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Extended First Look into Dystopian Nightmare of >Observer_

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>Observer_

Whenever I ask to imagine the future of VR, they paint me a picture of people of all ages now unrestricted by money or disability. Visit far of lands, embrace distant relatives, experience adventure you could only ever dream of, and it doesn’t even matter if you’re in a wheelchair. It’s a lovely thought that I’d love to agree with (even if the headsets do make me feel like my equilibrium just went ten rounds with Mike Tyson after I polish off a bottle of Patron), but is that really it? If you could augment your reality to make your living room look like the sandy beaches of Maui, why would you stop there? Tired of your bare walls and complete lack of decorations? Bam! Now your walls are decorated and no one sees the empty pizza boxes piled into a nightstand. Sad that the cute girl never wants to flirt with you at the bar? Presto, now every chick in the room is a mash-up of Gal Gadot and Natalie Dormer. Can’t put in the work to get those abs you’ve always wanted? SHAZAM! Now your virtual avatar is a sex god from the planet of dreams.

>Observer_

All it requires is for everyone to be plugged into the virtual world constantly and a complete rejection of nature and thousands of years of normal human interaction. Okay, so kind of a stretch. Perfect setting for a cyberpunk dystopia, though. If only anyone was making a game like that… Oh hello there, Bloober Team! I didn’t see you there, lurking inside a little display in the Microsoft section of E3. What’s that? You’re making a dystopian cyberpunk game where humanity has retreated into an existence of perpetual VR escapism? How convenient, I was just ranting about that.

Now of course I kid. I’ve been looking forward to >Observer_ since they revealed the trailer at E3 2016. The trailer was sick, but from what our associate April got from the team really intrigued me. Check out the trailer:

If the name Bloober Team sounds familiar, that’s because they’re the minds behind last year’s indie hit Layers of Fear. You can check out my full thoughts on that game if you want, but as a brief recap I thought it was beautiful and disturbing at a level well beyond the asking price. It simultaneously spooked me enough to want to stop and drew me in so much that I couldn’t put it down. So of course when their publishers at Aspyr Media asked if I wanted a hands on, I couldn’t say no. Just as long as it was in a brightly lit room with minimal spectators.

>Observer_

The section I played was short, but what I saw got me right to the edge of my seat. There’s a brief introduction at the start giving you the rundown, which I’ll summarize here with their Official Fact Sheet:

Krakow, the Fifth Polish Republic. The year is 2084. If you somehow survived the Nanophage, odds are you were killed in the War. Those who live have turned to drugs, VR, neural implants—anything to distract themselves from this new reality. You are Daniel Lazarski, an elite neural detective known as an Observer, and part of a corporate-funded police unit whose purpose is to hack and invade suspects’ minds. In this future, anything you think, feel, or remember can be used against you in a court of law.

When you receive a mysterious message from your estranged son, a high-level engineer for the almighty Chiron Corporation, you journey to the seedy Class C slums of Krakow to investigate. But as you hack into the unstable minds of criminals and victims to look for clues, you are forced relive their darkest fears. How far will you go to discover the truth?

>Observer_

Nifty, I can dig mind cops. As I loaded into the demo, it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t the glossy techno-future of sleek  buildings and chrome everything. The hallways are damp, and the lights flicker as the whirring tech sputters and struggles to keep going. My immediate objective was to find a specific room, with a side quest to talk to some of the residents about what they saw. Knocking on the various doors, the monitors they used to communicate would crackle to life as they told me in various levels of rudeness to mind my own business.

>Observer_

You see, in the world of >Observer_, people don’t like you very much. That’s a funny thing about the secret memory stealing mind police owned by the evil corporate overlords. They aren’t super popular. This real world will serve as the grounded reality for your investigation, similar to the house in Layers of Fear. Here you can do normal detective stuff, using a combination of electro-vision, bio-vision, and interrogation to hunt for clues. This world is dark, decaying, but overall normal. It serves to stem the flow of all the psychological horror, giving you a chance to reset and collect yourself before delving into the next distorted memory. That isn’t to say there isn’t disturbing shit to see in the real world. I was promised one particular scene with a pig will give me nightmares.

>Observer_

Walking down the hallway to the door I was looking for, I find a severely wounded man slumped against a bathtub. As the building is on lockdown, there’s no chance of saving him. But you can find out what he knows. After getting him to weakly nod his consent, you plug into his implant and off to the nightmare world you go. I was shocked with just how quickly >Observer_ goes from 0 to 100. As soon as you are in, you are bombarded with imagery of squalor, drugs, and a fair amount of crows. Similar to Layers of Fear, it’s all very symbolic. They have definitely learned from their previous game, as there was far less walking this time. There was still a lot to see, but the focus was on clever navigation over just walking down various hallways until something happens. There was a nifty puzzle involving a TV that I’m sure will take people some time to even realize is a puzzle.

>Observer_

It only took me about 20 minutes to see all there was to see, but am told that the overall game will be closer to a dozen hours. If what I saw of >Observer_ is indicative of the final product, then horror fans should be excited. If your biggest problem with Layers of Fear was that you just walk around a bunch until the credits roll, >Observer_ will be more of what you are looking for. The investigative elements and pressing need to solve a mystery makes >Observer_ (ironically) far more involving.

>Observer_

I wish I could show you more, and I know there are a few YouTube videos out there if you can put up with YouTube quality commentary. Worry not, as I have something else special for you. The people over at Aspyr Media were kind enough to send me the >Observer_ highlight reel they’re submitting to the people at Unreal to show just how pretty it looks. And let me tell you, it looks gorgeous. So what about you folks? Excited for >Observer_? Ready to see what horrors the world of evil Psychonauts has to offer? >Observer_ launches later this year on  Xbox One, PS4, and PC, so it won’t be long until I can give you the full review. Let me know below, and enjoy the video!

