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.
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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