Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Rated M for Mature
Well now, the time has finally come. I can finally tell you if the Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Season Pass is worth getting. A whopping 10 months after the last chunk of DLC, the Not a Hero additional chapter teased at the ending of the main game is finally here. That’s the kind of gap that lets me forget a game’s entire control scheme/plot/number of headshots required to get a kill. On the plus side, it’s now free, and releases at the same time as another new chunk of DLC, End of Zoe.
I want to give every piece the attention it deserves, but I’m going to gloss over the Banned Footage Vol. 1 & 2. It’s old news at this point, but is good enough to be worth mentioning. I’m tailoring this review for people who have not yet gotten any of the RE7 DLC, and are even possibly newcomers to the game (tis the season and all). So right off the bat, none of the DLC affects the main game in the slightest. You get some extra story stuff, but you will not unlock any gear, guns, or buffs in the main story for purchasing and playing the Season Pass. This is all just new and unique content.
The mileage you get out of Banned Footage Vol. 1 & 2 is going to heavily rely on how much you want to play their respective repeatable challenge modes. Vol. 1 comes with a wave survival “Nightmare” mode, challenging you to conquer waves of enemies while crafting weapons and items with collectable scrap. It works well, and will take multiple runs to unlock all the extra weapons and buffs. You get stronger the more you play, so repeated runs give you a sense of genuine pride and accomplishment. Vol. 2’s repeatable chunk is a time trial mode called “Jack’s 55th Birthday.” You’re tasked with collecting as much food for a ravenous Jack Baker as possible before the time runs out. There’s a large inventory management aspect to it, as combining foods with spices will yield more valuable food. You’ll also have to kill monsters to increase your timer, so managing how many bullets you carry around becomes a factor as well. It’s goofy, decently challenging, and all the poop monsters are now wearing funny hats. Delightful.
There are also three new narrative chapters between the two volumes (one in Vol. 1 and two in Vol. 2), titled “Bedroom,” “Daughters,” and “21.” “Bedroom” stars Clancy—the cameraman from the prologue—and is entirely puzzle and exploration focused. You start off tied to a bed, as Marguerite enters and demands you eat a plate of… food? As soon as she leaves, you’ll have to unshackle yourself and explore the room. The goal here is to solve puzzles to collect a series of items, but doing so will make noise. Noise draws Marguerite back to the room, which so you’ll have to return to the bed before she returns. The trick here is that if anything is out of place, she’ll notice and attack you. This means you have to remember where everything was, and be sure not to load up on items so you have time to return it all. It’s the most robust of the narrative chapters, and incredibly tense.
The two that come in Vol. 2, “Daughters” and “21,” are a bit shorter. “Daughters” tells an even earlier prologue for Resident Evil 7, and is played from Zoe’s perspective. On a rainy night, your dad brings in an unconscious Eveline. Predictably, shit starts going whack. You must escape as your family devolve into their monstrous murderous forms. It’s a pretty standard run/sneak around to use items and escape. There’s a very hard to get “True Ending” that will probably require a strategy guide to figure out, but overall this is more of a story segment than anything.
“21” once again stars the lamentably fated Clancy, as he plays a murderous game of Blackjack with the sadistic Lucas. There are three stages, each with their own sick punishment, and as you go on you’ll earn tokens that can modify your hand. There’s a trick to beating it all, after which you’ll unlock the ability to play the game again in a repeatable survival mode. You unlock more items in ways similar to the “Nightmare” and “Jack’s 55th Birthday” DLC, but I don’t see why you’d play this more than maybe two times.
Overall, the DLC you’re getting from Vol. 1 & 2 is a great mix of story driven and silly arcade fun. None of the replayable stuff is as robust as the previous game’s “Mercenaries” mode, but the sheer variety makes it well worth your time. It’s hard to imagine there isn’t something in this mixed bag that you would find memorable.
Now, onto the exciting new stuff. First up is Chris Redfield’s chapter, “Not a Hero.” Originally slated to release in Spring as part of the Season Pass, we’re now getting it in December for free. Advertised as being a more combat focused variant of RE7, I was really looking forward to slipping back into the boulder-punching shoes of Chris. I imagined gunning down hordes of Molded, the only limit to my power being the constriction of my sleeves on my massive biceps.
Having played it, I come away with the most unexciting opinion of, “pretty good.” It feels like a condensed version of the good parts of RE7. You’ll hunt for items that help you progress, and complete various challenges along the way. It does fulfil its promise of being more combat focused, but I was a bit let down that you only get two guns. Chris is far more adept than Ethan in the art of murder, delivering whalloping punches that can send even the towering Molded flying back. But… he never punches a boulder into a volcano. I’m being a bit sarcastic here, but overall the combat just didn’t live up to my high expectations. The shotgun didn’t have the oomph I expect from a shotgun. Certain evolved white Molded can only be killed with a very limited supply of special RAMROD rounds, but they go down in a single shot.
