Reviewed by Mr. Dark
Available for Xbox 360 (reviewed here), PlayStation 3, and PC
Developed by Visceral Games
Published by EA Games
I have no idea why the first Dead Space game wasn’t a runaway hit. It offered one of the most genuinely frightening game experiences I ever played, all set in a completely original setting, with all the bells and whistles you’d want from a single-player action adventure.
I’m just pleased that, so far, Dead Space 2 is selling the numbers that it’s forerunner should have, because Dead Space 2 is everything the first game was and more. It’s exactly what you want from a sequel: bigger, further, better, more refined, perfected.
Isaac Clarke is back, and he’s in a terrible place. No surprise there, I supposed, his luck on the USS Ishimura during the first game certainly didn’t suggest he had an easy life. This time, however, he starts out not only unarmed, but in a straight-jacket. Yeah, Dead Space 2 is telling you from the very first moments that it’s here to play hardball. And you’re the ball.
Before long, he’s back in his engineering suit, plasma cutter in hand, dismembering necromorphs as all hell breaks loose. He wakes up on Titan Station, crafted out of the moon of Saturn, nicknamed ‘The Sprawl‘. Revelations hit the player fast and furious, getting you up to speed on what’s happened since we last saw Isaac on the escape ship leaving the Ishimura.
His run-in with the marker has left him, well, kind of insane. The finale of the first game, where a seemingly-undead Nicole Brennan (Isaac’s girlfriend, lost on the Ishimura) attacks him, showed the first attack of the dementia caused by the marker. It’s only a matter of time before it eats Clarke’s mind and kills him outright. Fighting these internal demons, he has to find a cure and a way off the doomed station. If you didn’t play the first game, no worries: a ‘previously on Dead Space’ animation explains the story so far.
There really isn’t too much to say about the single-player game. It’s just fantastic. Nearly flawless. They’ve actually improved on the first game in several ways, something I thought they’d be hard-pressed to do. Much was said prior to the game’s release that they were backing off the tension of the first game, and that made many fans nervous. I’m here to say they were exactly right. This takes place in a much larger area than the first game, and the added dynamics to the tension were absolutely necessary. While the bulk of the game maintains the breakneck pace of the first title, we’re given some fantastic quiet set pieces that play on entirely different flavors of fear.
Late in the game, you’re re-introduced to … an old friend. When that happens, the game basically becomes a journey through a haunted house. The constant onslaught of necros is staved for a time, but the fear keeps coming in the form of excellent level design and psychological tricks to make you sweat just as much as a horde of spitters and pukers.
The vast majority of the scares in Dead Space 2 come from the sound design. This is a game to be played with good speakers set at a high volume. Everyone involved in this work deserves any award they can get, it’s simply the finest sound design I’ve ever run into in all my years of gaming. They create thick layers of sounds, far beyond that necessary for the game mechanics. (Sounds are often the best and earliest warning you’ll get of an impending attack.) They’re often used as decoys and red herrings, as well, so they are more than just mood-setting sound effects.
Something needs to be said about the psychological scares as well. This game screws with your mind. It puts you in uncomfortable places. Literally. How would you feel about taking a high powered automatic weapon into an elementary school and shooting creatures that were clearly children once? How babies? In a nursery? Do you have a thing about eyes like I do? And things jabbed into them?
Initially, during the first segments of the game, I had a complaint that the story lacked the emotional hook of the first title. Isaac was responding to fix the Ishimura, sure, but we all knew he was really there to find his girlfriend and save her from whatever happened. Here, his initial goal is one of simple self-preservation, and Nicole is reduced to spookshow scare fodder. Thankfully, that does not remain the case, and this game actually has more solid emotion than the first by the time it’s complete. Sorrow, grief, loss, acceptance…you’re taken on a very touching journey along with Isaac where there are no easy answers and no happy endings.
By the time the single-player campaign is over, you’ll have many questions answered from both the first game and the extended universe of the animated films and the book, but you’ll still have several more left behind … and a few new ones that will haunt you until AFTER the credits … so stick around once you’re finished, you impatient bastards.
