Reviewed by Coach
Available for the Xbox 360 (reviewed here) and PC
The name’s Leslie Browne. Was always teased about that growing up. Other kids said I had a girl’s name. I knew even back then I had to learn to start whipping ass and do so quickly to get some respect. Here I am, decades later, and now legions of kids both young and old have come to know me simply as “Coach.” I like that. Cuts through the bullshit, you know? My grandma used to say, “You got to use what the Lord gave you, son.” Well, I was blessed with what I think is a fine name, strength, street smarts, and a size twelve shoe that will fit up anyone’s ass who gets in my way. Here in Louisiana I thought I’d seen it all. Gangs, drugs, racism, hurricanes that drowned half the fucking state because our then President was asleep at the wheel when he should have been wide awake. But this infection shit? This was new. Let me start at the beginning.
Things were going pretty all right in our community. The Midnight Riders, a local band, were in town, a bonafide Nascar legend was appearing at the mall, and everybody was buzzing about something. You gotta take the good with the bad though, and the bad started when the government showed up for some unknown reason. Men in these big nasty, full-body Tyvek suits. They were collecting samples of this green shit from the swamp. Being that there’s plenty of green shit out there to begin with, nobody paid ’em much mind.
Two weeks later I found myself Dead Center in a high-rise building visiting a friend. From out in the hall there was this commotion. Sounds of people running. Glass breaking. Screaming. I’ll never forget those first few shrieks of what had to be absolute terror. Shit like that has a way of gettin’ stuck in your mind. My man, Thelton, poked his head out to see what was going on. Then there was this thud. All I could see was T’s body sliding down toward the floor. Then these arms … they shot in, grabbed him, and pulled him out of the apartment. It happened so fast. I couldn’t react. I keep thinkin’ maybe if I’d moved a little sooner, then … fuck it. You can drive yourself crazy thinkin’ like that. Long story short, I knew I needed some kind of weapon before I went out there. Whether T was alive or dead, the motherfuckers who snatched him were about to have some thunder dropped down on their skulls. Now, me and Thelton? We ‘d spend hours working with the police to get guns off the streets, so I knew he didn’t have any firearms in the house, but that don’t mean I couldn’t strap myself the old fashioned way … I’m talking baseball bats, cricket bats, frying pans, crowbars, guitars, chainsaws, machetes, axes, and even motherfuckin’ Katana blades, which I just picked as my new best friend. Melee weapons for my money are the way to go. I like getting up close and personal. Let them see my face. Feel my vengeance.
These folks had a plan. With the fire building up down below, they told me we needed to get to the roof; apparently the shit was hittin’ the fan all over the city and rescue choppers were pickin’ people up from the tops of buildings. Hell, fifteen minutes ago I was watchin’ the Saints game with my best friend. It’s amazing how quickly everything can fall apart. Only one thing was clear: It was time to get our asses in gear.
After busting down the door to get to the roof, we saw the chopper. Wait. Let me correct myself. We saw the chopper … leaving. There we were. Four strangers standing on top of a burning building filled with some sort of murderous dead things with nowhere to go but down. By this time the hallways were littered with gore and zombies. These dumb-fucks were just attacking with reckless abandon. Me and the people in my group? We were slaying these things like a well oiled machine. Whatever came near us. Funny thing, though; remember them scientists I was telling you about? They were here, too, all dead like. Stupid sonsabitches couldn’t figure out that they couldn’t bite us through their helmets. One of them came right up on me, and with one swing of my sword I took off this dude’s arm and leg. He just toppled to the ground. From off his belt rolled a bottle of … well, let’s just call it green puke. The container cracked, and when this shit spilled out, all the zombies went haywire. They were attracted to it. They swarmed it. For us it was like open season. It’s like they didn’t care if we were even there. Guns were firing. My sword was swinging. Heads were flying off along with other limbs, bodies blown in half, ribs cracking with a sickening snap. We dispatched these motherfuckers in seconds, and that bought us some time to get to the elevator.