None of the puzzles were particularly challenging, but there were some memorable segments. There’s one sequence where you’re running around a labyrinthine catacomb pursued by unkillable monsters, and must ration grenades to stun them just long enough to escape. Ammo is never really scarce, but enemies are plentiful enough to make you use up a serious amount of it. And for the first time in Resident Evil history, the knife doesn’t suck. If they had given me a few more guns and changed the RAMROD ammo into something more meaningful (e.g. I have to shoot off a series of regenerating limbs in a time limit), I probably would have really loved it. As it stands, I played through it once, beat the boss, and felt fine. It’s the Jimmy John’s lunch of Resident Evil 7 content.
The final piece of Season Pass content, End of Zoe might be the crowning achievement of the entire franchise. If you had asked me a week ago what would improve Resident Evil 7, I would not have thought to say, “hillbilly bumfights.” And I would have been dead wrong. Prior to playing, I had not a single clue that End of Zoe even existed. *SPOILER* As a bit of backstory, there’s a part in RE7 where you have to pick between Mia (your wife that has been trying to murder you the whole game) and Zoe (your only friend and an innocent victim of her family’s insanity). The choice is hollow and pointless, as you can only get the good ending if you pick Mia.*SPOILERS OVER*
Picking up from the point where Zoe becomes a calcified mold person, you play as Jack Baker’s previously unmentioned older brother, Joe Baker. Similar to Jack, Joe is also a psychotic hillbilly, but without the mold infection. Upon discovering shambling mold monsters on his premises, Joe decides to take the shambling hordes on with his fists. It’s not that he doesn’t have weapons, in the opening cutscene he’s show interrogating a dude with a knife. He just walks outside, looks at his bare meaty paws, and goes, “good enough.”
You do eventually also get caveman spears that you primarily use to hunt giant infected alligators. Joe also thinks that green herbs are for pussies, instead preferring to eat bugs. I’m not kidding. Aside from a scant few health potions, Joe will just scarf down grubs, crawfish, and fucking centipedes live.
Combat is as straightforward as it can be, with a combination of left and right punches stringing together to deliver beatdowns on all manner of the Molded monsters. As you can imagine, the turd monsters that can absorb multiple headshots are hard to take down with just some fisticuffs, so you’ll want to knock them down and stomp their brains out. There are also stealth kills, wherein you sneak up behind an unsuspecting monster, grab its head by both sides, and squeeze until it pops like an overripe tomato.
There’s so much ridiculous shit in the hour and a half of End of Zoe that I can’t even begin to describe it all. You just have to experience it. There’s a boss swamp monster that follows you around the whole game, and during one fight with it you seriously Batista Bomb it while hooting like madman. Then, you rip its head off and throw it in the water. And then it comes back. By the time I was punching its eyeballs out with a charged up falcon punch, I could not be more erect.
Oh, yeah, you also get to do falcon punches. Towards the end of the DLC, you get an experimental power glove that turns your already savage blows into explosive shockwaves of pwn. I’m honestly not afraid of spoiling anything, because it’s just all so ridiculous that it defies logic. I seriously had to pause a couple of times, put my head in my hands, and just try to wrap my mind around what I was witnessing. It’s incredible. Before the credits role, we get a telephone appearance from Ethan, fulfilling his promise to Zoe that he wouldn’t forget her. It was so saccharine and stupid, a perfect end to such a ridiculous DLC.
Playing through takes only about two hours, but the runtime is significantly padded by the extra challenge modes. After beating it, you can run through again while completing a number of timed challenges. Your reward? A bloodsucking machete. You get a permanent version of the power glove for beating the game, which is crucial if you want to take on the insanely hard “Joe must Die” difficulty. Similar to Madhouse in the main RE7, “Joe must Die” mixes everything up to provide a nightmarishly difficult challenge. There are so many monsters, traps, and altered pathways, that it’s almost an entirely different game. Beating it will take serious time and commitment. And what do you get for beating it? A dual power glove, and more timed challenges.
So obviously I loved End of Zoe. As part of the pizza dinner that is the Season Pass, it’s the pitcher of beer. Altogether, the amount of hours you get out of the combined DLC should rival the main game. Which is important, since they are now both $30. Meaning if you buy Resident Evil 7 used, you’re actually paying more for the Season Pass. As awkward as it is to recommend such a price gap so late into a game’s life, it’s 100% worth it. If you’re waffling between the Gold Edition at $50 and a used copy of the base game at $20, I’d have to say go for the Gold. It goes a long way towards making Resident Evil 7: Biohazard one of the best horror games of the decade.
If you had asked me a week ago what would improve Resident Evil 7, I would not have thought to say, “hillbilly bumfights.” And I would have been dead wrong.
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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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
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