There are plenty of reasons to go through things more than once, with a hefty ‘New Game+‘ mode after completing the first playthrough. New items, schematics, modes, etc. await those who finish and want to go through again.
The biggest shock to me was not the addition of multiplayer to what seemed to be a solidly single-player title, but the fact that it’s GOOD. I played the multiplayer demo, and … how should I put this … it was rancid donkey crap. Really, really bad. An unbalanced mess that reeked of the same stench as every other tacked-on-so-we-can-say-it-has-multiplayer mode ever added to an otherwise solid title.
That beta must have done it’s job, because what we have here is a really cool set of themed maps where teams take turns playing the humans or the necros. It reminds me quite a bit of Counter Strike, in fact, just in space. With necromorphs pulling the limbs off the other team, or puking acid all over them. Much like Counter Strike, one team (humans) have different goals depending on the map selected. You may be putting together a bomb to blow the station (which you then have to escape) or you may be programming a solar cannon to fire on certain coordinates. The necros? Much like the terrorists in Counter Strike, your job is to kill the crap out of the other team, as often as possible, so they can’t complete their goals in time.
Even with pick-up groups, this works out pretty well. While the first part of a match might be spent with everyone just shooting each other as if it’s a deathmatch, all it takes is one person to focus on the goals and in-game chatter will announce that the humans are winning, which will of course send the rest of the game off to join the guy claiming all the easy points.
Those points, gained for reaching objectives, kills, assists, rescues, and special types of kills for necros, are used between rounds to level up your character. Boosts and bonuses are unlocked, as well as new armor and weapons. The armor is just for display (the only difference is cosmetic) but some of the boosts can make a big difference. Visceral has added ‘viral‘ armor as well, which can only be attained by killing someone wearing it. Clever addition which adds incentive to progress up the ladder and play with strangers, not just friends.
The excellent multiplayer makes Dead Space 2 something of a unicorn. A fantastic, long (10 hours or so) single-player title with a deeply involving campaign that has replay value shouldn’t also have fun, engaging multiplayer. That’s what we have here, though, so anyone who drops their dough on this one is definitely getting a value regardless of the price.
It’s early in 2011, but without a huge Red Dead Redemption-level surprise, we’re looking at Game Of The Year.
5 out of 5
Discuss Dead Space 2 in the comments section below!
LIQUID SKY Blu-ray Review – You Don’t Need Acid For This Mind Melting Trip
Starring Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Susan Doukas, Otto von Wernherr
Directed by Slava Tsukerman
Distributed by Vinegar Syndrome
Succinctly summing up a slice-of-life avant-garde feature film can be difficult when the picture relies heavily on the audio-visual experience and not necessarily the story. Liquid Sky (1982) is an acid-fueled trip through the emerging New Wave movement, viewed through the vapid lens of the fashion world, where drugs and sex are a commodity to be frequently bartered. The film juxtaposes the grimy and gritty streets of New York City with liberal use of bright, flashy neon, creating an aesthetic that both revels in the post-punk subculture and looks forward to the eye-popping pastels that would come to define the ‘80s. Within this kaleidoscope is a story about androgyny, rampant drug use, pleasures of the flesh, sexual abuse, and tiny invisible aliens that subsist on the endorphins released when people either get high or get down. As director Slava Tsukerman states in the extras, the idea was to craft a unique visual palette, the likes of which cinemagoers maybe hadn’t seen before; in that respect, Tsukerman capably succeeded. This is true subversive cinema, not for the mainstream.
Margaret (Anne Carlisle) is an androgynous NYC fashion model, looking to get her big break into certifiable stardom. Her nightclub fashion shows bring out all the fringe of the city – drug users, sexual deviants, flamboyant personalities, and her rival, Jimmy (also Carlisle), who is a fiend for cocaine. Margaret’s girlfriend, Adrian (Paula E. Sheppard), is a coke dealer whom Jimmy constantly harasses for a quick high, despite the fact he never has any money. Sex is his usual currency, consensual and otherwise. For reasons unknown, though easy to glean, a tiny UFO has landed on top of the apartment building in which Margaret lives, the visitors here to feast on endorphins released by the brain during drug use… or explosive, orgasmic sex.
