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“Alan Wake”‘s Scary Shadow Play

“Alan Wake”‘s Scary Shadow Play (photo)

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Video games can scare you in ways that movies can’t. The fear you experience watching a movie character walk into a spooky-looking room is very different than the fear that comes when you’re the one making said character do the walking. Remedy Games, the designers of the new psychological thriller “Alan Wake,” know the difference between the two.

“Alan Wake” delivers not only a horror game experience but a commentary on creativity in games as well. It announces its metatextual ambitions almost immediately, when an assailant says, “Cheap thrills and pretentious shit! That’s all you’re good for. Just look at me.” The game, available only on the Xbox 360, revolves around the title character, a former hotshot novelist who’s lost his mojo. After two years of implacable writer’s block, his wife Alice cajoles him into taking a vacation to de-stress. Once they arrive at the quaint town of Bright Falls, Washington, the couple gets into a fight, and Alan storms out. Just as he’s beginning to cool down, Alice’s screams echo from their rented lake house. By the time Alan returns home, both it and Alice have disappeared.

alanwake3.jpgThese set-up scenes, which explicitly deal with mundane concerns like blocked creativity and marital stress, establish the mature, naturalistic tone that runs through the entirety of “Alan Wake.” Even when it’s revealed that Bright Falls is haunted by a necromantic energy called the Dark Presence, there’s nothing in the way of bombast and the gameplay remains elegantly simple. Whenever Alan fights the Taken — the citizens of Bright Falls possessed by the Dark Presence — he needs to point a flashlight at them to slow them down and make them susceptible to gunfire. The Dark Presence also throws inanimate objects and birds at you, and you need to scavenge around for batteries and guns in the game’s gorgeous Pacific Northwest forests to keep yourself alive. There’s some incidental bits of puzzle-solving, but “Alan Wake” is mostly about creeping through an all-encompassing darkness that could, at any minute, coalesce into human form and chop your head off.

“Alan Wake” sets itself in opposition to the mechanics of most stealth action games, where darkness is typically your ally and your weapon. Here, you actually need light to survive. And unlike other “everyman” video game heroes — “Uncharted”‘s Nathan Drake, for example — Wake is no man of action. He’s always outmanned and frequently outgunned. Don’t go looking for a button that throws a punch either, because the guy can’t fight (he’s a writer, remember). He yelps and staggers in a confrontation. He’s the anti-tough guy.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.