DID YOU READ

“Dead Space 2” Traces an “Alien” Trajectory

“Dead Space 2” Traces an “Alien” Trajectory (photo)

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“Dead Space 2” has finally been unloaded into your local game shop, bringing to a close a preview tour for the nation’s most frightened and revolted mothers. Off the positive early reviews and the previous game’s success, hero Isaac Clarke and his gory enemies the Necropmorphs will surely be the talk of the game-o-sphere (and possibly parental watchdog groups) for the next couple weeks. And so it should be. The game is a step forward for the franchise in practically every capacity: more violent, more action packed and more human now that we see the Isaac Clarke’s face for more than couple minutes. But it is less scary, a strange regression for a franchise firmly tucked into the survival horror genre. Why’d developer Visceral Games relent on the spooks?

“Dead Space” was a slow survival horror game. Your gun was always a little too weak, your ammo low. Not a lot made sense — in a good way. The story required you to piece together what happened on a seemingly abandoned ship stranded in deep space. Why is this writing on the wall? Where are the people? What are those “things”?

“Dead Space 2” still has a handful of terrifying moments. Well-lit corridors have a tendency to lose power. The glass windows that separate oxygen rich rooms from the vacuum of space are curiously fragile. These tense environments, however, serve as passages between epic set pieces in cathedrals festooned with viscera and vulnerable walkways perforated by artillery from a 10-story tall gunship.

Call it the Scott-Cameron Effect. Ridley Scott’s “Alien” was a horror movie. The astronauts were ill equipped to deal with a foreign creature they couldn’t comprehend. The monster was alien, not just in the literal sense, but in its very being. How it reproduced, attacked, bled. As viewers, we learned alongside the character the perils of battling the beast. There is fear in the unknown and “Dead Space” and “Alien” share that fear.

For James Cameron’s sequel, “Aliens,” much of the mystery was gone. Cameron, the man who would later make “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Avatar” filled the void with neck pulled back action, putting the original movie on its head, and steering the franchise — for better and worse — in the direction of the summer spectacle. “Dead Space 2” does the same.

This won’t be the only blog post to note the similarity between the games; it’s noticeable within the first 15 minutes, as a lab of humans is relieved of their extremities by creatures with blades for arms. It’s interesting however that “Dead Space” isn’t the only property to follow this well-carved path. In fact, it’s just the latest of many.

Franchises like “Uncharted,” “Gears of War” and “Halo” — in varying degrees — have used sequels to inflate the grandiosity of their narratives. Budget’s increase typically for sequels, so it’s logical ambition follows.

But what if a game tightened the experience? What if the extra money was used to create a smaller, richer, more haunting world.

We saw a hint at this potential with “Halo: ODST.” The game weakened the protagonist, plopping him in a open, dark and dangerous world. Developer Bungie even rolled the dice on a jazzy soundtrack. But the game felt more like filler than an earnest attempt at something proudly, even defiantly small.

What big budget games would you like to see more contained and refined? Or is the future always bigger and better?

Fantastic “Dead Space”/”Alien” mash-up art by Victor Zago. Visit his DeviantArt page.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.