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Trailer Takes Us DOWN A DARK HALL With AnnaSophia Robb and Uma Thurman

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It was just the other day that we shared your first look at producer Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) and director Rodrigo Cortés’ (Buried) adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer author Lois Duncan’s  Down a Dark Hall

The film stars AnnaSophia Robb (The Reaping), Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), Taylor Russell (Netflix’s Lost in Space) and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction). And today we have the film’s trailer and poster!

You can check out the poster to the right and the trailer below and then make sure to let us know what you think below or on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram!

Down a Dark Hall is directed by Rodrigo Cortés from a screenplay by Mike Goldbach and Chris Sparling based on the book by Lois Duncan and stars AnnaSophia Robb, Isabelle Fuhrman, Victoria Moroles, Noah Silver, Taylor Russell, Rosie Day, and Uma Thurman. It’s produced by Stephenie Meyer, Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, Meghan Hibbett, and Adrián Guerra.

The film hits theaters, On Demand, and iTunes August 17th.

Synopsis:

Kit (Robb), a difficult young girl, is sent to the mysterious Blackwood Boarding School when her heated temper becomes too much for her mother to handle. Once she arrives at Blackwood, Kit encounters eccentric headmistress Madame Duret (Thurman) and meets the school’s only other students, four young women also headed down a troubled path. While exploring the labyrinthine corridors of the school, Kit and her classmates discover that Blackwood Manor hides an age-old secret rooted in the paranormal.

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Tom Six Reveals “Vile” THE ONANIA CLUB…So What?

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Tom Six of The Human Centipede fame is coming back to theaters with The Onania Club, a film he promises will be, “…one of the most vile, inhumane movie experiences of all time.” IndieWire revealed the news, which adds that the film is produced by Tom Six and Ilona Six through Six Entertainment Company.

Details are being kept secret for now but the site says Six will bring a psychological thriller that will feature, “…mostly strong female characters” and that it will, “…definitely pass the Bechdel test with flying colors.” Starring in the film are Jessica Morris, Darcy DeMoss, Deborah Twiss, Karen Strassman, and Flo Lawrence.

Let me try and gather all my thoughts here because this is hitting some notes that I’m frankly not really feeling. I’ll try to organize this as best I can.

…[a] vile, inhumane movie experience…
If that’s what Tom Six is aiming for, my interest has already dropped by a huge percentage. I didn’t see The Human Centipede in theaters but I saw it after it hit home video. It wasn’t a gross movie but it had a gross premise, which I honestly thought made it more interesting. Then came along The Human Centipede 2, which I did see in theaters. I found it to be a brilliant response to those who were disappointed by the lack of vomit-inducing moments in the first film and who demanded it be more grotesque. Once they got it, they felt like it had gone too far, which made me want to point and say, “Trust filmmakers. They very often make decisions because they know how to do it right.” That being said, I think it’s a bad, unpleasant, mean-spirited movie. I never bothered with The Human Centipede 3 because of shockingly bad reviews and even worse word-of-mouth from friends and the horror community.

If Six’s goal is to create a movie experience that will haunt and disgust audiences, then my immediate concern is that there is no story to back up the intention. Hell, the announcement is more focused on creating a spectacle than it is on letting people know what the film is actually about. It’s Marketing 101 and as a horror fan for my entire life, I find it almost offensive that the idea of “gross first, everything else second” is being pushed in the initial blitz.

I have no problems whatsoever with gore, viscera, or shocking scenes. Martyrs, I Saw The Devil, The Thing, and the like are all great examples of movies that push a lot of envelopes but never fail to have fascinating concepts backing everything up. There is purpose in their horror. There is method to their madness. So far, Six isn’t inspiring much faith that The Onania Club will walk down that kind of path.

…[it will] pass the Bechdel test with flying colors…
The Bechdel Test, for those who don’t know, is a test within films that sees if there are two, or more, women talk to each other about something other than men. That’s it. Two women in a coffee shop spend 30 seconds talking about a book? Your movie passes. A group of teenage girls discuss what they’re going to wear at an upcoming high school dance? Pass. Ronda Rousey and Michelle Rodriguez trade barbs before beating each other senseless. Check.

While noble in intention, the Bechdel Test is a shockingly low barometer for movies to be considered women-friendly. It doesn’t ask for nuance or depth. It doesn’t set any expectations for emotion or drive. If Six thinks that his movie is a landmark simply because it passes the Bechdel Test, he clearly doesn’t know that horror has been doing this for a long time. And from reading about Bree Olson’s character in The Human Centipede 3 (the only woman in the IMDb credit list), and taking into account the female characters of the first two films in that series, I think one can understand my lack of faith when it comes to Six and women in his films.

I am fully aware of how negative and critical I sound here and I really do hope that I’m going to be proven wrong. Every film should be allowed the chance to stand on its own merits. Hopefully The Onania Club will see Six give us a film that will generate interesting conversation for years to come. But until more is revealed, my expectations are very low.

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Ben Hanscom Has Been Cast in IT: CHAPTER 2

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Some fun news out of Deadline as the site has reported that Jay Ryan (Mary Kills People) has been cast as the adult Ben Hanscom in It: Chapter 2. He joins Jessica Chastain, Andy Bean, James Ransone, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader, who will be playing Beverly, Stanley, Eddie, Bill, and Richie, respectively. Bill Skarsgard will also be back as Pennywise.

Andy Muschietti will be directing based on a script by Gary Dauberman (Annabelle: Creation) with a planned release date of September 6, 2019, almost two years to the day after the release of the first film.

It was a massive success, earning just over $700 million globally against a $35 million budget. That film starred Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton, Owen Teague, Javier Botet, and Steven Williams.

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