Jimmy has lunch with his mother, Sylvia (Susan Doukas), a television producer who he sees as little more than a blank check. Sylvia also happens to live across the street from Margaret’s building, making it the perfect vantage point for scientist Johann Hoffman (Otto von Wernherr) to observe the till-now undiscovered, minute aliens and their spacecraft. Margaret, meanwhile, finds herself in one compromising sexual position after the next, often against her will, though these (let’s be honest here and call them) rapes tend to end with her perpetrators dead, a thin crystalline sliver embedded within their skulls; brain removed. Margaret doesn’t quite understand why, but the frequent cause and effect makes her imagine she has unbridled power, able to kill anyone that has sex with her. Eventually, Margaret comes to use this “power” to destroy anyone who crosses or uses her, which as the film will show is a significant number of people. Little does she know, all this time her saviors have been invisible to the naked eye and living atop her building.
The above plot synopsis barely scratches the surface of the weird and insane places this film travels. The biggest takeaway here should be the ground Tsukerman was breaking, which feels very much in the vein of something Andy Warhol might have been behind. The cast is comprised of societal outcasts; populated by homosexuals, ambiguous individuals, gender-fluidity, heroin users, club cronies, kink, vulgarity… all things that in no way conform to societal standards of normality. Carlisle pulls double duty playing two characters – one reprehensible, the other vaguely sympathetic – yet both fall under the rubric of blurred lines; they embody qualities of both masculinity and femininity. Tsukerman embraces the abstract and absurd, delivering a film that is fiercely independent and wholly incapable of direct categorization.
Driving this tour de force is a cutting edge synth score that is constantly active and consistently weird. A trio made up of Tsukerman, Clive Smith, and Brenda I. Hutchinson composed the soundtrack, and it sounds alien and otherworldly while also capturing the essence of the New Wave. The electronic cues and deep bass beats are energetic and repetitive, often making use of bizarre time signatures. Large portions of it reminded me of John Massari’s stellar synth score to Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), as the synthesizer sounds are nearly identical in some passages. The grooves are infectious and wonderfully lo-fi, adding an audible assault to complement the visual feast.
Still, Liquid Sky is something of a challenging watch, especially a first-time viewing when expectations are impossible to calibrate. Because Tsukerman purposely made his film so esoteric and obtuse, it can be tough to settle into a comfortable viewing mindset because so much of the film is uncomfortable and unconventional. The acting quality is passable enough that viewers may find themselves watching the film less as a veritable feature and more a staged, lengthy piece of performance art, which it is in certain respects. Liquid Sky doesn’t lampoon the period or people associated with it, though it does offer an exaggeration of current trends. One thing is for sure, this is bespoke filmmaking at its core and a shining example of the marriage between emerging trends and psychedelic euphoria. Mind blowing stuff.
Vinegar Syndrome is consistently lauded for their A/V work and, boy, did they ever knock this one out of the atmosphere. The 1.85:1 1080p picture is pristine, making it almost impossible to believe this is a low-budget indie from ’82. The original 35mm negative has been given new life via a 4K scan, with the resulting image looking nearly flawless. Aside from literally two or three white flecks the picture is immaculate. Film grain has been smoothed out and minimized without the use of waxy DNR. Fine detail is exquisite, adding a sense of true life to these shiny and squalid environments. Colors are richly saturated and pop off the screen, just as eye-catching neon might do in real life. Color filters are used frequently, bathing the image in hues of blue or green or whatever color fits the intended mood. Skin tones are spot-on and accurate. There is nothing worth complaining about making this one of the finest images Blu-ray is capable of producing.
Although the audio is a single-channel English DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track you’d never know it from the sonic quality. The synthesized score is catchy and constant, causing the film’s soundfield to be brimming with life at every moment. The aggressive mix and high levels cause a mild sensation of discomfort and unease for viewers, ensuring the picture is never viewed too comfortably. Dialogue is understandable and totally clean, with no indication of hissing or pops at any point. Subtitles are available in English.
An introduction is available before the feature begins, with director Slava Tsukerman giving viewers a brief greeting along with praise for Vinegar Syndrome’s new home video edition.