In retrospect, getting in the elevator of a burning building was probably not the best of ideas. We had to get out of this place before it turned into one big twenty-story tombstone. On the way down we did the polite Southern thing and introduced ourselves. With me was Nick, a small-time gambler who with his white suit and snide remarks reeked of arrogance. Rochelle was a news reporter who I’m guessing just got closer to her main story than she ever wanted to, and then there was Ellis, who looked and acted exactly like that Jason Stackhouse dude from “True Blood”. We were a motley crew for sure, but right now we were all that we had. On the way down the elevator started filling with smoke, but we made it. The doors opened and we could barely see through the flames. The zombies were there in full force. On fire and still trying to attack us.
Where to now was the question on our minds. Guns and meds were nice, but we needed someplace we could hole up. The mall seemed like a really good choice, but no sooner did we make that choice than we found out we weren’t alone in the shop. There was some crazy person in the back who locked down the path to the mall with explosives. We tried getting him to come with us, but he wouldn’t budge. He did have a proposition for us though — run to the supermarket and get him a six-pack and he’d blow the barrier so we could get through. We had three choices …
A – Knock down the door and beat the shit out of this guy on sheer principle and then hopefully figure out how to work his explosives rig so we could get through.
B – Head back outside and take the all too scenic route to the mall.
Or C – Run across the street, get this nut his drinks, and then take the straight shot to salvation.
We opted for C. The plan was simple. Get to the store, one of us grabs the sixer while the other three cover, and we’re home free. 190 gallons of blood and a mile of bodies later, the damned fool had his drinks, and we were in the promised land — a motherfuckin’ shopping mall. There was just one problem: This place was filled with the most ghastly things we’ve ever seen. We started naming them and understanding their attack patterns. It became clear it wasn’t just regular zombies we had to worry about.
If we didn’t have each other to rely on, we’d all be dead by now. There’s no two ways about it. Especially in this shit-pit of a mall. Promised Land, my fat ass. This place is wall-to-wall danger. We started feeling like the last four people in the world. That is, until we ran into this crazy teenager from my school. I failed this kid like three times already. All he wanted to do was play video games. No interest in sports. Nothing. He didn’t even want to be called by his real name. Everyone just referred to him as 360. With him in tow we finally made it to a safe room. We spent days there. 360 kept writing on the walls. He said he was leaving messages for anyone else who made it here when we’re gone. Every night this kid would tell us stories about the nightmares he was having. Switching sides with the living and the dead. Being the boss zombies and taking out other humans in what he called a versus mode. He’d prattle on about senseless shit like how re-spawn time takes too long, whatever that means. Then he’d talk about Survival. What if there was no way out? What if the dead kept coming? How long would we last? Good question. Personally I never want to find out. Somewhere out there there’s a cheeseburger with my name on it, and I’m gonna find that son of a bitch. Lastly he started in on something he called Scavenge mode in which we’d be trying to collect and use as many of the gas canisters scattered about our surroundings to maintain fuel and power in our generators, extending the amount of time we spend in this damned place, while the infected creatures try and stop us. Yeah, sounds like a whole lot of fuckin’ fun, don’t it?
Nick was saying when nobody’s looking we should throw this little blathering prick to the zombies — if only to save us the headache. I’m starting to agree. But that whole Scavenge thing got us thinking … We’ve seen quite a few gas cans in this place. That Nascar guy’s ride is just sitting there right on the first floor. What if we gas it up, crash through the front of this hell hole, and haul ass to try and catch up with the military? We talked about it and decided. That’s the way to go.
I don’t know if we’ll make it. We’re gonna try our hardest, goddamn it. But just in case we don’t, what you’re reading now is our legacy. How it all went down in our eyes on the front motherfuckin’ lines. This was no bird flu or H1N1 shit, it ain’t the after effects of some new kind of plagues, or even the result of radiation. This is something worse. Much worse. The dead are walking the earth, and if you take one second to stick your head in the sun, they’re gonna come up behind you and bite off your ass. Hopefully you can use this info. Watch your backs. Watch your friends’ backs. Pack heavy on the ammo. Grab anything you can swing. Move fast. Somebody’s got to survive.
This is Coach Leslie Browne. One of many who have been Left 4 Dead.
- Developer’s commentary
- Two-player co-op split screen offline
- Four-player co-op online
- Eight-player versus mode online
- Survival Mode
- Scavenge Mode
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On
Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston
Directed by Johnny Martin
When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.
Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.
Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.
Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility
Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita
Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita
The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.
The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.
The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.
From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.
The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.
Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.”
The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.
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