Developed and Published by Spooky Doorway
Available on PC through Steam
Suitable for ages 10+
There’s a reason horror isn’t commonly described as “cute”, outside of the spider-crab-head-monster from The Thing of course, which was totes adorbz. The general consensus is that the terms are at odds. Even horror IPs that could be considered both cute and scary (Gremlins *cough cough*) are generally defended as one or the other. As far as I know, I’m the only one that thinks about snuggling up to a cuddly little Shoggoth at night before being wrapped in its warm dark embrace until the Elder Gods return.
That isn’t to say that creepy things can’t also be lovably funny. I mean hell, wasn’t Bub your favorite character in Day of the Dead? What would A Nightmare on Elm Street be without Krueger’s quips? I’m of the opinion that some of the best horrors are also some of the greatest comedies. There are phenomenal mixes of the genres, but the barrier for failure is incredibly high. Do it right and you could have the next The Cabin in the Woods or From Dusk Till Dawn on your hands. Do it poorly, and you get Stay Alive. Please tell me they were trying to be funny when they made that…
The point is, you don’t have to sacrifice horror for comedy. Take note, Spooky Doorway, as The Darkside Detective is all silly with no scares. I really wanted to love this game. A Ghostbusters style horror/comedy about an occult detective and his goofy sidekick? Count me in! But in the end, it’s just… cute…
Now don’t get me wrong, The Darkside Detective isn’t being dishonest. Right off the bat you can tell that this is a game primarily interested in invoking yucks. Going into the settings will show a number of graphics options such as “Spooky Vision” and “Virtual Reality.” The “Police Corruption” setting is always set to various versions of “On.” Ha! Good one, Spooky Door.
Actually starting the game, the barrage of comedy is unrelenting. Nary a line goes by without some kind of reference, pun, or general silliness. This puts me in an odd spot, as I never in a million years would define myself as a humor critic. I’m the kind of dude that busts a gut at the scene in The Ring where the horse falls off the boat. That being said, I found the humor to be initially grating.
The constant barrage of snarky one-liners didn’t give me a chance to really grow to care about the characters. You play as Detective McQueen, an all-nonsense cop and member of the supernatural Darkside Division. Together with your partner, Officer Dooley, you’ll solve puzzles and close six different paranormal cases. Well… not really WITH Dooley. He’s mostly just there. He doesn’t believe in all this paranormal stuff, even when it’s literally floating in front of him. There’s that craaaaazy humor!
I’m being a bit harsh, as there were some points where the game genuinely did make me chuckle. There was one particular moment later on when I had to use a tentacle in a way that I couldn’t help but find delightful. None of the jokes were really bad. It was all just far too repetitive.
The Darkside Detective does get better as it goes on, but this really isn’t saying much. For an adventure game, this is one of the easier ones. I finished all six cases in about 3 hours without any trouble. Every time I got stuck, it was because I forgot to investigate some bullshit element like a broken window. Now keep in mind, I vastly prefer this to the old Sierra game logic of, “suck it, die and start over.” If there is a happy middle ground, The Darkside Detective is definitely closer to it.
Please, take all my criticism with a grain of salt. The Darkside Detective isn’t a AAA game that cash-grabbed it’s way into my Hall of Shame. This is a $13 indie game made by some dudes that just want to have fun. What was there was decent enough that I got my chuckles in. If the game were 50% longer, I would be in serious danger of genuinely loving it. As it is, it’s just a fun diversion for a few hours. If the people at Spooky Door happen to read this, please don’t be discouraged by my average review. You guys have a great grasp of the genre, and the diverse levels kept me in my chair until it ended. Keep on fighting the good fight, and I hope The Darkside Detective 2 is a smash hit.
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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