An audio commentary is available, featuring director Slava Tsukerman.
The disc also contains an isolated soundtrack, highlighting that groundbreaking score.
Interview with Slava Tsukerman is a recent chat with the Russian director, who touches upon his career, influences, and the legacy of his most endearing creation.
Interview with Anne Carlisle is a similarly themed chat, with the leading lady discussing topics ranging from her early beginnings to where her career has taken her now.
Liquid Sky Revisited is a nearly-hour long documentary covering all aspects of the film’s production, with Tsukerman delving into every bit of minutia behind the production, genesis, inspirations, etc.
Q&A from 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers Screening, featuring Tsukerman, Carlisle, and co-composer Clive Smith.
A lengthy reel of outtakes, alternate opening sequence, rehearsal footage, multiple trailers, and a still gallery complete the wealth of bonus features found here.
Additionally, the cover artwork is reversible allowing for display of the original key art or newly commissioned artwork.
- BRAND NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM from the 35mm original negative
- Brand new commentary track with: Slava Tsukerman (director)
- Video interview with Slava Tsukerman
- Video interview with Anne Carlisle (actress)
- Director’s introduction
- “Liquid Sky Revisited” (2017) – 50 minute making-of documentary
- Q&A from a 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers screening with: Slava Tsukerman, Anne Carlisle and Clive Smith (music)
- Isolated soundtrack
- Never before seen outtakes
- Alternate opening sequence
- Behind the scenes rehearsal footage
- Multiple theatrical trailers
- Still gallery
- Artwork designed by Derek Gabryszak
- Reversible cover artwork
- English SDH subtitles
Supremely psychedelic and infinitely eccentric, Liquid Sky was 1983’s most successful independent film and for good reason: it is impossible to categorize and there are few films that color outside the lines so vividly and uniquely. You can’t explain it or understand it; you just have to see it. Vinegar Syndrome have raised the bar with their impeccable a/v quality and wonderful selection of extras.
Zena’s Period Blood: Dying for a DEAD END
It can be difficult finding horror films of quality, so allow me to welcome you to your salvation from frustration. “Zena’s Period Blood” is here to guide you to the horror films that will make you say, “This is a good horror. Point blank. PERIOD.”
“Zena’s Period Blood” focuses on under-appreciated and hidden horror films.
How do you turn $900,000 into $77,000,000? Offer directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa the initial amount and give them the freedom to let their minds wander. In 2003, both directors accomplished this unimaginable feat with Dead End. Under the clouds of a small budget, typical poster and insubstantial trailer, most viewers forecasted one long stretch of boredom. However, 15 minutes in and I was as hooked as a pervert in a strip club with his tax refund money. In 83 minutes, the movie unravels and exposes intelligent craftsmanship with story, acting and location, introducing us to the Harrington family and their demise.
After 20 years following the same route, Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) decides to take his family down a shortcut to his in-laws home during Christmas Eve. Wife Laura (Lin Shaye) sings in the passenger seat, serving as the optimistic family unifier who is often ignored by her husband and children. Behind Frank is their oldest child Marion (Alexandra Holden), unnervingly sheltered under the arm of her soon-to-be fiancé, Brad. And forever mom’s favorite boy is Richard (Mick Cain), who rocks out to Marilyn Manson blaring in his headphones. After this brief introduction to the characters and their distinct personalities, we witness everyone fall asleep, including Frank, who refuses to let anyone else drive.
Several seconds pass before the Jeep Wagoneer veers into the opposite lane. Gradually, a honk pleads from an approaching car, startling the Harrington family and forcing Frank to fight with the wheel until he brings the Jeep to a stop. Wide-awake, the family begins to move forward, now entrapped on a new, never-ending road.
I could elaborate on so many scary details in the movie, but the never-ending road stands out the most. What makes it worse is that there are signs for a town called Marcott, with an arrow indicating the town is straight ahead. But the Harringtons never reach the town. This scares me because I believe that every human being has a mental list of things they are scared of or things they should keep an eye out for in certain situations. Unfortunately, this movie exists to expand that list. What sucks for me is that my husband likes taking back roads. Because I strive to have a happy marriage and a peaceful death, I usually fall asleep to avoid an argument and the grim reaper, both of which usually exist on these particular roads. However, I never imagined that a back road could become a never-ending road. Man that would suck!
