or simply escaping the confrontation altogether.
So you’re pumped, experienced, and ready to dive in? Well let me tell you, unless you are fucking fluent in Parry-nese, you don’t stand a chance in hell of making it through. The basic enemies have thousands of health and unstaggerable attack chains, so good luck just mashing your way through their 500+ damage basic attacks. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, at level 60 I have 1000 health and hit for 150. Prepare to be shocked when your visceral attack takes away a soul crushing sliver of their health bar, and be prepared to do this repeatedly to finally achieve victory. When you can, look for alternate methods of victory, as direct confrontation is not always the only option.
Aside from being soul-rendingly difficulty, the series is known for its epic bossfights. As far as boss encounters are concerned, Bloodborne is the pinnacle of the series. Bosses ranged from giant malevolent corpse piles to maddened fellow hunters, and the multi-phase design made each fight a constantly evolving challenge. In a roster already comprised of some of the best designed baddies video games have to offer, The Old Hunters bosses are the best of the franchise. Rather than just adding a few attacks, the different phases change both the look and feel of the foe dramatically. A hobbling abomination will sit upright and wield a sword. A standard sword fight will suddenly become a ball of flaming death and explosions. For a title that already raised the bar, this DLC pushes it past the limits.
This is absolutely a must-buy for fans of the series. If you aren’t a fan of Souls games, I pity you. You are missing out on one of the most complex, challenging, rewarding, and satisfying experiences on the market. The Old Hunters just took that level of sublime quality and raised it even further. For the few hours asking price of mastering the mechanics, you are guaranteed dozens, if not hundreds of hours of playtime. I have easily put over 600 hours into the titles, and what The Old Hunters offers has easily just put another 50 hours on top of that. This is what DLC should be. This is what gaming should be. Buy it.
Victor Crowley Blu-ray Review – Killer Special Features Make This a Must-Own
Directed by Adam Green
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Like many of you horror fans out there, I was surprised as hell when Adam Green announced that there was not only going to be the fourth entry in his famed Hatchet series but that the movie had already been filmed and was going to be screening across the country.
Of course, I wanted to get to one of those screenings as soon as possible, but unfortunately, there were no events in my neck of the woods here in Gainesville, Fl., and so I had to bide my time and await the Blu-ray.
Then a few days ago, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley landed on my doorstep and I jumped right into watching the film. Short story, I loved it. But we’ll get into all of that more in-depth below. For now, let’s do a quick rundown on the film for those two or three horror fans out there who aren’t familiar with the film and its premise.
Victor Crowley is the fourth entry in the Hatchet series, a franchise that follows the tale of a deformed man that accidentally met the wrong end of his father’s hatchet long ago and now roams the Louisiana swamp each night as a “Repeater”, aka a ghost that doesn’t know it is dead and thus cannot be killed. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. After all, Victor was supposedly killed at the end of Hatchet III by a combination of Danielle Harris, his father’s ashes, and a grenade launcher. Dead to rights, right? Not so much.
In this fourth entry/reboot, a group of indie horror filmmakers, lead by the adorable Katie Booth, accidentally resurrect Crowley just as the original trilogy’s lone survivor (Parry Shen) is visiting the swamp one final time in the name of cold hard cash. Long story short, Shen’s plane crashes with his agent (Felissa Rose), his ex-wife (Krystal Joy Brown), and her film crew in tow. Some survive the initial crash, some don’t. As you can imagine, the lucky ones died first.
Victor Crowley is a true return to form for Adam Green, who sat out of the director’s chair on the third film. As always, Green doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top comedy and gore the franchise is well known for. The blood rages and the sight-gags hit fast and unexpectedly. And, speaking of the sight-gags, there’s evidently a shot in this Blu-ray version of the film that was cut from the “Unrated” version released on VOD. The shot is one I won’t spoil here, but for the sake of viewing Green’s initial vision alone, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley is really the only way to own this film. Don’t get me wrong, there are (many) more reasons to shell out the cash for this Blu-ray, but I’ll get into those soon.
Back to the film itself, what makes this fourth entry in the series one of the very best Hatchet films (if not THE best) is Adam Green’s honesty. Not only does he conquer a few demons with the ex-wife subplot, but he gives us a truly tragic moment via Tiffany Shepis’ character that had me in stunned silence. Her death is not an easy kill to pull off in a notoriously over-the-top slasher series, but it earned mucho respect from this guy.
Basically, if you loved the original trilogy, you will love this one as well. If you mildly enjoyed the other films, this one will surely make you a fan. Slow clap, Adam Green.
Let it be known that I’m a massive fan of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking documentaries. Like many of you out there, I find film production to be utterly fascinating and thus have grown a little tired of the typical making-of featurettes we get on Blu-rays. You know the ones. The director talks about his vision for the film, the cast say how much fun they had on-set with the other actors and crew, and we get cutaways to people dancing and trying to kiss the behind-the-scenes camera – all usually set to upbeat music.
While I’ll take what I can get, these kinds of behind-the-scenes features have grown to be little more than tiresome and superficial. But no worries here my friends as Adam Green has pulled out all the BS and given us a full-length, 90-minute behind-the-scenes feature called “Fly on the Wall” that shows it how it really is on the set.
Highlights include new Hatchet D.P. Jan-Michael Losada, who took over for Will Barratt this time around, who is little less than a f*cking hilarious rockstar, a front row seat to the making of Felissa Rose’s death scene, a creepy-cool train ghost story prank by Green, a clever impromptu song via Krystal Joy Brown (Sabrina), and a fun bit towards the end where Green and the SFX crew create the “gore inserts” in (basically) the backyard after filming. Good times all around.
The documentary then ends with the Facebook Live video of Adam Green announcing Victor Crowley‘s surprise premiere at that Hatchet 10th Anniversary screening. A great way to end a killer making-of documentary making his disc a must-own for this special feature alone.
But wait, it gets better. On top of the film itself and the above-mentioned “Fly on the Wall” documentary, the disc features an extensive interview with Adam Green called “Raising the Dead… Again.” This interview is basically Green going over the same speech he gave to the crowd at the surprise unveiling shown at the end of the “Fly on the Wall” doc, but that said, it’s great to hear Green tells his inspiring story to us directly.
So while this feature treads water all of us have been through below (especially fans of Green’s podcast The Movie Crypt), Green is always so charming and brutally honest that we never get tired of him telling us the truth about the ins-and-outs of crafting horror films in this day and age. Again, good stuff.
Additionally, the disc also boasts two audio commentaries, one with Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan, and another “technical” commentary with Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft.
Add in the film’s teaser and trailer, and Victor Crowley is a must-own on Blu-ray.
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft
- Raising the Dead… Again – Extensive interview with writer/director Adam Green
- Behind the Scenes – Hour-long making-of featurette
One of the best, if not THE best, entries in the Hatchet series, with special features that are in-depth and a blast (and considering all other versions of the film have been castrated for content), this Blu-ray is really the only way to own Adam Green’s Victor Crowley.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
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