Speaking of never-ending, the directors became devils of discomfort by never really showing the deceased’s mutilated body, leaving your brain struggling to piece together the unseen image long after the movie ends. Throughout the movie, the family and Brad are picked off one by one. We mainly suffer these devatations through the reactions of the family members that are still alive, sometimes witnessing them lift a severed ear or caress a charred hand. This movie taught me that I can still taste bile at the back of my throat when a mutilation is suggested rather than shown.
Directors Andrea and Canepa accomplished greatness in Dead End with little time and little money. It is a testament that imagination coupled with skill is the true combination to capturing a big budget feel. I hope that all the individuals behind this movie have a long, never-ending road ahead of them because they have delivered brilliance to the world. This is a good horror. Point blank. Period.
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 164 – THE CLEANSE
Wait no longer, boils and ghouls! Today is the day you’ve been waiting for; today is the day we sink our teeth into 2018’s The Cleanse! What’s that? You’ve never heard of The Cleanse?! Well, neither had we, but horror releases are slim pickings right now, so we take what we can get. At least we can all agree that we’ve been dying to see Johnny Galecki in something other than Big Bang Theory, right? No? Well, fuck. Here’s an episode about his new movie anyway. What are we even doing?
It was crazy of me to think I could help the police, but I’m going to keep researching, keep writing, there are stories that need to be told, so… here’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 164!
If you enjoy the show, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.
The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube.
- Michael M Rob Zombie should not be allowed to make any movie ever again. The guy is not a filmmaker.
- Michael M I know it's just a teaser but damn. It does not look promising.
- King 4_$$hole Rob Zombie should be no where near the Creature from the Black Lagoon, (although Universal is getting desperate for a Cinematic Universe), but I have always thought he should take the reigns on the...
- Franmon "It fucked me when I read it in high school,” Damn. Must've hurt with all those paper cuts.
- Josh Gastronomicon Myers I dig this dude, but every time I see his name my brain flips it into “Iris Elbow” Which is kind of cool I guess
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
Interview: Publishing Director Tom Walker on the Love Folio Society Gives to Horror Novels
Bob & Mews Return in STRANGER THINGS 3 Promo
Which Classic Movie Would Rob Zombie Like to Remake?
Actor Anton Troy Needs Your Help
ASH VS EVIL DEAD S3 Hits Digital Today; Blu-ray/DVD This August
Brad Dourif Confirms CHILD’S PLAY TV Series
Quick Update on THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES TV Series; Pilot Is Written But Fuller Is Out
6-HEADED SHARK ATTACK and MEGALODON Details Surface from The Asylum
Exclusive: END TRIP Trailer Will Make You Delete Your Uber App
Katherine Waterston Talks ALIEN: COVENANT 2
Exclusive: How’d You Lose a Body, FERAL?
Exclusive: Stars of THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT Discuss Their Scariest Scene
Exclusive: FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Light a Fire With “Molotov”
Exclusive: ANOTHER SOUL Trailer Possesses All Who Watch It
Exclusive: Travel Into the Recesses of Space With This LOST IN SPACE Soundtrack Video
News6 days ago
Toho Planning “World of Godzilla” Shared Universe, SHIN GODZILLA 2 Dead
News5 days ago
Universal’s DARK UNIVERSE Really Dead?
News3 days ago
AMERICAN HORROR STORY 8 Begins Filming This June
News4 days ago
AHS 8 Will Be More Like ASYLUM and COVEN
News3 days ago
Exclusive: FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Light a Fire With “Molotov”
News4 days ago
Interview: Bear McCreary Showers Love on OINGO BOINGO on the Eve of Danny Elfman’s Birthday
News5 days ago
Must See: Gorgeously Grotesque THE AXIOM Trailer
Editorials4 days ago
Exploring a Variety of Horror in Japanese Anime